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Charles Russell Branham

Historian Charles Russell Branham was born on May 25, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois to Charles Etta Halthon and Joseph H. Branham. Branham graduated from Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee in 1963. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rockford College in 1967 and earned his Ph.D. in history in 1980 from The University of Chicago where he was a Ford Foundation Fellow.

Branham has been a professor of history at various colleges in Chicago, including Chicago State University and Roosevelt University. From 1974 through 1985, he taught at The University of Illinois at Chicago where he was awarded the Silver Circle Excellence in Teaching Award. From 1985 through 1991, Branham was an Associate Professor at Northwestern University, and from 1991 through 1997, an Associate Professor at Indiana University Northwest. In 1984, Branham began working as an historian at the DuSable Museum of Afro-American History where he served as Director of Education and is now Senior Historian. Branham is the author of many publications on African American history and politics, including The Transformation of Black Political Leadership in Chicago, 1865 – 1943.

Branham is a member of the Organization of American Historians and the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. He served on the Board of Directors for The Chicago Metro History Fair, DuSable Museum of African American History, the Illinois Humanities Council and on the Executive Committee for the Chicago Archives of the Blues Tradition. From 1989-1990, he was the Chairman of the United Way of Chicago’s Committee on Race, Ethnic and Religious Discrimination. In addition, Branham has served as a consultant to the Chicago Board of Education for their curriculum development for a Black History study unit. Branham also sat on the Board of Trustees for Rockford College from 1990 to 1992. He won an Emmy Award as the writer, co-producer and host of "The Black Experience," the first nationally televised series on African American History. In 1983, Branham was an expert witness in the PACI case which forced the City of Chicago to give greater political representation to African Americans, and in 1990, his testimony before the Chicago City Council laid the foundation for the city's minority business affirmative action program.

Branham was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 3, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.119

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/3/2008

Last Name

Branham

Maker Category
Middle Name

Russell

Occupation
Schools

Manassas High School

Lincoln Elementary School

Douglas Elementary School

Rockford University

University of Chicago

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BRA11

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Tuscany, Italy

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/25/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

History professor Charles Russell Branham (1945 - ) was the senior historian at the DuSable Museum of Afro-American History and a professor of history at various universities, including Chicago State University, Roosevelt University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, and Indiana University Northwest.

Employment

Roosevelt University

Chicago State University

University of Illinois at Chicago

Northwestern University

DuSable Museum of African American History

Indiana University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Russell Branham's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles Russell Branham describes his mother's life in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Russell Branham describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Russell Branham describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Russell Branham talks about Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Russell Branham talks about Olivet Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles Russell Branham describes his father

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Russell Branham describes his family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Russell Branham describes the sights of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his parents' divorce

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Russell Branham describes his home in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Russell Branham remembers his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his influences during high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles Russell Branham remembers Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his speech at the American Legion Boys State

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his activities at Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham recalls working for the Memphis World newspaper

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Russell Branham remembers his teachers at Manassas High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Russell Branham describes segregation in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Russell Branham recalls civil rights efforts in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Russell Branham recalls applying to Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Russell Branham remembers his freshman year at Rockford College

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his experiences of racial discrimination at Rockford College

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham recalls developing his confidence at Rockford College

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham recalls meeting gubernatorial candidate Ronald Reagan

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Russell Branham recalls studying history at Rockford College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Russell Branham recalls winning a Ford Foundation fellowship

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Russell Branham recalls working in factories in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his experiences at the University of Chicago

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Russell Branham describes his studies at the University of Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles Russell Branham recalls teaching African American history

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham describes his activism in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham remembers the Communiversity

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles Russell Branham remembers 'The Black Experience,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles Russell Branham remembers 'The Black Experience,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles Russell Branham remembers 'The Black Experience,' pt. 3

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles Russell Branham recalls completing his dissertation

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Charles Russell Branham remembers being hired at University of Illinois at Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham recalls working on Harold Washington's first mayoral campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham recalls testifying about disenfranchisement in Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Charles Russell Branham reflects upon his interest in black history

