Benjamin L. Hooks Papers

Benjamin L. Hooks speaks to a crowd in Washington D.C.

About the Hooks Papers

In 1998, Benjamin L. Hooks donated his personal papers to the University of Memphis (UofM). The collection is housed in Special Collections at the University of Memphis McWherter Library. Archivist, Valerie Jean Love, with the assistance of Deborah Compton-Holt, Sara Smith, and Leah C. Wells, processed the collection. To make this collection accessible to Internet audiences around the world, William Love, Collection Specialist, is assisting the Hooks Institute and the McWherter Library at the University of Memphis to digitize portions of Dr. Hooks archival and photographic collection.

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The Collection

The collection spans Hooks' professional career, including his years as the executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), from 1977 to 1992, and his tenure as the first African American appointed to the Federal Communications Commission, from 1972 to 1978. The Hooks papers comprise 397 boxes of materials. The collection is divided into two parts, further divided into series and subseries.

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Part One (Boxes 1-222)

Series I contains Religious Materials from Hooks' career as a Baptist minister, spanning 1949-1972. These materials comprise records from the two churches that Hooks pastored: Greater Middle Baptist Church in Memphis, TN; and Greater New Mount Moriah Baptist Church, in Detroit, MI. The series includes church bulletins, correspondence, event programs, and financial records, as well as programs from national Baptist conventions.

Series II consists of records from Hooks' years on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), from 1972-1977, and contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, FCC dockets, intern applications, and speeches.

Series III pertains to Hooks' years as executive director of the NAACP, from 1977-1992, and comprises the bulk of materials in the collection. Series III is divided into six subseries: General Activities; Administrative Files; Financial Materials; Legal Files; the Crisis Magazine Materials; Branch Files.

Dr. Hooks on a Wheaties BoxGeneral Activities comprise calendars, clippings, conferences, correspondence, correspondence cogs, events, memoranda, people files, press releases, programs, reports, speeches, subject files, travel documents, and other materials. The general activities subseries provides information regarding the policies and activities of the NAACP under the leadership of Hooks. The calendars provide schedules by year of Hooks' travel, speaking engagements, and conference schedules. The newspaper clippings contain articles about Hooks, the NAACP, or other subjects of interest to Hooks at the time. The clippings files include a small number of letters to the editor written by Hooks himself. The conference materials pertain to the NAACP's Annual Convention, including planning memos, programs, speeches, and ephemera. The correspondence files are perhaps the largest grouping in the collection and comprise 57 linear feet of incoming and outgoing correspondence, including letters from presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as members of Congress and the Supreme Court. The correspondence files also contain help requests sent to the NAACP, (some materials may be restricted), as well as constituent opinion letters, and occasionally hate mail. The correspondence logs provide an account by date of incoming mail received and whether or not a response was sent. The events files contain programs and planning materials for NAACP events and other activities which Hooks participated in. The memoranda files contain NAACP memoranda by year, mostly memoranda sent by Hooks to his staff members. NAACP press releases are arranged by year and document NAACP activities, programs, and political positions. The general activities series also includes materials pertaining to NAACP programs and initiatives, such as the National Economic Development and Incubator projects of the 1980s, the National Housing Development Corporation, and youth and college programming. The reports files contain working drafts and final copies of NAACP branch and program reports, as well as executive and annual reports for the organization as a whole. The speech files contain speeches given by Hooks, arranged by year, as well as Hooks' speech research files. The people files and subject files contain additional research files, including materials on affirmative action, South Africa and the NAACP's efforts to end apartheid, racism in sports, and the Rodney King trial, among others. The subject files contain clippings, memoranda, and press releases.

Administrative Files comprise Board of Trustees materials, as well as personnel and staff files. The Board of Trustees materials include meeting agendas, memoranda, minutes, and miscellaneous. The Board of Trustees materials also include documents regarding Hooks' suspension by the chairwoman of the NAACP, Margaret Bush Wilson in 1983. The personnel files contain resumes and job applications sent to Hooks, as well as NAACP employee manuals and job descriptions. (Some materials may be restricted.) The staff files contain memoranda and materials pertaining to individual staff members at the NAACP.

Financial Materials include NAACP budgets, as well as correspondence and memoranda from the Gil Jonas Company, the consulting and fundraising firm for the NAACP. It also includes fundraising activities, such as Radiothon and Christmas Seals campaigns.

Legal Files contain legal help requests sent to Hooks and the NAACP (some materials are restricted) as well as records of court cases which the NAACP was involved with.

The Crisis Magazine Materials include correspondence, memoranda, page proofs, and other materials relating to the publication of The Crisis, including a full run of the magazine while Hooks served as publisher, which all contain publisher's notes written by Hooks, and often include photographs and essays regarding Hooks as well.

NAACP Branch Files are divided by region: Region I (the West Coast) Region II (New England and the Mid-Atlantic States), Region III (the Midwest), Region IV (the Plains States and Rocky Mountains), Region V (the South), Region VI (the Southwest) and Region VII (Washington DC and surrounding states). The Branch files contain membership lists, event programs, and state conference materials.

Series IV pertains to Hooks' activity outside of his professional life, including his involvement in civic and fraternal organizations, and retirement activities. Hooks served as Supreme Chancellor of the Order of Knights of Pythias, an international, non-sectarian fraternal order established in 1864. Series IV also contains materials regarding the founding of the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of Memphis, in 1996.

Series V comprises materials pertaining to Hooks' wife and secretary, Frances Dancy Hooks, and includes correspondence, speeches, and the files of organizations that she was involved with, such as Children with Learning Disabilities. Series V also contains documents regarding the 1989 Miss America Pageant, for which she served as judge.