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.

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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.

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

 

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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.

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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!

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

New acquisition! Rosalia Torres-Weiner part 1

Charlotte, North Carolina has been on our minds and in our hearts these past few days. In an act of community and resilience, it felt appropriate to celebrate both the city of Charlotte and Latino Heritage Month in the next few blog posts.

Thanks to the Latino Initiatives Pool, the Anacostia Community Museum was able to acquire new collections!   The Museum has acquired two pieces by Rosalia Torres-Weiner for the upcoming exhibition, Gateways, opening December 5, 2016.  Gateways 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

It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Rosalia. She is a talented Mexican born and raised, Charlotte-based artivist (artist+activst). Her energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, and commitment to social justice and community stories pervade all aspects of her life and work.  I am excited for visitors to get a small glimpse of this in Gateways.

I am the curator, but the other (invaluable!) member of the Gateways team is research/curatorial assistant Elena C. Muñoz. On our trip to Charlotte last week, Elena sat down and spoke with Rosalia about her art in general, and our recent acquisitions in particular. As an art historian, Elena has a deep knowledge of this work. Below, please find Elena’s post about the first piece we will show: Uprising Against ICE. 

 

Elena interviewing Rosalia for an Artist Speak out component of Gateways

Elena interviewing Rosalia for an Artist Speak out component of Gateways Photo: Ariana A. Curtis

 

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. Her latest series of ten large format paintings that depict both the contributions and struggles of Latino immigrants in the United States.  This painting is a reimagining of one of Diego Rivera’s Mexican Revolution masterworks, The Uprising (1931).

The Uprising by Diego Rivera, 1931

The Uprising by Diego Rivera, 1931

Torres-Weiner’s paintings are typically bright, colorful pieces. This particular piece is painted in blues and grays, alluding to the ICE of the title. For this painting, the artist has abandoned her usual style and has instead mimicked both the style and composition of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera’s The Uprising.

 

Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

Uprising Against ICE by Rosalia Torres-Weiner,  Collection of the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution

 Like Rivera’s painting, Torres-Weiner’s piece features a crowded and compressed picture plane, with a family unit battling an authority figure at the forefront. Torres-Weiner has replaced Rivera’s soldier with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent in full SWAT gear, reaching with handcuffs towards a humbly dressed, unarmed immigrant family. Like Rivera’s female protagonist, Torres-Weiner has depicted a mother holding her swaddled child, arm outstretched to protect her family. Her husband protects their older daughter to the right of the canvas. The daughter, not present in the Rivera original, is yellow, the color of hope. The father creates a barrier between himself and the agent with a farming spade, reminding the viewer that immigrants perform much of the farm labor in the United States. To the left and behind the agent are more ICE agents and U.S. government officials in suits and ties. On the ground between the family and the primary agent is another figure and dollar bills, both trampled underfoot. Behind the immigrant family is a crowd of protesters, from which a “DREAM” sign can be seen, referring to the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act that failed to pass. In the background is a U.S. flag, a bright contrast to the icy blues and grays of the rest of the work.

In the 1990s, North Carolina led the U.S. in Latino population growth. The southeast U.S. is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, in overall population and Latino population. In January of 2016, there were several ICE raids throughout the Southeast, resulting in the detention of 121 people, most of whom are women and children. The relationship between law enforcement and North Carolina’s Latino population is strained and fraught with anxiety, especially for undocumented families.

Uprising Against ICE gives voice to this anxiety while also subverting it. Torres-Weiner reimagines a family being held together through their own power and through the support of the masses that revolt behind them.

 

 

SHORT BIO of Elena C. Muñoz

Elena C. Munoz

Elena 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.

 

SHORT BIO of Rosalia Torres-Weiner

Rosalia Torres Weiner with Uprising against ICE

Rosalia Torres Weiner with Uprising against ICE

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.

Armstrong Manual Training School

On September 24, 1902 Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) delivered the keynote speech for the dedication ceremony of Armstrong Manual Training School.  The school was one of two high schools in the District of Columbia authorized by Congress for vocational education.  Armstrong school was built for African Americans and McKinley for white students.

The school was named for Samuel C. Armstrong (1839-1893), a white commander of an African American Civil War regiment and founder of Hampton Institute, now University. Designed by local architect Waddy B. Woody, the Renaissance Revival building provided carpentry, machine, foundry, and blacksmith workshops. In addition, courses in bookkeeping, domestic arts, chemistry, and physics were offered. The historic school has been described as, “an important institution and symbol for the African American community in Washington, D.C. . .”

