Mary E. Britton

In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about Mary E. Britton (1855-1925) who was a student at Berea College from c1870-1874. A public school teacher and activist, Britton later earned a medical degree and became the first African-American female doctor in the state of Kentucky, practicing in Lexington.Mary Eleanor Britton

Mary Eleanor Britton was born 1855 on Mills Street, in current Lexington’s Gratz Park Historical District, in Kentucky. Her parents, Laura Marshall and Henry Harrison Britton, were both free African Americans living in a slave state of Kentucky. Her father was a carpenter. Her mother, Laura Marshall, was a freed slave of a biracial ancestry, whose father was a well-known Kentucky public official Thomas F. Marshall. Britton’s mother Laura was a well-educated, intelligent woman, and a talented singer and a musician. Laura encouraged and instilled love for education, music and public service in both of her daughters from an early age. In short, her family was well respected, honored and trustworthy within the circle of prominent and affluent Kentucky families

She grew up in Lexington and, along with his sister Julia Britton, studied at Mr. Gibson’s school for colored youths in Louisville, Kentucky. Although, she grew up as a free individual, her siblings and her still experienced and witnessed the racial discrimination and inequality towards the black Americans. Yet, she and her siblings received the best education one could only ask for in Kentucky. She attended Berea College, at that time called Berea Academy, from 1871-1874. Since at that time the only available and possible career studies for females of any race was teaching and nursing, Mary Britton and Julia Britton Hooks chose to study teaching. She and Julia graduated in 1874 as the first two African American woman graduates of Berea College. Their parents unexpectedly passed away one after the other before the sisters’ graduation. Thus, after her graduation, Mary Britton sought employment as a teacher in order to support herself financially. In 1876, first she taught in Chilesburg, Kentucky and later continued teaching within the Lexington public school system.

Yet, although employed Mary did not stop pursuing her higher education, and attended and graduated with a medical degree from the American Missionary College situated in Chicago, Illinois. Since she had a great interest in medicine, she also studied at Howard Medical School in Washington D.C., and at Meharry Medical College of Nashville, Tennessee. Britton then started practicing medicine from her Lexington home. She specialized in hydrotherapy and electrotherapy, and by 1902, she became Lexington’s first African American woman physician licensed to practice medicine. Due to Jim Crow laws, the healthcare and medical treatment became even less easily available for African Americans at white hospitals.  Thus, Britton made it possible for African Americans and treated her patients by using water and electricity.

Mary Britton work

Mary E. Britton treated patients from her home. Photo by Tom Eblen

Mary Britton was extremely active in public life of her community. For instance, she actively participated in Suffrage Movement, and later served as the president of Woman’s Improvement Club, which aimed at improving women’s social status, living conditions and economic improvements. In 1877, as a member of the Kentucky Negro Education Association she worked hard to help improve African Americans’ living conditions through legislative action. Moreover, from 1892 she served as the founding director of the Colored Orphan Industrial Home, which was an organization that, in collaboration with the Ladies Orphan Society, helped impoverished orphans and homeless elderly women with food, clothing, housing accommodation, receiving education and guidance on how they could eventually establish they lives. The building of that same Industrial Home is still present to this day as the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center and the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum. It is a building, which has served as a nursing home and hospital through an entire century.

Moreover, in her writings for the American Citizen, the Daily Transcript, Our Women and Children, and the Lexington Leader, Britton wrote against the Jim Crow segregation laws, against usage of alcohol and tobacco, and expressed the necessity for societal reformation. In 1892 edition of Kentucky Leader, Britton argued in against the passage of the Separate Coach Law that had been implemented the previous year. The Separate Coach Law required that Americans of different races ride in separate – precisely, segregated – train cars, which supposedly kept every race equal, but not together in unity. Thus, Britton campaigned against the idea that all the races could be equal as long as they remained separated.

Mary Britton’s courage and compassion served as an inspiration to many within and beyond her community. One of them was author and poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who dedicated a lengthy, yet thoughtful poem to Ms. Britton titled simply “To Miss Mary Britton.” The poem’s third verse recited the following:

Give us to lead our cause

More noble souls like hers,

The memory of whose deed

Each feeling bosom stirs;

Whose fearless voice and strong

Rose to defend her race,

Roused Justice from her sleep,

Drove Prejudice from place.

