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Archivists  Extraordinaire:  Profiles  of  Early  Archivists  of  Color  
Rose  L.  Chou  
San  Jose  State  University  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Abstract  
The  subject  of  racial  and  ethnic  diversity  in  the  archival  profession  and  archival  collections  
lacks  comprehensive  scholarship.    Literature  on  American  archival  history  fails  to  examine  
issues  of  diversity,  and  literature  on  diversity  in  American  archives  fails  to  provide  
adequate  historical  context.    This  paper  highlights  the  professional  biographies  of  five  
archivists  of  color  who  began  working  with  historical  manuscripts  and  archives  before  
1970.    Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,  Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,  Archie  Motley,  Harold  T.  Pinkett,  and  
Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley  all  influenced  the  archival  profession  in  various  ways,  and  
archivists  today  can  learn  from  their  legacies.  

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Introduction  
Richard  J.  Cox  observed  that  for  a  profession  so  intertwined  with  the  historical  
profession,  it  is  surprising  that  so  little  has  been  published  on  American  archival  history.1    
More  problematic  than  the  amount  of  publications  is  what  themes  are  not  examined  within  
the  literature.    Racial  and  ethnic  diversity  of  the  archival  profession  and  archival  collections  
is  a  major  topic  that  is  lacking  comprehensive  scholarship,  both  in  modern  and  historical  
contexts.    Considering  that  only  7%  of  the  archival  profession  in  2004  identified  as  
belonging  to  one  or  more  ethnic  or  racial  groups  other  than  white,  compared  to  25%  of  all  
Americans  who  responded  as  a  race  other  than  white  in  2000,  it  is  appalling  that  so  few  
archival  publications  have  examined  issues  of  diversity.2  
While  the  names  of  Theodore  R.  Schellenberg  and  Margaret  Cross  Norton  are  
familiar  to  most  American  archivists,  have  they  heard  of  Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,  Archie  
Motley,  or  Dorothy  Porter  Wesley?    These  archivists  started  a  tradition  of  collecting  
materials  about  and  by  people  of  color,  the  middle  and  lower  classes,  and  social  
organizations  when  mainstream  historians  and  archivists  did  not  recognize  their  
importance.    Before  formalized  guidelines  or  standards  for  archival  education  were  
adopted,  these  early  archivists  created  their  own  career  paths,  paving  the  way  for  future  
archivists.    Archivists  today  should  learn  more  about  the  history  of  their  profession,  
including  narratives  that  have  been  overlooked  or  pushed  to  the  fringes  of  mainstream  
history.  
                                                                                                               
1  Richard  J.  Cox,  “American  Archival  History:  Its  Development,  Needs,  and  
Opportunities,”  The  American  Archivist,  46,  no.  1  (1983):  40.  
2  Victoria  Irons  Walch  et  al.,  “A*CENSUS  (Archival  Census  and  Education  Needs  
Survey  in  the  United  States),”  The  American  Archivist,  69,  no.  2  (2006):  332;  U.S.  Bureau  of  
the  Census,  “Profile  of  General  Demographic  Characteristics,”  Twenty-­‐second  Census  of  the  
United  States  (2000):  1,  accessed  November  18,  2012,  Census.gov.  

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To  help  rectify  the  lack  of  historical  writing  on  racial  diversity  in  American  archives,  
this  paper  shares  professional  biographies  of  five  archivists  of  color  who  began  working  
with  historical  manuscripts  and  archives  before  1970.    Archivists  today  can  learn  a  lot  from  
their  foundational  work.    Considering  the  youth  of  the  archival  profession  and  lack  of  
archival  training  programs  at  the  time,  these  pioneering  individuals  are  outstanding  
professional  models  for  all  archivists.  
Literature  Review  
 

Before  jumping  into  the  biographies,  it  is  helpful  to  set  up  the  context  of  why  more  

scholarship  on  racial  diversity  is  needed  in  the  profession.    First,  the  existing  literature  on  
American  archival  history  is  dominated  by  discussion  of  the  “two  traditions”  and  the  
debate  over  archivists’  identity.    Second,  the  literature  that  does  examine  racial  diversity  in  
the  profession  fails  to  place  the  discussion  within  its  broader  historical  context.    Only  by  
understanding  the  history  of  archives  and  archivists  of  color  can  the  profession  truly  begin  
to  resolve  issues  of  diversity  today.  
The  Two  Traditions  
 

Writings  on  American  archival  history  have  focused  on  the  conflict  between  the  

public  archives  tradition  and  the  historical  manuscripts  tradition.    According  to  Richard  C.  
Berner,  the  historical  manuscripts  tradition  started  in  the  eighteenth  century  with  a  
foundation  in  libraries.3    Because  historical  manuscripts  were  separated  from  their  original  
record  relationships  and  managed  as  individual  items,  library  practices  were  well  suited  
for  application  in  historical  manuscripts  repositories.4    The  public  archives  tradition  began  
                                                                                                               
3  Richard  C.  Berner,  Archival  Theory  and  Practice  in  the  United  States:  A  Historical  
Analysis  (Seattle,  WA:  University  of  Washington  Press,  1983),  1.  
4  Ibid.,  1-­‐2.  

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in  1901  after  Alabama  founded  the  first  state  archives  in  the  United  States.5    State  
archivists  adopted  European  archival  theory  and  practice,  which  further  proliferated  after  
the  National  Archives  was  established  in  1934.6    Berner  credits  the  beginning  of  the  formal  
division  between  the  two  traditions  to  be  the  1910  American  Historical  Association’s  
Conference  of  Archivists,  where  archivists  dismissed  the  notion  of  using  library  practices  in  
public  archives.7    One  main  area  of  conflict  for  archivists  was  that  manuscript  collections  
were  perceived  as  primarily  serving  scholars  instead  of  government  administrators  and  the  
public.8      Another  was  the  archival  principle  of  provenance,  in  which  archival  records  are  
kept  together  and  organized  according  to  the  origin  of  creation  as  opposed  to  being  
separated  and  grouped  by  subject.9    Over  40  years  later,  Theodore  R.  Schellenberg  worked  
to  bring  the  two  traditions  together  after  historical  manuscripts  repositories  began  
collecting  more  contemporary  materials.10    Schellenberg  believed  that  modern  manuscripts  
shared  properties  with  public  archives  and  could  be  managed  by  the  archival  theory  and  
practices  adopted  by  public  archives.11    By  1960,  leading  manuscripts  repositories  began  to  
incorporate  the  public  archives  tradition  into  their  institutions,  and  Berner  marked  this  
year  as  the  end  of  the  historical  manuscripts  tradition’s  dominance.12  

                                                                                                               
5  Ibid.,  1.  
6  Ibid.,  2.  
7  Ibid.,  7.  
8  Ibid.,  15.  
9  Ibid.,  15,  23.  
10  Ibid.,  1,  7.  
11  Ibid.,  7.  
12  Ibid.,  1.  

