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Harry Robinson, Jr.

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

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

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

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

Accession Number

A2006.089

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/4/2006

Last Name

Robinson

Maker Category
Schools

C.M. Washington High School

Kent Hadley Elementary School

Pitman Elementary School

Southern University and Agricultural and Mechanical College

Clark Atlanta University

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

First Name

Harry

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

ROB11

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

Super

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

9/16/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Dallas

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Red), Rice

Short Description

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

Employment

Southern University

Kentucky State University

Prairie View A & M University

Alabama State University

Bishop College

African American Museum in Dallas

Favorite Color

Red

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DAStories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$9

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