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Benjamin E. Mays papers

 Collection — Box: 1-69
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0100

Scope and contents

The Benjamin E. Mays papers include files from his work at the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education. There are also materials related to his presidency at Morehouse, writings by Mays and others, organizational records and financial materials. There are a few photographs, including several of Dr. Mays with former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalyn Carter.

Of note in the collection are newsclippings and files related to desegregation. These files include Calhoun v. Cook which prompted the "Compromise Plan of 1973" to integrate 20 all-White schools in Atlanta. Several of Mays' articles for the Pittsburgh Courier can be found in the Writings by Mays series.


  • Creation: 1931-1984


Rights Statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact

Biographical note

Benjamin Elijah Mays was born August 1, 1894 in Ninety Six, South Carolina. After graduating high school, he spent one year at Virginia Union University before moving to Maine to attend Bates College, where he received his BA. He then went to the University of Chicago for his M.A. and his Ph.D.

While at the University of Chicago, Mays worked as a Pullman Porter and a student assistant to Dr. Lacey Kirk Williams, pastor of Olivet Baptist Church. While finishing his doctorate, Mays published The Negro’s Church, the first sociological study on the Black church, with Joseph Nicholson. He became dean of the School of Religion at Howard University in 1934. In 1940, Mays moved to Atlanta to become the president of Morehouse College. Martin Luther King Jr. was Mays’ most famous student at Morehouse. The two remained close until King’s death in 1968 and Mays delivered the eulogy at his funeral. Mays left Morehouse College in 1967.

In 1969, Mays ran for the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education. While on the board, Mays oversaw the peaceful desegregation of the Atlanta Public Schools. He served on the board until 1981, and served as the president of the board between 1970 and 1981.

Mays died March 28, 1984 in Atlanta. Mays married Sadie Gray, a teacher and social worker, in 1926. Mrs. Mays passed in 1969.


44.5 Linear feet

Language of Materials



The collection is divided into 11 series: Atlanta Public School Board of Education; Correspondence; Financial materials; Sadie G. Mays; Memorabilia; Morehouse College; Newsclippings; Organizational records; Photographs; Writings by Mays; and Writings by others. The series are arranged alphabetically.

Benjamin E. Mays papers, 1931-1984
Finding aid prepared by Allison Galloup, 2012.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

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


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