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Charles D. Churchwell

Library administrator and library science professor Charles Darrett Churchwell was born on November 7, 1926 in Dunnellon, Florida to Leeannah DeLaughter Churchwell and John Dozier Churchwell. After graduating from high school, Churchwell joined the United States Army, serving for two years in the U.S. and Philippine Islands. He obtained the rank of Sergeant 4th Grade while acting as his company's clerk. After returning from the armed forces in 1948, Churchwell attended Morehouse College and four years later, he received his B.S. degree in mathematics. Upon graduating, he became a reference assistant at the library of Alabama State College. In 1953, Churchwell graduated from Atlanta University with his M.L.S. degree with a focus on college and university library administration.

Churchwell became an instructor with Prairie View A&M College in Prairie View, Texas in 1954 where he met and married Yvonne Ransom. Two years later, he and Yvonne moved to New York City, New York so he could work as a reference librarian for the New York Public Library (NYPL). After only two years, Churchwell left New York for Illinois to study for his Ph.D. degree in library science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, becoming a librarian with the school in 1964. After publishing his thesis, entitled Education for Librarianship in the United States: Some Factors which Influenced its Development between 1919 and 1939, Churchwell received his Ph.D. in 1966, the first African American male to earn a Ph.D. degree from the university. The next year, Churchwell became the associate director of the libraries at the University of Houston, becoming the first African American to work for the university during a time of intense segregation. Churchwell became heavily involved with the Black Student Union during this time, working as a liaison during a controversial campus visit by Black Panther Bobby Seale.

In 1970, Churchwell became a professor of library science and director of libraries for Miami University in Ohio, where he redesigned and renovated the library. He moved to Brown University in 1974, working as the university librarian while publishing his book Shaping of American Library Education with the American Library Association (ALA). In 1978, Churchwell began working for Washington University in St. Louis as dean of library services and created a unique endowment to fund the library’s technological services. After nearly a decade in St. Louis, Churchwell became a tenured professor with Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He spent the 1990s as dean of the School of Library and Information Studies for Clark Atlanta University, before retiring in 1999.

Churchwell passed away on September 19, 2018.

Charles D. Churchwell was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 16, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.291

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/16/2007

Last Name

Churchwell

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

D.

Schools

Dunnellon School

Morehouse College

Clark Atlanta University

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Dunnellon

HM ID

CHU02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Florida

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

That's Murphy's Law.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Birth Date

11/7/1926

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

St. Louis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Pork Chops

Death Date

9/19/2018

Short Description

Library administrator and library science professor Charles D. Churchwell (1926 - 2018) served as the dean at the School of Library and Information Studies for Clark Atlanta University during the 1990s, was a tenured professor at Wayne State University, served as university librarian for Brown University for four years, and was the first African American faculty member at the University of Houston.

Employment

Clark Atlanta University

Wayne State University

Washington University

Brown University

Miami University

Favorite Color

Beige

Timing Pairs
231,0:616,6:1078,14:4096,56:4956,67:5816,136:6418,146:15528,216:16266,228:16676,234:27048,295:27560,300:28584,311:30675,332:31478,345:31989,357:33992,370:35028,395:35768,406:37174,432:37914,443:42356,495:43280,511:47195,554:58191,731:62212,751:66160,811:70454,868:71042,877:88214,1301:91323,1337:92227,1346:92679,1364:93696,1374:97901,1419:98469,1429:103800,1494:106851,1509:114744,1646:126990,1726:128830,1756:129630,1767:134204,1786:135322,1801:135666,1806:136096,1812:139634,1844:140194,1850:154526,1996:164630,2089:167650,2141:168105,2149:177000,2222:184806,2322:189742,2371:197714,2467:198534,2478:212737,2627:213304,2635:217204,2647:217584,2653:224177,2715:225918,2725:226578,2738:226974,2746:229580,2779$0,0:763,8:4687,157:9358,185:9846,190:10822,199:16025,246:17075,257:21454,295:22770,313:24086,329:28216,364:28684,372:29386,383:30010,392:30634,402:33220,407:35101,437:37748,468:39790,479:40420,488:42310,493:48360,578:49405,616:49625,621:49845,626:52006,653:52657,664:53680,678:55075,697:55819,706:58760,719:59243,730:59726,741:61037,770:61589,781:63590,818:68170,843:68890,857:69466,865:71600,885:72664,900:80134,980:80692,992:81374,1004:81870,1014:82118,1022:82428,1028:85907,1040:87750,1069:88817,1081:94588,1162:95893,1234:110079,1386:114296,1421:116082,1453:121480,1488:121820,1493:122670,1505:123520,1518:124030,1525:126820,1534:133314,1593:134380,1623:136676,1635:151132,1754:151502,1760:152464,1775:161498,1876:164770,1884:165225,1893:165485,1898:165875,1906:178398,1986:178710,1991:182810,2040:184770,2055:189268,2106:192516,2161:193412,2170:197648,2182:207490,2227:212638,2273:219264,2344:222500,2375:227855,2429:229740,2468:230390,2481:230780,2489:231040,2494:232920,2508
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles D. Churchwell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers his mother's house

