The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Trudy DunCombe Archer

Judge Trudy DunCombe Archer was born on August 29, 1943 in Detroit, Michigan to Eleanor and James DunCombe, Jr. She attended George A. Custer Elementary School, Roosevelt Elementary School, Durfee Junior High School, and Central High School. In 1964, Archer received her B.S. degree in education from Eastern Michigan University. She went on to receive her M.A. degree in education from Wayne State University in 1971 and her J.D. degree from Detroit College of Law in 1981.

Archer served as an elementary school teacher at Ralph Bunche Elementary School from 1964 to 1969, and at Bellevue Elementary School from 1970 to 1973. In 1983, Archer was appointed assistant corporation counsel for the City of Detroit. Four years later, she joined Detroit College of Law as assistant dean. In 1989, Governor James Blanchard appointed Archer judge of Michigan’s 36th District Court. From 1993 to 2001, Archer served as First Lady while her husband, Dennis W. Archer, served as mayor of Detroit. As First Lady, Archer focused on Detroit’s youth, mentoring and encouraging children and their parents at school sponsored programs and forums. In 2006, she retired from her position as judge on the 36th District Court.

Archer has been a member of the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, Detroit Metropolitan Bar, the Wolverine Bar, and the Association of Black Judges of Michigan. She belongs to the Fellows of the Michigan State Bar Foundation. She has served on the boards of the Children’s Center, the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan, the Children’s Hospital of Michigan/Pediatric Clinical Services, the Junior League of Detroit, the Greening of Detroit, and the African American Parent Magazine. A life member of the NAACP, Archer was also a member of the Millionaires Club of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, the Detroit chapters of Girl Friends, Links, and the International Women’s Forum, Michigan chapter. Archer served as director emeritus for the Detroit Institute of Arts, advisor to the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan for the Dennis W. Archer Foundation, and on the advisory committee of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association’s Charitable Foundation Fund.

In 1995, Archer received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University Detroit Mercy. In 2011, she received the Women of Excellence Award from the Michigan Chronicle. Archer also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Wolverine Student Bar Association and the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanities Award. For her work on projects aimed toward children and bettering the community, she has received the Goodfellows Tribute Award, the Distinguished Citizen Award presented by the Detroit Area Council Boy Scouts of America, and the American Heart Association’s Cor Vitae Award for Community Service.

Archer and her husband have two children: Dennis W. Archer, Jr. and Vincent DunCombe Archer, and two grandsons: Dennis W. Archer, III and Chase Alexander Archer.

Trudy DunCombe Archer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 19, 2019.

Accession Number

A2019.079

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/19/2019

Last Name

Archer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

DunCombe

Occupation
Schools

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School

Durfee Elementary School

Central High School

Eastern Michigan University

Wayne State University

Michigan State College of Law

First Name

Trudy

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

ARC14

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring...really the four seasons

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Paris, and Italy

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

8/29/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Lobster and Lamb chops

Short Description

Judge Trudy DunCombe Archer (1943 - ) served as a judge on Michigan’s 36th District Court from 1989 to 2006, and as First Lady to Detroit during the administration of her husband, Detroit Mayor Dennis W. Archer.

Employment

State of Michigan

Detroit College of Law

City of Detroit

Bellevue Elementary School

Ralph Bunche Elementary School

Favorite Color

Orange, red, and all warm colors

Gwen Mazer

Fashion and image consultant Gwen Mazer was born in New York City. She was one of two children born to Theodore Goodman, a postal worker; and Edythe Goodman, an educator. Mazer received her education in New York City at the Fashion Institute of Technology and New York University.

Mazer began her career in 1955 as a retail intern at Lord and Taylor’s department store becoming one of the first African Americans to hold a junior executive position at the store. She was a fashion director at Alexander’s Department Store and the stylist for Advertising Images, one of the foremost advertising photography studios in New York City.

In 1968 Mazer became the first African American fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar creating Bazaar’s Bazaar and Lifestyle for the magazine. In 1970, during her tenure at the magazine, she was the co-founder of Narcissa a New York boutique. In1976 Mazer became the marketing director for Nazareno Gabrielli, an Italian fashion company. She was responsible for opening New York offices and assisting with opening a retail store in Beverly Hills, California.

Mazer then moved to San Francisco, California to join Esprit as creative director. She was responsible for corporate branding, advertising, marketing, and catalogues to create the company’s public image. In 1982, Mazer founded Total Image Management, a consulting firm that has provided personal style and corporate image management services for clients such as, Wells Fargo Bank, Campton Place Hotel, and Oprah Winfrey. During this time she also founded the Gwen Mazer Collection, a San Francisco, Union Square boutique offering fine fashion accessories and fashion consulting.

