BHM 2015: Findings in the Geraldine Wilson Papers Collection

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month for 2015. As this day approached, I was thinking of ways to honor BHM; however, it hit me–I always and, at this point in my life, only write about black history. Then I thought perhaps I could focus on the Flowers family and their role in black history, then it hit me again, that is what I write about. So, I guess I will continue to do what I have been doing writing and studying black history, but I will give a shout out to the celebration of this month, the month that was once known as Negro History Week.

Father of African American history, Carter G. Woodson, sought to raise awareness of African American history and their contributions to the nation. This was greatly shown through the creation of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and the Journal of Negro History. The ASNLH birthed Negro History Week in 1925. This week was first celebrated during the week of February that held the birth dates of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Over the years, cities and schools began embrace the celebration of Negro History Week.  Both white and black scholars, teachers, and students alike upheld the celebration of black history resulting in the annual celebration of this (It is important to note that I do not mean to imply that all felt this way). This annual celebration was also expanded through the Black Awakening of the 1960s. In 1976, the celebration week became a celebration month. President Gerald Ford called Americans to honor the accomplishment of blacks through this celebratory month. Since then each president has issued a Black History Month proclamation. So, happy Black History Month. I encourage you to honor the accomplishments of blacks in American and world history not only in February, but everyday of the year.

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Many, like Dr. Woodson, sought to spread awareness of a black American history that was once disregarded as a whole. Geraldine Wilson happened to be one of these individuals. Through her involvement with Head Start and Friends of Children in Mississippi, she developed a vast collection of bibliographies, short biographies and stories, calendars, and history books pertaining to African, Caribbean, and African American history. As noted in previous post, she also personally collected artifacts and articles on black history.

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Image taken from the Geraldine Wilson Papers Collection at the Schomburg Center

Now, the Geraldine Wilson Papers Collection is approximately sixteen boxes with two additional boxes in the Photos and Prints Division within the Schomburg Center; therefore, I only sharing a few photos I took from the archives.

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These images include the following images: (1) A photo book created by Wilson for black schoolteachers, (2) A pamphlet she collected honoring Angela Davis, (3) A SNCC pamphlet, (4) An annotated bibliography highlighting language in the black community by Wilson, (4) Geraldine’s speech for Queen Mother Moore at the C.A.V building in Harlem, (5) “Drums: The Heartbeat of Our People” by Geraldine, (6) A Highlight of Geraldine’s presentation on Ghanaian music, (7) Geraldine’s donation in honor of her mother, (8) Newspaper article, and (9) Geraldine’s article  on Ida Wells-Barnett.

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Queen Mother Moore is legendary in the Black Community. Specifically; in places wherever and whenever African peoples come together to struggle for their liberation and/or to theorize, rapturize, politicize, posturize, sometimes to polarize, empathize, criticize, romanticize, and to revolutionize our struggle, its state of health, and/or its direction—there is Queen Mother Moore.

I do not consider that I know her personally. She has lived too long, met too many people, fought too many fights to remember me; a person who first knew about the struggle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where I was born, and who joined the struggle in Mississippi where I worked. In 1965 and 1966, after coming to New York to live from working in Mississippi, I began to learn about the various aspects of the struggle in this, the world’s most famous Black community. It was during this period that I first saw and heard Queen Mother Moore. It was in Reverend Dempsey’s church on 125th Street and Park Avenue, along with another legendary woman, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer. I had accompanied Mrs. Hamer to the church to speak so that she could raise funds for the political campaign among Blacks in her home county in Mississippi, Sunflower. That was also the birthplace county of Mrs. Hamer’s arch enemy, United States Senator James Eastland. An empty chair separated me from Queen Mother Moore on the left and Mrs. Hamer sat next to me on my right. At one point during the informal program, Queen Mother Moore, wearing the traditional dress in which we are accustomed to seeing her, rose to her feet. She delivered a dramatic, biting, scathing attack on “The System” and all of the reasons why the Federal Government owed all of us money. She would not remember me. That is as it ought to be. It is “meet and right” that I learned from her that night about the meaning and significance of reparations, why they were owed to Black folk and how staggering was the sum that was owed us. That was the first time I saw her.

Throughout the years thereafter, I would see Queen Mother at various meeting of one kind or another. For one cannot be involved in the struggle for Black Liberation and not know of Queen Mother Moore. And so I saw her reigning and presiding from the floor of a workshop and plenary sessions at the Black Power Conference of Newark; caucusing, arguing, calling for a point of order, stopping sessions to make important announcements, and keeping us on track! Reminding the men folk of their proper duty in the struggle and the women folk of theirs.

{She concludes} Queen Mother Moore is a real woman, she’s real black, she is a legend, She is an African woman and she’s real special to us.

Geraldine Wilson, “A Community Tribute to Queen Mother Moore”, April 30, 1977

Every day as I continue this research, I become more amazed by this family. It is my hope that you celebrate and honor Black History Month not only in the month of February, but everyday of every year.

Until the next post,

Christina

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