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.

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.

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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).

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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.

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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!

My Smithsonian Experience by Lucy Platten

 

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Lucy Platten assisting with the arrangement of photographs from the Dale/Patterson Family collection.

 

My Smithsonian experience has been unbelievable; I have gained skills I thought I would never know, met people who have changed the way I see things and had the most remarkable time becoming more and more independent. I feel that this experience has been life altering to me, as of 2 years ago I would have never have had the courage to fly to America and volunteer at the Smithsonian, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t see myself working anywhere else.

In my week of volunteering at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, I assisted Jennifer Morris, the museum’s archivist.  She introduced me to several aspects of the archival profession. I helped with the arrangement and description of the Dale/Patterson Family collection which documents the lives of  two families who settled in the Hillsdale, Anacostia area of Washington, DC in 1892.  Ms. Morris also trained me on Archivists’ Toolkit an archival data management system.  I  attended meetings and received a behind-the-scenes tour of the Archive Center at the National Museum of American Indian.   Jennifer was hard-working and kind-hearted and I enjoyed so much helping her, she aided me to learn as much as my 16 year old brain could hold.

At the museum I finally met the lady who answered my very first email offering me a placement at the Anacostia, Shelia Parker. It was wonderful to finally put a face to the name and she turned out to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. All the people at the museum welcomed me with open arms and wide smiles, I never at any point felt unwelcome or un-wanted; I even had an ongoing comical conversation with one of the guards about my stupid need to get a cab everywhere, when he insists to use Uber.

In the museum, I saw two enormously interesting exhibits first, How the Civil War Changed Washington for which I now know about Washington’s tragic Arsenal event of 1864, where 29 women were working when a colossal fire broke out killing 3 instantly and leaving 18 to die from vicious burns. Second, I learned about Panamanian immigration to Washington, DC from the Bridging the Americas exhibition.

In England I will be starting college this September, studying History Early Modern, English Literature, Psychology and Archeology. I hope that after college, when I turn 18, I can obtain an internship at the Smithsonian giving me the opportunity to be able to come back to DC and gain even more skills and meet even more generous and wholehearted people. There are a lot of people I need to thank, such as, Shelia Parker for answering an annoying English girl’s email, Jennifer Morris who taught me so much and created the best experience I could ever imagine and my family who’s financial and loving support got me to Washington, DC to make memories and start the journey to my, hopeful, aspiring future.

All that I can do now is to work hard and never lose sight of my dream to return to Washington, DC and work at a Smithsonian Museum!

Lucy Platten

Volunteer, summer 2015

Ethel L. Payne: Trailblazing Journalist

This month the Anacostia Community Museum is paying tribute to the Women’s History Movement by highlighting its collections that tell stories of women’s lives and contributions to our society.

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Ethel Payne greeting President Lyndon B. Johnson, undated. Ethel Payne Papers,
Anacostia Community Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Avis R. Johnson.

 

 

In 2002, the U. S. Postal Service honored four women reporters for their contribution to American journalism by issuing commemorative postage stamps. Among the honorees was Ethel L. Payne (1911 – 1991) , who earned the title “first Lady of the black press” due to her coverage of the White House through seven presidents and the civil rights movement. The award-winning journalist was known to ask difficult questions, especially pertaining to segregation, and combining advocacy with journalism. A trailblazer, Payne became the first African American woman commentator employed by a national network when CBS hired her for their television series “Spectrum.” The journalist was also the first black female to focus on international news and one of the first female White House correspondents of African descent. President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973) invited her to witness his signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and she traveled with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during his tour of Africa in 1970s.

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Ethel Payne received this Leadership for Freedom Award in 1974 from the Women’s Scholarship Association of Roosevelt University for her human rights work. Ethel Payne Papers, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Gift of Avis R. Johnson.

A collection of Ethel Payne materials containing photographs, awards, passports, and artifacts were donated to the Anacostia Community Museum in 1991. You can view the collection here. The bulk of Payne’s personal papers were donated to Howard University before the reporter’s death. To learn more about Ethel Payne and view a display of her papers, join us on Sunday, March 29th from 2:00 to 4:00 for an author talk and book signing with James McGrath Morris.  Mr. Morris will discuss his publication Eye on the Struggle, which focuses on the achievements and challenges of this pioneering woman!

#WomensHistoryMonth   #EthelPayne #Archives #Womenjournalist

Throwback Thursday: Whose Art Is It, Anyway?

Art is communal and the creative contributions of artists to a community are significant.  This concept was showcased and addressed by Anacostia Community Museum 1990 exhibition “Whose Art Is It, Anyway? | The Arts in Public Places” (July 15, 1990 – September 1, 1990). With record-breaking attendance and family-friendly activities; this stimulating exhibition attracted both freelance and professional artists from all walks of life.  Various forms of public art representing all four quadrants of Washington, D.C. were documented, which included murals and sculptures as well as personal artistic expressions by way of hairstyles, clothing and jewelry.