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Charles Russell Branham remembers working for the 1984 Democratic National Convention

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Charles Russell Branham recalls designing an exhibit about Harold Washington

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Charles Russell Branham recalls joining the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Charles Russell Branham describes the DuSable Museum of African American History

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Charles Russell Branham describes his publications

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Charles Russell Branham reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his exhibit on Provident Hospital, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham recalls his exhibit on Provident Hospital, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham describes his work on 'The Killing Floor'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Charles Russell Branham recalls testifying about the City of Chicago's affirmative action policy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Charles Russell Branham describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Charles Russell Branham reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Charles Russell Branham reflects upon his family and friends

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Charles Russell Branham describes his experiences of police harassment

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Charles Russell Branham recalls being threatened with a gun by a police officer

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Charles Russell Branham describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Charles Russell Branham narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Charles Russell Branham narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

5$9

DATitle
Charles Russell Branham describes segregation in Memphis, Tennessee
Charles Russell Branham recalls being threatened with a gun by a police officer
Transcript
Now I didn't ask you about high school, but did--was there any black history taught in high school in Memphis [Tennessee] (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) No. I'm glad you asked that because, Johnny Johnson [John Johnson, Jr.] was the coach, a wonderful guy, showed a lot of newsreels, because we had to reel--the reel thing. We had one day when they mentioned black history and it was virtually all about Booker T. Washington, and he didn't know anything about Booker T. Washington. He just mentioned him. So there really wasn't any teaching of black history. Black history was displayed in ironic ways. For example, of course, when I grew up you had the black and white signs. There was the Malco Theatre [Memphis, Tennessee], which was the most prominent theater downtown, and African Americans and whites, of course, sat separately and you did not know from the sign where the colored entrance was. What you did was you went to the side, and when you went in, there was a picture of Booker T. Washington and you knew from that picture this is where black people were supposed to go, so we would go up to the balcony. I remember watching 'The Ten Commandments' at the Malco Theatre in the balcony, which probably was better seats than on the main level, but that was your way of knowing African American history. I mean, there were stores in Memphis when I was growing up where African Americans could buy clothing, but they couldn't try it on, and so you learned your African American history through reality. I remember coming back from college [Rockford College; Rockford University, Rockford, Illinois] my freshman year and I had a button, "Goldwater [Barry Goldwater] in 1864," and I remember my mother [Charles Hurd Branham Halthon] ripping that button off of me and screaming at me. I thought I was a wise guy, Barry Goldwater, 1864. I was obviously making fun of what I considered his retrograde ideas. My mother saw it quite differently. You see, my mother remembers when African Americans were run out of Memphis for practicing with whites, like Jimmie Lunceford, who was run out of Memphis. My mother knew that I was only a few years older than Emmett Till, and she remembered Emmett Till and so she was not gonna, she said that she screamed at me. She said, "Those white people will kill you. Take that thing off your--those white people will kill you." And, my mother was being cautious. She was being protective. She was afraid that I would say something or do something or wear a button in front of the wrong white person and that I could be killed and, of course, she had enough practical history to support that. I mean, I remember my first civil rights demonstration in Memphis and not telling my mother. My mother had been very--had made it very clear. "I am a school teacher. If you're arrested in a civil rights demonstration and your name gets in the paper, they can fire me for being your mother." Whether or not they could, I'm sure they had in the past, and so I actually was arrested but never printed or fingerprinted or anything. They just brought us all in and let us all go. Probably because there were too many of us and also probably because we weren't doing anything really but just walking up and down the street.