October 20, 2017 - Vol. 1, Issue 7
Dear Subscribing Institutions, Friends and Supporters:

Welcome to this week's edition of The HistoryMakers Digital Archive Newsletter . Today, we're ecstatic to offer a warm welcome to our two newest subscribing institutions in The HistoryMakers' family: Michigan State University and Rutgers University. Things have been busy here at The HistoryMakers; recently, we've entered into a consortium arrangement with th e HBCU Library Alliance , and we are currently in discussions with the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) , a consortium of nonprofit academic libraries within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

For last week's feature, we looked the particular role of red clay dirt in southern African American folklore.This week, join us for part one of our exploration of African American funeral rites and traditions.
'Free at Last, Free at Last': Homegoing Ceremonies
Above: a funeral procession in Monroe, Georgia, for George Dorsey and Dorothey Dorsey Malcolm, who were lynched near Moore’s Ford Bridge in 1946 10

A jazz funeral procession in New Orleans, Louisiana 11

Ulysses Ford
Lois Fisher
Herbert U. Fielding
Juanita Passmore
Informed predominantly by West African traditions and adopted elements of Christianity, African American preparing their dead for the journey into the afterlife find the most historical cultural expression in the homegoing ceremony. “During slavery, from its beginnings in the transatlantic slave trade through the antebellum period, death was often imagined as the ultimate “freedom” from a life of oppression. When African slaves first began arriving in the New World, many believed that death was as way for their spirits to return home to Africa,” 1 Suzanne E. Smith states of ritualized African American homegoing ceremonies in To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death. Simon Stow concurs in American Mourning , but emphasizes the almost celebratory element that was traditionally prevalent in homegoing ceremonies: “Amid the sadness of passing, there is a kind of joy about the release from pain and the movement to a better place.” 2

Singer, former nightclub operator and HistoryMaker Lois Fisher recalls the pageantry present in African American funeral rites and the jazz funeral parades common in New Orleans, Louisiana, “ Whenever there was a funeral, you always watched that ‘cause there was always a parade with the funeral. The funeral is when you are going to the graveyard. First you have the wake, in which they have the wakes at night. And they always have fish fries and they sold beers and that type of thing. And everybody would go to the wakes; And they’d sing and pray, they have a good time. For the funeral going to the graveyard, you go with the band playing and they play things like ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ or different hymns. And after they bury you, the band comes and then they play ‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You.’ And everybody’s dancing when they come from the graveyard” 3 [Lois Fisher, THMDA 1.2.1] . In The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories, John F. Baker dates these practices back to slavery, in that “The customs surrounding death and burials centered around the community. When a slave passed away, a wake or ‘setting’ up’ lasted all night. Every member of the community came to ‘set up’ with the deceased. They sang gospel songs and prayed for the soul of the one who had passed to the other side.” 4 Former South Carolina state senator Herbert U. Fielding, whose family owned the Fielding Home for Funeral Services, similarly recounts this community that he witnessed in African American funerals in South Carolina: “They had what was considered the burial societies. They join together in a group, and usually at the funeral, they will have a ceremony. They march around the grave and they take evergreen, and each person throws evergreen into the grave, and then they have the drums and they beat the drums and they sing” 5 [Herbert U. Fielding, THMDA 1.3.7] . According to Gerald D. Jaynes in The Encyclopedia of African American Society, Volume 1, both community and family were key elements in African American funeral rites: “Both during and after slavery, African American funerals included a strong tradition of community help and support. Because many families had been separated by slavery and its aftermath, the support of neighbors and friends was particularly important for African Americans. In the rural South, a funeral might cause an entire community to divert its attention by supplying the bereaved family with help and food.” 6

