Emory Opens New Archive of African American History to Researchers

Emory University has announced that the family papers of artist and civil rights activist Edwin Harleston and his wife, photographer Elise Harleston, have been fully archived and are now available to researchers at the university’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library.

Elise Harleston(1891-1970)

Elise Harleston


Edwin Harleston

The collection includes the papers of Edwin and Elise Harleston. Edwin was a portrait painter, an active member of the NAACP, and the operator of a funeral home. Elise was one of the nation’s first African American woman photographers. The papers were donated to Emory University in 2010 by Mae Whitlock Gentry, a former editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the great niece of the Harlestons.

Included in the collection are correspondence between the couple and letters between Edwin and W.E.B Du Bois. The collection also includes drawings and sketch books, notes, manuscripts of lectures, and business correspondence.

“Edwin Harleston’s papers are interesting not only because he was an important and understudied artist but because he was very much involved in politics, and he was an African American businessman,” says Randall Burkett, curator of MARBL’s African American Collections. “It’s not atypical at all that people involved in one aspect of African American culture are involved in multiple aspects.”


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