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Luke  Gilliland-­‐Swetland  adopts  Berner’s  thesis  and  further  argues,  “These  two  

traditions  continue  to  shape  professional  discourse.”13    While  Gilliland-­‐Swetland  agrees  
with  Berner’s  general  evaluation  of  the  two  traditions,  he  argues  that  the  reality  of  the  two  
traditions  reaching  consensus  involved  much  conflict.    Historical  manuscript  repositories  
may  have  started  to  implement  the  principle  of  provenance,  but  it  did  not  mean  that  they  
began  to  interpret  provenance  the  same  as  those  rooted  in  the  public  archives  tradition.14    
Previously  the  debate  focused  on  the  nature  and  role  of  archival  institutions,  but  despite  
reaching  consensus  over  provenance,  the  legacy  of  the  two  traditions  remains  today  in  
discussions  about  the  nature  and  role  of  archivists  as  professionals.15  
 

Nine  years  after  Gilliland-­‐Swetland’s  article,  Rebecca  Hirsh  also  wrote  about  the  

lasting  influence  of  the  two  traditions,  yet  disputed  it  for  two  main  reasons.    Her  first  
contention  is  that  the  public  archives  tradition  did  not  exist  in  the  United  States  prior  to  the  
twentieth  century.16    The  second  flaw  Hirsh  finds  is  that  the  two  traditions  differ  only  in  
ideology  today,  not  in  practice,  which  is  in  line  with  Gilliland-­‐Swetland’s  analysis.17    
Contrary  to  Berner’s  work,  Hirsh  argues  that  government  records  were  maintained  by  
historical  societies  during  the  nineteenth  century  with  the  mission  of  serving  historical  
researchers.18    Furthermore,  it  was  actually  a  group  of  historians,  not  archivists,  who  
started  the  public  archives  tradition  in  the  early  twentieth  century  by  encouraging  the  
                                                                                                               
13  Luke  J.  Gilliland-­‐Swetland,  “The  Provenance  of  a  Profession:  The  Permanence  of  
the  Public  Archives  and  Historical  Manuscripts  Traditions  in  American  Archival  History,”  
The  American  Archivist,  54,  no.  2  (1991):  172.  
14  Ibid.,  162.  
15  Ibid.,  163.  
16  Rebecca  Hirsh,  “The  Permanence  of  Provenance:  The  ‘Two  Traditions’  and  the  
American  Archival  Profession,”  Journal  of  Archival  Organization,  8,  no.  1  (2010):  55.  
17  Ibid.  
18  Ibid.  

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adoption  of  European  archival  theory  and  practice  in  the  United  States.19    While  these  
historians  acknowledged  the  differences  between  public  records  and  historical  
manuscripts,  the  most  important  difference  was  how  the  materials  were  created  and  not  
how  they  were  used.20    Regarding  the  second  shortcoming  of  the  two  traditions  thesis,  
Hirsh  agrees  with  Gilliland-­‐Swetland  that  while  archival  practice  became  standardized,  
archival  ideology  still  remains  divided  today.21    Hirsh  writes,  “Despite  all  of  the  talk  of  
professionalization  no  consensus  was  ever  reached  as  to  who,  exactly,  is  an  archivist…The  
archival  profession  will  always  be  made  up  of  people  whose  titles  range  from  manuscripts  
curator  to  institutional  archivist,  but  perhaps  instead  of  focusing  on  their  differences,  they  
can  emphasize  their  common  practices  instead.”22  
Discussion  of  the  historical  manuscripts  and  public  archives  traditions  has  
dominated  the  literature  in  American  archival  history.    While  the  subject  deserves  
attention,  this  focus  on  defining  what  an  archivist  is  –  by  what  they  do  and  how  they  do  it  –  
overlooks  the  implications  of  who  these  archivists  are.    The  two  traditions  fail  to  account  
for  demographics  of  the  archivists  who  comprise  the  profession,  and,  in  so  doing,  fail  to  
capture  a  critical  and  informative  facet  of  the  profession:  diversity.  
Diversity  of  the  Archival  Profession  
 

The  little  scholarship  that  exists  on  diversity  in  the  archival  profession  fails  to  

contextualize  it  within  broader  American  archival  history.    In  her  expanded  2007  
presidential  address,  Society  of  American  Archivists  (SAA)  President  Elizabeth  W.  Adkins  
focuses  on  the  issue  of  diversity  within  the  archival  profession.    She  addresses  how  SAA  
                                                                                                               
19  Ibid.,  55-­‐58.  
20  Ibid.,  61.  
21  Ibid.,  68.  
22  Ibid.,  68-­‐69.  

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defines  diversity  and  how  the  organization  can  encourage  it  through  outreach,  
scholarships,  committees,  task  forces,  and  the  Archives  and  Archivists  of  Color  
Roundtable.23    While  Adkins  discusses  SAA’s  history  of  addressing  diversity,  she  only  goes  
back  to  the  early  1970s  when  the  organization  approved  a  non-­‐discrimination  resolution.24    
Missing  from  this  discussion  is  how  the  organization  and  profession  addressed  issues  of  
race  prior  to  the  1970s,  for  it  is  unlikely  and  inconceivable  that  they  were  not  raised  during  
periods  such  as  the  Civil  Rights  Movements  of  African  Americans  and  Native  Americans.    If  
race  issues  were  actually  ignored  by  the  profession  altogether  before  the  1970s,  that  
should  have  been  explicitly  stated.  
 

Kathryn  M.  Neal’s  1996  article  “The  Importance  of  Being  Diverse:  The  Archival  

Profession  and  Minority  Recruitment”  also  only  focuses  on  the  current  and  future  state  of  
diversity  in  archives.    Neal  examines  why  a  diverse  workforce  is  important,  reasons  for  the  
lack  of  diversity  in  the  profession,  and  how  to  recruit  more  people  of  color  to  become  
archivists.25    Neal  identifies  four  major  causes  for  the  low  numbers  of  archivists  of  color:  
lack  of  the  profession’s  public  image;  the  profession’s  disregard  of  communities  of  color;  
low  graduation  rates  of  people  of  color;  and  socioeconomic  status.26    While  the  article  helps  
fill  a  large  gap  in  archival  scholarship,  it  does  not  examine  historical  reasons  for  lack  of  
diversity  in  the  profession  or  past  attempts  at  recruitment.    The  historical  reasons  may  be  
very  similar  to  current  ones  but  cannot  be  determined  without  substantial  historical  
analysis.  
                                                                                                               
23  Elizabeth  W.  Adkins,  “Our  Journey  Toward  Diversity  –  and  a  Call  to  (More)  
Action,”  The  American  Archivist,  71,  no.  1  (2008):  22,  38-­‐48.  
24  Ibid.,  30,  32.  
25  Kathryn  M.  Neal,  “The  Importance  of  Being  Diverse:  The  Archival  Profession  and  
Minority  Recruitment,”  Archival  Issues,  21,  no.  2  (1996):  145.  
26  Ibid.,  149.  

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Dominique  Daniel  examines  the  development  of  ethnic  and  immigrant  archives  

since  the  1960s,  when  historians  and  social  scientists  began  seriously  studying  the  
histories  and  experiences  of  people  of  color.27    During  this  time,  activists  and  scholars  of  
color  established  archives  and  cultural  heritage  institutions  documenting  their  own  
histories.28    Daniel  looks  at  how  archives  and  museums  changed  their  perspectives  of  
communities  of  color  from  objects  and  subjects  to  participants  in  processes  such  as  
collection,  appraisal,  and  description.29    This  article  fails  to  examine  the  earlier  history  of  
diversity  in  archives,  as  repositories  documenting  people  of  color  existed  prior  to  the  
1960s.  
 

All  three  of  these  articles  mention  the  lack  of  scholarship  on  diversity  in  archives,  

and  each  of  them  help  fill  part  of  the  gap.    Yet  there  is  still  much  work  to  be  done  on  this  
large  and  complicated  topic,  and  more  research  needs  to  be  published  in  order  to  provide  a  
fuller  understanding  of  diversity  in  the  profession.    Learning  more  about  archival  history  
will  move  the  profession  forward.  
Gaps  
 

Existing  scholarship  on  American  archival  history  has  focused  heavily  on  the  two  

traditions.    Other  works  are  individual  or  regional  histories  of  archival  institutions,  yet  few  
broaden  these  histories  and  link  them  back  to  more  general  American  archival  history.30    
The  articles  that  do  examine  diversity  of  the  archival  profession  lack  deep  historical  
                                                                                                               
27  Dominique  Daniel,  “Documenting  the  Immigrant  and  Ethnic  Experience  in  
American  Archives,”  The  American  Archivist,  73,  no.  1  (2010):  85.  
28  Ibid.  
29  Ibid.  
30  Richard  J.  Cox,  “The  Failure  or  Future  of  American  Archival  History:  A  Somewhat  
Unorthodox  View,”  Libraries  &  Culture,  35,  no.  1  (2000):  142;  Richard  J.  Cox,  “On  the  Value  
of  Archival  History  in  the  United  States,”  Libraries  &  Culture,  23,  no.  2  (1988):  137.  