$$What was the issue?$$Well, Memphis was a completely segregated city in 19--in the late 1960s. As I said before, the first whites I met I met in the summer after I graduated from high school [Manassas High School, Memphis, Tennessee]. There was a white lady who actually put together a little group of blacks and whites. We would meet at her home and we read 'Lord of the Flies' [William Golding] and we read a number of other books and we would discuss it and there were four African Americans, all of us going to white schools; one was going to Yale [Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut], he flunked out. He had an eight hundred out of eight hundred--no a sixteen hundred out of sixteen hundred on the SATs and he was very, very smart. He bought a smoking jacket and just got too popular and just didn't do any work, but I don't remember any of us, after having been introduced to the whites at this group, ever speaking to them and I don't remember any of us ever saying anything when the book discussion was going on. We just listened to the white kids talk and it was her attempt to provide some integration, and it didn't work. The white kids were very nice, and we all sat in the same room which was startling. It was in her home, but we didn't interact. We were scared.$And my worst experience actually was when I was doing my TV show ['The Black Experience']. I had been introduced to a young lady by John Tweedle, and I had just been interviewing Lorenzo Dow Turner and Lorenzo Dow Turner was the author of 'Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect,' and he taught at Roosevelt University [Chicago, Illinois], although he'd retired by the time I started teaching at Roosevelt, and he was just the most gracious of people. He lived in Hyde Park [Chicago, Illinois] and so I went to his home and he pulled out this old phonograph with a pine needle, which he stuck in the arm and then he brought out these big metallic records and put them on the turn table, and put the pine needle on the turntable, cranked it and I could hear the actual voices of the people he'd interviewed when he wrote his famous book and so I was on cloud nine, because this was something we could use on the show. We could photograph this and we could show him as a pioneer scholar and I was one to promote African American scholarship, and at the same time we're learning something about Africanisms. We're talking about perhaps the most African people in America and it's a culture as you know that has virtually disappeared and so I was driving down Lake Shore Drive and I ended up at 71st [Street] and I just happened to drop by this girl's apartment building and I knocked on the door and they, I mean I was buzzed in and so I get on the elevator and go up and as I get ready to knock on the door, the door opens, a guy comes out, pushes me against the wall, puts a gun to my head, and says he's going to kill me. Apparently, she had a boyfriend. Apparently she was breaking up with the boyfriend. Apparently he thought I was the cause. He held me there for what seemed like two hours. It was probably more like twenty minutes. He was a police officer. He explained to me that he was going to say that I was breaking in, and that he was going to say he had to shoot me as a robber. I, of course, basically said nothing, except I looked him in the eye, maintained eye contact, which of course, is the worst thing you can do, basically. You're not supposed to maintain eye contact if people actually have a gun to your head, and basically said, "You know, you don't want to do this. You'll never get away with it." And I apparently learned later that you're not supposed to say that. He kept telling me he was going to kill me. After twenty minutes, he decided he wasn't going to kill me. He puts the gun away, gets on an elevator and leaves. Later he tells her mother, he calls her mother and says, "I almost killed a guy." I called several friends of mine because I have a lot of ex-students who are police officers and I talk to them about it, and to a man they said--now remember this is the 1970s--they said, "Leave it alone." I mean, Wilbourne Woods, who was Mayor Washington's [Harold Washington] guard. Wilbourne Woods was a student of mine and we got to be friends because he would always reassure me that he was not an FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] agent when he was in my class, and he said, "Look. These guys will put drugs in your car. They will not let one of their own go down, so just leave it alone." So, I don't know how many people have ever had a gun put to their heads, but I was actually kind of proud of the fact that I didn't panic. We now know a little bit about what you're likely to do, whether or not you can remain calm, when you have a gun put to your head, but I never want that to happen again.$$Yeah, Wilbourne was one of the members of the African American Police League [Afro-American Patrolmen's League; African American Police League], yeah.$$(Nods head) And he told me, he said, "Leave it alone." He says, "I'll talk to the guy but don't turn him in because they'll end up putting drugs in your car."

