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Barbara Dodson Walker

An expert in the study and recordation of African American life and history, Barbara Dodson Walker was born January 18, 1930 in Washington, D.C. She grew up in the Georgetown area, which, at that time, had a large African American community. Schools were segregated, but Walker felt that she had the best education possible. She earned a B.S. in elementary education at Miner Teachers College in 1951, and an M.Ed. in 1972 from Federal City College. Walker pursued additional graduate work at Purdue University and the University of the District of Columbia.

During her thirty-two year career in education (1951-1983) Walker served in the D.C. Public Schools in several assignments, including coordinator of the Title I program with an emphasis in the multicultural population; resource teacher in the vital development of the critical reading and math programs for young children; and testing chairperson charged with developing standards for basic skills.

It was through her marriage to James Dent Walker that she nourished her interest in the recording of history and historical documents. Her husband would eventually serve as the director of local history & genealogical programs at the National Archives. After his retirement in 1979, he went to work at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and became involved in a project to identify the African Americans who were involved in the American Revolution. Walker assisted her husband in the preparation of the Rhode Island Patriots, a segment of this project. His work there was a result of an African American wanting to join a chapter of the DAR and not be an at-large member of the DAR.

After her retirement from D.C. Schools, Walker participated in many diverse research projects. She indexed the first ten years of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and researched the history of the D.C. Schools and the Epiphany Catholic Church of Georgetown for Black Georgetown Remembered. She researched and wrote essays of the Paul Lawrence Dunbar High School and Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives, both located in Washington, DC. This work appeared in the Journal of Negro Education. Walker is developing a curriculum for students in the elementary grades to assist them in writing their family histories.

Walker is a charter and life member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. and has worked on behalf of the Society in many capacities. This is the only national organization involved in documenting African American's family history and genealogy. She serves as the national president and in so doing has made many contributions to its sustenance. There are now twenty-three chapters of this Society across the nation. Walker has served also on the boards of Georgetown Heritage Trust, where she coordinated the documentation of the homes in the historic district of Georgetown; the Federation of Genealogical Societies; and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

Walker has four adult children and resides in Washington, DC.

Accession Number

A2004.015

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/4/2004

Last Name

Walker

Maker Category
Middle Name

Dodson

Schools

Phillips-Wormley School

Wendell Phillips School

St. Augustine Catholic School

Miner Teachers College

First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

WAL05

State

District of Columbia

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/18/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Short Description

Education administrator and historical researcher Barbara Dodson Walker (1930 - ) served the D.C. Public Schools as an elementary resource teacher, coordinator of the Title I program, and curriculum developer in reading and language arts. After retiring from the school system in 1983, she became involved in numerous projects designed to develop and maintain the records of African American history.

Employment

District of Columbia Public Schools

Favorite Color

Turquoise

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara Dodson Walker's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara Dodson Walker lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her mother's teaching career

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about the benefits of racially segregated schools and separate vocational schools in Washington D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her mother and her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes how her parents met and her father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about segregation in Washington, D.C. during the 1930s and '40s

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her paternal family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara Dodson Walker explains the history of slavery

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her paternal great-grandmother's manumission paper

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her paternal family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes her mother's family history, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes her mother's family history, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about many African American families having Native American family members

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about genealogical research

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara Dodson Walker shares stories of her maternal great-grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about growing up in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes how the schools African American students attended in Washington, D.C. were named

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about the schools she attended in Washington, D.C. and her aspirations as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes her family's history in the Catholic church

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes St. Augustine's Catholic School and her high school extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes going to Miner Teachers College in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes her early teaching career and the aftermath of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes the limited impact of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision on Washington, D.C.'s public schools

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her profession as a teacher

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her husband's career at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about founding the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS)

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes the relationship between history and genealogy and reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Barbara Dodson Walker reflects upon what she would like to do in the future

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about the importance of knowing African American history and what values she considers most important

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Barbara Dodson Walker gives advice to future generations

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Barbara Dodson Walker reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Barbara Dodson Walker describes the importance of collecting your own family history while you can

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about the importance of education for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Barbara Dodson Walker talks about her children

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Barbara Dodson Walker narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Barbara Dodson Walker narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