Mary Britton was an educator, physician, a journalist and a civil rights activist, who fully dedicated herself for the good of her people. She is another individual, who has reached the peak with her dedication to social work and civil activism. Mary Britton was not the only one who became a distinguished humanitarian and civil rights activist of her time. Her sister Julia Britton Hooks, also a Berea College graduate and a music prodigy, was part of the Memphis branch of NAACP and a civil rights activist against the segregation in public schools. The two sisters worked together in their public service and activism, thus achieving much for the best of their respective communities. Britton’s brother, Tom Britton, was a jockey of a great fame and talent. In his career as a jockey, he won the Kentucky Oaks on his horse Miss Hawkins in 1891, and came second in Kentucky Derby on Huron in 1892.

Mary Britton died at the age of seventy in 1925. She was buried in Cove Haven Cemetery. She was yet another African American woman many years ahead of her time. Gerald Smith, a history professor at the University of Kentucky, described Mary Britton as the one who “came out of that Berea tradition of a teacher who becomes a social activist.” Mary Britton truly believed in and followed the mission of Berea College. She was the change, educated in Berea College, which the American society needed.

Mary Britton

Dr. Mary E. Britton is surrounded by men at this 1910 meeting of Kentucky physicians, dentists and pharmacists. Photo courtesy of Thomas Tolliver.

Sources:

“Mary Britton was a woman ahead of her time.” The Bluegrass and Beyond. February 14, 2012. URL: http://tomeblen.bloginky.com/2012/02/14/mary-britton-was-a-woman-ahead-of-her-time/

Applegate, Emily. “The Noble Soul of Mary E. Britton.” Berea College Magazine. URL: http://www.bereamag.com/archives/2012/summer/features/strategic-planning-at-berea-college/

Women in Kentucky – Health/Medicine. URL:http://www.womeninkentucky.com/site/healthmed/M_Britton.html

Dunbar, Paul Laurence. “To Miss Mary Britton.” In Oak and Ivy. Dayton, OH: Press of United Brethren Publishing House, 1893. URL: http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetry.php?type=poem&id=348

Notable Black American Women, Book 2. Ed. Jessie Carney Smith. 1996. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=ssMBzqrUpjwC&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=Berea+College,+Mary+E.+Britton&source=bl&ots=gVARmkl9Zp&sig=Jf85q37NpCAC10LcJfrWtcuPK3A&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ag1fUd3oEajZyQHUqYDICw&ved=0CF0Q6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=Berea%20College%2C%20Mary%20E.%20Britton&f=false

Kleber, John E. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. University Press of Kentucky, 1992. URL: http://books.google.com/books?id=8eFSK4o–M0C&pg=PA125&lpg=PA125&dq=Dr.+Mary+E.+Britton&source=bl&ots=2OhIIWvWTT&sig=rRARaVmhMg6ymCqciB85bS1LYDE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dPJiUYG9HcKcqgGChoCICg&ved=0CGQQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=Dr.%20Mary%20E.%20Britton&f=false

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Reverend James Bond

In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about Reverend James Bond.

James Bond was born as a slave during the American Civil War on September 5th 1863 near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. He grew up in Barbourville town in Knox Country. His mother – Jane – was a slave, who in her teens was given as a “gift” slave to a bride of a white slave-owner for their wedding. Jane did not just serve as a slave, she also served as the mistress of her master during his wife’s pregnancy. That is how James Bond, along with his brother Henry, was born as child of a slave woman and white slave master – Preston Bond.James M. Bond, from Berea Digital

James Bond admired his mother not just as a mother, but also as a strong woman. His mother educated and inspired both of her sons to become the best possible in their future life and career. She was their encouragement, as Bond stated, “to be somebody and make a man of myself” and to behave oneself in an honest and respectful manners. His mother was a “heroic figure,” who served as a symbol of “…the mute, yet glorious, yet tragic destiny of the Negro slave woman, bowed indeed, beneath the weight of centuries, yet possessed of a spark of courage and hope that transfigured her life and shed a radiance upon the life of those with whom she came in contact.”

Thus, Bond became very aware of the injustice that slavery carried within itself and its effects on many lives. Despite the evils of slavery and its consequences, Bond was an obvious optimist, who declared his fortune to have been born as an African American in an American society. He took great interested in racial issues in the American society of his time. Bond’s life in Kentucky and post-Civil War atmosphere of the South was not without challenges. But those challenges in life served Bond as an encouragement to go explore the world beyond the Appalachian Mountains.

