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Harry Robinson, Jr.

Museum director, Harry Robinson, Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on September 16, 1941. His mother, Ruth, and father, Harry Sr., raised their family in Raceland Louisiana, where Robinson attended Pitman and Kent Hadley elementary schools. The family moved to Thibodaux, Louisiana the year Robinson entered high school. He attended C.M. Washington High School where he came under the tutelage of his industrial arts teacher. However, health reasons prompted Robinson to instead major in history and minor in library science, and he received his B.A. degree from Southern University in 1964.

Robinson attended graduate school at Atlanta University and majored in Library Science. It is here where Robinson researched volumes of African American history making him a legend in his field. Robinson received his M.S.L.S. degree in 1965 from Atlanta University and returned to Southern University to continue his work as an archivist. Robinson went on to become a cataloger at Kentucky State University and worked at the University of Florida.

After earning his Ed.D in 1969 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and heading up special collections for Alabama State University, Robinson joined Bishop College in Dallas as librarian and museum director in 1974. With his negotiation skills, Robinson was able to acquire many collections for the museum. Under his leadership, a new facility was built in 1984 as Fair Park in Dallas to house the collection. The collection includes African American decorative arts, Sepia Magazine’s photo archive and the carefully researched archaeological specimens of the Freedmen’s Cemetery Collection. Robinson has developed the African American Museum in Dallas into a nationally recognized destination for people from all over the world.

Robinson lives in Dallas, Texas. He is the President of the Association of African American Museums, the African American Library Association and a member of the Institute of Museum and Library Science.

Accession Number

A2006.089

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/4/2006

Last Name

Robinson

Maker Category
Schools

C.M. Washington High School

Kent Hadley Elementary School

Pitman Elementary School

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Clark Atlanta University

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

First Name

Harry

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

ROB11

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

Super

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

9/16/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Dallas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Red), Rice

Short Description

Archivist and museum executive Harry Robinson, Jr. (1941 - ) joined Bishop College as librarian and director of its African American museum. Under his leadership the African American Museum in Dallas became independent, expanded its collection, and built a new facility in Dallas' Fair Park.

Employment

Southern University

Kentucky State University

Prairie View A & M University

Alabama State University

Bishop College

African American Museum in Dallas

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry Robinson, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harry Robinson, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls his mother's intuition

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls following his mother's principles, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls following his mother's principles, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his mother's occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harry Robinson, Jr. lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls lessons from his father

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his father's commitment to education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls his father's pride in his career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls a loan from his paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his elementary schools in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his schools in Raceland, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers Godchaux's sugar plantation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers living on Harvey Peltier, Sr.'s plantation

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his family's Christmas traditions

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his family's church membership

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers the influence of his principal

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harry Robinson, Jr. reflects upon his primary education

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers desegregation in Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls C.M. Washington High School in Thibodaux, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers his early interest in history

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls the student demonstrations at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes Southern University President Felton G. Clark

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's funeral

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harry Robinson, Jr. talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's papers

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls his career after Southern University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers the Vietnam War

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harry Robinson, Jr. talks about President Lyndon Baines Johnson

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers his first two marriages

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls acquiring Ralph Abernathy's papers for Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes George Wallace's honorary degree from Alabama State University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls hosting Bishop Joseph Howze at Alabama State University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls trying to secure Harper Councill Trenholm, Sr.'s papers

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls being hired at Bishop College in Dallas, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls founding the Museum of African-American Life and Culture in Dallas, Texas

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls relocating the Museum of African-American Life and Culture

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls fundraising for the Museum of African-American Life and Culture

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harry Robinson, Jr. remembers obtaining a grant from The Meadows Foundation

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes the donors to the Museum of African-American Life and Culture

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes the collections of the African American Museum in Dallas

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes the location of the African American Museum in Dallas

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Harry Robinson, Jr. talks about the value of the African American Museum in Dallas

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes the challenges of funding a museum

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Harry Robinson, Jr. describes his hopes for the African American Museum in Dallas

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Harry Robinson, Jr. reflects upon his life

