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MC 383; T-212

Hundley, Mary Gibson, 1897-1986. Papers of Mary Gibson Hundley, 1910-1985: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 383; T-212
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Hundley, Mary Gibson, 1897-1986
Title: Papers of Mary Gibson Hundley, 1910-1985
Date(s): 1910-1985
Quantity: 4.17 linear feet (10 file boxes) plus 3 folio folders, 3 folio+ folder, 2 oversize folder, 1 folio volume, 1 audiocassette)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Legal records, scrapbooks, photographs, correspondence, etc., of Mary Gibson Hundley, educator and civil rights activist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession number: 86-M233, 2003-M5
The papers of Mary Gibson Hundley were given to the Schlesinger Library by her heir, Orlando Hobbs, in December 1986. Two 1950 issues of The Dunbar News Reel were given to the library in January 2003 by Sylvia McDowell.

Processing Information:

Processed: December 1987
By: Jane S. Knowles
Folders 26ao, 27af+, and 76af+ were added to the collection and two 1950 issues of The Dunbar News Reel were added to folder 50f+ in March 2018 by Johanna Carll.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Gibson Hundley is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Mary Gibson Hundley Papers, 1910-1985; item description, dates. MC 383, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


Mary Gibson Hundley, educator and civil rights activist, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 18, 1897, the daughter of Malachi Gibson, a lawyer, and Mary Matilda Syphax, a teacher. On her mother's side, Hundley was a descendant of Martha Custis Washington and granddaughter of William Syphax, first superintendent of Colored Public Schools of Washington and Georgetown. She graduated from Dunbar High School (then known as the "M" Street school) in Washington D.C. in 1914. At Radcliffe College she concentrated in English and composed songs for her class and for college theatrical productions. Her financial difficulties, compounded by Radcliffe Dean Boody's insistence that she work her way through college as a maid, would have led to her withdrawal from college had not President Le Baron Russell Briggs intervened to arrange a loan for her. She was graduated cum laude in 1918. She later pursued graduate study in French at Middlebury College (AM 1929) and the Sorbonne.
After teaching for two years in Baltimore, Hundley moved back to Washington and taught French, English, and Latin at Dunbar High School, 1920-1954, and part-time at Miner Teachers College, 1931-1932. She was chairman of the College Bureau of Dunbar High School, 1943-1949, and a member of the Guidance Committee. She organized after-school enrichment programs for Dunbar High School students: the Coleman and Margaret Jennings Clubs (social service clubs) and Le Cercle Francais. Hundley was credited with inspiring generations of Black students to go on to higher education and enroll in Ivy League colleges.
Wishing to participate in integrated education, she transferred to Eastern High School where she taught English and Latin (1955-1959). From 1959 to 1964 she taught at Howard University, and thereafter tutored pupils privately in French.
Her pride in the achievements of alumni of Dunbar High School led her to write The Dunbar Story, 1870-1955 (New York: Vantage Press, 1965). The book describes the history of Dunbar High School from its founding in 1870 as the first college preparatory school for Blacks in the nation, whose roster of notable alumni includes teachers, politicians, clergy, and members of other professions. In 1973 Hundley led the Dunbar Alumni Association's campaign to prevent the demolition of the original school building; despite agitation by alumni and a national press campaign, the building was demolished in 1977.
The Hundleys purchased and moved into a house with a restrictive racial covenant in January 1941. Their white neighbors brought suit against them and won the case in December 1941. The Hundleys were enjoined from occupying their house and were evicted in July 1942. The judgment was reversed on appeal in December 1942 (Hundley et ux. v. Gorewitz et al. No. 8154 U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C., 1942). The case was one of those cited in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 US1-23 (1947), which established that covenants restricting use and ownership of property to whites violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Hundley was a member of numerous women's organizations, including Alpha Kappa Sorority, The Links, the Women's Auxiliary of the Freedmen's Hospital, the Radcliffe Club of Washington, the American Association of University Women, and the International Federation of University Women. She was a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church and active in Washington organizations that provided escorts and interpreters for foreign visitors. She served as tour leader for the National Education Association in 1958, traveled abroad frequently, and was an avid theater- and concert-goer. From 1974 to 1979 she was a docent at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian. Radcliffe College honored her at its Centennial Awards ceremony in 1978 with the Alumnae Recognition Award for her service as an educator and "courageous citizen."
She was married first to William M. Brewer (divorced, 1935) and second to Frederick F. Hundley (1938), a public school art teacher, who died in 1955.


The collection is arranged in four series:


This collection of personal and professional papers is arranged in the following four series:
Series I, Personal and family, #1-35, including the history of the Syphax and Gibson families; papers of Hundley's husband, Frederick F. Hundley; photographs; scrapbooks of clippings; school and college papers; and legal records of the Hundleys' civil rights case.
Series II, Professional, #36-87, consists of records of Hundley's teaching career at Dunbar High School, 1920-54; drafts of The Dunbar Story, 1870-1955, with background material on the history of African-American education and Dunbar High School alumni; part- time teaching at Miner Teachers College, and subsequent teaching at Eastern High School, 1954-59, and Howard University, 1959-64. There are also musical compositions, talks, and articles.
Series III, Correspondence, #88-103: with former students, educational and political leaders, and others.
Series IV, Memberships and volunteer activities, #104-126, includes correspondence, certificates, minutes, and reports pertaining mainly to women's organizations and those with an international focus.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Actions and defenses--Cases
African American women
African Americans
Discrimination in housing
Race discrimination
Vocational guidance
Briggs, Le Baron Russell, 1855-1934
Brooke, Edward W. (Edward William), 1919-2015
Conant, James Bryant, 1893-1978
Cooper, Anna J. (Anna Julia), 1858-1964
Dunbar High School
Gibson, Malachi, 1860-
Howard University
Hundley, Frederick F., (Frederick Ferdinand), 1903-1955
Radcliffe College
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Syphax, William, 1825-1891