Kathleen E. Bethel

African American studies librarian Kathleen Evonne Bethel has dedicated her career to developing a broad collection of African American resource materials at Northwestern University. A fourth generation Washingtonian, Bethel was born in the Washington, D.C., area on August 4, 1953, to Helen and Frederick Bethel. From a very early age, she knew that she wished to do “cultural work” for the African American community. After graduating from high school, Bethel received a scholarship from the National Bridge Association to attend Elmhurst College in Illinois. She received her B.A. degree in 1975 and began working for the Newberry Library in Chicago as a receptionist that same year. Bethel worked in this position for two years.

In 1977, Bethel earned her M.A. degree in library science from Rosary College, now Dominican University. She then received a position as branch librarian for the Maywood Public Library in Maywood, Illinois. The next year, Bethel took a position at Johnson Publishing Company, home to Ebony and Jet magazines, working as an assistant librarian for four years. In 1982, Bethel was hired to serve as Northwestern University’s African American Studies librarian. In this capacity, she is responsible for acquisition, maintenance and cataloguing of source materials on African American life and history for the university library system. Seven years later, Bethel earned her second M.A. degree, this time from Northwestern University.

Bethel has not limited her service in African American Studies to Northwestern University. In 1996, she received a Fulbright Library Fellowship to provide expertise and assistance to colleagues at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and in 1999, she became a library fellow for the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities in order to study African American museums. In 2001, Bethel traveled to Paris to participate in an international colloquium on African diasporas. She served on the Board of Trustees for the DuSable Museum of African American History from 1993 to 2007. She is also a member of the NAACP and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). She has served as a juror for the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Award (BCALA) committee and is an official bibliographer for the Toni Morrison Society. Bethel publishes thematically based summer African American fiction and non-fiction reading lists annually and has also compiled bibliographies on W.E.B. DuBois, personal finance management for black women, and African American theatrical dramas.

Accession Number

A2008.087

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/15/2008

Last Name

Bethel

Maker Category
Middle Name

E.

Schools

Rudolph Elementary School

Barnard Elementary School

Keene Elementary School

LaSalle-Backus Education Center

Rabaut Junior High School

Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School

Elmhurst College

Dominican University

Northwestern University

First Name

Kathleen

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

BET03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

Just Because You're Paranoid, Does Not Mean They're Not Out To Get You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

8/4/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Crab (Chesapeake Bay)

Short Description

African american studies librarian Kathleen E. Bethel (1953 - ) was responsible for the acquisition, maintenance and cataloguing of source materials on African American life and history for the university library system at Northwestern University. She also served on the Board of Trustees for the DuSable Museum of African American History from 1993 to 2007.

Employment

United States Post Office

Newberry Library

Maywood Public Library

Johnson Publishing Company

Northwestern University

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kathleen E. Bethel's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her maternal great-grandfather, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her maternal great-grandfather, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her maternal grandmother's family, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her maternal grandmother's family, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her maternal grandmother's family, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her maternal family's social activities in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her mother's childhood in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her mother's education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her father's childhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her father's U.S. Army service

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her parents' courtship

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her parents and how she takes after her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers her elementary schools

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her fourth grade teacher

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her early knowledge of African American history

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her family's relationship with George Washington Carver

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers figures from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls learning African American history in school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes segregation in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her early activities

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes the music of her childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her childhood friends

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her parents' social club memberships

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C., pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls Rabaut Junior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C., pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her extracurricular activities

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes the Black Arts Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls how she became interested in librarianship

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her early understanding of black history

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her transition to natural hair

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls deciding to attend Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her arrival at Elmhurst College

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her studies at Elmhurst College

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her experiences in Chicago, Illinois during college

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers her decision to attend library school

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers her professors at Elmhurst College

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls attending Rosary College in River Forest, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her jobs while attending Rosary College

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her courses at Rosary College

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her research on the racial history of libraries

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes working at Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel remembers visitors at Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls unemployment during the Reagan recession

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls being hired at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes African American studies at Northwestern University

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes the African American studies resources at Northwestern University

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls visiting Khartoum, Sudan, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls visiting Khartoum, Sudan, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel recalls her travels to Kenya