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context  of  the  issues.    Areas  needing  further  research  include:  the  ways  archivists  of  color  
influenced  practices  at  other  institutions;  the  development  of  ethnic  archives  prior  to  the  
1960s;  the  effect  of  the  Civil  Rights  Movement  on  archival  organizations;  and  demographics  
of  American  archivists  prior  to  1982.    By  examining  these  issues  further  and  gaining  a  more  
comprehensive  understanding  of  American  archival  history,  today’s  archivists  can  better  
work  on  increasing  diversity  recruitment  and  retention  within  the  profession  as  well  as  
diversifying  the  content  and  scope  of  existing  archival  collections.  
Profiles  
 

Before  academics  started  paying  serious  attention  to  the  histories  of  people  of  color  

in  the  late  1960s,  the  following  archivists  recognized  the  enormous  value  of  materials  
documenting  histories  of  color.    Before  archival  education  became  standardized  and  more  
widespread  across  history  departments  and  library  schools,  these  individuals  found  their  
own  way  into  the  profession.    These  archivists’  stories,  and  those  of  many  others,  must  be  
documented  and  made  easily  accessible  for  future  generations  to  learn  from.  
Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,  1914-­‐1998  
 

On  September  14,  1914,  Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  was  born  to  a  farmer  and  

elementary  school  teacher  in  Summerfield,  Florida.31    At  the  age  of  four,  Hutson  and  her  
mother,  Sarah  Myers  Blackwell,  moved  to  Baltimore,  Maryland.32    Her  father,  Paul  O.  
Blackwell,  stayed  in  Florida  to  manage  his  produce  business  and  traveled  often  to  Maryland  

                                                                                                               
31  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  Archivists  and  Archives  of  Color  Roundtable  
Newsletter  9,  no.  1  (1995):  2.;  Dinitia  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,  Dies  at  83,”  
New  York  Times  (New  York,  NY),  Feb.  7,  1998:  B18.  
32  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  

11  
to  visit.33    Easily  bored  with  school  as  a  child,  Hutson’s  teachers  challenged  her  by  assigning  
additional  readings.34    She  attended  Douglass  High  School  in  Baltimore,  a  segregated  all-­‐
black  school  with  a  reputation  for  high  scholastic  achievement  by  its  students.35    One  of  her  
teachers  was  the  daughter  of  W.E.B.  DuBois,  and  the  school  stressed  the  study  of  black  
history  and  literature.36    Hutson  graduated  at  the  age  of  15  and  was  valedictorian  of  her  
class.37    She  attended  the  University  of  Michigan  for  three  years  before  transferring  to  
Barnard  College  in  New  York  City.38    In  1935,  Hutson  graduated  with  a  BA  in  English,  the  
second  black  woman  to  graduate  from  Barnard  College  after  Zora  Neale  Hurston.39    
Originally  wanting  to  become  a  psychiatrist,  Hutson  attended  the  Columbia  School  of  
Library  Service  intending  to  finance  medical  school  through  library  work.40    Hutson  
graduated  with  an  MA  in  1936  and  also  earned  a  teacher’s  certificate  from  Columbia  
University  in  1941.41  
 

After  library  school,  Hutson  worked  for  the  New  York  Public  Library  system  in  

various  branch  libraries.42    In  her  first  position  in  the  Bronx,  she  increased  the  library’s  
collection  of  Spanish-­‐language  materials  to  better  serve  and  attract  the  library’s  patrons.43    
Hutson  was  asked  in  1948  to  supervise  the  Schomburg  Collection,  part  of  the  New  York  
                                                                                                               
33  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  2-­‐3;  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  
B18.  
34  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3.  
35  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3;  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
36  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
37  Ibid.  
38  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3.  
39  The  Associated  Press,  “Jean    
40  The  Associated  Press,  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,”  A31;  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  
Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
41  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3.  
42  Ibid.  
43  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  

12  
Public  Library  System,  for  six  months  while  the  current  librarian  was  on  leave.44    She  ended  
up  working  there  for  32  years.45  
The  Schomburg  Collection,  later  renamed  the  Schomburg  Center  for  Research  in  
Black  Culture,  originally  began  as  the  reference  section  “Division  of  Negro  Literature,  
History  and  Prints”  at  the  135th  Street  Branch  in  Harlem  and  specialized  in  resources  
relating  to  black  history  and  culture.46    The  New  York  Public  Library  acquired  the  personal  
collection  of  Arthur  Schomburg  in  1926  to  further  develop  the  division’s  resources.47    His  
collection  of  over  10,000  items  was  comprised  of  books,  manuscripts,  artwork,  and  
pamphlets.48    More  than  its  collections,  the  Schomburg  served  as  a  cultural  center  and  
hosted  literary  and  artistic  programs  sponsored  by  community  groups.49    Interest  in  the  
center  rose  as  the  black  power  movement  and  independence  movements  in  Africa  and  the  
Caribbean  gained  popularity.50    Notable  members  of  the  period’s  black  intelligentsia  met  at  
the  Schomburg,  including  Langston  Hughes,  Ralph  Ellison,  Richard  Wright,  and  W.E.B.  

                                                                                                               
44  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3.  
45  Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center  for  Research  in  Black  Culture,”  in  
Black  Bibliophiles  and  Collectors:  Preservers  of  Black  History,  eds.  Elinor  Des  Verney  
Sinnette,  W.  Paul  Coates,  and  Thomas  C.  Battle  (Washington,  DC:  Howard  University  Press,  
1990),  73.  
46  Howard  Dodson,  “The  Schomburg  Center  for  Research  in  Black  Culture,  New  York  
Public  Library,”  The  Library  Quarterly,  58,  no.  1  (1988):  76;  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  
Center,”  69.  
47  Dodson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  76,  78.  
48  Ibid.,  78.  
49  Ibid.,  69-­‐70.  
50  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  

13  
DuBois.51    A  childhood  friend  of  Hutson’s,  Langston  Hughes  referred  to  her  as  his  “baby  
sister”  and  donated  part  of  his  papers  to  the  Schomburg.52  
During  the  integration  movement  in  the  1940s  and  1950s,  both  blacks  and  whites  
began  to  doubt  the  necessity  of  a  separate  collection  focusing  on  black  history  and  culture  –  
but  Hutson  still  defended  it.53    In  1990,  Hutson  recalled:  
Also  in  1954  came  the  historic  Supreme  Court  decision  on  school  desegregation.    
Much  of  the  research  for  the  legal  brief  preceding  that  decision  had  been  prepared  
in  the  Schomburg.    The  small  staff  had  a  real  sense  of  participating  in  that  event.    But  
then  came  the  scary  suggestion  within  the  New  York  Public  Library  Administration  
that  the  Schomburg  Collection  would  not  be  needed  any  longer  because  Negro  
history  would  be  integrated  into  the  general  collections!54  
The  Schomburg  was  not  absorbed  by  the  general  collections  but  maintained  its  separate  
location  and  identity.    Under  Hutson’s  supervision  in  1962,  the  center  published  a  directory  
of  its  holdings  to  share  its  collections  with  libraries  internationally.55    In  1964  the  first  
president  of  Ghana,  Kwame  Nkrumah,  asked  Hutson  to  help  develop  the  University  of  
Ghana's  library  collections.56    She  spent  a  year  in  Ghana  working  to  grow  the  university’s  
Africana  library  to  include  materials  about  all  individuals  of  African  descent,  not  just  those  
directly  relating  to  the  continent.57  
                                                                                                               
51  The  Associated  Press,  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,”  A31;  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  
Honored,”  3.  
52  The  Associated  Press,  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,”  A31;  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  
Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
53  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
54  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  74.  
55  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  74;  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
56  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  73-­‐74;  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3.  
57  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  73;  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3.  