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Armstrong Manual Training School Yearbook, 1902-1903. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

Much of the success for the school in the formative years is attributed to Dr. Wilson Bruce Evans, the founding principal and father of concert artist, Madame Lillian Evanti. In a 1904 article from the Colored American Magazine, Dr. Evans states, “although only two classes have been graduated, we find almost all of them employed in a variety of remunerative situations.”  He goes on to say, “. . . two are student assistants in the United States Department of Agriculture, four are teaching in the rural schools of Maryland. . .”

Armstrong graduates also gained local, national, and in some cases international acclaimed in their chosen field.  Duke Ellington, William “Billy” Eckstein, Lillian Evans Tibbs, John Malachi, and Jimmy Cobb are among a host of prominent alumni.

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Pages from Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr. Estate.

In 1996 Armstrong was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and now serves the local community as the Armstrong Adult Education Center. However, you can help us make a fragile Armstrong Manual Training School yearbook from 1902-1903 in our collection more accessible and searchable by transcribing it at the Smithsonian Transcription Center!

Women Photographers of Washington Presentation at the Anacostia Community Museum

The Anacostia Community Museum seeks to be a gathering place for important conversations pertaining to urban communities. We devise our public programming and community forums with this goal in mind.  This Sunday, September 18, we were pleased to present the work of two local photographers, Becky Harlan and Gabriela Bulisova, both members of the 501C3 non-profit, Women Photojournalists of Washington.  Harlan and Bulisova have both been working for many years on the projects they presented.

Women Photojournalist of Washington member Becky Harlan presents her work on the Anacostia River to a full house at the Anacostia Community Museum on Sunday September 18, 2016.

WPOW Member Becky Harlan shares work from her project on the Anacostia River.

Harlan’s project “D.C.’s Anacostia River” looks at the history of the Anacostia, from fertile native American fishing ground, to its status as a polluted river, the river keepers who take it upon themselves to maintain a better tributary, and the communities that have formed around the river. Below is a frame taken from her project, more work can be seen on her website here:

Photographer Becky Harlan's work on the Anacostia River. Here a clean-up crew at Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Photographer Becky Harlan’s work on the Anacostia River. Here a clean-up crew at Kennilworth Aquatic Gardens.

Gabriela Bulisova’s work Inside Outside and Convictions examines the lives of returning citizens, the formerly incarcerated, and the families left behind.  According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the United States has the largest percentage of incarcerated people in its population in the world.  Bulisova spent time getting to know returning citizen groups and the families of the incarcerated, making still photographs and short movies to record their experiences.  She shared with us several short films which are accessible below and by going to Bulisova’s website here.

Photographer Gabriela Bulisova shares her work on returning citizens in Washington, DC at the Anacostia Community Museum Sunday September 18, 2016.

The discussion following the presentations was informed by the presence of several of the returning citizens with whom Bulisova has worked on her projects.  They spoke to the administrative limbo many incarcerated DC citizens find themselves in because they are beholden to the laws of the federal system, even as in many states, sentences for many crimes, especially non-violent ones are being commuted or cut short.  Because DC is not a state, prisoners find themselves trapped in a federal purgatory where  they are literally stateless citizens.

The opportunity to hear an artist discuss her work will always further your understanding of the project.  We are pleased at the Anacostia Community Museum to bring these conversations to you and hope you will join us in adding your voice to our community.

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.

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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: 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.

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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!

Enter the post Panamax World

Today [June 26, 2016] marks a historic moment for Panama, for our hemisphere and the world.”

– Juan Carlos Varela, President of Panama

In this age of increased border policing and nationalism, nothing reminds us of global connectedness like oceans.  Also, I will take all opportunities to write about Panama.

Author disclaimer: I love Panama! My father is from there. My family lives there. I did my dissertation fieldwork there. The Smithsonian has a Tropical Research Institute there (STRI). It is constantly among the happiest countries in the world and frankly, it is beautiful!

The defining thing [about Panamanian identity] I would say is the Panama Canal … what else … that is all … we can’t even go any further!” – DC resident from Panama

In August 1914, the Panama Canal opened, revolutionizing global sea traffic. The Canal created a “path between the seas,” joining the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Ships no longer had to travel all the way around South America. They could now pass through the 50 mile long Canal. Ships traveling the canal connect 160 countries and reach about 1,700 ports worldwide. To date, more than one million ships have passed through the Canal.

