Report from Liaison to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)

ALA/ACRL/AFAS Liaison to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)
Annual Report 2012
by Glenda Alvin,
Assistant Director for Collection Management and Administration
Brown-Daniel Library/Tennessee State University

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) was founded by Dr. Carter G. Woodson in 1915. He originated Negro History Week, which is now Black History Month. ASALH selects the national theme for Black History Month each year and has done so since 1928. The ASALH annual conference was held in Pittsburgh, PA on September 26-30, 2012. The conference theme was Black Women in American Culture and Life. This was my first ASALH conference, so I introduced myself to the Executive Director, Sylvia Y. Cyrus. Ms. Cyrus invited me to work with the Program and Publications Committee, so I introduced myself to the Chair, Dr. Darryl Michael Scott and during our brief conversation he indicated that he would like for me to help promote ASALH’s new journal, Fire!!! The Multimedia Journal of Black Studies. I gave both of them my business cards for further contact.

I am a member of both ASALH and the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH.) The two organizations are informally affiliated and hold their annual meetings jointly, because the founders of ABWH are also members of ASALH. I have been working closely with the National Director of ABWH, Dr. Ida Jones, to develop three bibliographies that will be posted on the organization’s website in the coming months. I updated the list of Letitia Brown Woods Award winners for books, anthologies, and journal articles written about black women. I compiled a list of books published by ABWH members and a bibliography of core books for the study of African American women’s history. For the ABWH newsletter, Truth, I have compiled two lists of newly published titles on Black Women’s History. The Special Issue 2012 is available in print only, however the previous 2011 fall issue is online.

ASALH schedule of panels, plenaries, and movie presentations, began at 8:30 AM and ended at 7:45 PM. The association’s business meeting went past 10:30 PM. Thursday’s plenary featured two powerful artists: Sonia Sanchez, poet, writer and activist and Bernice Johnson Reagon, singer and founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, civil rights activist and retired Smithsonian curator. Friday’s plenary was a panel of women historians, who have written biographies of Ida Wells-Barnett over the past twelve years.

The ASALH conference featured interesting presentations by librarians. One of the most notable was given by AFAS past Chair, Rebecca Hankins, who led a panel on the relevance of hairstyles to black female identity entitled, “I Am Not My Hair: Reclaiming Black Beauty.” A panel on the role of African American librarians and archivists in maintaining scholarly, as well as community collections had a lively discussion on funding and support.

As an acquisitions librarian with a second masters in U. S. History, who has also served as library liaison to Africana Studies and African American Studies Departments over the past twenty years, it was a thrill to witness many of the authors whose books I have added to collections. The “Founders of the Field: African American Women and African American Women’s History” featured not only scholars that had published seminal works in the field like, Darlene Clark Hine, Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Janice Sumler-Edmonds and Deborah Gray White, but who are also the founders of the ABWH. Besides the plenaries, it was one of the most well attended sessions at the conference.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History will hold its next conference in Jacksonville, FL, October 2-6, 2013. The theme is At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. I intend to volunteer to chair a session or be a presenter. To learn more about ASALH visit their website: