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Published: Friday, 6/16/2006

Area groups assist black history effort

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The African American Legacy Project of Northwest Ohio plans to announce Monday its collaboration with the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University in a comprehensive effort to collect and display materials related to local black history.

Robert Smith, founder of the legacy project, said the organization chose June 19, known as ''Juneteenth,'' to make the announcement to highlight the growing holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States.

The African American Legacy Project was founded in 2002 to establish a repository for local African-American history. Since then, the project has an office on Upton Avenue and an annual banquet honoring black history-makers.

Mr. Smith said the collaboration with the library, UT, and BGSU is one of the project's biggest steps forward.

He said the institutions could help the legacy project identify grants and other sources of funding that could help increase its capacity to collect and display documents and artifacts.

"We've been talking to each other for about a year to make this collaboration happen," Mr. Smith said. "This will increase our community awareness, especially with the commitment from all three institutions. This is a major breakthrough in our efforts, and one of the best relationships we can have."

Mr. Smith said Barb Floyd, director of the Canaday Center for Special Collections at the University of Toledo, contacted him about working together.

Ann Jenks, interim head of the Center for Archival Collections at Bowling Green State University said she, Ms. Floyd, and Jim Marshall, manager of the local history and genealogy department at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, have worked together for years on other projects and became involved in the talks.

Mr. Smith said the inclusion of the library and BGSU gives the legacy project the opportunity to reach beyond Toledo's corporate limits to better document the impact of blacks in the suburban area and regionally.

"If you would ask Jim, Barb, or I, we would say we haven't done a good job documenting African-American history in our collections, and we need to change that," Ms. Jenks said.

"It's important to show the role African-Americans have played in our history, and we wouldn't be able to teach the children in our community [about African-Americans] if we didn't have that history," she added.

Mr. Smith said the legacy project will work with the three institutions on identifying documents and artifacts, and the project will decide where those items will be housed.

Mr. Marshall said the best thing about the collaboration will be the coordinated effort.

"The African American Legacy Project, the two universities, and the library wanted to do this and cooperate in the way that is best for the community rather than each of us going out on our own and trying to do things that are a duplication of other services," Mr. Marshall said.

"That's really the positive thing about the whole agreement. We will know what each of us is doing. So if someone comes into the public library or goes to the university, we will be able to say, 'This is what we have here.' Someone researching African-American history will know where everything is, who has it, and we'll be actively collecting," he said.

Contact Clyde Hughes at:

chughes@theblade.com

or 419-724-6095.



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