Collection Overview

The mission of the Avery Research Center is to evaluate, acquire, organize, preserve, and make available materials that document the African American experience in Charleston, the Lowcountry, South Carolina, and beyond.


Avery is home to approximately two hundred manuscript collections, varying in size from a few items to over fifty linear feet; over five thousand printed items, ranging from standard texts, rare books, and pamphlets to dissertations and journals; over four thousand photographs; hundreds of reels of microfilm, VHS tapes, clipping files, and digital formats. There are also dozens of artifact collections, from those that document slavery to material culture from West Africa and a Lowcountry sweet grass basket collection.

Processed manuscript collections and other cataloged items can be searched via the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library’s online catalog and via ArchivesSpace. Reference staff can be queried on unprocessed collections. View a full listing of Avery’s collections.

Pre-1865: Avery holds the Holloway family scrapbook that documents a free people of color family, the records of the Friendly Moralist Society, and other family papers that pre-date the Civil War. The Walter Pantovic Collection contains materials regarding the enslavement of Africans and persons of African descent and the institutions of slavery. There are microfilm materials of some plantations and capitation records for Charleston’s free people of color.

Civil Rights: Of prime importance are the papers of Septima Clark, Bernice Robinson, Cleveland Sellers, Isaiah Bennett, J. Arthur Brown, Millicent Brown, Ruby Cornwell, and Esau Jenkins, among others. The papers of attorneys Robert Rosen and Armand Derfner contain valuable information on various court cases, as do the papers of John C. Ruoff, Arthur McFarland, and others. Various oral history collections, many with full transcripts.

Funeral Home Records (circa 1900-1977): Avery holds the records of the Harleston and Harleston/Boags Funeral Homes, the Mickey Funeral Home, the Gadsden Funeral Home, and the records of various private benevolent and burial societies.

Church Records: Charleston area churches include Centenary Methodist Episcopal, Central Baptist, Mt. Zion AME, St. Marks Episcopal, and Zion Olivet Presbyterian Church.

Organizational, Institutional, and Social Records: Avery holds the records of the Coming Street YWCA, the Owls Whist Club; the Book Lover’s Club; the Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club; Entre Nous Bridge Club; the Charleston Chapter of the LINKS, Inc., Women’s Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of SC; the Athenians; the Charleston Chapter of the One Hundred Black Men of Charleston; Jenkins Orphanage; McClennan Banks Hospital, among others. Avery also holds the personal papers of many individuals who played roles and held office in many of these and similar organizations. Of special interest are the papers of women affiliated with the Colored Women’s Club movement.

Women’s Records: Avery holds the records of many women active in the civil rights movement (as indicated above) as well as the papers of Ethyl R. Brown, Mamie Garvin Fields; Anna Kelly; Albertha Murray; Ethelyn Murray Parker; Lois R. Simms; Lucille S. Whipper and others.

Photographers, Artisans/Craftsmen, Artists, and Musicians: Holdings include the Coards Photo Studio and photographer Walter A. Boags, as well as small collections of prominent Charleston photographers, Michael Francis Blake and Anderson Studio. Collections relating to music include William S. Lawrence, D. Jack Moses, James R. Logan, William Saxton Wilson, and the Charleston Jazz Initiative. Artisan/Craftsmen collections include the Sweetgrass Basket Collection, blacksmith Phillip Simmons, and furniture maker Elijah Wineglass. Avery also holds the papers of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen.

Writers and Scholars: Holdings include the papers of anthropologists Colin Turnbull and Joseph Towles; historians William and Jane Pease, Edmund L. Drago, and W. Marvin Dulaney.

BUILDING CLOSURES: We will be closed to the public on Friday, May 10th and Monday, May 27th. Building and reading room hours may have closures outside of this period due to private events, contact us in advance for further assistance.

MUSEUM TOURS: The Avery Research Center offers self-guided tours Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1030AM-12PM and 2PM-330PM. For large groups we ask you limit 25 people or fewer per time slot for self-guided tours. Due to staffing shortages Avery will not be offering guided tours to the general public until further notice.

ARCHIVES: Researchers must have a consultation BEFORE making a research appointment.