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C. Eric Lincoln collection

 Collection — Box: 1-415
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0047

Scope and contents

The C. Eric Lincoln collection (1909-2000) documents the life's work of the leading scholar on the Black Church and Black Religion in the United States. As a sociologist of religion, Dr. Lincoln is the co-author of the definitive study on the Black Church in America, a massive fourteen year inquiry into the most important institution in the African American community. Dr. Lincoln's career,. however, was not exclusively devoted to writing about the Black Church. In 1961, his doctoral dissertation on the Black Muslims was published as The Black Muslims in America, and out of this work, Lincoln's remarkable reputation as a scholar, teacher, consultant and speaker began.

An outstanding feature of the collection is an immense correspondence file dating back before 1960. This series, more than any other, indicates the many areas of activity in which Dr. Lincoln was involved during his professional life. Some of the letters are particularly useful in tracing his research efforts on the Black Muslims and the Black Church.

The next largest group of records constitute most of Dr. Lincoln's writings, from his poetry and short stories written while in high school and college, to his published articles in the nation's scholarly journals and commercial newspapers. All of Dr. Lincoln's published scholarly articles are included, as well as most of his non-published efforts, which, when taken together, provide the researcher with a vital understanding of his philosophy and opinions on the Black Church and Religion.

Another valuable portion of the Lincoln collection pertains to his research efforts, specifically on the Black Muslims and the Black Church. Included are rare Muslim publications, correspondence with Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad and several documents relating to his research on their group. The larger portion of Lincoln's research files have to do with his research on the Black Church. It must be stated however, that the majority of the materials Dr. Lincoln accumulated during his research efforts into the Black Muslims and the Black Church were destroyed in a fire which consumed virtually all of Lincoln's worldly possessions.

The remainder of the textual materials in the collection consist of documents which relate to Dr. Lincoln's role as a professor of religion and consultant to several private and public research foundations, along with an extensive file of newspaper clippings about him and the subjects and events of his time. Also included are an abundance of articles and manuscripts of other scholars and writers which Lincoln consistently maintained.

An important part of the collection are the hundreds of sound recordings Lincoln accumulated over the years. There are several one of a kind recordings of Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan and Ben Chavis, some of which were collected as a result of his research into the Black Muslims and the Wilmington Ten case in North Carolina. The recordings are on film, videocassette, reel-to-reel tape and audio cassette.

The rest of Dr. Lincoln's records include a photograph collection, plaques, awards and other memorabilia. The photograph collection contains over 400 individual prints, some of which date back to Lincoln's early childhood in Athens, Alabama, while many others were taken for research and professional purposes.


  • Creation: 1904-2000


Use restrictions

Atlanta University Center, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Archives Research Center does not own the copyright for the manuscript or printed items in the C. Eric Lincoln collection. It is the responsibility of an author to secure permission for for publication from the holder of such rights for materials in this collection.

Biographical note

C. (Charles) Eric Lincoln (June 23, 1924 - May 14, 2000) was born in Athens, Alabama. This small town nestled in the cotton country is where Lincoln spent most of his childhood. He was raised by his grandparents Mattie and Less Lincoln.

Despite the setbacks of manifest segregation and prejudices of the Jim Crow era, young Lincoln developed tenacity and a strong sense of self-expression while only six or seven years old. At this time, he began by writing poetry. Since those earnest beginnings, Lincoln has gone on to college where he used his writing skills in drafting term papers and ghostwriting love letters for fellow students. Lincoln eventually earned five degrees, including a Bachelor of Divinity from the University of Chicago and a Doctor of Philosophy in Social Ethics from Boston University. An ordained minister, Dr. Lincoln is best knwon as a distinguished scholar, writer and lecturer on the Sociology of Black Religion, and Race and Ethnic Relations in the United States. He has become the leading authority and author on the Black Muslims, having written the compelling study on the Nation of Islam, The Black Muslims in America (1961). Many of his ideas and writings on the subjuct have been included in newspapers, newsletters and periodicals throughout the country. Other notable enterprises include such written works as My Face is Black, The Avenue: Clayton City and The Black Church in the African American Experience. The latter is a comprehensive study of the Black Church.

