The Bentley Historical Library: Recent Collecting Emphases

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The Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan 1150 Beal Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113 Voice: (734) 764-3482; fax: (734) 936-1333 E-mail: URL:

The Bentley Historical Library, located on the north campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was founded in 1935. Established to serve both as the archives of the University of Michigan and as a repository of materials documenting Michigan history, the Bentley Historical Library houses archival and manuscript collections, books, maps, newspapers, photographs and other visual materials, and sound recordings. Although its focus has been university history and state history defined broadly, the Bentley Historical Library has, since its founding, developed collecting strengths in several specific areas: Michigan politics and government; religious and denominational church history; women's history; Michigan citizens' participation in the Civil War; the immigration of ethnic groups to Michigan; the temperance and prohibition movements; U.S. involvement in the Philippines since the Spanish-American War; African-American organizations; Michigan's lumber industry; architecture; the environment; and railroad history. The library's holdings and activities are reported each year in a published annual report. General information about the library is available on its web site, and specifics about holdings can be found online through the university's MIRLYN catalog, which is linked to the Bentley Library's homepage. The following report details some of the library's most recent collecting emphases.

Church History

Since its founding, the Bentley Historical Library has sought to document the history of established religious activity within the state of Michigan. The library collects the records of individual churches and denominational offices and the personal papers of noteworthy members of the clergy. For the past several years, the library has made a concerted effort to acquire records of African-American congregations. This initiative has resulted in some impressive accessions.

* C. L. Franklin Collection

C. L. Franklin was a nationally known African-American clergyman, active in the civil rights movement, and the longtime pastor of New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan. He was born Clarence LaVaughn Franklin on 22 January 1915 in Sunflower County, Mississippi. While he was a teenager, he started preaching in rural churches in Mississippi. In 1938 he went to Memphis to become the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church. In Memphis he also attended the Howe School of Religion and LeMoyne College. He later moved to a Baptist church in Buffalo, New York, and while he was there he took courses at the University of Buffalo.

In 1946 Franklin moved to Detroit, where he founded New Bethel Baptist Church. In 1952 his wife Barbara died, leaving Franklin to raise their five children: Erma, Carolyn, Aretha, Cecil, and Vaughn.

Franklin gained renown as a preacher whose oratorical skills were responsible in part for the great growth in New Bethel's membership over the next three decades. Franklin's ministry also included radio broadcasts, and many of his messages were made available through commercially produced records. Franklin also achieved recognition outside of his own congregation. When preaching in other churches, Franklin often took his daughter Aretha with him. Her talent as a gifted gospel singer reflected on Franklin, and the fame of his ministry grew.

Throughout his life Franklin involved himself in politics. He was ever mindful of the needs both of his congregation and of the wider African-American community. Franklin was active in civil fights issues and demonstrations and vocal in his opposition to racism. In 1963 he helped to organize and enlist local support for the March of Freedom down Woodward Avenue in Detroit, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. …