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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1147

Papers of Louise E. Jefferson, 1861-1991 (inclusive), 1943-1980 (bulk), undated


Maps, correspondence, and artwork of African American artist, cartographer, graphic designer, author, and photographer Louise E. Jefferson.


  • Creation: 1861-1991
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1943-1980
  • Creation: Undated


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Louise E. Jefferson as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


2.96 linear feet ((3 file boxes, 1 oversize box) plus 4 folio folders, 3 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 11 photograph folders, 2 folio photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 1 oversize photograph folder, 5 slides)

The papers of Louise E. Jefferson document her professional life. These papers contain very little material related to Jefferson's personal life. The collection includes photographs, negatives and slides, printed maps and posters, drawings, printed material, a scrapbook, correspondence, typescripts, and brochures. This collection reflects Jefferson's career as a graphic designer, author, illustrator, cartographer, and photographer. Throughout her life Jefferson wore many hats, often simultaneously. This collection contains samples of greeting cards and holiday seals that Jefferson designed for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Also found here are examples of pictorial maps created by Jefferson, such as "The Iroquois Confederacy, 1650"; "Makers of the U. S. A."; "Uprooted People of the U. S. A."; "India: a Friendship map"; and "Twentieth Century Americans of Negro Lineage." Material related to Jefferson's pictorial map "Twentieth Century Americans of Negro Lineage" includes biographies and portraits. Some correspondence contains outgoing notes and letters from Jefferson.

This collection also contains material collected by Jefferson on African Americana such as a cigarette card of boxer Joe Gans; a scrapbook of the Brown-Hinton-Lassiter family of Langhorne, Pennsylvania; and an estate document concerning enslaved persons (1861). This document records the estate of white enslaver Robert Carr in Floyd County, Texas, and property received by Mary Carr, his wife. This document includes the names of five enslaved people: Handy, Mack, Jane, Adeline, Ellen, and their appraised value relative to the estate. The document also states that the enslaved persons would be moved to Rusk County, Texas, by Mary Carr. The Brown-Hinton-Lassiter family scrapbook includes photographs, clippings, and postcards.

Also found in this collection is a scrapbook created by Jefferson. It contains mostly clippings; topics include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); segregation; Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); politics; anti-lynching legislation; unemployment; book reviews; and the theater.

The arrangement and folder headings were created by the archivist. This collection is arranged alphabetically by folder heading. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


Louise E. "Lou" Jefferson was born on October 24, 1908, to Paul and Louise Jefferson in Washington, DC. Louise E. Jefferson studied fine arts at Hunter College and graphic arts at Columbia University in New York. In 1935, Jefferson became a founding member, together with Augusta Savage, Aaron Douglas, Selma Burke, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Jacob Lawrence, of the Harlem Artists Guild, which was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). As an artist, Jefferson took an active part in the Harlem Renaissance, and became friends with Langston Hughes and Pauli Murray. For a time, she designed posters for the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in New York City, and held other freelance jobs, including at the Friendship Press, the publishing branch of the National Council of Churches. Jefferson also freelanced for Doubleday, Viking Press, Rutgers University Press, and Columbia University.

In 1942, Jefferson was hired full-time at the Friendship Press, where she became the first female African American director of a publishing company; Jefferson was the artistic director until 1960. During the 1950s, Jefferson purchased a cooperative apartment in Morningside Heights in Harlem, New York, where she was neighbors with Thurgood Marshall. Jefferson continued her freelance work for a number of publishing companies and university presses; her work was wide-ranging, from magazine covers to holiday seals to pictorial maps.

After her retirement from the Friendship Press, Jefferson traveled extensively throughout Africa, including visits to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Jefferson's research would become The Decorative Arts of Africa (1973). Her work has been exhibited at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the Austin Arts Center at Trinity College (Connecticut), among others. Jefferson also ran her own business, Jefferson Graphics, first in Litchfield, Connecticut, and later in Trenton, New Jersey.

Louise E. Jefferson died on January 2, 2002, in Torrington, Connecticut.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2018-M92

The papers of Louise E. Jefferson were acquired by the Schlesinger Library from the Swann Auction Galleries in 2018.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Pauli Murray Papers, 1827-1985 (MC 412).

There is related material about Louise E. Jefferson at the Amistad Research Center; see the Louise Jefferson Papers, 1925-2001 (Mss. Coll. 597).

Processing Information

Processed: October 2022

By: Cat Lea Holbrook, with assistance from Yolande E. Bennett.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit. Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

General processing procedures in place at the Library include the following: books (when not heavily annotated) by and about the collection's creator and on subjects which fall within the Library's collecting area are removed and cataloged separately with information about their provenance; other books and serials are not retained.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Jane Rainie Opel ’50 Fund and the Zetlin Sisters Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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