7$3

DATitle
Barbara Dodson Walker describes her early teaching career and the aftermath of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision
Barbara Dodson Walker talks about founding the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS)
Transcript
And when you finished college [Miner Teachers College; University of the District of Columbia, Washington, D.C.] then how did your life go?$$Well I taught for a couple of years and then I got married [to James Dent Walker]. Then I had babies and every school--I came home to have one baby and had two. Before I could finish that one baby, I was pregnant again and so I went from--I started teaching at Garrison [Elementary School, Washington, D.C.] and then I taught at [Charles] Sumner [School, Washington, D.C.] and then I went to Scott Montgomery [Elementary School, Washington, D.C.] and then I went to, where did I go after that, I went to Scott Montgomery--$$And this is about the time now it seems that we're talking about Brown v. Board of Education [of Topeka, 1954].$$Oh I answered the phone that day.$$Tell us about it.$$I was teaching first grade, I was teaching Garrison and it was lunchtime and my room--Garrison was like two different buildings, we had a hallway in the middle. And so the phone rang and rang and rang well I was the youngest thing there so I went down to answer the phone and I came back, "Hey they passed it!" Brown versus the Board of Education. It was very interesting because when they did that (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) What led up to that day?$$You know we were--I guess people were wondering what was going to happen and that we were going to have some kind of riot or something but it just happened. You know, now that this is the year--the celebration fifty years after Brown, people ask, "What do y'all do?" we go to work. There has never been, that I know of, any kind of a celebration that Brown--that that was passed, I don't know of any. It might have been small celebrations somewhere but as a big citywide thing, I don't remember us ever having anything like that. What did happen with that was to have integration, they integrated the school--teachers and a black teacher was interviewed by the people. I don't know who it was; I don't know what the content of the panel was that interviewed the black teacher to teach their children. But that's what you had to do and one person that survived it all and that was Betty Brooks. She survived it, she was elected to serve the schools, and she served there until she retired west of the park as we knew it--as we call it here west of the park.$$She was interviewed to be a teacher (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well she became a principal--$$--in what had been traditionally a white school--$$She was the principal. We never had it, black teachers taught black children and white teachers taught white children. But as I said, we don't know whether that was good or not because black teachers came out with Bachelor of Science degrees and we know that some of those white teachers came out with certificates.$$So did any of the white teachers come over to teach at Garrison for instance?$$No! Now they might, I don't know what's happened now. We didn't--I didn't--many, many years later after Brown versus Board was passed, we began to get people, white teachers in with black teachers. We had 'em at Harrison [Elementary School, Washington, D.C.] and I went there in '61 [1961]. I'm trying to think did we have 'em? We had white teachers at Harrison, 'cause the kindergarten teacher was white and we had a sixth grade teacher and we had a fifth grade teacher--$Now because of my husband [James Dent Walker], sometimes I'm Mrs. James Dent Walker. Then sometimes, I'm just [HistoryMaker] Barbara [Dodson] Walker. And I've used that to the advantage to build an organization: the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society [AAHGS]. It was founded in 1977 here in Washington, D.C. That has always been a mostly ethnic group, its founders were multi ethnic--predominately black but there were whites there too--to help because we knew--I think the founders knew that they needed people who were the professionals in the field of genealogy and history to help them get started. So now we have just celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of that organization and we have over 1200 paid members, and I do mean they are paid members. And it's a national organization now. So we are well represented by colleges, the universities and people.$$What kind--what sort of people join, are members?$$What we're doing, we are doing the history of our families, we are using our oral histories and connecting the history of our family and I call that the meat. The stories are the meat and we're getting the bones we got the names and we get in the dates of birth, the places of birth and things of that sort. But always names, dates and places are what you start with. So we have those things to start with and we are helping people to learn how to do that. We have an annual conference each year and this year, the year 2004 is the first time--it's not the first time, it's the first time in ten years. We have been out of the City of Washington, D.C. up until that time. We had our last ten right here in Washington, D.C. Our annual conference which runs about three or four days and I've been working with our presenters, our people who had been doing research. You know once you get on a thing, you've just got to learn a little bit more and a little bit more and we had many blacks who are very knowledgeable about areas. We got a group that's written a book on Mississippi. There are people who've written--blacks in Mississippi maybe just a small part but enough to give you information. There are people who have written and published their family histories at their own expense. We encourage that kind of thing.