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Article

Cynthia Hawkins

ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...

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Kathleen E. Bethel

In the United States, black museums have chronicled the tragedies and triumphs of African Americans. As repositories of African American history, culture, and art, these museums offer a window on the African diaspora and the consequent struggles for freedom. Historically, in most cities blacks were prohibited from visiting museums. They formed their own cultural and educational societies and, in conjunction with educational institutions, their own museums, the oldest being the Hampton University Museum, established in 1868. Black women have been the founders, directors, board members, curators, staff, and volunteers of these institutions. They have created and maintained dynamic programming, collections, and exhibitions.

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Charles L. James

Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the first child of a Roman Catholic bricklayer and a Methodist schoolteacher, Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in California and graduated from Pacific Union College. After college he accepted a teaching position in Harlem at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and in 1926 and 1927 won first prizes on three separate occasions in contests with other “New Negro” poets. The same years marked his marriage to Alberta Johnson and the start of a family of six children.

Bontemps's first effort at a novel (Chariot in the Cloud, 1929), a bildungsroman set in southern California, never found a publisher, but by mid-1931, as his teaching position in New York City ended, Harcourt accepted God Sends Sunday (1931 his novel about the rise and notoriety of Little Augie This tiny black jockey of the 1890s whose period of great luck ...

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Navneet Sethi

poet, anthologist, and librarian during the Harlem Renaissance. Born in Alexandria, Louisiana, from age three Arna Wendell Bontemps grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. After attending public schools there, he attended Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, graduating in 1923.

After college Bontemps, who had already begun writing, moved to New York City and became a teacher in Harlem. Like his contemporary Arthur A. Schomburg, Bontemps excavated the rich cultural heritage of the African American community and won recognition quite early. Opportunity magazine awarded Bontemps its Alexander Pushkin poetry prize twice: in 1926 for the poem “Golgotha Is a Mountain” and in 1927 for “The Return.” Also in 1927 his poem “Nocturne at Bethesda” won The Crisis magazine's first-ever poetry contest. In 1926 he married Alberta Johnson; they had six children.

Bontemps's first published novel for adults, God Sends Sunday (1931 ...

Article

Bärbel R. Brouwers

writer, musician, journalist, and civil rights activist, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Myra Myrtle and Frank London Brown Sr., the eldest of their three children. In 1939, when Brown was twelve years old, the family relocated to the South Side of Chicago in hopes of better economic opportunities. Brown attended Colman Elementary School and went on to DuSable High School. His adolescence in Chicago's “Black Belt” during the 1940s, which Sterling Stuckey referred to as a “dark nether-world of crime” and “shattered idealism,” deeply influenced his artistic and writing career. In the streets of the South Side's slums he learned how to sing and soon discovered a deep passion for music, especially for jazz and blues. Brown is credited with being the first person to recite short stories (as opposed to poetry) to a jazz music accompaniment.

After graduating from high school in 1945 Brown ...

Article

Joan Marie Johnson

Cedar Hill was the home of Frederick Douglass and his family from 1878 until his death in 1895; it was later purchased, preserved, and opened to the public by two African American associations. Douglass wrote many of his post-Reconstruction speeches and articles in his study at Cedar Hill, most notably, his third autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. He lived there with his first wife, Anna Murray Douglass; one of their children, Rosetta Douglass Sprague; various grandchildren; his second wife, Helen Pitts Douglass; and her mother.

The home is located in the Uniontown section of Washington, D.C., and was named Cedar Hill by Douglass after the large cedar trees on the property. Before Douglass, a land developer named John Van Hook had owned the home but lost it in 1867 to the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company when his business failed. In 1877 ...

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Violet J. Harris

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the achievements of black women authors who create children books have been nothing short of remarkable. Virginia Hamilton and Angela Johnson received the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Award, and Mildred Taylor continued to win Newbery Honor Medals for her historical fiction series, The Land. A dozen new writers were routinely published. Two authors, Connie Porter and Deborah Gregory, entered the lucrative world of television movies and sidelines—products based on a literary character, such as dolls, CD-ROMS, and clothing—with series fiction, Meet Addy, an American Girl product, and The Cheetah Girls, a Disney Corporation creation. Comparable achievements are apparent on the editorial and production side of publishing. Burnette Ford and Andrea Davis Pinkney assumed major editorial positions in mainstream companies, while Cheryl Willis-Hudson left a career in publishing to found Just Us Books with her husband Librarians critical advocates of ...

