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Margaret Leonard / Long Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Collection number: MS-126

Scope and Contents

Margaret (Sissy) Leonard and her family have a strong legacy in journalism and activism throughout the 20th century. The tradition started with her grandfather, George Long, who courageously criticized the Ku Klux Klan in his editorials for the Macon Telegraph in the early 1900s. Margaret's mother, Margaret Long, was a progressive journalist who worked at several newspapers in the southern United States. She managed to raise two children mostly on her own while also writing two published novels. During a time when female journalists were rare, Margaret Long wrote about and corresponded with influential figures from both the civil rights and women's liberation movements.

Margaret Leonard, following in her family's footsteps, pursued her own career in journalism and became involved in the civil rights movement while studying in New Orleans. She actively participated in local sit-ins and the Mississippi Freedom Rides of 1961, where she faced arrest and imprisonment. Raymond Arsenault referred to her as the "first unmistakably Southern white student to participate in the Mississippi Freedom Rides" in his book, Freedom Riders. Margaret's activism was featured in Look magazine and served as inspiration for future participants.

Margaret Leonard is now retired after working for various newspapers, including the Chattanooga Times, St. Petersburg Times, Miami Herald, and Tallahassee Democrat. This collection comprises materials that document the personal and professional lives of Margaret (Sissy) Leonard, her mother Margaret Long, her father Howard Leonard (also a journalist), and her sister Catherine (Bunny). The collection includes personal letters, notes, official correspondence, manuscripts, and newspaper or magazine articles written by or about family members.

The materials cover the period from the early 1900s to the 1980s, with a particular focus on the 1950s to 1970s. While the collection touches on national events, its main concentration is on the South. Subjects covered include the civil rights movement, the women's liberation movement, the Freedom Rides, sit-ins, organizations like SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), and UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the Charleston Hospital Strike, southern union politics, prison conditions, and the Albany Movement.

The personal correspondence in the collection offers a chronicle of the family's experiences. It reveals their struggles with alcoholism, divorce, single motherhood, financial difficulties, and discrimination, often providing intimate details. While the collection is not exhaustive and some items are incomplete or damaged, it provides a personal and journalistic perspective on various subjects.

Harmful Content Policy: Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collection’s collection houses materials collected to elucidate the past. We recognize that users may encounter some items within these collections that contain offensive language, viewpoints, imagery or other forms of objectionable content. Such materials document the past and should be viewed within the context of their original time period. Providing online access to these historical materials does not endorse any attitudes, prejudices, or behaviors depicted therein. Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections is committed to upholding the principle of equal and free access to unaltered historical information. (based upon the statement for the Georgia Public Library Service on harmful content)


  • 1900 - 1989
  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1970


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.


8.00 Boxes



Source of Acquisition

Margaret Leonard

Method of Acquisition


Archon Finding Aid Title
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020-05-12: Revised for DACS compliance by Douglas Carlson

Repository Details

Part of the Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Valdosta State University Archives, Odum Library
1500 N. Patterson St.
Valdosta GA 30601 United States
229-259-5055 (Fax)