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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Through his camera lens Frank R. Jackson (1908-2007) documented the Anacostia area of Washington, DC. A native Washingtonian, Mr. Jackson graduated from Dunbar High School in 1925, then he attended Miner Teachers College. Jackson taught for several years in Maryland before returning to the District. He was also a creator of crossword puzzles and worked for the Government Printing Office.
Mr. Jackson became a professional photographer in the 1950s and co-owned a photography studio: Turner-Jackson Photography at 1934 11th street, N.W. He married Florence Thomas in 1933, a teacher at the Apex Cosmetology School on U Street. In 1940, the couple bought a house on Alabama Avenue in Anacostia. Mr. Jackson started photographing various activities of neighborhood kids a decade later. Although he specialized in family portraits, Jackson’s photographic negatives of Anacostia not only provide a window into the local community during that time period but “reflect the growth and development of Anacostia.”
Frank R. Jackson collection also include studio portraits, snapshots from his Dunbar High School years, a scrapbook of poetry, and beauty school objects belonging to Mrs. Florence Jackson. The collection was donated to the museum in 2009 by Carole A. Hyman (Mr. Jackson’s niece).
On this day in 1876, the Emancipation Monument also know as the Freedmen’s Memorial Monument is dedicated in Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Park. Frederick Douglass (circa 1818-1895) and John Mercer Langston (1825- 1897 ) speak at the inaugural ceremonies; President Ulysses S. Grant and other officials of the federal government also attend. Newspapers report that “nearly all of colored organizations in the city took part” in the procession, which started in the vicinity of 7th and K streets.
Major League Baseball season began yesterday April 3, 2016. To mark opening season we would like to highlight the Norman Davis Photograph Collection. The above image of Anacostia ACs (athletic club) baseball players is contained in the Norman Davis Photograph collection and is among several photographs in the collection which document community and organized baseball teams in the District of Columbia, in particular, the Anacostia section of the city from 1930s to 1950s. The collection contains images of Edward (Eddie) Berry, who played for the Anacostia ACs, Washington Aztecs, and the Hilldales [Hillsdale] teams. The collection provides us with a glimpse into Washington, D.C.’s unique baseball history that goes back more than 150 years. Long before the Nationals brought professional baseball back to the city in 2005, baseball played out in District schoolyards and alleyways, as well as on the White House lawn. Washington, D.C., was home to the Senators, known for being “first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” In the mid-1900s Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays also played on the Senators’ home field at Griffith Stadium, winning eight of nine Negro National League (NNL) pennants at one point.
Baseball really boomed in Washington following the Civil War, when thousands of men returned to the area from the battlefield and traded their rifles and canteens for bats and baseballs. Over the years Washington, D.C., has had black teams and white teams; professional teams and amateur teams; neighborhood teams and city-wide teams. Baseball has long been a part of Washington, D.C.’s social fabric— a sometimes unifying factor in a city struggling not only with its local/federal government identity but also with long-standing segregationist tendencies.
Based on research for Separate and Unequaled: Black Baseball in the District of Columbia exhibition.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we will feature women from our various archival collections throughout the month who have contributed to the field of education locally and/or nationally.
We start with Wilhelmina Bessie Patterson, a woman described in a July 1946 article in The Pittsburgh Courier as “. . . one of our Nation’s most praiseworthy women” due to her work and contribution to music education.
Born on June 23, 1888, in Calvert, Texas to William Ross Patterson and Mamie Brooks Patterson, she along with her five siblings were orphaned by the time she was fifteen years old. Her parents died approximately a year apart in Washington, DC. The family had settled in the Anacostia area some years earlier when Mr. Patterson received a government position.
Educated in the District of Columbia school system, Wilhelmina graduated from Old M Street High School, known now as Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; the Washington Conservatory of Music and Miner Normal School. After receiving a recommendation from Mary Church Terrell, she obtained a teaching position in Gainesville, Texas. Taking her youngest sibling, Fred with her to Texas, she provided for his education with her salary from various teaching jobs. Fred would benefit from her guidance and support for he would become the third President of Tuskegee Institute, now University and a founder of the United Negro College Fund. Speaking of her brother, Ms. Patterson once stated, “people used to speak of him as my brother; now they refer to me as ‘Dr. Patterson’s sister”. She goes on to say, “we are all very proud of Fred and the excellent work he has done.”
Wilhelmina also did excellent work in her career as a music teacher. She served as head of the Music Department at Prairie View State College; taught music for twelve years at Hampton Institute, now University and directed their Women’s Glee Club. She received a scholarship to study at Oberlin Conservatory of Music and later earned a Bachelor’s Degree of Music from the University of Pennsylvania.
