African-American History Research Sources at The McCall Library

The Excelsior Band takes part in the laying of the cornerstone for the A.F. and A.M. Masonic Temple, 1922.
Erik Overbey Collection

This guide includes records of organizations, papers of individuals, oral interviews, and legal cases. It provides a brief description of each collection, including dates, size, and links to any online guides. It also lists secondary sources at The McCall Library such as, dissertations, theses, books, articles, and newspapers that support the collections. The guide was prepared by Delene Case (12/20/2004).

If you do not find what you are looking for or you need more information about these collections please email us at

Important Disclaimer: Warning concerning copyright restrictions. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be "used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship or research." If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement. It is up to the user to comply with all copyright laws of the United States.


NAACP (1930-1956)

Accession: 85-07-093
Size of Collection: 4 cu. ft.

Most of the early material for the local branch of this organization is located in the John LeFlore papers. The material dates from 1930 until 1956, when the organization was banned from operating in Alabama until 1964.

The records include correspondence, affidavits, financial and membership records, minutes, miscellaneous notes, and promotional materials. Early regional and branch correspondence focus on employment opportunities and public accommodations. Following the 1944 Supreme Court decision that white primaries were unconstitutional, the focus shifted to political rights.

Neighborhood Organized Workers (NOW) (1966-1971 and 2003) 

Accession: 92-09-247, 06-09-453, 06-09-454
Size of Collection: 1.75 cu. ft.

The Neighborhood Organized Workers (NOW) was established in Mobile, Alabama, in July 1966. NOW carried on direct action in an effort to achieve political, social, and economic reform in the African-American community. This collection contains copies of NOW's FBI files (1968-1971) and covers topics related to African-American leadership, race relations, civil rights activities, school desegregation, voter registration, economic boycotts, and black nationalism in Mobile, Alabama, and surrounding areas. These files were obtained through a U.S. Department of Justice Freedom of Information Act request, and include memorandums, informant reports, newspaper clippings, and copies of handbills gathered by the Mobile, Alabama, FBI Field Office in its investigation of NOW and its activities. The FBI's primary correspondent is Mobile's Special Advisory Commission (SAC). Typical information gathered includes summary reports of NOW meetings, the composition of NOW leadership, and an interpretation of the African- American community's attitude toward NOW, civil rights, and race relations.


A companion collection includes taped interviews with civil rights activist and founding member of the Neighborhood Organized Workers Jerry Pogue, former journalist for the Southern Courier newspaper and founding member of the Neighborhood Organized Workers David Underhill, and George Langham, educator and member of the Neighborhood Organized Workers.

Non-Partisan Voters League (NPVL) (1956-1987)
Accession: 92-09-247
Size of Collection: 22 cu. ft.

The Non-Partisan Voters League was organized in Mobile in 1956, the same time that the Alabama Attorney General banned the NAACP. The NPVL continued the civil rights activism in Mobile while the NAACP was outlawed and after it resumed. The collection holds records which span thirty years (1956-1987) with the bulk of materials between 1961 and 1975. As the records of this collection reveal, the NPVL demanded the hiring of more black municipal employees, sued to force desegregation of the Mobile school system, filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Justice to open public accommodations to all, launched massive voter registration campaigns, and challenged the constitutionality of Mobile's commission form of municipal government.
See also Keith Nicholls, "The Non-Partisan Voters League of Mobile, Alabama" (vertical file).

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1965)
Accession: 92-09-247
Size of Collection: 2 files

A local branch of this organization existed in Mobile County for a brief period in 1965. Material relating to the SCLC can be found in the NPVL files.


Gaylord Lee Clark Photographs (mid- to late-1800s and early 1900s)
Accession: 10-07-526
Size of Collection: 27 prints

Original black and white prints of various sizes showing scenes from the Dallas County plantation of Judge John Starke Hunter. Included are several images of former Hunter Plantation slaves. There are also scenes taken in Montgomery, Alabama, including the inauguration of Jefferson Davis, as well as images of flooding in Mobile, Alabama, after the 1906 hurricane. John Starke Hunter was a businessman born in Pleasant Hill, Alabama, near Troy in 1848. Hunter was the son of Ransom Davis Hunter and Martha Famariah Hunter, and the grandson of Henry Larence (or Lawrence) Hunter and Mary Howard Hunter. There are no negatives but all of the images have been digitized.

