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John F. Potts Sr. papers

 Collection
Identifier: AMN 1036

Collection Overview

The collection includes materials relating to Potts' personal and professional life. His biographical papers include an unpublished autobiography and material regarding Potts's service as a United States navy recruiter. His family papers include Potts's narrative history of the family, with some correspondence, clippings, ephemera and related matter.

Materials also include Potts's and his wife Muriel, her family, and their children, with data on the Logan family, including notes regarding dismissing Dr. William Miller Logan from military service (circa 1917) for being African American; sheet music autographed by Langston Hughes and school and other papers regarding her teaching career, along with report cards and programs of the children; and some personal correspondence that includes thank you notes from Elizabeth Avery Waring.

Potts family property papers detail ownership and use of land in East Flat Rock, North Carolina, putting it into the United States Soil Bank program and a tree conservation program. Also included is Potts' history of early black families in East Flat Rock, and his history of The Society of Necessity, a mutual aid society for African Americans, and The Kingdom of Happy Land, a community established by emancipated slaves from Mississippi, as well as papers regarding his service as a historian at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. The Charleston, South Carolina real estate papers document Potts' ownership and sale of two properties, one being 54 Montagu Street, sold to Palmer College.

Writings of Potts include speeches and articles on various educational, civil rights, religious and other topics, with many commencement speeches. Longer works include a draft of his master's thesis (1937) regarding growth of African American population in Gary, Indiana, and drafts of his history of the Palmetto Education Association, along with notes on that organization and the Palmetto State Teacher Association.

School materials document Potts's education and teaching in secondary schools in Gary, Indiana, Columbia, South Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina. There is material, as well, regarding his directorship of Avery Institute, and his presidency of Voorhees School and Junior College (later Voorhees College), with information on student unrest at Voorhees (circa 1969), employment of his wife Muriel, and loan of Edwin Augustus Harleston paintings.

Other papers document his affiliation with the Triangle Association of Colleges of South Carolina and Georgia, the Moton College Service Bureau, and the Technical Assistance Consortium to Improve College Services (TACTICS), and other agencies for whom Potts consulted.

Civic and social organization papers include materials regarding Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the Wolverine Social Club of Flat Rock, North Carolina, and some card clubs.

Miscellaneous materials include plaques, awards, some photographs, newspapers, and printed matter.

Dates

  • 1885-2005

Creator

Language of Materials

Material is in English

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

John Foster Potts, Sr., African American educator and author, was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas on April 18, 1908 to Leila Snead and John Moultrie Potts. In 1916, the family relocated to their ancestral home in East Flat Rock, North Carolina. Potts attended Lincoln Academy in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, and Benedict College's high school division in Columbia, South Carolina. He received a college degree from Benedict College in 1930.

Potts began substitute teaching, eventually becoming assistant principal at Columbia's Booker T. Washington High School. In 1936, he moved to Gary, Indiana to teach at Roosevelt High School. He received his Master's degree from Cornell University in 1937. In 1939, Potts became Principal at Waverley Elementary School in Columbia, South Carolina. From 1942-1945, he served in the United States Naval Reserve as Chief Petty Officer as a Recruiting Specialist. After an earlier marriage and divorce to Alma Forrest, he married Muriel Logan in 1943, and raised five children: Leila, John Jr., Paula, Camille, and the adopted Alma Young.

In 1945, the American Missionary Association named Potts Director of the Avery Institute in Charleston, South Carolina, where he served until the school closed in 1954. In the same year, Potts became President of Voorhees School and Junior College, Denmark, South Carolina. Under his administration, Voorhees became an accredited four-year liberal arts school. Potts retired from Voorhees two years later in 1970. From 1970-1973, he served as Executive Director and Secretary of the Triangle Association of Colleges of South Carolina and Georgia and Director of the Moton College Service Bureau, Washington, D.C. He returned to Voorhees for a year, and then from 1974 to 1985 worked as an independent educational evaluator and consultant to several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and authored two books, The History of South Carolina State College, and A History of the Palmetto Education Association. He returned to Voorhees as President Emeritus in 1983. In his third retirement (1985-1986), Potts served as Director of Church Relations at Voorhees. Potts served as president and/or vice president for several educational organizations including the Palmetto Education Association (PEA) (1946-1950); Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (1952); and was a board member for numerous national organizations.

Potts was awarded three Honorary Doctorates, Morris College in Sumter, South Carolina (1956); Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina (1959); and Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia (1969). He was a former Grand Basileus of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (1953). Potts died in 1998.

