The Finding Aid of the Marion Thompson Wright Papers 0177

Kelsey Knox
Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
January 2021
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu 90263-4786


This collection was processed by Kelsey Knox in January 2021.

Contributing Institution: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
Title: Marion Thompson Wright Papers
Identifier/Call Number: 0177
Physical Description: 2 Linear Feet 2 Hollinger Boxes, 1 carton.
Date (inclusive): 1939-1987
Abstract: Marion Thompson Wright was an African American scholar in the fields of history, sociology, and education. She was the first African American to receive a doctorate from Columbia University. Her papers contain her unbound doctoral dissertation, diplomas from Howard and Columbia Universities, personal correspondence, documents about her death and estate, taped interviews about her, and a small amount of photographs.
Language of Material: English .

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Gabrielle Bacchus , Marion Thompson Wright's great- granddaughter in November 2019.


The Marion Thompson Wright Papers are arranged into four series in chronological order: 1. Education and Academic Research; 2. Correspondence; 3. Personal Papers; 4. Legacy.

Biographical / Historical

Marion Thompson Wright was a leading scholar in African American education and sociology. She was born on September 12, 1902 in East Orange, New Jersey. She married William Moss at the age of sixteen and together they had two children, James and Thelma. Since universities did not accept female students who were married or had been divorced, Wright pretended to be unwed in order to enroll in Howard University. Her children were raised by their father, and later, Wright's mother. Wright later remarried to a man named Arthur M. Wright.
Wright earned her B.A. in Sociology in 1927 from Howard University and her M.A. in history and education a year later, also from Howard. Wright became the first African American to receive a doctorate from Teacher College, Columbia University in 1940, with her dissertation titled, "The Education of Negroes in New Jersey", which was subsequently published in 1941. She was additionally the first Black woman to receive a phD in history in the United States.
She became a full time faculty member at Howard University in 1950. She frequently published in The Journal of Negro History multiple times on the topic of African Americans in New Jersey. Wright's research was also used in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education in the fight to desegregate schools.
Wright passed away on October 12, 1962 at the age of 60.

Preferred Citation

[Box/folder# or item name], Marion Thompson Wright Papers, Collection no. 177, Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries, Pepperdine University.

Processing Information

This collection was arranged and described by Kelsey Knox, January 2021.

Scope and Contents

The Marion Thompson Wright Papers contain materials related to several areas of Wright's life. The collections contains Wright's diplomas from Howard University and Columbia University, along with her dissertation, "The Education of Negroes in New Jersey" and programs for each of her commencements. It contains some research material as well as articles in which Wright is quoted. A large quantity of the collection is personal correspondence between Wright and her son, James Moss, as well as a few letters from others. Another bulk of the collection is about Wright's death and the execution of her estate. the majority of the collection are documents, but there is also a small amount of photographs, as well as some cassette tapes with interviews about Wright.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Related Materials

Special Collections also holds Marion Thompson Wright's book collection, comprised primarily of first edition volumes signed by their authors, as well as Wright's own publications. These volumes can be found in the library catalog. This collection came with a small amount of photographs as well.

Subjects and Indexing Terms



Series 1: Education and Academic Research 1939-1960


Series 1: Education and Academic Research is arrangement in alphabetical order by folder title.

Scope and Contents

Series 1: Education and Academic Research includes materials related to Marion Thompson Wright's education and her research. It includes commencement programs for both of her commencements as well as both diplomas and the unbound copy of her dissertation. More of Wright's published research can be found in her book collection in the library catalog.
box 1, folder 1

Articles Related to Wright's Research 1951-1956

box 1, folder 2

Columbia University Commencement Program 1941 June 3

box 4

Columbia University Diploma 1941 June 3

box 1, folder 3-5

"The Education of Negroes in New Jersey" 1939 March 22

Scope and Contents

Marion Thompson Wright's unbound dissertation.
box 1, folder 6

"Extending Civil Rights in New Jersey Through the..." undated

box 1, folder 7

Howard University Commencement Program 1940 June 7

box 4

Howard University Diploma 1940 June 7

box 1, folder 8

Kappa Delta Pi Certificate 1956 April 27

box 1, folder 9

Marion Thompson Wright Achievements 1960, undated


Series 2: Correspondence 1940-1942

Scope and Contents

Series 2: Correspondence includes letters primarily between Marion Thompson Wright and her son, James Moss. Note: When a letter was undated, the postmark (when found) was used as the date.


