A Fashionable Journalist

On this day 36 years ago, Mayor Marion Barry Jr. declared June 12, 1982 Ethel Lois Payne Day in Washington, DC. Collections Researcher Bailey Ferster commemorates the day by digging into the museum’s collections for a personal look at this grande dame of journalism.

Known as the “First-Lady of the Black Press,” Ethel Payne earned a reputation as a no-nonsense journalist who asked some of the most challenging questions. We’ve written about her accomplishments before in this blog, and today we reflect on her personal sense of style.

Ethel Payne, Portrait commissioned by Miller Brewing Company, 1987

In line with her fearless journalistic practice, Ethel Payne was a bold and charismatic dresser, unafraid to stand out in a crowd. Photographs show her wearing bright colors and eye-catching prints, and a 1987 painting portrays her elegantly attired in a loose-fitting multicolored dress with a long bead necklace, pendant earrings, bracelets and large rings. The background is painted in muted tones that accentuate her strong presence.

Some of her personal effects in the museum’s collection include a set of patterned deer hide suitcases and fur trimmed capes she used while traveling. Many of the clothes she donned were custom-made outfits from overseas, tangible connections to the cultures she experienced while traveling for work. One of her most treasured accessories, however, was a wide-brimmed green hat decorated with artificial flowers, leaves, and berries. Wide-rim hats as well as floral hats were popular during much of her career, from the 1940s to the 1970s, and Ethel’s pistachio green hat took the fashion to its zenith. More eccentric and expressive than most, the hat was decorated by hand, each flower, berry, and leaf stitched into place with green thread that is visible on the inside and underside of the brim. This hat, and Ethel’s other eye-catching fashion choices, lend credence to historic tales of her commanding presence on the media circuit.

Ethel Payne’s Floral Hat, Anacostia Community Museum

An ongoing museum project to document objects in our collection is adding depth and texture to our understanding of important community leaders. Ethel Payne’s hat and other personal accessories speak to her unique style and provide a sense of her striking personality. Her fashion choices offer an intimate look at the remarkable woman who earned a national reputation for her trailblazing work in journalism.

 

Say Their Names: The Walter Pierce Park Cemeteries Commemoration

From the Collection: Last year on Memorial Day weekend, descendants and friends of the Walter Pierce Park Cemeteries gathered to commemorate the people who are buried in this busy urban park in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. The Museum’s photographer was on hand to observe and document the ceremony.

The park’s history is not widely known. Long before it acquired a dog park, soccer field, basketball court and children’s play area, the land served as the city’s only Quaker cemetery, the Friends Burying Ground (active 1807-1890), and a large African American cemetery, Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery (active from 1870-1890).

May 27, 2017 – The Reverend Segun Adebayo of Macedonia Church addresses the audience during the commemoration of a historic African American and Quaker burial ground located underneath Walter Pierce Park in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC.
Photo: Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution (triptych photograph).

In the early 2000s, neighbors were concerned about development plans that risked disturbing the burials. They joined forces with Howard University anthropologists and spearheaded efforts to document the park’s historical significance. Over the course of three years, the Walter Pierce Park Archaeological Team documented the artifacts and remains of over 8,000 people buried in Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery and the Friends Burying Ground. In 2015, the National Park Service named the Mt. Pleasant Plains Cemetery at Walter Pierce Park a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site.

May 27, 2017 – African American Civil War Memorial Founder Frank Smith (right) and Patricia Tyson of FREED (Female Re-Enactors of Distinction) (left) read names together during the Memorial ceremony. Photo: Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Local resident Mary Belcher has been active in organizing The Walter Pierce Park Cemeteries Organization and commemorating the park. Last year, on Memorial Day weekend, participants recited the names of those buried in the park, and some told the stories of their interred ancestors. African American Civil War Memorial Founder Frank Smith and Patricia Tyson of FREED (Female Re-Enactors of Distinction) sat close together as a light rain cloistered the groups. Descendants T.J. Thomas and the Reverend Joanne Braxton addressed the crowd and told of their respective interred ancestors’ stories, and how they discovered their relationship to the ground. It is estimated that around a million people have ancestors in the Walter Pierce Park Cemeteries.

