HBCU Library Alliance HBCU Library Alliance

Building Capacity for Humanities Special Collections at HBCUs - 2023

2023 Sub-Grant Awards

The following twelve institutions were awarded Round 2 sub-grant awards. Our project partner, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (PA), is delivering preservation planning services and training. Congrats to these institutions!!!

1. Alabama State University (ASU) is known as the "University at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement." Their archives reflect the activities of ASU faculty, staff, and students who participated in all the major Civil Rights episodes. Notable alumni include Ralph Abernathy and Fred Gray. Significant ASU archival collections include the E.D. Nixon Collection, Montgomery's Civil Rights organizer who led before the arrival of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and who bailed Rosa Parks out of jail.

2. Thurgood Marshall Library at Bowie State University, the first HBCU in the state of Maryland, holds historical documents that share the history of preparing teachers/educators of color in the state of Maryland. The Special Collections include materials about the education and history of African Americans in Maryland and Prince George's County, books on Maryland history, rare books, and photographs documenting Bowie State University's history.

3. Clinton College (SC) was one of many schools established by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church during the Reconstruction years to help eradicate illiteracy among freedmen. The institution was named for Bishop Caleb Isom Clinton, who was the Palmetto Conference Presiding Bishop in 1894. The Clinton College Library archives hold historic items such as photos of past Bishops and Presiding Elders. The archives also contain church publications documenting the history of the AME Zion Church. 

4. Denmark Technical College (SC) began operation on March 1, 1948 as the Denmark Branch of the South Carolina Trade School System. At its inception, the institution was mandated to educate black citizens in various trades. Denmark Technical College is the only two-year HBCU that has dormitories in South Carolina. The archive collection includes materials to inform historians about the rich legacy of the college.

5. The historical significance of the Elizabeth City State University’s (NC) Archives and Special Collections begins with the inception of the school in 1891 as a State (Colored) Normal School to Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) in 1969. The collection of archival material supports further study of the community's cultural heritage with books used in every phase of the school's history, including books from the Rosenwald School which was a campus building in use from 1921-1942 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.

6. Fayetteville State University’s (NC) archives hold items from the 1770s to 2020 and feature materials of notable figures who have made a historical mark nationally and internationally. For example, Charles W. Chesnutt, principal of the school from 1877-1883, is considered the first noted African American novelist. Dr. Ezekiel Ezra Smith served as the institution’s first president from 1883-1933. He was appointed Consul General (Ambassador) to Liberia from 1888 to 1890 and served in the Spanish-American War in 1898. The archives and Special Collections include many artifacts relating to the history of these two pillars of the college.

7. The Miles College (AL) Learning Resource Center was erected in 1977. In 2021, the facility underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation per the vision of college president Bobbie Knight. Most of the literature housed in the archives were items used to support the studies of African American students during an era where people of color were not welcome to receive a free education. A strategic goal of the library is to establish a special collection that captures past presidents, civil rights leaders, and the history of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

8. The Special Collections at Texas Southern University include the Traditional African Art Gallery, the Charles F. Heartman Collection, and the official records of Texas Southern University. The Traditional African Art collection was established in the 1970s and now contains 247 pieces of art from West Africa, Central Africa, and East Africa. The Heartman Collection is considered the largest African American collection in the Southwest. It contains over 11,000 books, pamphlets, slave narratives, journals, musical scores, and other documents relating to the black experience in the United States and the world.

9. Tougaloo College (MS) was founded in 1869 by the American Missionary Association of New York for the training of young people. The college was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi in the 1960s. It served as a safe haven for those who fought for freedom, justice, and equality. The Special Collections contain yearbooks, course catalogs, and historical pictures from the Civil Rights era, prominent African American Harlem Renaissance legends, and notable alumni. 

10. The Archives & Special Collections at Virginia Union University hold rare books, photographs, manuscripts, and sheet music. The rare book collection contains over 1,200 volumes emphasizing African American children's books of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The L. Douglas Wilder Collection memorializes the life and career of Virginia's 66th Governor (1990-1994), the first elected African American Governor in U.S. history, and Virginia Union's most celebrated alumnus. 

11. The Special Collections of West Virginia State University (WVSU) include holdings that directly reflect the educational, instructional, research, and social mission of WVSU throughout its storied 131-year history. WVSU is one of only three HBCUs in West Virginia. The institution’s importance and centrality are vital elements of the role and impact of Black history and culture in both West Virginia and eastern Appalachia. 

12. The Special Collections at Wiley College (TX) contain historical documents, ephemera, and memorabilia related to the 149-year history of the college. Wiley College was founded in 1873 and was one of the first black colleges created west of the Mississippi River. The Special Collections hold theses on topics of education in HBCUs and personal papers of past professors who taught at Wiley College.