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel reflects upon her career at Northwestern University

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her summer reading lists

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel shares her advice to aspiring librarians

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her plans for the future

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Kathleen E. Bethel reflects upon her life

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Kathleen E. Bethel reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Kathleen E. Bethel talks about her family

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her contributions to South Africa

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Kathleen E. Bethel talks about her work with libraries internationally

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Kathleen E. Bethel describes her organizational activities

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Kathleen E. Bethel reflects upon the importance of oral history

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Kathleen E. Bethel describe show she would like to be remembered

DASession

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DATitle
Kathleen E. Bethel describes working at Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, Illinois
Kathleen E. Bethel reflects upon her career at Northwestern University
Transcript
When did you find out there was a job at Johnson Publishing Company [Chicago, Illinois] for a librarian? I mean, how did you find out?$$I'm trying to remember how I found out. I'm fairly certain, I still would've been on some sort of list at Rosary [Rosary College; Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois] for job descriptions. It, it might have come that way. That's what I can think of. I don't recall how I heard about it. I had toured the building, and when people came to town if you could get in on a tour that was a very nice wonderful free thing to do for folks. So I'd definitely been in the building before I'd gone to library school so I knew there was a library there and things. So, saw the position and applied there. And that was, it was just, it was wonderful.$$(Laughter).$$A library on the seventh floor of 820 South Michigan [Avenue]. You get off the elevator and first thing there is a Hale Woodruff painting. The hallway to the library is lined with six or seven Charles White [Charles Wilbert White] illustrations. This private library, he had on his shelf books by Phillis Wheatley. I'd never seen this kind of stuff that was happening and it was, it was just wonderful, wonderful experience.$$Now, is that, in that era, the Johnson Publishing was republishing some of the black classic--$$Yes.$$--books. As you said, the works of Phillis Wheatley and--$$Yes, yes.$$Frederick Douglass and--$$They did 'The Underground Railroad' [William Still], and Douglass, Sojourner Truth--$$And, William Still's 'Underground Railroad.' I have a copy at home from Johnson, you know.$$And that fine brown leather binding that they did. Yes, it was, it was good. Their book division was selective and Basil Phillips was a photo librarian, to, had known my family since, since he was a boy. The seventh floor was also the office of Jet magazine. And, Mrs. Johnson, Eunice Johnson, her office was there. And she was doing Fashion Fair, the show, the models were there, the clothes were there, and the moderator that year happened to be a young woman from my high school, Shayla Simpson. So, she was like my home girl. And, Bob Johnson [Robert L. Johnson] was a classmate of Reverend Mack's [James Mack]. And, it was just, just tremendous, just tremendous. There was a video room on the seventh floor as well 'cause Mr. Johnson [HistoryMaker John H. Johnson] was on the board of 20th Century Fox [Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation], I think, back then. So we got to preview the movies before they hit the theaters. I managed to be on a, not quite the A list, but a B list of staff members when there was a need for, I don't know, he was having an event for advertisers and needed some cadre of young women for all the men coming in, would get invited to things. And, he was buying tables at all sorts of events that--and the giveaways, it's like well, "Who wants to go to the Saturday morning brunch for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History?" (Raises hand).$$(Laughter).$$So, those kinds of things. So, had a, had a lot of fun and learned quite a bit about cataloging African American stuff. I sort of did a reclassification and re-cataloging of some of the collection, identified some items for some preservation work and things. Was really able to appreciate the morgue that's there and so much. But it was a good time. It was a good time.$$That was excit- very exciting I'm sure. And, the Tom Joyner Show ['Tom Joyner Morning Show'] was coming out of there, right?$$Yes. Yes.$$WJPC [WJPC Radio; WNTD Radio, Chicago, Illinois].$$WJPC. And, for a couple of years, my--I wrote the Black History Month quiz contest. I did that. And, we'd get free records from Tom.$So you've been at Northwestern [Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois] since 1985, and we're just trying--$$Eighty-two [1982], actually.$$Eighty-two [1982], okay, '82 [1982], right. That's right. That's right. And, what's been the, I guess the highlight of your tenure at Northwestern? (Cough).$$I think the highlight of my tenure at Northwestern has been to be a witness, as well as, perhaps a participant in the maturation of black studies. Something that we saw programmatically develop in the '60s [1960s] to then grow into a finally fully recognized and appreciated academic discipline has really been something. So to see that development has really been a high point for me. It has afforded me many opportunities for travel and research. The opportunity to get a second master's degree at a tremendous discount because of an educational assistance program was quite the treat. I've been a head of fellowship to the Kaplan Center for the Humanities [Alice Berline Kaplan Center for the Humanities; Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Evanston, Illinois] on campus where I was able to take a year and research black museums. Something I'm still working with now. I'm actually gonna present as a paper and get published this year as the Association of African American Museums is meeting in Chicago [Illinois]. So, to combine my personal interest with things Northwestern with its reputation with theatre and my interest in theatre, particularly black theatre and arts and things. It's just been a tremendous way to, to have a career meet your own personal interests and your sort of childhood desires for things. So, I've had great opportunities there and I like to think the contributions have been strong as well that I've been able to contribute to both the profession of black studies and the profession of librarianship.$$Okay.$$So, that I've liked a lot.

