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Tracing African-American heritage
Here is a look at some of the special collections that will be housed in the new African-American Research Library and Cultural Center.
Kitty Oliver Oral Histories collection
The Kitty Oliver Oral Histories Collection on Race Change includes manuscripts and recordings on race relations in Hollywood, Southern Broward County and the Lake Okeechobee region.
Kitty Oliver always intended to donate her collection. She just didn't know where to place it. Samuel F. Morrison, director of the Broward County Library system, encouraged her to give them to the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Oliver's interviews, videos, teacher guide, books, transcripts and original tapes, personal photos from narrators as well as computer disks are all a part of her donation. Her future projects also are designated for the library.
"Interviewing itself is a sacred encounter. Those people allow you into their lives, history and hearts, for a period of time," said the former reporter, columnist and book author. "You're forever changed. You can tell when it's heart-felt. They can tell you a story, a really poignant story that had a real effect on them.
"We love a good story," Oliver said.
Oliver said her collection is unusual because it collects the stories of whites, blacks and immigrants. "It's a cross-section of voices that reflects us all."
THE DOROTHY PORTER WESLEY COLLECTION
The collection includes art, women's studies and reference related to Africans in the United States, Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean.
"Mama's stuff," is how Constance Porter Uzelac refers to her famous bibliophile mother Dorothy Porter Wesley's collection.
"It's not just books and manuscripts," Uzelac said. "What's interesting is the associations she had with the authors and the people."
Dorothy Porter Wesley, in some observers' eyes, was the greatest of the black bibliophiles, people who collect books and history. Wesley created two collections, one for her personal library. The other is the Moorland Springarn Research Center at Howard University, where she was librarian and bibliophile for 45 years until she retired in 1973.
The collection that the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center purchased includes about 500 inscribed and autographed books that include biographies, histories, personal narratives, fiction and bibliographies. Some of the books date to 1836.
"She would go to auctions," recalled Uzelac. "She'd get to the house before the body was cold and was up in the attic and down in the basement."
THE DANIEL M. JOHNSON COLLECTION
This includes more than 5,000 volumes of recording efforts of artists, educators, business leaders, musicians, doctors and authors who have charted African, African American and Caribbean history and race relations.
"Any special collection needs a good book collection that scholars can use," said Pearl Woolridge, head of special collections for the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center.
The Daniel M. Johnson Collection qualifies as that. Johnson, a Teaneck, N.J., resident, sold his extensive collection of mostly signed first edition books to the new library.
His collection, which includes about 6,000 books, added to the library a wealth of modern literature from authors such as Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, as well as ancient books of Africa.
"If you want science fiction from Octavia Butler, history, literature, and even older books from Countee Cullen, Mr. Johnson gave us a wide book collection that rounds out our collection," Woolridge said.
As a bonus, the research library obtained the unpublished manuscripts and scribbled notes and thoughts of Alex Haley as part of Johnson's collection.
SIXTO CAMPANO SHEET MUSIC COLLECTION
Among the more interesting and unique collections are the 1,000 pieces of sheet music the library purchased for $33,000 from Sixto Campano, a Cuban-American who has a strong interest in collecting black history artifacts.
The sheet music was produced around the turn-of-the-20th-century.
"I loved the cover drawings from around the turn of the century when the drawings were not insulting," said Campano, who lives in Key Biscayne. "Some of them were derogatory. Some were comic. Many of them were black history."
Campano said his two children and eight grandchildren wanted a place where they would be preserved.
When he heard the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center was being built, he contacted the library.
THE ALEX HALEY COLLECTION
The collection includes eight unfinished manuscripts by the author, and scenes from Juffure in Gambia, West Africa, where Kunte Kinte was born, plus cast photos from the Roots television mini-series.
THE REV. MAURICE DAWKINS COLLECTION
Rev. Maurice Dawkins was the West Coast organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and was a man whose connections crossed political lines.
"He and I decided before he died we each would give our papers and memorabilia to the library because we feel close to the library," said his widow Joan Wallace Dawkins, who served as the agriculture secretary in the Jimmy Carter Administration.
The collection includes letters from former Republican presidents, including George Bush, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, and letters from Colin Powell and Elizabeth Dole.
There's a picture of the late Rev. Dawkins, who called Fort Lauderdale his home during the last decade of his life, and a smiling Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. getting off a plane. It is a striking pose of the two preachers talking to each another. Dawkins said most of her husband's papers prior to the Lyndon Johnson era have been lost.
"(Dawkins) knew King. He knew Malcolm X before he was Malcolm X. He came to see [Dawkins] in California."
"He wanted to write a book of his life but he never got around to it," Dawkins said of her husband. "He wanted to give to the library so others would have an opportunity to do research and maybe do the book he planned."
THE MARVIN DUNN COLLECTION
The collection includes Bethune-Cookman College Collection: 1922-1955; Black Abolitionist Papers, Blacks in the U.S. Armed Forces: Basic Documents 1639-1973; Black Journals; FBI Files on Selma, Montgomery, Albany and St. Augustine; FBI files on W.E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes Collection; Papers of Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History 1915-1950; Papers of W.E. B. DuBois; Paul Roberson Collection; Universal Negro Improvement Association records 1921-1926.
THE COUNCIL OF ELDERS COLLECTION
The collection includes more than 100 videotaped oral history interviews of Broward County pioneers, longtime families and historic gatherings and photographs, documents and first-hand journals from the scrapbooks and pens of residents of African-American and Caribbean neighborhoods.
THE CHARLES MILLS MUSIC COLLECTION
This is a collection of blues, popular jazz and other albums dating from the mid-1950s to the early 1990s.
The Fisk University Collection includes research of slave narratives, including personal interviews and first-hand accounts of slave life.
The Frederic Gomez Cassidy Collection is an extensive, private assortment of books on the life and culture of Jamaica and the Caribbean.
The John H. and Vivian D. Hewitt Haitian Art Collection is a collection of Haitian paintings, sculptures and various artifacts.
The Jack Abramowitz Collection is a 96-volume collection that focuses on African-American southern history, slavery, reconstruction and other topics.
The Library of the Spoken Word is an exclusive, non-print repository of more than 5,000 recordings of lectures, interviews, conferences, seminars and dramas covering a wide range of subjects related to Caribbean culture.
The Niara Sudarkasa Collection includes papers, artwork and other materials of this prominent Fort Lauderdale professional, former president of Lincoln University.
The Osemwegle Ebohon Collection includes works and bronze and wood sculptures representing the royal history of Obas (kings and queens) and events from the Benin kingdom, Nigeria.
Sara and Cyrus Pettis Family Collection contains newspaper articles about the family, named a "Great American Family" by former first lady Nancy Reagan and their personal pictures and scrapbooks.
The Margaret and Cato Roach Collection includes books, personal papers and awards from two local pioneer educators.
Slides of the Sistrunk Community includes slides of this historically important African-American community in northwest Fort Lauderdale.
Stereoscopic Cards & Views features turn-of-the-century stereoscopic viewer with 85 cards documenting African-American life in South Florida.