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$9

DATitle
Harry Robinson, Jr. talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King's papers
Harry Robinson, Jr. recalls founding the Museum of African-American Life and Culture in Dallas, Texas
Transcript
But I lost it, but not only did I lose that, when I was in graduate school at Atlanta University [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia], I worked in the Trevor Arnett Library that was one of the jobs, I had three jobs in graduate school 'cause I didn't have any money. I was in Trevor Arnett and I picked up a book and there was a call slip in there, 1948, that was Martin's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] senior year and on that call slip in pencil Martin had signed that slip for the book. I don't know where it is, misplaced. But I was there, worked in the library and I never shall forget that my cataloging teacher had been trying to--she had been working with the families who were trying to get his papers--Atlanta, 'cause he went to Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia], his old man was on the board, they were all on the board, pastor, Benny Mays [Benjamin Mays] was his mentor, trying to get his papers. And I never shall forget we were in the cataloging class and this woman came in and she told us that--we heard that Boston [Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts] had gotten his papers--and this woman was a hard-hearted Hannah and we actually saw her weep, she wept in class (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) What was her name, Suzanne something-$$Her name was Annette Phinazee [Annette Lewis Phinazee].$$Annette Phinazee (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Annette Hoage Phinazee, she taught me cataloging, she was an excellent teacher. And she looked up and she said, "Well class, I guess you can't tell people what to do with their papers." (Unclear) and we hated that we didn't get them, but it was kind of good for us to see her break 'cause she was a stiff--I mean she showed no emotion for anything, she had emotion, but you know, she just. But that's my Martin King story.$I came and we started developing the idea of this museum [Southwest Research Center and Museum of African-American Life and Culture; African American Museum in Dallas, Dallas, Texas] because there was nothing in this area, no efforts to do anything in Texas or in the region. The president was an old Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia] man, Renaissance man, and I mean, he's got the first--one of the first master's [degree] from Atlanta University [Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia] when they became graduate school, in math. And he had a facility in French too (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) What was his name?$$--and he was a preacher. Milton King Curry [Milton King Curry, Sr.]. And he knew the Kings personally and there's a story about him and the Kings too. But anyway, he brought Martin [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] to Marshall, Texas in the '50s [1950s], he was just that courageous. Can you imagine someone brining Martin Luther King to East Texas in the '50s [1950s]? But this old man, he was, he was something else, that's why he's not president anymore, why he got out--they ran him off. But anyway, I came to Dallas [Texas], I called together a group of people one of whom was a man who had been involved with the Hall of Negro Life [Texas Centennial Exposition, Dallas, Texas] here in 1936, named A. Maceo Smith, and was A. Maceo Smith, the woman who became mayor of Dallas, Annette Strauss another woman who was Stanley Marcus sister in-law, you know, the Neiman Marcus crowd, Betty Marcus, a preacher who's involved in the movement, he pastored the silk stocking church here, New Hope [New Hope Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas], his brother was president of Junior Union University [ph.], and an old guy who was vice president at the college. He had worked in Alabama and he was one of the persons they told me to look up when I came to, to this place. And so he was one of my buddies, so we, I presented the idea to them they all bought in and we moved on from that point. We had one of the best--we started off as a part of the college. We had one of the best special collections of African American titles in the country. I didn't build that collection, it was the guy before me, his name was George Johnson [ph.]. He left here and went to Central State [Central State College; Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio], but he was a scholar. I don't know where he found those books he had a contact somewhere. We had Phillis Wheatley's, poems, 1773, we had a part of Walter White's, collection, autograph book by Langston Hughes, limited editions and what have you. Frederick Douglass--the works were there. But when I came they were spread throughout the library, just out. And so the first thing I did was to get a group of students--you talking about several thousand volumes of works. And so we pulled them all into a room about this size and we had shelves around the walls but there were stacks of books we had and we just pulled them. It's a wonderful collection. That was sort of the basis for our research collection because it was a museum and research center at the time. But this president kept on supporting me, whatever I needed, he supported, he supported me, he supported, he supported me, so. So we decided to pull those books together, 'cause it was easy to do and least people would see something, so we had the W.R. Banks special collection. Dr. Banks was a professor had been on that campus for fifty-two years, he went down when the first black president went to Bishop [Bishop College, Dallas, Texas] in 1929. So, we named the coll- we thought, you know, everybody loves Dean Banks, so we named the room for him, carpeted room--about this size, carpeted the room put glass shelves up, just did a nice job. One of the grad- one of Bishop's graduates who Dr. Banks had been very close owned a carpet company so I went to J.D. Hall [ph.] and told J.D. to give them the carpet at half price or something like that, I'll give you the (unclear). So he came to the dedication, he saw the room, he said, "Doc, where's the bill?" I said, "I'll go get it." He tore it up, paid for the carpet. I had the graduates to give me some money so I bought the glass shelves and what have you. It was a beautiful room, a guy who did the senator's picture Arthello Beck, who died last year, he did a portrait of Dr. Banks, so we had the portrait in the room and a lot of other Bishop memorabilia in that room. Well then we developed the space downstairs which was twice the size of upstairs and we opened that space during the bi-centennial, was February '76 [1976]. [HistoryMaker] David Driskell came and gave the dedicatory address and oh the people were just--it was, it was about the only black event in town of any significance during that bicentennial and we raked and scrapped and got the money. It was about like ten thousand dollars that we raised but we got (unclear) give a hundred dollars, hundred, everybody gave. It was a big day on that weekend. We had a weekend of activity and [HistoryMaker] Curtis King, whom you interviewed, Curtis was down in Fort Worth [Texas] over in Fort Worth, and we brought Curtis to town, with the Sojourner Truth Players, this was 1976 and then the next year Curtis came and set up shop here in Dallas. But he and his crew, the boys stayed at my apartment 'cause my wife was in school so they were in my apt- and the girls stayed in the dormitory and they performed that Sunday afternoon.

