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Herman "Skip" Mason

Reverend and historian Herman ‘Skip’ Mason was born on July 14, 1962 in Atlanta, Georgia to Herman ‘Pop’ Mason and Deloris Hughes. At the age of fourteen, Mason read Alex Haley’s Roots and was inspired to research and document the history of African American people. In 1980, Mason graduated from Therrell High School in Atlanta, Georgia and enrolled at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. In 1982, Mason realized his life-long goal by being initiated into the Iota Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated on the anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. That same year, he became president of the chapter and during his tenure the fraternity was named Georgia College Chapter of the Year. After graduating college in 1984 with his B.A. degree in communications and history, Mason joined the Eta Lambda chapter and became the chapter’s historian in 1985. In 1989, Mason received his M.S. degree in library and information science with a concentration in African American history from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta and was awarded his certification in archival studies from the Archives Institute of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library. Mason later studied at the Phillips School of Theology in Atlanta.

Mason began his career by working at the Herndon Home Museum in Atlanta during his junior year of college as a historian where he interpreted the history of the Herndon Family and the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. In 1986, he worked for the U.S. Department of Interior interpreting the historical significance of the Martin Luther King family with the King Center Library and Archives. From 1987 to 1992, Mason worked for the Atlanta Fulton Public Library as the black studies librarian and archivist for the Special Collections Department. His work with the library involved developing strategies for identification and procurement of archival collections on African Americans in Atlanta, the state of Georgia and the Southeast region. During this period, Mason became the first national archivist for Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated and helped to facilitate the transfer of its archives to the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. In 1992, Mason founded Digging It Up, a full scale African American research and consulting firm which he later renamed Skip Mason’s Archives in 1998. Mason also became the pastor of Greater Hopewell Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta and later, pastor of St. James C.M.E. Church in Washington, Georgia. In 2006, Mason curated House of Alpha, an exhibition which displayed the records of Alpha Phi Alpha, Incorporated, local chapters and the personal collection of fraternity members for the fraternity’s centenary in Washington, D.C. In 2008, Mason was named Alpha Phi Alpha, Incorporated’s thirty-third general president. Mason served as Morehouse College’s archivist and interim director of Student Affairs.

Mason has authored several books including, Going Against the Wind: A History of African Americans in Atlanta, Black Atlanta in the Roaring Twenties, African-American Life in Jacksonville, Florida, The History of Black Entertainment in Atlanta, and African-American Life in DeKalb County, 1823-1970 (Images of America: Georgia).

Herman ‘Skip’ Mason was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on 06/20/2011.

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Berean Christian Junior Academy

E. C. Clement Elementary School

G.A. Towns Elementary School

Ben Hill UMC Christian Academy

Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School

Morris Brown College

Clark Atlanta University

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It Is What It Is.

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Archivist Herman "Skip" Mason (1962 - ) served as the 33rd general president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the college archivist at Morris Brown College and Morehouse College.


Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System

Morris Brown College

Morehouse College

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Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Herman "Skip" Mason's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Herman "Skip" Mason lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Herman "Skip" Mason talks about the discovery of his ancestors' burial grounds

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls the discovery of his maternal great-grandfather's original name

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Herman "Skip" Mason talks about the origin of his name

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Herman "Skip" Mason talks about how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his maternal grandmother's employers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Herman "Skip" Mason lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls the birth of his son

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls joining his stepfather's household

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his love of collecting

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes the sights of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes the smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes the sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his relationship with his stepfather

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his childhood pastimes

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his elementary education

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his mother's role in school desegregation

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Herman "Skip" Mason remembers his first white teacher

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls Therrell High School in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes the impact of 'Roots'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls the start of his genealogical research

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls his decision to attend Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls joining the staff of the Herndon Home Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Herman "Skip" Mason remembers working at the Herndon Home Museum in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls his early genealogical research resources

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Herman "Skip" Mason remembers his introduction to archival work

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls working for the Atlanta Fulton Public Library System

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Herman "Skip" Mason remembers teaching history at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls developing the markers for the black historic districts of Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls joining the staff of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls the loss of Morris Brown College's accreditation

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls becoming the Morehouse College archivist

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes the history of the Atlanta University Center Consortium

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his work as the Morehouse College archivist

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his early publications

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls his first historical exhibition

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Herman "Skip" Mason remembers curating 'The House of Alpha' exhibition

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his collection of artifacts from Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Herman "Skip" Mason recalls campaigning for the national presidency of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Herman "Skip" Mason remembers his election as the national president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Herman "Skip" Mason talks about the power of social media

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his plans for the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes the importance of black historical archives

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Herman "Skip" Mason shares the results of his historical research

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Herman "Skip" Mason talks about the results of his genealogical research

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Herman "Skip" Mason remembers his experiences of unemployment

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Herman "Skip" Mason describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Herman "Skip" Mason reflects upon his legacy







