Thursday, October 25, 2012

African American Librarians Proudly “Represent” at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

African American Librarians Proudly “Represent” at the 2012 Annual Conference of the

Association for the Study of African American Life and History


Sibyl E. Moses, Ph.D.

(with contributions from Kathleen Bethel, Janet Sims-Wood, Aslaku Berhanu,

Deborah L. Dandridge, Emily Guss, Rebecca Hankins, and LaVonda Broadnax)


            For generations, African American librarians have served as a vital force in the preservation and promotion of African American history and culture.  Such was the case on September 26-30, 2012 when more that eighteen (18) African American librarians, many of whom are members of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, actively participated in the governance, academic programming, book signings, and general proceedings of the 97th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The conference theme:  “Black Women in American Culture and History” attracted more than 1,400 attendees and featured well over 250 lectures, panel discussions, films, poetry slams, etc. covering the history of little known and well known African American women and their activities. 

            Academic and research librarians from the District of Columbia, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, South Carolina, Kansas, and Pennsylvania presented papers on topics that included African American women as health activists, scholars, library and literacy activists, artists, community activists, and club women. The following account provides one lens through which we may see a portion of the extensive scholarship undertaken by African American librarians in the field of African American history and culture.

ASALH Executive Council Members: 

Kathleen Bethel, African American Studies Librarian, Northwestern University Library, Evanston, Illinois and Janet Sims Wood, Librarian, Prince George’s Community College, Largo, Maryland.

Recipient of an Award:

Janet Sims-Wood, received the 2012 Mary McLeod Bethune Award, in honor of her service to the Association for the Study of African American History and Culture for over a 10 year period in the areas of branches, Executive Council, fundraising, Black History Month Kit, essay contest, and the Carter G. Woodson educational programs; the award also acknowledges her service to education, African American history, and to the community.

Presenters of Papers:

Aslaku Berhanu, Librarian, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, presented a paper, “Dr. Caroline Still Anderson: A Nineteenth Century Black Physician,” on the panel entitled “Collecting and Preserving Black Women’s History and Culture: Primary Sources in the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.”

Elizabeth Jean Brumfield, BCALA Executive Board, and Librarian, Prairie View A& M University, Prairie View, Texas, presented a paper (with co-presenter Chieko Sato), “Fitting the First Ladies:  Black Female Fashion Designers in the White House,” on the panel entitled “Celebrated and Grassroots Women Leaders.”

Deborah L. Dandridge, Special Collections Librarian, University of Kansas,  presented a paper:  “Refusing Extinction: African American Responses to Health Care Needs in Jim Crow Greater Kansas City, 1900-1970,” on the panel entitled “'We're Still Here': Black People Defining Health.”

Emily Guss, Librarian, University of Illinois Library, Chicago, Illinois, presented a paper, “Vivian Harsh and Charlemae Rollins: Transformation of Chicago's Hall Branch Library into a "People's University" on the panel entitled “Grassroots Make Big Trees:  African American Women’s Local Organizing Efforts in the Twentieth Century.”

Ida Jones, Manuscript Librarian, Moorland Spingarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C., presented a paper "The Sister Six: Select Women Scholars at Howard University during the Golden Age 1926-1960" on the panel entitled “Organized Black Womanhood: A Look at Historical and Contemporary Black Club Women.”

Georgette Mayo, Librarian, Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, presented paper “Georgette Seabrooke Powell: Advocating Art on Her Own Terms,” on the panel entitled “Black Female Trailblazers in the 20th Century.”

Irene E. Owens, Cultural Resource Coordinator, Chester Heights, Pennsylvania, presented a paper, “Barbara Johns Powell: A Woman of Courage and Conviction in Virginia Civil Rights History," on the panel “Pioneering Advocates For Black Children: Barbara Johns Powell and Eloise Greenfield.”

Janet Sims-Wood, presented two papers:  “Eloise Greenfield: Bringing the Gift of Reading to Children," on the panel entitled “Pioneering Advocates For Black Children: Barbara Johns Powell and Eloise Greenfield”; and, "Dr. Martha Putney: Pioneer Service in the Women's Army Corps," on the panel “Lifting as We Climb: The Role of Education and Activism in the Lives of Terrell, Putney, and Williams.”

Panel Chairs:

Rebecca Hankins, Certified Archivist, Associate Professor, and Africana Studies/Race & Ethnic Resources Librarian/Curator at the Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, Texas A and M University, College Station, Texas chaired a panel, “I Am Not My Hair:  Reclaiming Black Beauty."   The panel prepared a guide to resources on the subject, and it is available from Rebecca Hankins:

Elizabeth Jean Brumfield, chaired a panel, “Grassroots Make Big Trees:  African American Women’s Local Organizing Efforts in the Twentieth Century.”

Ida Jones, chaired a panel, “Creative Resistance: African American Women Opening Restricted Spaces and Effecting Lasting Social Change.”

Author Book Signings:

Roland Barksdale-Hall, author of Images of America Farewell.

Elizabeth Jean Brumfield, author of An Ordinary Man:  Black Power in Overalls.


Glenda Alvin, ACRL/AFAS Liaison to ASALH, Assistant Director for Collection Management and Administration and Head, Acquisitions and Serials at the Brown-Daniel Library, Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee

Lavonda Broadnax, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Lucius Edwards, Head of Special Collections & Archives, Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia.

Arif Abdullah Jamal, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Hillman Library, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Charlynne Spenser Pyne, Librarian (retired), Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Lainey Westbrooks, Librarian, East Cleveland, Ohio.

Founded in 1970, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) is an affiliate of the American Library Association. BCALA serves as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation's African American community; provides leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American librarians.

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