Anita J. Ponder

Anita J. Ponder is president of the Macon City Council and director of education at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia, the largest museum of its kind in the Southeast. Prior to serving on the city council, Ponder served as judge of the Municipal Court in her hometown of Fort Valley, Georgia. Ponder was born April 16, 1961, the oldest of three children of Clifford and Margie Ponder of Fort Valley, Georgia.

Ponder received her B.S. degree in journalism/communications from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, and her J.D. degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas. She served as editor of the Law Review during her second year of law school. Ponder formed a lucrative partnership with a fellow classmate and practiced criminal and personal injury law immediately following law school. She resigned from the firm and returned to her hometown to fulfill her life long ambition to work in the public sector. Ponder became judge of the Municipal Court in Fort Valley, a position that she held for four and a half years. She volunteered at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia, while it was in its infancy. She helped the museum to expand its exhibits nationally and internationally, and became director of its educational programs.

Ponder was appointed to the Macon City Council in 1998. In her role as president of the council, she has aided in the revitalization of the city through the neighborhood redevelopment plan. She continues to play a major role in the construction of the multi-million dollar facility that will house the Tubman Museum. Annually, in December, Ponder and friends host the Holiday Feast for All that feeds community members during the holiday season. Ponder is the editor of a recently published book: Standing on Their Shoulders: A Celebration of the Wisdom of African American Women by Dr. Catherine Meeks. She raises Arabian horses, collects antique cars, and organizes antique car shows.

Ponder serves on the boards of the Macon State College Foundation, Macon Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Coalition of Black Women, and Newtown Macon. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and Rotary International.

Accession Number

A2006.002

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/19/2006

Last Name

Ponder

Schools

Peach County High School

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Houston College of Law

Fort Valley Middle School

Hunt Elementary School

First Name

Anita

Birth City, State, Country

Fort Valley

HM ID

PON01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

San Francisco, California

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

4/16/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Macon

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Short Description

Museum executive and city council member Anita J. Ponder (1961 - ) was the president of the Macon City Council and director of education at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia.

