William Shedrick Willis papers, [ca. 1940-1983]

Mss.Ms.Coll.30

Date: Circa 1940-1983 | Size: 13 Linear feet

Abstract

William S. Willis Jr. (1921-1983), anthropologist and ethnohistorian, contributed significantly to the understanding of the dynamics of inter-cultural exchange in a multicultural context. After receiving his doctorate from Columbia University, he was hired as the first African American professor of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University. Upon resigning in protest from SMU in 1972, he returned to teach at Columbia University until 1975. His final years were spent studying Boasian anthropology. The collection includes correspondence, lecture notes, manuscripts of Willis' writings, and working notes. Of note, are the memos concerning his leaving Southern Methodist University and his extensive research notes on Franz Boas' views on race relations in America.

Background note

William Shedrick Willis, Jr. (1921-1983) was an anthropologist and ethnohistorian. Shortly after his birth in Waco, Texas, the Willis family moved to Dallas where William graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. He continued his education at Howard University, graduating cum laude (A.B.,1942), and at Columbia University, where he recived a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1955. William married Georgina Upshur, who also attended Columbia University (M.S., 1946), in 1949.

Willis' early works addressed the subject of Indian-Black relations in Southeastern North America. His published works on this subject include Colonial Conflict and the Cherokee Indians, 1710-1760 (1955), The Nation of Bread (1957), Patrilineal Institutions in Southeastern North America (1963), and Divide and Rule: Red, White, and Black in the Southeast (1963).

After many years in New York City, the Willis' returned to Dallas in 1964. Here William accepted a joint teaching position in the Division of Social Sciences at Bishop College and in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Southern Methodist University. William Willis was the first Black scholar to be appointed to the faculty of Southern Methodist University.

It was during his tenure at SMU that Willia turned his attention to the study of Blacks in anthropology. In fact, Willis was instrumental in helping to establish the African American Studies Program at SMU. This new direction prompted Willis to re-evaluate the contribution of Franz Boas in relation to Blacks and the development of anthropology in the United States. Willis' works on these subjects include Anthropology and Negroes on the Southern Colonial Frontier (1970), and Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet (1972).

Willis resigned from SMU in 1972 in protest against the racist treatment he received from the faculty within the Department of Anthropology. He continued teaching at Columbia University during summer sessions until 1975. It was after his resignation from SMU that Willis began extensive research and writing on Franz Boas. The Willis' returned to Philadelphia (Georgine Willis' hometown) in 1978 where William was able to utilize the collections at the American Philosophical Society Library. Works during this period include Franz Boas and the Study of Black Folklore (1973), and Dubious Boasiana (1983).

William Willis suffered a fatal heart attack on 8 August 1983. He had begun writing a treatise entitled Boas Goes to Atalnta, which focused in Boas' commencement address at the 11th Atlanta University Conference on Negro Problems and its significance to Boas and the development of anthropology in the United States.

Willis was a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, ans was an active member of the American Society for Ethnohistory, the Society for American Archaeology, and the American Association of University Professors.

Scope and content

The papers reflect Dr. Willis' passionate commitment to the field of anthropology and his significant contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of inter-cultural exchange in a multicultural context. With his study of Cherokee Indians; Southern Blacks and Native Americans; and Boasian anthropology, he extended the concept of cultural conditioning. His professional correspondence present his thoughts on the conflicts within the anthropological discipline; plus memos of the treatment he received as the first African American professor hired by Southern Methodist University. Lecture notes include classes taught at Southern Methodist University (1964-1972) and Columbia University (1972-1975). Of particular note are the extensive research notes on Franz Boas' attempts to deal with the race issue in America and his preservation of Black folklore.

The papers (26 boxes; 13 linear feet) are divided into four series:

Series I. Correspondence 1945-1983 3.5 linear feet Series II. Lecture and Research notes 1945-1983 8 linear feet Series III. Works 1955-1983 1 linear foot Series IV. Photographs and Ephemera 1942-1984 0.5 linear feet

Digital objects note

This collection contains digital materials that are available in the APS Digital Library. Links to these materials are provided with context in the inventory of this finding aid. A general listing of digital objects may also be found here.

Collection Information

Provenance

Presented by Mrs. William S. Willis and accessioned, 12/21/1984 (1985 186ms).