May 27, 2017 – The crowd reading names during the commemoration of a historic African American and Quaker burial ground located underneath Walter Pierce Park in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC. Photo: Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The Walter Pierce Park Cemeteries Organization will be hosting the commemoration this Memorial Day weekend on Saturday May 26, 2018 at 11 am at Walter Pierce Park.

Ms. Kilbourne: Chemistry Teacher Extraordinaire

“Among the things that have made teaching of chemistry an inspiration have been the intrinsic challenge of the subject matter, and the enthusiasm of the students—above all, witnessing their later successes in life. . .”      –Elaine M. Kilbourne, circa 1967

Elaine M. Kilbourne (1923-2014)

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we would like to highlight the achievements and influence of high school chemistry teacher Elaine M. Kilbourne (1923-2014), who taught locally from 1948 to 1993. A collection of scrapbooks and other memorabilia she compiled was recently donated to the Museum by her friend and former student, Mr. Guy A. Toscano. It documents her distinguished career as a teacher and educator, and her ability to mentor and inspire generations of students.

Elaine M. Kilbourne, Anacostia History School Chemistry class, undated.

During her tenure at Anacostia High School in Washington, DC (1948-1968), and later at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville, MD (1979-1993), Ms. Kilbourne earned a national reputation for her teaching. She pioneered the use of experimental and hands-on learning in her classroom, even discussing “atomic and ionic dimensions and molecular structure from student-constructed models”. In 1958 and 1963, Ms. Kilbourne received Principal Awards for Excellence in Science Teaching by the District of Columbia. The American Chemical Society recognized her contributions to the STEM field with numerous awards, including the Second District James Bryant Conan Award in High School Chemical Teaching in 1967.

Ms. Kilbourne is presented the James Bryant Conant Award, 1967

Not a person to rest on her laurels, Ms. Kilbourne created a series of national curricula for high school chemistry seniors while serving as Science Education Specialist for the Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She also worked for the National Science Foundation’s summer program, training chemistry teachers.

This is one of ten science projects written by Ms. Kilbourne, while she worked as a Science Education Specialist at the Food and Drug Administration.

Throughout her long career, Ms. Kilbourne demonstrated a passion for chemistry and a keen ability to influence students’ learning achievements. Her impact is evident in the letters and notes of appreciation she received from students, which are preserved in her scrapbooks. Actions speak even louder than words, and as one of her awards noted, an “average of nine to ten of her students per year” went on to major in science at college, leading in several cases to illustrious careers in STEM fields.

Ms. Kilbourne graduated from Eastside High School in 1940, received her B. A. in Physical Sciences from Montclair State Teachers College in 1944 and completed a M.A. degree in Student Personnel Administration at Columbia University in 1947. The collection contains limited personal information, and I am left to wonder about this remarkable woman’s early life and school experiences, what sparked her interest in chemistry, and how she experienced being a woman science teacher during the mid-20th century. What is undeniable is that she contributed to the advancement of STEM education, and that she instilled a love of learning in generations of Washington, DC area students. Her contributions are now duly documented among the Museum’s collections.

 

Help us identify these families!

In honor of National Quilting Day, research conservator Annaick Keruzec takes a closer look at several quilts with photographic patches in the museum’s collection.

Quilts are made for comfort, to decorate a home, or to tell a family story. For a textile conservator like myself, each quilt is unique and fascinating. Crafted from small pieces of fabric, they carry within them things that were part of the quilt maker’s environment. I can spend hours researching each fabric square, identifying fibers through the microscope or combing through historic sales catalogues to date and source the fabrics. I can examine how they were selected, arranged, and stitched together. I can document and admire the handiwork, the color combinations, and the artistry. Quilts are richly textured objects, full of connections and personal choices made by the maker. Indeed, researching quilts can offer remarkable insights on the person who made them.

