The Charles E. Qualls papers in The Anacostia Community Museum Archives document the professional and civic efforts of Dr. Qualls in Washington, D.C. The records date primarily from 1960 – 1983 and highlight Qualls community involvement and pharmacy business.
Charles E. Qualls (1912- 1984) opened the Anacostia Pharmacy in 1941. He was a graduate of Howard University‘s School of Pharmacy, was active in the National Pharmaceutical Association (NPA), and was deeply committed to his local community. In fact, his Anacostia Pharmacy, located on Nichols Avenue – later renamed Martin Luther King Avenue – became a gathering place for the community. Young people socialized at the soda fountain while older people planned for the future of Anacostia. It was from these gatherings that the vision for a community business organization was developed and eventually brought to fruition in 1949 with the establishment of Anacostia Business and Professional Association (ABPA).
Mr. Qualls was also a founding member of the Anacostia Historical Society whose mission was to preserve and promote the history and culture of Anacostia. Qualls’ interest in preserving history led to his involvement with lobbying the federal government to establish Cedar Hill, the Frederick Douglass home, as a National Park Service historic site.
Throughout his career Dr. Qualls received numerous awards in honor of his business and civic endeavors in the District of Columbia. In 1967 he was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by President Lyndon B. Johnson in recognition of his five years as an uncompensated member of the Selective Service System.
Charles E. Qualls died on June 21, 1984.
View the Finding Aid to the Charles E. Qualls Papers, 1899-1996, bulk 1960-1983 here!
Friday January 15 saw the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life and legacy, an annual program hosted by the Anacostia Community Museum, at the Baird auditorium in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The keynote address by Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, and an on-stage discussion on the theme of “Looking Back, Moving Forward” with moderator Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of the D.C. Public Library system were well attended.
Urban Waterways researcher Katrina Lashley and I continued our gulf coast exploration with local activist, Mickey Sou, of Asian Americans for Change, an advocacy group that was founded in the vacuum created by Hurricane Katrina, where communities found they needed to organize to facilitate more engagement with officials in the chaos of the post-storm recovery. Mickey Sou was born in Montana, the child of Vietnamese immigrants. He was one month old when his parents relocated to Biloxi.
Many Vietnamese emigrated to the gulf coast following the end of the Vietnam war. Biloxi has a strong Vietnamese community comprised of many of these first and second wave immigrants and their families, who established strong ties in the shrimping community.
The warm waters of the gulf coast provided a good living for fishermen dredging the waters for oysters and shrimp. Hurricane Katrina was devastating, but many were able to go back to making their living after the storm clean-up. The BP oil spill, five years later in 2005 severely compromised the environment and eliminated this livelihood for many. A website, BridgeTheGulfProject.org, gathers the stories of many Gulf Coast residents and depicts the plight of Vietnamese fishermen four years after BP in the entry here.
The gulf coast today is still in recovery from natural and man-made disasters. We hope that you will follow along as we continue to process and go deeper into our research and share with you in their own words, the experiences of these gulf coast residents and their communities.
The Anacostia Community Museum exhibit opening for Twelve Years that Shook and Shaped Washington was a bittersweet affair, held shortly after the passing of Head Curator Portia James in early December. Portia had worked at the Anacostia Community Museuem for over thirty years, guiding many exhibitions including this last.
In early December the Anacostia Community Museum Urban Waterways project headed to Gulfport, Mississippi to continue fieldwork on communities facing a myriad of issues on the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coasts. Long before Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil spill created environmental havoc on this major urban waterway of the Gulf Coast, communities like Turkey Creek, MS, and Africatown, AL, were being formed by newly freed slaves (Turkey Creek), and by slaves that were brought to this country and released before they were sold (Africatown).
Today the damaging legacy of the Jim Crow south where racial inequality informed urban planning has been compounded by natural and man-made disasters which threatens the communities researcher Katrina Lashley and I visited.
Turkey Creek, Mississippi is the subject of a documentary by Leah Mahan, Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek. The film follows local Derrick Evans’ struggle to defend the coastal Mississippi watershed where his ancestors settled as former slaves. Following his journey for ten years, Derrick and his allies confront blatant racism of city officials and short-sighted plans for development that would destroy the ecology and culture of Turkey Creek only to face our nation’s most devastating, natural and manmade disasters: Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster.
By finding community stakeholders, like bird lovers, Turkey Creek was able to tell its story on the national level, by partnering with migratory birds and the Audubon Society, awareness was raised and action taken to protect the watershed.
Today, Turkey Creek is a small community sandwiched between the Gulfport International Airport, and strip malls. Like many successful communities, Turkey Creek negotiated a livelihood for its residences when it established a Creosote Plant to employ its residents. The Creosote Plant is long gone, but we toured one of the buildings associated with the plant that the community is seeking to preserve.
Listening to the stories of what these communities struggle with, and witnessing their coalition building as they gather support among like-minded communities along the Gulf was a powerful lesson before the winter holidays. I was poignantly reminded about how fragile our history is, the depth of human suffering, and the power and necessity of partnership in speaking truth to power. It is through recording and disseminating stories like those of Turkey Creek and the Gulf Coast that the Anacostia Community Museum seeks to share and store history and culture for the betterment of communities in the future.