Papers by the Archivist William C. Love

The Benjamin Lawson Hooks Papers: An Introduction

Hooks Hold NAACP signIn 1996, Dr. Benjamin Hooks, three years retired as Executive Director of the NAACP, donated his professional papers to the University of Memphis Libraries. The time and scope of the papers range from the mid-1970s when he served as commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission to the early 2000s when Dr. Hooks worked with the Hooks Institute for Social Change, an institute that continues to work from the University of Memphis to teach, study, and promote Civil Rights and social change in the Memphis area.
The papers were given in installments to the University of Memphis Libraries between 1996 and 2006. The papers were processed and housed in 2007, with no new additions arriving until 2015 when Dr. Hooks' daughter, Patricia Hooks, donated 4 boxes of manuscript and audio/visual material. As the collection stands now, it contains 397 archival boxes with close to 195,000 items that range from correspondence to printed material, memoranda, administrative files, photographs, and audio/visual material.
Hooks Papers Introduction > 

Benjamin Hooks, Ronald Reagan, and Economic Inequality

Hooks and ReaganOn March 10, 1981, Benjamin L. Hooks, Executive Director of the NAACP, stood before the third annual NAACP Legislative Mobilization at a Baptist church in Washington, D.C. to address what to him were the shortcomings of newly inaugurated president Ronald Reagan’s political agenda. Reagan in his inaugural address, less than two months earlier, had presented his case that the two main challenges to the current United States economy were runaway inflation and federal regulation, both of which stemmed from the governmental overreach of the 1970s. To stimulate the economy, Reagan proposed policies he believed would decrease the role of government and augment the private self-rule of its citizens, including lowering marginal tax rates and ending the manipulation of government by special interest groups. To quote one of Reagan’s most memorable lines, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Hooks’ rebuttal to Reagan before the Legislative Mobilization was not a clarion call for more governmental intervention in the lives of African-Americans. Rather, Hooks argued for the inevitable wealth disparity that would continue should we approach the United States economy as an egalitarian market place, where all citizens exercise their self-rule equally. Hooks noted in his speech that “We are in a dual economy, because we are still in a dual society—still separate, still unequal.”

Ben Hooks and Ronald Reagan > 

Benjamin L. Hooks, Federal Communications Commission, 1972-1977

Hooks as FCC CommishionerOne early morning in 1972, Benjamin Hooks received a call from Howard Baker, Republican senator from Tennessee. Baker informed Hooks that he intended to make Hooks the first Black nominee for the Federal Communications Commission. At first, Hooks, suspicious of adjoining himself to the Nixon administration, declined the offer but after discussing the matter with his wife, Hooks changed his mind and accepted the nomination.

Hooks and the FCC > 

Benjamin Hooks, His Life in the Church

Ben Hooks at Pulpit“For as long as I can remember, the church has been an integral part of my life.” So opened Dr. Hooks in a chapter of his memoir entitled “My Life and the Church.” While Dr. Hooks is primarily remembered for his accomplishments as a lawyer, judge, and NAACP executive, Dr. Hooks devoted a substantial part of his life to the church, as both a layman and a minister. Dr. Hooks’ life in the church was both typical and atypical of a Southern Black man born in the early twentieth century. Hooks was unsurprisingly raised in the church and attended both Sunday school and worship services from a very early age with his family. The main driver of his childhood faith was his mother, with his father being largely indifferent to organized religion until later in life. Yet, in spite of being the son of committed member of the AME tradition and often attending AME worship services, Hooks was reared largely in an uncharismatic tradition. First Baptist Church, Hooks’ Sunday school church from an early age, was what he called a “blue stocking church” which incorporated “intellectual” sermons into worship services. It was led by Dr. T.O. Fuller, one of the only Memphis Black preachers to have a formal seminary education and who over the course of his life authored several books on Black history and the Black church. Even when attending the AME worship services, Hooks recalled that his mother never identified with the “shouting” aspects of many Black churches.

Hooks and the Church >

Frances Dancy Hooks

Frances HooksBorn and raised in Memphis, Frances Dancy Hooks (1927 – 2016) was a well-known educator and wife of NAACP executive director Benjamin Hooks. Through her work with the NAACP and other organizations, Mrs. Hooks influenced the trajectory of initiatives involving education, poverty, and women's rights here in Memphis and throughout the nation. This presentation will focus on her life as a teacher, activist, and church member, demonstrating how her work at the intersection of African-American and women's civil rights greatly influenced modern women's history.

Frances Dancy Hooks >