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Janet L. Sims-Wood

Historian, publisher, and reference librarian Janet Louise Sims-Wood was born on May 22, 1945 in Rutherfordton, North Carolina to Marvin and Hazel Sims. Sims-Wood attended Carver High School where she worked in the school library. At the encouragement of her school librarian, she attended college at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, receiving her B.S. degree in sociology with a minor in library science in 1967. Sims-Wood worked in several Washington, D.C. libraries until a supervisor cautioned her that she would not advance without a master's degree. She enrolled at the University of Maryland where, in 1972, she received her M.L.S. degree. Sims-Wood later completed twenty-one hours in African American history at Howard University before earning her Ph.D. in 1994 in women’s studies, history and oral history from Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. She also holds a ministerial diploma from the Spirit of Faith (SOF) Bible Institute in Temple Hills, Maryland.

Sims-Wood began her career in library science in 1972 as a Reader’s Advisor in the Black Studies Division of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. This experience led to her interest and specialization in African American history. In 1974, Sims-Wood became an assistant reference librarian at Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. She was appointed to Assistant Chief Librarian for Reference, Reader Services of the Moorland Spingarn Research Center in 1987, a position she held until her retirement in 2005. Sims-Wood has taught black women’s history courses at the University of Maryland, and has served as a children’s librarian with the Washington, D.C. Public Library System. She worked part-time for Prince George’s Community College Library. Sims-Wood was part of a team of librarians who provide online services through a nation-wide 24/7 virtual reference program called AskUsNow.

Sims-Wood is a founding associate editor of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women which published the anthology Double Stitch: Black Women Write About Mothers and Daughters. She was the founder of a small publishing company, Afro Resources, Inc., which published a 1993 calendar depicting black women who served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. Sims-Wood has served as a consultant to several publishers and agencies, including Carlson Publishing Company’s Black Women in America series and the American Girl's Addy doll and book series. Sims-Wood has also served as a bibliographer for the annual Black History Month kits of the Association for the Study of American Life and History. She is a life member and has held several executive positions in the Association for the Study of American Life and History and the Association of Black Women Historians.

Janet Sims-Wood was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 24, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.159

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/24/2007

Last Name

Sims-Wood

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Louise

Schools

Paul L Dunbar School

Carver High School

North Carolina Central University

University of Maryland

Union Institute & University

Spirit of Faith Bible Institute

Howard University

First Name

Janet

Birth City, State, Country

Rutherfordton

HM ID

SIM07

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

ProQuest

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

They That Wait Upon The Lord Shall Renew Their Strength; They Shall Mount Up With Wings As The Eagles; They Shall Run And Not Be Weary; They Shall Walk And Not Faint.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

5/22/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Historian and reference librarian Janet L. Sims-Wood (1945 - ) served as Assistant Chief Librarian for Reference, Reader Services for the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University.

Employment

Howard University. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Prince George's Community College

University of Maryland, College Park

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue, Green, Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Janet L. Sims-Wood's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jane L. Sims-Wood describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the community of Avondale, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Janet Sims-Wood describes her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers Dunbar Elementary School in Forest City, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her elementary school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers her favorite subjects

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her experiences at Carver High School in Spindale, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her aspiration to attend college

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her early interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her aspiration to become a librarian

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers sewing her own clothing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers the music and television programs of her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her decision to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her first year of college

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her extracurricular activities in college

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her start as a librarian

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her experiences at the University of Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers her professors at the University of Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her projects at the University of Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls publishing her first academic article

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the patrons of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes an apocryphal story about Charles R. Drew

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about the importance of African American history

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her role as a librarian

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her research on the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her dissertation on the Women's Army Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls interviewing members of the Women's Army Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Women's Army Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers Dovey Johnson Roundtree

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about black women's experiences of racism in the U.S. military

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers founding the SAGE journal

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls developing an American Girl doll

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her publishing company

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood lists the African American academic journals

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Maryland Humanities Council

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her trip to South Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her historical research projects

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about conducting oral history interviews, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about conducting oral history interviews, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls completing her dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers her research on the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her husband and stepchildren

