Ralph Felton Papers

Dr. Ralph A. FeltonDr. Ralph A. Felton (1882-1974) served as Professor of Rural Sociology at Drew Theological School from 1930-1952, and as Director of the Department of the Rural Church. A prolific author, Felton wrote 25 books and 29 pamphlets regarding his research on rural churches in the United States and abroad. Well-travelled, he taught in Syria (present day Lebanon), China, South Korea, Mexico, and Cuba. Beginning in the 1940s, Felton largely focused his research on black churches in the South, endeavoring to understand the influence of the church on black welfare in spite of Jim Crow. His research resulted in These My Brethren: A Study of 570 Negro Churches (1950), and Go Down Moses: A Study of Successful Negro Pastors (1951).

Felton grew up near Ponca City, Oklahoma, where his family lived as homesteaders. After receiving Bachelors of the Arts from Southwestern College in 1905, he taught at the American College in Beirut. Felton completed rural missionary work for both the Presbyterian and Methodist churches; he furthered his education at Columbia University with a Masters degree and received his Ph.D from Drew University. He worked with Gammon Theological Seminary President Dr. Harry Richardson to form the Interdenominational Theological Center in an effort to provide a strong education for black pastors and ministers in the South.

The Ralph Felton Papers are divided between a Faculty Biography folder and three boxes. The Faculty Biography folder contains a complete bibliography of Felton’s work, photographs, and correspondence related to Drew University. Particularly touching are Felton’s newsletters to Drew friends and students that he wrote from the Hermitage in Northern Virginia, a retirement home. His letters reveal a man deeply invested in the mission of Drew University and his passion for his work and students.

The first box contains correspondence from 1906-1956; notable is the Family Letters folder, which includes returned letters from his sons, Ralph and Robert, who died during WWII. There are also bound volumes of survey results and a summary and evaluation of Felton’s research written by student Meredith Rupe in 1965. The summary of Felton’s research is particularly helpful and almost functions as a finding aid. The second box contains 11 bound volumes of survey results. The third box contains 12 bound volumes of survey results. It is worth noting that any research for These My Brethren or Go Down Moses is not obviously included with the bound volumes of survey results.

This is an unprocessed collection and may not be available for research. For more information, please contact speccol@drew.edu.

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