Series 2: Correspondence is arranged in chronological order, with undated letters coming last.
box 1, folder 12

To Wright from Addie circa 1938 November 29

box 1, folder 13

To James Moss from Wright circa 1939 August 16

box 1, folder 14

To Wright from James Moss circa 1940 June 4

box 1, folder 15

To James Moss from Wright circa 1941 December 22

box 1, folder 16

To James Moss from Wright 1942 January 15

box 1, folder 17

To James Moss from Wright 1942 December 8

box 1, folder 18

To Wright from Dorothy B. Porter 1950 April 13

box 1, folder 19

Postcards to Wright 1950-1960

box 1, folder 20

To Wright from Ruth and Mason Rucker 1960 October 17

box 1, folder 21

To Wright from Jim 1960 December 20

box 1, folder 22

To Wright from Nita 1961 November 20

box 1, folder 23

To Wright from James Moss 1962 August 5

box 1, folder 24

To Wright from Thelma Moss 1962 October 25

box 1, folder 25

To James Moss from Wright undated

box 1, folder 26

To James Moss from Wright (change the folder) undated

box 1, folder 27

To James Moss from Wright undated

box 1, folder 28

To James Moss from Wright undated

box 1, folder 29

To Thelma from Wright undated


Series 3: Personal Papers 1953-1969


Series 3: Personal Papers is arranged in alphabetical order by folder title.

Scope and Contents

Series 3: Personal Papers is comprised of matters related to Marion Thompson's personal life as well as her death in 1962 and subsequent execution of her estate matters. Materials in this series include Wright's birth, marriage, and divorce certificates, biographical materials, will, death certificate, condolence letters, and materials regarding Wright's funeral. The folders regarding Wright's will and estate are large and contain correspondence and other materials regarding the contentious issue of Wright's estate.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Plaque Commemorating Marion Thompson Wright

box 2, folder 1

Biographical Information for Marion Thompson Wright 1947-1987

box 2, folder 2

Birth Certificate of Marion Thompson Wright 1902

box 2, folder 3

Condolence Letters to Thelma Moss on Death of Wright 1962 October

box 2, folder 4

Copy of Wright's Death Certificate 1962 October 29

box 2, folder 5

Divorce Certificate of William Moss and Marion Thompson Wright 1925 September 17

box 2, folder 6

Divorce of Arthur Wright Marion Thompson Wright 1951

box 2, folder 7

Drafts of Wright's Obituary 1962 October

box 3, folder 1

Execution of Wright's Estate 1963-1969

box 2, folder 9

Funeral Automobile List circa 1962 October

box 2, folder 10

Funeral Costs 1962 October 26

box 2, folder 11

Funeral Memory Book 1962 October

box 2, folder 12

Letter of Appreciation for Donation in Wright's Memory 1962 December 26

box 2, folder 13

List of Pallbearers for Wright's Funeral 1962 November 8

box 2, folder 14

Marion Wright Monogram Brooch undated

box 2, folder 15

Marriage Certificate of Arthur Wright and Marion Thompson Wright 1931 April 3

box 2, folder 16

Obituary Clippings 1962 October

box 2, folder 19

Real Estate Titles 1952-1969

box 2, folder 20

Receipt for Marion Thompson Wright's Will 1962

box 2, folder 21

Resolution from Howard University on Wright's Death 1963 January 7

box 2, folder 22

Will and Estate Matters 1963-1964

box 3, folder 2

Wright's Estate 1962-1969


Wright's Red Leather Briefcase undated

box 3, folder 3

Wright's Will Probate and Estate Issues 1961-1966


Series 4: Legacy 1982-1987


Series 4: Legacy is arranged in alphabetical order by folder title.

Scope and Contents

Series 4: Legacy includes materials related to the legacy of Marion Thompson Wright. These materials include interviews on tape with people who knew Wright, as well as written accounts of memories of Wright. All of these materials originated after Wright's death.
box 3, folder 4

Interviews Conducted by James Allen Moss 1982 April 13

Scope and Contents

Side 1: Mr. and Mrs. Walter Daniel (Walter followed by Theodora)
Side 2: Daniels interview
Interviewed by James Allen Moss
box 2, folder 24

Interviews Regarding Marion Thompson Wright 1983-1987

box 3, folder 4

Interview with Howard University Dean Inabel Lindsey 1982 March 12

box 3, folder 4

Memories of Mr. Marion Thompson Wright by Selma White Palmer 1982 April 23

box 2, folder 25

New Jersey Historical Commission 1981-1988

box 3, folder 4

Second Annual Marion Thompson Wright Lecture 1982 February 20

box 2, folder 26

Tributes to Marion Thompson Wright 1963-1987