In 1879, at the age of sixteen James Bond traveled a long way through the state of Kentucky and reached Berea College. He first discovered Berea during his visit to the white Jarvis family, for whom his mother worked. Prior to his arrival at the Berea College, Bond could neither write nor read, but he took up the challenge and sixteen years later successfully graduated. He was among only two thousand other fortunate African Americans to hold a college degree when he graduated from Berea College with a B.S. degree in 1892. At the graduation, the college faculty even chose him to deliver the commencement speech, in which Bond demonstrated his hopeful and wise state of spirit and mind. Bond did not stop at pursuing his higher education after graduation from Berea College. He continued his studies in theology and ministry at the Oberlin College, and in 1895 he graduated with Bachelor of Divinity. Moreover, his honorary degrees from Berea College and Master of Science degree earned in 1897 and Doctor of Divinity degree earned in 1901 broadened his career opportunities in becoming a minister.

As a minister, Reverend or Dr. Bond dedicated himself at serving his nation and people in churches of Alabama and Tennessee. Yet, he kept close contact with Berea College. From 1896 to 1912 he served as the first African American Trustee and Board Secretary of Berea College. He actively and enthusiastically supported the College, despite the racist obstacles, such as the Kentucky Day Law of 1904. When the Day Law prohibited the participation of interracial education Dr. Bond took up the challenge and responsibility on the creation and supervision of the Lincoln Institute by fundraising. Lincoln Institute was situated near Simpsonville, Kentucky and it granted former African American students of Berea College to continue their education. From 1907 to 1914, Dr. Bond vigorously and loyally dedicated himself on keeping Fee’s vision alive of granting equal education for all individuals.

Dr. Bond’s loyalty and dedication to his nation was so great, that even volunteered to be in the U.S. Army when the U.S. entered the World War I. However, due to his age, he was unable to be part of the U.S. Army. Instead, he served as the YMCA Service Director at Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville, which was yet another opportunity for him to teach night classes to soldiers. Dr. Bond was a skillful multi-tasker that even after the war for ten years he administered summer camps for African American youth as Secretary for the Kentucky YMCA, while also serving as the Director of the Kentucky Interracial Commission. He also served as a prominent public speaker and civil rights activist, who preached for more interracial equality and interracial dialogue. He was great activist in creating and granting opportunities to everyone, who wished to receive education and be academically involved in their communities. He passionately believed in the power and magic of education.

James Bond passionately disagreed with slavery and the act of utilizing human individuals as slaves. He thought that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had not brought full justice and equality to the African-Americans. He argued that many white Americans continued to assume that the hardships, especially economic, of the African-Americans have ended after immediate declaration of Emancipation. Whereas the hardships and dangers have increased for the African-Americans and one of them was the Ku Klux Klan, from the hands of which many suffered brutal and torturous deaths. He even wrote a weekly column called “Interracially Speaking” for the Lexington newspaper, where he encouraged his community to establish less segregated and more racially equal communities. He was a passionate opponent of segregation and an active advocate of interracial communication – the pioneer of the African American community.

Bond whole-heartedly admired and respected John G. Fee. When Fee died in 1901, now as a Reverend, Bond gave a memorial speech at Fee’s funeral ceremony. In his speech, Bond expressed his gratitude and fortune to have met a great man as John G. Fee. He described Fee as the man, who was a “…friend to each and all and sought the highest good of all alike. He loved men, not conditions; humanity, not races or nationalities. … John G. Fee was a benefactor of the world. His name and deeds are the heritage of humanity.” His sincerely quoted that: “Another of the long list of Americans who have made the nineteenth Century famous has gone.”

In 2010, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights listed James Bond among many other civil rights leaders in the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame, who has greatly and tirelessly committed himself for the well-being of his people and the American nation.

Reverend Bond died at the age of 65 on January 15th, 1929 in Louisville, Kentucky. Yet, Bond’s death did not put an end to the Bond family legacy. Reverend Bond’s six children and his brother’s six children – eighteen in all – have equally earned education and became successful individuals. James Bond’s sons – Horace Mann Bond and J. Max Bond – have succeeded in public service. They were educators and actively promoted and spread of educational opportunities not only throughout the American nation, even internationally. Both served as presidents of the universities they either have studied in or have established. Bond’s grandson, Horace Mann Bond’s son, Horace Julian Bond became the first African American, who was nominated to the office of Vice-President of the United States in 1968 elections. For almost over a decade, he served as the head of the NAACP. He was the co-founder and leader of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many descendants of the Bond family is now spread throughout the American nation as well as throughout various professions – as architects, drama and speech teachers, economists, etc.