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his father's birthplace and relationship with his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his father's occupation and illness

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his homes in Dunellon, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers the Dunnellon School in Dunnellon, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the Second Bethel Baptist Church in Dunnellon, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls the academics at the Dunnellon School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers preparing for college at the Dunnellon School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls joining the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell reflects upon his experiences in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his deployment to the Philippines

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell describes segregation in the U.S. Army

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his decision to attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his academic difficulties at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers Benjamin Mays' emphasis on education

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers Benjamin Mays' opposition to segregation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his peers at Morehouse College, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his peers at Morehouse College, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls studying math at Morehouse College

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls the mentorship of Virginia Lacy Jones

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls working at the New York Public Library

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers the birth of his first daughter

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls earning a Ph.D. degree at the University of Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls joining the University of Houston in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the advice of Dean Robert M. Downs

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls directing the library at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers his transition to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his daughters' education

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his son-in-law

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls leaving the Brown University library

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls transitioning to Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes his library directorship at Washington University in St. Louis

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers helping his employees attend library school

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls leaving Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls transitioning to Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the digital library endowment at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Charles D. Churchwell remembers teaching at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his career at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Charles D. Churchwell recalls his career at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Charles D. Churchwell describes the Trevor Arnett Library in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Charles D. Churchwell describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Charles D. Churchwell narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$6

