Sunday, July 1, 2018

O.W. Dillon School to Be Placed on the the National Register of Historic Places

 Delegation Visited  O.W. Dillon School
Photo Credit: Antoinette Harrell
This past week a delegation organized by Dieone Johnson, Executive Director for O.W. Dillon Preservation Organization met with Jessica G. Richardson, National Register Coordinator, Division of the Historic Preservation, Office of Cultural Development. The delegation and Executive Director toured the school with Jessica, educating her about the history of the school.  

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic place worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archeological resources. 

Tangipahoa Parish Training School is the oldest in the Nation. ]The school is gaining national attention for its historical Heritage in the African American community.  The doors opened in 191l and closed several years back. The school fostered the idea of having boys learned scientific agriculture, dairying, and horticulture for girls; sewing, domestic economy, cooking, and other life skills training.  The Tangipahoa Parish Training School drew many students from surrounding parishes, including Washington,  St. Tammany, St. Helena, East and West Feliciana. Some students came from Mississippi to get an education. 

The delegation toured the school that could be used as Community Enrichment Center,  Museum & Cultural Center, and a vocational training school. They visited the classrooms, gymnasium, the cafeteria, and the school grounds.

During the visit, Susie Bates and Valeria Temple Thompson alumni's of the school reminisce about their school days and the staff of the school. Also attending were local historian and television talk show host Antoinette Harrell joined the delegation to help them document the rich history of the school. Youth photographers; Connor, Chase and Jo'elle Lacoste took pictures for photo documentation. 

O.W. Dillon School
Kentwood, Louisiana
Photo Credit: Antoinette Harrell

O.W. Dillon School
Kentwood, Louisiana
Photo Credit: Connor LaCoste

O.W. Dillon School
Kentwood, Louisiana
Photo Credit: Connor LaCoste

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Images of Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana: Part of the Images of America Series

For the past seven months, I have been traveling throughout Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana collecting photographs of African American people to be a part of the Images of America Series. I collected military, school, church, civic and social organizations, educators, farmers, elected officials and other pictures for the upcoming book. I couldn't have done it without the help of Glyniss Vernon Gordon, Dr. Kingsley Blaine Garrison, Mr. Lawerence Spears and his wife Arizona "Tat" Earnest Spears, Shan Gordon, Mrs. Ella Mae Badon, Earl and Vera Wheeler, Edwin Temple, Mrs. Grace Belvins Walker Perry, Annie Lee Hurst, Leonard Smith, and Montreal Harrell constant support. Certainly I want to thank my grandchildren for assisting me. There were days when everything seem so overwhelming and difficult, but I had to move forward to finish the book. I want to thank Melody Ricketts for offering her help and encouraging me. 
The Johnson Family
Courtesy of Myrtis Cook

The publishing company emailed me last week to inform me that the book will be available this coming December. The book is rich with 214 images and text. I learned so much about the people of this parish and their compelling stories and I'm excited to share these stories with the world.  Many of their stories are undocumented and not written in the history books. The community narratives and images  will help give scholars, researchers, and writers a broader perspective about African Americans people of the two Louisiana Florida Parishes. Each photograph in the nine chapters represents the communities the unsung trailblazers call home. I looked at so many amazing photographs inside of shoe boxes, albums, and dresser drawers. Some images that were taken around the late 1800s to early 1900s should be displayed in museums and preserved in archival repositories. 

These photographs can change how we see ourselves. The images frozen moments in time so that we can reflect upon today. We can learn a great deal about the past from the pictures. After Arcadia Publishing Company approved the images and quality, there are many images that wasn't selected and  I'm thinking about what I'm going to do with the others. The promotional team is working on the promotional release for the upcoming book and I will post it on all my social media sites. 

There is a sense of pride I have just knowing that the people and trailblazers have been written in the Arcadia Publishing and History Press Collection. Last but certainly not least, I want to acknowledge Dr. Howard Nicholls for inspiring and suggesting that I publish this book. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Who Remembers Perry's Drive Inn in Butler Town in Amite, LA?

