History Is Lunch: Carolyn Brown and Ellen Ruffin, “The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection”

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At noon on Wednesday, August 18, Carolyn J. Brown and Ellen Hunter Ruffin will present “The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at USM” as part of the #HistoryIsLunch series. Due to increasing COVID-19 cases, History Is Lunch is temporarily shifting to a virtual-only format. Viewers can watch the livestream on the MDAH Facebook page or see the videos anytime afterwards on Facebook or the department’s YouTube channel.
During the 1960s, a dedicated library science professor named Lena de Grummond initiated a letter-writing campaign to children’s authors and illustrators requesting original manuscripts and artwork to share with her students. Now named after de Grummond, this archive at the University of Southern Mississippi has grown into one of the largest collections of historical and contemporary youth literature in North America.
“There are contributions from more than 1,400 authors and illustrators, and more than 185,000 volumes in the collection,” said de Grummond Collection curator Ellen Hunter Ruffin, who has co-edited along with Carolyn Brown and Eric L. Tribunella the first book-length project on the collection, A de Grummond Primer: Highlights of the Children’s Literature Collection.
“Lena de Grummond could not have realized when she wrote to such luminaries as H.A. and Margret Rey, Berta and Elmer Hader, Madeleine L’Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others that they were laying the foundation of an extraordinary trove now visited by scholars from around the world,” said Brown. “And the collection continues to grow, as major authors and illustrators like Ezra Jack Keats, Richard Peck, Rosemary Wells, Angela Johnson, and John Green continued to donate, and curators, past and present, have acquired historical and contemporary volumes.”
Carolyn J. Brown is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. She is author of The Artist’s Sketch: A Biography of Painter Kate Freeman Clark and the award-winning biographies A Daring Life: A Biography of Eudora Welty and Song of My Life: A Biography of Margaret Walker.
Ellen Hunter Ruffin is associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and has been curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection since 2006. Ruffin has served on the Newbery Medal Committee, the Children’s Literature Legacy Award Committee, and the Schneider Family Book Award Committee, among others.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state’s past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building.