Collection Number: 03804

Collection Title: Bernice Kelly Harris Papers, 1913-1973, 1996-1997

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Size 11.0 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 8,000 items)
Abstract Bernice Kelly Harris (1891-1973) was an author and playwright, largely on southern topics, and leader in civic, cultural, and religious organizations of Seaboard, N.C. She participated in the W.P.A. Federal Writers' Project, collecting "life histories" of ordinary people in the South. The collection includes correspondence and writings of Bernice Kelly (Mrs. H. K.) Harris including letters from editors, publishers, other writers, and friends; fan mail; and writings. Correspondents include J. O. Bailey, W. T. Couch, Jonathan Daniels, Inglis Fletcher, L. H. Fountain, Harry Golden, Bernadette Hoyle, Sam Ragan, Thad Stem, Gilbert Thomas Stephenson, and Richard Gaither Walser. Also included are seventeen interviews conducted by Valerie Yow in 1996 and 1997 with relatives and friends of Bernice Kelly Harris.
Creator Harris, Bernice Kelly.
Curatorial Unit Southern Historical Collection
Language English.
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Restrictions to Access
This collection contains additional materials that are not available for immediate or same day access. Please contact Research and Instructional Service staff at to discuss options for consulting these materials.
Copyright Notice
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the HBernice Kelly Harris Papers #3804, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Received from Bernice Kelly Harris in 1967; from her estate in 1974; from J. O. Bailey in 1974; and from Elizabeth Bullock in 1996 (Acc. 98414). Interviews about Harris given by Valerie Yow of Chapel Hill, N.C., in November 1997 (Acc. 97141).
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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This collection was processed with support from the Randleigh Foundation Trust.

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The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

Bernice Kelly Harris (8 Oct. 1891-13 Sept. 1973) was born in Wake County, N.C., daughter of William Haywood and Rosa Poole Kelly. She attended Mt. Moriah Academy and Cary High School. She graduated from Meredith College in 1913. Harris worked briefly as a principal for a school at Beulaville, Duplin County, N.C. She also taught for three years at the South Fork Institute, near Maiden in Catawba County, N.C., an academy for training rural Baptist preachers. In 1917, she went to Seaboard High School in Northampton County, N.C. She taught English there from 1917 to 1927 except for a year in Rich Square (1921-1922).

During this time, Harris continued to pursue her education by attending summer school at the University of North Carolina. She studied playwriting in 1919 and 1920 under Frederick H. Koch. Koch's love for the folk play inspired Harris. She returned to Seaboard determined to spread the "folk gospel," and to do some writing of her own. In May 1926, she married Herbert Kavanaugh Harris, a Seaboard farmer. Marriage did not dull Bernice Kelly Harris's enthusiasm for writing. She was instrumental in organizing the Northampton Players among the younger people, to write and produce plays at home before taking the best material to the state drama festival.

After 1930, began sending human interest stories and feature articles to Raleigh and Norfolk newspapers. Four of her character sketches appeared in These Are Our Lives (1939), a Federal Writers Project book. In 1939, she wrote Purslane, a novel which won the Mayflower Society Cup as the best North Carolina book of the year. Her other novels include Portulaca (1941), Sage Quarter (1945), Janey Jeems (1946), Hearthstones (1948), and Wild Cheery Tree Road (1951). She also wrote two Christmas booklets: The Very Real Truth about Christmas (1961) and The Santa on the Mantel (1964).

In 1961, Harris was president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. She also served on the boards of trustees of the State Library Commission and the North Carolina Arts Council, was active in the North Carolina Writers Conference and the Reannex-Chowan Group, and taught creative writing classes at Chowan College. From her classes at Chowan came two collections, Southern Home Remedies (1968) and Strange Things Happen (1971), for which she received a Brown-Hudson Folklore Award posthumously from the North Carolina Folklore Society.

Herbert K. Harris died on 13 July 1950. Bernice Kelly Harris died 23 years later in 1973.

[Source: William S. Powell, ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 3 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988): 47-48.]

