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Roanne Edwards

In her 1970 article “My Years as a Children's Librarian,” Augusta Baker summed up what she had learned in her long career: “Library work with children has had a great past and has a still greater future. Young black men and women have an opportunity to be part of this exciting future and for the sake of their children they should be.” From her appointment as assistant children's librarian in the New York Public Library system in 1937 to her retirement in 1974, Baker pursued a career of library service to children with enthusiasm, vision, and leadership. During the 1940s, while working at the library's 135th Street branch, she spearheaded the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, whose purpose, she wrote, was “to bring together books for children that give an unbiased, accurate, well rounded picture of Negro life in all parts of the world.”

Born in ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

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Carmen De Michele

Nigerian curator, art critic, writer, and academic, was born in Kalaba, Nigeria, a middle-sized city close to the Cameroonian border, on 23 October 1963. He grew up in Enugu in eastern Nigeria, where he attended a British boarding school. He was taught to speak in English in addition to his native Igbo.

In 1982 Enwezor moved to the United States, where he enrolled at the Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a political science major. He earned a BA in political science in 1987. Enwezor entered the world of art through friends and by visiting a large number of art exhibitions. He turned his attention not only to contemporary American and European art but also to modern African art. He noticed that African artists were severely underrepresented in the American art scene. In 1989 Enwezor became a freelance ...

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Pamela Lee Gray

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, curator, and educator, was born in Dayton, Ohio. His family later moved to Indianapolis, where he attended high school in 1903 and 1904. While Farrow was in high school, the noted muralist William Edouard Scott recognized his artistic potential and encouraged him to enroll at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1908 Farrow moved to Chicago to begin classes at the Institute, Scott's alma mater and one of the first U.S. art schools to admit black students.

Farrow studied intermittently at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1908 to 1918, while working for the U.S. Postal Service. When Farrow arrived at the institute, founded as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1879 it was not yet a world class art institution In the early twentieth century the institute was actively building ...

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Sylvia M. DeSantis

librarian and educator, was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Gleason earned an AB degree from Fisk University in 1926 and a bachelor of science in 1931 from the University of Chicago Library School. Gleason began her library employment that same year as an assistant librarian at the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes in Kentucky. In 1932 Gleason became head librarian and taught library classes in the new library department she had created. The department, in conjunction with the Louisville Western Colored Branch Library, offered the only available library classes for African Americans in Kentucky between 1932 and 1951. In 1936 Gleason left Kentucky, earned a master's of arts degree in Library Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught at Fisk University in Tennessee as an assistant professor through 1937.

Gleason's impressive academic career reached a zenith in 1940 when she became the first African ...

Article

Paul Von Blum

art historian, educator, curator, and artist, was born Samella Sanders in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Samuel Sanders, a strawberry farm owner and Rachel (Taylor) Sanders, a seamstress. Lewis's childhood in New Orleans exposed her to black history, culture, and art—a background that informed all of her professional activities. Her early experiences with segregation catalyzed the powerful antiracist vision that influenced her entire life. For example, as a young art student, she encountered a major barrier in visiting the Delgado Art Museum, located in a municipal park reserved exclusively for whites. Her teacher, Elizabeth Catlett managed to secure a bus and had everyone in her class move directly from the bus to the museum technically avoiding the racial restrictions of the park itself Lewis began her formal art studies at Dillard University studying with Catlett who became her lifelong friend and mentor ...

Article

Saundra Liggins

Sharon Bell Mathis's concern for the welfare of young people is evident in her career as a teacher and librarian, but closest to her heart is her role as author. Mathis explains that “I write to salute the strength in Black children and to say to them, ‘Stay strong, stay Black and stay alive’” (quoted in Something about the Author, vol. 3, 1987).

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mathis grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, where she attended parochial schools. Her parents, John Willie and Alice Mary Frazier Bell exposed her to a vast array of literary works and encouraged her to write poems stories and plays Despite her affinity for this work however Mathis decided not to pursue a career as an author believing that she would neither be able to make a living at it nor be as great a contributor ...

