W W Law Collection
Continuing W. W. Law's work to preserve Savannah's history & inspire future generations to learn from the past.
Westley Wallace "W. W." Law (1923-2002)
W. W. Law (1923-2002) was a prominent Civil Rights leader, local historian, historic preservationist and community leader in Savannah, Georgia.
Westley Wallace Law was born on January 1, 1923 in Savannah, Georgia, the oldest of three children of Geneva Wallace and Westley Law. He was greatly influenced by his mother, Geneva W. Law, grandmother, Lillie Belle Wallace, mentor, Reverend Ralph Mark Gilbert, and scoutmaster, John S. Delaware. Both Reverend Gilbert and Delaware were officials in the Savannah chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Law joined the NAACP Youth Council in high school and later served as its president.
He attended Georgia State Industrial College (now Savannah State University) before being drafted into the U. S. Army during World War II. After he completed his military service, he finished his bachelor’s degree in biology. Law was a long-time boy scoutmaster for Troop 49 which was made up of boys from First Bryan Baptist Church, of which he was a member and Sunday school teacher. He was a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service for over forty years.
From 1950-1976 Law served as President of the Savannah chapter of the NAACP. During the 1960s, he led weekly mass meetings at Bolton Street Baptist Church and St. Philip A.M.E. Church during which he urged “passive resistance to segregation” and nonviolent protests. He was involved in efforts to desegregate Grayson Municipal Stadium, department store lunch counters on Broughton Street, and the beaches at Tybee Island. He led an eighteen-month boycott of Broughton Street merchants. Law is largely credited for helping to keep Savannah’s Civil Rights movement more peaceful than those in other southern cities. In 1961, he was fired from his postal job because of his Civil Rights activities, but reinstated after national NAACP leaders and President John F. Kennedy came to his defense.
After finishing his run as NAACP president, he focused his efforts on preserving Savannah’s African American History. He established the Savannah-Yamacraw Branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH), the King-Tisdell Cottage Museum, Beach Institute African American Cultural Center, the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, and the Negro Heritage Trail Tour. He also helped bring attention to and preserve Laurel Grove South Cemetery, the City’s historically African American municipal cemetery.
Law received honorary doctorates from the Savannah College of Art & Design and Savannah State University. He was honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation for his preservation efforts in the community. W. W. Law died on July 28, 2002 at his home in Savannah.
W. W. Law Photograph Collection
Record Series #: 1121-100
Name: W. W. Law Photograph Collection
Dates: 1868-2002, no date
Extent/Size: 20 document cases, 3 oversized boxes (11.63 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Photograph Collection includes almost 4,000 catalogued photographs and images taken and collected by W. W. Law and Geneva W. Law during their lifetimes. Highlights of the collection include: images of local NAACP meetings and events during the 1960s Civil Rights movement in Savannah; views of historic Savannah African American churches, structures and cemeteries; photographs documenting the establishment and activities of the Savannah-Yamacraw Branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH), the King-Tisdell Cottage Museum, the Beach Institute African American Cultural Center, the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, and the Negro Heritage Trail Tour; as well as images of African American families and community leaders of the Savannah, Georgia area.
W. W. Law Art Collection
Record Series #: 1121-101
Name: W. W. Law Art Collection
Dates: 1849, 1895, 1964-1998 no date
Extent/Size: 158 items
The W. W. Law Art Collection includes original, print and reproduction artwork collected by W. W. Law. The works represent a wide range of artistic styles, media and time periods, and include both Savannah, regional and national artists. Of note are works by Savannah artists Christopher Murphy, Jr. and Myrtle Jones, Chicago artists Margaret T. Burroughs and William S. Carter, and regional artists who W. W. Law helped get their start through exhibits at the King-Tisdell Cottage like Jonathan Green.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) - Savannah Branch Records
Record Series #: 1121-102
Name: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records
Dates: 1911-2013, no date (bulk 1931-2001)
Extent/Size: 60.5 records cartons, 20 document cases, 9 oversized boxes, 49 oversized folders, 30 volumes, 9 rolled items, 1 framed item (81.8 cubic feet, 2.0 linear feet)
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records consists of operational, membership and administrative records documenting the activities of the NAACP Savannah Branch during W. W. Law's tenure as President of the Savannah Youth Council, Savannah Branch, and Georgia State Conference. The records provide insight into the local civil rights movement, as well as how the local branch interacted within the larger NAACP structure. Records document activities such as voter registration drives, discrimination complaints, mass meetings, and protest demonstrations.