Michael Donald Papers (1962-1981)
Accession: 06-09-466
Size of Collection: .5 cu. ft.

On March 21, 1981, James "Tiger" Knowles and Henry Francis Hays, local members of the United Klans of America, lynched Michael Donald. In retribution for the mistrial of a black man accused of killing a white police officer in Birmingham, Hays and Knowles took Donald’s body and hung it from a tree on Herndon Avenue near his home. Eventually both Knowles and Hays were convicted of the crime. Knowles was given a life sentence and Hays was executed. The papers of Michael Donald contain selected Hays and Knowles court proceedings, the bulk of which is related to Hays. Also included are FBI investigation files, coroner’s report, and several articles relating to the cases and the Ku Klux Klan.

John L. LeFlore Papers (1926-1976)
Accession: 85-07-093
Size of Collection: 11 cu. ft.

John LeFlore worked as a civil rights activist in Mobile for fifty years, 1925-1975. His papers document the early work of the NAACP in Mobile and provide insight into his life and aspirations. LeFlore served as executive secretary of the Mobile NAACP from 1925 until 1956. He also served as chairman of the organization's Regional Conference of Southern Branches from 1936 to 1945, a critical period in its development, and was vice-president of the Alabama Conference from 1945 to 1951.

Other papers in the collection reveal LeFlore's work in public and private life. He served in leadership positions in many organizations ranging from the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to the Mobile Committee for the Support of Public Education. LeFlore also served on the Mobile Housing Board and in the Alabama House of Representatives. He was the first African American appointed to the Housing Board and, with Gary Cooper, was the first elected to the state legislature from Mobile since Reconstruction.

John LeFlore Oral History Project (ca. 1990)
Accession: 97-20-328
Size of Collection: 3 cu. ft.

This collection contains video interviews with ten individuals who knew or worked closely with John LeFlore: Joseph Langan, O. B. Purifoy, Dr. W. B. LeFlore, Janet LeFlore, Frederick Richardson, J. C. Randolph, Hon. James T. Strickland, Henry C. Williams, Geraldine Clark, and Lancie Thomas. The thirty-four tapes are indexed.

Melton McLaurin Interviews (1970-1972)
Accession: 93-16-270
Size of Collection: .25 cu. ft.

Transcriptions of interviews with civil rights activist John LeFlore, newspaper editor Frank Thomas, and former mayor Joseph Langan.

Jeanette K. Maygarden Oral History interviews (1994)
Accession: 00-20-362
Size of Collection: .5 cu. ft.

Two videotape interviews with Paulette Davis Horton (August 3 and 9, 1994). Horton is the author of The Avenue and other local history books. To quote from this source, the user must obtain permission from the interviewee or her heirs.

Nafiza Ahmed interviews (2001)
Accession: 01-16-383
Size of Collection: 4 tapes

These interviews are recorded on audio tape. The four interviewees participated in Mobile's civil rights movement and the Neighborhood Organized Workers or supported part of the movement. Some restrictions may apply.

Delene Case interviews (2003)
Accession: 05-16-423
Size of Collection: .25 cu. ft.

The nine interviewees participated or assisted with the Neighborhood Organized Workers (NOW) and/or other civil rights organizations in Mobile during the 1960s and 1970s. The interviews are recorded on audio tape and the transcriptions are included in the collection. An email conversation has been printed and is included in the interview transcripts. These interviews were part of Ms. Case’s M.A. thesis which is listed below.

Legal and Government Records

Bolden v. City of Mobile (1976-1982)
Accession: 85-09-072
Size of Collection: 10 cu. ft.

This lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of Mobile's commissioner form of municipal government, and it brought about the mayor-council form of government. This collection is the entire case from U.S. District Court and includes all documents in the civil suit, materials from the plaintiff and defendant, and all other official documents.. The dates for these records range from 1976 until 1984. See also, the related articles listed below.

Mobile Circuit Court Records (1830-1917)
Accession: 85-09-125
Size of Collection: 431 cu. ft. (files), 402 cu. ft. (bound volumes)

These records date from ca. 1830 to ca. 1917 and include divorce cases and other civil and criminal cases involving African Americans. Indexes are available.

Mobile Housing Board Records (1952-1967)
Accession: 98-08-344
Size of Collection: 361 cu. ft.