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Spirit of Faith Christian Center in Temple Hill, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the library at the Spirit of Faith Bible Institute in Temple Hills, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her librarian duties at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the challenges of teaching research skills

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about researching her family history

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Kids' Black History on the Net project

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her organizational involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her work with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood reflects upon her career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood shares a message to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her breast cancer diagnosis

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood narrates her photographs

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about black women's experiences of racism in the U.S. military
Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers Dovey Johnson Roundtree
Transcript
Martha Putney [Martha Settle Putney] talks about being on a troop train and one time she was on a troop train where she was the only black on the train. And nightfall came and they tried to figure out where is this woman going to sleep. So, you know, you can, you can tell when people are talking about you. She said they were all standing in a group and they were talking and then they'd turn their heads and look back at her, you know, and they--so she knew they were talking about her. And so, what happened they ended up putting her in a private room and having her meals sent to her so she wouldn't eat with the rest of the, rest of the troop women on the train. So, basically, when they first went in it was very much segregated. They had their own unit, they ate together, they--everything they did, they did together. By the time, by the time Martha got there though, they were beginning to have--be in the same barracks 'cause she did have an incident where a white lady did not want to be in the same barracks with her. And, of course, they--the, the personnel straightened her out so--but they tell so many fascinating stories. It's, you know, just, just things that happened to them because they were, you know, you were supposed to be protected by the military but in certain instances you were not.$$Right.$$So they still had to deal with the discrimination. And one of the reasons that--of course most of them went in, the men and the women, was because they were looking for, you know, they wanted to be citizens, good citizens. But unfortunately they sometimes got treated better overseas than they did here. And when they came back they still could not get jobs and things. So, they still had a, had a problem but they really wanted to show that they were citizens. And one of the things that--when I would have them with me or when I would do presentations, especially if I--and to students. One thing that students ask me but they wouldn't ask them, was: "Why would you want to go into something that people--where you were not wanted?" So I would have to explain the, the circumstances of that particular time period, the economic time period. So that gave me a little time to teach them a little bit of a lesson. And but, when they were there, if one of them was there, that was never a question that they asked them. "Why would you go [into the Women's Army Corps]?" And I think it was out of respect because they just, you know, that gives a question--'cause they were so proud of the fact that they had been in. So they, they were really, they were fascinating ladies.$Dovey Roundtree [Dovey Johnson Roundtree], for instance, was a recruiter. One of the questions I asked Dovey was about--I asked all of 'em, I had general questions that I asked everybody. But one of the questions that I asked was, because this was the [U.S.] military and I know they--and they test you and put you in a certain place that's where you'd be. Well, I say, "Were you ever able to do--ask them for another assignment or something like that, or once they tested you, did you have to stay in the--wherever they put you?" And she said, "Well, I was put the transportation department," and she said, "I went to them and told them that I thought I was more intellectual than that and that I thought I, you know, and on top of that I can't drive." But you see, you know, that didn't matter because they were gonna teach you how to drive. Most of those ladies couldn't drive when they went in, but they told her that, "Since you like to talk so much, we're going to make you a recruiter." So that's what she became, she was a recruiter and went around the country recruiting students. Especially--and she got a chance to go back to Spelman College [Atlanta, Georgia], where she graduated, and she did some recruiting there. So, she recruited all over the country. And one of the things that Dovey also told me, when she was in undergraduate school, 'cause all the WACs [Women's Army Corps] that went in, the very first group were officer candidates. They had to go in as officer--and they had to be college graduates because they were gonna train the rest of the folk that came in. So she was a college graduate, but she said when she was at Spelman she--her grandmother knew Bethune [Mary McLeod Bethune] and so--but she was gonna have to come out because she didn't have any money. And she was out there on the campus one day crying, and this white teacher came by and asked her what was wrong. And she told her, she said, "I have to leave, I have no money." And the lady told her to--, "Meet me at the, the bursar's office the next morning." And that lady came and paid the rest of her college education. And she said while she was in the military she put funds away to come back and repay that lady. And she was one of the few people that repaid her. So they had, they had all kinds of stories that they told.