Black Historical Society of San Diego has New Building

The San Diego Union Tribune reports on the opening of a new museum and genealogical research center in downtown San Diego, known as the “Harlem of the West” in its heyday.  Here’s the story by Jeanette Steele, staff writer: 

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO – The Black Historical Society of San Diego, founded more than a decade ago to fight the demolition of important properties, now has its own place downtown.

Today, the group will dedicate a museum, genealogical research center and gift shop in downtown’s East Village. The venue opens to the public on Saturday.

It’s located in the heart of a once-thriving black business district, with residential hotels, stores and clubs that featured major musical acts such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington in the 1930s to 1950s. Some called it the “Harlem of the West” in its heyday.

The area, along Market Street between the Gaslamp Quarter and Barrio Logan, later fell on hard times and is now gentrifying into a neighborhood of high-rise condominiums.

The museum will offer a permanent exhibit on the history of African-Americans in San Diego, with photos of black merchants, families and social life since the late 1880s, including artifacts such as war medals, clothing and dishes. The museum plans to host traveling exhibits, with the first starting in August.

Museum of San Diego
African American History Where: 740 Market St., in downtown San Diego

Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, starting Saturday

General admission: $5. For genealogical research only, there’s a suggested donation of $3

Info: or (619) 232-1480

To read the full article, click on this link:

Louisiana Opens a New Trail of African American History

Louisiana tourism officials have unveiled the first 26 sites on an African American Heritage Trail running from New Orleans to northern Louisiana.  The trail tells the stories of African Americans who have made contributions to Louisiana and America.  Along with the usual sites of plantations showcasing details of slave’s lives and the Louisiana’s early jazz roots, there is also an opportunity to visit the Melrose Plantation — the home of Coincoin and the Metoyer family.  You may recognize those names from Elizabeth Shown Mills’ book Isle of Canes

Other sites include the boyhood home of Arna Bontemps now the Arna Bontemps African American Heritage Museum; Evergreen Plantation – on the National Register of Historic Places – located in Wallace with 37 buildings and 22 slave cabins; the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University that contains the largest collection of manuscripts in the world about African Americans, race relations, and civil rights; and several cemeteries where you can visit the graves of gospel vocalist Mahalia Jackson, “voodoo queen” Marie Laveau, and Homer Plessy made famous through the Supereme Court Case Plessy v. Ferguson for his refusal to move from the “white” section of a railroad car in 1896 resulting in a court ruling that upheld states’ rights to forcibly segregate people of different races. 

The link for information on Louisiana’s African American Heritage Trail with interactive map is:

An article in the New York Times regarding the trail can be found here:

Eric Ledell Smith, Pennsylvania Historian and black history author dies

Eric Ledell Smith, associate historian at the State Museum of Pennsylvania and author of several books on black history such as African American Theater Buildings: An Illustrated Historical Directory 1900-1955; Blacks in Opera: An Encyclopedia of People and Companies, 1873-1993; and many other works and pamphlets about black history for the museum regarding blacks in Pennsylvania died in his home of unknown causes but foul play was not suspected.  To read the full story click on the link below:

Free Family Festival to be Held at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, is sponsoring a Freedom Family Fest on Saturday, July 26, 2008 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.   Admission is free for this day-long festival featuring tours of the museum, live musical entertainment, children’s activities, and food from around the city.  See the website for details or call 877-648-4838. 

If you are unable to make it in July, the museum will be featuring a new exhibit from October 17, 2008 — January 11, 2009 called  Lincoln:  The Constitution and the Civil War.  The exhibit addresses the three major constitutional crises of his presidency:  secession, slavery and emancipation, and civil liberties during wartime.  The exhibit was created by the National Constitution Center.  Call 513-333-7557 for more information.

The John Parker Library at the Freedom Center also offers free family history research tools including alll U.S. Censuses from 1790-1930, Social Security Death Index, Ellis Island, surname databases, and state and county records.  Call 513-333-7654 or see the website at  An appointment is needed to access the library. 

Library of Virginia Board May Ban Digital Cameras

I received this information from Khadijah Matin, President of AAHGS, as well as Leona Martin, President of AAHGS-NE.  Your help is needed to ensure researchers are able to continue to use digital cameras to make copies of documents at the library.  The next board meeting is June 16th so time is of the essence. Emailed letters of support can be sent to:

Bill Shelton wrote:
Hi Folks,
I was alerted on Wednesday, (by Shirley Wilcox, President of the 
Virginia Genealogical Society), of a potential crisis which we as 
genealogists are about to experience at the Library of Virginia - unless 
we do something immediately.  The issue is that the Library of Virginia 
staff is concerned about the use of digital cameras.  The stated 
specific concern is that some of the resulting images find their way to 
the internet and are not representative of the quality desired by the 
Library of Virginia; even if credit is given to the Library of Virginia. 
However, the real concern might be associated with the lost of revenue.
Please send your concerns to the Library. Maybe we can change their 
minds.  The next Library of Virginia Board meeting will be June 16th. 
At that time, Peter Broadbent, the past president of VGS will distribute 
copies of the VGS letter to those in attendance.  Please address your 
letters to:
Ms. Sandra G. Treadway
Librarian of Virginia
The Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA  23219-1905
Folks, we all know the important of documents archived in the Library of 
Virginia. Therefore, this is something that really should concern us. 
Also, as you all are aware, we can do so much with our digital cameras 
while on research trips.  It would be a shame to loose this capability. 
It should be noted that the Library of Congress and the National 
Archives allow the use of digital cameras and in some cases, even 
Well, I hope you will take the time to send a letter. Sorry, I’m just 
getting this to you.  Because of the storm, we had no electricity for 
the past couple of days.
Bill Shelton

Finding a Place Called Home

In the November/December 2007 issue of AAHGS News former AAHGS President, Carolyn Corpening Rowe submitted an article about a course in African American genealogy that was being team-taught at the University of the District of Columbia by herself, Nathania Branch Miles, and Jane Taylor Thomas.  The course utilized the text Finding a Place Called Home — A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity, by Dee Parmer Woodtor, PhD.  Curious about the text, I ordered it from my local library.