Sources:

Julia Britton Hooks

In honor of Black History month we would like to dedicate an article about one of many accomplished African-American alumna of Berea College – Julia Britton Hooks.Julia

Julia Britton Hooks was born on May 4th 1852 in Frankfort, Kentucky. Her full name is Julia Ann Amanda Moorhead Britton Hooks. Her parents, Laura Marshall and Henry Harrison Britton, were both free African Americans living in the slave state of Kentucky. Her father was a carpenter. Her mother, Laura Marshall, was a freed slave of a biracial ancestry, whose father was a well-known Kentucky public official, Thomas F. Marshall. Julia was exposed to and excelled in music from an early age. She discovered the world of music through her mother Laura, who was a well-educated, intelligent woman, as well as a talented singer and a musician. Laura encouraged and instilled love for education, music and public service in both of her daughters. She especially passed on her talent in music to Julia. In short, her family was well respected, honored and trustworthy within the circle of prominent and affluent Kentucky families.

Julia grew up in Lexington and, along with his sister Mary E. Britton, had the fortune of receiving a good education, first in Louisville at Mr. Gibson’s school for colored youths, and later studied music under the instruction of an English woman. Britton so skillfully and gracefully performed some of the most complex piano pieces by well-known composers that she, along with her mother, was invited to small concerts or gatherings organized for or by Kentucky’s aristocratic families and friends. Many, especially by the Kentucky press, recognized her as the “Wonder of the Age” due to her prodigal talent and knowledge in music.

In 1869, eighteen-year-old Julia Britton enrolled in Berea College in order to study music. She graduated as the second African American female graduate of Berea College in 1874. For two years following her graduation from Berea College, Julia Britton served as Berea’s first African American faculty member. She taught music due to her outstanding skill and knowledge in teaching music. In 1872, after her time in Berea, Julia Britton moved to Greenville, Mississippi. There she continued to teach in school and soon married Sam Wertles, who died the following year due to the yellow fever epidemic.

Julia Britton actively promoted and created opportunities in education for the black youth of the south. In 1883, along with Anna Church, she opened the Liszt-Mullard Club. With the creation of this club, she was able to raise money with which to provide musically gifted black students to study music on a scholarship. In 1892, in response to the poor public education that black youth received in Memphis, she founded the Hooks School of Music and the Hooks Cottage School, which mostly provided pre-school and elementary education. The Hooks School of Music produced distinguished student musicians such as Sidney Woodward, Nell Hunter, and W.C. Handy. However, youth were not the only group whom Julia Britton helped. In 1891, she was a charter member of the Orphan Home Club and the Colored Old Folks Home, both of which provided accommodation for orphans and elderly African American women. She taught and worked on improving public education in the states of Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee for almost twenty-eight years.

Britton’s life as a civil-rights activist began in Mississippi, where she participated in a successful campaign for Blanche K. Bruce’s election to serve as one of the first African American representatives at the U.S. Senate. Once Britton moved to Memphis Tennessee in 1876, she became more engaged in public service, education and civil rights movements. The same year she married her second husband, Charles Hooks. Together, they administered the detention home for young African American lawbreakers from 1902 until 1917 when one of the escaping young criminals killed her husband. Even after the tragic loss of her husband, she did not abandon the administration of the detention home; instead, she fully dedicated herself at advising and helping the troubled youth with their problems.

Britton Hooks disapproved of the Jim Crow segregation laws and actively protested against racism and inequality, which occasionally led to her being arrested and fined. In 1881, she was arrested at the Memphis Theater, because she refused to move to the segregated part of the audience seating section, from the “colored balcony” from the “white balcony” where she initially chose to sit. Since she was an educator, she also campaigned against the segregation of African American youth in classrooms of public schools.

In 1909, Britton became a member of the NAACP in Memphis, Tennessee. She took part in the suffrage movement and campaigned for women’s right to vote. Alongside her sister, she was the president of Women’s Improvement Club in Lexington. She had also met Ida B. Wells with whom she shared her passion, determination and dedication for justice, equality and big change. In 1895, the African American Encyclopedia published an article called “The Duty of the Hour” written by Julia Britton Hooks.

