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Leary Love family papers

Identifier: MS0339

Scope and Content Note

The scope of the Leary-Love papers primarily documents the work of two generations of the Loves, an African-American family from Charlotte, North Carolina. The bulk of the materials are from the twentieth century (1920s-1996) and consisists of a wide array of materials, including papers, sound recordings, photographs, and posters.

Rose Leary Love was an elementary school teacher who also wrote music, poetry, and children’s stories. Among her papers is the manuscript version of her book, Plum Thickets and Field Daisies. George Leary Love was a photographer and environmentalist who worked primarily in Brazil.

A large portion of the collection is George Leary Love’s photographic work, primarily slides. The range of Love’s photos extend from the time he spent in New York, as well as his travels in Asia and Africa, but the greatest quantity of his work is concentrated on the people and city of Sao Paulo and the Brazilian natural environment.

The collection includes over two cubic feet of taped sound recordings. These recordings were sounds of the Brazilian natural environment, or of conversations between unidentified people or recordings of radio broadcasts.

Due to his involvement in the Civil Rights movement, there are sound recordings of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Eldridge Cleaver, as well as an interview with the parents of Fred Westerfield, a young African-American who was murdered in Atlanta. Additionally, there is a folder of photographic work concerning Huey Newton.


  • Creation: circa 1875-1996


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Biographical Note

Leary is an Irish name and was originally spelled O’Leary. The collection includes little record of the Irish immigrant, but there is information on his son, Jeremiah O’Leary, whose mother was at least in part Lumbee Indian. Jeremiah married Sarah Jane Revels, who was described as being a “free woman of color.” The couple was married by 1800 and lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina. It was likely this generation that dropped the use of the Irish prefix on the family name, changing it from O’Leary to Leary.

Matthew Nathaniel Leary was born in 1802 to Jeremiah and Sara Jane Leary. He operated his own harness-making business and worked to promote the welfare of Africans in North Carolina; even teaching them reading, writing and mathematics at a time when it was illegal to do so. Matthew married Julia Memriel, a French immigrant who may have had some Algerian ancestry. Matthew and Julia had a number of children, including sons named Lewis Sheridan Leary and John Sinclair Leary. Matthew was dedicated to abolitionism and gave his assistance to the advancement of people of color, as did some of his children, most notably Lewis. Lewis Leary joined forces with John Brown in his raid in Harpers Ferry and was killed in the attempted insurrection.

John Sinclair Leary eventually pursued a career in the legal profession, receiving part of his education at Howard University Law School. He was later admitted to the North Carolina Bar during Reconstruction (the second black man in North Carolina to do so) and also served in the state legislature. John S. Leary relocated the family from Fayetteville to Charlotte, North Carolina and established a law practice on East Trade Street. John married Nannie Latham and had six children, including Rose Leary.

Rose Leary graduated from Barber-Scotia Seminary and Johnson C. Smith University. She was a first grade teacher in the Charlotte public school system from 1925-1964. Rose Leary continued her education at the Hampton Institute in Virginia and Columbia University. She was also a poet, song writer, and author of children’s short stories. Some of her poems were published in the North Carolina Teachers Record. She and her husband, George Bishop Love, had only one child, a son named George Leary Love. Rose Leary died on June 2, 1969.

George Leary Love was born in Charlotte, NC on May 24, 1937. He attended Morehouse College and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics in 1957, with minors in physics and philosophy. Following graduation, Love worked as a program assistant with a federal program for assisting universities in Indonesia, often traveling to countries around Southeast Asia. Love later settled in New York where he studied the philosophy of art and applied mathematics at the New York School for Social Research. In 1962 he became involved with the Association of Heliographers. Heliography is any photographic process that uses natural sunlight, rather than any means of artificial illumination. Shortly thereafter (the mid 1960s), Love became involved with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as a field photographer. His work with SNCC documented its activities, as well as prepared materials for their public relations and educational programs.

In 1966, Love moved to Brazil and spent most of his time in Sao Paulo, where he worked for the Sao Paulo Light & Power Company. While employed there, he worked with an extensive collection of company photographs, dating from the 1890s to the 1950s. He augmented this collection with his own photographic work. He was involved with the Museum of Art of Sao Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (MASP), working on exhibits and teaching there. While in Brazil, he married Claudia Andujar. George and Claudia had no children and ultimately divorced.

When he returned to the US in 1987, he worked as a consultant for Sony during its initial efforts to develop still digital photography. According to his North Carolina Teachers and State Employees Retirement System records, he was retired by 1994 at the age of 57 and was living in Mamaroneck, New York. He returned to Brazil in June of 1995 to have a surgical procedure for the alleviation of back pain. He experienced anesthetic shock during surgery and died on the operating table.

Love wrote or made contributions to many books and magazines, as well as curated over two dozen photographic exhibitions. Throughout his career, Love’s chief interest and pursuit was “the interface between our culture and its environment – little explored despite the outcry – and the search for new forms for the photograph and its use.” His legacy exists in the form of an extensive portfolio of photographic work, some of which resulted in published books on the Brazilian natural environment.


6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Leary Love Collection includes primarily the papers of George Leary Love and his mother, Rose Leary Love. Rose Love was an elementary school teacher in the Charlotte, NC public school system for nearly forty years. She also wrote poetry, music, and short stories for children. George Leary Love had a notable career as a photographer and an interest in environmental issues. In the early 1960s, he was involved with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee as a field photographer. In the late 1960s he moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he was employed with the Sao Paulo Light and Power Company and spent many years photographing the Amazon River Valley and the Brazilian rain forest.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Barbara Livesey, 2003.

Related Materials

Rose Leary Love Papers, Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library

Processing Information

Processed by Robert A. McInnes, 2005.

Leary Love family papers
Inventory written by Robert A. McInnes.
February 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections, J. Murrey Atkins Library Special Collections and University Archives, UNC Charlotte Repository

Atkins Library, UNC Charlotte
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte NC 28223 United States

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