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Charles D. Churchwell remembers helping his employees attend library school
Charles D. Churchwell describes the digital library endowment at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri
Transcript
There were no professional librarians on--black, on the Washington University [Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri] staff, no professional librarians. And by sheer accident one day, I discovered there was a young black man in the copy room. His name is Rudolph Clay, and I went back to my office and asked the secretary to give me his folder. She gave me his folder and I discovered that he was a graduate of Washington University, but the only job he could find was that clerical job in that copy room, and I called him up to the office and asked him had he ever thought about becoming a librarian. He said, "Yes, sir, but I can't afford it." And he said, "My mother is, my mother is ill and I'm her sole support, so I can't afford it." And I told him, I say, "But if you could get a scholarship, would you go?" And he said, "Yes, sir." I knew the dean of library schools at several schools, University of Illinois [University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois], University of North Carolina [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina], and the University of Michigan [Ann Arbor, Michigan], and I called Russ Bidlack [Russell E. Bidlack] at Michigan and I told him--this was during the era when they were trying to diversify staffs in early--and just couldn't find (air quotes) qualified candidates. I told Russ, I say, "I've got a young man here who I think would make an excellent librarian, but he can't afford to--the tuition at Michigan, can't afford to come." And he said, said, "Church [HistoryMaker Charles D. Churchwell], if you recommend him, I'll find the money." And he did. And so I recommended, so Rudolph went, and today he's now head of reference at Washington University. And I discovered the same thing existed for a young lady--black young lady who was in the art library as a clerk, and she was a single mother and I talked with her. She would like to be a librarian but she couldn't afford it because she had a daughter. Now, Rudolph is now at Michigan, going on through his program. So I called Russ again, I said, "I've got another case, but I think she'll make a good librarian." I said, "But she has a daughter." He said, "Well, we'll see what we can do." He found one for Cheryl--that was her name, Cheryl Holland, found her in the married student housing, found a (unclear), and we sent her to Michigan. Today, she's a reference librarian at Washington University. Those are the things I'm most proud about, as I look back over my career. Other things I've done--excellent things, like improving the library system, are quite significant. One of 'em is quite unique, but I--when I think about the people I was able to help, that's the most satisfying.$Tell us about the endowment at Washington University [Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah. Every university has had problems with advanced technology because of the cost. When I was at Washington University and we had to automate the library, I made a recommendation, which the chancellor accepted, was that we should not automate unless we have money to continue the cost of operation. Otherwise, I said, automating would be like telephone service--you just get the instrument. The telephone company will give you that instrument, because that's gonna what they make their money off; they make their money off the service, same with computer technology. They don't make their money off the hardware; they make their money off the upkeep and a continued upgrading, so you got to have a way to keep it going. So I made a recommendation that, "Don't automate unless you have a way to continue to pay for it." And my staff and I recommended about how much it would take, and I went to my supervisor and he recommended that I go to the vice chancellor for finance and make the proposal to him, and I told him. He say, "Well, Charles [HistoryMaker Charles D. Churchwell], what you need to do is go to Bill Danforth [William H. Danforth] and convince him that you need an endowment, and of that annual interest, you use only half of it annually to pay for the operation annually, and let the other half plow back in so that it will continue to maintain its buying power." Made that recommendation, so before I left, we set up a $4 million endowment--automation endowment. Today, that endowment brings in more money than my successor [Shirley K. Baker] is able to spend, so she has doled out money throughout the campus where there's a need, because it's in the 20s now--millions. It's the only university in the country that has that kind of money for automation, and they have, according to the chancellor, they have the best automated library in America, because it has the money to do it because of that endowment that I recommended. And it's, it's--you go over there now and look at what the students have in the cafeteria. Oh, a student can go in and, and computers are available for them; laptops are available for them to do whatever they want to do because of the money they get from that endowment. Well, the non-human thing--that's the other thing I'm proud of, but the--I'm proudest of the people I was able to help along the way.

Henrietta Smith

Library science professor and school media librarian Henrietta Mays Smith was born on May 2, 1922, in Harlem, a neighborhood in New York. Smith is the daughter of Nettie Johnson Mays, a domestic worker, and Henry Lucas Mays, a chef who worked on riverboats on the Hudson. Smith attended Hunter College, studying English and history. She earned her B.A. degree from Hunter College in 1943 and in 1946, she received her B.S.L.S. degree from Columbia University. Smith then moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where she served as a cataloguer at Florida A&M University for the next two years. Dr. Smith received her M.S.L.S. degree from Columbia University in 1959.

Smith started her career working for Florida A&M University's Library as a cataloger and later returned to New York to complete her M.S.L.S. degree. She also worked at the Countee Cullen Branch of the New York Public Library as a children's librarian where she become interested in storytelling and the power of oral traditions. In 1949, she married Isaiah Courtney Smith, a young civil rights lawyer. Returning once again to Florida, Smith worked for Broward County Public Schools, as a school media specialist. In 1975, at the age of fifty three, she received her Ph. D. degree from the University of Miami and joined the faculty of the Florida Atlantic University's School of Education. After ten years at Florida Atlantic, she left the institution and joined the faculty of the University of South Florida's School of Library Science where she was the first and only African American faculty member on campus. She specialized in children's librarianship and the art of storytelling.

Since retiring in 1993, Smith has been remained active in the library science field. She has sat on many American Library Association (ALA) selection committees for several literary awards such as the Coretta Scott King Awards, the Caldecott Award, and the Newbery Award. In 1994, she edited the book The Coretta Scott King Book Awards: From Vision to Reality. She has been a board member of the Florida Association of Media in Education (FAME) and the Florida Library Association (FLA) and has continued her general membership. She has also been involved with Storytellers Association, an association which teaches and develops multicultural storytelling and the oral tradition. In 2000, she wrote the introduction to Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Pictorial Tribute to the Negro National Anthem.