The politics and culture of the Panama Canal is a central element — literally and figuratively — of Panama’s national identity and on December 31, 1999 the U.S., who operated the Canal since 1914, turned over full control of the Panama Canal to Panama.

The last time I visited Panama was a research trip 2014 with ACM photographer Susana Raab to document the 100th anniversary of the Canal. During that trip, we visited the Canal expansion project on the Atlantic coast

August 2014 view of the Panama Canal expansion near the Locks of Gatun. These photographs were made for the upcoming Bridging the Americas exhibit at the Anacostia Community Museum. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

August 2014 view of the Panama Canal expansion near the Gatun Locks.  Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Susana Raab

We also took a partial transit through the Panama Canal. It is a marvel to watch ships being raised and lowered to pass through the locks system of the Canal.

 

Susana and me transiting the Panama Canal in August 2014 , documenting 100 years of the Panama Canal

Selfie! Susana (with camera) and me transiting the Panama Canal in August 2014

 

 

On June 26, 2016 , over a hundred years after the Panama Canal opened, the new locks at the Panama Canal were inaugurated. We are now living in a Post-Panamax or NeoPanamax maritime era! The expansion brought two new sets of locks, Cocolí on the Pacific coast near Panama City and Agua Clara on the Atlantic coast at Colon.

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Photograph by Moises Castillo from Associated Press

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Photograph by Moises Castillo from Associated Press

Photograph by Oscar Rivera EPA

Photograph by Oscar Rivera EPA

The size of the original canal made it difficult for high-volume Asian shipments to get to the East Coast of the U.S.  Post-Panamax ships can reach 1,200 feet long — more than three football fields — and are up to 160 feet wide. The expansion doubles the Canal’s capacity.

So while this feat is certainly worth celebrating, it has global ramification and human costs especially in the U.S.. Canal expansion has meant that ports like Savannah, New York, New Jersey, and Houston among others have invested billions in order to accommodate the larger ships that will pass through the new Canal.  Larger ships mean updating ports, and consequently increased road traffic, as more trucks will be needed to transport the increased number of goods.  In December of 2014, the Melissa Harris Perry Show discussed some of the environmental concerns of Canal Expansion in New Jersey.

 

In the coming month, years, and centuries we will all be witness to the Panama Canal’s continued influence on global trade for the U.S. and the world.

August 2014 - Boats wait at the opening of the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. These photographs were taken for the Bridging the Americas exhibit at the Anacostia Community Museum. Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

August 2014 – Boats waiting on the Atlantic side of the Panama Canal.  Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by 
Susana Raab

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You can learn more about the Washington D.C.’s connection to Panama, the U.S. presence in Panama, and the Panama Canal in the exhibition Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington DC in the Anacostia Community Museum Program Room. The exhibition is up indefinitely.

Anacostia: Through the Photograph of Frank R. Jackson

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.

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Frank Jackson with Dunbar High School classmates, circa 1926. Frank R. Jackson papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Carole A. Hyman.

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.”

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Mrs. Florence Jackson at her home on 1949 Alabama Avenue, SE. Frank R. Jackson papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Carole A. Hyman.

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).

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Soap box derby, photograph by Frank R. Jackson, Frederick Douglass Dwellings collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Brown vs. Board of Education & its Latino connections

On this date in history 62 years ago today, the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS made school segregation unconstitutional.  This case transformed the lives not only of African-Americans, but was preceded and followed by justice for Black and Brown U.S. citizens around the world.  

Highlighting these connections takes nothing away from Black struggles for Civil Rights in the United States. On the contrary, the intent is to demonstrate that past, present, and future struggles for Civil Rights have never been for or by one group alone.

 

Mexican Segregation: Méndez et al vs. Westminster School District of Orange County California (1947)


Discrimination and segregation in the United States have never been strictly Black-White experiences. The discrimination against Mexican-Americans, especially on the west coast of the U.S. was rampant.

Image from WikiMedia Commons. Credit on website: National Civil Rights Museum Downtown Memphis, TN

Image from WikiMedia Commons. Credit on website: National Civil Rights Museum Downtown Memphis, TN

A case in California eight years before Brown set a necessary precedent for Brown vs the Board of Education: Méndez vs. Westminster .

In short, although no law legally segregated Mexican and Mexican American children (de jure), they were in fact segregated (de facto). In 1944, The Orange County school district told Gonzalo Méndez that his three children had to attend the “Mexican” school despite the fact that their lighter skinned cousins attended the white school.  Mendez and four other Mexican families took four Los Angeles-area school districts to court and won a class action lawsuit at the trial and appellate levels of the federal court system. (Click HERE to listen to Sylvia Méndez recall her experience as a child attending a Mexican School)

Understanding that legal decisions and civil rights transcend state, racial, and ethnic lines, Mendez’s counsel and support included: League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Jewish Congress, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Japanese American Citizens League.

