Charles E. Qualls: Pharmacist, Businessman, and Civic Leader

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.


The Anacostia Pharmacy, circa 1950s. Charles E. Qualls papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, gift of the Estate of Charles E. Qualls.

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).


Interior of the Anacostia Pharmacy, circa 1941. Charles E. Qualls papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, gift of the Estate of Charles E. Qualls.

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.


Dr. Qualls helped raise funds for the Mills family who lost their home in a fire. He is pictured here receiving a check for the benefit of the Mills family from Les Sands, a radio station announcer whose station raised the funds. Circa 1948. Charles E. Qualls papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, gift of the Estate of Charles E. Qualls.

Charles E. Qualls died on June 21, 1984.

View the Finding Aid to the Charles E. Qualls Papers, 1899-1996, bulk 1960-1983 here!

View artifacts from Mr. Qualls collection here!

Anacostia Community Museum Young Citizen Scientists Explore Lower Beaverdam Creek with State Farm

Last Saturday a group of intrepid young Citizen Scientists from the UPO POWER college prep program hopped on a bus departing from the Anacostia Community Museum to monitor biological and chemical markers in a tributary to the Anacostia Watershed, the Lower Beaverdam Creek in Cheverly, Maryland. Also attending were representatives from State Farm, Dwayne Redd and Lynn Heinrichs. State Farm supports the Anacostia Community Museum Citizen Scientist program through a grant.  Afterwards the group gathered for lunch back at ACM where State Farm presented the group with a giant check, literally. The Citizen Scientist program encourages environmental stewardship by training and supporting citizen volunteers to monitor and report back on their local ecology.

The ACM Citizen Scientist team pose with State Farm's Dwayne Redd and Lynn Heinrichs at the end of their data collection field trip.

Students from the Anacostia Community Museum's Citizen Scientist Program explore Lower Beaverdam Creek, a tributary of the Anacostia River during a field trip with State Farm staff, who support the program.   Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution


Biologist Alison Cawood, of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) helps the students conduct their data collection. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Biologist Alison Cawood, of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) helps the students conduct their data collection.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution



Dwayne Redd, of State Farm, right, poses with David McIntyre of Ballou High School and Anthony Lawson of Ideal Charter School, during the visit to Lower Beaverdam Creek. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Dwayne Redd, of State Farm, right, poses with David McIntyre of Ballou High School and Anthony Lawson of Ideal Charter School, during the visit to Lower Beaverdam Creek.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

State Farm agent Lynn Heinrichs helps the students with their data collection.

State Farm agent Lynn Heinrichs helps the students with their data collection.


Diamond Carter of National Collegiate PCS records the data for future reference.

Diamond Carter of National Collegiate PCS records the data for future reference.

Wading boots were mandatory during this early December visit to the Lower Beaverdam Creek. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Wading boots were mandatory during this early December visit to the Lower Beaverdam Creek.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution



The rise of Marion Barry and the Anacostia Community Museum

This morning Washington DC woke to the news that Marion Barry has passed away during the night. With the tributes and reflections will doubtless continue over next week, I wanted to contribute a small, relatively overlooked coincidence between the birth of the Anacostia Community Museum and the rise of Marion Barry in the civic sphere.

ACMA_riot clipping

Some of the early creation stories of the Anacostia Community Museum point to the creation of the Greater Anacostia People’s corporation (GAP) following a small disturbance in which some local youths threw bottles at the local police station. While community leaders did rally around the organization of youth activities, it wasn’t after a small tussle, but after a major clash between hundreds of youth and police.