Perry Drive Inn
Photo Courtesy: Antoinette Harrell
Back in the late 60s my mother would stop at Perry's Drive-in and bring home some of the best tasting mouth-watering grilled hamburgers from Perry's. Perry's was owned by Lois and Esther Irving Perry, they were an icon in the community.  Glyniss Vernon Gordon, my grandson Connor,  and I stopped to take few pictures and I decided to ring the doorbell to find someone to talk with. A young man I met last year came out and, I was happy to see him. He told me that he was the great nephew of Floyd and Lois. Blair Williams is name and Blair has a great interest in his family history. He told me that I needed to talk with his father, Donald Williams. We sat under the carport the catching some of the cool breezes and talking about a little history and the importance of passing it on.

"My father is the one you should be talking with," said Blair. He and my uncle can tell you more then I can.  Blair called his father on the phone, and his father said that he would be right over. While waiting for his father to come, Blair told me about some pictures on the wall and I wanted to see the images. 
Donald Williams and his son Blair Williams
Photo Courtesy: Antoinette Harrell

As soon as Donald arrived and greeted us, he offered us something to cool to drink as most people in the Deep South would do. He sat down and started talking a little about the Lemuel Irving history and how Lem remained in the Town of Roseland. Donald lit a cigarette and start going back down memory lane. I started traveling down memory lane with him. I wanted to know more about Perry's Drive Inn. 

Everybody came to Perry's Drive Inn. It was the place to be. My Aunt Lois was a good cook, she enjoyed cooking and did it well he said. She would get up early in the morning and cook breakfast, dinner, and supper. "You see, back in those days lunch was called dinner and dinner was called supper," said Donald. Aunt Lois cooked every day three times a day and,  that was just the way it was. Donald said that the cost of lunch was fifteen cents back in his day. One day he went to school and gave a boy his fifteen cents for a sandwich. I wanted a sandwich because Aunt Lois never gave us sandwiches to eat not even on the weekend.

Glyniss recalled the many communities and political meetings that were held at Perry's. There were other African-American owned businesses in the communities. Donald mentioned Steptoes Lounge and some of the musicians that played there. I heard Blair say that Al Green played there and I was once told by someone that James Brown played there. 

I post a picture of Perry Drive Inn on my social media site to generate conversations around the images. I read the comments that were posted and want to share a few of them. 

Robert Daniels Best ' Fish' boxes. Delicious! A very Clean and comfortable place. Maybe someone will decide to reopen it. May need a little remodeling on the inside.

Priscilla Jackson Yes I remember going to Perry's Drive Inn the best burgers, fish plates, fries, and malt shakes you ever tasted. The atmosphere was like everyone was family. Boy, I missed them days.

Atlanta Marie Daniels Woods I remember going there with my mama and brother and sisters on Friday night's and we would eat and play music on the jukebox. A great childhood memory!!!! I miss those days.

Sharon Boykins Brown Teenagers could hang out and get some really good food!

Michael Woods Boy! how do I remember those days best burgers milkshakes in town?

Sharetta Richardson Best cheeseburger and fries ever $3.26.

Early Photograph of Amite No 1 Church of God in Christ

Amite No. I Church of God in Christ
Photo Courtesy:  Rev. Raymond Foster, Sr. 
Over the past couple of months, I've set in the homes of many people whose family ties are deeply connected in St. Helena and Tangipahoa Parishes, Louisiana.  Years ago Delores Zanders Levy passed away and her mother archival collection was passed down to Rev. Raymond Foster, Sr., and when I say that he was the right person to inherit the rich collection, I mean it with everything inside of me. Too often we hear that someone threw away all the pictures, documents, and other records that can help tell the story and history of African-American people of the two Louisiana Florida Parishes.