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An array of workshops and programs associated with the exhibition included poetry, theatre and dance as well as classes by master musician Brother Ah (bamboo trumpet workshop), artist and educator Frank Smith (maskmaking), actor, poet and educator Douglas Johnson (children’s theatre workshop) and ceramic sculptor Attiya Melton (ceramic tile mural workshop).  Notable performances included the Kankouran West African Dance Company, local magician Myklar and storyteller Marvel Abayomi-Cole.

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The exhibit concluded as it began – with a collective effort.  A finale mural project, created by the participants, reminded us that art walks, talks and lives with and around us!

De  Vida Gray
Volunteer

Happy Founders’ Day Zeta Phi Beta!

Happy Founders’ Day to Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated!  The community-conscious, action-oriented organization was founded this day in 1920 by five collegiate women on the campus of Howard University in Washington, DC.  It is one of nine historically African American Greek Lettered Organizations.  Opera singer Madame Lillian Evanti was a member of the sorority and in this undated image by Paul Henderson in the  Evans-Tibbs collection, she proudly performs for her Sisters.

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Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution,gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

 

 

Roy W. Tibbs: Founder of Howard University Glee Club

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Portrait of Roy W. Tibbs, circa 1925. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

 

Howard University Glee Club founder, Roy W. Tibbs was born in Hamilton, Ohio in 1888.  Professor Tibbs was appointed head of the department of piano and organ at Howard University in 1912.  He graduated from Fisk University and received both the bachelor and master degrees from Oberlin Conservatory.  Professor Tibbs also traveled to Paris, France in 1914 to further his studies under the supervision of Isadore [Isidor] Philipp.  Mr. Tibbs trained a multitude of African American music teachers during his tenure at Howard University and toured as a pianist, while serving as director of the men’s glee club.

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Howard University Glee Club (Mr. Tibbs located in the front row, second from left), circa 1925. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

A review by The Harrisburg Telegram proclaimed, “The Glee Club of Howard University pronounced by the music world as second only to that of Harvard among the college glee clubs of the country, appeared last evening before a delighted audience that filled the Technical High School Auditorium to overflowing.”  The reviewer further states, “Roy W. Tibbs, the conductor is unquestionably one of the ablest college glee club leaders that ever appeared in Harrisburg.”

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Howard University Glee Club program, 1927. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

Professor Tibbs married Lillian Evans, professionally known as Madame Evanti in 1918 and they had one son, Thurlow Tibbs.  Mr. Roy W. Tibbs died on April 1, 1944 in Washington, DC.  Records of the activities of the Howard University Glee Club forms part of the family papers  and objects in the Evans-Tibbs collection at the Anacostia Community Museum Archives.

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Roy W. Tibbs and Lillian Evans, circa 1918. This is the only photograph of the couple together in the collection. Evans-Tibbs Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of the Estate of Thurlow E. Tibbs, Jr.

A shorter version of this post originally appeared on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center blog in 2012.

http://si-siris.blogspot.com/

 

Curator’s Choice: Photos that make you feel

“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams

A woman in a pollera and tembleques at a Latin American Festival in Washington, D.C. Anacostia Community Museum Black Mosaic archives. Photographer: Harold Dorwin

A woman in a pollera and tembleques at a Latin American Festival in Washington, D.C. Black Mosaic Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution. Photographer: Harold Dorwin

This woman de la tercera edad, as we would say in Spanish, is a quiet representation of pride.  In her pollera, the national costume of Panama, with her gold hair pieces and tembleques, the white hair ornaments, she is intently working on another hair adornment, seemingly unperturbed by the men around her in t-shirts. She isn’t in Panama. She is in Washington, D.C.

The first time I saw this picture in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives, I felt.

As the opening quotation alludes, every viewer brings something unique to the photographs they view. Viewing pictures is not passive; it is an active interpretation. Sometimes we can articulate why we like an image or why we do not. But other times, images just touch you.  They simply make you feel.

This picture touched me for various personal reasons, related to the quotation by Ansel Adams.  Of the thousands of pictures in the Black Mosaic archives, this image would of course catch my attention.

I look at this, as you do, through multiple lenses. For example:  as a woman, the daughter of a Panamanian father, someone that was very close to my grandmothers, someone who works directly in visual representation, as an anthropologist concerned with the politics of the quotidian, as a scholar that studies international representation in U.S. spaces, as someone that loves polleras… the reasons I am drawn to this image are countless.