Building Capacity – Year 2

Building Capacity - Year 2 will offer a menu of preservation planning documents, collection surveys, treatment and rehousing services, and educational programs to member libraries. Click here for the Program descriptions.

Through this outreach, the HBCU Library Alliance will assist member libraries in building capacity for fundraising for special collection initiatives, documenting cultural heritage materials, increasing accessibility of special collection items, and promoting the humanities significance of their broad collections of rare materials and their irreplaceable cultural heritage artifacts. The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) is providing professional services to support this component of the project. 

Apply for Project Funding
The Building Capacity - Year 2 virtual series is scheduled to begin the week of November 6, 2022. This program is open to all library employees, Work Study students, and interns. Encourage your colleagues to attend. Registration is required for all sessions and is detailed below.  

A total of $180,000 is available for project funding. Libraries may apply for up to $30,000 in projects and may request a variety of projects in a single request. The $30,000 (maximum) figure will ensure that a minimum of six HBCU libraries will receive funds in each of the remaining funding rounds, although it is anticipated that the majority of subgrants will be smaller allowing for a larger number of HBCU libraries to receive funding for projects during the subgrant rounds. The library will assume responsibility for implementation of the project and will submit final reports to the HBCU Library Alliance at the conclusion of their projects.


Application Materials

Building Capacity 2022 Funding Application

Building Capacity 2022 Collection and Materials Form

Building Capacity 2022 Project Description and Costs Form

Building Capacity for Humanities Special Collections at HBCUs - 2019

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded the HBCU Library Alliance a $365,000 one-to-one challenge grant for “The Building Capacity for Humanities Special Collections at Historically Black Colleges and Universities” project. The HBCU Library Alliance must raise $365,000 to fulfil the obligations of the challenge grant.

Building Capacity is a five-year program designed to build capacity for the long-term preservation and conservation of collections at each of the member libraries. Building Capacity will offer a menu of preservation planning documents, collection surveys, treatment and rehousing services, and educational programs to the member libraries. Through this outreach, the HBCU Library Alliance will assist the libraries in building capacity for fundraising for special collection initiatives, documenting cultural heritage materials, increasing accessibility of special collection items, and promoting the humanities significance of their broad collections of rare materials and their irreplaceable cultural heritage artifacts.

Building Capacity – Year 1 – Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award

The HBCU Library Alliance has received a one-year grant for the Building Capacity—Year One program. Awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this program will develop the infrastructure to support the NEH funded “Building Capacity for Humanities Special Collections at Historically Black Colleges and Universities”, a five-year HBCU Library Alliance program that has received partial support from a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant. Building Capacity—Year One tasks are focused on four areas: 1) Raising the matching funds required by the NEH Challenge Grant to fully fund the five-year program “Building Capacity—HBCU,” 2) building long-term fundraising capacity at the HBCU Library Alliance, 3) implementing educational and promotional activities needed for the successful launch of the regrant component of “Building Capacity—HBCU,” and 4) selecting the first round of regrant awardees through the convening of an Advisory Committee.

The Mellon Foundation grant will fully fund Building Capacity—Year One, providing needed support to build fundraising capacity at the HBCU Library Alliance, develop and present promotional material to launch the five-year program, and pilot implementation of the first selection process to choose regrant awardees. As a matching contribution, this Mellon grant will trigger the first infusion of NEH funding, which will be invested for funding in year two.


The humanities special collections of the HBCU Library Alliance’s 71 member libraries contain the unique stories of the development and evolution of HBCUs dating back to the early 1800s. The manuscript, book, photograph, and audiovisual material in these special collections provide vital perspectives on local and regional history in 19 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands. Perhaps even more importantly, they offer irreplaceable documentation on the African American experience in the 19th and 20th centuries, reflecting the monumental themes of slavery, Civil War, Restoration, the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, the recent Black Lives Matter, and so much more.


Grant funds for Building Capacity will strengthen and improve knowledge and understanding of the humanities through capacity building strategies focused on the preservation and conservation of special collections at member libraries. The total $730,000 project, with both federal and 1:1 nonfederal matching funds, centers upon the use of $658,000 in Spend-down Funds to assist member libraries in improving collection stewardship through a menu that will include preservation planning documents (preservation needs assessments, preservation plans, emergency response plans, and collections management development policies); item-level conservation assessments and condition reports for paper, photographs, books, paintings, textiles, objects, or audiovisual media; conservation treatment and/or housing; and educational programs that can be delivered at the requesting library and customized to meet the library’s needs.

