Welcome to the Anacostia Community Museum Community Documentation Initiative

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum’s Community Documentation Initiative (CDI) is an ongoing effort to document and make accessible to the public a wide range of original material on the social, cultural, economic and contemporary community life of urban neighborhoods. While we maintain an emphasis on the Washington, DC metropolitan area, our research and collecting activities include urban communities across the United States and around the world. The Community Documentation Initiative brings the resources of the museum—particularly research materials and archival/object collections—directly to constituents through public programs, gallery exhibitions, digital content, and special programs, as well as builds and enhances interactive dialogue with museum audiences. Using these research and collections materials, the CDI builds collaborative, community-based networks of neighborhood organizations, cultural institutions, and individuals; and works with our audiences to better understand the ways that the museum can help inform social causes of great contemporary concern.

Transcribe Tuesdays: What we Discovered!

We discovered interesting information when reviewing transcripts of our projects on the Smithsonian Transcription Center.  While reviewing transcriptions of the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School autograph book, we discovered the signature of Angelina Weld Grimké.

TCGrimke

Page 3, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Autograph Book, Signature of Angelina W. Grinke. June 14, 1923. Ella B. Pearis papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Angelina was a poet, teacher, journalist, and playwright who was the only daughter of Archibald Grimké and Sarah Stanley. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1880 and moved to Washington, DC with her father after graduating from Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Ms. Grimké began teaching at Dunbar High School in early 1900s.  In 1923 she signed the autograph book of student Ella B. Pearis.

Angelina is mostly celebrated for her poetry and 1916 play: Rachel.  She is also acknowledged as an inspiration to various artists of the Harlem Renaissance.   Angelina left Washington, DC after the death of her father in 1930 and moved to New York where she died in 1958.

Thanks to the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers who help us make treasures like Grimké’s signature buried deep within our collections discoverable!

Learn more about Angelina Weld Grimké, here.

August Quarterly Celebration

This weekend members of the Wilmington, Delaware community will celebrate August Quarterly, an annual church and community festival that honors Peter Spencer and the anniversary of Spencer’s founding of the African Union Methodist Protestant (A.U.M.P) Church in Wilmington in 1813.  Occurring on the last Sunday in August, the festival, once known as Big Quarterly, is the oldest African American folk festival.

Bigquarterly001

The Big Quarterly booklet from August 30, 1981. Rt. Rev. Robert F. Walters Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

The Anacostia Community Museum featured this holiday in its 2008/2009 exhibition:  Jubilee!  African American Celebration which explored the history of various holidays and celebrations across the nation from the 18th century to the present.

To learn more about this celebration consult the Delaware Historical Society.

Transcribe Tuesdays: Turner’s Field Notebook

This #Transcribe Tuesdays we have a field notebook compiled by Lorenzo Dow Turner (1890-1972), the first professionally trained African American linguist.  Dr.  Turner assembled this notebook while conducting field research in Nigeria on a Fulbright Research Award in 1951.  Known as the father of Gullah studies, Turner discovered the speaking pattern of the Gullah people was actually a Creole language, heavily influenced by the languages of West Africa. Transcribe this notebook to learn more about Turner’s research in Nigeria!

Turnernotebook2

Turner’s notebook contains images taken by Dr. Turner in various Eastern Regions of Nigeria. Lorenzo Dow Turner papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Lois Turner Williams.

Transcribe Tuesdays: Travel Scrapbook

Evanti

Madame Evanti during her travels in the 1940s. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift Thurlow E. Tubbs, Jrs. Estate.

For this #Transcribe Tuesdays project, help us with transcribing the travel scrapbook of native Washingtonian Madame Evanti.  Born Annie Lillian Evans in 1890;  she was the first African American to sing in an organized European opera company.  In 1925 Madame Evanti made her operatic debut in Nice, France, in the principal role of Léo Delibes’ Lakmé.  Before her retirement in the 1950s, Evanti received acclaim in Europe, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean for her operatic talents.  Celebrated internationally, she was denied the opportunity to perform at many venues in her native country despite performing at the White House during the Roosevelt administration in 1934.  This continued until 1943 and her performance in Verdi’s La Traviata with the National Negro Opera Company at Washington’s Watergate Theater, a moored barge that floated on the Potomac River, while the audience sat along the riverbank to watch the performance.  Madame Evanti’s career spanned some thirty years.  She was decorated by several countries, served as a good will ambassador, and composed ten songs that were published by W. C. Handy.

Evanti helped to dispel the myth that people of African origins could only perform and succeed in selected musical genres.  In a letter sent to Madame Evanti, Marian Anderson asserts, “we feel you were indeed a pioneer in making a place for our race in the operatic field.”

You can view our project on the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers: Transcription Center, here.

Transcribe Tuesdays: Dunbar High School Autograph Book

For our first #Transcribe Tuesdays, help us discover more about the early graduates of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, DC. Known as the M Street High School from 1891 to 1916, the school quickly became the most highly rated secondary school for blacks in the country.

Pearis

A page from Ella B. Howard Pearis’ 1923 Dunbar High School autograph book. Ella B. Pearis Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

This 1923 Dunbar autograph book belonged to Ella B. Howard Pearis (1905-1998). Mrs. Pearis was a fourth generation resident of Anacostia, Washington, DC. She came from a family of community activists and carried on that tradition through her work for organizations such as the Anacostia Historical Society and the Anacostia—Congress Heights Red Cross Service.

Transcribe the Paul Lauence Dunbar High School Autograph book, here!

© 2014 Anacostia Community Documentation Initiative | ACM Home| SI Home | Contact | Help | Privacy | Terms of Use | Contact the Web Master