Ausbra Ford

Ausbra Ford's academic and sculptural work has been the result of his adept merging of scholarly research with an artist's creativity. He was born in Chicago on February 28, 1935. He attended Coleman Elementary and DuSable High School before studying sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned a B.A. in 1964 and a M.F.A. in 1966.

From 1964-1968, Ford taught art courses for elementary schools in both the Gary and Chicago public school systems. He then served a brief stint as an associate professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge before returning to Chicago to become a full-time Professor at Chicago State University. In support of his interest in the funeral art of Afro-Americans, Ford received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship as well as a grant from Chicago State University to conduct research on the funerary art of West and Central Africa. Subsequent grants from the Chicago State University Foundation allowed him to continue pursuing his work in the field.

Ford's writing on funerary art has been published in journals such as World Anthropology and the Morition Press, and in the books Two Centuries of Afro-American Art and African Influence in Funeral Art of Haiti.

He has lectured at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Chicago Field Museum, as well as numerous colleges around the country. Ford sits on the Board of Directors of the DuSable Museum; is the President and one of the founders of the African American Visual Arts Roundtable; and is a member of both the Kemetic Institute of Northeastern Illinois University and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. His work has been exhibited both locally and nationally, in one man and group shows. Ford's pieces are part of the permanent collections of Chicago State University, the University of Suwon in the Republic of Korea, the Southside Community Art Center in Chicago, the DuSable Museum of African American History, Northeastern Illinois University and Chicago's Hilton Hotel.

Accession Number

A2002.078

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/17/2002

Last Name

Ford

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Du Sable Leadership Academy

Colman Elementary School

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ausbra

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

FOR04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Brazil

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

2/28/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Sculptor and art professor Ausbra Ford (1935 - ) has taught at Chicago State University and lectured around the country. In support of his interest in the funeral art of Afro-Americans, Ford received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship as well as a grant from Chicago State University to conduct research on the funerary art of West and Central Africa.

Employment

Chicago Public Schools

Southern University

Chicago State University

Gary Indiana Public Schools

Favorite Color

Orange, Light Tan

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ausbra Ford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about his family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes the building where he grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father's trucking business

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father leaving Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes some of his father's stories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father's business philosophy

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ausbra Ford describes his mother's escape from Georgia and move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ausbra Ford describes his mother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his maternal grandmother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford shares his grandparents' stories of the trauma of slavery and lynching

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his reactions to hearing family stories of lynching

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his childhood in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his childhood in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford describes the development of the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the gangs in Bronzeville during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at Coleman Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford describes what kind of student he was at Coleman Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ausbra Ford talks about his aspirations to become an artist or architect

