I have just return from spending three days with my head in boxes of information from the home and office of Hilda Flowers Wilson and her daughter Geraldine Wilson. It almost became emotional for me to hold notes written by Hilda, but I held it all together. I was not about to cry or anything, but I was just bursting with joy and happiness. It is just amazing to hold a document written by a person I have been researching even if it is for a moment. I still have to go through my notes as well as organize everything (it is a little over a hundred pages). The archives had two huge folders and five boxes (literally boxes) of information. It was overwhelming at first, but Box Six was mostly full of financial information, such as cancelled checks, tax returns, and real estate information. Although actually doing research on Hilda and Geraldine was nice, I felt as if I was invading their privacy at some points. For example, reading her journals, looking into her tax returns, and even reading her cancelled checks. It was a great amount of information.
What I wanted to find the most was photos of family or other information regarding her family. I still have to thoroughly review the pages that were photocopied, yet I have not stumbled on anything regarding her siblings. I did however find more information out about Hilda’s personality and her children. I expected Hilda to be a sweet lady, but she turned out to be someone else in her writings. This was quite a shock, but I have to realize she is human, Rachel is human, all these families I am researching are human. Then again I am only seeing one side of the story.
At the moment, I am in Pittsburgh. I will be a summer teacher, which will be an experience for there are ten women and one bathroom. I am glad I rarely care how I look in the morning. It is only orientation week and everyone seems nice.
Okay, so now I realize I never explained the title. I found new leads on the Flowers family, most of them pertaining to the Wilsons, however, I found that Geraldine left for New York to pursue her PhD at New York University in the 1960s. Fascinated, I decided to run a quick Google check on her name and university and what I found blew my mind. Within New York Public Library’s archives is 19, yes 19 boxes of information regarding Geraldine Louise Wilson along with a biography. It is located at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in New York City. The following is the small biography they have posted online:
Geraldine Louise Wilson (1931-1986), early childhood specialist, headstart consultant, poet and writer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 28, 1931 and attended the Philadelphia public schools.Wilson earned her B.S. in early childhood and elementary education from Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) in 1955; a graduate degree in group dynamics and human relations from New York University School of Education in 1968; a certificate for study in African history, art and culture from the University of Ghana in 1970 and was a doctoral candidate in early childhood/teacher training from 1970-1973. At the time of her death in 1986 she was completing her doctoral dissertation: "The Creative and Protective Childrearing Practices of African Americans in the Slave Community, 1619-1860."Wilson began her working career at a South Philadelphia Settlement House and teaching in the Philadelphia public school system. In 1964 she went South to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the Mississippi Delta and Albany, Georgia, establishing programs for young children. She was a coplanner of the Mississippi Institute for Early Childhood Education. In 1966 when she left Mississippi, relocating in New York, she worked as education director and executive director of the Headstart Program.In 1973 Wilson became the director of the Regional Training Office (RTO) for Headstart Programs at New York University, where she was responsible for providing technical assistance and training for Headstart Centers in the five boroughs of New York. She also worked with Early Childhood Programs in upstate New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Mississippi, Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina and California. She left RTO in 1979 to become a full-time consultant. Her list of clients included national children’s organizations, corporations, universities and school systems. She served on community boards, and was one of the founding members of the Black Early Childhood Group and the Friends of "Like It Is" (Gil Noble, channel 7). She served on the boards of the National Black Child Development Institute, Council on Interracial Books for Children and was affiliated with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the National Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and the Day Care Council of New York. Wilson was also an instructor at Teacher’s College, Columbia University, the New School for Social Research and New York University.As a writer, Wilson’s articles and reviews appeared in "Elan," "Essence," "Encore" and "Freedomways" magazines. She developed a filmstrip, "Freedom to Grow," for the Child Development Group of Mississippi in the early 1960s. Her poetry is part of the repertoire of the "New Bones" poetry performance group and she was a member of the National Academy of Poets and the International Women’s Writing Guild.The Geraldine Wilson papers consist of materials documenting her life and career. Material includes personal and family papers, speeches, bibliographiess, curricula, conference notes, training manuals, seminar and workshop agenda, project proposals, consultant contracts and research/subject files. Of particular interest is the civil rights material gathered by Ms. Wilson during her study in the South as an organizer and volunteer in the 1960s, as well as her Headstart program file (1973-1979).”
Geraldine is the niece of Rachel Flowers and Herbert and Hilda Wilson’s only daughter. From this biography I found an exact birth and death date, so the death date I originally found was incorrect. She was only 55 years old when she passed away. She is an alumni of Temple University, NYU School of Education, and the University of Ghana. Her dissertation title was pretty impressive as well and I would love to get my hands on it. It was entitled “The Creative and Protective Childrearing Practices of African Americans in the Slave Community, 1619-1860.” She worked in NY, NJ, PA, MS, Indiana (don’t know the initial to that state), Illinois, SC, and CA. She was also a professor at various universities and served on various prestigious boards. Her writings appeared in Essence, Elan, Encore, and Freedomways as well as developing a filmstrip, “Freedom to Grow”. She is also a poet! Why am I just now finding it out. Within this collection is personal and FAMILY papers, speeches, and various other materials.
The best part is that my sister lives in New York City, well Harlem to be exact; therefore, I can hang out with her and have a place to stay. I am planning on going in early August, which means less time I get to spend at home before the end to my final year of college. But it is for the greater good. As of right now, Google and I are best friends. There comes a point in research when you just need to stop and Google a person’s name.
Cannot wait to show you all that I have learned. Post will be a bit slower due to my internship orientation as well as the fact that as of now two other interns and I are the primary cookers at the moment. I will post what I have learned as I go deeper into this research and I will continue to search for a tie to Rachel Flowers Ellerbee. I
will must find what happened to her and perhaps New York is the place I will.
Until the next post.