Julia Britton died on March 10th 1942 at the age of ninety. She has lived a long life with compassion, courage and strong belief in justice, equality and good education for everyone. Her legacy and example of commitment to public service and education lives on. Her legacy continues in the work of her grandson Benjamin Hooks, who served as an executive director of the NAACP for almost two decades from 1977 to 1992, as well as in the work of her two sons, Henry and Robert, both of whom became photographers and founded their own studio called the Hooks Brothers Photographers. Her sister Mary Britton was similarly politically involved. In addition to being an educator and medical physician, she was a vigorous civil activist, journalist and social worker. Julia’s brother, Tom Britton, was a jockey of a great fame and talent. In his career as a jockey, he won the Kentucky Oaks on his horse Miss Hawkins in 1891, and came second in Kentucky Derby on Huron in 1892.

Julia Britton Hooks dedicated herself and her life to social service work. Her compassionate attitude to help and serve her community is an exceptional example of Berea College’s mission. She was a devout Christian, a talented musician, a church choir director, an exemplary humanitarian, and a civil rights activist. She did not permit racial prejudice and inequality hold her down; instead, she worked hard to bring joy and peace through her music and public service. She holds an honored and respected position in Berea’s history, as well as in the history of Kentucky and Memphis, Tennessee.

Berea College awarded Julia Britton Hooks with the John G. Fee honorary award that many notable Berea alumni receive for their service and dedication to the community.

SOURCES :

Quarandillo, Ann Mary. Founders’ Day Honors “Angel of Beale Street.” May 17, 2006. URL: http://web.archive.org/web/20060517231134/http://www.berea.edu/publications/bereacollegemagazine/archives/winter2002/winter2002(Founders%27Day).asp

“Hooks, Julia Britton,” in Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Darlene Clark Hine, Elsa Barkley Brown, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn. 1993.

“Julia Ann Amanda Moorhead Britton Hooks.” In Afro-American Encyclopedia: Or, the Thoughts, Doings, and Sayings of the Race, Embracing Lectures, Biographical Sketches, Sermons, Poems, Names of Universities, Colleges, Seminaries, Newspapers, Books, and a History of the Denominations, Giving the Numerical Strength of Each. In Fact, it Teaches Every Subject of Interest to the Colored People, as Discussed by More Than One Hundred of Their Wisest and Best Men and Women, Electronic Edition. By James T. Haley. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2000. pp. 563-564. URL: http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/haley/haley.html#p563

Julia Hooks, an activist and educator with passion! African American Registry: a non-profit education organization. URL: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/julia-hooks-activist-and-educator-passion

Julia Britton Hooks. Kentucky Women in the Civil Rights Era. October 6, 2010. URL: http://www.kywcrh.org/archives/375

Lewis, Selma. Julia Britton Hooks. The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. December 25, 2009. URL: http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=648

Lewis, Selma and Marjean G. Kremer, The Angel of Beale Street: A Biography of Julia Ann Hooks. 1986.

Mary Britton was a woman ahead of her time. The Bluegrass and Beyond. February 14, 2012. URL: http://tomeblen.bloginky.com/2012/02/14/mary-britton-was-a-woman-ahead-of-her-time/

Coming to Campus: Entangled Lives

The presentation Entangled Lives: A Conversation Between Descendants of “Master” and Enslaved will be visiting campus next week. Co-sponsored by the Carter G. Woodson Center for Interracial Education and the African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky, the presentation is an ever-evolving project of public history created by Pam Smith and Ann Neel.

entangled lives

Pam Smith and Ann Neel met and became friends over 20 years ago through a mutual passion for family history research. Ann, a white Professor Emerita of Sociology and Women Studies and Pam, a black communications consultant and current Graduate Student in History, created this presentation when they discovered that one of Ann’s ancestors had owned one of Pam’s in slaveholding Missouri. Their particular family stories are deeply embedded in the massive entangled migration of white and black families across the North American continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, within a social structure that enforced black subordination with ideologies of white supremacy. This presentation is designed to show how racial reconciliation and genuine friendship in the present becomes possible when honest communication and about the harms and pain of the past is accompanied by large doses of care, tenacity, courage, and humor.

This program will be presented on Friday, April 19th from 11:30 – 1:00 and again on
Saturday, April 20th at 1:00 p.m at the Carter G. Woodson Gallery.

For more information, contact Hutchins Library’s own Sharyn Mitchell via email at: sharyn_mitchell@berea.edu

Reference Book of the Week: African American Religious Cultures

We continue celebrating Black History Month in our semi-regular series of Reference Book of the Week. This week we look at African Americans and religion in the two-volume set African American Religious Cultures (R 200.899 A2575 2009). This set, edited by Anthony B. Pinn, takes a look not only at the United States, but the American continents. The introduction states that this work is “concerned with the religious worlds of African Americans– the wide-ranging and complex communities of people of African descent who populate the hemisphere” (xxx). Whether you want to learn about the experience of African Americans in organized religions or their experiences in other spiritual paths, this is a good resource for you.

