Summary Information
Title: Wendell L. Wray Papers
Collection Number: UA.90.F88
Creator: Wray, Wendell L.

Collection Dates: 1885-2003
Extent: 20.0 linear feet (16 boxes)
Location: UA Stacks Range 9/7/3-6

Language: English

Abstract:
This collection consists of the personal and professional papers of Wendell Leonard Wray, the first African-American male to both graduate from Carnegie Tech Library School and be hired at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Public Library. Wray relocated to New York City where he directed the Harlem based North Manhattan Project, and later the Schomburg Center for Research in Black History. Later, he taught at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Information Science, specializing in the instruction of oral history and African-American bibliography.
Publisher:

ULS Archives Service Center
University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260
412-648-3232
archives-ref@mail.pitt.edu
Date Published:

July 2009
Author:

Finding aid prepared by Sean Kilcoyne.
Biography

Wendell Wray was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1926. He grew up in the Beltzhoover neighborhood, attending South Hills High School. Amongst his early interests were reading, making Alexander Calder inspired mobiles, and establishing communicative fluency of the Spanish language. Wray did a stint in the United States Army where he found great pleasure in the USO library. Upon receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, he began the "four happiest years" of his life at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where he was active in a number of extracurricular activities and was Poet Laureate of the Class. He graduated in 1950 with a degree in Psychology, initially intending to obtain an advanced degree in the field. Wray matriculated at the University of Connecticut with this goal in mind; however, he abandoned this pursuit after a career aptitude test suggested that he would make a good librarian.

Wray returned to Pittsburgh where he attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology (which later evolved into the University of Pittsburgh's School of Information Science), earning a Masters of Library Science in 1952, and making history as the first African-American male to graduate from the school. Wray was also the first African-American male hired by the Carnegie Public Library, where he worked first in the Adult Circulation department, and later in the Public Affairs Division.

In July of 1959, he moved to the New York Public Library (NYPL). He began as an Adult Group Specialist, which entailed overseeing cultural activities over 80 individual branches and organizing and regularly presenting at book and film discussion groups. From July 1964 to September 1965, Wray temporarily served as the Acting Curator of the NYPL's prestigious Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Following this, he assumed leadership of the North Manhattan Library Project, an outreach program targeted at the disadvantaged, based at Harlem's Countee Cullen Regional Library. He performed in this role for eight years. During the summer of 1973, Wray attended Columbia University's new class in Oral History, financed by Alex Haley. Upon completion of the course, Wray founded the Schomburg Center’s Department of Oral History.

That same year he departed New York to assume a faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Library and Information Science. Wray developed and perfected the school’s Oral History/ Oral Traditions and African-American Bibliography classes; he also instructed on public libraries and reference. In 1981, Wray was appointed Chief of the Schomburg Center. Unfortunately, despite great aptitude for the task, his decision to hire a white archivist proved controversial and divisive, and after considerable personal strain, Wray resigned from his post. He resumed teaching at Pitt in 1983 and was granted Professor Emeritus Status in 1988. Wray continued in this capacity until he moved to Oakland, California, in 1995. Prior to relocation, he donated his extensive personal library to Chatham College in Pittsburgh, Pa.. Wray remained in Oakland until his death in 2003.


Collection Scope and Content Notes

This collection documents Wendell Wray’s life and work. It includes a wide variety of materials and formats related to his career and his personal interests. There is often significant overlap between these two broad categories. For instance, Wray not only taught and consulted around oral history, but he explored it as a means of researching his own genealogical circumstances. Wray’s interest in both oral culture and the written word are manifested consistently throughout this collection. Significant materials include letters, drafts, articles, photographs, sound recordings, reports, notes for presentations, and a variety of publications. As an African-American librarian and scholar, Wray was acutely aware of documenting his own life as part of a larger historical trajectory, and this collection indicates that he was very successful in this endeavor.

The collection is arranged in fourteen series. More detailed scope notes can be found at the series level.


Arrangement

This collection is only arranged at the series level; there is no individual folder-level inventory for this collection at the present time. Please contact the Archives Service Center for more information.

Series I. Family History and Correspondence, 1885-1991

Series II. Education, 1939-1995

Series III. Diaries, Journals, and Planners, 1946-2003

Series IV. Personal Correspondence, 1939-2003

Series V. African-American Bibliography and Resources, 1968-1992

Series VI. Oral History and Tradition, 1965-1987

Series VII. Public Library Work, 1952-1973

Series VIII. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 1964-1990

Series IX. University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Science, 1972-1994

Series X. Other Activities, 1971-1993

Series XI. Publications, 1942-2003

Series XII. Photographs, Slides, and Negatives, 1940-2003

Series XIII. Sound Recordings, 1964-1997

Series XIV. Scrapbooks, Photos, and Family Memorabilia, 1911-1991


Subject Terms

Topics
  • African American college teachers -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • African American historians
  • African American librarians -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • African Americans -- Bibliography -- Methodology -- Study and teaching
  • African Americans -- Genealogy
  • College teachers
  • Librarians
  • Library science -- Study and teaching -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Library science teachers -- United States
  • Oral history -- Study and teaching -- United States
  • Public librarians -- United States

Corporate Names
  • Bates College (Lewiston, Me.).
  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
  • Carnegie Library School.
  • Columbia University.
  • New York Public Library.
  • North Manhattan Project.
  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
  • University of Pittsburgh. School of Library and Information Science. -- Faculty
  • University of Pittsburgh. -- Faculty

Personal Names
  • Wray, Wendell L.

