2019 BlackCom Challenge: Community Driven Archives Team edition 

I don’t know how many of you have been a part of a grant funded project but we here on the Community Driven Archives Team can attest to how stressful it can be. We’ve got relationships, timelines, and deliverables to manage and sometimes it can be hard to find time to talk about the value of this work and how it is impacting us as individuals. We were grateful for the friendly challenge from the Black Communities social media team in the lead up to the conference this fall. 

Graphic for Promote Black Communities Challenge


All four of our pilot communities have ties to African American communities so this challenge was right in our wheelhouse. What follows is some information about who we are and why we chose to represent Black Communities in this way. 

Who: Chaitra Powell, Project Director 

Why: I chose to make my piece about Lil Nas X for a few reasons. I love the way that the music video for his single, Old Town Road, visually references Black cowboys. These cowboys are the Buffalo Soldiers and homesteaders that founded Black towns in the Western States which are related to our work in Historic Black Towns and Settlements. Lil Nas X’s identity is the perfect example of how Black communities are not monolithic and even if we must talk about ourselves in aggregates to fight systemic inequalities, we can’t erase the experiences of the individual, especially young people. Lastly, the controversy around his genre-defying hit single is a reminder to deny the myth of a post-race society and see how race is still being used to exclude people from membership and resources. 

Link to Chaitra’s video

Who: Sonoe Nakasone, Community Archivist 

Why: I wanted to highlight the role archives can play in sharing the rich history and stories of Black communities that have often been excluded from textbooks and prominent institutions.  Archives can also empower those communities to share their history in their own voice. 

Link to Sonoe’s video

A large black dove shape with three poems written on its body, on a blue background
Three Haiku poems inspired by work in Black Communities, written by Sonoe Nakasone
3 "word poems" written over 9 bright colored hands
Three “word poems” inspired by work in Black Communities written by Sonoe Nakasone

Who: Bernetiae ReedProject Documentarian and Oral Historian 

Why: Here was an opportunity to tell about the Community-Driven Archives grant by showcasing the four focal groups of the grant: HBTSA (Historic Black Towns and Settlement Alliances), ASHC (Appalachian Student Health Coalition), EKAAMP (Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project), and SAAACAM (San Antonio African American Community Archives and Museum). Video clips from events and places were used to provide content and serve as reminders of the importance of our work. 

Link to Bernetiae’s video

Who: Lindsey TerrellGraduate Student  

Why: One of the first things I was able to do on this grant is to travel and meet with the residents of Princeville, North Carolina for an Archivist in a Backpack training. Flood-prone Princeville was impacted heavily by Hurricanes Floyd & Matthew and although the residents have suffered immense loss, they have remained resilient and eager to tell their stories in hopes that it will effect positive change. One of the residents we had the pleasure of engaging with that day was Milton “The Golden Platter” Bullock, former member of The Platters. In highlighting this lovely performance by Mr. Bullock, I wanted to show how these communities have been finding and sharing joy even throughout ongoing trials. 

Link to Lindsey’s video

Who: Leah Epting, Graduate Student 

Why: It’s always been said that that to “put it on the map” is to make something known, to say that it’s important. I get a little misty every time I work on this project for SAAACAM and see all the names and places important to Black History appearing on the map of San Antonio. So I wanted to try and communicate that feeling.  

Link to Leah’s video

I am extremely grateful to all my team members who took this assignment seriously and stretched their comfort levels to share an authentic part of their interpretations of this work. In the best-case community driven archive scenario, institutions will change communities for the better and communities will change institutions for the better – this exercise demonstrates that we are well on our way. 

So What’s a CDAT Anyway? Meet the Community-Driven Archives Team at the Southern Historical Collection

What are community-driven archives all about?

In October 2017, the Southern Historical Collection celebrated the complete staffing of our “Building A Model For All Users: Transforming Archive Collections Through Community-Driven Archives” Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant team. In recent months, we have launched the initial steps of supporting community-driven archives initiatives and programs through our Community-Driven Archives Team (CDAT).  There are many models for community-driven archives; the upshot of ours is that we want to form meaningful, mutually supportive partnerships to build and preserve community archival collections. We provide communities with the tools and resources to safeguard and represent their own histories. And we want you to be able to CDAT, too!

This community-based approach extends to how we do our work as a team – working together proactively to tease out tricky issues and create accessible and approachable documentation. Our method for creating and publishing content such as presentations, handouts, media, peer-reviewed publications, social media content, and yes, even this blog, is all about collaborative peer-editing.

Our grant prioritizes collaboration, and owes much to the research of Michelle Caswell, Bergis Jules, and many others who have theorized and brought to life the idea of inclusive, representative, empowered archival practice. Community archives models and community-driven archival practice address the “symbolic annihilation” of historically marginalized groups in the historical record, and aim to create sustainable and accessible memory projects that address these archival absences.