On 9 August 1966 a youth meeting at the Southeast House was broken up by District Police from the local 11th precinct on the pretext of arresting two attendees for a stabbing that had taken place in recent weeks. Fed up with systematic maltreatment by the police, lack of opportunities for work or recreation, and , honestly, probably suffering some of DC’s notorious August heat, the youths – a group of 300 –attacked the 11th precinct police station. Throwing rocks, bottles and bricks at the station and assembled police force, the local youths were met with tear gas, clubs and German shepherds. In the end, more than a dozen youths were arrested and the city motivated to quick action to quell future uprisings.[2]

In response the City mobilized many departments and committees to create opportunities for the youth of Anaostia. Appointed District Commissioner Walter Tobriner called a committee to investigate the incident (and, by association, for the first time, the police)[3] The National Capital Housing Authority, LadyBird Johnson’s National Capital Beautification Committee, the District Police and DC Recreation Department all began allocating funds towards weekly parties and work opportunites for Anacostia youths. Several temporary pools were moved into the neighborhood to make up for disparities with the rest of the city. Within the DC Recreation Department “clean-by-day, party-by night projects” were created and soon formalized into the Roving Leaders and Trail Blazers youth programs operated by Polly Shackleton and Stanley Anderson.[4] While the Commissioner’s investigative committee quickly disbanded without results, the Police significantly shifted leadership at the 11th precinct. Anacostia and the problem of its youth became a pressing matter for national politicians and suddenly there was a pressing need to provide meaningful and significant investment in education and recreation East of the Anacostia River.[5]

The committee investigating the police, in particular, was a significant event. Following the 11th precinct riot, DC Commissioner Walter Tobriner called together a commission to examine the problem and report on solutions. Initial response to the committee was troubled as it contained no youth leaders or African American leaders. Quickly responding to the criticism, Tobriner appointed Marion Barry and Julius Hobson to the committee, but Hobson declined while Barry surprisingly accepted.  Prior to this committee, Marion Barry had focused his activism in Washington DC on social action and had been highly critical of participation in government and civic affairs. Barry stepped in and turned the commission upside down, in what I believe was  his first foray into public civil service.

From the beginning, Barry upended the process and composition of the Committee. With an organized group of young people crowding the committee chamber, he challenged the leadership, makup and governance of the committee. With a large crowd at his back, he compelled the committee to accept additional youth members and a vote for the chairmanship (which he won). Going against common practice, he called for the testimony of Tobriner and of the DC chief of police, demanding they be held to account for the response to the riot and the treatment of the residents of Anacostia. When they refused to submit, he quit, effectively ending the committee and the District’s response to the incident. By the end of the year, a grand jury had declined to indict anyone for the riot. With the incident and his participation in the committee, Barry appeared to have raised his public profile significantly and it marks, I believe, his ascendance in DC politics. 

This large-scale disturbance caused a widespread increase in social services in Anacostia. Youth programs were created and expanded and implemented at a rapid pace. The presence of these agencies and project leaders is important for the concentration of attention on Anacostia. Stanley Anderson, director of the Roving Leaders program, was “practically the mayor of Anacostia”[6] owning several properties along the main thoroughfare and serving as vice-Chairman of the Greater Anacostia People’s Corporation. Polly Shackleton, director of the Trail Blazers program, sat on Mrs. Johnson’s Beautification commission and, like Anderson, would be among the first District Council members appointed by LBJ and elected after home rule. Working with both of these two was Caryl Marsh a consulting sociologist to the District Department of Recreation who would move to the Smithsonian in late 1966 to work for Secretary Ripley.

According to interviews from 1985, “Carolyn Marsh—then a special consultant to the District Department of Recreation—discussed with Stanley Anderson the possibility of Anacostia as a site for a neighborhood museum. Anderson took the idea to a meeting of that organization. Despite initial skepticism, Anderson sold it to GAP and GAP in turn sold it to the community.”[7] Owner of the increasingly disused Carver theater, Anderson encouraged other members of the GAP to see that the neighborhood museum could open up the possibilities of jobs and creative outlets for a community in need of both. Connected to the DC Recreation department, he began to liaise with the Smithsonian’s Charles Blitzer.[8]

