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Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin

Library director and theater executive Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin was born on April 25, 1945 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to Thelma N. Holtzclaw, a custodian, and Arthur William Henry Sprinkle, Jr., a factory worker. She received her B.S. degree in education from Winston-Salem State University in 1967 and her M.S. degree in library science from Clark Atlanta University in 1968.

After the completion of her studies, Sprinkle-Hamlin joined the staff of the Free Library of Philadelphia as a children’s librarian. In 1970, she became an information specialist at the Benjamin Banneker Urban Center and in 1973, she became the instructional media center director for the Philadelphia Public Schools while taking education administration classes at Cheyney State University. Sprinkle-Hamlin returned to Winston-Salem State University in 1978 where she served as a public services librarian and assistant director of the university library. In 1979, she joined the Forsyth County Public Library system as department head for children’s outreach. Also in 1979, Sprinkle-Hamlin met her future husband, Larry Leon Hamlin, who was the founder of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. They married in 1981 and Sprinkle-Hamlin became secretary of the National Black Repertory Company in 1983. Hamlin would go on to found the National Black Theatre Festival in 1989, with the fundraising support of Dr. Maya Angelou. Sprinkle-Hamlin has served on the board of directors for The National Black Theatre Festival since 1991. The Festival grew from thirty performances and 10,000 in attendance in 1989 to over 100 performances and 50,000 in attendance in 2005. In 2007, Hamlin died after an extended illness and Sprinkle-Hamlin carried on her husband’s work becoming executive producer for the National Black Theatre Festival. In 2010, she became president of the board of directors for the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. During this time, Sprinkle-Hamlin also continued to work for the Forsyth County Public Library serving as assistant library director , extension division, associate library director and becoming the library director in 2000. She also served as a library consultant for W.H. Roberts & Associates.

Sprinkle-Hamlin has worked extensively in the Winston-Salem community serving on the board of directors for Family Services, Inc., Forsyth County Smart Start, The Shepherd Center of Greater Winston-Salem and The Diggs Gallery of Winston-Salem University. She has also served as a council member of the American Library Association (ALA), president of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Public library Association Board member and chair of the African American Issues Roundtable of the Southeastern Library Association. Sprinkle-Hamlin has received the Roundtable for Ethnic Minority Roadbuilder’s Award, the DEMCO/ALA Black Caucus Award for Excellence in Librarianship and The Chronicle Women of the Year Award. She lives in Pfafftown, North Carolina.

Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 23, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.037

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/23/2012

Last Name

Sprinkle-Hamlin

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Middle Name

Yvonne

Schools

Winston-Salem State University

Clark Atlanta University

Carter High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sylvia

Birth City, State, Country

Winston-Salem

HM ID

SPR04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

All Things Are Possible With Help From God. I Get My Strength From The Lord.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

4/25/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Winston-Salem

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Cake (Strawberry Shortcake)

Short Description

Theater chief executive and library director Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin (1945 - ) was executive producer of the National Black Theatre Festival, and board president of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company. She also directed the Forsyth County Public Library.

Employment

Forsyth County Public Library

Winston-Salem State University

Benjamin Banneker Urban Center

Free Library of Philadelphia

W.H. Roberts & Associates

Fashion Two-Twenty Cosmetics

North Carolina Black Repertory Company

Favorite Color

All Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about her maternal great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sylvia Hamlin-Sprinkle describes her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about her mother's upbringing and education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about her upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin recalls Center Grove A.M.E. Zion Church in Tobaccoville, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin remembers Carver Consolidated School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about the book mobile in Forsythe County, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin recalls segregation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about the history of Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin recalls her early exposure to television and radio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin remembers her early interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin recalls her start at Winston-Salem State College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin remembers her college classmate Earl Monroe

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes her decision to pursue a master's in library science

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin remembers Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about the education qualifications of a librarian

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes her career in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin remembers her return to Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes how she met her husband, Larry Leon Hamlin

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about Larry Leon Hamlin's theater background

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin recalls the founding of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company Theatre Guild

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes the development of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about funding for the North Carolina Black Repertory Company

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin remembers the inaugural National Black Theatre Festival

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about the cost of the National Black Theatre Festival

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes the content of the National Black Theatre Festival

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about the North Carolina Black Repertory Company staff

