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West Virginia History Makers: Black Women’s Activism in the Archives

Posted by Admin.
February 8th, 2022
Recording of the Black Women’s Activism in the Archives event.

Discover the stories of four Black women and their impact on education and community in this recorded presentation by Dr. Tamara Bailey and Dr. Sheena Harris. In September 2021, Bailey and Harris discussed the lives of Black women activists and educators from West Virginia at an event at the Kanawha City Community Center in Charleston, WV.  Each historian reflected on their experiences using archives in their research, shedding light on how historic records and documents, or the lack thereof, affected the ability to tell the stories of the women’s lives.

Dr. Bailey presented on  Memphis Tennessee Garrison’s work in Cabell and Logan County through the NAACP to make sure local school boards followed through with school integration. Dr. Bailey also reflected on the work of educator and researcher, Ancilla Bickley, Garrison’s biographer.  Bailey is an Assistant Professor of History and Coordinator of Wesleyan Abroad at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Photograph of Memphis Tennessee Garrison, undated, from the WV Encyclopedia. 
Writer, educator, and historian Ancella Bickley (left) with author Alice Walker at an event at the University of Charleston, Charleston, WV, 1999. Image from the Ancella Bickley Collection at the WVRHC.

Dr. Harris spoke about her research on Fanny Smith Washington and Oliva Davidson Washington, the first and second wives of Booker T. Washington. Smith and Davidson were educators and institution builders in their own right and impacted Washington and the Tuskegee Institute. Harris is an Associate Professor of History and Coordinator of the Africana Studies Program at West Virginia University.

Photograph of Fannie Norton Smith Washington, undated. Image from AAREG.
Portrait of Olivia Davidson Washington, undated. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The session also included information about the West Virginia Feminist Activist Collection at the WV & Regional History Center at WVU Libraries, an effort to document women’s lives through archives and oral histories. 

This session was presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Humanities Council, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations do not necessarily represent those of the West Virginia Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities. The City of Charleston also provided additional support for this program.

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