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Charlene Hodges Byrd collection

Byrd, Charlene Hodges, 1929-2009  Search this
Morgan State College  Search this
Bearden, Romare, 1911-1988  Search this
Cummings, Ida R. (Ida Rebecca), 1868-1958  Search this
Douglass, Frederick, 1817?-1895  Search this
Grimké, Francis J. (Francis James), 1850-1937  Search this
Hodges, Joyce Ethel Cummings, 1903-1971  Search this
Shimm, Erminie F. (Erminie Florence), 1867-1936  Search this
Shimm, Sarah A., 1843-1885  Search this
Thomas, Elizabeth N. (Elizabeth Nelson), d. 1932  Search this
Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915  Search this
43 Linear feet (35 document boxes and 39 oversize boxes)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Washington (D.C.)
circa 1750-2009
bulk 1880-1960
The Charlene Hodges Byrd collection measures 43 linear feet, and dates from circa 1750-2009, with the bulk of the material dating from 1880-1960. The collection documents the personal life and professional career of Charlene Hodges Byrd, an African American teacher from Washington, D.C., along with material for several related families from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Family members prominently represented include Sarah A. Shimm, teacher and essayist under the name Faith Lichen; her daughters Erminie F. Shimm and Grace E. Shimm Cummings, both teachers; and Byrd's mother, Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges, also a teacher. Correspondence and writings chiefly discuss family life, religion, race, education, and the relationship with Frederick Douglass and his family. The collection is arranged in 10 series: Biographical Material, Correspondence, Writings, Subject Files, Financial and Legal Records, Printed Material, Volumes, Memorabilia, Textiles, and Photographs.
Scope and Contents:
Series 1. Papers related to biographical and family histories of the Byrd, Cummings, Davage, Dews, Hodges, Shimm, Spruill, and Thomas families. Material includes family trees; school diplomas and certificates; programs; awards; marriage and divorce papers; funeral documents; and obituaries.

Series 2: Chiefly letters from family and friends regarding family news, financial matters, school, work, neighborhood affairs, church events, travel and the weather. The majority of the letters are addressed to Charlene Hodges Byrd, Grace E. Shimm Cummings, Ida R. Cummings, Elizabeth Dews Hodges, Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges, Erminie F. Shimm, Sarah A. Shimm, and Elizabeth N. Thomas. Other correspondence includes letters from Booker T. Washington, Bessye Beardon, Charlotte Davage, Amelia Douglass, and Harrell S. Spruill. There are also a number of greeting cards, postcards, and empty envelopes.

Series 3. Writings include essays, speeches, papers written for school, teacher's notebooks, and a diary of Erminie F. Shimm, 1903. Topics include education, Frederick Douglass, religion, race, Africa, and the temperance movement.

Series 4. Subject files on Charlene Hodges Byrd's involvement with Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; Book Lovers of Charleston, West Virginia, a women's book club organized in 1923; Church Women United radio program; and The Links, Inc., a volunteer service organization. The papers on Liberia relate to missionary work, and were probably gathered by Erminie F. Shimm; and the Shimm-Thomas Collection are papers related to the deposit and later return of family items housed as a collection at Morgan State College.

Series 5. The financial and legal records include invoices and receipts, bank books, real estate tax assessments, deeds, and wills. There is also material related to the estate of Erminie F. Shimm.

Series 6. Printed materials includes books, pamphlets, newspapers, newsletters, clippings, invitations and programs. The books and pamphlets are chiefly school yearbooks and newspapers and other texts related to religion, politics, music, and poetry. Also included is a copy of Frederick Douglass's autobiography and a printed copy of his speech "The Race Problem." The clippings include obituaries, articles about Charlene Hodges Byrd and her husband Charles R. Byrd, essays by Sarah A. Shimm under the name Faith Lichen, and articles on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The invitations and programs are primarily for school graduations, weddings, social events, and funerals. Other printed material includes newsletters; business cards; calling cards; postage stamps, chiefly from Liberia; and blank postcards. The binder on Frederick Douglass was prepared by Byrd and her goddaughter for the West Virginia School Studies Fair, and includes copies of Byrd family artifacts.

Series 7. Autograph books, guest books, and scrapbooks. The autograph book of Grace E. Shimm Cummings includes autographs from Amelia Douglass, Lewis B. Douglass, Charles R. Douglass, W. H. Clair, and Francis J. Grimke. The scrapbook of Grace E. Shimm Cummings and Erminie F. Shimm consists primarily of clippings, and was assembled from an old teacher's book with a student registration and punishment pages still intact at the back.