Beyond the celebration of the ultimate freedom from oppression, early African American funeral rituals carried on other West African traditions. Jaynes further notes, “African burial traditions of were reflected in the practice among southern African Americans of placing objects in and on graves to accompany the spirits of the dead. Another African-inspired custom was placing coins on the graves, on the eyes, or in the hands of the deceased, perhaps as a payment that would help gain admittance to the spirit world.” Business consultant executive Ulysses Ford recalls the funeral rites for his maternal great-grandfather Ed Tate in Charlotte, North Carolina, “In those days, you kept the body in the house for about a week. And they put nickels or dimes or pennies in your eyes. And I remember my great-granddaddy had buffalo nickels in his eyes. And in those days, too, they would hold the kids up for you to kiss the person in the casket… But I can remember other people that passed during that time that I knew--the body was always kept in the house for about a week. That’s where the wake was, you know, whereas today you normally hold the wake at a funeral home or somewhere” 7 [Ulysses Ford, THMDA 1.1.5]. Similarly, community activist and philanthropist Juanita Passmore recalls the death of her great-great-grandmother, former slave Sencie Cook: “Families had big funerals then. People came from all over, and they had them in the home. So grandma’s casket was put in the living room and neighbors and family and all bringing food from everywhere. And of course, you stayed at the house with the corpse in the living room—we all at that time dressed alike. If the family wore white, they had black bands on the men and black bands on your white dresses, and of course, you wore hats and many times you wore veils” 8 [Juanita Passmore, THMDA 1.1.4]. Karla FC Holloway notes in ‘Passed On; African American Mourning Stories, a Memorial,” that, “In the 1900s, it was traditional in African American communities to leave the casket open for viewing sometimes during the wake and church services,” as visitations from family members from all over would last sometimes a week, which Holloway further states, “was a practice that additionally recalled west African funeral traditions in which the family and the deceased were honored with visitations that indicated respect and esteem.” 9

Although Jaynes concludes that compared to the nineteenth and twentieth century, “In recent years, African American funerals have come to resemble white rituals more closely, largely as a result of cultural assimilation,” arguably vestiges of black tradition still remain prevalent today. 
"I'd Like to Leave the Book Open"

Today, we honor Dawoud Bey, who was recently selected as a 2017 MacArthur Fellow for "Using an expansive approach to photography that creates new spaces of engagement within cultural institutions, making them more meaningful to and representative of the communities in which they are situated." 13 Bey joins the ranks of other HistoryMakers as an MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, like film producer Stanley Nelson , African American studies scholar Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, Jr., and surgeon Dr. Raphael C. Lee. Bey became the owner of his first camera in 1968, after the death of his godfather. “We went to the wake and to my godmother's house. As we were leaving, she said, 'Hold on a minute, I have something that I want to give you.' I had no idea what it was going to be or why. She said, "I want to give this to you.' She could have given it to my brother, she could have given it to anyone, but she held out a camera and she said, 'This camera belonged to your godfather and I want you to have it.' I was thirteen years old. I took the camera merely to be polite." 14 After seeing the exhibit, 'Harlem on My Mind' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, Bey recalls, "It's the first time that I began to get a sense of the power that photographs could have...and how this camera that I had could actually be used to do something quite significant and interesting" 14 [Dawoud Bey, THMDA 1.2.7]. When speaking about his own body of work and his contributions to the artistic community, Bey stated, “My legacy, I hope, is one of having made a mark on my time… but as for legacies, it sounds too much like a summing up and I'd like to leave the book open. I think there's still a few more chapters to go” 15 [Dawoud Bey, THMDA 1.6.8].

Congratulations on your next great chapter, Mr. Bey!

This week, 13 new interviews were added to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive:
Frances Graves Carroll

Education executive and education instructor Frances Graves Carroll (1932 - ) was a leader in the field of special education in Chicago, Illinois from 1954 to 1999. She also served as a trustee of the University of Illinois.
Donald George

Cultural heritage educator Donald George (1966 - ) worked for AMISTAD America. He traveled the world aboard the Freedom Schooner Amistad to share the story of the Amistad slave revolt of 1839.
Harrell Spruill

High school industrial arts teacher Harrell Spruill (1924 - 2012 ) was the founder of the Har-Pearl Foundation, which provided inner city youth with the opportunity to learn about farm life.
Geraldine Johnson

Teacher Geraldine Johnson (1919 - 2015 ) was the first African American woman to serve as superintendent of the Bridgeport Public Schools in Connecticut.