14  
 

In  the  1960s  and  1970s,  the  Schomburg  faced  financial  problems  in  addition  to  poor  

facilities  at  the  Countee  Cullen  branch  library.58    Both  Hutson  and  the  center  gained  
national  attention  when  Ebony  magazine  published  the  story  “Schomburg’s  Ailing  
Collection”  in  October  1967.59    Hutson  helped  secure  funding  from  the  National  
Endowment  for  the  Humanities  and  the  New  York  State  Legislature  to  build  a  new  facility  
and  to  meet  staffing,  acquisitions,  and  preservation  needs.60    The  collection  moved  from  “a  
sparsely  furnished,  poorly  lighted  space  without  air  conditioning”  to  a  brand  new  climate-­‐
controlled  five-­‐story  building  in  1981,  the  year  after  Hutson  retired  from  the  Schomburg.61  
 

Hutson  served  the  Schomburg  as  Curator  from  1948-­‐1972  and  as  Chief  from  1972-­‐

1980.62    During  this  period  of  32  years,  the  book  collection  increased  from  15,000  to  over  
75,000  volumes  and  numerous  manuscript,  art,  and  audio-­‐visual  materials  were  added.63    
Hutson’s  work  resulted  in  the  Schomburg  becoming  one  of  the  leading  collections  of  
materials  relating  to  the  history  and  culture  of  peoples  of  African  descent.64    Regarding  the  
early  years  of  her  tenure,  Hutson  wrote,  “I  recall  the  turmoil  I  caused  among  the  staff  for  
having  the  collection  inventoried;  such  mundane  duties  had  not  been  performed  in  twenty  
years.”65    From  1962-­‐1971,  Hutson  was  also  an  associate  adjunct  professor  at  the  City  
College  of  New  York  in  the  History  Department.66    She  was  awarded  a  Doctor  of  Humane  
                                                                                                               
58  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
59  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  76.  
60  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  77-­‐78.  
61  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
62  The  Associated  Press,  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,”  A31;  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  
Honored,”  2.  
63  Ibid.,  3.  
64  Ibid.,  2.  
65  Hutson,  “The  Schomburg  Center,”  75.  
66  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  3.  

15  
Letters  in  1977  from  King  Memorial  College  in  Columbia,  South  Carolina.67    After  resigning  
as  Chief  of  the  Schomburg  Center  in  1980,  Hutson  worked  in  the  New  York  Public  Library's  
administration  office  as  Assistant  Director,  Collection  Management  and  Development,  Black  
Studies  Research  Librarian  until  retiring  in  February  1984.68    Hutson  continued  to  live  in  
Harlem  until  her  death  on  February  4,  1998,  at  the  age  of  83.69  
 

The  professional  work  of  Hutson  should  be  taught  and  not  forgotten,  especially  

since  her  story  is  intimately  tied  with  the  history  of  the  Schomburg  Center,  which  remains  
today  one  of  the  most  prestigious  collections  of  African  American  materials.    Her  legacy  
should  be  a  lesson  to  all  archivists  who  came  afterwards.    Before  social  history  and  African  
American  studies  became  popular  fields  of  study  in  the  1960s  and  1970s,  Hutson  
recognized  the  importance  of  materials  focused  on  black  culture  and  history  and  ensured  
their  acquisition,  preservation,  and  use.    Howard  Dodson,  chief  of  the  Schomburg  in  1998,  
described  her,  “She  had  an  exacting  personality…She  ran  a  tight  ship  and  had  an  astute  way  
of  getting  what  she  wanted  done.    Once  her  mind  was  set  on  doing  something,  there  was  no  
stopping  her.”70  
Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,  1919-­‐1991  
 

Sara  Dunlap  Jackson  was  born  on  May  28,  1919,  in  Columbia,  South  Carolina.71    She  

was  orphaned  as  an  infant  and  adopted  by  her  uncle  and  aunt,  Reverend  C.W.  and  Ella  Fair  
                                                                                                               
67  Ibid.  
68  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson  Honored,”  2;  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
69  The  Associated  Press,  “Jean  Blackwell  Hutson,”  A31;  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  
Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
70  Smith,  “Jean  Hutson,  Schomburg  Chief,”  B18.  
71  “Dr.  Sara  Dunlap  Jackson:  Federal  Archivist,”  SCAfricanAmerican.com,  last  
modified  September  1993,  http://scafricanamerican.com/honorees/view/1993/9/;  Ira  
Berlin,  “In  Memory  of  Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  Prologue  Magazine,  29,  no.  2  (1997),  accessed  

16  
Dunlap.72    Jackson  graduated  in  1939  from  Booker  T.  Washington  High  School  in  Columbia  
and  in  1943  from  Johnson  C.  Smith  University  in  Charlotte,  North  Carolina,  with  a  
bachelor’s  degree  in  sociology.73    She  briefly  taught  at  Robert  Smalls  High  School  in  
Beaufort,  South  Carolina,  but  left  for  a  better  job  opportunity  due  to  World  War  II.74  
After  moving  to  Washington,  DC,  in  1943  for  a  clerical  position  at  the  War  
Department,  Jackson  joined  the  ten-­‐year-­‐old  National  Archives  as  Archival  Assistant  in  
1944.75    She  was  one  of  the  first  black  women  working  in  a  professional  position  at  the  
National  Archives.76    Jackson  was  assigned  to  the  Old  Military  Records  Branch,  which  
contained  government  documents  concerning  the  United  States’  pre-­‐20th  century  war  
activities  including  the  “Rebel  Archives,”  Freedmen’s  Bureau,  and  “Colored  Troops”  
Division  of  the  Adjutant  General’s  Office.77    While  working  with  these  collections,  she  
became  intimately  familiar  with  the  relationships  among  the  different  types  of  National  
Archives  records  and  shared  that  knowledge  with  others.78    Joellen  El  Bashir  described  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
September  28,  2012,  
http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/summer/sara-­‐dunlap-­‐  
jackson.html.  
72  “Dr.  Sara  Dunlap  Jackson”;  Janet  Linde,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson:  Paradigm  of  the  
Archivist  as  Caring  Research  Facilitator”  (presentation,  Society  of  American  Archivists  
Annual  Meeting,  Birmingham,  AL,  August  23,  2002).  
73  Berlin,  “In  Memory  of”;  Joellen  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson:  Research  
Archivist,  National  Archives,”  African-­‐American  and  Third  World  Archivists  Roundtable  
Newsletter,  3,  no.  2  (1989):  4-­‐5;  Linde,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson”;  “Sara  D.  Jackson,  Government  
Archivist,”  The  Washington  Post  (Washington,  DC),  Apr.  24,  1991:  D4.  
74  Berlin,  “In  Memory  of”;  Roger  A.  Bruns,  “Historical  News  and  Notices:  Deaths,”  The  
Journal  of  Southern  History,  57,  no.  3  (1991):  579.  
75  Bruns,  “Historical  News  and  Notices,”  579;  “Dr.  Sara  Dunlap  Jackson”;  El  Bashir,  
“Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
76  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
77  Bruns,  “Historical  News  and  Notices,”  579;  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
78  Bruns,  “Historical  News  and  Notices,”  579.  

17  
Jackson’s  reputation,  “Students  and  other  researchers  were  told  to  ‘go  see  Sara  Jackson,  she  
knows  where  everything  is  in  the  Archives.’”79  
Jackson  worked  at  the  National  Archives  for  46  years,  retiring  in  October  1990.80    
Though  she  gained  more  responsibilities  throughout  her  tenure  at  the  National  Archives,  
Jackson’s  position  title  of  Archival  Assistant  remained  the  same  until  more  recent  years.81    
Partially  a  result  of  supportive  letters  submitted  on  her  behalf  by  researchers,  her  position  
was  eventually  changed  to  Research  Archivist.82    In  1968  Jackson  started  working  at  the  
National  Archives’  National  Historical  Publications  Committee,  now  called  the  National  
Historical  Publications  and  Records  Commission  (NHPRC),  and  conducted  research  in  the  
Papers  of  Ulysses  S.  Grant,  John  C.  Calhoun,  and  Henry  Clay.83  
In  addition  to  her  day  job,  Jackson  took  on  many  other  professional  responsibilities.    
She  served  on  several  professional  committees  including  the  Department  of  the  Army  
Historical  Advisory  Committee,  Advisory  Council  of  the  U.S.  Army  Military  Institute,  
Executive  Council  of  the  Southern  Historical  Association,  and  advisory  committees  for  the  
National  Park  Service  and  the  Marine  Corps.84    She  was  also  a  director  of  the  Council  of  
America’s  Military  Past  and  a  member  of  the  Editorial  Selection  Board  for  the  book  series  
The  American  Negro:  His  History  and  Literature.85    No  doubt  Jackson  was  asked  to  serve  on  
these  committees  due  to  her  extensive  historical  knowledge,  as  she  was  “frequently  cited  as  
one  who  knows  the  historical  material  in  the  National  Archives  better  than  any  other  
                                                                                                               
79  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
80  “Dr.  Sara  Dunlap  Jackson.”  
81  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
82  Ibid.  
83  Ibid.  
84  Ibid.  
85  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2;  “Sara  D.  Jackson,”  D4.  

