Housed and serviced by Special Collections, the collection is built around the papers of former Nashville civil rights leader, pastor, and Assistant Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, Rev. Kelly Miller Smith. Smith's birth in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, his academic training at Morehouse College and Howard University, and his call to the pulpit of First Baptist Church, Capitol Hill, in Nashville all prepared the way for his significant role in the constructive cataclysm of the 1960's, the Civil Rights Movement.
The Papers reflect Kelly Miller Smith's extraordinary skill in the triple responsibility which he undertook: as a creative and inspiring leader in the religious thought and practice of the Black Church; as an academician, professor and Assistant Dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School; and as an active citizen and conscience of the broader community from the 1960 Sit-Ins through the twenty-five years of negotiation and progress that followed the demonstrations.
The Research Collection is built on the strengths represented by Kelly Miller Smith to include materials on Black Church leadership, civil rights, community activism, and the social and intellectual history of the Mid-South. This archival collection provides a wealth of insight into the Black church community in Nashville and the South during the past three decades.
The Divinity Library and Special Collections in conjunction with the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on the African American Church have initiated a grant-funded effort to establish a network of African-American church historians in the Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, Chattanooga, and Knoxville areas.