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Harvard Scholar Gives Spelman College Largest Donation of Books Ever Made to an HBCU Share a Spelman College Press Release

For Immediate Release

Joyce Davis
Spelman College

Anastasia Semien
AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library

Dr. Henry Louis "Skip" GatesATLANTA (August 30, 2018) - Spelman College has received the largest single donation of books given to any historically Black college or university on record.

Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., Ph.D., the Alphonse Fletcher University professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, donated 13 pallets of books from his personal library to the College. The books will be housed within the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, which confirms that the gift is the largest donation of books it has ever received.

“Spelman is honored to receive such a treasure from a scholar and luminary in the fields of African and African-American studies,” said Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D. “Throughout his career, Dr. Gates has been committed to ensuring that the presence of people of African descent is not overlooked in American history. This gift continues that effort and legacy, affording our students the opportunity to study their history and engage the world of the African Diaspora.”

An accounting by Woodruff Library staff of the gift approximates 14,000 volumes. A portion of the donation, 838 titles, will be kept for the library’s circulating collection; 512 titles have been selected for Woodruff’s Archives Research Center Special Collections. The ARC collections have a primary focus on the African-American experience and include significant holdings on African and Caribbean history, politics, literature and art.  The foundation of the book holdings in the library’s special collection is from the Atlanta University Trevor Arnett Library Negro Collection, established in 1925.

Spelman College Book Donation“These volumes from my library can have no more meaningful home than Spelman College,” said Dr. Gates. “Generations of African-American women and men have ‘made a way out of no way,’ as we all know, and binding us together and leading us have been the strongest and most brilliant Black women, who recognized and lived the importance of education as the gateway to knowledge, opportunity and empowerment.

"I have made this donation to mark the achievements of Black women of past, present, and future generations, and specifically in honor of three generations of African-American women in own family: my mother, Pauline Augusta Coleman Gates; my daughters, Liza Gates (who studied at Spelman), and her sister, Maggie Gates; my cousin Autumn Payne, C-86; and my granddaughter, Eleanor Margaret Gates-Hatley, a future Spelman graduate, no doubt!”

A few highlights from Dr. Gates’ donation include:

  • An autographed, first edition of James Baldwin’s second play, “Blues for Mister Charlie,” first produced and published in 1964. The play was dedicated to “the memory of Medgar Evers, his widow and children, and to the memory of the dead children of Birmingham.”
  • An autographed, first edition of Wole Soyinka’s “The Interpreters,” originally published in 1965. As Soyinka’s first novel, it examines post-independence Nigeria in the 1960s. Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.
  • A first edition of Walter Mosley’s “Devil in a Blue Dress: A Novel.” The novel won a Shamus Award in 1991 and was later adapted into a movie starring Denzel Washington, Jennifer Beals and Don Cheadle.

  • The added value of this collection is that it will be accessible to all students and faculty of the Atlanta University Center beginning November 1, 2018.

    Woodruff Library“We are thrilled to have received this generous donation of books from the personal library of noted scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr.,” said Loretta Parham, CEO and director of the Woodruff Library.  “As a library that supports an HBCU consortium, we are grateful that Dr. Gates took into consideration the impact that this type of donation would have on Atlanta University Center students. These books will expand the library’s robust collection of materials that document the African Diaspora and will contribute to student success for years to come.”

    President Campbell agrees. “Each volume possesses more than narratives within their pages, but also in their creation,” she added. “Hopefully, as students engage these literary gems, they will also be impacted by the stories of the artists and their place in American history, and motivated to be change agents in their work and lives.”

    About the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library 
    The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library serves the nation’s largest consortium of historically black colleges and universities, which includes Clark Atlanta University, the Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse College and Spelman College. As the intellectual center of this prestigious academic community, the Library’s mission is to provide the highest level of information resources and services in support of student and faculty success and the cultural preservation of the Atlanta University Center. In addition to the aesthetic benefits of this state-of-the-art facility, the Library has evolved into a model repository of information resources and a front-runner in the innovative delivery of digital resources. The AUC Woodruff Library is the winner of the 2016 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award in the university category from the Association of Collegiate and Research Libraries (ACRL). Library CEO Loretta Parham was named the ACRL 2017 Academic/Research Librarian of the Year. Additional information about the AUC Woodruff Library is available at

    About Spelman College 
    Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 61 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and author Pearl Cleage. For more information, visit


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