This 499-page text is a fantastic research tool whether you are just beginning your genealogical quest or are a seasoned researcher.  Unlike many genealogical how-to manuals, one of this book’s strengths is its ability to tell the history of the African American experience and point you to resources to find your family.  Where many other texts will tell you about available resources, many do not give you the history behind why the records are in a certain place or why your ancestors may have migrated to that place. 

There are all the basics in this text:  how to start, what to think about, creating an ancestral chart, family group sheet, collecting oral histories, etc. that you would find in any text.  However, what makes this book different from others I have read is that it addresses such things as defining your research goals, what to bring on a research trip, how to organize yourself, learning to control your costs, and how to take notes with source citations!  There are numerous other ideas that outline things that the seasoned genealogist might take for granted:  deciding which repository to visit, how to evaluate sources, and evaluating genealogical proof. 

Past the basics that give the reader a strong foundation to build on are more specific methodology chapters that discuss many topics including but not limited to Union contraband camps and Confederate and Union impressed labor; finding documentation of slaves and slave-owning families; and finding insurance policies that insured a plantation owner’s slaves.  Each of these topics comes with further reading.  Of particular interest to me was the topic of Exodusters since I am researching an article for the next issue of the News on the history of the black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.  I will address that in another post. 

I had originally thought that I would be able to read this book, take notes, and send it back to the library.  I’ve read it twice cover to cover in the six weeks I have had it out.  This one is going to have to become part of my personal library — there is so much information within that I find myself referencing it over and over. 

Woodtor, Dee Palmer, Finding A Place Called Home:  A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity, New York:  Random House, 1999.  ISBN:  037570843X, about $32.00, book is only available used at,,

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Do you have relatives that were doctors or dentists and graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee early in the 20th century?  If so, you need to check out the link to the Meharry Medical College Archives page at  Meharry was the number one college to graduate black doctors and dentists at the turn of the 20th century.  At the site is a link entitled Meherry Medical College:  Its History, Its Works Its Needs [1908] that not only shows the offices of some of its graduates, but the photo of the entire 1908 graduating class and some of their homes as well. 

Graduates came from all over the country and went back to their home states to practice.  Within this one publication (there are many listed) are photographs of the offices or residences of M.C. Brown, MD, of Alexandria, LA; J.P. Miller, MD, Fernandia, FLA; and A.F. Perry, MD, Chicago, Ill.  Dr. E.B. Jefferson, DDS of Nashville, Tenn. is shown in the “operating room” performing his dentistry on a patient. 

An excerpt from the text of the scanned booklet reads:

In the early years of this work doubts were frequently expressed regarding the ability and fitness of colored physicians for the successful practice of this most responsible calling.  The experience of the last thirty-two years shows that these fears were unfounded.  Their success in their professional work has been greater than their most sanguine friends had even hoped.  They have been well received and kindly treated by the white physicians of the South, and have been liberally patronized by their own people, and have been a potent factor in promoting good understanding between the two races.” 

You can also “save a copy” for yourself on your computer by clicking on the link on the top left hand side of the viewing screen (at least it works from an MS Windows platform with Internet Explorer). 

AAHGS News May-June Issue Out

The AAHGS NewsMay-June issue is out and if you are a member of AAHGS, you should be receiving yours shortly.  In this issue, we have some wonderful photographs and an article submitted by one of our members, Roland Stead, of AAHGS New England that document the monument to Prince Estabrook.  The monument was placed at Buckman Tavern in Lexington, Massachusetts in remembrance of his activities in the Revolutionary War.   

Also in this issue is a review of That’s My Family, a Canadian genealogy search engine first posted on Dick Eastman’s blog.  A subsection of this website, Under a Northern Star, includes valuable information on the African American community in Canada. 

Loretta Dabbs from the Central Florida Chapter of AAHGS submitted an article on a talk given by Dr. Rosalyn Howard entitled “Looking for Angola:  Negroes and Seminole Indians.” 

Columnist Marian Pierre-Louis has an article on Blogging Your Dreams contest winner Melissa Holloway who received $5,000 to preserve and revitalize Eden Cemetery in Collingdale, Pennsylvania.  Eden Cemetery is home to many notable residents including Absalom Jones, co-founder of the African American Episcopal Church. 

Thanks to all of our contributors that help to make the AAHGS News an interesting and informative  publication. 


Welcome to the new blog for the Afro-American Historical Genealogical Society (!  In an effort to connect with our membership in between newsletters and journal publications, this blog has been created to keep you informed about happenings, resources, and news for those interested in African American research.  If you have items of interest that you would like to see covered in the blog or have an idea for article for either of the above publications, please feel free to email me at aahgsnews “at” yahoo “dot” com.