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Guide to the Hattie Aiken Robinson Family Correspondence

MSN/MN 5017

 

Collection Summary

Title: Hattie Aiken Robinson family correspondence
Dates: 1934-1936
Collection No.: MSN/MN 5017
Creator: Robinson, Hattie Aiken (b. ca. 1887-90)
Creator: Robinson, Eva Vashti (b. ca. 1915)
Creator: Robinson, Lloyd C. (b. ca. 1912)
Extent: 33 items; 1 container; .25 linear feet
Language: Collection material in English
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: A group of 33 letters recording the personal affairs of a Depression-era African-American family. The letters are directed to Mrs. Hattie Aiken Robinson of Texarkana, Arkansas, by family members in Arkansas, St. Louis, and Chicago.

Selected Search Terms

Arkansas -- Social conditions
African Americans -- History -- Sources
African Americans -- Migrations
African Americans -- Social life--1930-1940

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: Hattie Aiken Robinson Family Correspondence, Department of Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Hattie Aiken Robinson Family Correspondence was acquired by the Hesburgh Libraries in December 2010, from Michael Brown Rare Books of Philadelphia (List No. 111, item 4). Arranged and described 2012, by Mairead O'Malley. Finding aid 2012, by Mairead O'Malley and George Rugg.

Biographical Note

The recipient of the letters in this collection, an African-American woman named Hattie Aiken Robinson, was born ca. 1887-1890 in Bossier Parish in northwest Louisiana. She was the daughter of William and Nancy Aiken, both of whom were born in the Antebellum period, most likely as bondsmen. According to the 1910 Federal census the couple had 15 children over the course of their marriage, ten of whom were then living. The same census identifies William Aiken as a farmer, working his own land (near Plain Dealing in Bossier Parish). Hattie Aiken, then in her early 20s and living on the family farm, is identified as a laundress. Shortly thereafter Hattie married Cleveland C. Robinson (b. 1884); by the late 'teens the couple was living in Texarkana, Miller County, Arkansas, with a son (Lloyd, b. ca. 1912) and a daughter (Eva Vashti, b. ca. 1915). Cleveland Robinson was employed by the St. Louis Southwestern Railway, as porter, brakeman, and perhaps in other capacities. At some point, probably before 1930, Cleveland separated from the family in Texarkana, for reasons which are alluded to (but can scarcely be confirmed by) the letters. In 1934 he was living in St. Louis. By 1935 the two children had also left Texarkana. Eva Robinson attended college in Houston prior to beginning work as an elementary school teacher, first in the small town of Tollette in Howard County, Arkansas (Spring 1936) and subsequently in the larger town of Osceola, across the state in Mississippi County. In 1935 Lloyd Robinson followed the Great Migration north to Chicago, settling on the city's South Side and marrying an Arkansas woman named Bernice. At the end of 1936 Hattie Robinson was still in Texarkana.

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes 33 items, primarily personal letters directed to Hattie Robinson by family members. The main correspondents are Hattie's estranged husband Clarence (2 letters, March-October 1935); her son Lloyd and Lloyd's wife, Bernice (9 letters, 6 February-12 November 1936); and her daughter Eva (19 letters, 31 January-13 December 1936). The letters were occasioned by the Robinson children's recent departure from the area around Texarkana, where the family had lived for several generations.

Arrangement Note

The collection consists of one series; materials are arranged chronologically, one item per folder.