Employment

Ponder and Jordan

City of Fort Valley, Georgia

City Of Macon, Georgia

Tubman Museum

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Anita J. Ponder's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes her maternal family's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes her mother's childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder remembers her paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder remembers her paternal great-aunt's cake business

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder describes her paternal grandmother's neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder recalls her maternal grandmother's farm

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Anita J. Ponder describes her family's tobacco farm

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder describes her maternal family's businesses

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her family's social standing in Lakeland, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder remembers the death of her cousin

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes how her cousin's death impacted her career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes her grandparents' racial background

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder describes her father

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes her paternal great-grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder recalls spending time with her paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder remembers playing and learning at Fort Valley State College

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her family life

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder lists her siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder recalls her childhood neighborhood in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder recalls playing games with her friends in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder remembers playing baseball in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes the Ponderosa neighborhood in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder remembers learning the history of racism in the United States

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder recalls influential teachers in the Peach County school system

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood personality

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood ambition

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder remembers attending Trinity Baptist Church

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood friendships

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder recalls playing tennis and basketball

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder remembers travelling to play tennis

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder describes her high school tennis and basketball coach

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder describes her childhood influences

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder describes attending Peach County High School in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder remembers playing the drums

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder recalls the 1975 tornado in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes the effect of basketball on her career

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes tourist attractions in Peach County, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder recalls deciding to attend Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder describes attending South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes her journalism major

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder remembers encountering racism at South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder remembers her early career as a criminal defense lawyer

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder recalls her experiences on the South Texas Law Review

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes her partnership at Ponder and Jordan

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder remembers deciding to leave Houston, Texas

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder remembers volunteering at the Tubman African American Museum

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder recalls being a judge in Fort Valley, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder remembers resigning as judge and running for the Macon City Council

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes her housing initiatives on the Macon City Council

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder describes revitalizing a neighborhood in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder describes her work as president of Macon City Council

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder describes the museum district in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder describes the musical history of Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Anita J. Ponder describes serving on boards as Macon City Council president

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Anita J. Ponder describes the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Anita J. Ponder describes exhibits and fundraising at the Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Anita J. Ponder describes the work of Richard Keil

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Anita J. Ponder talks about the significance of history

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Anita J. Ponder reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Anita J. Ponder gives advice to aspiring young professionals

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Anita J. Ponder describes her hopes for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Anita J. Ponder describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Anita J. Ponder reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Anita J. Ponder narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Anita J. Ponder narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Anita J. Ponder narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$7

