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Selena Sloan Butler papers

Identifier: aarl09-002

Scope and Content Note

The Selena Sloan Butler family papers document the family's personal, professional, and civic activities from 1886 to 1983 through correspondence, certificates, newspaper clippings, periodicals, scrapbooks, photographs, engravings, artifacts, programs, personal journals, notes, pamphlets and publications. The photographs and photo engravings portray the Butler family and other African American men, women and children in social settings, though information about the dates, names, and locations is mostly unknown. Family correspondence, cards, newspaper clippings, and scrapbooks document daily life and relationships, various community activities, and sympathy letters and cards regarding Henry Butler Sr.'s death.

Local educational institutions, including the Gammon Theological Seminary and Spelman College, are documented through graduation programs and alumni materials. The Butler family's activities in civic and educational associations is illustrated in minutes, correspondence and reports from the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers, the Phyllis Wheatley Y.W.C.A., the Atlanta Women's Club, Ruth Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star, and the Most Worshipful Union Grand Lodge. In addition, the collection consists of biographical information and newspaper clippings covering a variety of subjects, including education for African Americans, Auburn Avenue businesses, race relations and women's issues.


  • 1886-1893


Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on research use of this collection.

Copyright Restrictions

Prior permission from the Research Library must be obtained in writing before any portion of this collection can be published or reproduced.

Historical Sketch

Selena Sloan was born around 1872 to Winnie Williams, a woman of mixed African and Native American descent, and William Sloan, who was of Caucasian ancestry, in Thomasville, Georgia. After attending a missionary elementary school, Sloan continued her education at Spelman Seminary (now Spelman College), graduating in 1888. She remained in Atlanta after graduation and taught in African American schools. In 1893, Sloan married Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler, a prominent black physician. A year later, while Dr. Butler studied at Harvard University, Selena Sloan Butler attended the Emerson School of Oratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Henry Rutherford Butler Jr., the couple's only child, was born in 1899.

Selena Sloan Butler was an educator, child welfare advocate, and community leader. Throughout her life Butler was active in many civic and service organizations, among them the American Red Cross, the Georgia Commission on Interracial Cooperation, and the Phyllis Wheatley branch of the Young Women's Christian Association. An organizer of the Atlanta Women's Club and Atlanta's Ruth Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, she also published "The Woman's Advocate," a monthly paper devoted to the concerns and interests of African American women.

Butler's most notable work involved founding and leading the nation's and state's first black parent-teacher associations. She was instrumental in establishing the Georgia Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT), the latter in 1926. In recognition of her achievements, President Herbert Hoover invited Butler to work on his White House Conference on Child Health and Protection. From 1920-1930, Selena Sloan Butler served on the Committee on Infant and Pre-School Children.

After Henry Butler Sr. died in 1931, Selena Sloan Butler traveled with her son to London, England in 1937, and later to Fort Huachuca in Arizona, where she remained active in civic and social associations. From 1953 until her death on October 7, 1964, Selena Sloan Butler lived in Los Angeles, California with her son and his wife, Rheba, and daughter, Darrilyn. In Atlanta, the park adjacent to the Henry R. Butler Elementary School-the former Yonge Street Elementary School where Selena Sloan Butler established the first black parent-teacher association in the United States-was named in her honor in 1966. In recognition of her lifelong work in education, in 1976 the Georgia Department of Education commissioned a portrait of Butler to hang in the state capitol. In 1995 Selena Sloan Butler was inducted in the Georgia Women of Achievement.

Henry Rutherford Butler Sr., son of Henry and Caroline Butler, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina on April 11, 1862. Butler spent his formative years in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he went to school and worked odd jobs. He attended Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania, and received his M.D. from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee in 1890. Butler and his medical school classmate, Dr. Thomas Heathe Slater, were among the earliest African American doctors to establish practices in Atlanta. They also held the state's first pharmacy license for African Americans, owning and operating the Butler and Slater Drug Store, where Moses Amos worked early in his career before becoming the state's first black licensed druggist.

Butler Sr. was the founder of the Association of Physicians, Pharmacists and Dentists of Georgia and was one of the founders of both the Atlanta Medical Association and the National Medical Association. A noted civic leader, he was involved in the colored branch of the Young Men's Christian Association, Boy Scouts of America, and the Atlanta Interracial Commission. Butler served as Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons for thirty years. In addition to having a school renamed in his recognition, he received an honorary degree from Lincoln University. Henry R. and Selena Sloan Butler are interred in Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery.

Henry Rutherford Butler Jr. was born on November 1, 1899 in Atlanta, Georgia. Butler Jr. earned his bachelor's degree from Atlanta University in 1922. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1926 as one of two African Americans in his class. Upon completion of his medical training Butler Jr. joined his father's medical practice, and after his father's death in 1931, continued the practice until 1937. During World War II, he supervised a 1,000 bed military station hospital at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, where he was awarded the Army Commendation Ribbon for Meritorious Service. Butler Jr. later settled with his wife Rheba and daughter Darrilyn in Los Angeles, California, and became the first African American physician at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan. Henry R. Butler Jr. practiced medicine in Los Angeles until his death in March of 1988.


11.1 Linear feet




The collection was donated to the Auburn Avenue Research Library in 2002.

Separated Material

Select publications were removed and cataloged in the non-circulating general collection.
Inventory of the Selena Sloan Butler Family Papers aarl09-002 aarl09-002
Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History
2010 May 24
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History Repository

101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta GA 30303