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Earl B. Dickerson Papers

Finding Aid: Earl B. Dickerson Papers
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature

Earl B. Dickerson PapersEarl Burrus Dickerson was among the most prominent leaders in African American business, politics, and law in the twentieth century. Born in Canton, Mississippi in 1891, he was educated at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He served in World War I and returned to the University of Chicago to complete his law degree in 1920. He made Chicago the seat of his career, serving as Alderman of the Second Ward (1939-1943), and rising to top positions in the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company, the National Urban League, and the NAACP. Among his accomplishments was leading a successful legal challenge to a racially restrictive housing covenant in Hansberry v. Lee (1940) and serving on Roosevelt's wartime Fair Employment Practices Committee. After his retirement from Supreme, Dickerson continued to be active as a public speaker and garnered numerous awards and honorary degrees.

The Earl B. Dickerson Papers consist mainly of personal correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, a modest collection of professional correspondence, manuscripts of speeches, newspaper clippings, programs of public events, serials, and recorded oral histories. This collection is especially illuminating of his private life, particularly through extensive series of correspondence and photographs.

Selected Artifacts

Earl B. Dickerson, remarks delivered on his 95th birthday to the NAACP, June 28, 1986. Among his last public addresses, Dickerson's remarks for an NAACP party recounted his part in a difficult part of the organization's history and reaffirmed his political principles. Earl B. Dickerson (center) with his grandmother, mother, and his two half-sisters in Canton, Mississippi c. 1899. After the deaths of his father and grandfather, Dickerson was raised by his maternal grandmother Eliza Garrett, his mother Emma, and his sisters Gertrude and Luella, who helped to support his early education and move to Chicago in 1907. Earl B. Dickerson and Kathryn Dickerson in Athens, Greece, 1965. In addition to his work with the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company, and as a Civil Rights activist, Dickerson found time to enjoy life's finer things with his family. He and his wife especially loved to travel, and toured extensively across Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Earl B. Dickerson, A. W. Williams (President of Unity Mutual Life), and Julius Momo Udochi (Nigerian Ambassador to the United States), at the Dickerson home, 5027 S. Drexel Ave., Chicago, c. August 1961. Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Co. was a center of black business at mid-century, and among the stops for Udochi, the first ambassador to the United States for the newly-independent Nigeria, on his tour of Chicago. In addition to showing him the offices of Supreme and Ebony-Jet publishing, Dickerson hosted a 'stag dinner' in Udochi's honor, inviting many representatives of Chicago's black business community.

Images and credits.