Mazer was an adjunct professor at the Academy of Art University.
She has also lectured at the University of California at Berkeley and the City College of San Francisco; led seminars at the Central California Women’s Conference, the Professional Business Women’s Conference; and served as a guest speaker at the World Affairs Council, the Commonwealth Club, the Jewish Community Center, and the Francisca Club.

Mazer is a charter member of the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) and served as president of the San Francisco Chapter from 1995 to 1997. Mazer is a former member of the Women’s Professional Network, the New York and San Francisco chapters of the Fashion Group, and the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She has served as a board director for the Fort Mason Foundation, the San Francisco Convention Bureau, the Magic Theatre, and currently serves on the board of the International Women’s Forum of Northern California.

Mazer was awarded the highest honor in the image industry when she received the IMMIE award for outstanding professionalism and dedication and has received various honors from the city of San Francisco. Mazer is the author of the award winning book Wise Talk Wild Women and created the Wise Talk Lecture Series. The Friends and Foundation of the San Francisco Library honored Mazer as a Literary Laureate for her book Wise Talk, Wild Women.

Gwen Mazer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 8, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.256

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/8/2013

Last Name

Mazer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Schools

Fashion Institute of Technology

New York University

Public School 103- Hector Fontanez School

Evander Childs High School

Hunter College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Gwen

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MAZ01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

Let Go And Let God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

5/23/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Caviar

Short Description

Personal style and image consultant and author Gwen Mazer (1950 - ) was the first African American to serve a junior executive at Lord & Taylor department store and as Fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar magazine. She also founded Total Image Management and the Gwen Mazer Collection.

Employment

Total Image Management

Academy of Art University

Gwen Mazer Collection

ESPRIT Fashion Company

Nazareno Gabrielli, Italian International Fashion Company

Harper's Bazaar Fashion Magazine

Narcissa Boutique

Advertising Images

Alexander's Department Stores

Lord & Taylor Department Store

Favorite Color

Turquoise

Timing Pairs
0,0:2387,27:3003,39:3311,44:6898,59:8434,120:8818,125:11506,158:11890,163:17160,189:17480,194:19400,226:19880,234:20280,240:20760,248:21320,256:21960,267:22360,274:27146,298:31000,351:34034,403:35100,424:46536,564:51590,613:53264,626:55028,652:55616,665:56960,693:65006,768:65594,777:66938,794:69962,854:70550,863:73840,903:74084,908:74511,917:74755,922:74999,927:81673,1015:82597,1032:88830,1074:89910,1086:92253,1098:93600,1108:94815,1129:99879,1172:101725,1192:102065,1197:102660,1206:107519,1246:109508,1267:111497,1288:112199,1295:117000,1317:118168,1336:124566,1385:127635,1441:130239,1485:130704,1491:131169,1498:131820,1507:132471,1515:134331,1542:137958,1551:144860,1580:145120,1585:145510,1592:145770,1597:146355,1609:148760,1658:149215,1666:149605,1674:156854,1789:161304,1862:161838,1870:162461,1878:168869,1960:176476,2016:177292,2026:178006,2041:178822,2056:179740,2063:181066,2080:190647,2207:192473,2240:192805,2245:193137,2250:194050,2268:198756,2302:200604,2329:205896,2386:206988,2401:207492,2408:209760,2443:215596,2467:215924,2472:217072,2494:226004,2643:227180,2660:227516,2665:228104,2673:235072,2744:235487,2750:236234,2760:238807,2797:242930,2809:244775,2820:255772,2954:256360,2962:256780,2968:257536,2979:263904,3029:266676,3080:267936,3102:269868,3134:272892,3194:273396,3201:275412,3229:275916,3237:285493,3270:287126,3298:287410,3303:287694,3308:291790,3329:296070,3367:296436,3374:298158,3387:298542,3394:299438,3410:299694,3415:300630,3424$0,0:279,4:744,10:1209,16:2046,60:2697,71:3441,88:6780,105:11087,157:11525,164:11963,172:12255,177:13496,196:13788,201:14591,217:14883,225:20715,264:21840,274:23830,282:24340,289:24952,297:25462,303:26584,315:36580,503:41390,549:42090,558:42990,568:45692,586:45988,591:46432,599:47246,624:48282,648:48652,654:55858,757:56202,762:56632,768:57148,778:58438,797:59814,835:61362,869:62222,882:72077,971:76360,993:92131,1229:97058,1333:97786,1343:98150,1348:107996,1426:108542,1435:109712,1457:110570,1470:111272,1482:113612,1565:114002,1572:114314,1584:117434,1637:117824,1643:126140,1723:129040,1808:129600,1817:129920,1822:131760,1876:136800,1971:137120,1976:138000,1988:138720,1998:145810,2059:146610,2069:148010,2088:149410,2114:153805,2141:154655,2152:155505,2165:157120,2189:160010,2232:160435,2238:161030,2247:161370,2252:164770,2303:166045,2323:166640,2332:170830,2345:171160,2351:171424,2356:172018,2366:172348,2372:173206,2389:173602,2396:173866,2401:174658,2420:175120,2429:175450,2435:179990,2460:182617,2501:182972,2507:183682,2521:183966,2526:188310,2560:189476,2573:190218,2585:198760,2649:203480,2665:204330,2676:205265,2691:205945,2701:206625,2711:207390,2723:209090,2749:209770,2759:210110,2764:210960,2776:213085,2806:221618,2867:227360,2929:228788,2952:229376,2961:229712,2966:230132,2973:231476,2996:232148,3005:236868,3030:237813,3036:241165,3076:242749,3096:243838,3112:249283,3175:254156,3200:254561,3207:255128,3216:257720,3264:265738,3335:266078,3341:266920,3349
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Gwen Mazer's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer talks about her family's farm in the Williamsbridge neighborhood of the Bronx, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Gwene Mazer recalls her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Gwene Mazer remembers her mother's educational background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer talks about her father's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls her father's career as a postal worker