Quilt with photographic patches

Shroud Series #2, Quilt by Fay Pullen Fairbrother. Photographed during examination in the collections processing room of the museum.

Several quilts in the museum’s collection incorporate squares with photographic images printed on them. This gives an added layer of complexity. How were they made? Why were these photos chosen? What was the artist’s intention? I am collaborating with a photo conservator and conservation scientists at the Smithsonian’s Museum Conservation Institute (MCI) to document these photographic quilts historically, technically, and personally from the artist’s perspective. In the next few months, we will analyze the fabrics, inks, emulsions, and binders used to create the photo patches – and we will report on it in this blog.

I’ve been examining a set of seven quilts created in the early 1990s by the artist Fay Pullen Fairbrother (1948-1997). Collectively titled The Shroud Series, they incorporate turn-of-the-century photographs depicting family portraits, lynchings, and the Ku Klux Klan. In an artist statement shortly after she made the quilts, Fairbrother wrote that the photographs of the KKK activities, studio portraits of black and white families, and lynched men clearly reflected a dissolution of family values and morals, Christian or otherwise. She chose to accentuate the dissonance of the violent imagery by juxtaposing it with quilt making, which has associations of comfort and family. The images stand out among the patchwork of the quilt.

 

I’ve been sourcing the images for the 50 photo-patches Fairbrother created, although I am not sure where and how she located them pre-internet. She reused some images, so they constitute a total of 24 different photographs. Among them are eight photographs depicting lynchings. Lynchings were public events that were described and recorded in local and sometimes national news. Some were depicted on early 20th-century postcards. I have identified the men in four photographs as Bennie Simmons (1913), Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith (1930), Claude Neal (1934), and Rubin Stacy (1935), whose photographs are published in Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (2000). Four other scenes remain unidentified.

On three of the quilts in the Shroud Series, Fairbrother incorporated family portraits. They show well-dressed black and white families posing against draped studio backdrops. In contrast to the lynching photographs, the portraits are private and personal. Family portraits are also ubiquitous, and it is hard to describe them in a way that is unique. As a result, portraits are difficult to research and document. I have contacted archives to which Fairbrother might have had access, but have not yet located the images she used.

Please help us identify the five family portraits shown above and below! Have you seen these photographs or any like them? Let us know in the comments section.

  

Our scientific research on the quilts will continue to reveal Fairbrother’s technical processes. Meanwhile I am hoping to discover more about the artist’s life and sources of inspiration for her exceptional quilt series.

A Portrait of Frederick Douglass

If You Lived Here: the Historic Barry Farm Settlement

Archaeological artifacts from Historic Barry Farm on display at the Anacostia Community Museum, 2017

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Historic Barry Farm, the Museum presents a display of unique household items from the late-19th to mid-20th centuries. These items were excavated by urban archaeologists at the site of the Anacostia Metro Station in 1981.

Back in 1867, the Freedmen’s Bureau purchased 375 acres of land from Juliana Barry to create a settlement where freed slaves and free blacks could build their homes. The lots ranged in price from $125-$300 which had to be paid in instalments over two years. Lumber for the construction of a basic 14×24-foot house was also available for purchase. In order to pay for their new land, families held down jobs in the city during the day, and at night they crossed the river to build their homes. Over time, this post-bellum African-American community grew to include not only homes, but also schools, churches, and thriving businesses.

Porcelain Box from Historic Barry Farm, 1991.0064.0008

The objects on display in the exhibit illustrate a flourishing middle-class neighborhood. Some of the items were locally made, others imported, some mass-produced, and others hand-crafted. Of particular interest, the late 19th-century porcelain trinket box is stamped on the bottom with ‘Victoria Carlsbad Austria,’ showing that the neighborhood’s ladies favored elegant, European-made boxes for storing their treasured items. Another object, the stoneware crock bottle of ginger beer, suggests a preference for non-alcoholic beverages during Prohibition. The bottle was produced between 1910-1914 by the Washington Bottling Company once located at 465 Stafford Alley, SW, in Washington, D.C.