The Mobile Housing Board was organized in 1935 during the Great Depression when business leaders petitioned the city commission to grant them a charter for a non-profit public corporation to provide construction jobs and housing for the poor. The objective was to obtain funds to clear sub-standard housing and build safe and sanitary housing for the poor. In 1937, federal legislation was passed which made federal funds available to cities through local housing authorities that were authorized by the state to undertake housing and slum clearance activities.

After the Housing Act of 1949, Mobile began forming its Master Plan for Urban Redevelopment, and the housing board took the responsibility for carrying out this plan. The projects associated with this plan were designed, in theory, to remove or rehabilitate blighted, sub-standard structures and replace them with newly constructed or renovated structures. The major project areas were the Broad Street-Beauregard Street connector, Water Street, East church Street, and the Central Texas Street area. Of these projects, African Americans lived primarily in the Central Texas Street and Broad-Beauregard areas as well as individual cases of their relocation can be found in these records.

The records of the housing board are organized by urban renewal project areas. The boxes are classified according to their document type which is indicated in the box inventory under the project area heading. The major file types include the following: acquisitions, appraisals, condemnations, rehabilitation, relocation, completed contracts, urban renewal files, and loan and grant applications.

See also, Meredith Johnston, "Urban Renewal and the African-American Community in Mobile, Alabama: A Study of the Central Texas Street Urban Renewal Project, 1968-1974" (M.A. Thesis, University of South Alabama, 2000).

Other Resources

Photograph Collections

Researchers will find numerous photos of African Americans under the following subject categories: Individuals, Groups, Street Scenes, Businesses, Education, Churches, and Special Events.

African American Newspapers on Microfilm

Inner City News, 1977-1995
The Mobile Beacon, 1959-2001
Mobile Weekly Press, 1914-1929
Press Forum Weekly, 1929-1934
Mobile Weekly Advocate, 1939-1958
The New Times, 1988-1994
The Mobile Republican, 1870-1872
The Southern Watchman, 1899-1904
The Gulf Informer, 1949-1952
The Nationalist, 1869

Vertical Files

Researchers will find vertical files at The McCall Library relating to African-American churches, education, and individuals, as well as articles listed below.


Abbreviations: VF=Vertical File, GSHR=Gulf South Historical Review

Ahmed, Nafiza, "A City Too Respectable to Hate: Mobile during the Era of Desegregation, 1962-1965," 15 (1): 6-17 (GSHR)

Ahmed, Nafiza, "The Neighborhood Organization Workers of Mobile, Alabama: Black Power Politics and the Local Civil Rights Activism in the Deep South, 1968-1971." (VF)

Alsobrook, David, "A.N. Johnson." (VF)

Alsobrook, David, "Mobile's Solitary Sentinel: U.S. Attorney William H. Armbrecht and the Richard Robertson Lynching Case of 1909," 20 (1): 6-27 (GSHR)

Blacksher, James and Larry Menefee, "At Large Elections and One Person, One Vote: The Search for the Meaning of Racial Vote Dilution." (VF)

Blacksher, James and Larry Menefee, "From Reynolds v. Sims to City of Mobile v. Bolden: Have the White Suburbs Commandeered the Fifteenth Amendment?" (VF)

Breen, William J., "The State and Workplace Reform in the South: War Manpower Commission Initiatives and Employer Resistance on the Gulf Coast in World War II," 18 (2): 6-37 (GSHR)

Byers, S. H. M., "The Last Slave Ship" (VF)

Davidson, Chandler, "At-Large Elections and Minority-Group Representation: A Re-examination of Historical and Contemporary Evidence." (VF)

Davidson, Chandler, "Nonpartisan Slating Groups as a Mechanism of Minority Vote Dilution." (VF)

Fitts, Alston, "Alabama's First Black Judge: Roderick B. Thomas of Selma" (VF)

Fitzgerald, Michael W., "Emancipation and its Urban Consequences: Freedom Comes to Mobile," 18 (1): 31-46 (GSHR)

Fitzgerald, Michael W., "Political Factionalism and the African-American Community: Popular politics in Mobile During Reconstruction" (VF)

Fitzgerald, Michael W., "Railroad Subsidies & Black Aspirations: The Politics of Economic Development in Reconstruction Mobile, 1865-1879" (VF)