Article

Dorothy A. Washington

educator, librarian, and activist, was born Doris Hargrett in Hyde Park, Florida, the daughter of Andrew Joshua Hargrett and Delia Leana Green, both educators. Clack was the eighth of nine children born into a nurturing family and in small, tightly knit African American village. The children were “fed a constant diet of positive life-sustaining sense of values,” and she “learned many valuable lessons about community, trust, honesty, love of learning, faith in God” (Clack, 1995). Although her father died when Doris was three, his values of education, hard work, and a can-do attitude were instilled in her and her siblings by their mother. Experiencing economic hardship during the Great Depression, her mother was forced to send Doris to live with her older brother O. V. Hargrett for three years in Plant City, Florida. She rejoined the Hyde Park family at the age of nine.

Upon returning ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

librarian, bibliophile, and African Americana collector, was born Mayme Jewell Agnew at Van Buren, Arkansas, to Jerry and Mary Agnew. Jerry Agnew was a general store manager and the only African American merchant in town at the time. His wife Mary Knight Agnew was a homemaker. Upon graduation from high school, Mayme Agnew enrolled at-Lincoln University in Missouri and later moved to-New York. There, she met and married Andrew Lee Clayton in 1946. The couple had three sons. The-Clayton family relocated to California, where Mayme Clayton graduated from the University of-California, Berkeley, with a BA in History. She earned a master of library science degree through an external degree program run by Goddard College in Vermont in the 1970s and in 1983 was awarded a doctorate in Humanities from La Sierra University in Riverside, California.

Clayton s career led to several library positions including work at the Doheny ...

Article

Melanie R. Thomas

librarian, library director, and educator, was born Louie Zenobia Coleman to Joseph and Alice Hunter Coleman at Childersburg, Alabama. Joseph was a farm laborer, and Alice was a homemaker and helped on the family farm. Zenobia Coleman earned a BA degree in Education at Talladega College in 1921 and continued her studies in education at the University of Chicago during the mid-to late 1920s. Coleman's first professional position was at Bricks Junior College in Brick, North Carolina (later the Franklinton Center), where she worked as a teacher and librarian from 1924 to 1932. In 1936 she graduated from Columbia University Library School earning the bachelor of science degree in Library Science She received a fellowship for advanced study through the General Education Board Fellowship an academic award program funded by the Rockefeller agency The scholarship fund provided financial aid to African American and white students from rural southern ...

Article

Yollette Trigg

The term black collectibles refers to any artifact documenting or depicting the African American experience excluding high art Many different types of items fit into this category such as books photographs prints posters film folk art textiles paper ephemera and sports and music memorabilia Critics of high culture insist that there are two major subcategories of black collectibles the first group black Americana encompasses straightforward relics of African American culture and history emanating from actual events and the lives of real people These items are highly valued because they demonstrate exactly how black history looked and felt to previous generations of African Americans affording their collectors a rare look at the historical black experience The second subcategory black memorabilia includes objects that typically depict blacks in a derogatory fashion many of these were created during the age of segregation for consumption by whites and reflect the cultural biases and ...

Article

Nicole A. Cooke

librarian and bibliotherapist, was born in Rochester, New York, the third of seven children born to Julia Frances (Hawkins) and James Johnson. Delaney's father, who worked as a valet in Poughkeepsie, New York, was a direct descendant of a woman who had escaped from slavery on the Underground Railroad. Born Sara Marie Johnson, Sadie graduated from high school and went on to attend Miss McGovern's School of Social Work, the City College of New York, and the New York Public Library's library school. She was married to Edward Louis Peterson from 1906 to 1921 and together they had one daughter, Grace Peterson Hooks, born in 1907. In 1928, she married Rudicel A. Delaney of Virginia.

In 1920 Delaney began her career as a librarian at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in Harlem where she was to become acquainted ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

Nigerian historian, educator, and archivist, was born on 17 December 1917 in Awka, eastern Nigeria. In 1933 he started his secondary education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, before moving to the prestigious Achimota College, Accra, Ghana, in 1936. Two years later he entered Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, an affiliate of Durham University in England, which awarded Durham University degrees. Dike graduated in 1943 with bachelor of arts in English, geography, and literature and returned to Nigeria. In 1944 he went to the United Kingdom on a British Council Scholarship to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he earned an MA in history. In 1947 he enrolled in Kings College, London, for doctoral studies in history. His 1950 dissertation “Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830–1879” (published in 1956 has come to be appreciated as one of the greatest contributions to African historiography Among his ...