DAStory

1$7

DATitle
Anita J. Ponder recalls her experiences on the South Texas Law Review
Anita J. Ponder describes the work of Richard Keil
Transcript
Now while you were in law school [South Texas College of Law Houston, Houston, Texas], are there any memories that you have that you would like to share with us?$$You know, actually, law school is what people visualize it to be, and I mean it's pretty much all I did. I mean, you know, they have--it was the, a period in my life, unlike college [Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida], where I really didn't have a life other than, you know, other than law school. And then, for some reason, it, it--something within me looking at, you know, the makeup of that school, wanted to really excel. And, you know, you know, college, high school [Peach County High School, Fort Valley, Georgia], and all that kind of stuff--I didn't really try, you know. It, you know, it just all worked out grade-wise. In law school, because I had this feeling of, you know, some people thinking that we were inferior (laughter), whether they thought it or not, I felt that, that's what they thought. It was important to me to, to, you know, to, to try to excel in law school. And so, it, you know, law school is hard. And so, it, it took a lot, especially, you know, your first year to--it, it took a lot of work and study to--to do that. Made it on law review [South Texas Law Review], first black ever to--you know. Law review in law school is a huge deal, regardless of what school it is. That's why even when you see your TV shows, you know, that still goes on your resume, that: was on law review, you know. I didn't really know what that meant, but I knew they thought it was a big deal. And it came to being that writing was important because, you know, Law Review was all about writing. And so, you know, you know, things, you know, turn out the way they did. And I had put such a focus on writing, and that kind, and that kind of thing. It was good enough to get on, on law review, and later became one of the editors--$$Okay.$$--of, of law review, which was historic in of it, you know, in of itself. And I think at least in that arena, you know, I had professors who really just look- they looked at the body of work, for the body of work and, you know, what you could do. And they, you know, didn't, didn't really see race I felt, you know--I was beginning to feel anyway. And then, I kind of got an easiness to know that, okay, just because I know that's what he feels--that particular professor, 'cause I noticed that he feel- he feels that I'm inferior. I shouldn't blame the school for that, you know. And so, it kind of helped me getting accepted. The law review kind of helped me get back balance--that, you know, all people are not--you know I came to law school, thinking all people are not a certain kind of way--look at them individually. I got there for a minute, and started grouping everybody together, like we so often do, got accepted on law review, and that was kind of like a crosswords, crossroads for me, in that it, it reminded me that, okay, don't let me get this one mixed up with this one, and that one mixed with that one, you know. And so, in terms of that whole thing, got back on, you know, back on track. And, you know, finished, and started making my first paycheck 'cause you remember, I've been in school all my life by that time.$Tell us something about how the museum [Tubman African American Museum; Tubman Museum, Macon, Georgia] got started?$$Well, it, it was founded back in 1981 by a white Catholic priest by the name of Richard Keil who had been, you know, real active in the Civil Rights Movement and other places, like Alabama and Mississippi, and some of your other southern states. And he became a priest here at one of the Catholic churches. And as he looked around Macon [Georgia], he saw, you know, while there were, the Museum of Arts and Sciences [Macon, Georgia], and a lot of things going on in Macon, there was no real place to hear or tell the stories of, of African Americans. And so, he decided--I want to put together this--at that time, he called it a cultural center, and had a hard time getting the support, and the loans to get a building to do so. And so, you know, he had just, you know, a few willing friends to, to join him in starting the center. Finally, he found a warehouse that you know, he could afford to just outright buy, and, and, and the funny thing is it's a warehouse where the inventory at one time was guarded by dogs. I mean, you know, so you had--I mean, it took a lot to get it up to what it needed to be. He purchased it, you know, had a vision to get it to a place that was even, you know, made for people--it took from '81 [1981] to almost '85 [1985] for them to turn it into the--even the center that they wanted. And, you know, you've gone from there, from, you know, three to five thousand visitors to sixty-five thousand visitors and, you know, a thirty thousand dollar budget to a $1.5 million budget. And so, you know, his vision is alive and well; and and, and he's the kind of leader that he founded the museum, knew it wasn't his expertise, and say, you know, this is something that I just wanted, you know--no ownership in it, no whatever, and turned it over to the, you know, the people. And it's governed by a board and, you know, and the staff of the museum. He has no--other than being an active participant in the programs that come, and come in to visit us, and bringing us little notes and candies, and all that kind of stuff. That's all he does. You know, he knew, you know, for it to grow, he needed to let it go. And then--and he did. Yeah.$$Okay. And what did you say one of his current projects is, and how that he has the African American museum up and running?$$Right, right now, he's been working real close with the Hispanic community. The Hispanic community is just like it is all over the country--has really, the population is really growing in, in Macon and Bibb County [Georgia]. And as a result of the, you know, the ability--the lack of ability to communicate, you know, the focus, Spanish speaking, and that kind of thing, he sees where there's a real need to, to make sure that they're not taking advantage of, and that kind of thing. And so, he's formed a group that he's really turned over to the Hispanic community, but just helped them get it started where, you know they have resources to--you know, all the kinds of things that helped them make sure that, you know, they're not getting taking advantage of in their housing, and language barriers, and making sure they can get to school, and that they're needing that, that kind of thing. And so, that's kind of been one of his focuses now.

Mary Schmidt Campbell

Born to Elaine and Harvey Schmidt in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 21, 1947, Mary Schmidt Campbell has distinguished herself as an educator and prominent advocate of the arts.

After earning a B.A. at Swarthmore College in 1969, Campbell taught English literature at Nkumbi International College in Zambia. Campbell returned to the U.S. and studied art history at Syracuse University, graduating with an M.A. in 1973. In 1974, she became both a curator of the Everson Museum of Fine Arts in Syracuse, New York and the art editor of Syracuse New Times.

From 1977 to 1987, Campbell served as Executive Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, a fine arts museum that exhibits, collects and interprets the work of black artists. During this time, she earned a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. She then served as Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of New York until 1991, managing an agency which funds New York cultural institutions and organizations.

After establishing herself as a leader in the field of arts and public policy, Campbell became Dean of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, a preeminent center of theatre and film. Many of the country's leading film directors, Broadway producers, actors and writers as well as theatre historians and critics have matriculated from the school, and recent graduates have won major awards at festivals around the world. Campbell has dramatically improved enrollment, funding and programs. She established and chairs the Department of Art and Public Policy.

Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell lectures nationally on arts policy issues and American cultural history; is professionally associated with various institutes and academies; and has frequently won awards for her good work. Campbell is married to physicist Dr. George Campbell, Jr. They have three sons: Garikai, Sekou and Britt, and three grandchildren.

Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America / Introduction by Mary Schmidt Campbell, New York: Studio Museum in Harlem: Abradale Press, 1994.

The Life and Work of Romare Bearden will be published by Oxford University Press.

Accession Number

A2002.001

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/1/2002

Last Name

Campbell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Schmidt

Organizations
Schools

Henry C. Lea Elementary School

Philadelphia High School for Girls

Swarthmore College

Syracuse University

Speakers Bureau

No

First Name

Mary

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

CAM03

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

Speaker Bureau Notes

Has exclusive contract with another speaker's bureau.

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Oceans, Skiiing

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

10/21/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Academic administrator and museum executive Mary Schmidt Campbell (1947 - ) was dean of the Tisch School for the Arts at New York University.

Employment

Nkumbi International College

Everson Museum of Fine Arts

Syracuse New Times

Studio Museum in Harlem

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mary Schmidt Campbell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mary Schmidt Campbell lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about her parents' courtship

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her father's expectations for her

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mary Schmidt Campbell recalls her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about her privileged childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her father's Civil Rights activism

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her father's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about the social clubs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mary Schmidt Campbell remembers meeting her husband George for the first time

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her experience attending Girl's High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mary Schmidt Campbell remembers her initial interest in the arts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes the influence of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her sister's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her experience at Swarthmore College

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about diversity at Swarthmore College

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mary Schmidt Campbell recalls her reaction to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses her interest in art history

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about getting married and moving to Zambia

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her experience in Zambia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her community in Zambia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mary Schmidt Campbell remembers her mother's visit after Garikai Campbell was born

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes the treatment of women in Zambia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses her experience at Syracuse University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about moving to New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1977

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mary Schmidt Campbell recalls the reputation of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes becoming Executive Director at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mary Schmidt Campbell recalls her work to revitalize the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mary Schmidt Campbell recalls her work to revitalize the Studio Museum in Harlem, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Mary Schmidt describes her proudest achievements at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mary Schmidt Campbell reflects on the artistic community at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about the legacy of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes becoming New York City's Cultural Affairs Commissioner

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her experience as New York City's Cultural Affairs Commissioner

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her goals as New York City's Cultural Affairs Commissioner

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes her proudest accomplishment as New York City's Cultural Affairs Commissioner

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mary Schmidt Campbell reflects on her experience as New York City's Cultural Affairs Commissioner

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses becoming Dean at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about her hopes for New York University's Tisch School of the Arts

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mary Schmidt Campbell describes how the Tisch School of the Arts has grown under her leadership

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about cultural diversity

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about making difficult decisions at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mary Schmidt Campbell shares her views of contemporary black arts movements

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about the Harlem Renaissance

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mary Schmidt Campbell lists some of her favorite black artists

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mary Schmidt Campbell shares her perspective on the arts

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about her marriage to George Campbell

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about moving from Harlem to the East Village

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about her family

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mary Schmidt Campbell reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mary Schmidt Campbell talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Mary Schmidt Campbell narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$3