Beverage Bottle from Historic Barry Farm, 1991.0064.0005

The display complements an outdoor art installation titled “If You Lived Here,” created by Washington, D.C. artist Peter Krsko. The structure encourages us to reflect on how we live − in the house, the home, and the broader community across 150 years of shared history.

“If You Lived Here” Art Installation by Peter Krsko & Pink Line Project, outside the Anacostia Community Museum, 2017

Please join us for programming through July 2nd! More information is at https://www.ifyoulivedheredc.com/events/

This project was developed in collaboration with The Pink Line Project + Citizen Innovation Lab, the DC Preservation Office, and with funding from the DC Office of Planning and the Kresge Foundation.

For further information on the area’s history, check out:
http://cdi.anacostia.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Portia-James-EOR-Article.pdf

Flashback Friday: Good Hope Road

 

Commercial buildings and traffic along Good Hope Road in 1975.   Learn more here.

#FlashbackFriday

Sullivan Family: Service through the Generations

americanLegion

In honor of Veteran’s Day, the Museum is showcasing the Sullivan Family Collection. Several generations of Sullivans served the country by joining the armed forces or otherwise aiding in military efforts.

Many of the Museum’s holdings relate to family history and community life. Photographs, documents, treasured heirlooms and the accompanying stories reveal the lives of men and women whose efforts contributed to shaping history.

Almost a century ago, Theodore M. Sullivan enlisted in the U.S. army to fight in World War I. His Enlistment Record lists his character as “excellent,” and indicates that he was involved in the battle at Verdun, France. Several photographs show him in uniform. Mr. Sullivan was awarded the Purple Heart medal for military merit for eleven different wounds he sustained while fighting in Europe in 1918.

SullivanPurpleHeart

In subsequent years, Mr. Sullivan was active in the James E. Walker Post 26 of the American Legion, a wartime veterans’ organization formed in 1919. In this photograph, he is pictured in the middle, third from the top, during a visit of his Post to Washington, DC in 1940.

Other members of the Sullivan family continued a tradition of service for many decades. Theodore’s half-sister, Sadie Thompson, served in the Boston Chapter of the American Red Cross for over half a century, and all of Theodore’s sons enlisted in the armed forces during World War II. Edwin joined the U.S. Navy, while Earle entered the Tuskegee Institution’s program for training the first African American military pilots, now known as the “Tuskegee Airmen.” He was well into his training before his untimely death at the end of 1943.

The display will be on view through November 16, 2016.

SullivanIMG_9244b

New Acquisition! Guadalupe has a gun

The following post is by Elena C. Muñoz, research/curatorial assistant for the Gateways exhibition. 

Happy Latinx Heritage Month! 

—————————————

When we met with Rosalia Torres-Weiner  in March of 2016, she was one of the artists-in-residence at Latin American Contemporary Art Projects (LaCa) in Charlotte. Wearing colorful and elaborately decorated cowboy boots, she greeted us with a big smile and hugs before sitting us down in her brightly decorated studio-space. Her space at LaCa was decorated with large paper flowers, Calaveras, panels from her children’s story “the Magic Kite” which had just been turned into a play by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and of course, her vibrant, patterned paintings.

High on the front wall of her studio, she had painted, “I AM AN ARTIVIST AND I BELIEVE IN ACTIVISM THROUGH MY ART.”

Rosalie Torres-Weiner's Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

Rosalie Torres-Weiner’s Charlotte, NC studio in March 2016

While sitting and chatting, Torres-Weiner’s passion for social justice and making the invisibles visible, particularly children, is evident. Throughout our visit, her “artivism” and community engagement manifested itself through our conversation, and of course through the paintings that were displayed throughout the studio.

Many of Torres-Weiner’s pieces deal with the complexities of the United States immigration system as well as the injustices and dangers immigrants often face. Some of her work sheds subtle light on the plight of immigrants in the United States, but some of her pieces are far more overt. One piece in particular that is direct in its handling of the hazards of immigration and crossing the southern U.S. border is Madre Protectora.