Container List

  • Series 1: Correspondence 
    • Folder 1 (MSN/MN 5017-1) Letter. Mary E. Branch, Austin, Texas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1934 September 19. ALS, 1 page, with envelope.
      Miss Mary E. Branch, president of Tillotson College for Women, inquires as to Eva Vashti Robinson's enrollment plans.
      • Folder 2 (MSN/MN 5017-2) Letter. Cleveland C. Robinson, St. Louis, Missouri, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1935 March 8. ALS, 3 pages, with envelope.
        Cleveland C. Robinson writes to his estranged wife Hattie, asking after their children, Lloyd and Eva. He regrets that the children have not responded to his recent letters, and notes that Eva has not written in four years. He also notes he is currently out of work.
        • Folder 3 (MSN/MN 5017-3) Letter. Cleveland C. Robinson, St. Louis, Missouri, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1935 October 4. ALS, 3 pages, with envelope.
          Cleveland expresses his frustration with his children, who have failed to communicate with him: "It seems likely that they don't care for me." He also alludes to his departure from home some years before: "I will say Hattie that I could not stand your way, therefore I left."
          • Folder 4 (MSN/MN 5017-4) Lettter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Tollette, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 January 31. ALS, 3 pages, with envelope.
            Eva writes her mother from Tollette, where she is employed teaching school. She mentions a teaching certificate that she should soon receive, and hopes that government aid for the school will be forthcoming.
            • Folder 5 (MSN/MN 5017-5) Letter. Lloyd Robinson and Bernice Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 February 6. ALS, 4 pages, with envelope.
              Lloyd writes his mother at length about the cold weather in Chicago, and asks after family and friends still in Arkansas. He mentions a number of couples originally from Arkansas now living in Chicago, with whom he and his wife Bernice "step out". Bernice also writes to Hattie of daily affairs.
              • Folder 6 (MSN/MN 5017-6) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Tollette, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 February 21. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                Personal news.
                • Folder 7 (MSN/MN 5017-7) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Tollette, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 March 1. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope. 1 enclosure.
                  Personal news. Enclosed is a note to Hattie from one of Eva's students.
                  • Folder 8 (MSN/MN 5017-8) Letter. Bernice Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 March. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                    Bernice apologizes for failing to acklowledge her mother-in-law's birthday.
                    • Folder 9 (MSN/MN 5017-9) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Tollette, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 March 26 ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                      Eva mentions sending money to her mother to have some teeth pulled; other personal and social news.
                      • Folder 10 (MSN/MN 5017-10) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Tollette, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 April 1. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                        Personal and social news.
                        • Folder 11 (MSN/MN 5017-11) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Tollette, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 April 15.. ALS, 1 page, with envelope.
                          Eva mentions a recent visit to her mother, and asks to borrow money for an upcoming trip.
                          • Folder 12 (MSN/MN 5017-12) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Tollette, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 April 21. ALS, 1 page, with enclosure and envelope.
                            Eva describes her recent trip, and her finances.
                            • Folder 13 (MSN/MN 5017-13) Letter. Lloyd and Bernice Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 April 23.. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                              Though written in Bernice's hand, the letter is in the first-person voice of Lloyd. He apologizes for not sending money, as "it takes all I make for us to live off here." Mentions that "all Texarkana negroes seem to be following me [to Chicago]."
                              • Folder 14 (MSN/MN 5017-14) Letter. Bernice Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 May 24. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                Bernice urges Hattie to write to confirm her whereabouts, since Lloyd is again employed and can start sending her money.
                                • Folder 15 (MSN/MN 5017-15) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Houston, Texas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 May 25. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                  Eva describes a funeral in Texas.
                                  • Folder 16 (MSN/MN 5017-16) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 June 7. ALS, 1 letter, 1 sheet, with envelope.
                                    Eva is taking summer classes at Arkansas State A. M. & N., in Pine Bluff. Her letter details the enrollment process and her thoughts on starting classes.
                                    • Folder 17 (MSN/MN 5017-17) Letter. Lloyd Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 June 8. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                      Lloyd is critical of his mother's wish to remain in Texarkana (a "dirty town") and of her relationship with a man named Bill Chator. He complains of not having heard from Eva since the previous year.
                                      • Folder 18 (MSN/MN 5017-18) Letter. Bernice Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 June 9. ALS, , with envelope.
                                        Bernice alludes to the relationship mentioned by Lloyd in the previous letter, and attempts to offer her mother-in-law some advice: "A girl can't let a man know that she really loves him. She should keep him guessing. That's the way I did."
                                        • Folder 19 (MSN/MN 5017-19) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 June 15. ALS, 4 pages, with envelope.