Series 8. Miscellaneous items in the collection including artwork, a coin purse, a piece of handwoven cloth belonging to Catherine Nelson's great grandmother, and leather hair curlers.

Series 9: The textiles are chiefly christening gowns, children's garments, and an apron. Several garments belonged to Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges, Charlene Hodges Byrd, and Elizabeth N. Thomas. There is also a doll that belonged to Amelia Douglass's niece, Kitty Cromwell.

Series 10. Photographs include pictures of Charlene Hodges Byrd, Joyce Ethel Hodges Cummings, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Dews Hodges, Charles Gilmor Cummings, Grace E. Shimm Cummings, Erminie F. Shimm, and other friends and relatives of the Byrd, Hodges, Cummings, Douglass, and Shimm families. Subjects are primarily portraits and candids, along with some wedding, baby, and school pictures. While some of the photographs are annotated, many of the individuals are unidentified. Included are vintage photographs, cabinet cards, cartes-de-visites, tintypes, daguerreotypes, and negatives.
Biographical / Historical:
The Shimm, Thomas, Cummings, Hodges, Davage, and related African American families chiefly lived in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Numerous family members worked as teachers, barbers, or in the service industry. They were active in local churches and service organizations, and had established friendships with local church leaders as well as with Frederick Douglass and his family.

The Shimm and Thomas families were located in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. The Thomas family can be traced back to Philip Nelson, who owned property in Leesburg, Virginia and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Family genealogical papers list Nelson as a descendent of British Admiral Horatio Nelson. This lineage, however, is not supported in publically available family histories of Horatio Nelson. Philip Nelson and his wife Araminta had five children: Catherine (b. 1805?), William, Levi (b. 1820?), Henrietta, and Grayson.

Catherine Nelson married Elias E. Thomas (b. 1816?) of Virginia in 1840. They wed in Philadelphia and had five children: Levi Nelson (b. 1841), Sarah (1843-1885), Edward (b. 1844), Elizabeth (1848-1932), and Charles (b. 1851).

Sarah Thomas married William Y. Shimm (b. 1841), a barber in Reading, Pennsylvania, on July 26, 1863. They had 2 daughters, Erminie (1867-1936) and Grace (1865-1910). The Shimms lived in Pennsylvania and Ohio, but had moved to Washington, D.C., around 1871. Sarah was a teacher and a writer who published under the name "Faith Lichen." Her writings, primarily essays and commentaries about race and politics, were printed in several newspapers including The National Republican, The Celtic Weekly, The People's Advocate, and The Sunday Morning Gazette.

Sarah's sister Elizabeth was also a teacher in Maryland. Her brother Charles was a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and a graduate of the first class at Howard University's law school.

Erminie and Grace Shimm became teachers in the Washington, D.C., public school system. Erminie was active in her church and supportive of missionary work in Liberia. Grace married Charles Gilmor Cummings, a pastor in Alexandria, Virginia, on July 9, 1902. They had one daughter, Joyce Ethel (1903-1971), and second child in 1905 who died in infancy. Grace died in 1910 of heart failure. After her death, Grace's sister Erminie and Charles's family helped raise Joyce Ethel in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.

Joyce Ethel Cummings Hodges graduated from Morgan College in 1924, and received her master's degree from Howard University in 1931. She taught at Douglass High School in Baltimore from 1924-1964. Joyce Ethel married Charles E. Hodges (1900--975) in 1927 and they divorced in 1953. The couple had one daughter, Charlene (1929-2009).

Charlene Hodges Byrd grew up in Washington, D.C., but attended the Northfield School for Girls in East Northfield, Massachusetts, for high school, graduating in 1946. She received her bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in 1950, and her master's degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago in 1951. She married Charles R. Byrd (1919-2004) in 1952. They had one son in 1954, but he died four days after birth. Byrd soon began a career as a teacher and education administrator, eventually working for Kanawha County Schools in Charleston, West Virginia. She was also active in her local community as a member of the Book Lovers of Charleston, West Virginia; Church Women United; and The Links, Inc.

Charles E. Hodges was born Bridgewater, Virginia, where his father was a minister. He graduated from Morgan College in 1923 and received his master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1943. He was a teacher and served as principal of the North Street School in Hagerstown, Maryland. After he and Joyce Ethel divorced in 1953, he married Elizabeth Dews (1913-1999) in 1955.

