Prominent Harvard scholar makes major donation of literature to Spelman College

The collection is said to be the largest ever donated to a HBCU
Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. speaking at Furman University. Photo Credit: Leroy Chapman Jr./AJC

Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. speaking at Furman University. Photo Credit: Leroy Chapman Jr./AJC

Prominent African-American scholar Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr. is giving Spelman College what’s said to be the largest collection of books ever donated to a Historically Black College & University, the college announced Friday.

Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University, donated 13 pallets of books from his personal library to the Atlanta college. The books will be housed within the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Gates has been committed to ensuring that the presence of people of African descent is not overlooked in American history,” Spelman College President Mary Schmidt Campbell said in a statement. This gift continues that effort and legacy, affording our students the opportunity to study their history and engage the world of the African Diaspora.”

An accounting by Woodruff Library staff of the gift approximates 14,000 volumes. A portion of the donation, 838 titles, will be kept for the library’s circulating collection; 512 titles have been selected for Woodruff’s Archives Research Center Special Collections. The collection includes an autographed, first edition of James Baldwin’s second play, “Blues for Mister Charlie,” first produced and published in 1964 and a first edition of Walter Mosley’s “Devil in a Blue Dress: A Novel.”

The collection will be made available to students and faculty, starting Nov. 1.

Gates said he chose Spelman, in part, to celebrate the achievements of African-American women.

“These volumes from my library can have no more meaningful home than Spelman College,” Gates said in a statement. “Generations of African-American women and men have ‘made a way out of no way,’ as we all know, and binding us together and leading us have been the strongest and most brilliant Black women, who recognized and lived the importance of education as the gateway to knowledge, opportunity and empowerment.”