The Honorable Charles Z. Smith

Law professor and state supreme court judge Charles Z. Smith (1927 - 2016 ) was the first African American to serve on the Washington Supreme Court. He also served on the staff of U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and was appointed to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom by President Bill Clinton.
Paula Ann Sneed

Corporate executive Paula Ann Sneed (1947 - ) worked in marketing and operations at the General Foods Corporation and Phillip Morris, Inc.
James Causey

Newspaper reporter James Causey (1969 - ) started as a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and became the newspaper's editorial writer on urban affairs. He also served as the president of the Wisconsin Black Media Association.
H. Melvin Ming

Media executive H. Melvin Ming (1944 - ) was the CEO of the Sesame Workshop, and the director of Westwood, Inc., the nation's largest independent producer and distributor of programming for commercial radio.
Rosalind Juanita Harris

Publisher Rosalind Juanita Harris (1950 - ) was the owner and art director of the Denver Urban Spectrum, a news magazine for people of color. She founded the Urban Spectrum Youth Foundation and Spectrum of Hope.
Cleo F. Wilson

Nonprofit administrator and foundation executive Cleo F. Wilson (1943 - ) served with the Playboy Foundation for twenty-five years, and was advocate of civil rights, HIV/AIDS awareness and the arts.
Barbara McKinzie

Association chief executive Barbara McKinzie (1954 - ) was the CEO of an accounting firm and the twenty-seventh supreme basileus of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Loann Honesty King

Program administrator and educator Loann Honesty King (1940 - ) served as a consultant for the Department of Education, and as the associate director of Youth Chicago. She later became a dean and vice president of Kennedy-King College.
Dr. Edith Irby Jones

Internal medicine physician Dr. Edith Irby Jones (1927 - ) integrated the University of Arkansas College of Medicine in 1950. She served as president of the National Medical Association and on the faculty of the Baylor College of Medicine.
1.      Suzanne E. Smith, To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death Harvard University Press, February 25, 2010
2.     Simon Stow, American Mourning Cambridge University Press, July 25, 2017
3.     Lois Fisher (The HistoryMakers A2007.083), interviewed by Larry Crowe, March 10, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 1, Lois Fisher describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
4.     John F. Baker, The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom , Simon and Schuster, January 5, 2010
5.     Herbert U. Fielding (The HistoryMakers A2007.042), interviewed by Denise Gines, February 2, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 3, story 7, Herbert U. Fielding describes the funeral customs of Charleston, South Carolina
6.     Gerald D. Jaynes, Encyclopedia of African American Society, Volume 1 SAGE, 2005.
7.     Ulysses Ford (The HistoryMakers A2002.020), interviewed by Samuel Adams, March 18, 2002, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 5, Ulysses Ford talks about his maternal great-grandfather
8.     Juanita Passmore (The HistoryMakers A2002.088), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 11, 2002, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 4, Juanita Passmore describes her great-great-grandmother, Sencie Cook, who had been a slave
9.     Karla FC Holloway, Passed on: African American Mourning Stories, a Memorial. Duke University Press, 2003.
10. Bettmann/CORBIS. A funeral procession in Monroe, Georgia, for George Dorsey and Dorothey Dorsey Malcolm, who were lynched near Moore’s Ford Bridge in 1946. Can be found:
11. Funeral Jazz Procession in New Orleans. Found:
12. Jacqueline Terrassa, “Shepherding Power,” Dawoud Bey: The Chicago Project, (Chicago, IL: Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 2003): 91.Can be found:
13. The MacArthur Foundation. Found:
14. Dawoud Bey (The HistoryMakers A2001.003), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, January 12, 2001, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 7, Dawoud Bey details his trajectory into art and photography
15. Dawoud Bey (The HistoryMakers A2001.003), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, January 12, 2001, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 6, story 8, Dawoud Bey isn't ready to sum up his life

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