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

Correspondence and writings of Bernice Kelly (Mrs. H. K.) Harris including letters from editors, publishers, other writers, and friends; fan mail; and writings. Correspondents include J. O. Bailey, W. T. Couch, Jonathan Daniels, Inglis Fletcher, L. H. Fountain, Harry Golden, Bernadette Hoyle, Sam Ragan, Thad Stem, Gilbert Thomas Stephenson, and Richard Gaither Walser. Also included are seventeen interviews conducted by Valerie Yow in 1996 and 1997 with relatives and friends of Bernice Kelly Harris.

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Contents list

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Correspondence, 1913-1973 and undated.

About 2,400 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Letters from publishers, editors, other writers, and a large circle of friends and fans. Letters included invitations to speak, information on literary engagements and honors, and some of Harris's own mail to her family.

Folder 1

1913-May 1939

Folder 2

June 1939-December 1939

Folder 3


Folder 4


Folder 5


Folder 6


Folder 7


Folder 8


Folder 9


Folder 10


Folder 11

January-July 1957

Folder 12

August-December 1957

Folder 13


Folder 14


Folder 15


Folder 16


Folder 17


Folder 18


Folder 19


Folder 20


Folder 21

January-August 1966

Folder 22

September-December 1966

Folder 23

January-July 1967

Folder 24

August-December 1967

Folder 25


Folder 26


Folder 27


Folder 28


Folder 29


Folder 30-31

Folder 30

Folder 31

Undated fan mail

Folder 32

Undated from J. O. Bailey

Folder 33

Undated from Vaughn Holomon

Folder 34-38

Folder 34

Folder 35

Folder 36

Folder 37

Folder 38

Undated miscellaneous

Folder 39


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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Clippings and Ephemera, 1930s-1960s and undated.

About 1,200 items.

Arrangement: roughly by topic.

Newspaper articles and clippings, awards, photographs, publishers' catalogues, and related material by or about Bernice Kelly Harris. The reviews of Harris's are from newspapers in North Carolina, as well as The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News, and The New York Herald. Included are reviews by Eudora Welty and Doris Betts.

Folder 40-46

Folder 40

Folder 41

Folder 42

Folder 43

Folder 44

Folder 45

Folder 46

Clippings about BKH

Folder 47-48

Folder 47

Folder 48

Clippings by BKH

Folder 49


Folder 50


Folder 51

Plays, writers conferences programs

Folder 52


Folder 53


Folder 54


Image Folder PF-3804/1-2




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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Writings, 1930s-1960s.

About 2,400 items.

Arrangement: by title.

Typescripts, galley proofs, draft copies, and revised editions of novels, short stories, and plays by Bernice Kelly Harris.

