“My Graduation Journal” — View this hundred-year-old scrapbook
Lane College classroom, ca. 1923 (Lane College Scrapbook, UT Special Collections)
Lane College classroom, circa 1923 (Lane College Scrapbook, Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville)

During her senior year at Lane College in 1923, Lessie Belle Spann created a 45-page scrapbook. UT Libraries digitized this hundred-year-old journal from its manuscript collections, and the Lane College Scrapbook is now viewable online as a digital collection.

Lessie Belle Spann, ca. 1923, photo from scrapbook, caption reads "'Lil' Will & Me" (Lane College Scrapbook, UT Special Collections)
Lessie Belle Spann, ca. 1923 (Lane College Scrapbook, UT Special Collections)

Lane College, established in 1882, was among the earliest Black-founded and run colleges in the United States. It opened its doors in Jackson, Tennessee, as Colored Methodist Episcopal (CME) High School, soon becoming Lane College.

Spann’s scrapbook includes photos of teachers and friends, messages from classmates, handwritten transcriptions of the class poem and the Alma Mater, and tipped-in copies of invitations and programs from college events. Printed programs reveal that Spann was the class Historian and that she delivered a Class Day oration titled “Building of Character, the Aim of the School.”

Spann (1903–?) was a Jackson, Tennessee, native who lived in the same home on Payne Street from her birth until the mid-1940s. At this point, little is known of her life. While at Lane, she was in the teacher training program and, according to census records, seems to have built a career of teaching.