Researching the Betty Brown-Chappell Collection

Ada Mae Metcalf, grandmother of Dr. Brown-Chappell, was born in 1888 -- only decades after the Civil War. Affectionately known as Big Mama – she inspired her granddaughter because she overcame poverty, domestic abuse, and racial discrimination to successfully raise 7 children and to become the matriarch for an extended family that stretches coast to coast and to international shores. Big Mama’s example was a key source of strength while Dr. Brown-Chappell successfully completed her dissertation at the University of Chicago. This incident is detailed in Open Secrets: A Poor Person’s Life in Higher Education. Big Mama’s story was also featured in a 2020 Big Hearts for Seniors presentation sponsored by the University of Michigan and in a StoryCorps oral history. Big Mama’s family photographs and oral history inspired both Dr. Brown-Chappell and her husband, Michael Chappell, to sponsor this project. The Brown-Chappell digitization project (1888-2014) focuses on genealogical organization of photographs and professional materials for this multi-generational African American family. Archival professionals Alexis Braun Marks, Michelle McKinney and Katy Schroder provided technical leadership for the project while a number of student interns were instrumental in completion of the project. Also included in this series are scrapbooks created by Brown-Chappell in her childhood and college years and travel books that include both personal and professional travel.

In addition to these scrapbooks, the personal and family papers includes materials related to Dr. Brown-Chappell's family research, family events and non-academic pursuits. Again, researchers interested in the genealogy photograph books should visit the Visual Materials series.