Grant to fund African-American archives at the library | Lifestyles

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To agree– Reverend Dr. William T. Smith, who is helping renovate Douglass School, will participate in the library’s African-American history project.


The Kokomo-Howard County Library received a grant of $ 12,545 to support its African-American Notables Project in Howard County in the Department of Genealogy.

The grant, an Indiana Memory Digitization Grant, was awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Indiana State Library.

“What we plan to do is focus on the history of the African American community,” said Amy Russell, genealogy and local history manager at the library. “There have been a lot of firsts, and we want to highlight them. We go back until 1842 to the first [Black] no one to buy property in Howard County, and it was a woman and she was a freed slave and could pay cash for property.

Russell hopes to include as many historical stories in the archives as possible.

The project is being carried out with Reverend Dr. William T. Smith, pastor of Second Missionary Baptist Church, and Embracing Hope of Howard County, the group he chairs and oversees renovations to Douglass School.

“There are pieces missing in African American history and the wealth of information we already have needs to be digitized,” Smith said.

Russell, who works on the Embracing Hope of Howard County committee, took inspiration from the Douglass School project when applying for the grant.

Russell and Smith hope the community will contribute to the project by sharing their stories or providing images and documents that can be digitized and entered into the digital archive.

“We anticipate that there might be some difficulty collecting items, as I think everyone has a collection in a shoebox sitting on a shelf in their bedroom and they may not realize its value or not knowing what to do with it, ”said Russell. “We encourage people to contribute things to contribute to the database. We need to prove to others that we will be good stewards of their information. “

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“If you have pieces like pictures, if you have stories, biographies, funeral programs or whatever else you have that tells stories of people who are making a difference in our history, I think it’s important than [the community] share that, ”Smith said.

Any information provided will be part of a free and searchable database called “Indiana Memory”. There is also a Howard County Memory Database which is accessible through the library website. The departmental archives feed the national archives.

“I don’t think people know how to get [Howard County Memory] or are aware he’s here, ”Russell said. She said that while this ongoing project focuses on the African American experience in Howard County, there are already many items of interest that researchers can browse, including local Civil War documents, marriage certificates, court records, military items and a collection of funeral cards. .

“In the early 1900s, when someone died, the family would send a funeral card that said, ‘Please come home at such and such a time to pay your respects. We have a whole collection of these funeral cards, and they’re online, ”she said.

Smith and Russell both note that it is important that African Americans are also represented in the archives.

“African American history is the history of Kokomo-Howard County,” Smith said. “It’s part of the fabric – not just African American kids but white kids, Hispanic kids, Native American kids – to be able to see faces from different cultures and realize that it takes everyone. [is important]. “

“It helps a child’s mental well-being, knowing that those who came before him were successful and if they weren’t, you can see why, maybe, and what the consequences were,” Russell said. “We don’t live in a vacuum. We have experiences, and if someone is willing to verify those experiences, maybe they can learn something. It can be good for your self-esteem if you know it can be done.

“I always say if you know where you’re from, it helps you know where you’re going,” Smith said.

The library project is currently underway with funding until April 30, 2022. In addition to photos and documents, the library is also looking to record oral histories and videos with elders in the community. If anyone has information they would like to share with the library, they can contact Amy Russell at 765-626-0838 or [email protected]


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