Locations
  • New York (N.Y.)
  • Oakland (Calif.)
  • Pittsburgh (Pa.)

Occupations
  • Oral historians

Genres/Forms
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts (Document genre)
  • Negatives (Photographic)
  • Photographs
  • Publications
  • Slides (Photographs)
  • Sound recordings

Category
  • Ethnic groups
  • Faculty papers
  • University of Pittsburgh

Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

Some correspondence is restricted. Files in Series VIII concerning candidates and their qualifications for the archival job at the Schomburg Center are also restricted. A signed confidentiality agreement is required for access.

Acquisition Information:

Gift of Ellen Detlefsen in May 2005.

Preferred Citation:

Wendell L. Wray Papers, 1885-2003, UA.90.F88, University Archives, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Sean Kilcoyne in July 2009.

Copyright:

The University of Pittsburgh holds the property rights to the material in this collection, but the copyright may still be held by the original creator/author. Researchers are therefore advised to follow the regulations set forth in the U.S. Copyright Code when publishing, quoting, or reproducing material from this collection without the consent of the creator/author or that go beyond what is allowed by fair use.

Separated Material:
Arthur J. Wray’s 1911 Tuskegee Institute diploma was removed from Series XIV and placed in an oversized flat file.

Bibliography:

  • Bleier, Carol. Tradition is Transition: A History of the School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 100th Anniversary 1901-2001. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001. Wray, Wendell. “The Role of African Americans in Library Education.” In The Black Librarian in America Revisited, edited by E. J. Josey. Metuchen, 65-74. N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1994.Wray, Wendell. “Library Services to Black Americans.” In Handbook of Black Librarianship, Compiled and edited by E.J. Josey and Ann Allen Shockley, 90-92. Littleton, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1997.Wray, Wendell. Introduction to Early Black Bibliographies, 1863-1918, Edited by Betty Kaplan Gubert, ix. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1982.


Collection Inventory

Series I. Family History and Correspondence, 1885-1991

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects correspondence and biographical information about Wendell Wray’s family. Some materials were in the family for years while other information represents Wray’s efforts to research and compile biographical details about his parents, Mary L. Quarles Wray and Arthur J. Wray. Mary L. Quarles Wray was the daughter of the Reverend Robinson Crusoe Quarles and Mary Quarles. She was a prolific correspondent. Her husband, Arthur J. Wray, was a 1911 graduate of the Tuskegee Institute, and subsequently, Duquesne Light’s first black engineer. More family information can be found in Series XIII.

Box 1 Family History and Correspondence

Series II. Education, 1939-1995

Scope and Content Notes:

This series compiles information related to Wray’s academic career. It begins with his South Hills High School days, extends through his undergraduate career at Bates College and his MLIS at Carnegie Tech, and includes further educational ventures like his time studying at Mexico City College. The series culminates with documentation surrounding the donation of Wray’s extensive book collection to Chatham College. As Bates College and the University of Pittsburgh owned many of the books in his collection, this was a carefully considered decision to maximize his contribution to education. This series includes clippings, yearbooks, student papers, diplomas, commencement materials, transcriptions of speeches and bibliographical information concerning Wray’s book collection.

Box 1 Family History, Correspondence, and Education

Series III. Diaries, Journals, and Planners, 1946-2003

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects Wray's earliest diaries, written in high school as well has his later planners, travel journals and address books. Significant clippings and ephemera are tucked between pages in the diary.

Box 2 Diaries, Journals, and Planners

Series IV. Personal Correspondence, 1939-2003

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects Wendell Wray's voluminous amount of personal correspondence. Wray devoted a great deal of time and energy to keeping in touch with friends and family, and many of his primary correspondents straddle decades. In addition to letters received by Wray, this series includes a number of letters written by Wray to his mother, documenting his activities, ambitions and ideas. Also characteristic of Wray’s habits around correspondence was his tendency to create written notes that would advise the content of his final letters. This was especially true in the last decade of his life. This series includes letters, postcards and drafts.

