The
Collection

In March of 2021, the Lowery Trust granted sole ownership of the Joseph Echols Lowery and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Collection of personal papers, sermons, speeches, correspondence, SCLC Women papers, and hundreds of historical photographs and audiovisual recordings to Morehouse College. The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library was formally designated as custodian of the collection with responsibilities for housing and providing broad access for students, scholars, researchers, and the global community.

The collection received and highlighted in this digital exhibit is extensive. Encompassing more than 450 linear feet, and spanning the years of 1946 through 2014, the collection documents the lives and legacies of Dr. Joseph Lowery and Mrs. Evelyn Lowery in their struggle for justice and equality.

Dr. Joseph Echols Lowery and Evelyn Gibson Lowery honored with portrait on Renaissance Sunday at Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, Morehouse College . April 24, 2011
Dr. Joseph Echols Lowery and Evelyn Gibson Lowery participating in SCLC protest. Circa 1980

The
Collection

The Joseph Echols Lowery and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Collection contributes significantly to the rich archives of materials documenting the long struggle for civil and human rights.

The Collection, consisting of an estimated 400-linear feet, expands our understanding of the black freedom struggle by providing a close-up view of the remarkable lives and legacy of the Lowerys as they dedicated a lifetime to the struggle for justice and equality.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Reverend Lowery was among the organizers and supporters of the historic 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, following Rosa Park’s refusal to relinquish her seat to a white man on a local bus. Parks’ action resulted in mobilizing the city around what eventually became a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery Bus Lines. Women were pivotal to the boycott’s success, with the Women’s Political Council’s (WPC) strategic mobilization and organization of the local community. The Montgomery Boycott sparked many subsequent nonviolent challenges to racial segregation across the South including the founding of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Rosa Parks
undated

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

New York Times v. Sullivan

In 1960, along with Reverends Ralph David Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth and Solomon Seay, Reverend Lowery was among the group of southern, black ministers who were sued for libel by the Police Commissioner in Montgomery, Alabama. The suit resulted from an advertisement that was featured in the New York Times, listing the names of the ministers who supported Dr. King. At the time, the civil rights leader had been charged with felony for an alleged false reporting of income on his 1956 and 1958 Alabama tax returns. An all-white jury initially ordered that the ministers pay $500,000. Reverend Lowery’s car was seized and sold at public auction. Fortunately, the case went before the United States Supreme Court which overturned the libel verdict and, in 1964, rendered one of the nation’s landmark court decisions protecting the First Amendment.

Operation Breadbasket and the Movement North

Operation Breadbasket and the Movement North

``On the Case The SCLC Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir`` Vinyl Cover
SCLC
1970

The SCLC Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir performed benefits for Martin Luther King Jr. and Operation/PUSH.  Click Spotify player to listen to record in full. Be sure to press pause to stop music before  continuing to navigate through exhibition.

``On the Case The SCLC Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir`` Vinyl Cover
SCLC
1970

The SCLC Operation Breadbasket Orchestra and Choir performed benefits for Martin Luther King Jr. and Operation/PUSH.   Click the Spotify player to listen to the record in full. Be sure to press pause to stop the music before continuing to navigate through the exhibition

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Eddie Adams Photo of Clinton Brown, 9 attending March on Washington
Eddie Adams
Demonstrators at the March on Washington

In the largest demonstration for civil and human rights during its time, the 1963 March on Washington drew over 200,000 people to the nation’s capital. On August 28, 1963, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic gathering demonstrated at the Lincoln Memorial to pressure the administration of President John F. Kennedy for passage of a strong civil rights bill in Congress. The march, organized by Bayard Rustin, Anna Arnold Hedgeman, A. Phillip Randolph and others, brought together a diversity of organizations, including labor unions, civil rights groups, clergy, and a wide array of faith-based organizations. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the final speaker before the Morehouse College President Benjamin Elijah Mays delivered benediction.  King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of history’s greatest speeches.

Selma to Montgomery March and the Long Struggle for Voting Rights

Selma to Montgomery March and the Long Struggle for Voting Rights

Double-click on the video to play or pause the video.

From Civil Rights to Human Rights

From Civil Rights to Human Rights

SCLC/Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc.

SCLC/Women's Organizational Movement for Equality Now, Inc.

SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., Inc
Social Initiatives

SCLC/W.O.M.E.N., Inc
Social Initiatives

Anti-Apartheid Activism

Anti-Apartheid Activism

During the 1980s, SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. lent strong support to anti-apartheid boycotts of U.S. companies invested in South Africa. When it was discovered that the Winn-Dixie grocery store chain sold products from South Africa, SCLC/W.O.M.E.N. worked alongside Joseph Lowery and other SCLC members to organize steady, ongoing boycotts, sit-ins, and other nonviolent protests of the supermarket chain.

Double-click on the video to play or pause the video.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

Presidential Medal of Freedom

Known as the “Dean of the Civil Rights Movement,” Lowery committed a lifetime to the struggle for justice and freedom. On January 20, 2009, Reverend Lowery delivered the benediction at the inauguration of Senator Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.

On August 12, 2009, Lowery received the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom from the nation’s first African American President, the Honorable Barack Obama, for his longstanding legacy of activism and service.

Double-click on the video to play or pause the video.

The Legacy Continues

The Legacy Continues

Lawn signs, ``Free Ride to Vote``
circa 2000

Evelyn Lowery died on September 26, 2013 after suffering a stroke; she was 88-years old. Seven years later, Reverend Joseph Lowery passed away in his home at the age of 98. The Lowery legacy of activism and service lives on in the work of the The Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights. The Institute is a platform for community leaders and support for multigenerational leadership. It was established in October 2001, the same year the Atlanta City Council voted to rename Ashby Street to Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, as recognition for his life’s devotion to civil rights and social change.

Double-click on the video to play or pause the video.

Acknowledgements

In acknowledgement of this historic collection and the development of the Celebrating the Legacy of Joseph Echols and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Virtual Exhibition, The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library would like to thank the following institutions and individuals for their generous support, commitment to expanding scholarship, and building on the legacy of Dr. Joseph and Evelyn Lowery:

The Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice and Human Rights

Morehouse College

Clark Atlanta University

Cheryl Lowery, President and CEO of The Lowery Institute

Vicki Crawford, Ph.D., Director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection

Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

Loretta Parham, CEO and Director

 

The Celebrating the Legacy of Joseph Echols and Evelyn Gibson Lowery Virtual Exhibition Creative Team

Sarah Tanner, Assistant Director and Head of Archives Research Center

Curation: Martina Dodd, Program Director of Curation & Object Based Learning, AUC Woodruff Library

Web Development: Anandi Silva Knuppel

Script: Vicki Crawford, Ph.D., Morehouse College

Video production: Jenkins Video Associates, Inc.

Voice actor: Morris Baxter
WWW.AUCTR.EDU

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