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Eartha M. M. White Collection Finding Aid

Collection Number: M75-1
Dates: (Inclusive) 1831-1974 (Bulk) 1930-1974
Size: 38 linear ft.
Repository: Special Collections, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida
Arrangement: Alphabetical by topic; chronological within folder.
Language: English
Container List: View Container List
Additional Information:

Subject Index


Personal correspondence, documents, notes, memorabilia, printed materials and photographs. Notable materials include numerous photographs chronicling twentieth century black history in Jacksonville and historical photographs of urban Jacksonville. Included in the collection are the photographs of R. Lee Thomas, a black photographer active in the early twentieth century in the southern United States. Thomas' work covers primarily southern black religious and labor groups, circa 1946-49.


In 1975, the UNF Library acquired a portion of the estate of Eartha Mary Magdalene White (1876-1974). Dr. Daniel Schafer, a University of North Florida history professor, was instrumental in the acquisition.

Access to the Collection

The UNF Library encourages use of the White Collection for research purposes. In order to preserve and protect the collection, casual browsing and circulation of materials are not feasible. The collection is open by appointment only - call: (904) 620-1533 to make an appointment. For information relating to Eartha White or the collection, e-mail

Preferred Citation

Eartha M. M. White Collection, Thomas G. Carpenter Library, University of North Florida, Jacksonville, Florida.

Additional Guides

An online exhibit of the Eartha M. M. White Collection is available. Electronic versions of some collection materials are available on the World Wide Web as part of UNF Digital Commons, and the Florida Heritage Collection. Descriptions of individual items and photographs are available in the Eartha M. M. White Collection Subject Guide.

Related Materials

In addition, the Clara White Mission, at 613 West Ashley Street, in downtown Jacksonville (phone: 904-354-4162) has devoted the second floor to the Eartha M. M. White Historical Museum and Resource Center. Rare photographs and other artifacts, including Miss White's personal furniture, are housed there. Serious researchers will want to visit both collections to assure full coverage of materials.

Historical / Biographical Note

 Social welfare and community leader, educator, humanitarian, and business entrepreneur Eartha M. M. White was born in Jacksonville, Florida, on November 8, 1876. Member of the Oriental-American Opera Company, 1895-96; toured U.S. and Europe with Company. Owned a number of small businesses from 1905-1930: a dry-goods store, employment bureau, real-estate business, small laundry. Public service activities included: operated the only orphanage for black children in Duval County; directed War Camp Community Services; headed the Negro Republican Women Voters; established the Clara White Mission for black relief activities and the Eartha M.M. White Nursing Home. Died in Jacksonville on January 18, 1974.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of more than 1,000 items, including her personal papers, documents, photographs and other memorabilia. The bulk of the collection are photographs depicting friends, relatives and events from her long life. Sizes of the photographs vary, ranging from 5x7 to 12x16 inches. A significant amount of her business and personal correspondence is also included. An extensive subject index is available for use with the collection.


Since she was an acquaintance and contemporary of many prominent African American leaders in the United States, the collection also includes a number of photographs, books, and letters relating to African American history and African American leaders in the United States. The collection is particularly valuable for research on black history in the Northeast Florida region in the twentieth century. There are rare photographs of early Jacksonville scenes depicting urban streets, historic churches, and buildings. Particularly significant are items from the Afro-American Insurance Company (1901-1990), an historic, black business in Jacksonville, and documentation of the early business leagues and social associations with which Eartha White was affiliated.


The collection also contains 156 black and white photographs of southern African American religious and labor groups, circa 1946-1949, by photographer R. Lee Thomas of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. His imprint contains the caption: Made by R. Lee Thomas, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, The Oldest Negro Town in America. Mr. Thomas was an African American photographer active in the early twentieth century in the southern United States, whose work provides photographic documentation of southern black social life during that time period. The majority of the photographs depict groups from Birmingham, Alabama, and adjacent areas.

Index Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection:

  • White, Eartha M. M., 1876-1974
  • Thomas, R. Lee
  • African American women
  • African American business people
  • Nursing homes
  • African American photographers
  • Clara White Mission
  • Eartha M. M. White Nursing Home
  • Duval County (Fla.)--History
  • Jacksonville (Fla.)--History