Avery is home to approximately two hundred manuscript collections, varying in size from a few items to over one-hundred 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 collections of artifacts ranging from those that document slavery to material culture from West Africa, as well as a sweetgrass basket collection.

View a continually updated listing of Avery’s collections:


  • Deborah Wright, Reference Librarian
    • WrightD at cofc dot edu

Strengths of the 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, contain valuable information as well.

  • Funeral Home Records

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; 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) in addition to 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, Artist 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.

Oral Histories

The Avery Research Center houses hundreds of oral histories relating to the African American experience in the lowcountry. Our particular strength is in documenting the civil rights movement, education in Charleston, and Gullah culture. These include:

  • The Orangeburg Massacre Oral History Project
  • Avery Normal Institute Interviews with administrators, teachers and graduates
  • South Carolina Voices of the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Women’s Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of South Carolina
  • Ansonborough Oral History Project- in collaboration with the Spoleto Festival USA documenting the lives of residents of one of Charleston’s first African American low-income housing developments in the 1940s

We are currently working on digitizing our holdings in order to preserve them and make them more available for researchers. To browse our oral histories, please click here:

Also, make sure to check back often, as our digital library is expanding rapidly!

Other Formats

Other available formats include: monographic and serial publications (journals, periodicals, newspapers, newsletters) on paper and in microfilm; scholarly and popular works including dissertations, pamphlets and booklets; topographic and thematic maps dating from the 19th through 21st centuries; vertical files with ephemera, periodicals and newspaper clippings; over 300 audio and videos (mostly in VHS format) including religious music; spirituals and gospel music from Lowcountry and Sea Island praise houses and churches.

Electronic formats are also available online through the College of Charleston.

Our microfilm collection includes numerous popular periodicals and copies of the following:

  • American Missionary Association Manuscripts for South Carolina
  • Black Abolitionist Papers (1830-1865)
  • Charleston City Negro Capitation Tax Books (1862-1864)
  • W.E.B. DuBois Papers
  • FBI File on the Highlander School
  • Freedmen’s Bureau Records from South Carolina (1865-1870)
  • General Education Board: Early Southern Program, SC
  • The Palmetto Leader newspaper from Columbia (c.1920-1950s)
  • Records of Ante-Bellum Southern Plantation from the Revolution through the Civil War
  • Records of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (Colored), 1863-1865
  • The Lorenzo D. Turner Collection

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