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SOUTH CAROLINIANA LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY SOUTH CAROLINIANA SOCIETY
MANUSCRIPTS DIVISION 2002
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Edith Mitchell Dabbs Papers, 1862-1991 [Addition]
The largest units in a major addition of five linear feet, 1862-1991, to the papers of Edith Mitchell Dabbs (1906-1991) are the extensive historical and photographic research files on the Beaufort area, and especially on St. Helena Island and its Penn School - - including some original period images as well as hundreds of working copy prints - - which went into the preparation of her two books, Face of an Island (1970) and Sea Island Diary (1983). Included among the files are an undated manuscript relating to the taking of Hilton Head in the Civil War; typescript copies of a paper entitled "Footprints in Tabby" and of her text for Sea Island Diary; and printed circulars, general orders, proclamations, maps, and other items published as early as 1862 for use by the Department of the South during the federal occupation of Beaufort. Other files and a scrapbook, 1970-1979, provide documentation of the sales and reception of Face of an Island. A small black notebook contains evidence of two other possible titles once considered for the book: "St. Helena Portraits" and "Lost Island." Of this volume Charles G. Gomillion of Tuskegee would write, 4 August 1971 - - "Your book, Face of an Island, is admired by all who see it when browsing in our living room."

Among other principal units in this addition are its files of consolation communications - - letters, cards, and telegrams - - sent Edith following the death in May 1970 of her husband, James McBride Dabbs (1896-1970). Characteristic of the tone and content of these communications was the telegram sent from Charleston by Septima P. Clark on 2 June 1970 - - "Heartfelt sympathy in the passing of [South Carolina's] greatest leader[.] May we all pick up the [mantle] and carry on." On the same day Robert Ackerman, writing from Erskine College, observed - - "He was...a provacative, sparkling, affectionate student of the South. I am myself much influenced by the thought of James McBride Dabbs." A former student, Dorothy Smith Jeter of Anderson, wrote, 8 June - - "I think he has been the greatest single influence upon me of any person outside my own environment." Another, Evelyn Snider of Conway, in a note mailed on 14 June, confided - - "How grateful I am that he was my teacher, for he awakened in me his 'love of life' which, in turn, I have tried to awaken in my students." In a letter of 11 June, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., at the time executive director of the United Negro College Fund, commented - - "I, like so many others, will miss Mr. Dabbs and his marvelous spirit. He was always a great inspiration to me and encouraged me in all my endeavors. And so often, in times of doubt, uncertainty and incredulity created by the racial crises in the South and the nation, Mr. Dabbs' words, thought, and deeds gave me the heart and courage and faith to keep believing and to keep trying....his leadership, courage, and belief in the 'equal opportunity for all people' leaves him with few peers in the region and the nation." And early the next year, in a letter mailed from Atlanta, 1 February 1971, long-time Southern Regional Council colleague Margaret Long remarked - - "Of course, he said so much to the South, and the country, that, like all good minds and kind spirits, we'll each have him as long as we live" - - and then went on to make this anecdotal revelation: "I value his career and his courage as much as anybody, but what I remember most vividly are his humor, his grace and his sweet respect for everybody. Especially some of our little SRC underlings, all avid and aglow with mental and moral stimulation, to whom he discoursed after lunch with lavish offerings of his really first-rate ideas and perceptions. They deserved it, but another man might have saved such exchange of serious and cordial talk for august audiences, and many did." Among others sending condolences were Louis C. Bryan, Edward F. Burrows, Reese Cleghorn, Albert W. Dent, P.D. East, John Egerton, L.H. Foster, Vivian W. Henderson, Guion and Guy Johnson, Bob and Nancy Moore, Willie Lee Rose, Don and Peggy Shriver, the Courtney Siceloffs, and Strom Thurmond.

Other correspondence among these papers relates to Edith Dabb's leadership in United Church Women and to her essential role in seeing to the publication of Haunted by God, the book her husband finished writing just before his death. Duke University sociology professor Edgar T. Thompson, Dabbs's friend who contributed the Foreward to Haunted by God, wrote Edith on 10 November 1972 - - "The book deserves a good sale and I expect it will sell well. But whether it does or not there is now in print the mature reflections of a seminal mind." He goes on to say - - "Your own part in bringing this about entitles you to the thanks of the rest of us who knew and loved this man, my fellow South Carolinian." Letters and other items here also document the bestowal of an honorary doctorate upon Edith by Francis Marion University in 1977 and the placement of Rip Raps plantation on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Additional correspondents in the collection, besides family members, include James Luther Adams, Margaretta Childs, Helen Burr Christensen, Robert Coles, Anne King Gregorie, George McGovern, Loulie Latimer Owens, and Rebecca Reid.


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