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his parents' response to his decision to become an artist

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford talks about athletics at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about how DuSable High School prepared him academically

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about his high school teacher, HistoryMaker Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about graduating from DuSable High School in 1953

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about his service in the United States Air Force during the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford talks about his relationship with HistoryMaker Dr. Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes the beginning of his academic career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford describes his study of funeral art in Africa, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his study of funeral art in Africa, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience teaching at Northeastern Illinois University Center for Inner City Studies

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his growth as an artist

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of AFRI-COBRA and the art scene in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience teaching at the Kemetic Institute and Chicago State University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of the collective in his art and teaching

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes his first trip to Egypt in 1987, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his first trip to Egypt in 1987, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford talks about his second trip to Africa in 1988

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about the influence of traveling to Africa on his art

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his two sculptures on Oshun

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about his interest in mixed media sculpture

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about the experience of traveling to Brazil

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about the relationship between African and Brazilian art

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the creation of the African American Visual Artists Roundtable

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford talks about his success with the African American Visual Artists Roundtable

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience with the committee to provide art to the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience with the committee to provide art to the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about the present support of visual arts in the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about how he would like to be remembered and his parents' pride in him

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford narrates his photographs

DASession

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Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of the collective in his art and teaching
Ausbra Ford describes his two sculptures on Oshun
Transcript
Yeah it's an interesting thing about the way you speak of your, your work and your experiences you--many artists talk about their vision on something and what they're creating and you, of course, you, your work is unique, their yours on a level, but you, you always speak about in, in a collective way like you're part of something bigger, I mean, you know, you, you've done more talking about the influences of other on your than you have about what you, your own, you know--(unclear)--$$It's, it's that--I, I think it's that African thing, man you know it's that, the collective is as so, so very important, you know, and matter fact it was like the first piece that I did for Inner City Studies [Northeastern Illinois University Center for Inner City Studies in Chicago] I had one name on it, and they renamed it. I, I didn't get upset 'cause hey shoot does it work. Fine, that's probably the way it was meant to be. Sometime it has two names. I said I could care less, but it's, it's the feedback, the input from other folk, which is so important, and this is a problem that we have so much in Western culture and Western art. You know, everything is "I" and, and I keep drumming it and drumming it, and drumming it into those student's heads and everything else. The whole thing is the community, the collective us and Africa. That's why we in trouble now. That's why the continent's in trouble 'cause people doing all these crazy things, and it's all about I and forgetting about everybody else and its un-African. And it's not gon' straighten out, and we're not gonna get the continent straightened out until we get our whole thing and get back on like Jake [HM Jacob H. Carruthers] said, "We get back to fundamentals." And when we get back to fundamentals, things are going to straighten out and things can happen. And I just keep saying this is part, this is why we have problems. You just don't have to look at Africa, you can just look here in the United States and see part of our problem here. We don't own nothing. We don't want to do anything. We just falling apart. We got more money. We got more, we got better jobs and everything else, and we are worse off than we ever were. I said we let the family fall apart and once you let that family fall apart and the collectiveness in terms of the community fall apart you got deep troubles. I said and real deep, and I started giving examples, and they say "Hey Ford I agree with you. You right there and everything else." And this is the whole thing that we gotta understanding. I said, "Look we went through slavery. We went through