There are few better moments as a researcher than having the chance to get into an archive. Some extra research funds offered by my department Chair permitted me a quick trip to Smathers Libraries Special and Area Studies Collections to flesh out the content in my in-progress book on racial and spatial politics on the Florida peninsula.
The biggest highlight – in addition to having a chance to touch the plastic surrounding documents once written by Alabama native and Florida bred anthropologist-author Zora Neale Hurston, my she-ro of all time alongside of Harriet Tubman, was finding an index card with my great grandmother’s name casually scribbled on it. The index card was in a folder holding the papers of the late historian Raymond Mohl on whose shoulders I stand as I try to find meaning in the movements and politics of the oppressed groups in Florida since European contact.
The index card in question was part of the papers that the late Miami activist Elizabeth Virrick gave Mohl prior to her death. Steven Hersch, a Smathers Libraries liaison, tipped me off to the papers, which, generally speaking, figured into an earlier article I wrote on Miami, extending Mohl’s scholarship. But it was such a boon to know that Virrick, a white Miamian who was dedicated to seeing improved living conditions for people of African descent, had contact with my great grandmother who was very active in the PTA at her children’s schools in Miami’s Coconut Grove. She must have given Miss Virrick an earful about the quality of life for area blacks who often did not have inside plumbing even during the postwar period. My great grandmother Mittie Andrews, a native of Georgia, is pictured below with her brother.
It was a pleasure meeting Hersch and Flo Turcotte and others at the library. We can’t do what we do without their help. I also enjoyed a public talk on black teachers and teaching prior to integration to which Turcotte invited me. Her exhibit on the same topic is exceptional. A photo from the exhibit, which is in the lobby of Smathers, is below.
While in town, I enjoyed Jamaican food at the Reggae Shack Cafe with a graduate student who was also in the archive. Yum!
Like Zora, I am drawn to nature and appreciated, too, the moss on the trees on UF’s campus.
On the shoulders of so many we stand – including South Florida’s trailblazer Thelma Gibson, wife of the late Father Theodore Gibson, another area activist, as we have the privilege of doing the work we do.
Below is a photo of this morning’s sunrise. I feel exceptionally good today.
PS Yesterday, inspired by Smathers employees in Halloween gear, I took out the hat/headband I bought on sale a few years back at Pier 1 and had a reconstructed antebellum moment.