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MS-0001 John Malcus Ellison Papers

Abstract: John Malcus Ellison (1889-1979) was born in Northumberland
County, Virginia and lived most of his adult life in Richmond, Virginia.
As the fourth president of Virginia Union University (1941-1955), he was
the first African American and alumnus to serve in this capacity. Ellison
was active in a number of civic, state and national societies and
organizations. He served as chairman of the Virginia Commission on
Interracial Cooperation, the National Program for Training Negro Ministers
in the South and the board of editors of the Scottish Rite Informer. He
is the author of many books including The Art of Friendship (1943), Tensions
and Destiny (1953), They Who Preach (1956) and They Sang Through the
Crisis (1961).
Chiefly correspondence and subject files from his tenure as
University President. His personal files contain materials that reflect
his role as minister, educator, historian, editor, and author. Also
collected are copies of his copious writings, including tracts, pamphlets,
articles, unpublished sermons and speeches.

Online Catalog Terms:
Afro-American clergy.
Afro-American college presidents.
Afro-American universities and colleges--Virginia.
Afro-Americans--Education--Southern States.
Baptist Herald (Richmond, Va.)
Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955.
College presidents--United States.
Connor, Miles Washington, 1888-
Ellison, John Malcus, 1889-
Gray, William Herbert, 1911-
Henderson, Thomas Howard, 1910-
Johns, Vernon, 1892-1965.
Mays, Benjamin E. (Benjamin Elijah), 1894-1984.
Picott, J. Rupert.
Powell, A. Clayton (Adam Clayton), 1865-1953.
Proctor, Samuel D.
Sermons, American.
Southern Education Foundation.
Virginia Union University (Richmond, Va.)
Woodson, Carter Goodson, 1875-1950.

Size: About 7000 items (12 linear feet).

Date Span: 1941-1979.

Provenance: Received from Elizabeth Balfour Ellison, 06 August 1993.

Access: No restrictions.

Copyright: Retained by the authors of items in these papers,
or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Collection Overview:
This collection contains the administrative and personal records
of John Malcus Ellison as president of Virginia Union University (1941-1955),
chancellor (1955-79), minister, teacher, author and editor. The bulk of
the collection is from the early years of his presidency, 1941-1945, with
very few materials from the later years or during his tenure as chancellor.
Although most of the collection is correspondence conducted in his official
capacity as president, because these materials were received from his family,
the Ellison Papers are organized as a manuscript collection.

The correspondence files give an intriguing picture of Ellison in his role
as president of a small, African American university in a segregated southern
city. The many letters from parents, guardians and prospective students
reflect his function as father and disciplinarian to the campus. The letters
to and from prominent Richmond figures and leaders of the area schools,
both black and white, reveal the part he played in community relations.
Of special interest is the correspondence with other African American
educational leaders, such as Benjamin Mays, which shows the support these
educators lent one another in their struggles for their institutions to
not only survive, but succeed.

The subject files disclose what organizations Ellison participated in as
president. Like many of his contemporaries, he was active in national
organizations as they provided a support network for African American higher
education. These files also reveal what was happening on campus during the
early years of his administration, including the Belgian Building files
which offer a fascinating unfolding of the construction of the building.

The personal files are related mainly to his role as preacher and teacher.
As with the other series, the lines are often blurred in these files
between Ellison's many roles. His speeches and sermons are an interesting
compliment to his writings, and often there is overlap between the two as
he published collections of sermons. Included in the writings are his
extensive notes in preparation for a definitive history of Virginia Union,
for which many of the photographs in these materials were collected.
The programs show not only which events and activities Ellison participated
in, both on campus and off, but those which he attended or supported.