MCL Blogs

laptopAt your Multnomah County Libraries, you can find a wide array of free computer classes - from computer labs where you can get extra assistance to e-book and e-reader classes to office productivity skills, like spreadsheets and word processing.  Here are some other great options:

  • Free Geek - Free Geek offers a range of educational opportunities including hands-on experiences in their Build and Adoption Programs as well as a wide variety of desk-based learning in their classroom.
  • Portland Community College (PCC) - offers a wide variety of computer and IT courses, tailored to fit your situation - find out more about their computer education programs
  • Mt Hood Community College (MHCC) - for East County residents, MHCC offers many in-person and online computer classes through their Community Education program
  • Portland Parks & Recreation - offers basic computer and Internet classes for senior

Three dozen Head Start preschoolers loudly proclaim in unison, “1-2-3, we are awesome!”Markham Head Start self portraits

The refrain was a fitting recognition of the hard work of these young artists, who contributed Andy Warhol-style self portraits to an art show at Capitol Hill Library in Southwest Portland. On May 5 the children gathered with families, teachers and supporters to show off their colorful art.

“When I first saw these self portraits, I was blown away,” said Neighborhood House Executive Director Rick Nitti. “They create a reflection of self and an expression of self esteem. This partnership with the library is fantastic.”

Markham Head Start self portraitsThe event was the brainchild of teachers at Neighborhood House’s Markham Head Start Classroom in partnership with Capitol Hill Library staff to engage children and families with the library as preparations for summer begin.

After proudly showcasing their work, the students joined Capitol Hill’s youth librarian, Natasha Forrester, for an interactive reading of Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh and sang a song about friendship with lyrics in English, Spanish, Somali and Swahili.

Each month, library staff (including Natasha or Suad Mohamed, a Somali-speaking library assistant) visit Markham Head Start classrooms to delight children with stories, songs and crafts. It’s part of Multnomah County Library’s mission to support and serve educators, children and families beyond the walls of the library. Many of the Head Start program’s students are Somali immigrants, and Capitol Hill Library is the first in Multnomah County to feature a Somali-speaking staff member. Suad leads the Somali Family Time program at Capitol Hill and she also selects books in Somali for Central, Midland and Rockwood libraries.

The partnership, one of many between the library and nonprofit agencies across Multnomah County, serves multiple purposes. It helps new immigrants become familiar with the services of the library in their native language and become comfortable in a setting that can help contribute to their success throughout their education and later in life.

“This is special,” said Head Start Program Director Nancy Perin. “It’s such a diverse, multicultural group and bringing them all together at the library, it’s special.”
The exhibition is expected to last through May 15.Markham Head Start self portraits

Photograph of donation boxes, by Flickr user Joe Schueller.Is simplifying and spring cleaning in full swing at your house? Have you accumulated quite a collection of unnecessary belongings that need to go? In my house the answer to both is, yes! Luckily there are many resources to help you find where to donate or recycle these items.

Oregon Metro is my go to site for information on where to donate, recycle, or as a last resort dispose of as garbage. They have a database where you enter what you want to get rid of and it finds places to either donate, recycle, or dispose of it. There is also information on where to bring hazardous wastes, neighborhood collection programs, and tips on reducing waste in the first place.

211 Info is a clearinghouse of resources. Simply put in your zip code and "donation" in the search bar and it brings up a list of organizations that accept items ranging from glasses to camping gear. If you like more of a list format this is the website for you.

If you have questions about recycling check out Earth911. They have a recycling guide as well as a search feature to find local places to recycle. 

What about that growing collection of old electronics? Free Geek accepts donations of computers, phones, and other electronics. If able to be reused your device will be refurbished and donated back to the community, how cool is that! If it can't be reused your device can be recycled through Oregon E-Cycles. If you aren't able to make it to Free Geek, Oregon E-Cycles has many other collection sites

If you aren't able to go to donation sites the good news is there organizations that can come to you. The Vietnam Veterans of America and The Arc of Multnomah-Clackamas both offer pick up services.

Finally here are my my personal favorites:

  • Have you noticed those green boxes popping up all around Portland? They are part of the Gaia Movement USA. They are an easy way to recycle your clothes and shoes. Use their map to find a drop off box nearest you. 
  • SCRAP accepts a wide range of art and office supplies. Just be careful not to leave with more than you donated!
  • The Rebuilding Center accepts building supplies and it's a fun place to wander around for hours. They also offer a pick up service.

What library blog would be complete without mentioning that the Friends of the Multnomah County Library can accept your book and DVD donations? If you have a small donation your local library will be happy to accept it.


Do you have questions about recycling, donating your unwanted posessions to local organizations, or anything else?  Librarians love questions, so please call, email, or text us -- or just ask the librarian on duty the next time you're at the library in person.  We'd be happy to help you get more information, or even just help you get your curiosity satisifed.


 

heading from an early page of the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths

Have you ever had trouble finding an obituary for a Portland ancestor who died around the turn of the last century?  You’re not alone!

In the 19th century and even in the early 20th, newspapers often put obituaries in with the regular news, making them hard to find.  This was also before it was common for Portland newspapers to include a "Daily city statistics" section listing the names of people who had died in the city recently.  So it’s no wonder that it can be a big challenge to find Portland obituaries from before about 1910.  

But I have good news for you: if your ancestor was a Portlander, and if they died within city limits 1881-1917, their death was probably recorded in the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths.

A page from the Ledger Index, showing December 1913 deaths.  Click for a bigger version.

What is the Ledger Index?

The Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is a long list of people who died in the city of Portland 1881-1917.  It’s quite a bit more robust than most modern death indexes -- in addition to the name and death date of each person included, it includes details like the address or name of the place where the person died, their cause of death, and (in some years) the name of the cemetery where they were buried.  This additional information makes the Ledger Index a pretty decent substitute for obituaries.  

Here’s what the Ledger Index actually looks like.  The library has a microfilmed copy, which is why it’s white text on a black background.

Finding your ancestor

The Ledger Index is arranged by date of death -- because of this, it’s sometimes referred to as the “Chronologic Index.”  If you know the date your ancestor died, simply go to that date and hopefully you’ll find them!

If you don’t know your ancestor’s date of death, try looking for their name in the Oregon State Archives’ Oregon Historical Records Index.  This index includes most records from the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths.  If your ancestor is listed, their date of death should lead you to the correct page of the Ledger Index.

Detail of a January 1882 Ledger Index page showing racial classification.  Click for a bigger version.

Racial classification in the Ledger Index

There are some challenges to using the Ledger Index.  The information in the Index is a primary source, created a full century ago, and it is a government record reflecting the mainstream standards and ideas of its time.  There is no context or commentary to interpret the index for you -- you will have to provide your own analysis.  

One thing these records show us is the unexamined racism of the past.  The Ledger Index states the race of each person listed, often using terms that are decidedly not used in polite speech today: “Chinese,” “Colored,” “Half-Breed,” “Mulatto,” “White,” and possibly others.  Some of these terms appear on detail from January 1882 at left.  In later years, single-letter abbreviations are used.  There is no key showing what the abbreviations meant, but I’ve guessed that “C” stands for “colored” (meaning Black or African-American); “W” for “white;” and “Y” for “yellow” (meaning Asian or Asian-American).   

Detail of a January 1882 Ledger Index page showing causes of death.  Click for a bigger version.

Causes of death in the Ledger Index

This detail from a January 1882 Ledger Index page shows some familiar-sounding causes of death: “still born,” "consumption," “scarlet fever.”  But read if you read through a few pages worth of deaths, you'll also find unexpected causes like “softening of spinal marrow.”  If you find your ancestor’s death has officially been recorded due to something that doesn’t sound like it would kill a person, be prepared to draw gentle, careful conclusions.  And remember, you may need to do some research to discover what a cause-of-death term meant in the past. 

Portland deaths only

Another thing to beware of when using the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths is that it only includes people who died within the city limits of Portland.  And the city was quite a bit smaller 100 years ago than it is now! 

Map of historical annexations to the City of Portland (pdf, from Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability)Fortunately, the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability has a very helpful map showing historical annexations to the city of Portland (pdf), which you can look at to get a sense for where city limits were during your ancestor’s lifetime.  

Of course, people are mobile.  The Ledger Index lists people who died in Portland, not people who lived there.  Your ancestor who lived in Linnton or East Portland or St. Johns could well have died within Portland city limits, particularly if they died in an accident or in a hospital.

Using the Ledger Index, and getting help with it

You can consult the Ledger Index to City of Portland Deaths at Central Library.  Ask at any reference desk, and the librarian on duty will help you get the volumes you need.  To read it, you’ll need to use one of Central Library’s microfilm machines -- read more about that in my colleague Ross B.’s post Microfilm at the library.

