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Matt N. and Evelyn Graves Crawford papers

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 882

Scope and Content Note

The Matt N. and Evelyn Graves Crawford papers include organization files, writings, collected printed materials, subject files, personal papers and Langston Hughes materials. The largest part of the collection includes materials relating to organizations in which Matt Crawford took an active role, primarily during the 1940s and 1950s, including the National Negro Congress (ca, 1946-1947); the Congress of Industrial Organizations (1943-1947); the Communist Party (1940-1956); The Civil Rights Congress (1946-1950); and the Council for Civic Unity (1943-1947). There are also files relating to organizations in which there was a relationship to Crawford's work and in which he had an interest.

The writings primarily include Matt Crawford's holograph notes relating to Negro History and to a variety of subjects affecting the Negro in the 1940s. They also include three notebooks of notes written during his trip to the Soviet Union in 1932. In addition, the writings include a small group of speeches, articles and miscellaneous writings by other people.

Collected materials comprise both the printed materials series and the subject files series. Printed materials include reprints and clippings as well as collected reports, leaflets, convention proceedings, flyers, and programs. Subject files are a combination of files kept in their original arrangement with other files added to the alphabetical grouping. Also present is a small group of personal papers, including awards presented to Matt Crawford; commencement programs; and birthday celebration items.

The Langston Hughes materials include fifty-six items of correspondence to both Matt and Evelyn Crawford (1932-1967) and writings, including typescripts of Hughes's works of poetry, prose, drama and music. Many of the items are signed; some include dedication notes. There is also a small collection of printed materials relating to Hughes as well as one publicity photograph (1932).


  • 1932-1967

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

Matt Nathaniel Crawford, Jr., born in Anniston Alabama (May 18, 1903), was fourth of five children of Matt N. and Emma Goodgame Crawford. He spent his formative years in Oakland, California, where his family moved in 1911, becoming active participants in the life of the small African American community in the San Francisco Bay area. He attended public schools in Oakland, graduating from Oakland Vocational High School. In 1921 Crawford went to work as an insurance clerk. In the mid-1920s he prepared for a career in chiropractic medicine and graduated from the San Francisco College of Chiropractic and Drugless Physicians in 1927. He practiced in an Oakland office with two partners for ten years during the 1930s until the depression forced the closing of the practice.

Throughout the 1920s Matt Crawford was active in the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and in two social and civic organizations: The Acorn Club and the Phyllis Wheatley Club. During this time he met Evelyn Phyllis Graves (b. 1899), whom he married on September 1, 1929. They had one child, Evelyn Louise (1938).

In June 1932, Crawford traveled to Moscow with a group of young black Americans, including Langston Hughes and close family friend, Louise Thompson, to make a film on Black life in the United States. Though the project ("Black and White") was abandoned, Crawford and other members of the group toured the USSR for several months. Through this travel experience he became interested in socialism and developed a new political and social consciousness that led to active participation in the International Labor Defense campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys of Alabama. He worked closely with William L. Patterson, a Scottsboro case attorney, and they became close friends and collaborators, a relationship that lasted throughout their lives. The fight to save the Scottsboro Boys marked the beginning of Crawford's involvement in the civil rights movement; it convinced him that socialism was the hope for justice for black people, and he joined the Communist Party.

During the 1930s and 1940s Crawford was involved in many civil rights, labor rights and social justice campaigns. He was a founder of the National Negro Labor Council, which fought for equal employment opportunities. He became involved in campaigns to fight discrimination against black workers who wanted to join trade unions and became director of the Northern California Minorities Committee of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (1944-1945). He held the position of Assistant Director of the Council for Civic Unity (1946), and became the West Coast Regional Director of the National Negro Congress and the Civil Rights Congress (1947-1948). Also during the 1940s Matt Crawford began his long time friendship with Paul Robeson and became an active member of the Independent Progressive Party presidential campaign of Henry A. Wallace (1948).

From 1949-1958, Matt Crawford worked for the Consumers Cooperative of Berkeley, first as food clerk and later as assistant manager. He then moved into a new career as loan officer and later manager of the main branch Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union in Berkeley. During his final years with the credit union, his wife, Evelyn died (1972). Crawford retired in 1974, but remained active in the credit union movement as an advocate, board president, and member. In the 1970s and 1980s Crawford continued to be actively involved in community affairs. He served as president of the Berkeley Black Caucus and was appointed to the Alameda County Consumer Affairs Commission and later the Alameda County Retirement Board.

In 1978 Crawford married Frances Dunham Catlett, a retired San Francisco social worker and artist. He continued to travel extensively and to pursue his interests in gardening, photography, and alternative healing until his death in Oakland, California on August 26, 1996.


11.5 linear feet (24 boxes); 1 oversized papers box (OP)


Organization files, writings, collected printed materials, subject files, and personal papers of African American activists Matt and Evelyn Crawford. The collection also includes miscellaneous materials and correspondence from or relating to poet Langston Hughes.

Arrangement Note

Organized into six series: (1) Organization files, (2) Writings, (3) Printed materials, (4) Subject files, (5) Personal papers, and (6) Langston Hughes materials.


Purchase, 2001.

Related Materials in This Repository

Louise Thompson Patterson papers.


Control level 3


File name: Crawford882.doc


Processed by Pat Clark, 2001.

Control level 3

File name: Crawford882.doc

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Matt N. and Evelyn Graves Crawford papers, ca. 1932-1967
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
March 15, 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • April 27, 2015: Finding aid revised to include enhanced metadata tagging.

Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States