Article

Lisa Finder

historian, lecturer, and administrator, was born in Chester, Pennsylvania, the eldest of four children and the only son of Lou Bird Jones Dodson, a dry-cleaning plant worker, and Howard Dodson Sr., a construction worker. During his childhood he was active in the Bethany Baptist Church, the Cub Scouts, and the Boy Scouts. With the encouragement of his parents and teachers, he did well academically throughout his time in the Chester Public Schools.

After completing high school in 1957, Dodson attended West Chester State College, graduating in 1961 with a degree in social studies and English. He then enrolled in a master's program in history and political science at Villanova University, graduating in 1964 Dodson went on to join the Peace Corps as a volunteer in Ecuador South America where he spent two years before continuing with the organization as a deputy director of ...

Article

Eva M. Thompson

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Frederick Douglass purchased his final home, which he named Cedar Hill and is now the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, D.C. In addition to the more than one thousand periodicals and three thousand artifacts and archival materials housed in his library, there are also three thousand books. Two of these works are by Douglass himself: his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845), considered by scholars to be an exemplary tale of the male heroic figure in African American literature; and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1893), his third and final telling of his experiences as a slave, former slave, and public figure. His library represents the university that Douglass did not attend and his determination to overcome just such a disadvantage. In Life and Times ...

Article

Louis M. Abbey

periodontist, public health specialist, and educator, was born Clifton Orin Dummett in Georgetown, British Guiana (later Guyana), the youngest of four children of Eglantine Annabella Johnson, a homemaker, and Alexander Adolphus Dummett, a pharmacist and registered dentist. Clifton attended St. Phillips Elementary School from 1924 until 1930 and Queen's College high school from 1930 until 1936, both in Georgetown, British Guiana. His values were strongly influenced by his father, mother, and uncle, Reginald Johnson, an Edinburgh-trained public health physician in Georgetown. “I came from a family that believed in the equality of man. I respected all peoples and demanded similar respect from those with whom I came in contact” (personal communication with the author).

Right after high school, in 1936 Alexander Adolphus Dummett obtained a student visa for his son to study in the United States at Howard University in Washington D ...

Article

Tomás Fernández Robaina's works include: Bibliografía de estudios afro-americanos (Bibliography of Afro-American Studies; 1969), La prosa de Guillén en defensa del negro cubano (The Prose of Guillén in Defense of the Black Cuban; 1982), Bibliografía de temas afrocubanos (Bibliography of Afro–Cuban Themes; 1986), Bibliografía de autores de ...

Article

Richard Newman

William Plummer French was born February 19, 1943 in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, the son of Frank J. French, vice-president of Allied Chemical Co. and Bettina Plummer French. He worked at University Place Book Shop in New York, owned by Walter Goldwater, and became fascinated with African American books and literature, a field the shop specialized in to serve two major collectors, Arthur Schomburg and Arthur Spingarn.

Self-taught by the books in the store, French became probably the country's most knowledgeable expert on African American books and bibliography. He compiled two biographical pamphlets on black poetry, and in 1979 co-edited Afro-American Poetry and Drama, 1760–1975. Pre-deceased by his wife, the painter Garland Eliason, French died in New York of a stroke on January 14, 1997 survived by his son Will A book collecting prize at the Department of Afro American Studies at ...

Article

Robert L. Gale

Leon Gardiner was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of Jacob Gardiner and Martha (maiden name unknown). In 1902 he and his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From childhood he was interested in reading, cross-country running, hiking, camping, and bicycling. Later he developed an interest in music, choir singing, and photography. Blatant racial discrimination kept him from attending the photography school of his choice in Philadelphia, to his great disappointment. In the very early 1900s he began to collect material of various kinds concerning the achievements of blacks, black institutions, and Lynchings of blacks.

From 1908 to 1923 or so Gardiner attended meetings held by Philadelphia s Afro American Historical Society later the American Negro Historical Society expressed his ideas and described his findings in what he called race literature and was encouraged by fellow members in various ways He kept adding to his collection ...

Article

Although there had long been rumors that Greene was of African American descent, her background was a mystery until 1999 when writer Jean Strouse revealed in Morgan: American Financier, her biography of banker and art collector John Pierpont Morgan, that Greene was in fact the daughter of Richard T. Greener, a lawyer and diplomat and the first black graduate of Harvard College. She was born Belle Marion Greener in Washington, D.C., where her father was dean of the Howard University Law School for a short time. Her parents separated in the 1890s, however, and Greene's mother, Genevieve Fleet Greener, disappeared with her children. When they resurfaced in New York City, her mother had changed the family surname to Greene, and they had passed into the white world.

Unable to afford college Greene as a young woman took a job in the Princeton University Library ...