Ms. Patterson moved back to Washington, DC in 1934 and began to manage the music program at Shiloh Baptist Church. She also maintained a studio at the church and at her home in Anacostia given to her by her brother Fred. Wilhelmina was interested in making her home music center “a place where my musical friends, young and old, may gather in an ideal environment.” During her long career she also served as a D.C. Recreation Department music specialists at the Burrville Center overseeing the instruction and training of children desiring to play instruments.
On October 1, 1962, Ms. Patterson retired as director of the Shiloh Baptist Church after 28 years of service. She died on November 9, 1962. Students and congregation members who knew Ms. Patterson still remember her dedication to teaching music. Ms. Patterson believe there wasn’t any greater “joy in life than in training children and seeing their talents develop as much as possible.”
Dale, Dianne. The Village That Shaped Us: A Look at Washington DC’s Anacostia Community (Lanham, MD: Dale Publishing, 2011)
Smith, Violet Key. “Interesting D.C. Women,” The Pittsburgh Courier, July 1946
Dale/Patterson Family Collection
A special thank you to Judy C. Williams, Historian at Shiloh Baptist Church for providing a copy of Ms. Patterson’s funeral program.
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!
My Smithsonian experience has been unbelievable; I have gained skills I thought I would never know, met people who have changed the way I see things and had the most remarkable time becoming more and more independent. I feel that this experience has been life altering to me, as of 2 years ago I would have never have had the courage to fly to America and volunteer at the Smithsonian, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t see myself working anywhere else.
In my week of volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, I assisted Jennifer Morris, the museum’s archivist. She introduced me to several aspects of the archival profession. I helped with the arrangement and description of the Dale/Patterson Family collection which documents the lives of two families who settled in the Hillsdale, Anacostia area of Washington, DC in 1892. Ms. Morris also trained me on Archivists’ Toolkit an archival data management system. I attended meetings and received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Archive Center at the National Museum of American Indian. Jennifer was hard-working and kind-hearted and I enjoyed so much helping her, she aided me to learn as much as my 16 year old brain could hold.
At the museum I finally met the lady who answered my very first email offering me a placement at the Anacostia, Shelia Parker. It was wonderful to finally put a face to the name and she turned out to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. All the people at the museum welcomed me with open arms and wide smiles, I never at any point felt unwelcome or un-wanted; I even had an ongoing comical conversation with one of the guards about my stupid need to get a cab everywhere, when he insists to use Uber.
In the museum, I saw two enormously interesting exhibits first, How the Civil War Changed Washington for which I now know about Washington’s tragic Arsenal event of 1864, where 29 women were working when a colossal fire broke out killing 3 instantly and leaving 18 to die from vicious burns. Second, I learned about Panamanian immigration to Washington, DC from the Bridging the Americas exhibition.
In England I will be starting college this September, studying History Early Modern, English Literature, Psychology and Archeology. I hope that after college, when I turn 18, I can obtain an internship at the Smithsonian giving me the opportunity to be able to come back to DC and gain even more skills and meet even more generous and wholehearted people. There are a lot of people I need to thank, such as, Shelia Parker for answering an annoying English girl’s email, Jennifer Morris who taught me so much and created the best experience I could ever imagine and my family who’s financial and loving support got me to Washington, DC to make memories and start the journey to my, hopeful, aspiring future.
All that I can do now is to work hard and never lose sight of my dream to return to Washington, DC and work at a Smithsonian Museum!
This month the Anacostia Community Museum is paying tribute to the Women’s History Movement by highlighting its collections that tell stories of women’s lives and contributions to our society.
In 2002, the U. S. Postal Service honored four women reporters for their contribution to American journalism by issuing commemorative postage stamps. Among the honorees was Ethel L. Payne (1911 – 1991) , who earned the title “first Lady of the black press” due to her coverage of the White House through seven presidents and the civil rights movement. The award-winning journalist was known to ask difficult questions, especially pertaining to segregation, and combining advocacy with journalism. A trailblazer, Payne became the first African American woman commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her for their television series “Spectrum.” The journalist was also the first black female to focus on international news and one of the first female White House correspondents of African descent. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973) invited her to witness his signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she traveled with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during his tour of Africa in 1970s.
A collection of Ethel Payne materials containing photographs, awards, passports, and artifacts were donated to the Anacostia Community Museum in 1991. You can view the collection here. The bulk of Payne’s personal papers were donated to Howard University before the reporter’s death. To learn more about Ethel Payne and view a display of her papers, join us on Sunday, March 29th from 2:00 to 4:00 for an author talk and book signing with James McGrath Morris. Mr. Morris will discuss his publication Eye on the Struggle, which focuses on the achievements and challenges of this pioneering woman!