Article

Billie E. Walker

librarian, author, developer of curricula in multicultural children's literature, and one of the first bibliographers of African American children's books, was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the daughter of Allen G. Hill, a farmer, and Birdie Tucker, a teacher. During her early childhood, Rollins's family moved to the Oklahoma territory. Although Rollins was denied access to her local library as a child because of her race, she credited her family with encouraging her to seek as much education as possible, and her grandmother, a former slave, with instilling in her a love of books. She explained: “Grandma told wonderful stories of her life as a slave. I've always loved books because of her…. I would read anything and everything” (Hopkins, 300). Rollins attended segregated schools in Beggs, Oklahoma; St. Louis, Missouri; and Holly Springs, Mississippi; and in 1916 she graduated from ...

Article

Christina G. Bucher

journalist, librarian, bibliographer, and fiction writer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Henry Allen and Bessie Lucas Allen, social workers. Her mother, in fact, was the first African American social worker in Louisville. Shockley's aspirations to be a writer began at Madison Junior High School when a teacher encouraged her in her work; she later became editor of the school newspaper.

Shockley left Louisville in 1944 for Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University, where she wrote for and served as the fiction editor for the Fisk University Herald. When she returned to Louisville for the summer after her freshman year, she wrote a column titled “Teen Talk” for the Louisville Defender. Upon graduating from Fisk in 1948, Shockley moved to Maryland, where she convinced the white editor of the Federalsburg Times to include a column called Ebony Topics in which she ...

Article

Rita B. Dandridge

A multitalented professional, Ann Allen Shockley has contributed to various fields, yet her contributions as writer remain invisible to much of America.

Born 21 June 1927, in Louisville, Kentucky, Shockley is the only daughter of Henry and Bessie Lucas Allen, both social workers. To her parents and a devoted eighth-grade teacher, she has attributed her insatiable desire to read and write. She edited her junior high school newspaper, wrote short pieces in the Louisville Defender, and penned essays and short fiction for the Fisk Herald while an undergraduate at Fisk University (1944–1948)—all before her twenty-first birthday. These early pieces show Shockley's interest in social and cultural issues.

In 1949 Shockley began a weekly column called “Ebony Topics” for the Federalsburg Times (Md.). From 1950 to 1953 she penned a similar column for the Bridgeville News, in Bridgeville, Delaware, where she resided with her husband, William ...

Article

Barbara McCaskill

and muse and confidante to Harlem Renaissance intellectuals and literati. Anne Spencer was born inauspiciously on a Virginia plantation. Yet the combination of loving, though irreconcilable, parents and an unorthodox, isolated youth formed her extraordinary independence, introspection, and conviction.

Her father, Joel Cephus Bannister of African American white and Native American descent and her mother Sarah Louise Scales the mulatta daughter of a slaveholder separated when Spencer was six While her mother worked as an itinerant cook Spencer roomed with foster parents in Bramwell West Virginia where no other black children lived In insular and parochial Bramwell she was groomed for the African American bourgeoisie Her mother dressed her in the finest frocks she could afford and withheld her from an outlying school that enrolled working class children until she could attend Lynchburg s Virginia Seminary with socially suitable African American students Spencer entered the seminary at age eleven ...

Article

Marian Aguiar

Annie Bethel Bannister was born in Henry County, Virginia. She spent her early years with a foster family while her mother, Sarah Scales, separated from her husband Joel Bannister, worked nearby as a cook. At age eleven she began formal schooling in the Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg under the name Annie Scales. With her first poem “The Skeptic” (1896), Scales revealed the independent thinking that would characterize her life and work. She graduated in 1899, taught for two years in West Virginia, and then returned to Lynchburg to marry Edward Spencer and raise their children Bethel Calloway, Alroy Sarah, and Chauncey Edward.

