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: 10 document cases, 1 oversized box (5.5 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Photograph Collection (1868-2002, no date) includes over 2,400 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 (1849, 1895, 1964-1998, no date) includes 158 items of 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: 1941-2000, no date
Extent/Size: 20 document cases, 1 oversized folder (8.6 cubic feet)*
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Savannah Branch records (1941-2000, no date) consists of correspondence documenting the activities of the NAACP Savannah Branch office, as well as its interactions with the NAACP National Office and other regional branches. Items of note include correspondence between W. W. Law and national leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, including Langston Hughes, Roy Wilkins, Thurgood Marshall and Medgar Evers.
W. W. Law Awards Collection
Record Series #: 1121-104
Name: W. W. Law Awards Collection
Dates: 1995-2002, no date
Extent/Size: 14 records cartons, 6 oversized boxes, 1 oversized folder (17.5 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Awards Collection (1995-2002, no date) includes 135 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 1918-2000, no date
Extent/Size: 237 boxes (146.49 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Music collection (circa 1918-2000, no date) contains a variety of audio formats, including commercially pressed shellac and vinyl records, as well as commercial and original audio cassette tapes, 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. Processing of the next phase of this collection, W. W. Law’s compact discs, is currently underway.
W. W. Law Reference Files
Record Series #: 1121-106
Name: W. W. Law Reference Files
Dates: not determined
Extent/Size: 641 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 the 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 (1873-2002, no date) contains 165 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, 1861, 1916-2009, no date
Extent/Size: 123 records cartons, 1 oversized box, 1 oversized folder (123.3 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Periodical Collection (1831, 1861, 1916-2009, no date) includes three issues of The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper edited by William Lloyd Garrison and published weekly from Boston, as well as 123 records cartons of various periodicals related to music, history, African American life, and more. Of particular interest is a copy of the first issue of The Liberator issued on January 1, 1831. This collection will grow as additional periodicals, including both newspapers and magazines, are processed and opened for research.
W. W. Law Working Files
Record Series #: 1121-110
Name: W. W. Law Working Files
Dates: circa 1970s-1990s, no date
Extent/Size: 39 records cartons (39.0 cubic feet)
The W. W. Law Working Files (circa 1970s-1990s, no date) include files sorted into general subject categories during archival pre-processing. These files will become part of several different record series related to the life and work of W. W. Law, including the W. W. Law personal papers and organizational records of the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation and the Savannah-Yamacraw Branch of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH). 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 series is likely to grow as additional files are sorted from unprocessed boxes or shrink as files are pulled out for processing into the final record series/collections.
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.