Flanagan, Sheila, "In Search of Mobile's African-American History," in MPR (VF)

Free, Joe Brayton, "Petitions to Become a Slave," 15 (2): 98-107 (GSHR)

Kendall, John S., "New Orleans' Peculiar Institution" (slavery) (VF)

Koenigsberg, David, "The Standard of Proof in At-Large Vote Dilution Discrimination Cases after City of Mobile v. Bolden." (VF)

McCrary, Peyton, "History in the Courts: The Significance of the City of Mobile v. Bolden." (VF)

McLaurin, Melton, "Mobile Blacks and World War II" (VF)

Mitchell, Richard, "Bolden v. Mobile: Equitable Discretion Unchained." (VF)

Murray, Albert, "Black Pride in Mobile," The Omni Americans (VF)

Nelson, Bruce, "Organized Labor and the Struggle for Black Equality: Mobile during World War II" (VF)

Nicholls, Keith, "NAACP: Outlawed in Alabama, 1956-64" and "The Non-Partisan Voters League of Mobile, Alabama" (VF)

Nicholls, Keith, "Major Civil Rights Cases - Brief Review of Proceedings & Results" (VF)

O'Rourke, Timothy, "Constitutional and Statutory Challenges to Local At-Large Elections." (VF)

"Making the Violation Fit the Remedy: The Intent Standard and Equal Protection Law." (Yale Law Journal Vol. 92, 1982) (VF)

Thomas, Mary Martha, "The Mobile Homefront During the Second World War," 1 (2): 55-74 (GSHR)

Books, Theses, Dissertations

Hank Aaron, I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story. Ruth Lonnie Wheeler, ed. (Harper Collins, 1991).

Shawn Bivens, Mobile, Alabama's People of Color: A Tricentennial History, 1702-2002. (Victoria, B.C., Canada: Trafford Publishing, 2004).

Delene Case, "'Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around': The Black Freedom Struggle in Mobile, Alabama, 1902-1969" (M.A. Thesis, University of South Alabama, 2004).

Richard Chastang, St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church: From the origin of St. Paul's Chapel to the departure of Fr. Sabino Grossi, SSJ. (Mobile, Alabama: STA Publications, 2004).

Paulette Davis-Horton, Avenue: the Place, the People, the Memories, 1799-1986. (Mobile, Alabama: Horton, Inc., 1991).

Eric Duke, "A Life in the Struggle: John L. LeFlore and the Civil Rights Movements in Mobile, Alabama (1925-1975)" (M.A. Thesis, Florida State University, 1998).

Michael Fitzgerald, Urban Emancipation: Popular Politics in Reconstruction Mobile, 1860-1890. (Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2002).

Robert M. Glennon, Kudjo: The Last Slave Voyage to America. (Fairhope, Alabama: Over the Transom Publishing Company, 1999).

Lois Virginia Meacham Gould, "In Full Enjoyment of their Liberty: The Free Women of Color of the Gulf Ports of New Orleans, Mobile, and Pensacola, 1769-1860" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1991).

Patterson Toby Graham, A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965. (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002).

Meredith Johnston, "Urban Renewal and the African-American Community in Mobile, Alabama: A Study of the Central Texas Street Urban Renewal Project, 1968-1974" (M.A. Thesis, University of South Alabama, 2000).

Christopher Andrew Nordmann, "Free Negroes in Mobile County, Alabama" (Ph.D. diss., University of Alabama, 1990).

Fredrick Richardson, The Genesis and Exodus of NOW. (Boynton Beach, Florida: Futura Printing, 1996).

Fredrick Richardson, The Stone Street Baptist Church - Alabama's First, 1806-1982. (Boynton Beach, Florida: Futura Printing, 1982).

Emma L. Roche, Historic Sketches of the South. (Mobile, Alabama: D.L. Printing, 1989).

Dian Lee Shelley, "The Effects of Increasing Racism on the Creole Colored in Three Gulf Coast Cities between 1803 and 1860" (M.A. Thesis, University of West Florida, 1971).

Tom Stanton, Hank Aaron and the Home Run that Changed America.(New York: William Morrow, 2004).

"Most Pure Heart of Mary Church, 1899-1999: 100th Anniversary, A Century of Blessings" (Mobile, Alabama, 1999).