Folder 55-57

Folder 55

Folder 56

Folder 57


Folder 58-60

Folder 58

Folder 59

Folder 60

These Are Our Lives

Folder 61-63

Folder 61

Folder 62

Folder 63

Folk Plays of Eastern Carolina

Folder 64-65

Folder 64

Folder 65

Bantie Woman

Folder 66


Folder 67-68

Folder 67

Folder 68

Sweet Beulah Land

Folder 69-72

Folder 69

Folder 70

Folder 71

Folder 72

Yellow Color Suit

Folder 73

Sage Quarter

Folder 74-76

Folder 74

Folder 75

Folder 76

Jamey Jeems

Folder 77-81

Folder 77

Folder 78

Folder 79

Folder 80

Folder 81

Wild Cherry Tree Road

Folder 82

A Land More Large Than Earth

Folder 83-85

Folder 83

Folder 84

Folder 85

The Santa on the Mantel

Folder 86-88

Folder 86

Folder 87

Folder 88

Southern Savory

Folder 89

Southern Home Remedies

Folder 90-96

Folder 90

Folder 91

Folder 92

Folder 93

Folder 94

Folder 95

Folder 96

Unfinished Work, 1973

Folder 97


Folder 98

Amanda Pollock

Folder 99

American Way of Life

Folder 100

At the Washington Daffodil Show

Folder 101

The Brown Lady

Folder 102

Christmas Chimney

Folder 103

Christmas Eve

Folder 104

Davey and Judith

Folder 105

Don't Ask Miss Ann About the Old Days

Folder 106

Don't Break the Rhythm

Folder 107

Facts and Fiction

Folder 108

The Federation Wins

Folder 109

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Folder 110


Folder 111

The Fourth Stranger

Folder 112

Goodnight, Ladies

Folder 113

The Goose-Man

Folder 114

The Image

Folder 115

In Red Shirt Day

Folder 116

Incredible Idyll

Folder 117

It is Christmas Eve...

Folder 118

Jeptha's Daughter

Folder 119

Kathy Leen Baker

Folder 120


Folder 121

The Little Address Book

Folder 122

Live Embers

Folder 123

Mr. Springtime

Folder 124

Mother of the Year

Folder 125

Music Hath Charms

Folder 126


Folder 127

News and Observer

Folder 128

The North Carolina Writers' Conference (speech)

Folder 129

One Village Sunday

Folder 130

Pink Honeymoon

Folder 131

The Prodigal Son

Folder 132

Red Berries at Christmas

Folder 133


Folder 134

Santa Claus Wore Blue

Folder 135

A Sheaf of Red Roses

Folder 136

State Literary Association (speech)

Folder 137

The Spire

Folder 138


Folder 139

The Veil

Folder 140

Women After Their Kind

Folder 141

Woodsman Extraordinary

Folder 142

Writing Class at Chown, 1963

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Unidentified Writings, 1930s-1960s.

About 2,800 items.

Galley proofs, rough drafts, and typescripts of unknown works by Bernice Kelly Harris. Included are plays, short stories, and novels.

Folder 143-190

Folder 143

Folder 144

Folder 145

Folder 146

Folder 147

Folder 148

Folder 149

Folder 150

Folder 151

Folder 152

Folder 153

Folder 154

Folder 155

Folder 156

Folder 157

Folder 158

Folder 159

Folder 160

Folder 161

Folder 162

Folder 163

Folder 164

Folder 165

Folder 166

Folder 167

Folder 168

Folder 169

Folder 170

Folder 171

Folder 172

Folder 173

Folder 174

Folder 175

Folder 176

Folder 177

Folder 178

Folder 179

Folder 180

Folder 181

Folder 182

Folder 183

Folder 184

Folder 185

Folder 186

Folder 187

Folder 188

Folder 189

Folder 190

Unidentified Writings

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Addition of November 1997, 1996-1997.

About 50 items in addition.

Tapes, tape indexes, and field notes for seventeen oral histories by Valerie Yow about Bernice Kelly Harris. Dates represent the date of the interview.

Audiocassette C-3804/1

Bell, Clara Bond 24 April 1997

Bell, Holley Mack 24 April 1997

Audiocassette C-3804/2

Bullock, Elizabeth 19 June 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/3

Burrows, Alice K 14 July 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/4

Ehle, John 30 July 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/5

Faison, Madeleine 28 August 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/6

Ford, Ann Bradley 19 June 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/7

Hanes, Frank Borden 30 July 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/8

Harris, Elizabeth 5 April 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/9

Harris, Elizabeth 19 June 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/10

Hodges, Betty A. 28 December 1995

Audiocassette C-3804/11-12



Kelley, Gordon 26 June 1995

Audiocassette C-3804/13

Lewis, Henry W. 17 February 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/14

Merritt, Betsey B. 5 April 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/15-16



Parker, Roy 19 March 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/17

Poindexter, Sandra U. 18 March 1997

Audiocassette C-3804/18

Pyne, George C. 12 February 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/19

Ragan, Sam 31 January 1996

Audiocassette C-3804/20

Stem, Marguerite 3 May 1996

Folder 191-192

Folder 191

Folder 192

Tape indexes and field notes.

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Audiocassettes (C-3804/1-20)

Photographs (PF-3804/1-2)

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