The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston is one of five institutions partnering with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to create a national digital collection highlighting the roles and experiences of Black women in the women’s suffrage movement, as part of the centennial celebration of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Pivotal Ventures, an investment and incubation company created by Melinda Gates, provided DPLA with $400,000 in funding, which has been distributed among the partner institutions – which also include the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, Tuskegee University, the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University and the Southern California Library.

Together, the institutes will digitize artifacts of Black women in the suffrage movement, as well as those of women’s rights, voting rights and civic activism between the 1850s and the 1960s, in order to make these important collections more widely accessible through a dedicated website.

“The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston is delighted to be a partner on this important grant, as it aligns with our mission,” says Aaisha Haykal, manager of archival services at the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture. “The grant is important to us as it provides us the space to expand the story of civil rights and activism in the South Carolina Lowcountry by centering on Black women. Additionally, it supports the College of Charleston’s curriculum and research needs of the faculty and students.”

The Avery’s $25,000 funding will support metadata remediation on four previously digitized collections and the digitization of a selection from 10 archival collections, including:

  • Helen Evangeline Banks Harrison Papers, circa 1850–1985
  • Mamie E. Garvin Fields Papers, 1894–1987
  • Ethelyn Murray Parker Papers, 1899–1992
  • Phillis Wheatley Literary and Social Club Papers, 1916–2011
  • Miriam DeCosta Seabrook and Herbert U. Seabrook Papers, 1882–1995

“The selected collections represent an intent to demonstrate that women-led and/or focused organizations impacted many avenues of life, including, but not limited to, health, education and politics,” says Haykal. “Through this funding, we can digitize print and audiovisual materials – and, via metadata remediation, add and edit access points from previously digitized records in the Lowcountry Digital Library.”

“The digitization of these collections focused on Black women represents an important opportunity for researchers, students and the public to interact more intimately with the legacies of these inspiring women, and make connections to the present moment,” says Shaneé Yvette Murrain, DPLA community manager.

The new website, set to launch in late summer 2020, will showcase artifacts related to Black women in the suffrage movement as well as original content providing historical context.