Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mrs. Dorothy Lee Bolden, Founder and President of The National Domestic Worker's of America, Inc.

The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements have brought to the forefront many social issues not prevalent in mainstream media. These movements garnered national and international support via social media. However, there have been strong voices that have been working and organizing on behalf of the underrepresented citizens for many years.

Dorothy Lee Bolden was the founder and president of the National Domestic Worker's Union of America. Mrs. Bolden started as a Domestic Worker at the tender age of nine and continued working in the trade for forty-one years. She was involved in the civil rights movement with her then neighbor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He encouraged her in community organizing against the Atlanta School Board decision to condemn a neighborhood school. She used the experience as a catalyst to organize her colleagues. Mrs. Bolden became a sounding board for many women and their experiences working for families residing in the exclusive areas of Atlanta. Domestic workers endured 13-hour days with low pay from $ 3.50 to $5.00 in 1960. In 1968 Dorothy Bolden started discussions with other unions about a national union for maids.

Organization and education were critical for community organizing. Maids were negotiating with private families and not corporations. With the assistance of the Urban League, Atlanta radio station WAOK and wider community support, these women were able to improve their working conditions. Dorothy Bolden exclaimed, “We aren’t Aunt Jemima women, and I am sure to God don’t want people to think we are. We are politically strong and independent.” Her organizing efforts gained the attention of the Nixon Administration and she was later appointed to an advisory committee on social services and welfare. Mrs. Bolden spent her time advocating for training and education for domestic workers, while tirelessly supporting community efforts for affordable city services and housing.

Dorothy Lee Bolden eventually organized 10 cities and had 13,000 women benefiting from job referrals and organizing. An Atlanta icon, Mrs. Bolden stated “These women are still struggling. These women have built this country with the sweat of their brow. Their parents worked in the fields. You look over your shoulder and wonder if the field is still there.” Dorothy Lee Bolden started a grassroots movement in the South that went national. Her story might offer some insight for social and political movements on the fine skills of organizing and negotiation.

AARL houses and makes available the Dorothy Lee Bolden Papers
Posted by Ayannah Zafir, Archives Library Associate

Friday, November 11, 2011

Forthcoming children's book collection to pave new path toward discovery

Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Ashley Bryan once said:

 “There are so many ways in which we learn about life and self. Each day opens paths to this exploration. For many of us, books play a major role in that adventure.”

Blazing the trail of self-exploration for children, Bryan has published and illustrated a number of children’s books through the years. With generous donations of some of Bryan’s original artwork, the Auburn Avenue Research Library (AARL) established the Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection. This collection contains sensitive images of children of African descent by national and international children’s picture book illustrators.

Illustration from Ashley Bryan's Walk Together Children, March 1981

In recent years, the AARL Ashley Bryan Literary Festival partnered with the National Black Arts Festival. During this three-day festival organizers engage children, parents, and educators in the Africana experience, in addition to honoring the work of other children’s book illustrators with the same mission. Previous recipients of the Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Award are Bryan Collier and Colin Bootman. Their work has also been included in the children’s picture book art collection. Among Bootman, Bryan, and Collier, Jonathan Green, an illustrator and advocate of artistic literacy, is also featured.

The Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection highlights nearly 60 illustrations from about 20 different works and not only includes autographed published versions, but also drafts and sketches that document a good portion of the artistic process. Artist Bryan Collier has lively illustrations detailing the boxing career and Islamic journey of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. Whether in the ring or prayer position, Ali comes to life and pops off the pages of Collier’s work. “Walk Together Children,” is a fascinating Ashley Bryan piece that features illustrated scores and lyrics of black spirituals. It is a wonderful way to expose children to the historical significance of how black slaves in America gained strength and interpreted coded messages from these songs.

Is there anybody here? by Ashley Bryan

In the spirit of staying true to Bryan’s quote and the AARL mission of being a resource for educators and the community at large, we hope the collection inspires and influences educators to build picture book art collections within their own organizations/schools and serve as a guide in detailing how artists address Africana-related issues through images. This collection could also be used in research to gauge the impact and effectiveness of communicating ideas to children through reflective illustration.

The Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection is currently being processed and will be accessible via online descriptive inventory.  Also the AARL’s joint Children’s Literature Conference with the University of Georgia will be a great way to experience an extension of the illustrative work in the picture book collection. It can also be an insightful prelude to the annual Ashley Bryan Literary Festival.

 Posted by Yewande Addie, AARL Intern