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes North Carolina Black Repertory Company's guest artists

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamline talks about the North Carolina Black Repertory Company's marketing strategy

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes the highlights of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about support for the North Carolina Black Repertory Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin reflects upon Larry Leon Hamlin's legacy, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin reflects upon her career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about the relevance of public libraries

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin reflects upon her life and legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about her family

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin reflects upon Larry Leon Hamlin's legacy, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin talks about the 2012 season of North Carolina Black Repertory Company

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin remembers the inaugural National Black Theatre Festival
Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin describes the highlights of the North Carolina Black Repertory Company
Transcript
Tell us about the National Black Theatre Festival and how that idea (unclear) (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay, so I think in 1988 Larry [Sprinkle-Hamlin's husband, Larry Leon Hamlin] went to a conference that was held in Atlanta, Georgia, and I think he was supposed to write an article on black theaters in America, and I think in writing that article he realized that it was quite a few black companies in America, but they weren't communicating with each other, and they all had the same problem: funding, how do you really get funds? So at first he just thought about having a conference and bringing these theater companies together, but then he decided it would be probably more fun to have a festival, so the idea of the festival came up. So what he did was invited some theater companies that he had relationships with to come to the festival and Dr. Maya Angelou, he went to her with his plans and she gave him a lot of pointers as to what he should do, and she also recommended that he bring in celebrities because, you know, if you have celebrities, that would get a lot of the people who wouldn't come to a theater festival, to come to the festival to see the celebrities. So she helped him to get some named people, known people, to come to the first festival. And Oprah was our first celebrity guest.$$Okay, now from what I've read here, he sort of accidentally bumped into [HistoryMaker] Maya Angelou in the airport, is that true?$$Yeah, yeah, yeah.$$So how does that, well tell us that story.$$Well that's all I know, he started--he bumped into her at an airport and he talked to her about what he wanted to do, because you know she had moved here. She was living here.$$Oh no, I didn't know that.$$Oh, yeah, she lives here now.$$Okay.$$She's a Reynolds Scholar [Nancy Susan Reynolds Scholar] at Wake Forest, Reynolds Scholar for life.$$Wake Forest is?$$Wake Forest University.$$Yeah, that's close by Winston-Salem [North Carolina].$$It's here.$$It's in Winston-Salem?$$Yeah, yeah.$$Okay, all right. A lot of people don't know 'cause the name is Wake Forest and we don't know where it is (laughter).$$It used to be in Wake Forest--$$Okay.$$--North Carolina.$$Yeah.$$Then they moved to Winston-Salem in the '50s [1950s].$$Okay. All right.$$Yeah.$$Okay.$$So she helped him to get it off the ground in 1989.$$All right, okay. So it was her clout that got Oprah Winfrey?$$Yeah, yeah, um-hm.$$And Oprah Winfrey was one of the most popular people in America, if not the most popular.$$Right, (laughter) but I like to tell the story, is that when Larry said he was going to have a festival and Oprah was going to be here and some of the other people who came in 1989, the people in Winston-Salem didn't really believe it. And so you know we have an opening night gala and in 1989 gala tickets were only fifty dollars so the people from across the United States was real excited and so they bought a lot of the tickets. So two weeks before the, the festival then the people around here started believing it. Oh yeah, it's really gonna happen, it's really gone happen, but we were sold out, so a lot of people missed out on the first one. But they haven't missed out any more since then.$$Okay. So how was that first festival? What I read here is that Oprah was there, [HistoryMaker] Ruby Dee, [HistoryMaker] Ossie Davis.$$Yeah.$$Esther Rolle, Cicely Tyson.$$Yeah, all of those people were there.$$Maya Angelou too, was she, was she?$$Oh yeah, she was, yeah, she was chair, the first chair we had, co-chair, the first chair we had for the festival. It was very exciting because it happened, people came. I think we were most excited that people came from all over: from California; New York [New York]; Chicago [Illinois]; Atlanta [Georgia]. You know, they saw it, they believed in us and they came and they had a really good time and we had some really good shows. And so that was the beginning.$Now what have been some of the highlights of the, the Black Repertory's [North Carolina Black Repertory Company] seasons over the years?$$Some of the highlights. Well I think--the milestones that I think that we've--? Creating the guild [North Carolina Black Repertory Company Theatre Guild], I think was a high point. Well, first we'll start with the living room theater, how we start at first marketing the company then creating the guild. We now have what we call--at one point we had a music division, where we had singers and musicians that were involved. I think we have what we call now, Marvtastic Society; that was created in 2003. And in order to be a member of the Marvtastic Society you had to pay a thousand dollars to be a part of that society, and you get some discounts, and that has really worked really well.$$Well tell us what--this is a good time I guess to tell us what does marvtastic mean and where did it come from?$$(Laughter) Well Larry [Sprinkle-Hamlin's husband, Larry Leon Hamlin] coined that word, marvtastic, marvelous and fantastic together, so (laughter) that's what it means. And he came up with that word and then it caught on and everybody started using it, everybody started asking what does it mean and so he decided he would come up with a Marvtastic Society, and these people donate, especially to the festival [National Black Theatre Festival].$$Okay, all right, well keep going. I didn't want to, I just wanted to have you say something about that.$$Yeah, yeah, the Marvtastic Society I think is a milestone. I think the teen theater, having actual--doing the teen theater has been a milestone. And I think our longevity, you know, we been in business since 1979 and we've been through a lot and we're still around and we're still doing the festival. And, of course, the biggest thing is the festival in 1989. And I think in 2007 when Larry passed, people didn't know what was going to happen. You know that year, he passed that--the festival was that year. The festival was in August and he passed in June, so we--the board decided that we should go on and do the festival 'cause we were already working on it. And everybody was there and people were having conversations because they really didn't know what was gonna happen with the festival. But I knew that he really loved the festival and sometimes I feel that the festival probably was one--working really hard late at night, not doing what you're supposed to do health wise probably contributed to his early death. I decided that I would do all I could, along with some other supporters, to make sure that it still happened. And you know I was always in the background. I was the person that worked with the community. I knew a lot of people in the community. I worked a lot with the volunteers and I would be around at the meetings and all of that, so I was in the background so I knew some of the things that were involved. And then he had a lot of people who had worked with him before. We call 'em consultants. Lawrence Evans from New York [New York]; lark hackshaw from Atlanta [Georgia], Artie Reese [Arthur Reese]; those people had worked with him before. So we knew that it had to continue. So we just did what had to be done and we just had to do it without him, but we are doing okay, but his presence, we feel that his presence is still here. We feel his spirit, you know, when we start planning the festival.