18  
individual,  particularly  in  the  areas  of  western,  military,  social,  and  black  history.”86    
Historian  Ira  Berlin  wrote,  “This  archival  assistant,  without  academic  degree  or  scholarly  
paraphernalia,  became  one  of  the  most  knowledgeable  historians  of  American  life.”87    
Jackson  also  wrote  numerous  articles  and  co-­‐edited  Am  I  Not  a  Man  and  a  Brother:  The  
Anti-­‐Slavery  Crusade  of  Revolutionary  America,  1688-­‐1788,  which  was  published  in  1977.88    
She  conducted  research  in  black  history  generally  and  also  specifically  on  Henry  O.  Flipper,  
the  first  African  American  graduate  of  West  Point.89    West  Point  asked  her  to  present  an  
award  named  in  honor  of  Flipper  at  its  1989  graduation.90  
Jackson  received  numerous  awards  in  recognition  of  her  work.    The  University  of  
Toledo  gave  her  the  Honorary  Degree  of  Doctor  of  Humane  Letters  in  Recognition  of  
Unusual  Service  to  Humanity  in  1976.91    In  1985  the  Western  History  Association  Award  of  
Merit  for  Distinguished  Contributions  to  the  Cause  of  Western  History  was  awarded  to  
her.92    Later  in  1990,  she  received  the  Houston  Civil  War  Round  Table’s  Frank  E.  Vandiver  
Award  of  Merit.93  
Jackson  died  at  the  age  of  71  on  April  19,  1991,  at  her  home  in  Washington,  DC,  after  
a  battle  with  cancer.94    Roger  A.  Bruns,  who  co-­‐edited  a  book  with  Jackson,  wrote:  
Her  influence  on  individuals  ranged  from  esteemed  professors  tracking  down  the  
elusive  historical  clue  to  young  people  first  venturing  into  historical  discovery.    Sara  
                                                                                                               
86  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
87  Berlin,  “In  Memory  of.”  
88  Ibid.  
89  Ibid.  
90  Bruns,  “Historical  News  and  Notices,”  579.  
91  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
92  Ibid.  
93  “Dr.  Sara  Dunlap  Jackson.”  
94  “Sara  D.  Jackson,”  D4.  

19  
Jackson  informed  and  inspired  with  personal  grace,  a  deep  respect  for  history,  and  
an  infectious  love  of  research.    In  book  after  book  published  in  recent  years,  authors  
acknowledged  Sara  Jackson’s  professional  help  and  personal  encouragement.    She  
was,  as  one  recently  wrote,  an  “archivist  extraordinaire.”95    
Her  life’s  work  is  a  leading  example  of  how  archivists  can  affect  the  lives  of  many  others  
without  being  in  a  high  administrative  position.    The  everyday  responsibilities  of  archivists,  
from  processing  to  reference,  greatly  affect  a  researcher’s  ability  to  find  the  information  
they  need.    Though  some  archivists  do  gain  acknowledgement  in  the  form  of  awards,  most  
do  not  –  but  their  work  is  still  invaluable  to  others.  
Archie  Motley,  1934-­‐2002  
 

On  December  2,  1934,  Archie  Motley  was  born  to  Archibald  J.  Motley,  Jr.,  and  Edith  

Granzo  Motley  in  Chicago,  Illinois.96    Motley’s  father  was  a  well-­‐known  African  American  
painter  during  the  Chicago  Renaissance,  and  his  mother  was  German  American.97    Though  
Motley  looked  white,  he  identified  as  black.98    Motley  began  high  school  at  De  La  Salle  High  
School,  “where  his  skin  color  was  light  enough  that  white  students  felt  comfortable  
insulting  blacks  in  front  of  him,”  but  then  transferred  to  and  graduated  from  Englewood  
High  School,  which  was  predominantly  black.99    He  attended  DePaul  University  and  
                                                                                                               
95  Bruns,  “Historical  News  and  Notices,”  579;  El  Bashir,  “Sara  Dunlap  Jackson,”  2.  
96  “Archie  Motley  Memorial  Scholarship  for  Minority  Students,”  
MidwestArchives.org,  accessed  October  8,  2012,  http://www.midwestarchives.org/motley;  
Beverly  A.  Cook  and  Michael  Flug,  “Archie  Motley:  Archivist  Emeritus,  Chicago  Historical  
Society,”  Archivists  and  Archives  of  Color  Newsletter,  13,  no.  1  (1999);  6.  
97  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6;  James  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67;  Archivist  
Helped  Preserve  City’s  Black,  Labor  History,”  Chicago  Tribune  (Chicago,  IL),  Nov.  13,  2002;  
2C.  
98  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  
99  Ibid.  

20  
graduated  in  1960  with  a  BA  in  philosophy.100    Five  years  later,  Motley  graduated  from  
Loyola  University  Chicago  with  an  MA  in  philosophy.101  
 

As  an  undergraduate,  Motley  started  working  at  the  Chicago  Historical  Society  in  

1955  –  the  beginning  of  a  42-­‐year  tenure.102    For  his  first  ten  years,  Motley  was  the  only  
staff  member  of  the  society’s  archives,  but  staff  and  collections  started  to  increase  after  
1965.103    In  1974  he  was  promoted  to  curator  of  archives  and  manuscripts.104    When  
Motley  first  started  working  at  the  historical  society,  it  only  held  approximately  400  linear  
feet  in  archives  and  manuscripts.105    By  the  end  of  his  42  years  there,  the  collection  had  
expanded  to  16,000  linear  feet.106  
Not  only  did  the  size  of  the  holdings  increase,  but  the  scope  of  the  archives  and  
manuscripts  greatly  increased  as  well.    Motley  transitioned  the  society’s  emphasis  on  the  
city’s  professional  elite  to  materials  documenting  the  broader  urban  experience.107    He  
sought  to  acquire  collections  relating  to  the  history  of  African  Americans,  women,  social  
movements,  and  labor  in  Chicago.108    “Before  ‘diversity’  became  a  widely  used  term,  Archie  
appreciated  that  a  broad-­‐based  representation  from  the  people  of  Chicago  was  really  
important  to  tell  as  truthfully  as  possible,”  said  Russell  Lewis.109    This  change  in  the  
institution’s  collecting  mission  also  influenced  other  historical  societies  across  the  
                                                                                                               
100  Ibid.  
101  “Archie  Motley  Memorial  Scholarship.”  
102  “Archie  Motley  Memorial  Scholarship;”  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6;  Janega,  
“Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  
103  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6.  
104  “Archie  Motley  Memorial  Scholarship.”  
105  Ibid.  
106  Ibid.  
107  Ibid.  
108  Ibid.  
109  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  

21  
country.110    Michael  Flug  observed,  “When  Archie  came  onto  the  scene  in  1955,  most  
historical  societies  and  other  manuscript  collections  held  primarily  the  papers  of  
businessmen  and  politicians  and  other  primarily  powerful  people  –  mostly  white  people  
with  money.    Archie  was  one  of  a  small  number  of  people  in  the  vanguard  of  changing  that  
perspective.”111  
 