Smith lives in Florida with her husband, I.C. Smith, now a retired judge. She has two adult children, Cynthia Smith Jackson and Robin Smith. In 2008, she was honored by the American Library Association (ALA) as the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children's (ASCL) Distinguished Service Award for Smith's accomplishments and contributions to children's librarianship.

Henrietta Mays Smith was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 13, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.235

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/13/2007

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Hunter College

Columbia University

University of Miami

Morris High School

P.S. 139 Frederick Douglass School

Julia Ward Howe Junior High School 81

First Name

Henrietta

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

SMI19

Favorite Season

Christmas, Easter

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere New

Favorite Quote

Take Time To Smell The Roses.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

5/2/1922

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tampa

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken Wings

Short Description

Library science professor and school media librarian Henrietta Smith (1922 - ) became the first African American faculty member at the University of South Florida’s School of Library and Information Science.

Employment

University of South Florida, School of Library Science

Florida Atlantic University, College of Education

Broward County Public Schools

Countee Cullen Branch, New York Public Library

Florida A&M University

New York Public Library

Favorite Color

Blue, Yellow

Timing Pairs
0,0:6557,148:7584,168:16906,350:26225,467:36772,611:38064,630:39356,651:39736,657:40800,677:41484,688:42700,709:56696,958:68940,1123:71544,1181:80442,1388:84454,1470:97366,1674:97835,1684:99577,1727:100046,1735:100381,1745:101922,1785:102994,1810:105741,1853:108421,1918:109627,1945:110699,1961:115660,1986:116255,1995:117785,2029:120250,2093:120590,2098:125605,2169:134580,2289:134975,2295:136476,2331:139715,2411:149063,2537:151655,2628:161990,2705:163376,2761:166148,2802:181690,2968:182035,2974:184519,3015:185209,3028:186658,3045:187141,3054:191488,3185:196824,3256:208568,3378:209038,3384:226790,3663:240046,3829:244611,4013:244943,4018:252969,4142:269598,4327:273294,4405:279910,4451:305180,4949$0,0:1518,36:20345,422:20795,429:21170,435:26120,567:26420,572:28895,628:29345,639:34070,746:41873,822:42603,843:43698,863:44063,870:44428,876:44866,917:46253,937:50420,990:53380,1067:53940,1086:57770,1100:62520,1183:62788,1192:64195,1245:64798,1255:65267,1263:69162,1297:72580,1329:73700,1365:75380,1384:76020,1394:76820,1407:80500,1465:86560,1533:87790,1559:88446,1568:91615,1599:94534,1624:96582,1678:98054,1718:99334,1749:99590,1754:99846,1759:100998,1791:104736,1811:105528,1825:107046,1866:117990,2076:123635,2148:123983,2161:126332,2195:135935,2250:138315,2295:143484,2349:144628,2385:145596,2410:148920,2420:160480,2557
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Henrietta Smith's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Henrietta Smith lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Henrietta Smith describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Henrietta Smith describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Henrietta Smith describes her upbringing in New York City's Harlem neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Henrietta Smith remembers her parents' cooking

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Henrietta Smith remembers her relationship with her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Henrietta Smith describes her family's holiday traditions

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Henrietta Smith describes her mother's emphasis on etiquette

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Henrietta Smith remembers her lessons in elocution

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Henrietta Smith talks about her sister

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Henrietta Smith describes her father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Henrietta Smith describes her neighborhood in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Henrietta Smith describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Henrietta Smith remembers the Grace Congregational Church of Harlem

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Henrietta Smith recalls her experiences at P.S. 81 in New York City

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Henrietta Smith describes her early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Henrietta Smith describes her mother's parenting

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Henrietta Smith remembers Morris High School in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Henrietta Smith describes her experiences at New York City's Hunter College

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Henrietta Smith remembers attending Hunter College with Ruby Dee

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Henrietta Smith remembers volunteering at the 135th Street Library in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Henrietta Smith talks about the 135th Street Library