African American History Note

In addition to providing insight into the life of an African American scholar during the civil rights era, this collection may afford students of African American history useful information in a number of areas of interest.

Of special note are the lecture materials on the courses Willis taught in anthropology, history of anthropology, and African American studies, while at SMU and at summer sessions at Columbia University during the 1960s-1970s.

Indexing Terms


Corporate Name(s)

  • Columbia University -- Faculty.
  • Columbia University -- Students.
  • Southern Methodist University -- Faculty.

Personal Name(s)

  • Benedict, Ruth, 1887-1848
  • Boas, Franz, 1858-1942
  • Herzog, George, 1901-1983
  • Kroeber, A. L. (Alfred Louis), 1876-1960
  • Linton, Ralph, 1893-1953
  • Mintz, Sidney Wilfred
  • Steward, Julian Haynes, 1902-1972
  • Strong, William Duncan, 1899-1
  • Sturtevant, William C.
  • Wagley, Charles
  • Weltfish, Gene
  • White, Leslie A., 1900-1975.
  • Willis, William Shedrick, 1921-1983

Subject(s)

  • Abolition, emancipation, freedom
  • African Americans -- Study and teaching
  • Anthropology
  • Anthropology -- History
  • Anthropology, ethnography, fieldwork
  • Civil rights
  • Culture, community, organizations
  • Eugenics -- United States
  • Labor, industrialization
  • Plantations
  • Race, race relations, racism
  • Reconstruction
  • Religion, religious organizations
  • Segregation
  • Slaves, slavery, slave trade
  • Social conditions, social advocacy, social reform