W. W. Law Moving Image and Sound Collection
Record Series #: 1121-103
Name: W. W. Law Moving Image and Sound Collection
Dates: 1955-2004, no date
Extent/Size: 27 boxes (18.0 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Moving Image and Sound Collection includes various media formats recording a variety of content collected by W. W. Law, including: audiocassette tape; motion picture film; reel to reel; VHS tape; 1/2 inch open-reel video tape; Hi8 video tape; and U-Matic tape. The content of the recordings varies, including: recordings of NAACP Savannah Branch and Savannah Yamacraw Branch of the Association for Afro American Life and History (ASALH) events; local news television and radio programs; concerts of local artists; interviews; oral histories; local museum events; Savannah's Mutual Benevolent Society events; church events; and more. The recordings feature prominent Savannahians, such as W. W. Law, Dr. John Jamerson, Jr., and R. W. Gadsden; Savannah institutions, such as First African Baptist Church, and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum; national leaders, such as Clarence Mitchell and Langston Hughes; and well-known artists like the Fisk Jubilee Singers. The recordings give glimpses into historic movements of Savannah, offering insights on the Civil Rights Movement, the push for historic preservation, and the development of Savannah's tourism industry.
W. W. Law Awards Collection
Record Series #: 1121-104
Name: W. W. Law Awards Collection
Dates: 1894-2005, no date
Extent/Size: 14 records cartons, 6 oversized boxes, 1 oversized folder (17.5 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Awards Collection includes over 170 awards and honors, the bulk of which were presented to W. W. Law during his lifetime for his activities and contributions, including in the areas of Civil Rights, community leadership, education, historic preservation, and history. There are also recognitions in honor of his mother, Geneva Wallace Law. The awards are in a variety of formats, including plaques, certificates, medallions, trophies, and platters. Highlights of the collection including numerous state and regional awards recognizing Law’s work with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
W. W. Law Music Collection
Record Series #: 1121-105
Name: W. W. Law Music Collection
Dates: circa 1918-2002, no date
Extent/Size: 253 boxes (154.49 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Music collection contains a variety of audio formats, including commercially pressed shellac and vinyl records, as well as commercial and original audio cassette tapes and compact discs, representing a wide variety of musical genres, including: jazz; classical; sacred; popular; music for the stage; blues; folk; and narrative recordings. The collection features well-known local, national and international artists, including Marian Anderson, Johnny Mercer, Paul Robeson, and the King Cole Trio, as well as prominent symphonies, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
W. W. Law Reference Files
Record Series #: 1121-106
Name: W. W. Law Reference Files
Dates: not determined
Extent/Size: 1,315 files
The W. W. Law Reference Files are arranged by subject and include various newspaper clippings and print materials collected by W. W. Law on a range of topics that interested him, including arts and culture, crime, education, housing, international issues, labor, local history, prominent people, race relations, and sports.
W. W. Law Book Collection
Record Series #: 1121-107
Name: W. W. Law Book Collection
Dates: 1873-2002, no date
Extent/Size: 165 items (13.4 linear feet)
The W. W. Law Book Collection contains publications collected by W. W. Law specifically on the subject of music, including books about musicians, compilations of sheet music, music genres, music groups, hymns, and more. The books explore a wide range of genres that include Jazz, Opera, Classical, Spirituals, Gospel music, Popular music, Blues, and Folk music. A highlight of this collection is Negro Spirituals and Folk Songs arranged for Men's Voices, by Frederick Hall (The Rodeheaver Hall-Mack Co., Chicago, Illinois), a songbook found with a handwritten book cover made by W. W. Law. Inside this book was a letter written by W. W. Law as acting Scoutmaster of Savannah Boy Scout Troop #48 from 1942. Another highlight are The Jubilee Singers, and their Campaign for Twenty Thousand Dollars, by Gustavus D. Pike (Lee and Shepard, Publishers, Boston, Massachusetts, 1873) and The Story of the Jubilee Singers, with their Songs, by J. B. T. Marsh (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, Boston Massachuestts), the earliest dated books from this collection, both focusing on the founding of the Fisk University Jubilee Singers and their songs.
W. W. Law Periodical Collection
Record Series #: 1121-108
Name: W. W. Law Periodical Collection
Dates: 1831-1866, 1905-2009, no date
Extent/Size: 170 records cartons, 1 oversized box, 2 oversized folders (170.5 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Periodical Collection includes serial publications, 19th century newspapers, magazines, newsletters, and journals. The content covers a variety of topics, including history, civil rights, abolitionism, government, national, local and international news, African American culture, and religion. Items of note include several issues of William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator, 1831-1865, a popular abolitionist newspaper that promoted not only abolishing slavery but women's rights, as well as over 1,400 local periodicals featuring Savannah schools, organizations, governments, and religious institutions.
Collection Highlight: The Liberator, Volume 1, Number 1, January 1, 1831
ASALH and Related Cultural Organizations Records
Record Series #: 1121-109
Name: ASALH and related cultural organizations records
Dates: 1903, 1909, 1931-1957, 1964-2004, no date
Extent/Size: 51 records cartons, 13 oversized boxes, 23 oversized folders, 1 framed item, 1 rolled item (65.1 cubic feet)
The ASALH and related cultural organizations records include the records of the Savannah Yamacraw Branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH), the Negro Heritage Trail, the Beach Institute Historic Neighborhood Association, the King-Tisdell Cottage Museum, the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation Inc., the Beach Institute African American Cultural Center, and the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. Records include correspondence, reports, financial documents, promotional materials, and subject files. The content of the records reflects the daily operation of the museums, preparations for exhibits and events, financial transactions, membership activities, and proposals for building restorations. A significant aspect of the collection is the variety of documents available on various collaborative projects among the organizations.