Often times, nation and pride are visually represented by flags and/or children.  This picture has neither. And yet, to me, perhaps because of what I’ve seen, read, the music I’ve heard and the people I’ve loved, this is a strong and sweet representation of love, nation, and pride.

*This image will be included in the upcoming exhibition: Bridging the Americas: Community and Belonging from Panama < — > Washington, D.C. , opening at the Anacostia Community Museum in April 2015.

“A Mind is a Terrible thing to Waste”

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Frederick D. Patterson (1901 – 1988), 1940s portrait.

“A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste” is the well-known campaign slogan for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The fund was established in 1944 by Frederick Douglass Patterson, the third president of Tuskegee Institute, who was initially seeking financial support for the school (now Tuskegee University). Realizing other private black colleges encountered hardship in garnering funds, Patterson decided that a combined fundraising effort would benefit all universities and colleges involved, thus forming the UNCF. The founding of UNCF and his other contributions to the field of higher education earned Patterson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.

Patterson was born on October 10, 1901, in the Buena Vista Heights area of southeast Washington, D.C., near Historic Anacostia and the home of his namesake, abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Patterson’s parents died of tuberculosis, leaving him an orphan before the age of two. Patterson lived in Anacostia with a family friend until the age of seven when his older sister moved to Texas and took him with her.

Frederick Douglass Patterson papers at the Anacostia Community Museum include correspondence, manuscripts, research material, published writing, photographs, and other materials documenting his personal life and professional career. Researchers will find of interest a scrapbook commemorating Patterson’s founding of and involvement with UNCF. The correspondence in the papers includes a note from George Washington Carver to Mrs. Patterson which accompanied a bottle of peanut oil with instructions to “use the same as “mothers [sic] friend, (as a massage).” Most of the photographs in the collection were taken during Patterson’s tenure as president of Tuskegee and include dignitary visits to the institute. There are also images by official Tuskegee photographer and renowned portrait photographer P. H. [Prentice Herman] Polk, as well as images by Arthur P. Bedou, who is celebrated for his photographs of Booker T. Washington and jazz musicians. You can learn more about this native Washingtonian in Chronicles of Faith: The Autobiography of Frederick D. Patterson.

This entry originally featured on the Smithsonian Collections Search Center blog, January 21, 2011.

On being Black in the U.S.: Community Stories from the ACM Archives

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A Washington, D.C. police officer and members of the Latino community in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C.,  Black Mosaic Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution 

In 1991 Washington, D.C. experienced its own civil unrest – the Mt. Pleasant riots.  In the wake of those riots, the Anacostia Community Museum, at that time the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum,  was undertaking a research project about Black Immigrants in the DC metro area.   The exhibition that came from that researchBlack Mosaic: community, race, and ethnicity among Black immigrants in Washington, D. C.  opened at the Museum in August of 1994.

One of the largest treasures of the Black Mosaic collection is the trove of oral histories, collected by community members. The range of stories talks about perception of the U.S. before coming, arrival to the U.S., arrival to Washington, D.C, building community, barriers to community acceptance, struggle, triumph, pain and joy.

During the research phase, the DC metro area was still very much healing from racial tensions, from distrust between the community and the police.  The oral histories reference this tense time in D.C. history, but also offer reflections of community members on the issues of race, Americanness, Blackness, community and identity.

In light of recent national events, I share these three small oral history excerpts from the Black Mosaic archives for your reflection and comment.

 I remember when Mr. Martin Luther King was assassinated. I basically lost almost all of my black friends—they suddenly decided that I was the enemy because I had white skin. I felt terrible about that, especially being a member of another minority group [Latino] that was always discriminated against. However, I understand that people are embittered by their experiences.

I remember being in the playground of St. Joseph Catholic School and a child came up to me and said, ‘I feel sorry for you.’ I never forgot that because for a long time I couldn’t understand why it was she felt sorry for me. And then I recognized that it was because of the fact that I was black and it really hit me. I gained an understanding of what that means, in the context of this country, that I just never had, even though I was very well aware in the Dominican Republic and In St. Thomas that I was black … I was never made to feel when I was growing up in the Dominican Republic that I was less than a human being because of my color.

To be true to yourself means you have to follow your pain. And so that when you come on pain, you have to re-explore it and get to root of where that pain is coming from. And so that it meant for me following my pain, or society pains around my blackness, because there IS pain around being black! Here! And I followed that pain, in other words, I kept dealing and dealing with that. And there is pain about being Latina, and there is certainly pain about being a woman! And so I followed that pain and that has made it possible for me to be true to myself. I’m not going to be anything than what I am. I am going to enrich what I am! I’m going to enhance what I am! But I’m never going to be anything but a woman, I’m never going to be anything but black, and I am Latina. And so being true to that identity, and going through the process that it takes to polish that identity, is the greatest thing that I’ve learned.

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