Continue reading “So What’s a CDAT Anyway? Meet the Community-Driven Archives Team at the Southern Historical Collection”

Presenting “Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia”

Intro PanelOver the last few years the SHC has been collaborating with Karida Brown (Ph.D. candidate at Brown University) and many Appalachian families on the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP), which documents peoples’ lives in eastern Kentucky and their tale of migration into and out of the communities there. The wonderful stories shared by the endlessly generous people who grew up in these small towns inspired the creation of Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia–an exhibit hosted in Wilson Library’s Melba Saltarelli Exhibit Room.
The exhibit explores an often forgotten part of American History. It shares part of the story of the Great Migration of African Americans out of the Deep South and into coal mines of Appalachia. After the mining industry collapsed, the people who grew up there left again. The exhibit explores what home means to a community that sometimes spent only one generation in Appalachian America.
The exhibit opens on Monday, and we hope that during its life you’ll come to share our enthusiasm for these stories. You can learn more about EKAAMP on its website, and we hope to see you here between April 27th and July 31st 2015.

Staff profile: Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist

[As we look to “reboot” the Southern Sources blog this semester, we plan to focus some attention on the people who make the wheels of the Southern Historical Collection turn: our wonderful staff, students, volunteers, donors, and SHC champions. We hope this series of profiles will give a human face to our work, especially since we have so many new faces on our team. Today we are featuring Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist for the Southern Historical Collection.] 

Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist, Southern Historical Collection

What do you for the Southern Historical Collection?

I would say I’m kind of the “utility infielder” for the Collection. Depending on the day, I might be involved in any number of collection management activities: meeting with donors to discuss new materials for the collection, performing on-site reviews of materials being offered to the Collection to determine whether or not they fit within our scope, processing gifts, and working with other library departments to solve collection issues that come up each day (from mold and critter abatement to handling special shipping and receiving requests). I am also responsible for a few outreach duties: I curate onsite and online exhibitions, I develop programs, workshops, and tours, and I co-manage our social media efforts.

How did you get into this line of work?

My journey to the archival profession has been full of switchbacks and detours, as I’ve held various jobs in my life, from managing a small immigration law office, to teaching Spanish classes, to working as an electrician and delivering pizzas to pay my way through college. But, I first had the idea of becoming a librarian during a 2004 stint as a volunteer at a public library in my hometown of Atlanta. So, I moved to North Carolina in 2005 and was accepted into the School of Information and Library Science program at Carolina. I joined the Southern Historical Collection in the fall of 2006 as a graduate assistant. Later, in 2008, I was hired into my current professional position with the SHC, and I’ve been here ever since.

A briefcase full of documents that had been stored in the cellar of a historic home in Yanceyville, N.C.
A briefcase full of books and documents that had been stored in the cellar of a historic home in Yanceyville, N.C.

What do you like about your job?

As I mentioned, I am involved in the day-to-day work to acquire new material for the Collection. Most of the time, this happens by way of a donation being brought in to the library for our consideration. Other times, our staff travels to do onsite reviews of possible new acquisitions. The most fulfilling part of my job is the sort of archaeology of it, getting to unearth materials that have long been stored in attics, closets, crawlspaces and storage units.

Also, like all archivists, I enjoy learning about the context behind the collections that we acquire. I work directly with the creators of these records, or with their descendants or relatives, and so I’m responsible for listening and recording as much as I can about their lives and experiences. This as an extremely important part of my job because this context will impact what kind of arrangement and description we give to the collection, which can translate to the level of accessibility (or searchability) of each collection for our researchers.

[Right to left]: Biff Hollingsworth working with Rev. Edgar J. Moss (community photographer who recently donated his collection to the SHC), and Karida Brown (founder of the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project).
What are you working on right now?  What are some new and exciting projects on the horizon?

We are very proud of the work we have been doing on a new project called the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project (EKAAMP), a community-driven archival and digital humanities project aimed at documenting the lives of African American coal miners and their families in Harlan County, Kentucky, as well as the story of the intergenerational migration of members of this community into and out of the Appalachian region during the 20th century. This is an exciting project because it allows us to work with a community that has been historically underrepresented in the archival record, and because it has truly been a cooperative effort among the SHC, our fantastic partner Karida Brown (sociologist at Brown University, Harlan County native, and EKAAMP founder), and with many wonderful individuals who have been donating their stories and archival collections to EKAAMP and the SHC. I have really been inspired by the generosity of everyone involved in this project and I’m proud of what we are building together. So far, Karida Brown has recorded several hundred oral history interviews with members of the community and we have archived these recordings alongside collections of photographs, organizational records, and family papers. We hope you’ll follow our progress on the EKAAMP project website (ekaamp.web.unc.edu).

I am glad I could take a few moments to introduce myself and share some of the work that I have been doing with the Southern Historical Collection. I’m looking forward to writing more about the new collections that we acquire, the projects and programs that we develop, and the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead as we seek to broaden the understanding of the history and culture of the American South.