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Frank Augustus DeCosta papers

Identifier: AMN 1106

Collection Overview

Correspondence, research notes, essays, reports, speeches, financial documents, photographs, family histories, academic, and travel related ephemera document the professional and personal life of Frank Augustus DeCosta, his wife, Beautine Hubert DeCosta, and numerous family members. The bulk of the collection's materials reveals DeCosta's educational, and career experience.

The collection is arranged into four series:

1. Correspondence--The majority of DeCosta's correspondence is written to his wife. Organized chronologically, the letters span several decades revealing their relationship, family, academic tenure, career, and travels. A sub-series contains letters written by DeCosta during his tenure in Kaduna, Nigeria. The letters sent were to family, friends, and academic colleagues. Letters sent to family members are sorted by recipient, and listed in date order. All other correspondence is sorted by type, and listed chronologically.

2. Education and Career--Contains materials relating to DeCosta's education and academic career. Includes documents from DeCosta's educational experience as a student, teacher and administrator. Also, holds publications, conference papers, reports, and speeches authored by DeCosta. Contains memorabilia and resources acquired by Dr. DeCosta during his tour with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), at the Ministry of Education in Nigeria. Materials generated during the last phase of DeCosta's professional life, including his work in both civic and educational pursuits are included in this series.

3. Personal and Family--Holds documents pertaining to the DeCosta Family. Contains items related to the death of Frank A. DeCosta in 1972. Also, traces many of the financial and real estate transactions of Frank and Beautine, including their various household moves and financial preparations to work and reside in Nigeria. Includes items related to the multi-generational DeCosta Family with an assortment of receipts and deeds from the late nineteenth century; recaps of family history collected and distributed at DeCosta Family Reunions; handwritten notes by Beautine DeCosta and Miriam DeCosta Seabrook (Frank's sister) regarding family memories; and clippings highlighting the achievements of Frank and Beautine's grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, and nephews, etc.

4. Photographs and Miscellaneous Artifacts--Contains various artifacts collected by the DeCosta throughout their life together. Photographs and images which highlight Frank's numerous interests are arranged chronologically and by topic. Included are professional photographs of various athletic and academic groups, in addition to candid images of family and friends. DeCosta's USAID assignment in Nigeria is reflected in numerous photos and postcards, both in professional and his personal surroundings in Kaduna. Many of the latter photographs are with grandchildren. Also, included are color photocopies of tintypes of family and unidentifed people.


  • Creation: 1847-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1940-1972


Access Restrictions

No restrictions.

Copyright Notice

The nature of the Avery Research Center's archival holdings means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Avery Research Center claims only physical ownership of most archival materials.

The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Biographical Note

Frank Augustus DeCosta was an African-American educator, administrator and scholar born in Charleston, South Carolina, April 12, 1910. He was the eleventh child born to Anna Theresa Harrenburg and Benjamin Rhodes DeCosta. At age five, DeCosta attended the Sander's Graded School, enrolling at the Avery Institute five years later eventually graduating valedictorian in the class of 1927. DeCosta matriculated to Lincoln University, again graduating as the valedictorian in the class of 1931.

After teaching mathematics at Avery Institute for two years, DeCosta became the principal of the Burrell Normal School in Florenca, Alabama, and worked for a year with the Tennessee Valley Authority. In 1934, DeCosta married Beautine Hubert of Savannah, Georgia, having two children, Miriam and Frank, Jr.

The family relocated to Charleston, South Carolina in 1937, where DeCosta assumed the principalship of Avery Institute at the age of twenty-six. While at Avery, DeCosta was awarded a Masters of Art degree from Teachers College, Columbia University. In 1941, DeCosta began doctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania, while teaching part-time at Lincoln University (Pennsylvania). He served as Chairman of the Education Department at Alabama State College in Montgomery (1943-1945), eventually becoming the Dean of the Graduate School at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, a position DeCosta held for ten years.

A year after receiving his Ph.D degree from the University of Pennsylvania (1954), DeCosta returned to Alabama State College to become Director of Instruction. In 1957, he was appointed Director of Student Teaching at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland. Through the Agency for International Development, DeCosta became a Statistical Officer to the Ministry of Education in Kaduna, Nigeria (1962-1964). Upon his return to the United States, he was named Dean of the Graduate School at Morgan State College.

DeCosta was a noted scholar whose articles were published in national journals, including the Journal of Negro Education and the Journal of Educational Research. In 1971, he co-authored a book Between Two Worlds: A Profile of Negro Higher Education.

Active in community affairs, DeCosta served in numerous organizations including as a member on the Baltimore City Jail Board, the Boy Scouts of America and was a life member of the NAACP. He also belonged to the Masons, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

Frank Augustus DeCosta died on June 19, 1972.

SOURCE: DeCosta-Willis, Miriam, ed. and Jane Aldrich. "Collection of Frank Augustus DeCosta, 1910-1972: Guide to thge collection with selected photographs." Charleston: Avery, 2003.


4.5 linear feet (11 archival boxes)

Language of Materials



Frank Augustus DeCosta (1910-1972) was an African-American educator, administrator and scholar born in Charleston, South Carolina. In a career that spanned four decades, DeCosta served as a teacher and principal of two high schools, supervisor and chairman of an education department, director of instruction and of student teaching, foreign service statistical officer, and organizing dean of two graduate schools.

The collection includes correspondence, research notes, essays, reports, speeches, financial documents, photographs, family histories, academic and travel related ephemera related to the professional and personal life of Frank Augustus DeCosta, his wife, Beautine, and numerous family members. The bulk of the collection's materials illustrates DeCosta's educational foundation and expansive career as an academic. The remainder of this collection includes correspondence to his wife, family members and colleagues; materials from DeCosta's tour with the United States Agency for International Development in Kaduna, Nigeria; and extensive photographs featuring several generations of the DeCosta Family.

Collection Arrangement

The collection is divided into four series:

Series 1. Correspondence, 1934-1972

Series 2. Education and Career, 1927-1995

Series 3. Personal and Family, 1867-1995

Series 4. Photographs and Miscellaneous Artifacts, 1847-2000

Technical Access

The Avery Research Center does not possess the proper technology for playback of four (4) unidentified reel-to-reel tape recordings located in Box 10, Folder 15.

Other Finding Aids note

Bowles, Frank and Frank A. DeCosta. "Between Two Worlds: A Profile of Negro Higher Education." New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971. Located in the Avery Research Center library: Call Number-LC2781.B6

DeCosta Family Papers (AMN 1101)

Frank Augustus DeCosta, Jr. Papers

H.A. DeCosta, Jr. Papers (AMN 1084)

Miriam DeCosta Seabrook and Herbert U. Seabrook Papers (AMN 1094)

Acquisitions Information

Donated by Miriam DeCosta-Willis, 2003.

Inventory of the Frank Augustus DeCosta Papers AMN 1106
Finding aid prepared by Georgette Mayo
April 2014
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English
Edition statement
Original finding aid was edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis, with Jane Aldrich, manuscript cataloger, 2003

Revision Statements

  • March 2014: Creation of EAD version by Aaron Spelbring.

Repository Details

Part of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture Repository

125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States