Day 2 An Unexpected Find

In February while meeting with some history students visiting the archives, I came across some unexpected photographs of John Lewis as a young man.   They capture one brief moment — a Sunday afternoon in May 1963 as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in St. Louis hosted an open house, where “dynamic young national chairman” John Lewis was guest of honor.

They were such a delightful discovery I snapped these quick photos with my phone camera:

These images were grouped together with a flyer about the event, which reads:

Want to own an ORIGINAL WORK of ART?

Come to the OPEN HOUSE

For the benefit of FRIENDS OF S.N.C.C (Student Noneviolent Coordinating Committee)

Sunday, June 13, 2:30 – 5:00

At the home of St. Louis Artist Phyllis Margolin 24 Ladue Manor.

Many leading St. Louis artists have donated their original works of art.  Admission $1.00. Then become a “Friend of S.N.C.C.”and be eligible to win one of the original art works.

_Refreshments_ _Entertainment_ and a speech by JOHN LEWIS dynamic young National Chairman of S.N.C.C who will speak at 3:30 p.m.

event flyer image

Flyer with the photographs. Urban League Records at Washington University in St. Louis.

3 people standing

John Lewis at the event with an unidentified white man and white women.

2 women and 1 man at a table outside

I wonder who are the volunteers working at the donation table? May 13, 1962.

The unexpected

I marveled at these images, because I was not aware they were part of the collection.   And that is not overly surprising, in all honesty.  The guide to the Urban League Records (technical term: finding aid) lists that there are photos in this file.  It just doesn’t say photos of what.  Now that I know what these photos include, I will be working to update the finding aid (one of those many computer administrative tasks I will be taking care of while on pandemic work-from-home).

You may be asking — why wasn’t this description more accurate to start with? The answer is easy — scale.  There are over 80 boxes of files in the Urban League Records.  Each file is listed in the finding aid, work that was done in the early 1980s prior to computerized systems.  (In the mid-2000s these typed lists were converted to our current database).   There is simply not enough days in the year to go through every collection in detail to add more descriptions. However, thanks to computerized systems as information is learned now it can be easily added to the description.

I will also be adding these photos to our list of archival materials for future digital preservation. Until then,  hope you enjoy these few snapshot versions.


Interested in exploring more about the fight for civil rights, and John Lewis? Check out Special Collections’ digitized materials from Eyes on the Prize, including two interviews with John Lewis.

The future

Yes, posting something everyday is overly ambitious, but that’s my aim now that virtual is our main way to communicate. Follow all the posts in this series at

If you have a St. Louis history question about this post, or other topics, I can be reached at or on twitter @mrectenwald

Stay safe and healthy everyone.


About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.