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Sherry Suttles Papers

Identifier: BC20-07

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The Sherry Suttles Papers documents Suttles' personal and professional life, as well as family history, and consists of letters and postcards with family and friends, correspondence with Barnard College and other organizations, fliers, newspaper clippings, class notes, travel materials, programs and other reunion materials, manuscripts and drafts, documentaries and other audiovisual materials, resumes, job application materials, city manager reports and memos, diaries, funeral programs, scrapbooks, photographs, and audio cassettes.

Series 1, General Correspondence, includes letters Sherry Suttles sent to her mother, Ann Suttles, as well as letters Ann Suttles sent to Sherry Suttles. Additionally, the correspondence series includes letters received from her father, her sister Billye, and letters and post cards from friends. The series also includes letters from Suttles' 1968 trip to Africa.

Series 2, Barnard Activities and Social Activism, highlights Suttles’ involvement with student organizations and her social activism during her time at Barnard College and after her graduation as an alum. Suttles was involved with multiple student organizations including: Students Afro-American Society, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, the Africa Crossroads program in which Suttles traveled to the Ivory Coast and the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters (B.O.S.S., now known as the Barnard Organization of Soul and Solidarity). Further, materials include Suttles’ post-graduation fellowship with the Urban Fellowship Program, a New York program designed to give college students the opportunity to work in research and administrative positions with top government officials for one year. Finally, this series includes Suttles’ course materials as a student at Barnard and materials created and received as an alum, particularly in relation to reunion and celebrations of the history of B.O.S.S.

Series 3, Publication and Writings, is further divided into three series: Subseries 3.1, Written by Suttles; Subseries 3.2, Materials Related to documentary film projects; and Subseries 3.3, Collected by Suttles. The materials include manuscripts and drafts authored by Suttles (often drawn from her own experiences), materials related to documentary film productions, and items collected by Suttles (often related to her own work). Additionally, this series also contains a book co-authored by Suttles. This series relates to and overlaps with Series 4, City Manager Papers and Professional Life; archivists attempted to group personal writings in Series 3.1 and include professional writings by Suttles in Series 4.

Series 4, City Manager Papers and Professional Life includes materials related to Suttles' career as a city manager and related positions in Lawrence Township, New Jersey; Oberlin, Ohio, and Menlo Park, California. City manager materials include reports, memos, coverage of Suttles' work in local newspapers and national professional media, resumes, applications to jobs, and records of participation in professional conferences, training, and travel. Also included in this series are materials related to Suttles' work for the Olatunji International School for Life Learning, her career as an author (including of Fielding's travel guides), and her management consultancy work.

Series 5, Personal Life, Journals, and Ephemera, covers Suttles' family history, in particular the life of her mother Ann E. Suttles, personal travel, and diaries, along with other personal ephemera and records of Suttles' experiences.

Series 6, Photographs, contains photographs of Suttles, friends, and fellow students at Barnard; family photographs (including photographs of family before Suttles' birth) depicting celebrations, gathering, and travel; and images from Barnard reunions.


  • Creation: 1930 - 2019
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1963 - 2000



Box 2, Folders 4 and 8 are restricted due to the Archive's policy and FERPA guidelines.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. The Barnard Archives and Special Collections approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Reproduction Restrictions

Photocopies or scans may be made for research purposes.


Sherry Suttles (1945-) was born in Chicago, Illinois to Ann E. and Nathaniel Suttles and raised in Detroit, Michigan. Suttles joined Barnard College in 1966 as one of few Black students on Barnard’s campus. At Barnard she pursued a degree in Government, graduating in 1969. Suttles' time at Barnard was divided between her courses, student organizations, and being a socially active community member. She showed interest in the Community Schools program, which worked towards the development of schools in Harlem, as well as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1968 Sherry went on a trip to the Ivory Coast with the Africa Crossroads program. She also took part in the Student Afro-American Society and within her last year at Barnard was a founding member of the newly formed Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters, now the Barnard Organization of Soul and Solidarity (B.O.S.S.). While at Barnard, Suttles also formed lifelong bonds with drummer and educator Babatunde Olatunji and his family.

After graduation in 1969, Suttles went on to participate in New York’s Urban Fellowship Program. She completed a Master's in Public Policy from the University of Michigan in 1971 and held several positions within city government across the United States, including becoming the first Black female city manager in the country in Oberlin, Ohio (in 1979). She also built historical collections to preserve Black history in the Gullah-Geechee region of the southeast United States and established the Atlantic Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Atlantic Beach Historical Society in Horry County, South Carolina.


13.75 Linear Feet (27 full size document boxes, 2 half size document boxes, 2 custom size boxes)




This collection consists of the personal papers of Barnard College alum Sherry Suttles.

Collection Arrangement

The collection was arranged at two distinct times; materials received in 2008 were physically grouped into an initial set of series (correspondence, Barnard activities, publications and writings, and photographs) and more physical arrangement was done within these series (for example, letters organized by sender or recipient). Materials received in 2019 are arranged roughly as received.

The collection is arranged into six series:

Series 1, General Correspondence
Series 2, Barnard Activities and Social Activism
Series 3, Publication and Writings
Subseries 3.1, Written by Suttles
Subseries 3.2, Materials Related to documentary film projects
Subseries 3.3, Collected by Suttles
Series 4, City Manager Papers and Professional Life
Series 5, Personal Life, Journals, and Ephemera
Series 6, Photographs

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the Barnard College Archives and Special Collections by Sherry A. Suttles in 2008. Suttles donated additions to the collection in 2019.

Appraisal Note

Duplicates, items with sensitive information such as social security numbers, and materials out of scope for collecting (for example, lists of addresses) were removed from the collection.


No additions are expected.

Related Collections

Related materials providing further information about the Barnard Organization of Soul Sisters (now known as the Barnard Organization of Soul and Solidarity) may be found in BC37.2.

A related collection of Sherry Suttles' work to found the Atlantic Beach Historical Society and other materials related to Atlantic Beach and Suttles' consultancy work and interests is held at the Avery Research Center for African American History and culture at the College of Charleston:

Processing History

This collection was processed by Marcia Bassett and Kiran Tahir, 2011. The finding aid was written by Kiran Tahir in May 2011. The finding aid was updated by Dinah Handel in July 2015, by Tamsin Ramjit in 2019, and by Martha Tenney in 2022.

Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Encoding: Machine readable finding aid encoded in EAD 2002.

Finding aid written in English.

Guide to the Sherry Suttles Papers
Marcia Bassett, Kiran Tahir, Tamsin Ramjit, and Martha Tenney
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2019, 2022: This finding aid was updated by Tamsin Ramjit in 2019 and by Martha Tenney in 2022.

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States