 

Madre Protectora 


 This piece is a reimagining of the patroness of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe. The standard representation of the Virgin of Guadalupe is of a young, brown-skinned woman, hands clasped in prayer and eyes cast downward. Typically she is shown standing atop a crescent moon held by a cherub and encircled by a golden mandala.Torres-Weiner’s version of the Virgin has morphed from a static, passive depiction of holy femininity into one of vigilant agency.

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Madre Protectora by Rosalia Torres-Weiner. Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Instead of being clasped in prayer, her hands clutch a three-dimensional AK-47 constructed of wood, one finger on the trigger. A small, golden pocket watch dangles from her trigger finger, which in Torres-Weiner’s words, “indicates that over time, this situation will change”. Though her dark eyes are still averted from the viewer’s gaze, they are raised and alert, searching for any sign of danger.

The crescent moon and cherub are replaced by a blood red banner proclaiming her new moniker of “Madre Protectora”. Her golden mandala is supplanted by pink hibiscus flowers and stylized white dots, which according to the artist are, “one thousand points of loss. Each dot representing a life lost on the border.” The painting is recessed within a blood red wooden frame, with four lines of plastic barbed wire encasing the bottom of the piece, representative of the U.S.-Mexico border. Behind the wire are three red figures: the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and a pope.

I have always been obsessed with the devotion to, and various depictions of the Virgin Mary, particularly in Latin America and by Latino artists. The fact that a woman, (and oftentimes a non-white woman) was such a potent instrument of conversion during colonization, and can still command such power, zeal, and national pride is incredible to me. That being said, when we walked in to Torres-Weiner’s studio, I was immediately drawn to this armed Virgin. Madre Protectora follows a tradition of Mexican-American and Chican@ artists not only depicting the Virgin of Guadalupe, but of depicting her as one of active, maternal protection, central to the immigration experience.

Like many Catholic saints, the Virgin of Guadalupe is regularly prayed to for help and protection. Here, Torres-Weiner has imbued her with a hyper-vigilance that speaks to the extreme anxiety and desperation that often comes with the experience of crossing the border. Torres-Weiner is confronting the life-threatening circumstances that people often face when they come to the United States, whether it’s during the journey, or once they reach their destination.

The artist writes, “The Guadalupe, portrayed as a young millennial is armed with an AK-47 to show that faith can be as strong as the challenges that we face (deportations, narco-terrorism, economic disparity).”

 

Gateways opens to the public on December 5, 2016.  The exhibition explores the triumphs and struggles of Latino migrants and immigrants in four urban destinations: Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Raleigh-Durham, NC and Charlotte, NC

Elena C. MunozElena Muñoz received her MA in Art History from Rutgers University, and her BA in Art History from Fordham University. Her primary research interest is teasing out the African influences in Latin American
and Latino art. She is also fascinated with the evolution and uses of Marian imagery in the Americas. In 2014, she was a recipient of the Smithsonian’s Latino Museum Studies fellowship, working with the Teodoro Vidal Collection at the Lunder Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Currently she is a research assistant at the Anacostia Community Museum, working on the upcoming exhibition Gateways, which examines Latino im/migration in the D.C. Metro Area, Baltimore, the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina, and Charlotte, North Carolina.

Rosalia y Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner with Madre Protectora

Rosalia Torres-Weiner is a self-taught artist-activist who has lived and worked in Charlotte since 1992. Born in Mexico City, Mexico, she came to the United States in 1985. After working in the hospitality industry, she gradually turned to a career as an artist. She initially worked as a flight attendant; after painting murals in her children’s rooms, her neighbors commissioned her to paint murals in their homes. She launched her company Home Art Designs in 2001, painting murals in residential as well as commercial properties. In 2010, she pivoted and began to focus primarily on using her art as activism for the Latino community. She started the Papalote Project, (the Kite Project) using art as therapy for local children who were suffering from the loss of a parent due to deportation. She continues to produce socially conscious and community-engaging work from her studios in Charlotte, NC.

