Monday, October 29, 2012

Atlanta Chapter and Members Honored at AAHGS National Conference

 Rhonda Barrow and Melvin Collier, award recipients

Congratulations to Atlanta!  At the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society’s 33rd Annual National Conference in Greensboro, NC on October 6, 2012, Atlanta was honored in three ways!  First, our Atlanta chapter received the 2012 Chapter of the Year Award.  Organized on March 26, 2000, the AAHGS Metro Atlanta Chapter was officially chartered as an AAHGS chapter on September 15, 2000. The organization started with 12 committed members and has grown to nearly 100 members.  The Atlanta chapter has hosted a number of major events in the community, including Ancestry Day at the National Archives in partnership with in 2010.  This was an all-day workshop with key note presenters from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Over 250 people attended.  More recently, in February 2012, the chapter presented an “African American Heritage Program on the Gullah Geechee Culture,” in partnership with the National Archives at Atlanta and the Historical Jonesboro Clayton County, Inc. African American Historic Committee. Over 350 attended.  The AAHGS Metro Atlanta Chapter has not only become the “go to” organization for African-American historical and genealogical information, but the organization and its members have been sought out to partner in programs with the Georgia Genealogical Society, the Cobb County Genealogical Society, and the National Archives.

Secondly, two Atlanta chapter members were honored in Greensboro. Our publicity chairperson, Rhonda Barrow, received the AAHGS Certificate of Appreciation Award.  This award is presented to an individual or team who has made a contribution to the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society or its principles and who deserves a token of thanks.  Barrow, who has been a very active member for 10 years, has been one of the key agents that have contributed to the Atlanta chapter’s tremendous growth, an increase in membership by three folds, and the chapter’s ever increasing high quality programming.  She is a “Friend of” and long-time volunteer with the prestigious Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta, which maintains the holdings of many African-American historical resources.  One of Barrow’s most significant services to the community and to African-American history has been her work with the Girl Scouts.  A Girl Scouts leader for 17 years, Barrow singularly commenced on a mission to search out and document the African-American Girl Scout history in the Greater Atlanta area.  She went on a relentless search, and among her amazing discoveries, Barrow found original photos and artifacts that pertained to the original 1944 Atlanta area African American Girl Scout Troop. She also found three members of the original Atlanta troop.   Barrow then put together an exhibit at the Regional Headquarters called “The Untold Story of Atlanta’s First African American Girl Scout Troop”.  This exhibit received rave reviews from the community and from Girl Scout officials.  Without her efforts, this significant African-American history would have gone unheralded during the 100th year celebration of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Thirdly, our vice president, Melvin J. Collier, received the Marsha M. Greenlee AAHGS History Award. This award is presented to a person or group for outstanding and measurable achievements in the field of African-American history (e.g., history, anthropology, etc.) based on the publication of a book, dissertation, or other manuscript produced by the recipient.  Collier has a Master of Arts degree in African-American Studies, and he currently works at the Archives Research Center of the Robert W. Woodruff Library – Atlanta University Center, where he has worked with other archivists on the notable and extensive Morehouse College Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Collection.  He is the author of two books, Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery and 150 Years Later: Broken Ties Mended.  His books serve as great models to assist those who want to trace their African-American family histories.  Collier’s books have also been used by genealogical and historical scholars as great reference sources for genealogical methodologies.  Collier is nationally recognized for his expertise in African-American genealogy and has conducted numerous workshops and presentations around the nation on genealogical and historical subjects.  He also appeared as one of the expert genealogists on the NBC program, Who Do You Think You Are. 

Congratulations to the Atlanta Chapter and to Rhonda Barrow and Melvin J. Collier!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Researcher Forum at the National Archives at Atlanta

 Researcher Forum at the National Archives at Atlanta
Friday, October 26, 2012
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

National Archives at Atlanta
5780 Jonesboro Road
Morrow, GA 30260
770 968-2100

Effective October 1, 2012, the National Archives at Atlanta changed their hours of operation.  Instead of opening each Saturday, NARA-Atlanta is only open on the 3rd Saturday of each month.  The new hours are Monday – Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM and the 3rd Saturday of each month, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. They are closed on holidays.  This change was made without any input from the patrons/researchers.  This change in Saturday hours will have a critical impact on our meetings, as well as public programs and research needs.

