Mason Crum papers, 1885-1974

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Crum, Mason, b. 1887
Mason Crum (1887-1980) served on the faculty in the Department of Religion at Duke University from 1930 to 1957, specializing in race relations and Christianity, as well as the social history of the Gullah community of the South Carolina Sea Islands. The papers contain correspondence, printed material, writings, clippings, slides, photographs, negatives, and glass slides, and and a sound recording. Subjects of interest include religious aspects of race relations and segregation, African American religion and churches, Gullah dialect and culture, Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Lake Junaluska, N.C. retreat. Photographs are of the Sea Islands, Lake Junaluska, Mason Crum's family, former slave Charles Baxter, and images relating to the Washington Duke family and Durham.
11 Linear Feet
Materials in English.
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
29 -- Papers of Faculty, Staff, and Associates
29 -- Papers of Faculty, Staff, and Associates > 02 -- Individuals


Scope and content:

The Mason Crum papers include correspondence, printed material, hand written and typewritten manuscripts of books and articles, clippings, photographs, negatives, and glass slides, and an audio tape, dating chiefly from 1931-1959. Crum acquired the materials over the course of his career as a professor of Biblical literature who had interests in African American history, psychology, race relations, and recent Methodist church history. His major area of research was the Gullah communities of Edisto and St. Helena, two of the South Carolina Sea Islands, with the bulk of work here dating from the 1930s; the result of the research was Gullah, published by Duke University Press in 1940.

Other areas of interest reflected in the papers are moral education, pastoral counseling, and religious pageantry. Crum's concern with Christianity and race relations is shown by his participation in cooperative efforts in education, and in the teaching of one of the first Black studies courses in the South (1954).

Also included in the papers are photographs from the Sea Islands, from Junaluska, N.C., and more personal images of family, children, and relating to the Washington Duke family in Durham, N.C.

Biographical / historical:

Educator, author, Methodist minister; born Frederick Mason Crum; A.B. Wofford College, 1909; Ph.D., University of South Carolina, 1925; LI.D, 1950. Professor of Biblical Literature, Duke University, 1930-1957. Author, Gullah: Negro Life in the Carolina Sea Islands (1940); The Negro in the Methodist Church (1950). Married (1914) Katherine Howell of Waterboro, S.C.; six children.

Mason Crum was born in Rowesville, S.C., the son of William C. and Nonie (Neeley) Crum. His father was a merchant, farmer, and landowner in Orangeburg County. Crum received his undergraduate education at Wofford College, Spartanburg, graduating in 1909. He then attended the School of Religion at Vanderbilt in 1910, and was principal of a school in Fort Mill, S.C. for a year. In 1911, desiring to work for a Ph.D. in order to teach at the college level, he entered Harvard for courses in psychology and philosophy. After a year's study, he returned to South Carolina and began what his autobiography calls a kind of detour in life. During the few next years, he worked as an agent for the Department of Agriculture, sold cars, and became interested in the ministry. He was ordained in the Methodist Church in 1919 and received a pastorate in Summerville, S.C. in 1920. Still desiring to teach, he was appointed Professor of Religious Education at Columbia College. From 1920 to 1930 he taught courses in Biblical literature, psychology, ethics, and education, and completed the Ph.D. program in education at the University of South Carolina, receiving the degree in 1925; his dissertation was on the Project Principle in Religious Education. He was a member and officer of the Chi Phi fraternity.

He began teaching Biblical Literature part-time at Duke University in 1930, and was appointed to the faculty two years later. While at Duke, Crum worked extensively on the question of race relations and Christianity and began studying the social history of the South Carolina Sea Islands, and especially the Gullah communities on Edisto and St. Helena. He took part in cooperative efforts in bettering race relations through education, and was active in a number of organizations. He began teaching a course in Black History, The Negro in the Religious Life of America, in 1954; the course was described as an examination of Christian churches' attempts to apply the Christian ethic to race relations, although Crum intended it as a course about Black life and culture. Crum retired from Duke in 1957, and, after moving to Florida, he volunteered his services as a pastoral counselor to a clinic associated with the Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, Florida. He and his wife returned to North Carolina sometime after 1963, and took up residence at Lake Junaluska, the Methodist Church's retreat in western North Carolina, where Crum died in September, 1980.

Acquisition information:
The Mason Crum papers were received by the University Archives as a transfer in 1973-1977.
Processing information:

Processed by University Archives staff. Completed August 1995, September 2003.

Encoded by Jill Katte, September 2003.

Manuscripts re-housed, photographs arranged, re-housed, and described by Tracy M. Jackson, January 2015.

Description updated for nitrate negatives by Paula Jeannet, October 2018.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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In accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as amended, Duke University permits students to inspect their education records and limits the disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records.

Nitrate negatives are closed to use; copies are available. Please contact the Rubenstein Library Research Services staff for assistance.

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Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Mason Crum papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.