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Gwen Mazer talks about her brother and his family

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her early neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer describes her experiences at P.S. 103 in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer recalls her childhood social activities

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer remembers her early exposure to the arts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer describes her mother's educational philosophy

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer talks about her early childhood influences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer recalls her experiences at Evander Childs High School in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer talks about her personality as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer describes her mentors at Evander Childs High School in New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Gwen Mazer talks about her early religious experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer recalls preparing for church with her maternal grandfather

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about the music of her youth

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls her early interest in foreign films

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer remembers publishing articles on Katherine Dunham

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer describes her early interest in travel

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer talks about her undergraduate experiences while studying fashion in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer recalls her first position at Lord and Taylor in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer remembers joining Alexander's Department Store in New York City as a fashion director

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls starting Advertising Images in New York City with her husband

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes the work of Hugh Bell

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her conversion to Judaism

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls the support of her father and maternal grandfather

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer remembers interviewing with Diana Vreeland at Vogue

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer recalls joining Harper's Bazaar and opening Narcissa Boutique in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer talks about the clothing sold at Narcissa Boutique in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer recalls the clientele at Narcissa Boutique in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer remembers transitioning to Harper's Bazaar's 'Lifestyle' column

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls interviewing Nikki Giovanni

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer talks about meeting Barbara Chase-Riboud

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Gwen Mazer describes the artistic work of Nikki Giovanni and Barbara Chase-Riboud

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes her decision to leave Harper's Bazaar

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her first interview with Katherine Dunham

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls traveling to Haiti with Katherine Dunham

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer talks about Katherine Dunham's associates

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer describes the political climate in Haiti under President Jean-Claude Duvalier

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer talks about the black elitism in Haiti

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer recalls the Vodun rituals held on Katherine Dunham's Haitian estate

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer remembers the final years of Katherine Dunham's life

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer recalls working for Nazareno Gabrielli

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer talks about her experience as creative director of Esprit Holdings Limited

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer describes her responsibilities at Esprit Holdings Limited

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about founding Total Image Management in San Francisco, California

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls the changes in business attire

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer remembers her clients at Total Image Management, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer remembers her clients at Total Image Management, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer describes her work with Oprah Winfrey

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer talks about designing the Gwen Mazer Collection in San Francisco, California

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer recalls her organizational memberships

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer remembers her board memberships

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer recalls publishing 'Wide Talk: Wild Women' with Christine Alicino

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about the interview process for 'Wise Talk: Wild Women'

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer recalls the reception of 'Wise Talk: Wild Women'

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer describes her website and blog

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Gwen Mazer talks about black fashion as a cultural expression

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Gwen Mazer describes her fashion philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Gwen Mazer talks about the incorporation of psychology into image consulting

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Gwen Mazer describes her future writing projects

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Gwen Mazer reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Gwen Mazer describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Gwen Mazer reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Gwen Mazer talks about her family

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Gwen Mazer narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Gwen Mazer narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