Motley’s  intimate  knowledge  of  the  city  and  ability  to  convince  people  and  

institutions  to  donate  their  materials  were  critical  to  his  success.    He  reflected,  “My  father  
talked  about  race  and  politics  at  the  dinner  table.    He  was  curious  about  history,  always  
reading,  always  talking  about  politics  and  sports.    And  so  I  knew  the  Black  community  in  
Chicago;  I  knew  who  was  who  and  how  to  talk  to  people.”112    While  the  historical  society  
acquired  the  papers  of  prominent  individuals,  such  as  Senator  Paul  Douglass,  Motley  also  
ensured  the  records  of  neighborhood  organizations,  labor  activists,  and  social  service  
agencies  were  donated  to  the  society.113    In  1991  Motley  was  quoted  in  the  Chicago  
Tribune,  “The  real  trick  of  being  an  archivist  is  getting  papers  that  people  don’t  already  
know  very  much  about.”114    An  example  of  this  principle  is  that  he  approached  social  
service  organizations  that  had  never  been  asked  about  donating  their  records.115  
 

On  March  1,  1998,  Motley  officially  retired  from  the  Chicago  Historical  Society,  

though  he  continued  working  as  Archivist  Emeritus  for  about  25  hours  every  week.116    He  
was  very  active  in  the  archival  and  history  professions,  including  the  Society  of  American  
                                                                                                               
110  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6.  
111  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  
112  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6.  
113  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6;  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  
114  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  
115  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6.  
116  Ibid.  

22  
Archivists,  Society  of  Baseball  Research,  and  the  Urban  History  Association.117    He  helped  
found  the  Midwest  Archives  Conference  and  served  as  its  first  president.118    As  a  member  
of  the  Society  of  American  Archivists,  Motley  was  a  member  of  the  women’s  issues  
roundtable  and  advocated  for  archivists  of  color  to  serve  as  leadership  on  committees.119    
In  1999  Motley  said,  “One  of  the  issues  I  think  still  needs  more  work  is  the  question  of  
diversity  in  the  archival  profession.”120    At  the  age  of  67,  Motley  died  on  November  11,  
2002,  in  Evanston,  Illinois.121  
 

Motley  will  be  remembered  for  being  one  of  the  first  archivists  to  actively  and  

aggressively  collect  archives  and  manuscripts  documenting  people  of  all  races  and  
economic  backgrounds,  not  just  those  who  have  become  well-­‐known  or  financially  
successful.      This  remains  an  important  lesson  archivists  need  to  learn  today.    Historian  
Studs  Terkel  described  this  legacy,  “Archie  knew  more  about  the  history  of  Chicago  –  of  
working  people  –  than  anyone  in  town.    He  knew  about  labor  battles  better  than  anyone.    
Archie  Motley  knew  about  the  Bronzeville  renaissance  as  well  as  anyone.    He  knew  Chicago  
history  from  the  bottom  up,  that’s  the  thing.    He  was  a  chronicler,  the  unofficial  chronicler  
of  Chicago  working  people’s  history.”122  
 
 
 
 
                                                                                                               
117  “Archie  Motley  Memorial  Scholarship.”  
118  Ibid.  
119  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  
120  Cook  and  Flug,  “Archie  Motley,”  6.  
121  Janega,  “Archie  Motley,  67,”  2C.  
122  Ibid.  

23  
Harold  T.  Pinkett,  1914-­‐2001  
 

Harold  T.  Pinkett  was  born  on  April  7,  1914,  in  Salisbury,  Maryland,  to  Levin  and  

Catherine  Pinkett.123    He  graduated  in  1935  summa  cum  laude  from  Morgan  College,  now  
Morgan  State  University,  and  in  1938  from  the  University  of  Pennsylvania  with  a  master’s  
degree  in  history.124    Pinkett  taught  Latin  at  Douglass  High  School  in  Baltimore,  Maryland,  
before  serving  as  a  history  professor  from  1938-­‐1939  and  1941-­‐1942  at  Livingstone  
College  in  Salisbury,  North  Carolina,  and  passed  the  civil  service  exam  in  1940.125    He  was  
offered  a  position  working  at  the  National  Archives  in  1942,  though  his  interest  at  the  time  
was  not  in  archives  but  teaching.126    Pinkett  was  enrolled  in  a  history  doctoral  program  at  
Columbia  University,  but  the  National  Archives’  job  offer  came  with  an  appealing  salary  and  
tenure.127  
Pinkett  moved  to  Washington,  DC,  in  1942  and  worked  at  the  National  Archives  
briefly  before  leaving  to  serve  in  the  United  States  Army  during  World  War  II.128    After  the  
war,  Pinkett  returned  to  work  at  the  National  Archives  under  the  supervision  of  notable  
archival  theorist  Theodore  R.  Schellenberg.129    Very  few  archival  education  and  training  
programs  existed  during  this  time  period,  and  Pinkett  learned  about  the  principles  and  
                                                                                                               
123  Douglas  Helms,  “In  Memoriam:  Harold  T.  Pinkett,  ”  Perspectives:  The  
Newsmagazine  of  the  American  Historical  Association,  39,  no.  8  (2001),  accessed  October  10,  
2012,  http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2001/0111/0111mem1.cfm;  “Dr.  
Harold  T.  Pinkett,  1914-­‐2001,”  Archivists  and  Archives  of  Color  Newsletter,  15,  no.  1  (2001):  
1.  
124  Douglas  Helms,  “Obituary:  [Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett],”  Agricultural  History,  75,  no.  3  
(2001):  349.  
125  Helms,  “Obituary,”  349;  Karen  Jefferson,  “Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett:  First  Black  
Archivist  at  the  National  Archives,”  African-­‐American  and  Third  World  Archivists  Roundtable  
Newsletter,  3,  no.  1  (1989):  3.  
126  Jefferson,  “Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett,”  3.  
127  Ibid.  
128  Helms,  “Obituary,”  349.  
129  Jefferson,  “Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett,”  3.  

24  
techniques  of  archival  practice  from  Schellenberg  and  Ernst  Posner,  a  German  archivist  and  
educator.130    Not  only  was  Pinkett  the  first  African  American  to  hold  the  position  of  
archivist  at  the  National  Archives,  he  was  also  the  first  African  American  in  this  type  of  
position  at  an  American  archival  institution.131  
In  his  early  years  at  the  National  Archives,  Pinkett  wrote  most  of  the  preliminary  
inventories  of  agricultural  records.132    He  went  on  to  supervise  departments  that  provided  
reference  and  description  of  these  agricultural  records  and  later  became  Chief  Archivist  of  
the  Natural  Resources  Records  Branch,  which  was  comprised  of  records  from  the  
Department  of  Agriculture,  Department  of  the  Interior,  the  Civilian  Conservation  Corps,  and  
the  Works  Projects  Administration.133    Historian  Douglas  Helms  said,  “Agricultural  
historians  who  had  occasion  to  do  research  at  the  National  Archives  will  remember  him  
best  as  the  knowledgeable  and  dignified,  but  also  friendly  and  kind  person,  who  freely  
shared  his  expertise  on  the  records  related  to  agriculture.”134    Pinkett  used  his  extensive  
knowledge  of  US  agricultural  history  to  earn  a  doctorate  in  history  from  American  
University  in  1953.135    His  dissertation  was  on  the  forest  conservation  pioneer  Gifford  
Pinchot,  who  was  the  founder  and  first  chief  of  the  Forest  Service.136    The  Agricultural  
History  Society  gave  Pinkett  a  book  award  for  his  biography  of  Pinchot  in  1968.137  
Now  deeply  involved  in  the  archival  profession,  Pinkett  was  very  active  in  his  
professional  service.    He  served  as  co-­‐editor  of  Research  in  the  Administration  of  Public  
                                                                                                               
130  Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett,”  1;  Jefferson,  “Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett,”  3.  
131  Helms,  “Obituary,”  349.  
132  Ibid.  
133  Helms,  “In  Memoriam;”  Helms,  “Obituary,”  349.  
134  Helms,  “Obituary,”  349.  
135  Ibid.  
136  Helms,  “In  Memoriam;”  Helms,  “Obituary,”  350.  
137  Helms,  “Obituary,”  350.  