Marsh, on her end, worked to re-initiate the concept and appears to have worked with Secretary Ripley to reassign his Neighborhood Museum idea from Frank Taylor, Director of the U.S. National Museum (into whose portfolio the idea was apparently entered sometime around 1964) to Charles Blitzer, then Assistant Secretary for Education.[9] Blitzer was introduced to the project when he and Marsh met with Ripley “at a dinner one night and they talked about the new museum project. Neither Dillon Ripley nor Blitzer knew a lot about Washington, but Caryl knew a lot about it. One drizzly Saturday morning she guided the two of them to various sections: Adams-Morgan, Capital hill, Anacostia. As Blitzer recalled, Caryl felt the new museum ought to be in Anacostia and by the end of the day. Ripley and Blitzer felt that way, too.”[10]

[1] Stephanie Yvette Felix, African American Women in Social Reform, Welfare and Activism: Southeast Settlement House, Washington, DC 1950-1970, Master’s thesis, University of Wisconsin Madison, 1992. From the Smithsonian Institution Archives. A. P2-3, 38.

[2] Richard Severo, “Melee in Anacostia Shows Police Isolation,” Washington Post 20 August 1966, B1.John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[3] John Matthews, “Anacostia Probers Shatter Stereotype From the Start,” The Sunday Star 21 August 1966, B-4. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[4] Aaron Latham, “Parties Planned to End Unruliness in SE,” Washington Post 29 August 1966. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[5] Meryle Secrest, “Mrs. Johnson Hits the Trail with the Blazers,” Washington Post, 18 August 1967. [Teppy James], “A Day in Anacostia: Gude Explores Problems ‘Across the River’ [Washington DC] The Evening Standard 11 February 1967. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[6] Charles Blitzer interview notes, John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[7] Frank X. Delaney, “From Gap to the Green Line; “Anacostia” in Transition,” unpublished manuscript, Spring 1985. P.17-18. See Also, Percy Battle, Interview with Dana Powell, 1 July 1991. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[8] “Interview with Almore Dale for the History of the ANM,” Spring, 1972. Smithsonian Institution Archives.

[9] Esther Nighbert, Interview with Gail Lowe, 1 September 1992. See Also: Julian Euell, Interview with Stephanie Felix, 5 July 1991; and Charles Blitzer, Interview with Gail Lowe, 30 March 1992. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

[10] Charles Blitzer, Interview with Gail Lowe, 30 March 1992. John Kinard Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives.



ACM Collections Presentation at Southwest Neighborhood Assembly


At Arena Stage Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, 7-9 pm
The Anacostia Smithsonian Museum is asking for help to prepare a 2016 exhibit covering DC during the Kennedy/Johnson and Nixon Years (1962-1975)
During those years DID YOU march for civil rights or against the Vietnam War?
During those 12 years did you support Black power, women’s equality, pay equity, tenant’s rights, gay rights, fair housing, religious freedom, veteran benefits or any other cause to make society a better place?
Do you have stories to tell or pictures or memorabilia from that time?
Meet Dr. Josh Gorman from the Anacostia Smithsonian Community Museum who will discuss what makes objects historically valuable from a museum’s perspective, especially a community museum..
Discover the historical value of your memorabilia – from political buttons to signs, circulars, banners, handbills, or hats, tee shirts, knick-knacks, pictures or anything else that has been on the wall in the attic or at back of the closet for the past decades.
Become a part of the “Twelve Year Project” between the SW Neighborhood Assembly and the Anacostia Smithsonian Community Museum, at
Arena Stage Monday evening, November 24 at 7 pm.

From the Collection: James Wells prints

As the curatorial team turns towards identifying collections for the upcoming 12 Years that Changed Washington exhibition, we’ve been looking more closely at the art and artists held by the ACM to show how changes in art and culture coincided with radical social change in DC. Looking beyond formal visual arts, we are also looking for the many posters, prints and informal art that blossomed during this time–and in so doing stumbled upon one of the masters in our collection, James Wells.

