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Steven F. Lawson Research Papers

Identifier: MSS 0394

Scope and Content

The Steven F. Lawson Research Papers contain copies of materials collected by Lawson and used for the publication of two articles. The first box contains files (including items that were contributed by David R. Colburn and Daryl Paulson) on the Groveland, Fla., case, in which four African American men, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd, Walter Irvin, and Earnest Thomas, were charged in the rape of a white woman. Content includes copies of newspaper clippings, articles, interviews, and documents from archives such as the Archives of Labor History and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University, the Library of Congress, and the Florida State Archives in Tallahassee. There are separate files of materials on Walter Irvin, Willis McCall, (the sheriff who shot Irvin and Shepherd while transporting them from Raiford State Prison to Lake County ), and Harry T. Moore. (Moore, who was the executive secretary of the NAACP in Florida, had been raising money to support the Groveland defendants and sought to have McCall removed from office.) The material also includes handwritten notes and Lawson's research correspondence. The case was the subject of Steven F. Lawson, David R. Colburn, and Darryl Paulson's article, "Groveland: Florida's Little Scottsboro," which appeared in the Florida Historical Quarterly in 1986.

Boxes two and three include materials related to the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, also known as the Johns Committee. Members of the committee sought to connect members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to communism in order to undermine its efforts at desegregation. Most of the information Lawson collected was about the Revered Theodore R. Gibson. Gibson, an Episcopalian priest, served as the president of the Miami branch of the NAACP. When called before the Johns Committee, he agreed to answer questions about specific individuals who were suspected to be communists, but he refused to provide the membership list for the organization. Gibson faced a contempt charge, which included a $1200 dollar fine and jail time, but the Supreme Court of the United States overturned his conviction. Files consist of copies of journal articles, hearing transcripts, and drafts of the Supreme Court decision and also include material on race relations and segregation in Florida and other individuals investigated by the Johns Committee, including Sheriff Hugh Lewis and NAACP lawyers accused of ethics violations and investigated by the Florida Bar. Lawson used these materials to write "The Florida Legislative Investigation Committee and the Constitutional Readjustment of Race Relations, 1956-1963," which appeared in An Uncertain Tradition: Constitutionalism and the History of the South (University of Georgia Press, 1989).


  • Creation: 1949-1985
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1949-1963



The collection is open for research.

Biographical/Historical Note

Steven F. Lawson is professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University. He holds a B.A. in history from City College of New York (1966), and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in American history from Columbia University (1967, 1974). Lawson began his teaching career at the University of South Florida in 1972, and served as chair of the History Department from 1983 to 1986. From 1992 to 1998 he was head of the History Department at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, and professor of history at Rutgers from 1999 to 2009. He has written extensively about civils rights, particularly about voting rights for African Americans in the post-World War II period, and is the author of thirty journal articles, book chapters, and essays. His books include Black Ballots: Voting Rights in the South, 1944-1969 (Columbia University Press, 1976), which won the Phi Alpha Theta Award for Best First Book in 1977, and In Pursuit of Power: Southern Blacks and Electoral Politics, 1965-1982 (Columbia University Press, 1985), a CHOICE Outstanding Book for 1986.

Lawson has been a consultant for the National Parks Service, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the award-winning documentary film series Eyes on the Prize. He served as managing editor and then associate editor of Tampa Bay History from 1979 to 1992 and as co-director of the North Carolina Politics Project at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill from 1995 to 1996. He has also been an expert witness in several court cases, including Warren v. Krivanek in 1985, Concerned Citizens of Hardee County Florida v. County Commissioners of Hardee County in 1989, U.S. v. Georgia/Brooks v. Miller in 1996, and United States of America vs. The State Of North Carolina; The North Carolina State Board of Elections; and Kim W. Strach in 2013.


1.74 Linear feet (3 Boxes)

Language of Materials



Copies of research material gathered by Steven Lawson for articles on the Groveland case and the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee (Johns Committee).


Box one contains materials on the Groveland case. Boxes two and three include materials on the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee.

Physical Location

University of Florida Smathers Library Building

Acquisition Information

Steven F. Lawson donated the collection to the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections in 2016.

Related Material

For more information on Harry T. Moore, see the Raymond Mohl Research Papers at the Department of Special and Area Studies Collections at the University of Florida.

The Department of Special and Area Studies Collections also holds the Harry T. Moore Documentary Collection.

The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program has oral history interviews with Willis McCall and Franklin Williams, a lawyer for the NAACP who was involved with the Groveland case.

The State Archives of Florida holds the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee records and the Florida Bar's Florida Legislative Investigation Committee records.

The University of Miami Special Collections Department holds the Theodore R. Gibson Family Papers.


Sources consulted by Bridget Bihm-Manuel while writing this finding aid:
  • Declaration of Steven F. Lawson, Ph.D. Case No.: 1:13-CV-861 From the case United States of America vs. The State Of North Carolina; The North Carolina State Board of Elections; and Kim W. Strach held in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
  • Steven F. Lawson. Civil Rights Crossroads: Nation, Community, and the Black Freedom Struggle. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2003.
A Guide to the Steven F. Lawson Research Papers
Finding aid created by Bridget Bihm-Manuel
May 2017
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Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
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Script of description
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Description is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida Repository

George A. Smathers Libraries
PO Box 117005
Gainesville Florida 32611-7005 United States of America