Cyprian Davis, O.S.B., was a lifelong scholar of church history and a prolific archivist. This article recaps his development as a Catholic historian whose struggle with black consciousness and commitment to serve God’s people placed him in a unique position to chronicle the growth of the U.S. Black Catholic church. In late 2014, he made a plan with colleagues to finally organize and dispose of the substantial collection of documents, files, photos, correspondence, and articles related to the history of Black Catholics in the United States that he had accumulated during the course of his career and ministry. Fr. Davis’ death, just a few months later, required a drastic change of those plans. His colleagues were left with the task of researching institutional archives, making key decisions, discerning and advocating with his religious community for the disposition of the invaluable paper trail of Fr. Cyprian’s life work according to his unwritten plans. As a result of this experience, the author advises Black Catholic scholars to evaluate the historical significance of their personal and professional papers for future researchers, put in writing their intentions to make an archival donation and share their written plans with others.


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