Special Collections


The Department of Special Collections is located on the second floor of the TSU Library Learning Center and houses published and unpublished materials that require special care and handling.

Special Collections includes the Traditional African Art Gallery and the Charles F. Heartman Collection. The department houses the official records of Texas Southern University and has collected several manuscript collections. The largest of these collections is the Congresswoman Barbara Jordan Archives.

The Traditional African Art Gallery

Examples of the African Art Gallery

Dr. John Biggers, world-renowned artist, established the Art Department at Texas Southern University in 1949. One of his major goals for the University was to develop a collection of traditional Africa Art. Such a collection would enable the students at Texas Southern to develop a "perceptual growth" and cultural sensitivity to African art. In the early, 1970s, S.W. Mothershed, director of the University Library, used funds from the budget allocated for art books and library auxiliary funds to buy a few pieces of African Art. Mr. Mothershed also spearheaded the building of the Central Library African Art Gallery that presently houses the African Art Collection. When the collection was established during the 1970s fewer than one dozen collections of traditional African art were located at historically Black colleges and universities. The Collection contains 247 pieces of art from West Africa, Central Africa and East Africa.  

Heartman Collection

The Heartman Collection contains over 11,000 books, pamphlets, slave narratives, journals, musical scores, and other documents relating to the black experience in the United States and the world. The University acquired the original collection from Heartman in 1948 for the sum of $20,000. The Heartman Collection is named for Charles Frederick Heartman, a well-known antiquarian book dealer. One of his strongest legacies is in the field of Afro-Americana. During his lifetime, he developed two Heartman Collections; one collection is at Xavier University in New Orleans and the other is at Texas Southern University and is considered the largest African American collection in the southwest. The Department of Special Collections continues to purchase books that are culturally, political and socially landmark works that interpret and preserve the African American experience. The collection now includes over 22000 volumes.


Houston League of Business and Professional Women

The official Records of the organization including reports, histories, bylaws, programs, videotapes and photographs.

Texas Southern University Archives

Dr. Charles Law was appointed as University Archivist in 1977. At that time, he published the first bibliography of university documents. In 1979, Dr. Law developed a proposal for the establishment of a University Archives at Texas Southern University. Since that time, the archives in the library has housed the official records of Texas Southern University. The records include board meeting minutes, presidential papers, yearbooks, dissertations, photographs and other documents related to the history and development of the institution.

NEW Special Collections is now included in the Texas Historical Commission's new mobile app! The app features virtual tours of many different historical sites around Texas. Click here to go to the app.

Manuscript Collections

Barbara Jordan Papers  Close

Photo of Barbara Jordan Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was the first African American woman to serve in the Texas State Senate; she was the first African American U.S. Representative from Texas and the first African American to deliver a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. Jordan donated her papers to Texas Southern University in 1978. When Jordan attended Texas Southern University 1952-1956, she was active on the Debate Team and graduated magna cum laude. 

Curtis Graves Papers  Open
Ollington E. Smith Papers  Open

African American Commemorative Coin Collection

AA Coin Collection

This is a collection of 11 African American commemorative coins, purchased by the Robert J. Terry Library from a private collector ca. 2009. The coins feature notable African American figures and events in African American history, including Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Duke Ellington, and George Washington Carver.  Numismatics is the scientific analysis and study of money and the uses to which people have put money throughout history. Coin collectors use the word "numismatics" when speaking specifically of the study of coins. A wider and more correct definition includes the study and collecting of all money-related items such as banknotes, tokens, medals, bullion rounds, etc. The study of coins can be useful to historians as they can provide historical, social, political and economical context for civilizations, cultures, or specific persons or events. Click here for a pdf of the finding aid.

Nelson Mandela Historical Newspapers Collection

This is a collection of twenty-one South African and other international newspapers published in 2012-2014 that cover the reaction to Mandela's illnesses and death in the South African news media. Click here for a pdf of mandela-newspapers.

Thomas Meloncon Papers

This is a collection of papers belonging to Texas Southern University professor and playwright Thomas Meloncon (1948-).
Materials include play scripts, press clippings, programs, and a biographical sketch. Click here for Thomas Meloncon papers finding aid.

*Featured Item*

ration-bookThis is a war ration book from World War II, ca. 1943.It belonged to Elizabeth B. Robertson and was donated to Special Collections in 2008.

During World War II, food was in short supply because much of the processed and canned foods America produced was shipped overseas to our military and Allied troops.It was also difficult to get fresh foods like milk, vegetables and meat due to gasoline and tire rationing; transportation of soldiers and war supplies was prioritized, and imported foods, like coffee and sugar, were hard to come by due to restrictions on importing.

The U.S. government’s Office of Price Administration established a ration system of rationing that would more fairly distribute foods that were in short supply.During the war every American was issued ration books periodically that contained removable stamps.The stamps were designated for certain rationed items, like canned goods, coffee, meats, sugar, and the like.Shoppers couldn't buy items that were restricted without also giving the grocer the corresponding ration stamp.Once a shopper's ration stamps were used up for a month, that person couldn’t buy any more of that item.Most food shopping during this era was done by women, so wives and mothers were usually the caretakers of a household's ration books; rationing meant careful meal planning and wasting as little food as possible.

To see some pages the ration book, click Click here ration book. To learn more about rationing and ration books during WWII, click Click here for PDF.

Policies and Services

The materials in the Department of Special Collections may not be borrowed through Interlibrary Loan or to circulate. Researchers or individuals who would like to use the collections are encouraged to do the following:

The Special Collections

Please fill out the Special Collections Researcher Registration Form to use materials or photographs from the archival collections. 

Hours of Service

The archival collections are opened by appointment, Monday-Friday 8am-5pm. The Heartman Collection is open Monday-Friday, 8:00am-5pm, and is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Visitors are required to have a valid school ID or driver's license to gain access to the materials.  

Donating Papers

The mission of the Special Collections unit is to acquire, preserve and make available materials of individuals and of non-profit and community-based organizations that document the contributions made by African Americans to Houston history. Collections focus on alumni, faculty, administrators or staff from Texas Southern University or individuals or organization from surrounding communities.

Contact Us

Sarah Haiying Li, Associate Director of Special Collections and Institutional Repository, (713) 313-7169, Haiying.li@tsu.edu

Shirley Demerson, Library Assistant for University Archives, (713) 313-4422, Shirley.Demerson@tsu.edu