Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
W. Sherman Savage Collection: Finding Aid
mssSavage collection  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Bibliography
  • Related Items
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: W. Sherman Savage Collection
    Dates (inclusive): Approximately 1950-1981
    Collection Number: mssSavage collection
    Creator: Savage, W. Sherman (William Sherman)
    Extent: 598 items, plus teaching materials, ephemera and printed matter in 10 boxes
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2129
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains the papers of American history professor W. Sherman Savage (1890-1980), dating from the 1950s to 1981 and concerning his writing and research on African American history, especially in the California and trans-Mississippi West, his retirement from Lincoln University in 1960 and his subsequent teaching at Cal State Los Angeles. There is also material about his efforts to secure a publisher for his major study, Blacks in the West.
    Language: English.


    Course enrollment lists and student papers from Dr. Savage's years as a member of the History Department at California State College, Los Angeles, have been removed from the collection and are currently restricted until December 31, 2029 in order to protect the privacy of students in his classes. Another file related to letters of recommendation on behalf of a fellowship application has also been closed for the same time period.
    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. W. Sherman Savage Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Gift of Eloise S. Logan, May 5, 1987.

    Biographical Note

    W. Sherman Savage (March 7, 1890-May 23, 1980) remained deeply involved in education throughout his adult life, both as a teacher and as a scholar. Born in Wattsville, Accomac County, Virginia, Savage received a bachelor's degree from Howard University in 1917. He held various teaching positions in Mississippi, North Carolina and Oklahoma, before becoming professor of history at Lincoln University of Missouri (Jefferson City, Missouri) in 1921. Despite the racial barriers in place at most universities, Savage also pursued his graduate studies, becoming the first black graduate of the University of Oregon (receiving an M.A. in 1925) and the first black to receive a doctorate from Ohio State University in 1934. Dr. Savage remained at Lincoln University until his retirement in 1960 as chair of the History Department. As his papers demonstrate, he was regarded with great respect and affection by his colleagues and by his students at Lincoln University because of his exceptional dedication to the school and to his teaching. Thereafter, he taught in the History and Political Science Department at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas until 1966. Following his departure from Jarvis, he and his wife Roena moved to Los Angeles where he continued to teach as a visiting professor at California State College, Los Angeles until 1970. He pursued his research and his writing in the years after his final retirement up until his death in 1980. As an historian, Savage wrote initially about abolitionism (including a published version of his doctoral dissertation, "The Controversy Over the Distribution of Abolition Literature, 1830-1860") but soon became interested in exploring the circumstances of African Americans in the trans-Mississippi West. He published extensively in The Journal of Negro History and The Negro History Bulletin on aspects of the subject, served as a consultant to a 1970 television series dealing with the general topic and eventually made it the subject of his best known book, Blacks in the West (Westport, CT, 1976).


    A lengthy memorial appreciation of Dr. Savage, written by Lorenzo J. Greene, appeared in The Journal of Negro History,v. 66, n. 1 (Spring 1981).

    Related Items

    A typescript copy of Dr. Savage's memoirs is separately cataloged: Memoirs of W. Sherman Savage, approximately 1979.  (Call number: mssHM 48340).

    Scope and Content

    The papers concern Savage's writing and research on African American history, especially in the California and trans-Mississippi West, his retirement from Lincoln University in 1960 and his subsequent teaching at Cal State LA. There is also material about his efforts to secure a publisher for his major study, Blacks in the West. The papers in this collection represent only the latter portion of Savage's career as an historian and educator. Unfortunately, according to Savage himself, his earlier papers were destroyed by a tenant who was leasing the Savages' home after his retirement from Lincoln University (carbon copy of letter to Dr. Michael R. Winston, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, July 14, 1974, Box 7, folder 10).
    Some notable items include correspondence in 1969 and 1970 between Sherman Savage and various representatives of the University of Nebraska's educational television station in the course of developing a television series on African-Americans in the West (see Savage to Larry Long, Box 6, folder 53 and University of Nebraska, University Television to Sherman Savage, Box 7, folder 42); multiple drafts of Sherman Savage's major publication, Blacks in the West (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976), Boxes 1 through 3.
    Note: Many of the materials are in rather poor physical condition because of the deteriorating paper upon which the letters or manuscripts were produced or because of previous circumstances of storage.


    The collection is housed in ten boxes and is separated into five categories of materials: manuscripts, correspondence, teaching materials, ephemera and printed matter. The manuscripts are organized alphabetically by author and then by title while the correspondence is arranged alphabetically by author and then, where necessary, by addressee.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Brown, John, 1800-1859.
    Douglass, Frederick, 1818-1895.
    Leidesdorff, William A. (William Alexander), 1810-1848.
    Savage, W. Sherman (William Sherman) -- Archives.
    Tubman, Harriet, 1820?-1913.
    African American teachers -- United States -- Archives.
    African Americans -- California -- History.
    African Americans -- West (U.S.) -- History.
    Antislavery movements -- United States.
    Civil rights -- 18th century.
    Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.)
    Historians -- California -- Archives.
    Historians -- Missouri -- Archives.
    Slavery -- United States -- Controversial literature.
    Teachers -- California -- Archives.
    Teachers -- Missouri -- Archives.
    Underground Railroad -- Indiana.
    West (U.S.) -- History -- 1848-1860.


    Ephemera -- United States -- 20th century.
    Journals -- (periodicals) United States -- 20th century.
    Letters -- (correspondence) United States -- 20th century.
    Manuscripts -- United States -- 20th century.
    Offprints -- United States -- 20th century.

    Alternate Authors

    Billington, Ray Allen, 1903-1981.
    Greene, Lorenzo J. (Lorenzo Johnston), 1899-1988.
    Nunis, Doyce B. (Doyce Blackman), 1924-2011.
    California State University, Los Angeles.
    Greenwood Press (Westport, Conn.)
    Howard University.
    Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Mo.)
    Ohio State University. Department of History.
    Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
    University of Nebraska--Lincoln. Television Department.