ARL, along with five other library, archives, and history associations, screened Hidden in Full View one day after President Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law after more than 200 failed Congressional attempts over the past century. The film and panel discussion provided a chance for a broad library and archives audience to consider the role of memory institutions in documenting the experience of racial violence. The Chipman ARCH is a demonstration of how scholars and archivists can partner with communities to create documentary evidence to advance healing and justice. By replicating the ARCH model in other states and regions, the US Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Movement sees an opportunity to address what panelists referred to as “archival silences”—arrangement, description, and retention of records from the perspective of the powerful, creating downstream gaps in the historical and cultural record. “For a long time, historically Black colleges and universities were the only institutions collecting Black history,” said Lopez Matthews, archival administrator for the District of Columbia. He reminded the audience of that leadership, and the importance of supporting their continued capacity to collect Black history based on that deep expertise.
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At a March 30 virtual event, Shanie Shields—President of the Chipman Foundation—and Charles L. Chavis, Jr.—Director of the John Mitchell, Jr., Program for History, Justice, and Race and African and African American Studies at George Mason University—announced that the Charles H. Chipman Cultural Center in Salisbury, Maryland, will become the nation’s first Archive for Racial & Cultural Healing (ARCH): The Charles and Jeanette Chipman ARCH. The event was sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the 1890 Land-grant Institutions and Tuskegee University Library Deans/Directors Association, and the Society of American Archivists, in partnership with the Mitchell Program, #breathewithme Revolution, and Humanity United.
While compensatory reparations remain a top priority, institutional and intellectual reparations are an intermediate step that supporters of the commission are pursuing now. We propose a program to directly support and empower a dispersed network of community-specific, historically Black cultural institutions that will stand on their own; together, they will comprise a national Archive for Racial and Cultural Healing (ARCH). In January of 2022, Mayor Jake Day announced the establishment of the Salisbury Truth, Racial Unity, Transformation & Healing (TRUTH) Advisory Committee. Among the most important purposes of the committee is: “to advise the Mayor on forming partnerships with cultural and historic institutions to establish a digital archive for cultural and racial healing that will document and preserve our journey through the racial healing and transformation process.”
The Charles and Jeanette Chipman ARCH in Salisbury, Maryland, will be the first local chapter of the ARCH movement, and it will be the central digital archive supported by Mayor Jake Day and the TRUTH Advisory Committee. It will inform the eventual statewide and nationwide expansion of the ARCH movement. The Chipman ARCH will be a reflection of the people and places—both past and present—that comprise Georgetown and surrounding Black neighborhoods in Salisbury. Chipman Foundation Board Members and the descendant community will have direct and final say in all matters related to the development and distribution of the Chipman ARCH; participation in this project will be empowering, and this work will cultivate a sense of belonging and sanctuary within a community that was nearly destroyed by anti-Blackness. “This is about memory,” said Elaine Westbrooks, March 30 event panelist and vice provost for libraries and university librarian at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “What our society chooses to remember, and what we choose to forget, is critical.”
With assistance from partner organizations, the Chipman ARCH will feature materials belonging to, as well as processed and curated by, the community. These materials will speak to the stories of racial terror in Salisbury and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the thriving Black business districts and cherished Black neighborhoods that once were, and the people and places of the historic Black neighborhoods of Georgetown, Cuba, California, and Jersey. Digital resources will include:
- 3D Model and Digitally Recreated, Interactive Map:
- Georgetown, Cuba, California, and Jersey neighborhoods of Salisbury
- ID Cards: Profiles of Victims, Survivors, and Descendants
- Place as Power: The Homes, Businesses, and Community Spaces of Black Salisbury
- Oral History Interviews: Stories of Tragedy and Triumph
- Timeline Documenting Dispossession and Destruction of Georgetown
- Reading Lists and Curriculum Lesson Plans
The development of the Chipman ARCH will be led by Chipman Board Members and descendant Georgetowners, with support from: the City of Salisbury; the John Mitchell, Jr., Program at George Mason University; Auut Studio; and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The Association of Research Libraries, led by President K. Matthew Dames, also “supports the formation of a US Commission on Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation, and we look forward to partnering to advance the formation of an Archive of Racial and Cultural Healing.”