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Mary Ann Wells Photographs and Papers

 Unprocessed Collection
Identifier: M445


Literary manuscripts of her books and photographs, slides, news clippings of articles written by her while a photojournalist at the Hattiesburg American newspaper.


  • Creation: circa 1977-1999


Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The materials in this collection are copyrighted.

Press Release


Mary Ann Wells, author and journalist, has made a gift of her manuscript papers as well as a large collection of photographic negatives to the Department of Manuscripts and Archives in the McCain Library and Archives of the USM University Libraries.

Her books include Native Land: Mississippi 1540-1798, A History Lover's Guide to Mississippi, A History Lover's Guide to Louisiana, and a forthcoming biography of William Weatherford tentatively entitled "Red Eagle's Choice" [published in 1998 as Searching for Red Eagle. Wells' freelance journalistic work has appeared in more than 100 publications including the New York Daily News, The Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and Travel & Leisure magazine. From 1984 through 1986 she worked as a contributing editor on Excursions, a New York-based travel magazine. Her travel writing assignments have taken her from the Amazon to Ireland.

Wells worked as a photojournalist at the Hattiesburg American newspaper in Hattiesburg, Mississippi from 1977 to 1981, during which time her work won more than sixty state, regional, and national awards from professional journalism and press organizations. The National Federation of Press Women recognized her as the leading photojournalist in the nation in 1981 with their Outstanding Achievement Award. Wells has given all the negatives from the photographs she made while working for the American to the USM Archives, where the Wells papers were established in 1991.

"The American's policy in the years I worked there was not to keep negatives or photographic prints from photographers' assignments. Individual photographers were free to keep negatives of photographs they made if they chose. Otherwise they were thrown away," Wells says. "I invested so much psychic energy in my work and I had come to the American from a professional photography background that considered the negative holy so I couldn't do less than catalog and save my negatives," she says.

"Looking through the negatives, you find a visual diary of daily life in the town and area for those years. The social concerns, achievements, amusements, and images of the people who became important through economic, political or criminal actions are there plus the world of everyday people -- how they lived, what they considered important."

During her years at the Hattiesburg American, Wells pursued her interests in historical topics and folklore in feature stories and a weekly column called "Americans" in which she told the personal stories of many ordinary and extra-ordinary people in the area. A record of these features is included within the Wells papers.

A native Mississippian, Wells worked as a professional photographer in Europe before returning to Mississippi with her husband Samuel Wells in 1977. Wells' husband retired from the U.S. Navy at that time and came to USM to pursue a Ph.D. in history. The couple have always shared a passion for history and have worked on several research projects together.

They are both of Native American heritage and have been especially interested in projects related to native America. Dr. Wells is currently a history professor at Pearl River Community College, where he plans to retire in May 1998. [They now live in Taos, New Mexico.]


23.30 Cubic Feet (total) : 302A.B13.J5-K6

Language of Materials


Related Materials

AM98-8 Samuel J. Wells Collection

Copies of books by Mary Ann Wells are available in the Cook, McCain, and Gulf Coast Libraries:

A Guide to Mississippi's Festivals, Fairs, and Flea Markets (Brandon, Miss.: QRP Books, 1988), call number GT4810.M7 W45 1988 (McCain).

A History Lover's Guide to Mississippi (Brandon, Miss.: QRP Books, 1988), call number F339.3 .W45 1988 (McCain, Gulf Coast).

A History Lover's Guide to Louisiana (Baton Rouge: QRP Books, 1990), call number F367.3 .W45 1990 (Gulf Coast).

Native Land: Mississippi, 1540-1798 (Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 1994), call number E78.M73 W45 1994 (Cook, McCain).

Discovering Mississippi: A Mississippi Studies Textbook, with John Ray Skates and David G. Sansing (Brandon, Miss.: Walthall Publishing Company, 1995), call number TEXT BK Soc.St. Mississi Gr.7-12 Walthall (Cook).

Searching for Red Eagle: A Personal Journey into the Spirit World of Native America (Jackson, Miss.: University Press of Mississippi, 1998), call number E99.C9 W438 1998 (Cook, McCain).

Mary Ann Wells Photographs and Papers
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001