About two years before Delores passed away I visited her home to talk with her about the family history and photographs. My maternal great-grandmother Emma Mead Harrell was the aunt of her mother Colitidle Zanders." Mrs. Clotilde kept everything," said Rev. Foster. She did throw away anything.  In her own right, she was an archivist.

There are other women in the community that kept the history of churches, schools, civic and social organizations and well as their own family history and photographs. Rev. Foster is quite an oral history keeper himself. I learned more about the Foster Family history from him on this visit. Women such as; Grace Belvin Walker Perry,  Alma Harrison Vernon, Gertrude Love, Zemora "Hilda" Vining and I know there are others.

There was this one statement he made about the history of a small community in Tangipahoa Parish called Shiloh. He told Glyniss Vernon and me if we look at one of the old Plat Maps, we'll find that Shiloh was called "Congo Square" I can't wait to do more research on this subject.  It will be posted it right here on Nurturing Our Roots Blog Site.

This photo is the Amite NO.1 Church of God in Christ. From left to right; James Sheridan, Irma Della ?., Celestine Foster, Annie Edwards, Edna Buckley, Christine Alle, Algia Mae Spears, Irene Benton, Leola Buckhalter, Lolly Edwards, Mrs. Freddie Cage and husband Eld. Freddie Cage, Second Row: Left to Right; Celie Love, Mildred Warner, Tina Jackson. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Documenting the History of a Civil Rights Icon Mrs. Vernia McCoy

Antoinette Harrell interviewing Mrs. Vernia McCoy
I spent an hour sitting and talking with Mrs. Vernia, a citizen of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana. We sat her dining room table looking at documents and photographs. Several years ago I interviewed her, and when I tell to you, it will take me a year to document her oral history and her rich photograph collection that tell the story and event of many African-American people in the Louisiana Florida Parishes.

Each time I learn so much about her life and the life of her deceased husband Mr. Fred McCoy and the many challenges they faced during integration in Tangipahoa Parish. She was born and reared in Franklinton, Louisiana with her parents and eleven brothers and sisters.  Mrs. McCoy is a retired A.M.E. Pastor of  St. James A.M. E. Church in Hammond,  Louisiana., and educator.

I feel honored to talk with people such as Mrs. McCoy, Dr. Kingley B. Garrison, Mrs. Ella Mae Badon, and Mrs. Grace Walker. They are the living history books that we must treasure and most importantly document according to their experiences as pioneers in the Louisiana Florida Parishes.  As of today,  Mrs. McCoy is involved in many community outreaches.

This is just the beginning of the many hours I will be sitting with her to assist her with organizing her collection for the repository at Southeastern Center for Louisiana Studies. She has accomplished and achieved so in her life and her career. She has so many awards for her accomplishments and achievements over her lifetime. 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A History Road Trip with Family

Bernard mailing his African Ancestry DNA in
When my youngest son Bernard was a child, we visited many, archives, libraries, and museums.  By the time he turned twelve years old, he had traveled to twenty-two states. Tasting different food and meeting new people along the way. Sometimes we flew, and for the most part we would drive so that we could stop and visit some of the major attractions. 

With a big smile and his luggage packed he was all ready to travel on our summer adventure.  We made plans to take a road trip for two weeks driving up the East Coast and ending up in Washington, D.C, at the National Archives.  He was too young to go into the National Archives, so my ex-husband took him around College Park while I did some genealogy research.  I don't know how much of the history lessons he was retained at that time. I know I had to teach and expose him.

It was one of the best summer vacations we can remember. We purchased a map for him to follow along. We packed books and some of his favorite things he enjoyed playing with and hit the road headed  east.  During that time they didn't have a GPS to guide us on our trip. We made sure to purcahse postcards in each state to send back to the family at home. 

Reading records 
Years later we took another road trip with Moussa Albaka, a well known Tuareg silversmith to meet other Tuareg people from Niger, Africa who moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.  We're welcome with big smiles and hugs by the Tuareg people. We had dinner and wonderful conversation before head to the Atlantic ocean so that Bernard could take his African Ancestry DNA test.