W. W. Law Working Files
Record Series #: 1121-110
Name: W. W. Law Working Files
Dates: 1956-2002, no date
Extent/Size: 27 records cartons (27.0 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Working Files include artifacts and files sorted into general subject categories during archival pre-processing. These artifacts and files will become part of several different record series related to the life and work of W. W. Law. This is a working record series that has been temporarily created and opened to facilitate public access to the records/papers during a multi-year archival project to process the W. W. Law Collection. The W. W. Law Working Files will shrink as files are pulled out for processing into the final record series/collections.
W. W. Law Pamphlet Collection
Record Series #: 1121-111
Name: W. W. Law Pamphlet Collection
Dates: 1845-2003, no date (bulk 1940-2003)
Extent/Size: 2,260 items (38.0 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Pamphlet Collection includes pamphlets, booklets, manuals, guides, reports, and brochures pertaining to a variety of topics including: African American history and culture; Savannah history, architecture, directories, businesses, and organizations; civil rights; government; and religion. Items of note include: “The Savannah Tribune: ‘Building a Positive Image for Black Savannah,’” (circa 1970s); and “The Road to Justice: Three Major Statements on Civil Rights by President Lyndon B. Johnson,” (circa 1960s) with an autograph card signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
W. W. Law Personal Papers
Record Series #: 1121-112
Name: W. W. Law Personal Papers
Dates: 1902, 1913-2005, no date
Extent/Size: 38 records cartons, 4 oversized boxes, 1 oversized folder, 1 rolled item (40.95 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law personal papers is comprised of records that span Law’s life and represent his interests, accomplishments, commitments, and personal responsibilities. A significant portion of this collection is correspondence between Law and his friends and family. Other papers represent Law’s community affiliations with organizations like the Boy Scouts of America, Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Georgia Heritage Trust Commission, Historic Savannah Foundation, and the American Legion. The collection also includes student, employee, financial, legal, and medical papers. The collection highlights lifelong relationships and many creative documents Law produced over the years, including a song book for his Boy Scout troop and drawings for United States Army military base publications he wrote for.
W. W. Law Sheet Music and Songbook Collection
Record Series #: 1121-113
Name: W. W. Law sheet music and songbook collection
Dates: 1893, 1903, 1912-1986, 1995, 1998, no date
Extent/Size: 1.5 records cartons, 0.5 oversized box (2.0 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law sheet music and songbook collection contains notated music in various formats including sheet music, full scores, librettos, songbooks, and instructional music books. The genres represented span African American spirituals, operas, cantatas, popular music, and sacred music. Songbooks include patriotic, popular, community and camp songs. Instructional music books in this collection include manuals for ukulele and piano. Notable African American composers, arrangers, lyricists, and editors are found throughout these works. Most notable of these contributors are Langston Hughes, Reverend Ralph Mark Gilbert, Hall Johnson, Harry T. Burleigh, Lena J. McLin, Ulysess Kay, and R. Nathaniel Dett. One sheet music of significance is for a song featuring a popular holiday in Savannah titled “It's Saint Patrick's Day in Savannah” by A. J. Handiboe, performed by Eddie Daly and the United States Marine Band, published in 1953.
Family and Community Organizations Collections
Record Series #: 1121-114
- Name: Geneva Law, Dorothy Law and Tessie Law Sanders family papers
- Dates: 1915, 1927, 1943-1994, 2000-2004, 2007, no date
- Extent/Size: 2.0 records cartons (2.0 cubic feet)
- Collection finding aid/inventory
Record Series #: 1121-115
- Name: Lilliemae Greatheart Howard family papers
- Dates: 1889, 1898, 1904-1938, 1963-1966, no date
- Extent/Size: 2.0 records cartons, 4.0 oversized folders (2.5 cubic feet)
- Collection finding aid/inventory
Record Series #: 1121-116
- Name: Gaston family papers
- Dates: 1867-1945, no date
- Extent/Size: 0.5 records carton, 1.0 oversized folder (0.6 cubic feet)
- Collection finding aid/inventory
Record Series #: 1121-118
- Name: Hernandez family papers
- Dates: 1915, 1935-1939, 1979-1982, no date
- Extent/Size: 5.0 legal folders, 2.0 oversized folders (0.5 cubic feet)
- Collection finding aid/inventory
Record Series #: 1121-119
- Name: Greenbriar Children's Center records
- Dates: 1944-1957, no date
- Extent/Size: 22.0 legal folders (0.5 cubic feet)
- Collection finding aid/inventory
After W. W. Law's death, the W. W. Law Foundation was established to celebrate and continue the work of W. W. Law. The Foundation donated W. W. Law's personal collection, documenting Savannah's Civil Rights movement, historic preservation, and African American history, to the City of Savannah for preservation and access to the public.
Chatham County, Georgia, Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funding.