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Dick Russell papers

Identifier: M191

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains background research conducted by author Dick Russell for his book Black Genius which examines the historical contributions made by African Americans. Boxes 1-3 contains folders on research subjects such as Louis Armstrong, James Baldwin, and Frederick Douglass. The folders comprise of newspaper clippings, notes, interview transcriptions, and reference copies of books and articles. Some folders also feature research about additional people not named in the folder title. Box 3 contains extensive research on the topic of racism. Boxes 4-5 contain notes on the book, outline, contact information for interviewees, contracts, photographs, correspondences, and first and final drafts. Boxes 5-6 consist of audio recordings of interviews with research subjects or with people familiar with them conducted by Dick Russell. Many interviews feature transcriptions available in the folder corresponding to the research subject. In most cases, full interviews are not on the same cassette and may be split between at most 4 cassette tapes. Box 6 contains two VHS tapes “As I Remember It: A Portrait of Dorothy West” and “James Baldwin Memorial.” Audio recordings of interviews with research subjects or with people familiar with them conducted by Dick Russell and two VHS tapes are filed under the research subject. The following thirteen audio recordings could not be sorted by research subject: Alejandro, Mildred Baker, Charles Breed, Dr. Allen Counter, Charles Davidson, Chuck Hayes, Dr. Helen Johnson, Koerner Ray Glover Concert, Neighborhood Tour, Richard Newman, Jim Rothstein, Peter Seeger, and Michael Uorenbers. All dates prior to the 1990's are photocopies of original documents.


  • Creation: 1806-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1995-1997


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Biographical Note

Author, Dick Russell, was born in 1948 and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1969. He went on to write for magazines such as the TV Guide and Sports Illustrated. Russell has published ten books on topics stretching from the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the book, The Man Who Knew Too Much, to the migration of the California gray whale in the Eye of the Whale which was voted best book of 2001 by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. He has devoted the majority of his life and work to environmental issues such as protecting endangered species in the world's oceans. His book Striper Wars: An American Fish Story documents his battle for stronger regulation to protect the Atlantic sea bass. Russell wrote the book Black Genius for his son Franklin who is biracial. Russell hoped to further his understanding of prominent African American figures in history and pass that knowledge down to his son. Black Genius was republished in 2009 with a new chapter on President Barack Obama. Russell currently resides in Massachusetts.


5.15 cubic feet (6 containers)


Author Dick Russell published the book, Black Genius to highlight the achievements of prominent African Americans throughout American history. The collection is comprised of his research for the book. Russell currently lives in Massachusetts.


The collection features newspaper clippings, notes, interview transcriptions, and reference copies of books and articles used for topic research. It contains early drafts of the book as well as a full final draft. It also contains audio recordings of interviews done by Russell and two VHS tapes.

System of Arrangement:


Technical Access:

Audiocassettes in boxes 5 and 6 require a tape player. Two VHS tapes in box 6 require a VHS player. Floppy disc in the Charles McAfee file requires appropriate drive for viewing.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Received from Dick Russell.

Related Archival Materials:

Elma Ina Lewis papers (M038)
Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts records (M043)
John Ross papers (M070)
Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists records (M044)
National Center of Afro-American Artists records (M042)
Materials related to Mr. Russell's work on striped bass, environmental journalism, and his book Striper Wars can be found at the Lionel A. Walford Library. For more information, go to


  • "About Dick Russell." Dick Russell: Author and Environmental Journalist., accessed August 7, 2013.
  • Kenney, Michael. 1998. "Illuminating the Colorblind Beauty of Genius for Personal Reasons (His), using Personal Accounts (Others'), Author Profiles Black Achievers." Boston Globe, 0.
  • Russell, Dick. 1997. Black Genius. New York: Carroll & Graf.

Publication Note

  • The research gathered in this collection was used to publish the book, “Black Genius.”


Finding aid for the Dick Russell Papers
Finding aid prepared by Sukrita Baijal
August 2013
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Snell Library
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US