Sustainable Community Preservation Award – winner!

Happy Latinx Heritage Month!

Only July 8th I had the pleasure and great honor to attend the Afro-Latino Festival of New York where I received an award for Sustainable Community Preservation from the organizing committee.

AfroLatinoFest Ariana

Dr. Ariana A. Curtis with her beautiful award

Friday was a full day. It included Afrolatin@Crowd Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, five panels, a keynote luncheon, awards presentation, an exclusive film screening screening, a cocktail reception, and musical performances at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

We gathered on that hot summer day under the heaviness of the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile just days before. The mood was at once somber, buoyant, aware, powerful, and gentle. For many of us, that was the collective safe space we needed to emote, process, heal, and plan.

I served on a panel, Afrolatin@S, ¡Presente!: Representation And Cultural Heritage where I discussed the work I do at the Anacostia Community Museum, but really, espoused some of my philosophy about Afro-Latinx representation and cultural heritage more broadly.  The full day’s recordings are available via the Schomburg’s livestream site.

talking to Geco Jones

Dr. Curtis with panel moderator DJ Geko Jones Photo credit: Bob Gore

 

talking sphere

Dr. Ariana A. Curtis mid explanation at AfroLatino Talks 2016 Photo credit: Bob Gore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I didn’t have notes so I cannot summarize my contributions to the hour-long panel, but I will share a small story that I told:

When I first started at the Smithsonian people would introduce me as a curator of Afro Latino studies.  I was quick to correct them. I am proud to be Afro Latina but I am a curator for Latino Studies. Latino studies includes Afro-Latinos.  We do not always need to be separate.

The responsibility for knowing our history and culture should not be pushed off to a few.  And, we cannot claim Latin America or the U.S. as spaces of mixedness, as spaces with African roots, then deny our contemporary existence and inclusion of Afro Latinos within larger contexts.

My contributions to the Smithsonian, or to anywhere I am, do not begin and end with my physical Blackness and my value to this world does not lie exclusively within the nexus of Blackness and Latinidad.  I am interested in representing community stories within American stories. Latino history and culture include Afro-Latino stories. Plural. We are not all the same. Our diversity matters.

The award ceremony and performances were Friday evening, also at the Schomburg, following a reception. As you can see from the image below, I was in the company of some heavy hitters. When I emailed people after the event I confessed: I am elated to share any honor with (fellow Panamanian) Danilo Perez.

I kept my acceptance speech very short. I will admit, I was overcome with emotion in a way I did not expect and I feared my voice would betray me. I am not generally a crier but looking out at all of the faces, including my parents and my sister, I teared up!

The gist of it was:

I know that I work for and represent an institution that has historically excluded us.  But I also know how powerful it has been for people to see someone that looks like ME doing Latino-centered work in this institution.  The Smithsonian is responsible for telling the American story and I am responsible for making sure we are included. When I think about the people I want to be proudest of what I do, moved by this work, it is people who feel I am telling their story.  Our story.

I have had some wonderful days in my personal and professional life, but receiving this honor is among the top.

afroLatinoFest awardees

2016 Honorees receiving awards from Amilcar Priestley: Danilo Perez: Grammy Award Winning Latin Jazz Pianist/Composer Dr. Ariana Curtis : Curator, Latino Studies, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Ayesha Schomburg: Board Member, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture & Counsel NYC City Council Moises Medrano (not pictured): Director of Populations, Ministry of Culture, Colombia Photo Credit: Bob Gore

 

Thank you so much to everyone at AfroLatino Festival for considering me, with a special shout out to (fellow Panamanian) Amilcar Priestley.

After the ceremony, I was able to sit back with family and friends and enjoy the rest of the night and the weekend festivities. For those that missed out, see you next year!

13615075_10153655445395079_6446856553645456305_n

Panamanian group Afrodisíaco performing at the Schomburg Center Photo credit: Bob Gore

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