During this time Spencer cultivated her poetry as well as her famous garden. When National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) activist James Weldon Johnson visited her in 1917 he convinced her that she ought ...

Article

Dora Jean Ashe

Spencer, Anne (06 February 1882–27 July 1975), poet, librarian, and teacher, was born Annie Bethel Scales Bannister in Henry County, near Danville, Virginia, the daughter of Joel Cephus Bannister, a former slave and saloon owner, and Sarah Louise Scales. The only child of divorced parents, at the age of eleven Annie was sent to Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, where she excelled in literature and languages. After graduating in 1899 she taught for two years, then in 1901 married fellow student Edward Spencer and lived the rest of her life in Lynchburg.

Outwardly it was a pleasant life that Spencer spent with her husband, a postal worker, and their three children in a comfortable house built in part by Edward. For twenty years (1925–1945) Anne Spencer was a librarian and part-time teacher of literature and language at the all-black Dunbar High School, named for the poet Paul Laurence ...

Article

Dora Jean Ashe

poet, librarian, and teacher, was born Annie Bethel Scales Bannister in Henry County, near Danville, Virginia, the daughter of Joel Cephus Bannister, a saloon owner and former slave, and Sarah Louise Scales. The only child of divorced parents, at the age of eleven Annie was sent to Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, where she excelled in literature and languages. After graduating in 1899 she taught for two years, then in 1901 married fellow student Edward Spencer and lived the rest of her life in Lynchburg.

Outwardly it was a pleasant life that Spencer spent with her husband, a postal worker, and their three children in a comfortable house built in part by Edward. For twenty years (1925–1945) Anne Spencer was a librarian and part-time teacher of literature and language at the all-black Dunbar High School, named for the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar The ...

Article

Vanessa J. Morris

academic and international librarian, educator, and scholar, was born Thelma Horn to Daniel Horn, a farmer and a minister, and Cora Ingram, a housewife. She was raised in the rural town of Coatopa, Alabama, with her brother Herman Horn and sister Mattie James (née Horn). Tate majored in history, education, and library science to earn her bachelor's degree from Alabama State University in Montgomery in 1957. She received a master's degree in Library Science from the University of Illinois– Urbana Champaign, in 1961. Thelma Horn Tate began her career in education with the Chicago Public Library system, where she directed a K-12 school library during the early days of the civil rights movement. She was head librarian at the Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, Mississippi, before she joined the Rutgers University library system in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1970 ...

Article

Rebecca L. Hankins

curator, writer, and educator, was born in New York City, but not long after moved to Baltimore with his family. Walker's father, Hugh Walker Jr., was a drummer, and his mother, Rosetta Brown Walker, worked a variety of jobs, including seamstress and barmaid. Walker was born as the middle child; the family also included two sisters, Rhonda Richardson and Nyeah Walker Claire.

The Walker family's move to Baltimore saw young Hamza full of self-described rage and alienation, something he has channeled and used throughout his career, showcasing other artists’ works of alienation. Walker's admitted first love is music, and he worked as a DJ on a jazz show for WHPK-FM 88 during college. He attended the University of Chicago, graduating with a bachelor of arts in 1988. After college Walker's first position was in 1988 with Urban Gateways an arts education organization where he established ...

Article

Dorothy B. Porter

Edward Christopher Williams was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the only son of Daniel P. Williams, an African American, and Mary (Kilkary) Williams of Tipperary, Ireland. He was educated in the public schools of Cleveland. In 1892 he received his B.A. degree from Cleveland's Adelbert College of Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). There he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and was valedictorian of his class. From 1892 to 1894 Williams was first assistant librarian of Adelbert College, and from 1894 to 1898, the librarian of the Hatch Library of Western Reserve. From 1898 to 1899 he was university librarian of Western Reserve. A brilliant and stimulating teacher, he taught library courses in bibliography, reference work, public documents, and book selection. Williams was granted a leave of absence from Western Reserve from 1899 to 1900 to study at the New York State Library School in ...