Howard Dodson

Historian and lecturer Howard Dodson was born June 1, 1939, in Chester, Pennsylvania. After completing high school in 1957, he attended West Chester State College, where he studied social studies and English, with an emphasis on secondary education. Graduating in 1961, he went on to Villanova University where he earned an M.A. in U.S. history and political science in 1963. Currently, Dodson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.

Upon earning his master's degree, Dodson went to Ecuador in 1964 as part of a Peace Corps assignment where he was the director of credit union education programs for the National Credit Union Federation. In 1967, Dodson moved to Washington, D.C., and became the director of minority recruitment and deputy director of campus recruiting for the Peace Corps, where he remained for a year. Dodson became the executive director of the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta in 1974, remaining there until 1979. At the same time, he taught classes at Emory University. Dodson returned to Washington, D.C., in 1979 as a consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities. However, he remained active with the Institute of the Black World, working as a project director on a number of programs until 1984. After leaving the NEH, Dodson was hired as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library. Under his guidance and direction, the Schomburg Center sustained tremendous growth.

Dodson has been active throughout his life in a number of other projects. He was part of the Black Theology Project Conference held in Cuba, which brought Fidel Castro into the religious community for the first time in decades. He has produced a number of exhibitions and festivals celebrating black history and African American life. Dodson is also the author of several books and articles and the recipient of numerous awards, including being named to the President's Commission on the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Malcolm X Museum Award. He serves on the board of directors of the Apollo Theater Foundation and the UNESCO Slave Route Project, among many others.

