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David Wilkin / Muriel Williams Sanderson Correspondence

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 24 Apr 2019

Biographical History

Paul David Wilkin graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 1962. From 1963-1965 he was a Fulbright teacher in Zambia, becoming the first headmaster of Balovale (now Zambezi) Secondary School. He spent a year (1966-1967) at the Kenya National Archives as an associate archivist, sponsored by Syracuse University, and then took a position with the University of Zambia (UNZA), where he was a lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the School of Education from 1971-1975 at their main campus in Lusaka. Then from 1975-1979, under the auspices of the Department of Continuing Education, he opened and ran a UNZA center in Solwezi for the entire North Western Province (NWP) of Zambia. In 1979 Wilkin returned to the United States, where he completed his PhD at Syracuse University amd shifted his focus to computer instructional design and training. He also served as a consultant and project manager for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, which is affiliated with Columbia University. In 2001 he joined the staff full time and assists in epidemiological research.

Muriel Williams Sanderson (1921-2015) was born in London. In 1960 she moved to Kitwe in Zambia, where she became involved with the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (MEF), an organization founded in 1958 to promote African development. In 1965, a year after Zambia achieved independence, Sanderson became a Zambian citizen. Her sister Ruth, with whom she was close all her life, was the wife of Sir Seretse Khama, President of Botswana, and First Lady of Botswana from 1966-1980. Muriel herself became a confidant of President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, and of many cabinet ministers as well as national and local office holders over the years. She retired in 1995 and relocated to Botswana to be near her sister.

David and Muriel met in 1965, when David visited the MEF shortly after arriving in Zambia to teach at Solwezi Secondary School. They remained friends and lively correspondents until Muriel's death in 2015.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The David Wilkin / Muriel Williams Sanderson Correspondence contains letters to and from David Wilkin and Muriel Williams Sanderson, including Sanderson's form letters sent regularly to friends to keep them updated on her life and activities. The letters are photocopies and/or transcripts, not originals.

Administrative material consists of a brief introduction to the collection written by Wilkin, and two copies of a CD-ROM. The CD contains digital versions of the correspondence, as well as additional items such as a chronological catalog of letters and a few digitized photographs. The CDs are accompanied by acomplete file listing.

The letters in Correspondence span a volatile era in Africa, during which British and French colonial rule gave way to independence for African nations across the continent. Sanderson, through her work with the MEF and as sister-in-law to the President of Botswana and friend to Kenneth Kaunda, first president of Zambia, was in a prime position to observe and comment on these changes.

As Wilkin describes on his website:

[Muriel] was a remarkable "woman of letters." ...[H]er descriptive form letters to friends provide wonderful insights into the rapidly evolving world around her, especially during the years when various countries in Africa gained independence. My letters (personal and form letters) are more plain and really fill in the gaps between her more vibrant ones! She always kept a wide perspective and was very sensitive to changes throughout the whole world, but especially southern Africa. She spoke very frankly (at times almost brutally so!) about what she thought and believed.

Arrangement of the Collection



Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

See also the Paul David Wilkin Papers Relating to Education in the North Western Province of Zambia. Wilkin also maintains a comprehensive website entitled "The Northwestern Province of Zambia: Professional and personal reflections of Paul David Wilkin and friends."

Subject Headings


Kaunda, Kenneth D. (Kenneth David), 1924-
Khama, Ruth, 1924-2002.
Khama, Seretse, Sir, 1921-1980.
Sanderson, Muriel Williams.
Wilkin, Paul David.


Decolonization -- Africa.
Social change -- Africa.


Africa -- 20th century.
Botswana -- History.
Kitwe (Zambia) -- History.
Zambia -- History.

Genres and Forms


Location of Originals

According to the donor, originals of this material are held by the National Archives of Botswana.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

David Wilkin / Muriel Williams Sanderson Correspondence,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of David Wilkin, 2019.

Table of Contents

Administrative material