Extent

3.5 linear feet (7 archival boxes)

Abstract

John Foster Potts, Sr. (1908-1998), African American educator and author, was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas to Leila Snead and John Moultrie Potts. Potts worked as a teacher and principal in numerous schools including Avery Institute, where he served until it closed in 1954. Potts married Muriel Logan and had five children.

The collection includes material relating to Potts' personal and professional life. His biographical papers include an unpublished autobiography, as well as material regarding Potts's service as a United States navy recruiter. His family papers include Potts's narrative history of the family, with some correspondence, clippings, ephemera and related matter. Materials also include Potts' and his wife Muriel, her family, and their children. Potts family property papers detail ownership and use of land in East Flat Rock, North Carolina. Also included is Potts' history of early black families in East Flat Rock, and his history of The Society of Necessity, and The Kingdom of Happy Land. The Charleston, South Carolina real estate papers document Potts's ownership and sale of two properties. Writings of Potts include speeches and articles on various educational, civil rights, religious and other topics, with many commencement speeches. Longer works include a draft of his master's thesis (1937), and drafts of his history of the Palmetto Education Association. School materials document Potts's education and teaching in secondary schools in Gary, Indiana, Columbia, South Carolina, and Charleston, South Carolina. There is material regarding his directorship of Avery Institute, and his presidency of Voorhees School and Junior College (later Voorhees College). Other papers document his affiliation with the Triangle Association of Colleges of South Carolina and Georgia, the Moton College Service Bureau, and the Technical Assistance Consortium to Improve College Services (TACTICS), and other agencies for whom Potts consulted. Civic and social organization papers include materials regarding Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the Wolverine Social Club of Flat Rock, North Carolina, and some card clubs. Miscellaneous materials include plaques, awards, some photographs, newspapers, and printed matter.

Collection Arrangement

1. Biographical Papers

2. Potts Family Papers

3. Muriel Logan Potts and Family

4. Personal Correspondence

5. East Flat Rock, North Carolina Property Papers

6. Flat Rock, North Carolina Historical Materials

7. Charleston, South Carolina Real Estate Papers

8. Written Works

9. Education and Teaching Career

10. Affiliations

11. Awards

12. Oversize Materials

Acquisitions Information

Donated by John F. Potts, May 1991 and Muriel L. Potts, November 2004.

General

  1. African American fraternal organizations.
  2. African American school principals.
  3. African Americans -- Education (Higher) -- South Carolina.
  4. African Americans -- Indiana -- Gary.
  5. African Americans -- North Carolina -- Flat Rock.
  6. African American soldiers -- Civil rights -- 20th century.
  7. African Americans -- Societies, etc. -- North Carolina.
  8. African American universities and colleges -- South Carolina -- Demark -- History.
  9. American Missionary Association.
  10. Avery Normal Institute.
  11. Discrimination in higher education -- South Carolina.
  12. East Flat Rock (N.C.) -- History.
  13. Education -- South Carolina -- History.
  14. Flat Rock (N.C.) -- History.
  15. Harleston, Edwin Augustus, 1882-1931.
  16. Hughes, Langston, 1902-1967.
  17. Kingdom of Happy Land (N.C.)
  18. Logan family.
  19. Moton College Service Bureau.
  20. Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
  21. Palmer, Charles E., 1920-1990.
  22. Palmer College (Charleston, S.C.)
  23. Palmetto Education Association -- History.
  24. Palmetto State Teachers Association.
  25. Potts family.
  26. Potts, John F.
  27. Potts, Muriel Rose Logan, 1920-
  28. Private schools -- South Carolina.
  29. Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967.
  30. Sigma Pi Phi.
  31. Society of Necessity.
  32. Soil bank program -- United States.
  33. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
  34. Technical Assistance Consortium to Improve College Services.
  35. Triangle Association of Colleges.
  36. United States. Navy -- African Americans -- History -- 20th century.
  37. Voorhees College.
  38. Waring, Elizabeth.
  39. Waverly Elementary School (Columbia, S.C.)

Processing Information

Processed by Georgette Mayo, May 2007

Encoded by Melissa Bronheim, August 2010

Edited by Aaron Spelbring, January 2014

Funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation supported the processing of this collection.

Funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the collection processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Title
Inventory of the John F. Potts, Sr. Papers, 1885 - 2005
Author
Processed by: Georgette Mayo; machine-readable finding aid created by: Melissa Bronheim
Date
© 2010
Description rules
DACS
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English
Sponsor
Funding from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and the Council on Library and Information Resources supported the collection processing and encoding of this finding aid.

Repository Details

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

Contact:
125 Bull Street
Charleston South Carolina 29424 United States
843-953-7608