When Thurgood Marshall represented Linda Brown in Brown vs. the Board of Education, he used  arguments from the Méndez case. The relevance — segregation based on color and origin — was clear.

That we are all individuals; that we are all human beings; that we are all connected together; and that we all have the same rights, the same freedom.” – Sylvia Mendez, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011

On September 14, 2007, in Santa Ana, California, issued 41-cent Mendez v. West­minster commemorative stamp designed by Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland

On September 14, 2007, in Santa Ana, California, issued 41-cent Mendez v. West­minster commemorative stamp designed by Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland

 

Brown vs the Board of Education reaches the Panama Canal Zone


We often think of U.S. law within the physical confines of the United States. But what about U.S. territories? Such was the case of the Panama Canal Zone.

The Panama Canal Zone was a U.S. territory from its creation in 1903 until the Panama Canal Treaties of 1977 mandated the Zone’s dissolution in 1979.  The United States was a racially segregated society. U.S. society at the time included the U.S. Panama Canal Zone, as the Zone was governed completely by U.S. laws. Segregation existed in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone.

Manuel Sandoval, DC resident, recalled the separated spaces existed along both race (“Black” and “white”) as well as citizenship (“Panamanian” and “American”) in Panama during his interview.

I never experienced discrimination; however, in the Canal Zone there was clear discrimination — Panamanian Blacks went to one place, Black Americans went to another, and White Americans had their own thing. – Manuel Sandoval

Black Mosaic Exhibition Records, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution

After the landmark decision of Brown vs. the Board of education, citizenship, not race, became the primary source of inequity in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone. Black and white U.S. citizens integrated. This law only applied to U.S. citizens.  Zonians (the term for people living in the Canal Zone) of Panamanian or West Indian citizenship remained segregated from U.S. citizens in school and housing, with some exceptions, such as the Canal Zone College. Latin American schools and thus Spanish language instruction replaced U.S. based school with English language instruction for non-U.S. citizens. This language change was especially problematic for West Indian children from English speaking islands, as many did not speak Spanish at home.  Between 1960 and 1970, Panama had the largest number and percentage of Central American immigrants to the U.S.   The change in language of educational instruction in Canal Zone schools was certainly a factor.

 

Brown vs. Board of Education, Panama, and the Doll Tests


Although raised in New York, Dr. Kenneth Bancroft Clark was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Dr. Clark was the first Black Ph.D. recipient from Columbia University, the first Black president of the American Psychological Association and the first tenured Black professor at the City University of New York.

Kenneth Bancroft Clark by Burton Phillip Silverman. Charcoal on paper (1982) Image courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Burton Silverman

Kenneth Bancroft Clark by Burton Phillip Silverman. Charcoal on paper (1982)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Burton Silverman

Dr. Clark is best known for his psychology experiments colloquially known as “doll tests.” He and his wife, Dr. Mamie Clark used four dolls, identical except for their color, to test kids’ racial perceptions. Children ages 3-7 were asked to identify the dolls and express preference. The majority of the children preferred the white doll, assigning positive characteristics to it and negative characteristics to the darker doll, deemed undesirable.

These tests were prominently cited in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas as evidence of the psychological effects of racial segregation on Black children’s self-esteem. It was one of the first times social science research was used in legal proceedings (Méndez vs. Westminster also drew on social science research). Less cited conclusions from the Drs. Clark’s “doll tests” included that racism is an inherently American institution and that school segregation also hindered the development of white children. Given the news that U.S. schools are re-segregating, these lessons are more important than ever.

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More about the Washington D.C.’s connection to Panama, the Panama Canal Zone, and this story of Kenneth Bancroft Clark can be seen in the exhibition Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama to Washington DC in the Anacostia Community Museum Program Room. It is up indefinitely.

Latino-centered struggles for Civil Rights and Social Justice will be part of the upcoming exhibition Gateways. Opening December 2016,  Gateways 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

Urban Waterways Newsletter Issue 6

Urban Waterways and the Impact of History

 

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An east to west aerial view of the old Louisville waterfront. Photo: Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation

This sixth issue traces the history of the changing  nature of the relationships between urban waterways and their surrounding communities. Urban Waterways Newsletter 6

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