DATitle
Mary Schmidt Campbell reflects on the artistic community at the Studio Museum in Harlem
Mary Schmidt Campbell describes becoming New York City's Cultural Affairs Commissioner
Transcript
[HM]Jean Moutoussamy-Ashe, Arthur Ashe's widow, recently held a reception, a book signing, in celebration of Roy Decarava's book, "The Sound I Saw." And she, it was hosted in the home of Spike and Tanya Lee. It was co-hosted by Ed Bradley, [HM] Gordon Davis and Wynton Marsalis, who played. This is star studded, right? So, Roy, of course, is one of great senior veterans of the art community, and he drew out just, I think, every artist you can imagine. And my husband and I, [HM] George [Campbell] and I, walked in and it was like being back at the Studio Museum in Harlem. It was amazing to us. I think we knew almost every single person in that room. And it struck me that that was because for certainly 20, 25 years maybe, the Studio Museum was the place where artists in our community knew they could go and find other artists--other artists, other curators, writers, critics. They could find discussions about their work, they could find other artists' work on the wall. And it was amazing how this was a very real community, for one, and how it has sustained itself over the years. And to see all these people back together again, it was like, it was quite magical. And so this, you know, the museum created a real community. It was a home, it was a place to go to. I think that one of the--somebody recently was remarking... asked me if I agreed or disagreed with the current philosophy of the Studio Museum. I think Thelma Golden had used the term, "post black." I said, "You know, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter." I said, "What's really important is that she has, she's keeping the discourse alive, and she's keeping that discourse at the center of everybody's conversation. So, the museum continues to be that place where you have to go if you want to be part of that conversation." And I said, "That's what's been important about the museum all these years." And the way it happened when I was there 25 years ago, was very different from the way Thelma and Lowery [Stokes Sims] are conducting it now. But what's important is that they're conducting it, and they're keeping it alive and keeping the flame really, really hot. So, to me that was what was important.$So, it's 1987. Now, do you get tapped at that point, or are you looking to sort of--?$$I did something bodacious. Bess Myerson had been the Cultural Affairs Commissioner [of New York City, New York], and she was indicted. And because she was indicted, she had to step down; she had to resign from her post. And the position had been vacant for about nine months. And I remember we were all standing around at the Studio Museum [in Harlem] sort of shooting the breeze. And we said, "Well, who do you think should be the Commissioner?" "Who do you think should be the Commissioner?" And I remember walking into my office, closing the door, and sitting down putting my hands on the desk, and saying, "You know, I could be the Commissioner." I picked up the phone. [HM] David Dinkins was then the [Manhattan] Borough president. And I talked to his chief of staff, Barbara Fife. And I said, "You know, Barbara, I don't expect Dinkins to endorse me or be my advocate, but I am asking that he put my hat in the ring." Because I knew that if a Borough president says to the Mayor, "I want you to consider this candidate," out of courtesy, I'd have to get an interview. So, that's what I did. I got the interview and, you know, I go in. And you can see that, like, the boredom on the face of the people who were interviewing there. So I said, "What do I have to lose? I have a great job. I don't, you know, I don't care whether I get this or not." So, I decided I was going to tell them exactly what I thought the Cultural Affairs Commissioner should do in the City of New York. So, when I finished, she said, "Okay, your next interview is..." So, I then met with another group of people, same thing. Then I get a call and they say, "Tomorrow morning, you're meeting with the Mayor [Ed Koch]." And I remember I called my friend, [HM] Gordon Davis, who had been Parks Commissioner, a very successful Parks Commissioner under Ed Koch. I said, "David, you know, I'm supposed to be going in to meet the mayor. I don't know whether I want this job." He said, "Listen, you better decide right now. If you go in there and have a meeting with the mayor, you have to go in knowing that you will... that you are going to take this job if it's offered to you." And all of a sudden, I realized this is really serious. I mean, you know, I have to really think about this. I called my son, my first son [Garikai Campbell], my oldest son who is, he's at Swarthmore [College] now, right, okay. He's at Swarthmore and he's a freshman, I believe. And I tell him. I said, "You know, I've got this possibility to go to, you know, to go into city government. What do you think?" He said, "Well, you know, Mom, I think that what you have to say about art and culture is really important." And he said, "I think if you go into city government, you'll have a bigger platform, and more people can see you, and more people can hear you say that." And that was good enough for me. So, I went in, had my interview with the mayor. And in a few days, you know, I got the phone call. And it was very funny, because apparently they do some fact checking on you, right? And they call all around the city, and say, "What do you know about Mary Schmidt Campbell? What do you know about Mary Schmidt Campbell?" And the Chief of Staff, Diane Coffey, was very funny. They started saying all these nice things, and she said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know about all these nice things. I want to know... nobody can be that nice. Tell me, what are her weak ones? What are...?" And they were saying that it was one of the most thorough, you know, sort of like trying to... it was a discovery process. You know, they really hadn't had, you know, had a Commissioner who had to resign. They wanted to be very sure that they had somebody who was going to able to sort of stand the test, you know. But the good thing, the good news, was that I was married; I had a family, you know, I was sort of a solid citizen. But they also wanted to sort of check me out with a wide range of constituencies. And they did, and I was appointed.