Center Acquires Papers of Journalist Evelyn Cunningham

During 2011, the acquisition of new collections at the Amistad Research Center has been governed by the Center’s collection development policy and managed by a team approach to donor relations. This year, the Center has been fortunate to acquire a number of collections that further the Center’s collecting strengths, while addressing gaps in its holdings. As we begin to wind down the year, the Center’s staff is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal papers of Evelyn Cunningham (1916-2010), journalist and aide to Nelson Rockefeller.

Evelyn Cunningham (left) on the  telephone in the press tent at the  1963 March on Washington.

Evelyn Cunningham (left) on the telephone in the press tent at the 1963 March on Washington.

The Evelyn Cunningham Papers (circa 1920-2004) consist of 6.6 linear feet documenting her work as a journalist and activist from Harlem, New York, and complement a small of amount of material donated by Ms. Cunningham in 2003. Her papers cover her colorful career as a columnist for the New York edition of the Pittsburgh Courier, for which she wrote a column titled “The Women” chronicling African American social life in Harlem. Cunningham’s activities as a journalist provided her the opportunity to meet African American statesmen, celebrities, socialites and activists.

Her journalism career is documented by typescripts, photocopies, and clippings of her columns, as well as a small amount of correspondence. Of note are two undated letters from Cunningham to an unidentified individual that describe her early days with the Courier, as well as a small exchange (two letters) in 1957 with a reporter in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cunningham’s notebooks include one dedicated to coverage of Martin Luther King Jr. and two devoted to the legal proceedings resulting from the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Cunningham’s notebook for her coverage of legal proceedings regarding the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1956

Cunningham’s notebook for her coverage of legal proceedings regarding the Montgomery Bus Boycott, 1956.

The collection also includes materials related to Cunningham’s appointment as Special Assistant to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Director of the Women’s Unit of the State of New York, as well as her service to Rockefeller while he was Vice President. Cunningham’s civic involvement in such organizations as the Apollo Theater Foundation, the Harlem Congregation for Community Improvement, the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the New York Coalition of 100 Black Women, and others is documented through correspondence, photographs, minutes, programs, and reports.

Posted by Christopher Harter

(Images from the Evelyn Cunningham Papers. May not be reproduced without permission.)

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