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Henrietta Smith recalls attending library school at Columbia University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Henrietta Smith recalls working as a cataloguer at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Henrietta Smith recalls her return to the New York Public Library system

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Henrietta Smith describes the work of Augusta Braxton Baker

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Henrietta Smith recalls the discrimination faced by African American authors

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Henrietta Smith remembers the notable African American librarians

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Henrietta Smith recalls her storytelling lessons from Augusta Braxton Baker

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Henrietta Smith recalls the Hans Christian Andersen storytelling hour

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Henrietta Smith remembers Jean Blackwell Hutson

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Henrietta Smith describes her duties as a children's librarian

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Henrietta Smith remembers meeting and marrying her husband

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Henrietta Smith remembers the birth of her first daughter

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Henrietta Smith describes her husband's law practice

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Henrietta Smith remembers moving to Delray Beach, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Henrietta Smith describes her work for the public schools of Broward County, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Henrietta Smith talks about her doctoral studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Henrietta Smith remembers her tenure at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Henrietta Smith describes working at University of South Florida

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Henrietta Smith remembers E.J. Josey

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Henrietta Smith recalls the creation of the Coretta Scott King Award

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Henrietta Smith describes the John Steptoe New Talent Award

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Henrietta Smith talks about the Coretta Scott King Awards Book

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Henrietta Smith talks about illustrator Ashley Bryan

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Henrietta Smith describes the African American Research Library and Cultural Center

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Henrietta Smith remembers Doris Clark

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Henrietta Smith remembers Lucille Thomas

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Henrietta Smith remembers Charlemae Rollins

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Henrietta Smith remembers Virginia Lacy Jones

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Henrietta Smith remembers Effie Lee Morris

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Henrietta Smith describes her involvement in Storytellers International

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Henrietta Smith remembers telling stories with Blue Water

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Henrietta Smith recalls the creation of the Pura Belpre Award

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Henrietta Smith shares her philosophy of storytelling

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Henrietta Smith talks about access to African American children's literature

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Henrietta Smith describes her concerns for children's literature

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Henrietta Smith shares her concerns for public libraries

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Henrietta Smith talks about the Negro National Anthem

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Henrietta Smith reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Henrietta Smith narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Henrietta Smith narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

