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Cornelius Golightly Papers

Identifier: WSP001824

Scope and Content

This collection contains five series: Personal, Professional, Subject Files, Publications, and Oversize and Audiovisual. The Personal series consists primarily of acknowledgements, correspondence, and biographical materials. The Professional series consists primarily of work materials from different places of employment, research and draft documents, business correspondence, and files from different school boards. The Subject Files contain articles and news clippings around Dr. Golightly’s works and around the subject matters he taught and researched closely, such as philosophy and public education. The Publication series consists of published works and government reports that surrounded race relations, the economy, and the education system, which were topics of interest to Golightly. The Oversize and Audiovisual series include large resolutions and photographs. Series 1: Personal, 1935-1992. Series 2: Professional, 1941-1994. Series 3: Subject Files, 1942-1976. Series 4: Publications, 1935-1971. Series 5: Oversize and Audiovisual, 1964-1976


  • 1935 - 1994
  • Majority of material found within 1944 - 1976


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


Dr. Cornelius Golightly was born in Waterford, Mississippi, in 1917. At age 17, Cornelius attended Talladega College, graduating in 1938. Afterwards, Golightly attended the University of Michigan, where he received his Master of Arts and PhD in philosophy in 1939 and 1941, respectively. Dr. Golightly began post-doctoral work as a Rosenwald Fellow at Harvard University in 1941 and was hired as an instructor for Howard University in 1942. In 1943, Dr. Golightly became a Compliance Analyst for the federal government with the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) until the end of World War II.

Dr. Golightly was an academic philosopher at Olivet College from 1945 until 1949. However, when academic freedom for the faculty became too restricted, in part due to the Cold War, Golightly resigned from his position there. Dr. Golightly was almost immediately hired to work for the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He remained there until 1955, when he was hired to work at the Milwaukee site of UW. Golightly remained at UWM from 1955 until 1969, when he was appointed Associate Dean of Wayne State University’s Philosophy Department, where he also served as a Professor. Dr. Golightly was the first African American to teach in the philosophy department at WSU. In 1970, Golightly was appointed to sit on the Detroit School Board, and was elected as President in 1973. Golightly was the first African American male to be elected President of the Detroit School Board. He would remain President until 1976, unfortunately, as Dr. Golightly passed away from a brain hemorrhage. The Detroit Public School administration honored Dr. Golightly by establishing the Golightly Career and Technical Center in 1982.

Golightly had an extensive research background in integration and what is known as "De Facto Segragation" in public schools in northern cities, such as Detroit and Milwaukee. This, along with Golightly's background in the federal government, gave him the tools to work on integration policies and race relations during his time with the public school boards.


9.5 Linear Feet (8 SB, 1 MB, 1 OS)


Dr. Cornelius Golightly was an Associate Dean and professor at Wayne State University's Philosophy Department. Golightly's papers document his time at several institutions, his work in the philosophy field, as well as his involvement with several school boards, including Milwaukee and Detroit. This collection primarily contains draft manuscripts, classroom notes and instructions, correspondence, brochures, and acknowledgements. Additional materials include three folders of photographs and one college patch.


The collection is arranged into 5 series. Series 1 (Boxes 1, 8), Series 2 (Boxes 1-6, 8), Series 3 (Boxes 6, 8), Series 4 (Boxes 7, 8), Series 5 (Boxes 9-10). Folders in each series are simply listed by their location within each box. They are semi-arranged, so any given subject may be dispersed throughout several boxes within each series.


Materials were deposited at the Walter P. Reuther Library by Karen Krebs in 1987.

Related Materials

Topics covered in the Cornelius Golightly Papers are featured in several other Reuther Library collections, including the Coleman Young Papers, the Department of Africana Studies Records, the Detroit Board of Education Public Schools Records, and the Wayne State University College of Education, Dean’s Office: Detroit Public Schools Monitoring Commission on Desegregation Records


Three folders of photographs were transferred to the Reuther's Audiovisual Department.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Mark Prindiville on July 31, 2017.
Guide to the Cornelius Golightly Papers
Processed by Mark Prindiville.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA