Celebrating Black History Month at the VCU Libraries
Reviewed by Kevin Farley, Collection Librarian for the Humanities
Richmond, Virginia, by local author Elvatrice Parker Belsches (part of the Black America Series from Arcadia Publishing), is profusely illustrated with historic photographs of people and places associated with the African-American experience. Belsches provides a comprehensive survey of this crucial, and often overlooked, aspect of Richmond history. Ranging from contributions to business, education, entertainment, medicine, politics, and religion, Belsches charts the increasing growth of influence of Richmond's black citizens on the life of the city. Essay-length captions accompany rare photographs, establishing a timeline of pivotal moments that define the importance of these contributions to Richmond. The chapter on the role of blacks in the medical field includes biographies of Dr. Sara G. Jones -- "one of the first African Americans to pass the medical boards in Virginia" in 1893 -- and Dr. John Howlette O.D., D.O.S. -- "a pioneering optometrist in Richmond who practiced for over 50 years within the historic Jackson Ward district." Belsches also emphasizes the role of organizations and societies that served as professional supports for those who sought to improve the life of black Richmonders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although seldom remembered now, the contributions of the individuals Belsches commemorates should never be forgotten.
VCU Libraries presents a talk by Elvatrice Parker Belsches today, from 2-3:30 at Tompkins-McCaw Library, in the Distance Education Room, 2-010, with a reception and book-signing to follow in the Special Collections Reading Room at Tompkins-McCaw Library. Belsches will present "Above and Beyond: A Celebration of the Leonard Graduates," on her work documenting the contributions of graduates of the Leonard Medical School graduates of Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina to Richmond in the early 20th century. For further information and details, please visit the VCU Libraries Black History Month website, at http://www.library.vcu.edu/bhm/.