With these literary works and much more in his repertoire, Lincoln has brought prophetic insight and scholarship to several institutions as Professor and Scholar in Residence. Most notable of these are Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University), Boston University and Fisk University. His last teaching position was at Duke University as distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture. He arrived there in 1976 and remained until his retirement in 1993. C. Eric Lincoln is married to Lucy Cook Lincoln and resided in Durham, NC until his death in May of 2000.


166.1 Linear feet

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged into 15 series. The series include Biographical/Family files, Correspondence, Manuscripts, Research files, University/Academic records, Foundations: consultations/research support, Publicity file/memorabilia, Newsclippings, Manuscript (others), Miscellaneous, Legal, Photographs, Audio/Visual materials, Oversized material, and Appointment books.


On 24 May 1994 the National Endowment for the Humanities announced an award to the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library for the Department of Archives and Special Collections to process significant manuscript and archival collections on the lives and culture of prominent African Americans and institutions. The C. Eric Lincoln collection represents by far, one of the most significant and distinct collections in the project. The staff wishes to acknowledge with much appreciation the NEH Award and takes great pleasure in presenting the C. Eric Lincoln collection to the world community of scholars for examination, review and study. The collection represents one of America's most prominent and prolific scholars of the Twentieth Century.

This project was, in large part, made possible by the continued support and dedication of Dr. Prince Rivers, former Interim Director, who wrote and submitted the proposal to the NEH for funding. The processing of the Lincoln collection was carried out by a team of Assistant Archivists, Paul Crater and Jean Smith, who employed relentless and faithful commitment to successfully complete this project. They were assisted by two graduate assistants, Tracy Hill and Starrie Lincoln. Finally, the staff is indebted to Ms. Bernice Ray, Director of the Robert W. Woodruff Library , for her gracious and helpful support during the processing of the Lincoln collection.

Wilson N. Flemister, Sr. Project Archivist

The C. Eric Lincoln Papers: an Apprecitation by John Hope Franklin

There are few collections of papers of African American scholars as rich in variety, extensive in coverage, or as significant in impact as C. Eric Lincoln's Papers at Clark Atlanta University. Lincoln's talents and versatility as a poet, novelist, essayist, theologian, sociologist, philosopher, and historian are clearly evident in this remarkable collection. Anyone seeking to understand the beginnings as well as the impact of the Black Muslims in America would do well to examine Lincoln's pioneer work as well as the materials that went into the writing of it.

Through the years Lincoln has been very much involved in social, economic, and religious matters. His work on the case of the Wilmington Ten, his activities in connection with a variety of social problems while he was at Fisk University, and the numerous responsibilities he assumed in his role as an ordained minister all attest to his deep concern for the human condition. These activities are amply documented in his papers.

Unfortunately, those who are acquainted with Lincoln's monumental work, The Black Church in the African American Experience will not find much of the data on which the study was based. This is due to the fact that a tragic fire in the Lincoln home several years ago destroyed most of the material. Nevertheless, scattered through the Lincoln papers is much material that supports, even enlivens the conclusions reached in that seminal work.

I have always been fascinated by the versatility of C. Eric Lincoln. When his novel, The Avenue, Clayton City appeared, I could not put it down until I finished it; and I could not believe that the person who had written Race, Religion and the Continuing American Dilemma had written The Avenue. When I read Lincoln's volume of poetry, This Road Since Freedom, I was not only entranced, but could scarcely believe that it was written by the same person who wrote Is Anybody Listening to Black America?

Lincoln's papers reveal his deep commitment to scholarship, his reverence for human life, and his abiding religious faith. Perhaps they also reveal one who is determined to discover them the sources of his vitality and versatility.

Processing Information

The Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library acknowledges the generous support of the National Endowment for Humanities - Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Implementation Project Grant in supporting the processing and digitization of a number of its major archival collections as part of the project: Spreading the Word: Expanding Access to African American Religious Archival Collections at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library

C. Eric Lincoln collection, 1904-2000 0000.0000.0000.0028
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Revision Statements

  • 2004, 2011: Additions processed by Trashinda Wright and Allison Galloup.

Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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