Box 3-4 Personal Correspondence

Series V. African-American Bibliography and Resources, 1968-1992

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects Wray's work on the subject of African-American bibliography. Wray taught a class called African American Bibliography and Resources at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Library and Information Science. While his class materials are included in this series, his interest in culling and evaluating an African-American bibliography was very deep, and goes beyond this particular class. A proud bibliophile, Wray’s passion for books is manifested throughout his career, and traces of this love can be found throughout the collection. This series includes publications, brochures, book reviews and course materials.

Box 5 African-American Bibliography and Resources

Series VI. Oral History, 1965-1987

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects materials related to Wray's work in the field of oral history and tradition. Even before Alex Haley paid for Wray to attend a 1973 class at Columbia University, his interest in the spoken word was firmly established. Book talks given throughout his academic and professional career were one manifestation of his love for orality. The Columbia class catalyzed his interests, and before leaving New York City, he founded an Oral History Department at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Later, at the University of Pittsburgh, Wray researched and implemented a comprehensive course known as Oral History and Tradition. He also served in a number of advisory and freelance roles in oral history. This series includes transcripts, correspondence around consulting work, course materials, speeches, annotated articles, and a file on recording equipment. Oral history recordings can be found on a variety of formats in Series XIII Sound Recordings.

Box 5-6 Oral History

Series VII. Public Library Work, 1952-1973

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects materials relating to Wray's work at the Carnegie Public Library in Pittsburgh and the New York Public Library System. Wray began working for the Carnegie Public Library right out of graduate school, and he continued there until he was hired by the New York Public Library in 1959. Wray was initially an Adult Group Specialist, overseeing activities oriented for adult audiences. His success in this role led him to temporarily assume the curatorial role at the Schomburg Center for Black Research while the official Chief was on leave. Following upon this success, Wray headed the North Manhattan Project, an outreach program targeted towards disadvantaged communities, based at Harlem's Countee Cullen Library. Included in this series are publications, correspondence, brochures, memorandums, notes for presentations and the North Manhattan Project Pictorial Report.

Box 7 Public Library Work

Series VIII. Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 1964-1990

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects materials relating to Wray's work at and around the Schomburg Center. Included are materials from his temporary position as acting Chief in 1964 and 1965, as well as his time as Chief between 1981 and 1983. Wray resigned from the position amidst great controversy over his decision to hire a white archivist, and documentation of this incident exists from all sides. There are also documents relating to the Oral History Department which he established in 1973. Included in the series is correspondence, publications, articles, publicity, memorandums and notes for an unfinished book.

Access Restrictions:

Files in Series VIII concerning candidates and their qualifications for the archival job at the Schomburg Center are also restricted. A signed confidentiality agreement is required for access.

Box 8 Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Series IX. University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Science, 1972-1994

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects professional correspondence generated while serving as a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Information Science (SIS). It begins in 1972 while the job was still theoretical, and continues throughout his career at SIS. Following his retirement in 1988, Wray obtained Professor Emeritus status and continued to teach at SIS until his relocation to Oakland, California, in 1995.

Box 9 University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Science

Series X. Other Activities, 1971-1993

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects Wray's varied activities outside of, or in addition to, his primary work. His commitment to his own professional development can be seen in his work with the Black Caucus, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Black History Advisory Group and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, amongst others. Wray also wrote book reviews and made speeches. This series collects correspondence, drafts, reviews, notes for speeches and many versions of Wray's evolving curriculum vitae.

Box 10 Other Activities

Series XI. Publications, 1942-2003

Scope and Content Notes:

This series includes materials which Wray retained following the donation of his personal library to Chatham College (Pittsburgh, Pa.), as well as books acquired following his relocation to California. There is a wealth of books and publications devoted to oral history and black librarianship. Many of these contain Wray’s annotations and notes. Others contain inscriptions from friends and colleagues. Several books, including Early Black Bibliographies, 1863-1918, The Black Librarian in America Revisited, and the Handbook of Black Librarianship feature sections written by Wray.

Box 11-12 Publications

Series XII. Photographs, Slides, and Negatives, 1940-2003

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects photographs of Wray, his family and friends, and his professional colleagues. It also includes a considerable number of negatives, many from his work with the North Manhattan Project. The series also contains a variety of personal and professional slides.

Box 13-14 Photographs, Slides, and Negatives

Series XIII. Sound Recordings, 1964-1997

Scope and Content Notes:

This series collects sound recordings across a number of formats. Wray conducted family oral histories with his mother and many more in a professional capacity. Recordings of North Manhattan project events are included. Formats included in this series are reel to reel, cassettes and micro-cassette.

Box 15 Sound Recordings

Series XIV. Scrapbooks, Photos, and Family Memorabilia, 1911-1991

Scope and Content Notes:

This series includes a number of scrapbooks, diaries, photographs and assorted materials relating to Wray’s family. A 1911 Tuskegee Institute diploma earned by Arthur J. Wray has been removed from this series and is stored separately.

Box 16 Scrapbooks, Photos, and Family Memorabilia