Detailed Inventory

Series I. Correspondence and Academic Papers
1945-19833.5 linear ft.
Abrahams, Norbert
1972 
African American Association
1969 
Alden, John R.
1952 
Aldine Publishing Company
1968-1969 
Alexander, Lee G.
1972-1977 
American Airlines
1966 
American Anthropological Association
1969-1983 
American Association for the Advancement of Science
1974-1984 
American Association of University Professors
1967 
American Ethnological Society
1972-1975 
American Historical Association
1970 
American Museum of Natural History
1963 
American Philosophical Society
1972-1983 
American Railway Car Institute Library
1974 
American Society for Ethnohistory
1970-1971 
Anderson, Robert T.
1969 
Aptheker, Herbert
1970 
Arlington State College
1966 
Association of Black Anthropologists
1977 
Atheneum
1969 
Bacote, C.A.
1974 
Balima, Salfo Albert
1968 
Barnes, Annie S.
1973 
Baruch College
1969-1970 
Basic Books, Inc.
1969 
Bishop College
1965-1970 
Boas, Franziska
1973 
Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.
1969 
Bond, George
1969 
Boston University
1955 
British Museum Library
1963 
Braun, Judy
1973 
Brody, Erness Bright
1978 
Brooks, Laurence F. LeB.
1970-1971 
Butler Hall Apartments
1971-1975 
California State College, Hayward
1969-1970 
Cards--Christmas, Congratulations, Easter
1965-1975 
Carnegie Institution of Washington
1964-1977 
Carrington, Ulrich
1969 
Carte Blanche
1971 
Carter, Clarence E.
1951 
Chalfort, Stuart
1957 
Charleston Library Society
1964 
Chase, Allan
1972 
Chicago Historical Society
1952 
City College, New York City
1959-1967 
Christian Fellowships
1965 
Clements Library
1952-1957 
Coe, Pamela
1960 
Cole, Douglas
1982-1984 
Collins, John
1967-1976 
Columbia University--Academic Record
1945-1955 
Columbia University--Administration
1957-1983 
Columbia University--Anthropology Department
n.d. 
Columbia University--Courses
1958-1969 
Columbia University--Courses
1970-1975 
Columbia University--Students
1959-1970 
Cook, Edwin A.
1968 
Cornish, James V.
1970-1973 
Crane, Verner W.
1952 
Thomas Y. Crowell Company
1968-1971 
Current Anthropology
1969 
Dallas--Charitable Organizations and Groups
1964-1970 
Dallas--Miscellaneous
1965-1972 
Dallas--Schools
1966-1969 
Dallas--Wayfarer
1968 
Darnell, Regna
1973 
Devereux, George
1963 
Diamond, Stanley
1975-1979 
Dibble, Wilhelmina L.
1942 
Dougherty, Molly C.
1970 
Downing, R. Scott
1967 
Dunnigan, Timothy
1969 
Eche, Eleanor B.
1971-1972 
Ethnohistory
1951-1970 
Ethnology
1962 
Fairbanks, Charles H.
1963-1981 
Fauset, Arthur Huff
1973-1974 
Fenton, William N.
1957 
Ford Foundation Foreign Area Fellowships
1956-1957 
Foster, George M.
1969-1971 
Franklin, W. Neil
1952 
Fredrickson, George M.
1972 
Free Press
1969 
Fried, Morton H.
1964-1972 
Fried, Morton H.
1973-1983 
Funcion, Peggy
n.d. 
Furcrou, Tom
1968 
Gallagher, James P.
1970-1983 
Garrett, Joi Anne
1971-1973 
Gavronsky, Serge
1968 
Gelber, S. Michael
n.d. 
Gilmore, Kathleen
1968 
Glenn, James L.
1968 
Gonzales, Ambrose E.
1969 
Gotham Book Mart
1942 
Gradwohl, David M.
1966 
Greenwood Press
1983 
Gregory, Hiram F.
1970-1981 
Grove Press, Inc.
1969 
Guggenheim Foundation
1970-1976 
Handbook of American Indians
1983-1988 
Harlan, Louis R.
1973-1974 
Harper and Row
1967 
Harper's Corner
1969 
Harris, Joe P.
1969-1971 
Harris, Marvin
1967-1981 
Harris, R.K.
1966 
Harrison, Ira E.
1983-1984 
Harvard University Library
1958-1974 
Haynes, Leonard L., Jr.
1967 
Hickerson, Harold
1968 
Hirabayashi, James A.
1969 
Hochstein, Edward
1967-1968 
Hockaday School
1968-1969 
Hook, Sidney
1968 
Hope, Clare
1971 
Hopkins, May Agness
1965 
Howard University
1941-1975 
Hoxie, Fred
1975 
Hsu, Francis L.K.
1972 
Hudson's Bay Company
1952 
Humanities Press
1966 
Hymes, Dell
1971-1976 
Illinois State University
1967-1969 
International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences
1972 
Jacobs, Wilbur R.
1957 
Jay, Edward J.
1969 
Jelks, Edward, Mr. and Mrs.
1966-1983 
Journal of Negro History
1962-1973 
Kansas State University
1968 
Kilpatrick, Jack Frederick
1967 
King, H. Gill
1975 
King, Morton B.
1966-1970 
Klein, A. Norman
1971 
Koenig, Harriet
1969 
Knapp, Robert L.
1972-1973 
Lafayette College
1960-1961 
Leacock, Eleanor
1954 
Leap, William L.
1970-1975 
Library of Congress
1952-1963 
Lieban, Richard W.
1974-1977 
Little, Brown and Company
1969 
Locke, Alain
1944-1946 
Logan, Rayford W.
1940-1967 
Logan, Rayford W.
1968-1972 
McAlister, L.N.
1964 
McAllister, Gilbert
1970 
McDowell, Ellis E., Mrs.
1970 
McGraw-Hill Book Company
1966 
Macmillan Company
1965-1969 
McNeil, Pearl
1975 
Mahon, John K.
1968-1969 
Manners, Robert A.
1963 
Marable, Ashley
1970-1971 
Marietta College
1967 
Martin, Mary G.
1958 
Martin, Peter
1970-1972 
Martinez Brothers
1968 
Medgar Evers College
1972 
Mercantile National Bank
1957-1971 
Metzger, Walter P.
1969-1973 
Miami University
1971 
Mintz, Sidney W.
1963-1983 
Miscellaneous
1967-1970 
Mitchell, Howard E.
1963 
Moravian Archives
1952 
Morgan State College
1957 
Murdoch, Richard K.
1965 
Murphy, Robert F.
1969-1983 
Nagenda, John
1965 
Neal, Ernest E.
1952 
National Archives
1956 
National Endowment for the Humanities
1970-1971 
National Science Foundation
1957 
New School for Social Research
1970 
New York Academy of Sciences
1969 
New York Historical Society
1952 
Newark State College
1969 
Newberry Library
1960-1965 
Nickerson, Gifford S.
1964 
Norbeck, Edward
1968 
North Texas State University
1969 
Northwestern University
1955 
Northwestern University Library
1974 
Nye, Hermes, Mrs.
1968