25  
Policy,  a  publication  of  the  National  Archives,  and  from  1968-­‐1971  was  editor  of  the  
American  Archivist,  journal  of  the  Society  of  American  Archivists.138    He  was  the  first  
African  American  editor  of  the  American  Archivist.139    In  1971  Pinkett  became  the  first  
African  American  to  be  elected  to  the  SAA  Executive  Council.140    He  also  served  as  president  
of  the  Forest  History  Society  from  1976-­‐1978  and  of  the  Agricultural  History  Society  from  
1982-­‐1983.141    The  list  of  his  professional  service  goes  on  and  on.    Additionally,  Pinkett  was  
an  adjunct  professor  at  Howard  University  and  American  University,  teaching  courses  in  
history  and  archival  administration,  and  wrote  over  50  articles  on  archives  and  history  that  
were  published  in  journals  and  encyclopedias.142  
After  35  years  working  at  the  National  Archives,  Pinkett  retired  in  1979.143    During  
his  tenure,  he  received  various  awards  from  the  institution  recognizing  his  work  
performance:  the  Commendable  Service  Award  in  1964  and  1970  and  the  Exceptional  
Service  Award  in  1979.  144    He  continued  working  as  an  archival  consultant  for  numerous  
colleges,  the  National  Urban  League,  and  the  National  Association  for  the  Advancement  of  
Colored  People  (NAACP).145    After  retirement  Pinkett  also  continued  conducting  historical  
research.146    On  March  13,  2001,  Pinkett  passed  away  at  the  age  of  86.147  
Pinkett  humbly  reflected  on  his  career:  
                                                                                                               
138  Ibid.  
139  “Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett,”  1.  
140  Helms,  “Obituary,”  350.  
141  Ibid.,  349-­‐350.  
142  Ibid.,  350.  
143  Ibid.,  349-­‐350.  
144  “Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett,”  1.  
145  Helms,  “Obituary,”  350.  
146  Helms,  “In  Memoriam.”  

147  Helms,  “Obituary,”  349.  

26  
Whatever  success  as  an  archivist  that  I  have  achieved  has  resulted,  I  believe,  from  a  
few  basic  circumstances.    My  professional  development  was  stimulated  by  a  good  
academic  and  intellectual  foundation.    It  has  been  advanced  and  sustained  by  
specialized  training,  job  experience,  scholarly  effort,  and  public  contacts.    My  
achievement  has  been  determined  frequently  by  alertness  in  seeing  and  using  
opportunities  for  self-­‐improvement.    With  diligence  I  have  often  been  able,  in  a  
paraphrase  of  Samuel  Johnson,  ‘to  improve  the  golden  moment  of  opportunity  and  
catch  the  good’  within  my  reach.148  
As  the  first  African  American  with  the  title  of  archivist  at  the  National  Archives,  Pinkett  
paved  the  way  for  future  archivists  of  color.    He  started  working  in  archives  during  the  
early  years  of  the  American  archival  profession,  when  there  were  few  opportunities  for  
formal  archival  training,  and  shaped  the  profession  through  his  extensive  professional  
service.    
Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,  1904-­‐1995  
 

Dorothy  Louise  Burnett  Porter  Wesley  was  born  on  May  25,  1904,  in  Warrenton,  

Virginia,  to  Hayes  Joseph  and  Bertha  Ball  Burnett.149    She  grew  up  in  suburban  Montclair,  
New  Jersey,  which  was  predominantly  white.150    Her  father  graduated  from  Howard  
University  Medical  School  and  was  the  first  African  American  physician  to  practice  in  

                                                                                                               
148  Jefferson,  “Dr.  Harold  T.  Pinkett,”  6.  
149  Sources  differ  in  citing  Porter  Wesley’s  birth  year  as  1904  and  1905,  but  based  
on  the  enumeration  dates  and  age  information  listed  in  the  Census  of  the  United  States  for  
1910,  1920,  and  1940,  the  author  determined  her  birth  year  to  be  1904;  Esme  Bhan,  
“Dorothy  Louise  Burnett  Porter  Wesley  1904-­‐1995,”  Washington  History,  8,  no.  1  (1996):  
88.  
150  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  3.  

27  
Montclair,  and  her  mother  was  a  homemaker  and  tennis  champion.151    Porter  Wesley  
graduated  from  the  integrated  Montclair  High  School,  where  there  were  only  six  black  
students.152    In  1923  Porter  Wesley  moved  to  Washington,  DC,  to  attend  Miner  Normal  
College,  a  teacher  training  school  for  black  students,  and  graduated  in  1925.153    She  became  
close  with  the  Librarian  of  the  College,  Lula  Allan,  who  encouraged  Porter  Wesley  to  attend  
a  summer  session  at  Columbia  University’s  School  of  Library  Service.154    In  the  fall,  Porter  
Wesley  started  work  as  acting  librarian  of  Miner  Normal  College  while  Allan  was  on  leave  
for  a  year.155  
 

Porter  Wesley  earned  a  bachelor’s  degree  from  Howard  University  in  1928.156    She  

went  on  to  earn  an  undergraduate  degree  in  library  science  from  Columbia  University  in  
1931  and  her  master’s  degree  in  library  science  from  Columbia  in  1932.157    She  was  the  
first  person  of  African  descent  to  graduate  with  a  master’s  degree  from  Columbia  

                                                                                                               
151  Avril  Johnson  Madison  and  Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  
Wesley:  Enterprising  Steward  of  Black  Culture,”  The  Public  Historian,  17,  no.  1  (1995):  15;  
“Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley  1905-­‐1995,”  The  Journal  of  Blacks  in  Higher  Education,  43,  
no.  1  (2004):  1.  
152  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  1;  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  
Porter  Wesley,”  15.  
153  Bhan,  “Dorothy  Louise  Burnett  Porter,”  88;  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  
Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  16.  
154  Karen  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,  Curator  Extraordinaire,”  African-­‐
American  and  Third  World  Archivists  Roundtable  Newsletter,  4,  no.  1  (1990):  3.  
155  Ibid.  
156  Betty  M.  Culpepper,  “Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Research  Center:  A  Legacy  of  
Bibliophiles,”  in  Black  Bibliophiles  and  Collectors:  Preservers  of  Black  History,  eds.  Elinor  Des  
Verney  Sinnette,  W.  Paul  Coates,  and  Thomas  C.  Battle  (Washington,  DC:  Howard  University  
Press,  1990),  107.  
157  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  16.  

28  
University’s  School  of  Library  Service.158    When  asked  about  her  experience  at  Columbia,  
Porter  Wesley  reflected:  
 

I  don’t  know  how  to  describe  it,  except  that  there  were  a  lot  of  negative  things  going    
on.    In  the  first  place,  I  couldn’t  get  a  room  in  the  dormitory.    I  had  to  live  on  
Riverside  Drive  because  of  my  color.    And  then  when  I  arrived  –  I  had  a  scholarship,  
by  the  way,  to  go  to  Columbia  –  and  when  I  arrived,  the  teacher  with  whom  I  was  
doing  my  major  work  told  me  that  I  couldn’t  get  through  with  it;  I  came  from  
“inferior  background.”    She  knew  I  couldn’t  do  the  work,  and  why  did  I  want  to  stay?    
This  was  in  October,  the  beginning  of  the  year.    And  I  said,  “Well,  I’m  going  to  work  
hard,  and  I’m  not  going  to  do  any  socializing.    I’m  not  going  to  go  to  the  theaters,  I’m  
not  going  to  do  anything  but  work.    I’ve  come  to  do  work,  and  I  intend  to  get  it.”159  

During  the  summers,  she  worked  evening  shifts  at  the  New  York  Public  Library’s  135th  
Street  Branch,  now  known  as  the  Schomburg  Center  for  Research  in  Black  Culture.160    It  
was  here  that  Porter  Wesley’s  interest  in  black  history  developed.161    She  was  offered  a  job  
at  the  library,  but  her  colleague  Edward  Christopher  Williams,  the  first  professionally  
trained  African  American  in  librarianship,  encouraged  her  to  take  a  position  at  Howard  
University  instead.162    While  still  a  Columbia  student,  Porter  Wesley  became  Howard  
University’s  “librarian  in  charge  of  the  Negro  collection”  in  1930.163  
                                                                                                               
158  Culpepper,  “Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Research  Center,”  107;  Madison  and  Wesley,  
“Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  17.  
159  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  20.  
160  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  3.  
161  Ibid.  
162  Culpepper,  “Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Research  Center,”  107;  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  
Porter  Wesley,”  3.  
163  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  16.  

