March 19 2010
The past two weeks have been busy ones. I spoke with Jim Calloway about the possibility of digitally recording some of the photographs in the collection-- in order that they may be preserved. Jim seemed to favor the idea.
On March 8th I found still more fascinating items in the GPBHM Archives. I jotted down some of the items here.
There was a box entitled "Photo's of People." Inside was a copy of a photo of Ava Speese and family (African American homesteaders). This box differs from other's as it seems to contain photos which relate back to other series in the collection. I decided to place it in the Local History section (rather than in the photograph collection). When we begin arranging the collection, a decision will have to be made about whether or not to move these items back into the series to which they relate. Today, I also got to explore the Dan Des Dunes Band Box, which includes photo's of the band, singers, sheet music and more. This box includes a handwritten container list. I have discovered lists in some of the other boxes as well. They are often tucked away inside of one of the folders. . . Today I also found a box of Administrative materials including conference presentation drafts written by the collection's original curator Mrs. Bertha Calloway. Here too, are documents relating to one of Mrs. Calloway's programs--Ms. Black Nebraska. There are directions to judges, communication with contestants, programs, and pictures of young black women (some in bathing suits). I recall the pageants, and remember Ms. Calloway's emphasis on the beauty of all women. She hoped that the event would help to heal those who were "color-struck" by light or white skin --which is nothing--I clearly recall her saying-- but a remnant from slavery.
More administrative items included correspondence, and a negative of Mrs. Calloway in front of the Museum back in its heyday. . . Other finds: Boxes on "African Americans in Early Nebraska History;" two boxes of materials from the Black Studies Department; the records of Alonzo Smith--former Chair of the UNO Black Studies Department. Ms. Calloway and Dr. Smith once wrote a book together. Here we find Oral History Project II transcripts.
The richness of the holdings deepen with each box that I open. Here are items on local musicians from the 1950s. Basie Givens' "Basie Bombadiers" are photographed, as is Earl Graves Orchestra [c. 1957]. Next is a box on Pioneers and Homesteaders (some of these from Alliance and Hall Counties). Names of homesteaders include: John Bridewell, Harriet Green, Ollie Walker, Hester and Charles Meehan (interracial couple), Myra Kincaid and others.
The next box contains a Negro Business Directory for Omaha from 1941. Here is a box on the Black Church with a handwritten history [c. 1939]of St. John's AME in Omaha. There are more boxes to add to the ever growing Dixon Family collection. A wonderful item inside is a file on the Women (s) Christian Temperance Union. . . I will not be able to describe every box, but my appreciation for this collection of materials is great.
Another great day! I will try to simply list the box titles without going into so much detail--since the container list is forthcoming. I have taken notes today on boxes containing items about:
Schools; African Americans in Radio and Television; African Americans in Nebraska; the Urban Action Association, the Missouri Vally Historical Society, Camp Brewster, African American Masonry, Black Newspapers, Ms. Flora Pinkston (music/piano teacher).
I continued shifting boxes into shelves. The Local History collection is the largest, but the Family Histories are close behind. Today studied photographs from a series on the KKK, there was also material on Midwestern artists, the NAACP, and the North Branch YWCA--whose former home, I learned today, was at 23rd and Lake Streets, in the very building that later became the home of the Great Plains Black History Museum.