1$1

DATitle
Henrietta Smith recalls her storytelling lessons from Augusta Braxton Baker
Henrietta Smith shares her philosophy of storytelling
Transcript
So let's talk a little, let's talk some more about Augusta Baker [Augusta Braxton Baker]. Do you--can you tell us, can you describe her for us and tell us maybe about some of your personal interactions with her?$$Okay, Augusta Baker, a tiny woman, but big. You know what I mean, big in what she could and as I told you she said, "You're gonna tell stories." Well they had told us that before but she really reinforced--"You're gonna tell--and remember when you're telling you are sharing this event and you are not the primary character therefore you dress down." "Do what?" "You dress down. You wear dark colors, no jewelry that jangles and you don't have a lot of stuff around you because you are just sharing an event." And then they would come around and you had to do a practice or practicum story while you know she's sitting there looking at you and you're saying okay am I doing this right? Am I gonna remember the events? And you're scared to death until she relax--you relax when you finish and she smiles at you and you know that you did okay. When I moved to Florida--moved--well, we're get to that more later, but when I moved to Florida I would come up in the summer, I was going back to Columbia [Columbia University, New York, New York] to get my master's in library science and I told Augusta I said, "I'm gonna be up for the summer, maybe I can do some part-time storytelling," and she would say, "I can give you ten hours a week if you do that much for me." And that's when I use to go down in the parks but remembering what she had taught you went out to the park. You might carry a book or two, but you really--she said your book is your Linus blanket. You're not reading to the children, you're telling them this story, and that what we really--I don't think the people much of that now. They use visuals and stuff like that but--$$So can you talk a little bit about that telling of a story? What's involved in telling a story versus reading a story?$$When you tell it, it you say, "This is the event at which I was present. And Adrienne [Adrienne Jones] for some reason you missed it but here's what happened," and then you tell this story, you tell the Anansi stories or you tell the Peter Rabbit story or you tell how the cat made the--got to make the sound that it does. The book may be over here, but you're telling and you know when you've done it okay because at one I have a favorite story and I tell 'The Cat's Purr' which was illustrated by Ashley Bryan, one of my favorite storytellers, and when I finished a little kid came up to me and she said, "You know what my cat didn't look like your cat." In her head she had a cat and, and that's, that's the thing that Augusta and all the early storytellers embedded in your head that you were going to tell so that your audience visualize in their own heads what was happening, and the pacing and the diction I mean they, they were strict on how you did it.$$So tell us a bit about that, what did Ms. Baker instruct you in terms of the framework of the nuts and bolts of telling a story?$$The first place you learn the story, you don't say, "Today I'm gonna tell 'The Cat's Purr,'" pick it up today and go tell it. You've read it and you've read it again and you read it again. You've told it in front of a mirror, you've told it on tape. You put the book way aside and then tell it again until it's down to where you want it to be. The pacing, the diction, the motion and she would say, "Now remember, motion is not--if you're running up a hill you don't run across the floor, you let them see you by your motion run up that hill. If you fall down, don't fall down because if you fall down you're gonna have trouble getting up." And she would you know give you those, those kind of things. You don't go in with any chewing gum in your mouth, she would just--and if you had long hair enough of these distractions or things you know getting your hair out--none of that. Every motion you make had to be important to that story or you don't make it, and every--even if you told the story yesterday you don't go tomorrow and tell it again without refreshing the story. It makes it look easy but it's because you worked--worked on it to get it done, and as I said she would pop up sometime and just be there when you were, when you telling just to make sure you were doing what, what should be done. We had a storytelling season that started, what is it, September and it went through the first Friday in May and then the first Friday in May all the storytellers got on the ferry boat and went over to Staten Island [New York] for the storytelling symposium and--each--the chosen storytellers would tell (laugher)--and Augusta said, "And they never let me be one of the chosen storytellers but when I became supervisor of children's work I became a storyteller and I told it." (Laughter) She was so funny, she was very, she was very interesting at that.$Is that the end of the story? Perez falls into the porridge?$$Well if you fall into a pot of hot porridge what?$$You're dead.$$You're dead. Well one of the things we have to help children learn is death is a part of life. I remember once when I was teaching at FAU [Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida] I got a book on--it's called the 'Unbuilding' [David Macaulay] it's the story of the dismantling of the Empire State Building [New York, New York]. It's done by a very wonderful illustrator. So one of colleagues was teaching children's literature that night, and I gave him a copy of the book, I said, "Take this up to your class, it's a wonderful new book and maybe they wanna see it." He took it to his office and in about fifteen minutes he brought it back and he said, "I can't use this book." I said, "Why not?" He says, "It's doesn't have a happy ending, and I don't teach any literature that doesn't have a happy ending." That's not life, when you're working with children you have to give them life and death is a part of life, and it isn't only animals that die, and that's part of what I do. I do it with the teachers that I'm teaching and I do it with the children when I'm working with them and there's some wonderful stories that handle death beautifully for children.$$I saw a quote by you that indicated that you do not as a storyteller preach about the moral of the story or discuss that in anyway. You're simply laying the story out for the listener. Can you talk a little bit about that?$$People underestimate what children understand. You don't need to preach the moral, if the story ends with the moral and you say, "Well when you think about it the best way for this is sometimes is to say no to your very best friends," that's the end of the story. If they're following the story along, you don't need to tell them that. Now if I say to you today, "We're gonna analyze this story in terms of structure and vocabulary," you're going to listen a certain way. If I say to you, "Today is story hour day, we're just gonna share stories. That's what we came to do and you go home with whatever you go home with." With some it may be nothing, with some it's a lot. I remember once years ago I was in a restaurant and this waiter came up to me and said, "You told us stories when we were in elementary school." Here's this guy about six feet tall who remembered something that I told him, so you know you don't have to belabor children with what the moral is, that's, that's my belief anyway as a storyteller.