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!

In the Spirit of Community: Georgette Seabrooke Powell

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Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

In May 1995, Art Changes Things: The art and activism of Georgette Seabrooke Powell closed at the Anacostia Community Museum. The retrospective exhibit curated by Michelle Black Smith celebrated Powell’s artwork and her commit to community. The show featured ten selected artworks, family photographs, and awards documenting her long career as an artist and activist.

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Georgette Seabrooke Powell (1916-2011) moved with her family to New York at a young age. She graduated from The Cooper Union Art School and became involved with the Harlem Arts Workshop. In 1936, Powell became a master artist for the Works Progress Administration Program’s (WPA’s) Federal Art Project. She created a mural at Harlem Hospital and at Queens General Hospital. She later studied at Fordham University, Turtle Bay Music School, and Howard University. Georgette moved to Washington, D.C., in 1959 becoming a lifelong artist and educator, organizing art workshops and giving back to community by founding Operation Heritage Art Center, renamed Tomorrow’s World Art Center, a non-profit organization for education and the arts.

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Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

A recipient of numerous art and service awards, Georgette Seabrooke Powell traced “many of her life’s most important moments to community.” For Powell, community was “a flexible and encompassing term that defines relationships with family, friends, fellow artist, neighbors . . .” In the spirit of community, she organized various exhibitions, demonstrations, and workshops for the Anacostia Community Museum and served as president of the District of Columbia Art Association (DCAA) in 1989. Researchers can learn more about Georgette Seabrooke Powell by consulting the National Visionary Leadership Project.

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Georgette Seabrooke Powell conducting a painting workshop at the Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, 1983. Photo by Chris Capilongo.

This post originally published on the Smithsonian Collections Blog in 2012.

Transcribe Tuesdays: What we Discovered!

We discovered interesting information when reviewing transcripts of our projects on the Smithsonian Transcription Center.  While reviewing transcriptions of the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School autograph book, we discovered the signature of Angelina Weld Grimké.

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Page 3, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Autograph Book, Signature of Angelina W. Grinke. June 14, 1923. Ella B. Pearis papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Angelina was a poet, teacher, journalist, and playwright who was the only daughter of Archibald Grimké and Sarah Stanley. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1880 and moved to Washington, DC with her father after graduating from Boston Normal School of Gymnastics. Ms. Grimké began teaching at Dunbar High School in early 1900s.  In 1923 she signed the autograph book of student Ella B. Pearis.

Angelina is mostly celebrated for her poetry and 1916 play: Rachel.  She is also acknowledged as an inspiration to various artists of the Harlem Renaissance.   Angelina left Washington, DC after the death of her father in 1930 and moved to New York where she died in 1958.

Thanks to the Smithsonian Digital Volunteers who help us make treasures like Grimké’s signature buried deep within our collections discoverable!

Learn more about Angelina Weld Grimké, here.

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: Turner’s Field Notebook

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!

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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.

Transcribe Tuesdays: Travel Scrapbook

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Madame Evanti during her travels in the 1940s. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift Thurlow E. Tubbs, Jrs. Estate.

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.

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!

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.

It’s Opening Season!

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Eddie Berry, Eddie Brooks, and [Art} Bevelry, 1936. Norman Davis Photograph Collection, gift of Norman B. Davis.

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.

This entry originally posted on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center blog on April 02, 2012.

Women’s History Month spotlight: Wilhelmina Bessie Patterson, 1888-1962

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.

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Wilhelmina Patterson at the piano, undated. Dale/Patterson Family collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Dianne Dale.

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.

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Wilhelmina presenting Mme. Lillian Evanti at Shiloh Baptist Church, undated. Dale/Patterson Family collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Dianne Dale.

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.

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Burrville Recreation program booklet, 1945. Dale/Patterson Family collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Dianne Dale.

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.”

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Portrait of Wilhelmina Patterson, circa 1950s. Dale/Patterson Family collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Dianne Dale.

Resources
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.

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