James Wells, “Girls Profile,” Anacostia Community Museum, 2014.0018.0002.

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Throwback Thursday: Museum Visitors


Four African visitors and Balcha Fellows pose in front of the Anacostia Neigborhood Museum, July 1970
Anacosita Community Museum Archives


Four African visitors to the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, now Anacostia Community Museum, July 1970.  The visitors, from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast (Côte d’ Ivoire), Chad, and Mali, were in the United States as part of an Operation Crossroads Africa/State Department educational tour. Balcha Fellows (third from right), a special assistant to the museum’s founding director, John Kindard, arranged the Anacostia Community Museum portion of the tour.


Throwback Thursday: Revisiting Black Mosaic


Installation shot of Black Mosaic exhibition. The groundbreaking show was organized by the Anacostia Community Museum and held there from August 21, 1994 to August 7, 1995.

For our very first throwback, an installation shot of Black Mosaic: Community, Race, and Ethnicity among Black Immigrants in Washington, DC exhibition.

The exhibition explored the immigration of people of African descent from Central and South America and the Caribbean to the Washignton Metropolitan  area. The show focused on several issues including: Identity; the African Diaspora in the Americas; memories of home; race and color at home; migration/immigration; music;  and community life in Washington.

To view the exhibition and research records from this exhibition contact:





Finding Embedded Meaning: Expressions of Race, Class and History in Quilts

Burka Quilt: ACM 2002.0004.0001[The following essay served as the basis and notes for a talk I gave at a session of the 2012 meeting of the Textile Society of America held at the Anacostia Community Museum. Along with conservator Newbold Richardson I discussed this quilt from the museum’s collection from a somewhat longer, material-focused perspective.]


1. Introduction

Today I’m going to be talking about the quilt you see here to my right/left. Made of handkerchiefs printed with nursery rhymes, this quilt is a nice narrative piece in our small quilt and textile collection. Of note in the quilt is the inclusion among the familiar mother goose rhymes is a full color, full representation of the rhyme, “the ten little niggers.” As an aside, I’m not really comfortable repeating this over the course of the paper, so at the risk of using a euphemism to conceal this vile little poem, I’m going to occasionally refer to it as the nursery rhyme throughout this paper.

This quilt was donated to us in 2002 by Jo Anne and Dr. Barrett Burka. This one has the handy application of a signature, we know that it was a Christmas gift in 1878 to a young man named Howard from his Auntie. The handkerchief literature tells us that these hankies were frequently gifts for children as rewards for having behaved well-Howard must have been the best kid in the family.

A note on the back of the deed of gift generated in 2002 gives a thin provenance for the item. This quilt was, apparently, owned by a famous white author, a lady from McClean, Virginia and was purchased by the Burkas at an estate sale in the early 1990s for a not-insignificant amount of money. Of British origin, the quilt was donated to the collection because of it’s notably blythe use of racist imagery. It was donated shortly after the Anacostia Museum’s grand reopening in this building after it had served on the mall for several years as the Smithsonian’s center for African American History and Culture. The quilt was in pretty rough shape when we received it and it underwent conservation treatment later that year.

With this paper I will not be discussing the materiality of the quilt – something surely to be examined and interesting, but not my focus – so much as an unpacking of the situation of this item in a global world. The nursery rhyme “the ten little niggers,” offers us a jarring entry into the intermingled creation and application of race and racism in the Atlantic world in the 19th century. In this item we see the confluence of the emergence of Victorian racism with the florescence of children’s literature.

This quilt, using American racist discourse – soon to be adapted to the British control in India – probably using American or Egyptian cotton, sits in a space in which the invented fixities of race were being provisionally applied to global empires.

In this paper I will examine the history of race and racism between the US and Britain and its coincidence with colonial economies. I’ll then turn to the nursery rhyme and its fluid and ambiguous relationships to American and English racism and popular culture.

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