5$3

DATitle
Gwen Mazer recalls joining Harper's Bazaar and opening Narcissa Boutique in New York City
Gwen Mazer recalls traveling to Haiti with Katherine Dunham
Transcript
So it was years later that after I had been working at our studio [Advertising Images, New York, New York] that I got a call from Harper's Bazaar; and at the same time I had, we had two--a very close friend who had said to me that he would love to partner with me to open a store. And so I, when I went to Harper's Bazaar to be interviewed, I said to Nancy White who was the editor-in-chief, "Well, I'm about to, in a, in a year's time I'm going to open a retail store either in Boston [Massachusetts] or in New York [New York]." And she said, "Well, that's fine because you don't have to be here on a full time schedule. I have a couple of ideas of what I would like to have you do. We're interested in boutiques now because that's a, you know, a big phase in the world of fashion and we'd like you to be the boutique editor and to cover them in New York and London [England] and Paris [France] and that will fit with your schedule." And, so I obviously said, "Yes," and became the editor for a section that I created for them called the 'Bazaar's Bazaar.'$$Okay.$$And that was an amazing and wonderful experience. I had a little office with no windows and attended meetings and at the same time was free to also develop the store. And my partner, and you can read that in The New Yorker magazine, was a woman from an old Boston family and it was quite heady I have to say. At first the store was going to open in Boston because the family owned a lot of real estate in Boston along with a fleet of antique cars. And Paul Rudolf was hired to design the building. And it just didn't make sense to be opening this kind of store in Boston. And so we decided that it should be in New York and that's how Narcissa [Narcissa Boutique, New York, New York] was born.$$Okay. So this is also in 1968?$$Yes.$$Okay.$$Sixty-nine [1969]. It was '69 [1969] by the time we started with the, with the store. And my pages for Bazaar didn't start to come out until sixty- the beginning of '69 [1969]. So in my manner of doing two things at once that were both really wonderful, I was writing and doing all the ad- you know, all the photography. I wasn't doing the photography but hiring photographers to do my pages with, in Bazaar and at the same time preparing for the store. And it worked wonderfully because suddenly I had the world of Paris open to me through the magazine and I was able to buy in Europe things that I would have never had access to no matter how much money there was to be spent. But the editor-in-chief of the Paris Harper's Bazaar and I became good friends. That's why I had that little letter there for you. And she introduced me to just amazing things in Paris and I met Yves Saint Laurent and she took me to all of these wonderful places to purchase things. So I was able to buy early 19th century umbrellas and (unclear) of all kinds and obviously opened my eyes to parts of Paris that I didn't know. I had been to Europe several times before but this was extraordinary. And the store was really heralded as one of the most fabulous stores in New York. We had our own designer, Eric Lund who has now passed but had been a designer at Henri Bendel and he was a really close and dear friend so he came to work for us. And my partner was traveling to India so she'd come back with bucket loads of interesting things; and the store was pretty interesting, pretty interesting and very exciting.$And about three days in she [HistoryMaker Katherine Dunham] said, "You know, you're the person I want to have do my autobiography--my biography. And if you really want to know what I'm up to for this story, then you have to come to Haiti." And Haiti was the one Caribbean country that I swore I would never go to because of Duvalier [Francois Duvalier]. And of course Duvalier was dead, but the Baby Doc [Jean-Claude Duvalier] and Madame Duvalier [Simone Duvalier], who was the Simone les griots and really the impetus behind a lot of the horror that was happening there. And, so I went back to Chicago [Illinois] and I said, "Well, Ms. Dunham would like me to go to Haiti." And they said, "Well, go to Haiti," and they paid for me to go to Haiti. And I'll never forget it because of all the countries that I have been in, in the Caribbean and I've been to almost every one of them, I'd never been so struck by both the energy, the beauty and the devastation at the same time. Haiti was like a, like a love affair. You never knew whether you were going to have a case of the blues or you were going to be ecstatic. And through Katherine I saw parts of Haiti that I--were amazing. I ended up going to Cap-Haitien [Haiti] with a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] person and Katherine's place was like paradise in the middle of, in the middle--I mean you'd come into Haiti and it would be unbelievable and then suddenly you were in the area where Habitation [Habitation Leclerc, Port-au-Prince, Haiti] was and that had been a gift to her from one of the presidents [sic.]. I can't remember which president at this moment. And--$$Well, she lived--tell us something about that place. It has a historical--$$Well, it was the place of Pauline [Pauline Bonaparte] when she came from France.$$This is Napoleon's [Napoleon Bonaparte] sister?$$Napoleon's sister.$$Yeah.$$And Habitacion Leclerc was in a forest. It was one of the most exquisitely beautiful places. And of course Katherine had superb taste and so the place was simple, but it was magnificent. I mean it's just beautifully built and everything about it was serene and lovely. But when she received it, initially it was the place that she came with the dancers to renew after their times on the road and so on. So over the years it was built into something quite magnificent. It didn't look like that I'm sure when she first started. But she had an exquisite eye and, so there was a joy in being there. And I have memories of sitting out at sunset watching the sunset over these absolutely gigantic--excuse me--gigantic palm, royal palm trees and these incredible flocks of bats which one would not think of as beautiful, but these bats flying up into this almost darkened sky and swooping all over. Bats when they fly are quite lovely to see. It was a place of respite for her and a place of renewal. And for me, because she charmed me into the idea that I should do this book, I probably went to Haiti close to a dozen times. And she was there with Jeanelle Stovall who ran the business end of things and Rosie Rubenstein who was her right hand. Rosie was Israeli and occasionally when I would go down there would be other members of the Dunham Company [Katherine Dunham Company] there to visit. And it was, it was quite amazing.