Herman "Skip" Mason talks about the discovery of his ancestors' burial grounds
Herman "Skip" Mason recalls becoming the Morehouse College archivist
A few years ago we did the African ancestry DNA and I, I swabbed and, of course, it was purported to trace the DNA of my maternal line, my mother's mother's mother's and so forth. That's Amy's [Emmie London] line, and the results came back that we had a match from the, the Bamileke tribe in Cameroon, and so we unveiled that at a family reunion about three or four years ago in Macon [Georgia]. We were actually on the side of the plantation [McArthur Plantation], we found the descendants of the family that owned my family, the McArthurs, and we went to that site and it was just, it was so spiritual, walking down that long winding driveway to the spot that we had chosen. There was an old Confederate flag in the yard from the owner who currently owns the property now, but he was just so embracing and inviting. He said, "Y'all come on and make yourselves at home," and I couldn't help but to look at that Confederate flag and he also had a little, a little black figurine, a little jockey out in the yard as well. Just the ironies of the time, but about one hundred and fifty members of the family gathered on that site and it was just spiritual. The graves of the slave owning family were somewhere behind us. And I proclaimed on that day, that somewhere on this land are the remains of some of our ancestors. We didn't it, didn't know where it was, but we just assumed because most plantations or communities had an area where they would allow slaves to be buried. Well, let's fast forward, we get a call from the Georgia Department of Transportation. They're expanding the roadway, which was near the old side of the plantation, and a man who owned property that's part of this mansion, said, "Well, you may want to check, I believe, I heard that there was an old cemetery somewhere over there," and so DOT went out. There was really no evidence of any, any graves, but they went out and they began to do some, some scanning of the soil and so forth, and they uncovered what appeared to have been shallows of what were possibly graves, and they began to remove the layers of soil, and pretty much confirmed that there're probably bodies buried here, and then they called me out and a few family members out the day they brought the cadaver dogs out. And the cadaver dogs were let loose and each time the cadaver dog smelled human remains, they would sit right on top. Well a hundred and ten graves were uncovered, and two years ago we took the family reunion back so they could actually see the excavation, so family members were walking on this old cemetery and they could look down and see the skeleton remains because they were very slowly doing an archaeological dig and study of it. It was just the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my entire life, you know, and to have the little kids to witness and to be a part of this, and so the decision was made that the remains would be removed. Now I didn't contest it or fight it, one, because the DOT and this company called New South Associates [New South Associates, Inc., Stone Mountain, Georgia] who specialized in archaeological studies and digs said they wanted to study, you know, the remains, and study that area and they found, they found, jewelry, coffin nails, and so we documented it. I took a camera crew down as well, but it was just amazing. Now we're going through the DNA process. So what they're doing, they're taking samples of DNA from many members of our family and some of the people who lived in the community to see if any of them matched with the, the remains that they uncovered. But I would have never thought in a thousand years that I would have located the possible cemetery that may contain some of the remains, of some of the unmarked remains of my relatives. According to their research, the last grave was about, placed there may be around 1910. So after that you have years of growth, dirt, growth, grass, under bush, that had totally covered, there were no markers, no headstones, but I just simply said that because I kind of called it out at that reunion and said, "Somewhere over there's a cemetery," but had no idea, so, and this means a great deal to me, you know, I think I learned very early on that I wanted to be a historian, and you know, I wanted to learn more about my family. I think I shared with you earlier, Alex Haley's 'Roots' ['Roots: The Saga of an American Family'] just was a life changing moment for me at the age of, age of fourteen. All of that has led to Amy, who was our oldest known documented ancestor, documented in the wills of the slave owner and with the amount five hundred dollars, that's how much she was valued at the time that she was being given to one of the sons of the slave owner.$In August of oct- August of 2003, I faxed my resume over to Walter Massey [HistoryMaker Walter E. Massey] because I read an article in the paper that they had the Maynard Jackson papers, and I just sent a note, I said, "Well, if you need any assistance with that collection, I'd be interested." The next day I got a call from the provost. He said, "Well we have a position that we been trying to fill for two years, the director of the Learning Resource Center [Frederick Douglass Learning Resource Center]. It required one to have a degree in library science." And I said, "Well I have a degree in library science." He said, "Well why don't you come over to the school?" We went over to the school, he walked me through and he said, "We'd love to have you, are you interested?" And I wanted to say, "Am I interested?" I say, "I been unemployed for five months, you know, yes, I'm interested," and so I was hired to come to Morehouse [Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia] to direct the Learning Resource Center and then he also included in my contract that I would be appointed the college archivist. But Morehouse didn't have an archive. They didn't have an archive. Dean Carter [HistoryMaker Lawrence Carter] had a collection of material, but they did not have a formal archive because they shared with the Woodruff Library [Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta, Georgia] and he said, "We need our own archives here at Morehouse." And I was kind of shocked, I said a school like Morehouse, the Morehouse, Martin Luther King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] school, educating black men for a hundred thirty-five, forty years does not have its own archives, and they didn't. There were boxes of papers, Benjamin Mays papers scattered all over the campus in this orchestra pit, in the gymnasium, in the back rooms, hallways, everywhere, Morehouse papers were scattered all over, and so part of my job was to begin to collect, to bring in, to gather all of the historic material that had been displaced everywhere. Walter Massey, no, Hugh Gloster, who was the previous president. His robe was over in an empty building that had been a laundromat, his robe sitting over there. Walter Massey's first robe was over there. See what would happen, you know, they would, the campus operations folks would take boxes and they just put 'em anywhere, cause they didn't, they didn't know where these things were supposed to go, so fast forward, now today we have our own facility. We got a grant from the save the treasures [Save America's Treasures] and IMLS [Institute of Museum and Library Services] early to do an inventory and then to begin the processing of the Benjamin Mays papers, and so that--$$And when did you get that grant?$$The IMLS grant we received in 2004.$$Okay, so a year after you came.$$Yeah, a year after I came and we did our preliminary inventory of archival material there, with that grant and then to save the treasures grant we got two years ago, which has allowed me to hire two archivists, processing archivists, to begin to process the voluminous collection of papers of Dr. Benjamin Mays as president of Morehouse College.