29  
 

The  decision  to  accept  the  job  at  Howard  University  turned  into  a  43-­‐year  tenure.164    

The  foundation  of  Howard’s  Negro  collection  was  the  special  collection  of  Jesse  E.  
Moorland,  a  Howard  alumnus  and  Board  of  Trustee  who  in  1914  donated  his  collection  of  
3,000  items  relating  to  blacks  and  slavery.165    During  her  first  two  years  at  Howard,  Porter  
Wesley  went  through  the  entire  library  collection  to  gather  all  materials  relating  to  black  
history  and  place  them  in  a  separate  collection  called  “Books  By  and  About  the  Negroes.”166    
Lacking  a  budget  to  purchase  new  resources,  Porter  Wesley  established  close  relationships  
with  book  dealers,  publishers,  and  scholars,  who  would  often  give  her  books.167    She  
regularly  attended  auctions  and  purchased  books  using  her  own  money.168    Porter  Wesley  
also  collected  manuscripts,  understanding  the  value  and  importance  of  these  types  of  
materials.169    While  formal  training  for  archivists  at  this  time  was  very  limited,  she  learned  
from  the  experiences  of  bibliophiles  Arthur  Schomburg,  Henry  Proctor  Slaughter,  and  
Arthur  Spingarn.170    In  1946  Howard  University  purchased  5,000  books  by  black  authors  
from  Spingarn’s  collection,  Porter  Wesley’s  most  prominent  acquisition,  and  the  library  
was  renamed  the  Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Collection  due  to  its  significance.171      
 

In  addition  to  growing  the  collection  of  books  and  manuscripts,  Porter  Wesley  

worked  to  bolster  the  Howardiana  Collection,  archives  documenting  the  university’s  
                                                                                                               
164  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  3.  
165  Ibid.  
166  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  3;  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  
Porter  Wesley,”  23-­‐24.  
167  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  6;  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  
Porter  Wesley,”  20.  
168  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  20.  
169  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  3.  
170  Ibid.  
171  Culpepper,  “Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Research  Center,”  107;  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  
Porter  Wesley,”  3.  

30  
history.172    Persistent  in  this  goal,  she  even  dug  through  the  trash  of  faculty  members  to  
retrieve  office  files.173    She  also  reached  out  to  faculty  members,  including  Sterling  Brown,  
Ralph  Bunche,  and  Merze  Tate,  to  encourage  them  to  use  the  collection’s  resources  for  their  
research  and  teaching.174      In  1973  she  supported  the  university’s  move  to  separate  the  
Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Collection  from  the  library  into  the  independent  Moorland-­‐Spingarn  
Research  Center.175    She  also  retired  that  year,  having  expanded  the  collection  to  over  
180,000  items  from  3,000  in  1914.176    
 

Porter  Wesley  published  numerous  bibliographies,  articles,  and  book  reviews  in  

addition  to  active  professional  service.177    From  1962-­‐1964,  she  went  on  a  leave  of  absence  
to  help  build  the  National  Library  of  Nigeria,  funded  by  the  Ford  Foundation.178    She  also  
spent  a  year  as  a  Visiting  Research  Scholar  at  Harvard  University’s  DuBois  Institute  for  
Afro-­‐American  Research  in  1989.179    Her  hundreds  of  bibliographies  range  from  short  lists  
compiled  for  researchers  to  extensive  volumes  including  The  Negro  in  American  Cities:  A  
Selected  and  Annotated  Bibliography  (1967)  and  Negro  Protest  Pamphlets  (1969).180    Porter  
Wesley  was  awarded  three  honorary  degrees  of  Doctor  of  Humane  Letters  from  University  
of  Susquehanna  in  1971,  Syracuse  University  in  1989,  and  Radcliffe  College  in  1990.181    She  
                                                                                                               
172  Culpepper,  “Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Research  Center,”  107.  
173  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  24-­‐25.  
174  Culpepper,  “Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Research  Center,”  109  
175  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  6.  
176  Bhan,  “Dorothy  Louise  Burnett  Porter,”  88.  
177  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  6.  
178  Madison  and  Wesley,  “Dorothy  Burnett  Porter  Wesley,”  35-­‐36.  
179  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  6.  
180  Bart  Barnes,  “Librarian  Dorothy  Wesley  Dies;  Black  History  Curator  at  Howard,”  
The  Washington  Post  (Washington,  DC),  Dec.  19,  1995:  E5;  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  
Wesley,”  6.  
181  Bhan,  “Dorothy  Louise  Burnett  Porter,”  89;  Jefferson,  “Dorothy  Porter  Wesley,”  6.  

31  
also  received  the  National  Endowment  for  the  Humanities’  Frankel  Award  in  1994.182    On  
December  17,  1995,  Porter  Wesley  died  of  cancer  in  Fort  Lauderdale,  Florida,  at  the  age  of  
91.183  
 

The  Moorland-­‐Spingarn  Research  Center  would  not  have  the  comprehensive  

collection  it  has  today  without  the  tireless  work  of  Porter  Wesley.    Important  materials  
documenting  the  black  experience  may  never  have  been  preserved  or  been  made  
accessible  to  the  public.    In  1995  Porter  Wesley  stated,  “When  I  started  building  the  
collection,  nobody  was  writing  about  blacks  in  history.    You  couldn’t  find  any  books.”184    By  
scouring  a  variety  of  resources,  she  ensured  that  books  and  other  materials  relating  to  
black  studies  could  be  found  for  future  use.    Her  extensive  bibliographical  work  also  
increased  accessibility  to  both  published  and  unpublished  resources.  
Conclusion  
 

These  five  profiles  are  just  a  few  of  the  countless  experiences  of  archivists  of  color  

that  are  a  significant  part  of  American  archival  history.    While  this  information  exists  in  
memories  and  informal  institutional  knowledge,  it  must  be  recorded  before  it  is  lost  and  
made  accessible  so  that  others  can  learn  about  and  from  it.    By  actively  collecting  and  
sharing  these  stories,  gaps  in  the  literature  will  begin  to  be  filled.    Furthermore,  
understanding  the  past  experiences  of  archivists  of  color  can  help  contemporary  efforts  to  
diversify  the  profession  and  archival  collections.    On  the  value  of  American  archival  history,  
Cox  argues:  

                                                                                                               
182  Bhan,  “Dorothy  Louise  Burnett  Porter,”  89.  
183  Barnes,  “Librarian  Dorothy  Wesley,”  E5;  Bhan,  “Dorothy  Louise,”  88.  
184  Barnes,  “Librarian  Dorothy  Wesley,”  E5.  

32  
A  better-­‐developed  archival  history  can  both  enrich  and  strengthen  the  archival  
profession  in  its  quest  to  accomplish  its  mission.    Archivists  are  in  the  business  of  
preserving  historical  records  because  these  records  are  valuable  to  society.    The  
records  of  their  own  profession  and  its  precursors,  chronicling  this  important  work,  
are  no  less  significant  than  the  records  of  other  professions  or  other  events  and  
trends.185  
There  is  much  scholarship  that  needs  to  be  done  on  the  subject  of  diversity  in  American  
archives,  and  there  is  no  better  time  than  now  to  begin  this  necessary  work  before  even  
more  valuable  resources  fail  to  be  retained.  

                                                                                                               
185  Cox,  “On  the  Value,”  147.  

33  
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