Mary Harris

Health researcher Mary Styles Harris was born on June 26, 1949 in Nashville, Tennessee. She later moved to Miami. Her father, George Styles, was finishing his studies at Meharry Medical College, and her mother, Margaret, had completed her degree in business administration at Tennessee State University. In 1963 Harris was one of the first African Americans to enter Miami Jackson High School. Four years later, she graduated 12th out a class of 350. Harris graduated from Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) in 1971, and then enrolled at Cornell University where she Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship to study molecular genetics. She graduated with her Ph.D. degree in 1975.

In 1977, Harris became the executive director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia, where she raised money to fight sickle-cell anemia and was in a position to inform the public about this very serious condition. Harris was awarded a Science Residency Award by the National Science Foundation. After a period spent in Washington, D.C. completing her Science Residency, Harris became the state director of Genetic Services for the Georgia Department of Human Resources. From this position, she could also influence health policies nationwide, and her advice was sought by health officials in other states. In addition to work in Genetic Services, Harris was a part-time assistant professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta and at Atlanta University. To make life even busier, the couple's daughter was born during this period. Then, Harris became founder and president of BioTechnical Communications, which actively focuses on health issues by producing audiovisual materials on such health topics as breast cancer, an issue of major concern among minority women.

Harris’ interest in preventive health care has led her to get involved in new born screening of Sickle-cell disease and sitting on the Atlanta board of the March of Dimes. Also, she has produced television and radio shows, and she hosts a radio show, “Journey To Wellness,” and has developed a documentary, “To My Sisters... A Gift For Life.” Harris has received several awards for her research and advocacy, including the National Cancer Research postdoctoral fellowship, the Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship, and the Outstanding Working Woman from Glamour magazine.

Mary Styles Harris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 11, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.208

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/11/2012

Last Name

Harris

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Styles

Occupation
Schools

University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey

Cornell University

Lincoln University

Miami Jackson Senior High School

First Name

Mary

Birth City, State, Country

Nashville

HM ID

HAR37

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

All that glitters is not gold

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Birth Date

6/26/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Short Description

Health researcher Mary Harris (1949 - ) received her Ph.D. degree from Cornell University and is the founder of BioTechnical Communications, Inc.

Employment

BioTechnical Communications, Inc.

Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Public Health

Medical College of Georgia

Emory University

Atlanta University

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Morehouse College School of Medicine

Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia

WGTV

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
0,0:6617,168:7086,177:7354,182:14042,249:14798,257:16834,264:19214,352:23362,442:25130,476:25402,481:26490,510:27306,524:34144,568:35488,628:36076,637:37252,653:40810,696:42548,743:43022,750:43575,758:50202,848:59004,966:59300,971:71795,1055:72380,1066:72835,1074:74135,1094:75045,1110:75760,1125:76280,1134:79577,1160:80107,1173:80690,1188:81061,1196:81591,1210:81803,1215:82386,1231:82757,1240:83870,1266:84241,1275:86970,1291:87810,1305:88580,1317:90470,1364:91240,1376:91870,1386:92640,1400:95440,1460:96560,1479:98100,1513:98590,1522:99430,1537:104309,1580:104939,1596:105695,1610:106955,1640:109139,1655:110144,1677:110412,1682:110881,1690:111149,1695:114901,1808:115303,1816:118826,1833:119652,1849:120065,1858:121009,1886:121363,1894:125600,1909:126424,1918:128948,1927:129938,1948:130400,1956:130664,1961:131060,1968:133400,1992:136680,2053:137320,2063:143660,2098:144510,2109:144850,2114:145700,2124:147400,2147:152587,2195:153397,2207:154126,2218:154531,2224:154936,2230:155827,2244:157447,2266:161709,2311:162681,2324:163005,2329:164664,2343:165302,2362:165824,2373:166056,2378:170240,2420:171010,2434:171570,2444:174470,2471:175100,2484:175590,2493:176080,2501:176570,2510:177830,2536:178530,2545:184883,2607:189660,2653:190004,2658:194046,2683:197490,2742:199590,2784:200262,2793:209018,2894:210398,2920:211019,2935:215860,2991:219010,3010:219250,3015:219610,3022:220030,3031:220330,3037:234457,3144:234733,3149:235354,3161:241336,3232:244920,3271:245679,3285:246645,3304:247542,3330:249198,3380:249819,3391:250371,3403:250854,3414:251820,3431:252234,3440:252717,3449:253476,3464:254718,3517:254994,3522:259603,3534:260384,3555:262159,3586:262443,3591:266206,3666:266632,3673:267342,3687:267697,3693:276320,3803:276896,3814:277760,3828:278552,3842:279344,3855:280208,3871:282950,3890:283426,3898:285398,3936:286078,3958:286350,3963:291314,4071:301088,4201:302292,4219:305506,4236:309202,4311:309706,4319:310126,4325:317475,4411:317900,4418:318495,4427:331210,4621:331858,4632:333298,4657:334954,4686:335602,4698:341254,4773:342073,4791:342703,4803:343207,4813:345853,4876:346420,4892:346672,4897:351056,4925:351794,4939:352286,4947:353516,4964:355238,4993:356386,5012:357042,5023:357616,5032:358026,5038:368100,5139:369010,5161:370440,5181:371090,5194:371740,5205:372780,5230:373300,5240:374145,5258:374925,5271:379215,5375:379605,5382:379865,5387:380125,5392:381035,5413:381750,5427:382660,5446:391558,5523:391988,5530:392504,5537:396288,5628:396890,5637:399556,5680:400244,5691:401018,5703:405470,5760$0,0:5280,24:6481,67:10947,124:12872,181:13411,190:14951,227:15875,242:26660,377:27740,392:31520,448:33860,494:34220,499:38833,529:39562,539:43369,604:43936,615:44746,628:45475,639:47500,668:53841,737:54906,763:55616,778:58608,792:64198,936:64542,941:64886,946:67294,986:67724,992:68842,1017:76643,1086:77279,1105:85827,1282:88824,1336:89391,1348:100787,1502:101893,1518:104816,1572:106870,1598:107265,1604:107660,1614:108134,1621:120522,1775:122018,1807:123718,1836:126642,1894:129702,1954:129974,1959:130246,1964:138851,2028:139904,2049:140552,2058:141119,2066:141686,2075:145493,2163:157037,2220:157928,2235:158522,2242:163076,2348:170204,2445:177990,2502:178226,2507:179052,2524:179406,2532:182325,2567:182625,2572:185700,2644:186150,2651:206782,2842:209806,2951:215434,3050:216022,3058:216694,3068:217870,3089:221386,3109:222259,3129:224296,3163:224975,3171:225654,3176:230116,3259:230989,3269:237946,3326:238480,3333:239370,3345:239993,3354:240705,3363:241239,3370:252082,3463:252538,3470:253906,3510:254438,3518:256642,3549:260176,3571:266150,3670:270558,3752:276910,3811:277360,3819:278335,3835:284800,3934:285565,3944:285905,3949:287690,3976:290070,4003:291175,4020:301020,4118:301488,4126:301800,4131:302268,4139:302892,4148:307205,4203:307595,4210:308830,4232:309415,4247:309805,4254:312870,4276:315340,4324:315730,4332:316575,4354:317095,4365:317420,4371:317680,4376:321255,4460:321580,4466:321905,4472:323530,4503:323790,4508:324375,4520:324765,4528:326585,4560:333705,4662:337567,4701:339284,4719:344658,4792:349330,4830:350482,4924:350738,4929:361858,5113:364016,5151:364514,5159:377535,5314:380650,5387:381006,5392:381362,5397:386066,5439:388282,5474:389426,5489:394780,5565:395278,5572:399320,5635
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mary Harris' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mary Harris lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mary Harris describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mary Harris describes her mother's life in Nashville

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mary Harris describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mary Harris talks about her parents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mary Harris describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mary Harris talks about her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mary Harris describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mary Harris talks about her early life in Miami, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mary Harris describes the sights and sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mary Harris describes life in the Brownsville community of Miami in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mary Harris describes her childhood in Miami

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mary Harris talks about the integration of Jackson High School in Miami

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mary Harris talks about the problems with her grade school education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mary Harris talks about television in the 1950s and 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mary Harris describes her childhood interest in science

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mary Harris describes her experience in middle school

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mary Harris talks about African American political activism in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mary Harris talks about her father's death and the family's new business

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mary Harris talks about Liberty City, Miami

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mary Harris talks about President John F. Kennedy's assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mary Harris describes race relations in Miami in the 1950s and 1960s - part one

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mary Harris describes the establishment of the Cuban community in Miami

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mary Harris describes race relations in Miami in the 1950s and 1960s - part two

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mary Harris describes the Bahamian community in Miami

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mary Harris discusses Sidney Poitier

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mary Harris describes her experience at Jackson High School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mary Harris describes her science education at Jackson High School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mary Harris describes her decision to attend Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mary Harris describes her experience at Lincoln University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mary Harris describes the loss of private medical practices

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mary Harris describes her decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree instead of a medical degree

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mary Harris describes how she earned a Ford Foundation fellowship

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mary Harris describes her experience as a doctoral student at Cornell University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mary Harris describes her experience as a doctoral student at Cornell University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mary Harris describes her Ph.D. dissertation research on the molecular mechanism of killer factor in yeast

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mary Harris talks about being married in graduate school

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mary Harris describes the challenges she experienced during her post-doctoral training at Rutger's Medical College

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mary Harris describes her role as an executive director of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mary Harris describes her work in STEM-related programming in collaboration with the National Science Foundation

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mary Harris talks about Dr. James Bowman

