When Johnson C. Smith University was established as Biddle University in 1867, it did not even have a library building. After Dr. Daniel J. Sanders became president of the University in 1891, he met with Booker T. Washington to discuss the need for a library facility, and Mr. Andrew Carnegie of Pittsburgh agreed to donate $12,500 for the erection of a new library if the University would raise matching funds. The Carnegie Library was built in 1911 at a cost of $15,000, and continued to improve with more renovations in 1955. With the University expanding its academic programs and enrollment increasing, the Carnegie Library was soon no longer adequate and a new library was built in memory of James Buchanan Duke in 1967.
Mrs. Inez Moore Parker, an English Professor, and Mr. Henry B. Blue established a Black Cultural Center in this building in the summer of 1975 to expose JCSU’s students, faculty, and staff to works by and about African Americans. On November 4, 1977, the Inez Moore Parker Archives and Research Center was dedicated in honor of Mrs. Parker’s work to preserve the history of the African American experience and the history of the university. This day marked the official establishment of an archives whose specific purpose was to organize and preserve the historical records and materials of Johnson C. Smith University.
Today, the Inez Moore Parker Archives and Research Center contains manuscripts, journals, scrapbooks, photographs, clippings, audiovisual material, and artifacts including a tea set belonging to the first President of the university, a replica of a special chair built for President William Howard Taft when he visited the university in 1909, and a 1923 Biddle University Varsity Sweater. Within the archives, there is also a Black Heritage Room with a small collection of rare books, autographed books, manuscripts, and books written by and about Africans and African Americans and JCSU faculty members.
The collecting emphasis of the JCSU archives focuses on the history of Johnson C. Smith University, the Historic West End community surrounding the university, and the African American experience in Charlotte, N.C. In addition to our physical holdings, Digital Smith is the online presence for the Archives and currently contains over 8,000 digitized items including photographs, documents, news publications, oral histories, and audio files pertaining to the history of JCSU and the surrounding communities, its affiliations with the Presbyterian Church, and its students, organizations, alumni, faculty, and administration.
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