Accession Number

A2003.080

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/16/2003 |and| 4/22/2003

Last Name

Dodson

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Howard

Birth City, State, Country

Chester

HM ID

DOD01

Favorite Season

Summer

Speaker Bureau Notes

Theresa Martin (Secretary) (212) 491-2263 / tmartin@nypl.org/Joan Harris (Public Relations) jkharris@nypl.org 212-491-2259

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

North Carolina, Puerto Rico, Nassau, Bahamas

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

6/1/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlantic City

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Historian and library director Howard Dodson (1939 - ) is director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and Howard University Libraries. He served as chief of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, New York from 1984 to 2011.

Employment

National Credit Union Federation

United States Peace Corps

Institute of the Black World

Emory University

National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

Schomburg Center For Research In Black Culture

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Howard Dodson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson describes his father, Howard Dodson, Sr.

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson describes his mother, LouBirda Jones Dodson

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson talks about his father's hobbies and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Howard Dodson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Chester, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Howard Dodson describes attending school in Chester, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson recalls his favorite teachers in school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson describes his influential teacher, Dr. Leah Jordan

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson recalls his social activities at Bethany Baptist Church in Chester, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson describes growing up in a tough neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson recalls his decision to attend West Chester State College in Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson describes staging a sit-in in West Chester, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Howard Dodson recalls the strong athletic programs at West Chester University in Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Howard Dodson talks about the successful black students at West Chester University in Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Howard Dodson recalls pledging Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at West Chester University in Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Howard Dodson describes majoring in social studies and English at West Chester College in Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson describes attending Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson talks about joining the Peace Corps in 1964

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson describes earning his master's degree at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson describes serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson describes serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson describes the people in Ecuador

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Howard Dodson describes coaching basketball in Ecuador

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Howard Dodson recalls becoming a recruiter for the Peace Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson recalls the Washington, D.C. riots following Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson recalls the Washington, D.C. riots following Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson talks about working in the press office for the Poor People's Campaign

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson recalls traveling and reading African American history in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson describes his interest in African American history

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson remembers enrolling at the University of California-Berkeley and meeting his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Howard Dodson talks about joining Andrew Billingsley at the Institute of the Black World in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Howard Dodson describes the Institute of the Black World

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson describes the split between the Martin Luther King Center and the Institute of the Black World

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson describes the rich intellectual life at the Institute of the Black World

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson talks about the size and funding of the Institute of the Black World

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson describes the intellectual debates at the Institute of the Black World

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson describes his career trajectory in the 1970s and 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson talks about a television documentary series on black history and culture

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Howard Dodson describes his intellectual influences

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Howard Dodson describes his interdisciplinary approach to his graduate education at the University of California-Berkeley, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Howard Dodson describes his interdisciplinary approach to his graduate education at the University of California-Berkeley, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson describes working at the National Endowment for the Humanities

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson recalls his wife taking a job at Union Theological Seminary in New York City

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson describes applying for a position at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson talks about his research projects with the Council of Interracial Books for Children and the National Council of Churches

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson recalls traveling to Cuba with HistoryMaker Reverend Jesse Jackson

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson describes the history of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Howard Dodson talks about Arthur Schomburg

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson talks about former directors of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson describes renovating the Schomburg Center

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson talks about acquiring funding to build an auditorium at the Schomburg Center, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson talks about acquiring funding to build an auditorium at the Schomburg Center, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson describes acquiring collections as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson describes acquiring the Leon Damas collections as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Howard Dodson describes the success of cultural programming at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Howard Dodson describes research scholarships at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson describes the importance of highlighting lesser known African American history

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson recalls the Schomburg Center's acquisition of the Malcolm X papers, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Howard Dodson recalls the Schomburg Center's acquisition of the Malcolm X papers, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Howard Dodson describes his role in making the African burial ground an historic site in New York City

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Howard Dodson describes his hopes and concerns for the black community, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Howard Dodson describes his hopes and concerns for the black community, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Howard Dodson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Howard Dodson describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$2