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mary Harris talks about receiving the Outstanding Working Woman Award

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Mary Harris describes her experience at the Georgia Department of Human Services

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Mary Harris talks about her documentary production, 'To My Sisters, A Gift For Life'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mary Harris describes her work in television and radio broadcasting on science and health

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mary Harris talks about the major health concerns in the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Mary Harris describes her television production, 'Keeping Up With The Walkers' - part one

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Mary Harris reflects upon her non-traditional career path in science

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Mary Harris describes the impact of her work in science communication - part one

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Mary Harris reflects upon her career

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Mary Harris reflects upon potential post-retirement pursuits

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Mary Harris describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Mary Harris talks about her family

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Mary Harris reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Mary Harris reflects upon the people who influenced her life

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Mary Harris talks about how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

4$10

DATitle
Mary Harris describes the challenges she experienced during her post-doctoral training at Rutger's Medical College
Mary Harris talks about her documentary production, 'To My Sisters, A Gift For Life'
Transcript
Okay, okay. So now at Rutgers [University, New Brunswick, New Jersey], now did he, did you, you all moved to New Jersey--$$We moved to New Jersey because he had to go work for Bell Laboratories, which was in Homedel and I got a post-doc at Rutgers Medical School because I had a friend who had gone to Lincoln [University, West Chester, Pennsylvania] with me, who sat next to me at all my classes, we're friends to this day. And in the old days they took roll and they--his last name was Staley [ph.] and my last name was Styles. So we sat next to each other. And when he, he said I don't care what [James] Burney says, I'm going to medical school, which he did. And he was at Rutgers. And when I sent to see him and I said you know I'm having trouble finding a post-doc, he said let me take you to meet the dean. Lo and behold the dean was black, Harold Logan. And Harold Logan said we would love to have you here, I'll arrange the money. It happened just that quickly. And so I had a post-doc. And I went there and was very interested--I was assigned a project that was similar to something I had worked on as a graduate student. And there was a girl who had worked on this problem before me. So what happens is you, when you pick up a project, you go into the project and you replicate the experiments before you and then you move forward. And the replication shouldn't take you long because the work should have been validated, so you kind of replicate the work quickly so that you can make sure that the results are as they are, and then you move forward. Well when I tried to replicate the results, I couldn't get it to work and I was very arrogant. I had been through pure hell at Cornell [University, Ithaca, New York]. I felt I'm really smart. I mean I know a lot. Why can't I get this to work? I did the experiments for three or four months, I couldn't get them to work. Finally somebody said you need to check--I was working with tissue culture. And they said what you need to do is you need to check and see if the cell lines are contaminated. And I did. And the phenomenon that this girl before me had done her dissertation, gotten her Ph.D. on, and they had millions of dollars in grant money riding at the National Institute of Health [NIH] on this. It was an artifact of contaminated cell culture. And before I got there nobody had ever checked. Now this was a problem. It's a problem for a number of reasons. One, I had spent almost now a year has gone by before I really figure out what's, what the problem is here. Two, so I wasted a year. Post-docs are two years. I've wasted a year. Three, I need to tell somebody because it's no good. None of this, none of the papers that got published before I got there are good. None of the research grants, writing and NIH [National Institute of Health] are any good. It's all crap. The department chairman calls me in. He knows I know. He's trying to figure out what I'm going to do. And he says to me look, I know you've wasted a whole year. I, I don't want you to tell anybody about this. What I want you to do is you spend another year, I will write you a recommendation for any job you want anywhere and I will give you a lab assistant. So I was a post-doc. It's like the low, lowest of the low, right. And so you do all that stuff yourself. He says I'll give you a lab assistant, somebody to help you. That way it will take you half the time to do the work that you need to do 'cause you're going to have some help. So I said okay, fine. He said but you know don't, don't tell anybody about this, don't do anything. I'll just do this. I go back, I'm really happy now. I don't care, I don't care, I just want the lab assistant so I can get my work done, get my papers published and go. Well as it turns out, he never had any intention of giving me a lab assistant, never. Several months go by, no lab assistant. I go back to him and I say what about the lab assistant? He says well you know I want to give you the lab assistant, but we don't have any money. I went right downstairs to the dean and I said, I told the dean everything that happened. He was so outraged, he got the money for the lab assistant. I go back upstairs, I see the department chair and I say guess what? You don't have to worry about the money anymore. The dean gave me the money. He was so angry, he told me he said I will not write any letters of recommendation. I couldn't figure out what had happened. I thought I had done a good thing by going and getting the money. He said no, he said I'm not going to write any letters of recommendation for you. This has so angered me. How dare you go over my head? Blah, blah, blah, blah. So I finished up the post-doc, was able to get a job without his letter of recommendation and I thought that's it, I'm through with bench work. It's too much politics involved in this. What I didn't have an appreciation for because I was so young in my career, was that I really did have the upper hand, I just didn't know it. I knew, I mean I could have essentially sat down and said okay, here's what I want. Because they had this stuff going to NIH requesting money for stuff that was really an artifact. It was contaminated with mycoplasma [type of bacteria], the mycoplasma was absorbing the nutrients and that's why they were seeing what they were seeing. It had nothing to do with the cell line whatsoever. But I didn't know, I was young and he knew I was young. And he knew I didn't know how all of that worked, so he essentially took advantage of me. So I--anyway through with lab work, through with bench work and on to my first job, which is in Atlanta [Georgia]. And that's how I wound up in Atlanta.$Okay. Now in 1992, now this is a--so throughout the '80s [1980s], throughout the Reagan Administration and George Bush the first and stuff you were doing, you were working for the state of Georgia. In '92 [1992] you were the founder of, of Biotechnical Communications, Incorporated. Now so just kind of tell us how--$$So in a nutshell, I moved to California with my husband because of his work. And the commute from where we're living into Los Angeles is hellacious. And I say I cannot do this every day. And I start doing technical writing for biotechnology companies. And they tell me while I'm doing this writing, I'm looking at what they're doing and I see this small business innovation research grant. And I think why am I writing this for them? I write this for myself. I go back home and I'm watching TV, I was actually telling Patrice [Coleman, who is observing the interview] this story earlier. And I'm watching a talk show personality talk about breast cancer in black women and she's doing an awful job, it's, it's simply awful. And I say to myself you know, I think I could do a better job. Get on the phone the next morning and I called National Institute of Health [NIH]. I say to the guy you know here's what I want to do. He says let me send you an application. Again, there was no downloading, let me mail you an application. And he kind of walked me through how to fill it out and how to write it. And it got funded on peer review. And I--so I went on to produce this television special 'To My Sisters, A Gift For Life'. It was the first documentary done on black women and breast cancer in this country. And it went on to win some awards. But the television experience so wore me out I thought I cannot go back to this. And then I began to develop my business by writing these grants to NIH, getting the money to do the research around--the research issues around it, but also to do the productions. And so I went from television, to radio, from radio to internet. And so I've just recently finished an animated program based on health around African Americans called 'Keeping Up With The Walkers'. So that's how my business developed.$$Okay, okay. So these--say the, the first one, the breast cancer video 'To My Sisters'. Now where was it broadcast and how--$$BET [Black Entertainment Television] broadcast that.$$Okay.$$And it was interesting because by the time we got to the broadcast after producing the show, by the time we got to the broadcast, they actually did not have an appropriate timeslot. And so what they said was well we'll put it on, but we'll put it on on Sunday morning at eleven o'clock. I said that's when every black woman in America is in church. Why would you do this? But they did. And surprisingly by word of mouth, of course there's some people who were home will see, it was so popular that they had to rerun it. And then we took it after the rerun and we turned it into a video. And I think we wound up distributing about 8,000 of those things across the country because there had been nothing like it before. And it was just a--it was just wonderful to see it.$$Now did you consult with doctors around?$$Yeah.$$Okay.$$I did.$$Who were some of the--$$Tony Disher; he's a radiation oncologist. We--I worked very closely with the American Cancer Society and with the National Cancer Institute. So Oscar Streeter [ph.], Tony Disher, Otis Brawley [ph.]. Those are some of the people that we worked with.$$Okay, and there's several points bulleted here that the, that the video was to accomplish and can you maybe talk about what you intended to do with it?$$Well the goal was to get black women engaged in this dialogue about breast cancer and to get it out of the closet and into the public dialogue. We wanted to--wanted them to understand that even though we have a lower incidence, we have a higher death rate from the disease. We wanted to emphasize that mammography was key and to demonstrate why and how it works and why it works. So, so people will say well I had a mammogram five years ago, why do I need another one? Well we were able to actually demonstrate why an annual mammogram is so important of course because you see early changes in the breast tissue, you see those changes early. So you, you can find the change here as opposed to waiting to five years later when it's a full grown lump. Because by the time you feel a lump, it's been growing for about seven years. So you really are--it, it's great to be able to visualize it way, way when it's microscopic as opposed to waiting until you can feel--although it's nothing wrong with finding a lump that you can feel. The other thing is that treatment is important. It's not only important to get the mammogram, but to get the treatment. And where we tend to fall down now because the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia] has a very aggressive breast and cervical cancer screening program, is the treatment. So black women will say I don't want to, I don't want to do this because I can't afford the treatment. The treatment is going to make me sick, I need to work. I don't need to be home sick. I, I, I don't have anybody to keep my kids and I say to them who will keep your kids when you're dead? It's, it's a simple choice. Who will keep your kids when you're dead versus who will keep your kids now? So you need to see about doing this now. So the, so the problems that arise for black women are not so much money for mammograms, but money for treatment. That's where the biggest--I see the biggest challenge for black women.