You are invited to attend a Research Forum at the National Archives to voice your concerns and learn of updates to services for researchers.  This forum will be hosted by Robert Richards, Director of Archival Operations, Atlanta and Bill Mayer, Executive for Research Services, NARA - Washington, D.C., and other staff.

The forum highlights include:

(1)  Meeting Bill Mayer and other NARA staff,
(2)  Finding out news and updates about services for researchers,
(3)  Q & A session where patrons/researchers can tell NARA-ATL what their needs are.

Please attend this important forum if you are concerned about the change of hours, research services, and public programs. Your voice counts!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

12th Anniversary Meeting & Georgia Archives Update

Michael Thurmond delivers powerful lecture.

AAHGS – Metro Atlanta chapter resumed regular monthly meetings today, Saturday, September 22, 2012. The meeting was held at the National Archives at Atlanta in Morrow, GA.

This meeting commemorated the 12th anniversary of our chapter, and we were honored to have as our guest speaker Michael Thurmond, the former Georgia Labor Commissioner.

Mr. Thurmond engaged the audience with his extensive knowledge and quick-witted humor as he spoke on the topic: "African Americans in the Civil War: A Birth of Freedom". Afterwards, Mr. Thurmond signed copies of his latest book, Freedom: Georgia's Antislavery Heritage, 1733-1865.

It was a great meeting. If you were unable to attend, you missed an excellent lecture and lesson on Georgia history and the Civil War.

 Michael Thurmond engages the audience.

Submitted by Sandra Taliaferro / Pictures by Melvin J. Collier
 Update on the Georgia Archives

Georgia Archives, Morrow, GA

At our 12th anniversary meeting on Saturday, September 22, Elizabeth Olson from the Georgia Genealogical Society gave us an update on the status of the proposed closing of the Georgia Archives.  On Thursday, September 13, the state of Georgia heard some very disheartening news.  Due to budget cuts, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp decided to close the Georgia Archives to public access, making it the only state with a closed state archives.  This drastic move is scheduled to go into effect on November 1.  To add, seven of the ten remaining full-time employees will be let go, also effective Nov. 1. This was a major blow to an already skeletal staff due to past budget cuts.  The remaining three employees will be the director, the assistant director/archivist, and the facility manager. 

At the Archives Month Proclamation ceremony this past Wednesday at the state capitol, Gov. Nathan Deal said to a group of nearly 100 archivists, historians, genealogists, educators, etc., "I will keep the Archives open." As of today, the Georgia Archives is still slated to be closed to the public effective Nov. 1. From what we understand, the governor has placed full blame on the Secretary of State Brian Kemp and has stated that he has no jurisdiction over Kemp's decision. There has not been anything in writing stating that the state of Georgia will keep the Georgia Archives open to public access.
Many feel that even when/if public access is eliminated and visitation is by appointment only, three employees will not be able to sufficiently handle appointments and maintain the other Archives duties that are mandated by law. Therefore, the fight continues!

Here are three ways you can help:

(2)   Join the Facebook group, Georgians Against Closing State Archives:

(3)   Georgians, contact your local legislator. See

Submitted by Melvin J. Collier

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Event Featuring First Lady Michelle Obama's Ancestors


June 5, 2012

National Archives at Atlanta Welcomes Author of Book Tracing Story of First Lady Michelle Obama's Ancestors

The National Archives at Atlanta, in partnership with Clayton County, is proud to welcome Rachel L. Swarns for a program on her new book American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama, on June 26, 2012, at 6:30 p.m.

Beginning in the 1800s, the book tells the captivating story of Michelle Obama's ancestors and their five-generation journey from slavery to the most prominent position in our nation.  First Lady Obama's great-great-great grandmother was a slave on a farm in what is now Clayton County, Georgia.  Her name was Melvinia Shields, who in her early years lived as a slave with a white family.  As a teenage girl, she ultimately give birth to mixed race children, the first born of which was to become Mrs. Obama's great, great grandfather, Dolphus Shields.

The program begins at 6:30 with an author discussion followed by a book signing.  Please see the attached flyer for more details.  Please note that there is no cost to attend the event; however each attendee must register at:

Those who register will receive a ticket from Clayton County.  The ticket must be presented at the door for admittance to the program.

Posted by Melvin J. Collier