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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Aldeen Davis papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1954-1995
Creator: Davis, Aldeen
Extent: 1.50 linear feet.
Collection Number: IWA0279
Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Summary: Muscatine, Iowa, newspaper columnist active in arts, civic, educational, and religious organizations.

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 audiocassette [AC357]
2 videocassettes [V101-V102]

Access: The papers are open for research.

Use: Copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 382) were donated by Aldeen Davis in 1996 and 1998.

Preferred Citation: Aldeen Davis papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City.

Repository: Iowa Women's Archives
Address: 100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5068
Curator: Kären Mason

Aldeen Jones Davis, writer and community activist, was born in Centerville, Iowa, in 1916. She married William Davis in 1939 and later moved to Muscatine. She belonged to several African-American women's clubs: the Sue M. Brown Federated Women's Club; Semper Fidelis Federated Women's Club, of which she was president from 1964 to 1965; and the Muscatine Federated Women's Club, of which she was a charter member. In 1978 she began writing a column on African-American history and modern life for the Muscatine Journal entitled "Soul Food and Thought", which ran until 1990. In 1984 Davis published "Soul Food for Thought", a book-length compilation of some of her articles. She wrote regularly for the Iowa Bystander, a long-running African-American-owned newspaper, and the Muscatine Journal. She published several articles in Prime Time, a publication for Iowa senior citizens, from 1988 to 1990.

Davis's numerous contributions to her community included serving on the Muscatine Human Rights Commission and the Equity Committee of the school board. She also served on the Muscatine Public Library board from 1977 to 1983.

Davis was a dietary supervisor at a nursing home and designed workshops to train others in nursing home nutrition. She was an active member of the Muscatine Garden Club, serving as historian, and was president of the Muscatine Herb Pals from 1982 to 1994. She taught classes at Muscatine Community College, and was a member of the Writers on the Avenue group, a group of Iowa and Illinois writers devoted to critiquing and publishing members' work. She took up painting after retiring in the late 1970s, and photographs of her work can be found in Box 1.

The Aldeen Davis papers date from 1954 to 1995 and measure 1.5 linear feet. The papers are arranged in 8 series:

Personal (undated) includes biographical sketch of Davis and biographical notes by Davis.

Community organizations (1954-1992) includes involvement in church, club, and civic activities. The earliest entry in this series, the Bethel A.M.E. Sunday School record, details the revitalization of the school, one of Davis's first community service activities. The series also includes records from the Semper Fidelis Federated Women's Club; by-laws, correspondence, reports, and minutes of the Muscatine Federated Women's Club; and scattered records from various civic activities, including the Equity Committee, the Muscatine Human Rights Committee, and the Muscatine Public Library Board.

Interviews (undated) contains two videotaped interviews of Davis.  The "Touchstone" interview was broadcast on Iowa Public Television.

Awards and presentations (1989-1992) includes the Governor's Volunteer Award and other honors Davis received, primarily from 1989 to 1992.  It also contains photographs of Davis's art (c. 1989).

Educational activities (1977-1993) includes classes given and participated in by Davis.  Davis participated in an intergenerational writing project which paired senior citizens with elementary school children.  The series also includes two Writers on the Avenue publications.

Newspaper clippings and manuscripts (1975-1992) contains Davis's written work unrelated to "Soul Food for Thought."  These articles were published in the Iowa Bystander, the Muscatine Journal, and Prime Time.

Soul Food for Thought (book) (1984) includes a copy of Soul Food for Thought, published in 1984, and correspondence and public response to it.  [Soul Food for Thought is shelved in the printed works collection in the Iowa Women's Archives; an additional copy can be found in the Iowa Authors Collection in Special Collections.]

"Soul Food and Thought" (column) (1978-1991) contains clippings and manuscripts of Davis's long-running column.  In one of her scrapbooks, Davis notes, "'Soul-Food and Thought'" first appeared in August of 1978 in the Muscatine Journal.  It was picked up soon after by the Common Bond-Davenport and the Iowa Bystander-Des Moines[,] both Black Publications.  The Common Bond is no longer in existence, and the Iowa Bystander could no longer afford to pay for the column."  The scrapbook in box 5 is dated from 1982 to 1988 but contains only material from 1982 to 1985.
Billie Lloyd papers (IWA):  Daughter of Aldeen Davis.
Muscatine Artists in Action records (IWA):  Davis wrote with its subgroup, Writers on the Avenue.
Muscatine Garden Club records (IWA):  Davis was an active member and donated the records in 1996.
Muscatine Herb Pals records (IWA):  Davis was an active member of the group for many years and was president from 1982 to 1994.
Seasoned Citizens (IWA): Davis' writings are included in several issues.

Browse by Series:
Series 1: PERSONAL
Series 7: SOUL FOOD FOR THOUGHT (book)

  • Series 1: PERSONAL
  • Box 1:
  • Biographical material
  • Box 1:
  • Bethel A.M.E. Sunday School record - 1954
  • Muscatine Black Families and the A.M.E. Church" [shelved in audiocassette collection: AC357]
  • Semper Fidelis Federated Womens Club: National Notes - 1965
  • Muscatine Federated Womens Club: Formation - 1967-1971
  • Muscatine Federated Womens Club: Scrapbook (disbound, folder 1) - 1967-1971
  • Muscatine Federated Womens Club: Scrapbook (disbound, folder 2) - 1967-1971
  • Civic committees and boards - 1969-1992
  • Muscatine Herb Pals - 1984-1992
  • Box 3:
  • Semper Fidelis Federated Womens Club: Scrapbook - 1964-1965
  • Series 3: INTERVIEWS
  • Box 1:
  • Touchstone, WOC Midday, undated (29 minutes) [shelved in videocassette collection: V101]
  • Iowa Commission on AgingInterview with Aldeen Davis (27 minutes) [shelved in videocassette collection: V102]
  • Box 1:
  • Governors Volunteer Award - 1989
  • Miscellaneous presentations, awards, and art - 1989-1991
  • Box 1:
  • Classes and workshops - 1977-1982
  • Intergenerational writing project - 1989
  • Writers on the Avenue - 1991, 1993
  • Box 2:
  • Newspaper clippings and manuscripts - 1975-1984
  • Newspaper clippings and manuscripts - 1988-1992
  • Series 7: SOUL FOOD FOR THOUGHT (book)
  • Box 2:
  • Correspondence and related material - 1984
  • Soul Food and Thought (column)
  • Soul Food and Thought (column)
  • Soul Food and Thought (column) - 1986
  • Soul Food and Thought (column) - 1987
  • Soul Food and Thought (column) - 1988
  • Soul Food and Thought (column): Retrospective (10 years) - 1988
  • Soul Food and Thought (column) - 1989
  • Soul Food and Thought (column) - 1990
  • Soul Food and Thought (column) - 1991
  • Soul Food and Thought (column), undated
  • Box 4:
  • Soul Food and Thought (column): Scrapbooks [oversize: in box 4] - 1978-1981
  • Box 5:
  • Soul Food and Thought (column): Scrapbooks [oversize: in box 5] - 1982-1985