He faced the ocean and imagined the ships coming to the Americas with his ancestors on it. We held each other in hopes that he will find out where in Africa his paternal ancestors come from. Six weeks later he finds out that his paternal lineage connected him to Nigeria, West Africa. 

Learning about our family history had taken us many beautiful places to meet some wonderful people and new family members along the way. As I write this blogpost, I can't help but think about the time Bernard and I drove to Chicago to visit our Harrell family member with my Uncle Raymond.  Bernard has just met his 3rd maternal cousins. He met cousins that his maternal grandmother hasn't met. I was happy that we took this trip that summer.

Uncle Raymond played one of his old-time gospel songs again and again. It seems like he played that song from the time we left Louisiana to we arrived in Chicago. Bernard asked him why did he keep playing the same song over and over again?  During our stay in Chicago, Uncle Raymond wanted us to meet the descendants of my great-uncle Warner Harrell.  So the three of us drove up to Wisconsin and met new family, and we really enjoyed our visit with cousin Dan Harrell and his family.

One week the white lines on the highway were calling me again. I asked Bernard if he wanted to go and visit the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee? He said yes and was eager to go. We packed our luggage on a sunny Friday afternoon and drove the five-hour trip. We went west to visit Alex Haley House Museum in Henning, Tennessee first.  We took the guided tour and took pictures before traveling back to Memphis to get dinner and checking in the hotel. 

The next morning after breakfast we headed to the National Civil Rights Museum and spent the day touring the Museum. What better way to teach a child about the history? He had a lot of questions to ask about the Civil Rights Movement.  I hope when he becomes a father, he'll take road trips with his children and teach them their history. One thing for sure the road trip we took by driving meant that we could stop all along the highway and get some good tasting food and site see. 

I hope he holds these memories dear to his heart like I hold them in my heart. This was our time spent together. Now that he is an adult we haven't taken a road trip and just because he is all grown-up, doesn't mean we shouldn't.  My grandchildren are taking road trips with me now.   They'll soon  become teenagers and they will have other plans. But the beautiful and sweet memories I hope will never be forgotten. 
I enjoyed taking him places with me and having him to be a part of the many events we went to. The only thing I regret is I wish that we could have had more time in his formative years. The time went by quickly that once little boy is now twenty-five years old. 

I want to make it a family tradition that we all take a road trip to visit museums, antique shops, fun attractions, and enjoy family time spent together. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Ethel Williams Temple

Ethel Williams Temple
Ethel was born to Jim and Emma Vining Williams in 1919 in St, Helena Parish, Louisiana. Ethel died in 1958 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Jim and Emma had four children; Ethel, Jimmy, Arthur, and Dorothy.

Ethel married Walter Temple and they had two sons together; Cleveland and Johnell Temple. Oliver was by her first marriage to Oliver Jackson, Sr.,  Walter and Ethel lived in New Orleans at 2408 St. Andrew Street.

During several conversations with cousin Johnell, he told me that his mama taught her boys how to cook, clean, and how to take care of themselves. She didn't have any girls so the boys had to learn how to help out with the chores. I guess that explains why cousin Oliver and Johnell enjoy cooking so much, 

Her sons Oliver and Johnell were both in law enforcement. Oliver worked for the Amite Police Department and Johnell was a Louisiana State Trooper. They both served until they retired from their departments. Oliver serves on the Board of Directors for the St. Helena Multipurpose Center in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. He and the board spent years developing the center.  A country boy at heart, he loves his horses and cows. 

Ethel's mother Emma was married twice. Emma first marriage was to Thomas Richardson. Thomas and Emma had four children also. Emma's children by her second marriage died before all their siblings from Emma's first marriage. 

She is buried in Mount Zion and Greater Refuge Temple Cemetery in Montpelier, St, Helena Parish, Louisiana.

Ethel Williams Temple
Courtesy of Ruth Landrew Jackson