Elizabeth Dews Hodges, born Elizabeth Virginia Waumbeeka, was adopted by James Edward (1889-1954) and Sarah Virginia Dews (1888?-1964) in Washington, D.C., in 1920. She graduated from Miner Teachers College in 1939, and worked as a teacher in Annapolis, Maryland, at Wiley H. Bates High School for 34 years. She was awarded a medal for her work there by the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge in 1959. Elizabeth was active in local organizations in Maryland and Washington, D.C., including the SE/NE Friends of the Capitol View Branch Library; Eastern Star Chapter 4; Mount Ephraim Baptist Church; National Museum of Women in the Arts; National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples; and the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind.

The Davage family is descended from Sidney Hall (b. 1818?) and Charles Davage (b. 1815?). Sidney was a former slave at the Perry Hall mansion in Baltimore, and was manumitted by 1840. She married Charles, a coachman, on April 12, 1842. They had five children: Eliza Jane (1843-1913), Sophia (b. 1847), Charlotte (b. 1849), Charles (b. 1854), and Hester (b. 1845). Their daughter Eliza Jane married Henry Cummings (b. 1830?). They had seven children: Harry Sythe (1866-1917), Charles Gilmor (1870-1924), William (b. 1882), Ida R. (1868-1958), Estelle (1874-1944), Carroll (b. 1875), Francis (b. 1872), and Aaron (1864?-1932).

Harry Sythe Cummings, a lawyer in Baltimore, became the city's first African American City Council member. He was first elected in 1890 and served intermittently until his death in 1917, often working on issues related to education. Cummings also delivered a speech at the Republican National Convention in 1904 seconding the presidential nomination of Theodore Roosevelt. He married Blanche Conklin in 1899, and they had three children: Harry S. Jr. (b. 1905), Lucille (d. 1906), and Louise.

Charles Gilmor Cummings graduated from Drew Theological Seminary in 1898, and was a pastor in Alexandria, Virginia and elsewhere. After the death of his wife Grace in 1910, he married Rosa Catherine Bearden, grandmother of artist Romare Bearden, in 1912.

Ida R. Cummings graduated from Morgan College in 1922, and was the first African American kindergarten teacher in Baltimore. She was also active in local organizations, and was president of the Colored Fresh Air and Empty Stocking Circle; chairman of the Woman's Section Council of Defense in Baltimore during the World War, 1914-1918; and president of the Woman's Campaign Bureau of the Colored Republican Voters' League of Maryland.
The Charlene Hodges Byrd collection was donated to the National Museum of African American History and Culture by Herbert S. Garten, co-personal representative of the Estate of Charlene H. Byrd, in 2010.
Access to collection requires appointment.
This collection is subject to all copyright laws.
African Americans -- Maryland  Search this
African Americans -- Photographs  Search this
African American families  Search this
African Americans -- Pennsylvania  Search this
African American newspapers  Search this
African American -- Social life and customs  Search this
African American women journalists  Search this
African Americans -- Education  Search this
African American churches  Search this
African American educators  Search this
African Americans -- Washington (D.C.)  Search this
Charlene Hodges Byrd collection, circa 1750-2009. National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Charlene Hodges Byrd collection
Archival Repository:
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Online Media:

The Dunbar Legacy: Dr. Paul Phillips Cooke Lecture

Anacostia Neighborhood Museum  Search this
Hutchinson, Louise Daniel  Search this
Anacostia Community Museum  Search this
Anacostia Neighborhood Museum  Search this
Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.)  Search this
Frelinghuysen University (Washington, D.C.).  Search this
M Street High School (Washington, D.C.)  Search this
Miner Teachers College  Search this
Oberlin College  Search this
Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (Washington, D.C.)  Search this
St. Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute  Search this
Université de Paris IV: Paris-Sorbonne  Search this
Wilberforce University  Search this
Cooke, Paul P.  Search this
Cooper, Anna J. (Anna Julia), 1858-1964  Search this
Cooper, George A. C., Reverend  Search this
Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963  Search this
Grimké, Francis J. (Francis James), 1850-1937  Search this
Hunt, Ida Gibbs, 1862-1957  Search this
Martin-Felton, Zora  Search this
Terrell, Mary Church, 1863-1954  Search this
Washington, Booker T., 1856-1915  Search this
Collection Creator:
Smithsonian Institution. Anacostia Community Museum  Search this
2 Video recordings (open reel, 1/2 inch)
1 Sound recording (audio cassette)
Archival materials
Video recordings
Sound recordings
Anacostia (Washington, D.C.)
Washington (D.C.)
Raleigh (N.C.)
United States
circa 1981
Scope and Contents:
Dr. Paul Phillips Cooke speaks on the subject of Anna J. Cooper: Teacher and Human Being. He talks about Cooper's life and the time in which she lived; and her human and religious influences. Cooke, who assisted with the Cooper exhibition at the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, provides an overview of Cooper's history and addresses questions from the lecture audience. Cooke also provides an overview of the history of educational institutions and schools, and the education system in Washington, D.C. He discusses civil rights, legislation changes in D.C., and how civil rights legislation affected Cooper, W. E. DuBois, and Booker T. Washington. Zora Martin-Felton introduces Cooke providing a short history of his Anacostian roots.
Lecture. AV003264: Part 1. AV003220: Part 2. Part of Anna J. Cooper: A Voice from the South Audiovisual Records. AV003264 and AV003220: undated. AV001346: dated 19830925, audio only, contains part of (copy of) AV003220 recording.
Biographical / Historical:
The collection, Anna J. Cooper: A Voice from the South Audiovisual Records, contains sound and video recordings of exhibit tours, gallery talks, and lectures associated with an exhibition, Anna J. Cooper: A Voice from the South. The exhibition presented the life and times of Washington, D.C. black educator and author Anna Julia Haywood Cooper through historical documents, photographs, memorabilia, and re-creations of her home and classroom settings. It was organized by the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum and held there from February 1981 to September 1982; Louise Daniel Hutchinson served as curator. The exhibition was based on an unpublished manuscript by the late Dr. Leona Gable, Smith College; and titled after Cooper's written work, A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South.;Educator, author, and speaker Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (1858-1964) was born into slavery and educated at Saint Augustine's Normal School and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, North Carolina. While teaching at St. Augustine's, she married George A. C. Cooper, who died two years later. After her husband's death, Cooper moved to Washington, D.C., attended Oberlin College, taught at Wilberforce College and M Street High School, and later went on to earn her Ph.D. from the University of Paris-Sorbonne. Cooper taught Greek, Latin, geometry, and science; and created a path for African Americans to attend Ivy League schools. Although she taught and served as principal (1902-1906) of the M Street High School (now Dunbar High School) in Washington, D.C., her role and influence extended beyond its boundaries. Cooper was an advocate of human rights who lectured on a broad range of topics that affected blacks and women, including race relations, poverty, and gender inequality; a feminist of her day. She was a contributor to the District of Columbia's Colored Settlement House; served as president of Frelinghuysen University, which offered affordable liberal arts and professional courses for working African Americans; and wrote A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South, the first book-length volume of black feminist analysis in the United States.;Educator, author, statesman, and former president of the District of Columbia Teacher's College Dr. Paul Phillips Cooke (1917-2010) was born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C. He attended Dunbar High School, Miner Teachers College, New York University, Catholic University of America, and Columbia University, where he received his doctorate. Cooke was married to Rose Cooke for 63 years.;Originally named Preparatory High School for Colored Youth and later known as M Street High School, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, located in Washington, D.C., was the first black public high school in the United States. During the first half of the twentieth century, Dunbar was an academically elite public school with many of its teachers holding master and doctorate degrees. By the 1950s, the school was sending 80 percent of its students to college. During the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, Dunbar struggled to keep its prestigious reputation and high standards. As with many troubled urban public schools, Dunbar standards fell and some students struggle with basic reading and math. The Dunbar Legacy Lecture Series, which was held at the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in the early 1980s, consisted of lectures by and about people associated with Dunbar High School.
Local Numbers:
ACMA AV003220

ACMA AV001346_B
Title transcribed from physical asset.
Series Restrictions:
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Some items are not accessible due to obsolete format and playback machinery restrictions. Please contact the archivist at
African Americans  Search this
African American women  Search this
Freedmen  Search this
African American educators  Search this
African American women educators  Search this
Women  Search this
Educators  Search this
Education  Search this
Religion  Search this
Segregation  Search this
Race  Search this
Human Rights  Search this
Civil rights  Search this
Women's rights  Search this
Civil rights leaders  Search this
African American authors  Search this
African American women authors  Search this
Authors  Search this
Social history  Search this
Slavery  Search this
Video recordings
Sound recordings
The Dunbar Legacy: Dr. Sterling A. Brown Lecture, Exhibition Records AV03-029, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.
ACMA.03-029, Item ACMA AV003264
See more items in:
Anna J. Cooper: a voice from the South exhibition records
Anna J. Cooper: a voice from the South exhibition records / Series ACMA AV03-029: Anna J. Cooper: a voice from the South audiovisual records
Archival Repository:
Anacostia Community Museum Archives

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