The set is organized as follows:

  • An introduction that provides a good context on African American religious cultures. The introduction discusses how African Americans came to the New World, the experience of slavery, and how their religious traditions have evolved over time in the Americas. The introduction does feature a very good bibliography for further reading.
  • A set of entries in alphabetical order. Topics such African Americans in various mainstream churches (Lutheran, Roman Catholic, etc.) as well as other religious traditions are discussed. The entries run from A (African American mysticism) to R (Rastafari) in the first volume and from S (Santeria) to X (Xango) in the second volume. According to the introduction, this first part of the encyclopedia is “concerned with a sense of religion by means of attention to particular traditions. . . ” (xxxi). Each entry has a bibliography so readers can expand their research on these topics.
  • The second volume also includes a set of essays on larger topics, a chronology of events, and an appendix containing a selection of primary documents. Do note that the essays focus mainly on North America because “it is assumed most users of this encyclopedia are situated in North America, particularly in the United States” (xxxi). However, the essays should be valuable to any reader anywhere in the world.

Overall, this is a basic encyclopedia designed to give readers some solid background information on the religious cultures of African Americans. After using this resource, readers should be able to to do more in-depth reading. One way to do that is by using the bibliographies provided throughout the encyclopedia and locate items cited. For books cited in the encyclopedia, readers here in Berea College can use BANC (our library catalog) to look up any book. For articles cited in the encyclopedia, you can search our Full Text Journals tool to see if we own a particular journal containing the article. If you are a reader at a different college or community, your local library probably has a library catalog and a tool similar to our Full Text Journals tool to help expand your search. At any rate, any time you need assistance, near or far, you can contact our reference desk.

African American Religious Cultures is available in the second floor of Hutchins Library, in the reference section. Just use the call number provided above to find it.

Reference Book of the Week: Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History

Welcome to our opening edition of a new semi-regular feature in our blog: Reference Book of the Week. Here at Hutchins Library we have an excellent reference collection. It is a great resource for students, faculty, and staff. We will use this series of posts to highlight specific items in our reference collection, telling our readers what the item does and how it can be used for your research needs.

February is Black History Month. In honor of the observance, we are featuring the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas (REF 973.049 E625 2006). The first edition of this six volume set came out in 1996; the second edition, which the library has, came out in 2006. When the first edition came out ,the editors and writers of this encyclopedia sought to provide readers with accurate knowledge of African American history, a field of study that was long neglected up to the middle of the twentieth century. The encyclopedia features biographical entries of African Americans; there are no entries for figures such as FDR, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, nor Wole Soyinka. The goal for biographical entries was to look at achievements and contributions of African Americans. In addition, the encyclopedia does include various various entries on events, historical periods, legal cases, culture, sports, and geography. The set also features illustrations and photographs as well as appendices with various lists for things like economic data, lists, and other tables.

Entries are arranged in alphabetical order. To make the best use of this set, you want to get the last volume of the set and look in the index to see if your topic is covered. You may find that your topic has an entry, but you may also notice that topics may be mentioned in other entries. For example, Colson Whitehead has an entry on pages 2290-2291, but he is also mentioned in other entries on pages 1311 and 1332. The set does provide cross-references, so once you locate an entry, you will get additional suggestions of other entries to look at that are related to the topic of interest. Using cross-references is an easy way to expand your research on a topic. Plus, like all good reference works, each entry provides a small bibliography of works related to an entry so you can expand your research that way as well. The last volume of the set also contains the appendices with various additional materials such as primary source documents and other data.

The second edition of the encyclopedia, which is the one we have in the reference collection as of this writing, expanded the set from five to six volumes and provided a substantial revision. The editors did remove some entries, updated others, and added some new entries. It now does provide some coverage of figures outside the United States for instance in places like the Caribbean and Latin America, a reflection of the diverse times we live in.

If you are interested in African American history, and/or you are writing a paper on African-American topics, this is an excellent resource to get you some background information and some possible citations to expand your research.

The library, in addition to the print edition, also has an electronic (e-book) edition of this resource. Do note that this is a subscription-based resource, so if you are trying to access it from outside of the Berea College network, you will need to provide your Berea online credentials (username and password). The print version of this work is located in the second floor of the library in the Reference Collection.