A pool of $520,000 of Spend-down funds will be established to provide four years of funding (through equal allocations of $130,000 in Years 2, 3, 4, and 5) of projects at the member libraries. While the libraries will be encouraged to follow a systematic process for improving collections (with an initial investment in preservation planning and any needed environmental improvements, followed by assessments of collections and items by conservators who will generate condition reports and cost estimates for treatment, and last of all, the implementation of recommended treatment and/or rehousing), the libraries will be granted freedom to apply for funding for any projects from the menu which they feel will benefit their institution most or that are most urgently needed.

2020 Webinar Recordings

  1. Wednesday, July 31: Introduction to Building Capacity
    Download PDF

  2. Wednesday, August 14 Collections Care Basics PDF

  3. Tuesday, August 27: Know Your Collections: Collections Management
    Download PDF

  4. Thursday, September 12: Building Momentum: Promoting Your Collections
    Download PDF

2020 Application Materials

2020 Sub-Grant Awards

The following twelve institutions were awarded Round 1 sub-grant awards. Our project partner, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (PA), will deliver preservation planning services and training. Congrats to these institutions!!


1. The Benedict College (SC) Historical Collection depicts the College’s transformation over 150 years in providing a quality education for the once emancipated African-Americans to presently educating students of all races and nationalities. The collection depicts decades of students’ campus life and College culture and events, but also shows how Benedict College through economic growth, development and a stable student population served to enhance the greater Columbia community.

2. Significant to Clinton College (SC) is its connection to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, with collections of yearbooks, circulars and other materials that show the progress of Clinton College.  The institution has a proud heritage as a Christian College, striving to prepare men and women to be lifelong learners, active participants and good stewards of society. 

3. The Delaware State University Archives and Special Collections contain records dating from the first-ever trustee meeting in 1891 through current day and student newspaper publications from 1912 through 2015.  The Delaware State University Archives and Special Collections is the only repository dedicated to the education of African-Americans in the state of Delaware.

4. The collections of Fisk University (TN) draw scholars from around the world and contain some of the oldest and most definitive collections of African-American history and culture. Since the school’s opening in 1868, it has collected and preserved materials by and about African Americans. Fisk’s collections are a major source for the study of the African-American experience.

5. The George Peabody Collection at Hampton University (VA) is recognized as one of the oldest and finest African-American Collections in the country. It encompasses all subjects relevant to the study of African-American history and culture and contains monographs, anti-slavery pamphlets, journals, clippings and materials relating to Hampton University.

6. The Johnson C. Smith University (NC) Charlotte Urban Renewal Collection consists of maps and manuscripts that detail government-sponsored urban renewal policies of the 1950’s and 1960’s. These policies resulted in the destruction of traditional African-American ring villages around Charlotte, the erasure of a vibrant self-made black cultural climate and the displacement of hundreds of black families.

7. Morehouse School of Medicine was founded in 1976 to recruit, train and educate minorities and other students to become physicians, biomedical scientists and public professionals committed to the primary healthcare needs of the underserved. Although small in size, the Morehouse School of Medicine is a leader among medical schools in the number of African-American MD recipients. Its photographic collection includes forty-four years of pictorial history.

8. South Carolina State University’s Historical Collection and Archives holdings are strongest in twentieth century materials relating to South Carolina State University and the Orangeburg Massacre, a 1968 event in which twenty-eight African-American students were shot (three killed) on the campus of South Carolina State by the South Carolina National Guards while protesting against racial segregation.  The event represents one of the earliest involving the shooting of student protesters on a college campus in the U.S. 

9. The archives at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana contain popular collections that include an original set of Slave Narratives (1935), the 1960 Baton Rouge Sit-Ins, and the 1953 Baton Rouge Bus Boycott, which was the model that inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott that took place two years later.  From these vast stories, scholars get a true sense of Southern University's unique culture, history, arts and where this institution fits in Louisiana’s history.

10. Texas College was founded by a group of Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) ministers in 1894.The CME church was founded in 1870 by forty-one former slave members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Texas College’s collections contain materials related to the CME church and its impact on community, students and scholars.

11. Tougaloo College (MS) is presently celebrating its Sesquicentennial. Its archives function as a repository and research center for the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Its Lawyers Commission Collection contains records of cases including school desegregation, public accommodations and voting rights. 

12. Tuskegee University (AL) Special Collections consists of volumes on Africa and the African Diaspora dating from the 18th century to the present. Among the most significant portions of this collection are the more than 2,158 pamphlets pertaining to Civil Rights and Black issues during the period from 1900 to 1960.