                                          Eva asks her mother for her father's address, intending to write. She is critical of her sister-in-law Bernice: ". . .she should be made to stay with Loyed all of her life, because she had no business going up there to him She knew that he didn't have anything when she married him. She better get out and work like I'm doing." Eva also writes of people she has met during classes.
                                          • Folder 20 (MSN/MN 5017-20) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 June 22. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                            Eva is "flat broke," and asks her mother for rent money. She has been asked to sing at the N.A.A.C.P. mass meeting at the college the following night.
                                            • Folder 21 (MSN/MN 5017-21) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 July 1. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                              Eva repeats her request for rent money.
                                              • Folder 22 (MSN/MN 5017-22) Letter. Lloyd Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 July 2. ALS, 3 pages, with envelope.
                                                Lloyd is presently unable to contribute $15 to pay for Hattie's new teeth. He then goes on an extended rant about his mother's relationship with Bill Chator: "Listen Mother I love you and all that But if you can't keep from messing around with trash like Bill Chator I don't want anything to do with you at all. So you can do as you like and keep his friendship or you can lose mine." Lloyd accuses Hattie of doing the same thing her ". . .no good husband done, and that is run out in Texarkana."
                                                • Folder 23 (MSN/MN 5017-23) Letter. Bernice Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 September 7. ALS, 6 pages, with envelope.
                                                  Bernice writes a generally apologetic letter to her mother-in-law, expressing her sympathy for Lloyd's antagonism and thanking Hattie for being a positive mother figure.
                                                  • Folder 24 (MSN/MN 5017-24) Letter. Carrie B. Horton, Plain Dealing, Louisiana, to Hattie Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 September 17. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                                    Hattie's younger sister Carrie (b. ca. 1896) writes from the old family farm in Plain Dealing, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, requesting money for the payment of taxes on the portion of the land left to Hattie by her parents.
                                                    • Folder 25 (MSN/MN 5017-25) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Osceola, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 October 5.. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                                      Eva writes from Osceola, Mississippi County, Arkansas, where she has a new job teaching the second and third grades.
                                                      • Folder 26 (MSN/MN 5017-26) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Osceola, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 Octber 11. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                                        Eva writes of attending the A.M.E. (rather than the C.M.E.) church service, and goes on to talk of money matters.
                                                        • Folder 27 (MSN/MN 5017-27) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Osceola, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 October 16. ALS, 3 pages, with envelope.
                                                          Eva writes of her work as a teacher and recent social activities, such as traveling to neighboring Blytheville and attending the movies.
                                                          • Folder 28 (MSN/MN 5017-28) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Osceola, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 October 31. ALS, 4 pages, with envelope.
                                                            Eva writes of a carnival fundraiser which netted ten dollars for the school. She also asks her mother's advice on love. She has two possible suitors, Joseph and Walter, but she "doesn't love either one!" Eva also mentions that she received a two dollar raise.
                                                            • Folder 29 (MSN/MN 5017-29) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Osceola, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 November 10. ALS, 2 pages, with envelope.
                                                              Eva writes of minor daily activities and developments at school.
                                                              • Folder 30 (MSN/MN 5017-30) Letter. Bernice Robinson, Chicago, Illinois, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 November 12. ALS, , with envelope.
                                                                Bernice writes of her fear that Lloyd wil "get into some trouble" when he visits Hattie in Texarkana over Christmas. .
                                                                • Folder 31 (MSN/MN 5017-31) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Osceola, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 November 28. ALS, 1 page, with envelope.
                                                                  Eva sends her mother fifteen dollars.
                                                                  • Folder 32 (MSN/MN 5017-32) Letter. Eva Vashti Robinson, Osceola, Arkansas, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, 1936 December 13. ALS, 2 pages, 1 envelope.
                                                                    Eva tells Hattie that her "dady" (C.C. Robinson) passed through the area on the train and happened to speak with the principal of Eva's school, Mr. Gray: "He told Mr. Gray everything about your affairs and I don't know what he told him about me."
                                                                    • Folder 33 (MSN/MN 5017-33) Letter. Mattie Bell Gary, Coushatta, Louisiana, to Hattie Aiken Robinson, Texarkana, Arkansas, October [n.y.] ALS, 1 page, with envelope.
                                                                      Mattie Bell Gary briefly updates Hattie Robinson on some family members.