the middle passage and went through slavery, and we didn't fall apart. Look at us now," I said, "just look at us now." We in pathetic shape, and you know when, when you deal with Jake and the rest of 'em you got statistics. You can, you can drop all that stuff off and that's what Andy [Anderson Thompson] does, you know man Andy drop all that stuff off, he say hey get an understanding. This is time to talk, the right talk and get ourselves together as a people, whereas we are not used by every ethnic group that comes along and this is our problem. Everybody has used us, and that's why the continent is in that shape. Everybody wants something from us without paying. I said and that's why we're in that shape, you know, and, and then their eyes get bigger and the next thing you know they reading the African books, they getting into it and everything else and wanna hold a conversation and then the spiritual stuff comes up and all this other kind of jazz, which makes it interesting, you know, and so you making people, you making real human beings out of real African people. And this is what I love about teaching here is that I can, I can touch somebody, you know.$Now, we're in a unique position today to do something unusual that we don't do. We've got two pieces directly behind you that are on camera and I think we might even be able to focus on them, and, and perhaps you can tell us about those. Because you're an artist, you know it's hard to talk about art without looking at it, but, you know, and the ideas that go into the art work. So, maybe if we can maybe talk about the piece to your left over your left shoulder.$$And that's Oshun 'cause that's from, that's from the Bra, Brazilian thing 'cause I recall it and that's after Dr. Anderson Thompson. You know he coined the phrase the African-Brazilian Connection. And I've gone to Brazil doing stuff and I've become very, very influenced by that also and they work together. And that is we call an Orisha called Oshun, and Orishas are aspects of nature, and they're saints really. And Oshun was, was the Oshun River, and she was very, very, very, very powerful, very, very beautiful. She had curative properties and everything else and so that's a sculpture. So, they have colors. Each Orisha has colors, foods, and everything else that relates directly to them. And they come out, and they, they come out dancing, they come out dancing and this is what she's in a move position of moving forward because she's in a position of dancing, and dancing brings in the spirit entity of that, of that particular Orisha and other Orishas, and this is how the ceremony really starts and everything else. So, and you will see orange and with her being the Orisha in terms of the Oshun River, and I was at the Oshun River when I was in Africa and everything. Matter of fact I used to hang around all the time, you know. A beautiful town, Osogbo [Nigeria], but at any rate this is where she's from, so she was very beautiful, and she was also vain. She was, she loved to look at herself and everything else. So, a lot of times she has a mirror, and you'll see that in the hand. And so she was very, very important and very, very powerful. She has the beads in front of her face. It's called a veil of beads and only those who are associated with and those who are associated with royalty have the right to wear the veil of beads in front of the face. Literally what it does is protects the, the viewer from what we call the spiritual energy of the person or the ashe. That a king's ashe is so powerful that it would harm the average person. So, they have the beads in front of the face to protect you from seeing his face. And so, therefore, if this Orisha is associated with in any way with royalty and everything else then therefore you will see the beads in front of the face. So, that's the one over there and so you can see she's got her mirror in her hand, and, and she's ready for action.$$Okay, now there's one too over your right shoulder. Maybe you could describe that one for us?$$I forgot which one is that.$$OFF-CAMERA MALE VOICE: You can look.$$I can look, okay, shoot all right, shoot. Oh, you know what that one is that's Oshun also. The, the, the wall piece and Oshun is, and let me mention this, Oshun is one of my Orishas. I'm very, very involved in it and everything else. And your Orisha is on your head. And Oshun is, she's not the number one Orisha, but she is one of my Orishas. So, therefore, it is only normal that you would do one of your Orishas and so she's the Orisha of love, curative powers, the water, which water is always important and etc. So, this is what's happen, so I've used plexiglass on her and you can notice the veil of beads coming in front of the face and everything else with the gold mask, so orange, gold are her colors and everything else. And if you look real close you can see the fish on the, on her dress, and her dress is shaped almost bell shaped and that's a symbol. Everything in Africa means something. So, that's symbol in terms of the first mound of the world, where the first, the first mound of earth began. The world was surrounded with water, and what was out was this mound of earth and so therefore the skirts symbolize this mound of earth and therefore you get that kind of bell like shape and everything else. So, that's what she has. So, everything on there, you know, researching down to, you know, very much and I do the Brazilian thing the same way as I do the Kemetic thing is. I'm always in touch with the priests, so when they come in town from Brazil they come in and look and you know give me a yeah or nah on it and everything else and matter of fact they, you know, gave me a, you know, go ahead on all the stuff that I've done. You know, they read the shelves and they tell you whether you can go on and do the work or not.