DATape

5$7

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Howard Dodson describes the rich intellectual life at the Institute of the Black World
Howard Dodson describes acquiring the Leon Damas collections as the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Transcript
But a lot of--I was saying to you earlier, that virtually anybody who was involved in critical thinking about the black experience in any way, shape, or form ended up coming to the Institute [of the Black World] at one time or another. And it was a broad range of folk. I mean the black foundation executives, when they decided they were going to organize, they came and spent like two or three days at the institute consulting with staff and other folk there, trying to figure out how they can structure themselves to function both on behalf of the, their own career interests while serving interests and needs of the broader black community in the earliest meetings, planning meetings for the Congressional Black Caucus took place. Charles Diggs came there with a fellow by the name of Ofield Dukes [HM] and spent several days kind of thinking through what the Congressional Black Caucus might look like as an organized entity within the congressional body, and what kind of agendas it might set and that kind of thing. Louis Farrakhan [HM], when he split with Wallace D. Mohammed--well, before he actually went through, the split came, spent several days with us. And he had a number of major concerns. One of them was that he could not support the direction that Wallace was taking the Nation of Islam and which was a more traditional Islamic one and, and really breaking with most of the economic principles that had undergirded the Nation during his father's tenure.$$(Simultaneous)--was hardcore Nationalist principles about owning your own--$$Yeah--$$--(unclear)-$$And so Farrakhan, a) could not continue to follow but didn't want to create any major split in the movement. And part of the reason why they definitely didn't want any big split was because Farrakhan's kids were married to Wallace Dean's kids. (Laughter) He just begin (laughter)--(unclear). And so, we kind spend a lot of time with him kind of talking through a lot of that stuff. But when Stokely Carmichael first announced his Pan-Africanism philosophy, he came and delivered a speech at the institute that kind of laid out this, his new Pan-Africanist vision. We beat him up--Stokely, that stuff don't make no sense; it don't make no sense to you (laughter). But what was, what was wonderful about the institute and--is that it had a reputation for being a place where one could come and exchange ideas and where all ideas, if you were generally committed to the struggle of black people for freedom and human dignity, all ideas had value. In other words, you--we would, we would have debates with you about the ideas without personalizing, without attacking you, and people felt comfortable from the broad spectrum of the political world coming--excuse me--and having those kinds of, kinds of conversations. There was some important, you know, bodies of work came out of the institute. Steven Henderson did a major book on, on poetry and the, the kind of--(unclear)--and, and the evolution of kind of African American, a language systems and, and its, its relationship to poetry. And people like Joyce Ladner [HM] did her, one of the first major books on black, the history of black women, which was--(unclear). Vincent, of course, did his various books on the history of black struggle. We did a special edition on, of a Harvard education review called "Education in Block--Black Struggle: Notes from the Colonized World," which was a major piece. We did several--some of our earliest work was on the evolution development of black studies. And we convened the first meeting of black studies directors to try to collectivize our knowledge and consciousness about issues involving shaping black studies programs around the country. And we convened the first major national assessment of black studies curriculum across the nation.$The second story is equally fascinating one. One of the leading figures in the negritude movement during the thirties [1930s] was a fellow by the name of Leon Damas, Guyanese intellectual who was studying in France and met [Leopold Sedar] Senghor and a number of other folk, and they kind of fashioned this concept of negritude. Well, Damas eventually ended up at Howard University and was living in Washington, D.C., and after a rather long tenure there, decided he would--he was working on a project on the black Brazilian experience. And so he decided to go to Brazil and spend some time there doing research. Prior to leaving, he put all of his stuff in storage, and he goes down to, to Brazil and eventually dies in Brazil. His wife, turns out was a friend of a friend of mine who lived in Brazil, Abdias do Nascimento and his wife. And they started getting these notices about the stuff that was in storage. And the final one that came said basically that the warehouse was shutting down, and they had about four or five days to clear all the stuff out of the warehouse otherwise it was gonna be trashed. The friend suggested that she call me from, from Rio [de Janeiro]. She called and explained what the situation was. I said to her that if they will basically donate the collection to the center, we would pay for the arrearages in storage, in storage fees, and we'll provide for the transportation, physical transportation. They agreed to that, and the Leon Damas Collection ends up here at the Schomburg Center. There are a few thousand other stories like that of material that was at risk in various kinds of ways that we've been able through a variety of strategies to preserve and make available to the public. And that's probably one of the most exciting things about this job, that we do have those successes. One of the most painful things about the job is that we're also aware of how many times things do, in fact, get lost or destroyed, and we're not able to ensure their preservation. But we're, we're pleased with what we've been able to achieve thus far. So, that's the, the building of the collections is one of the, the, the things I think I'm, I'm proudest of--