But you don’t have to visit the library to tap the riches of this great resource --  librarians are always happy to help.  Just get in touch with us by phone or email via Ask the Librarian, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions or help you plan your research. 

In the meantime, happy researching!

 


Do you want to know more about finding other local obituaries?  Take a look at my post Where is that Oregon obituary? 

Or if you'd like to step it back a bit and learn more about family history research with obituaries, my colleague Kate S. walks you through some of the basics in her post on Obituaries 101.


 

"Something just clicked."

by Sarah Binns

From her youth in Minnesota, Kathy Parkin distinctly remembers the stories that molded her as a lifelong reader: “My favorite childhood books were Beverly Cleary's. Even now I can see myself in the elementary school library, picking up her books. They sparked my love of reading.” Kathy couldn't know that several decades later she'd start post-retirement life in the same city that Oregon-born Cleary once called home: our beloved Portland.

In 2011, after 30 years as a lab technician in Minnesota, Kathy decided she wanted a change. That's when she saw an AARP magazine article describing Portland, Oregon, as a perfect place to retire. “Something just clicked,” she said, when she read about the city. “The very first thing I did when I moved here was get a library card—even before I got a driver's license!” In May 2012, Kathy began her Multnomah County Library volunteer work helping with weeding, traveling to different neighborhood libraries to ferret out damaged, dilapidated and outdated books. “I got around and saw more of Portland,” she explains. “And I love Portland.”

Kathy harnessed this love of Portland to write the short story “Summer of Love,” which is featured in the 2013 book Our Portland Story Volume 2, a compilation of stories about the city. Kathy has also explored calligraphy and collage and has worked in many other volunteer positions, with Store to Door, a grocery shopping service for seniors and people with disabilities, and Friendly House, where Kathy worked with older adults.

In addition to her love of Portland, Kathy is one of those MCL volunteers who has always loved libraries. Between working and raising a family she volunteered for libraries in her native Minnesota. “At one point I worked at one library system and volunteered at another. That's right,” she adds, “I worked in a library and they paid me!” Let the record show that Kathy has lived the dream of many an MCL volunteer, including this one. This doesn't mean she'll stop volunteering for MCL, though: “I'll keep on until I can't,” she says with a smile.


A Few Facts About Kathy

Home library: Central Library for the books but she volunteers at the Northwest Library. “I really like working at the smaller libraries.”

Currently reading: “I like chick lit and I just finished Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon.” Also reading The Way of the Woods, by Linda Underhill. 

Most influential book: Jane Eyre. “I like books with strong female characters. I always come back to Jane Eyre.”

A book that made you laugh or cry: Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland made me both laugh and cry; a good book about how life is just that so often, sometimes a comedy and sometimes a tragedy.”

Favorite book from childhood: Beverly Cleary's books. “It's also nice to know she has an Oregon connection.” (Cleary's birthday is April 12th and is celebrated by publisher Harper Collins as Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) Day.)

E-reader or paper? Paper

Favorite place to read: "In my recliner."

Thanks for reading the MCL Volunteer Spotlight. Stay tuned for our next edition coming soon! See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Happy National Poetry Month! Probably because "April is the cruellest month, breeding / Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing / Memory and desire, stirring / Dull roots with spring rain" we celebrate poetry in April. There are many ways to do this, but one of my favorite ways to have a poetry experience recently is to listen to readings and discussions on PennSound, a project of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing at University of Pennsylvania. This online resource is an archive of both new and historical recordings, an excellent podcast, and many other things as well. It's pretty amazing to be able to listen to a recent reading by one of my favorite poets, or listen to scholars and poets discussing a close reading of a poem, all while I'm doing the dishes or sweeping the floor at the end of the day. Just take a look at PennSound's authors page, and scan this enormous list for a poet you'd like to hear.

The library also has quite a few collections of poetry that you can listen to, either in audiobook CD form or downloadable or streaming audio! I recently discovered the Voice of the Poet series of audiobooks on CD, featuring poets reading their work; it includes a number of great American 20th century poets.

Happy listening!

WOWVolunteer Maureen Flynn

by Donna Childs

Most people have heard of Meals on Wheels, for whom volunteers deliver food to people who are homebound, but few know that Multnomah County Library has a program called Words on Wheels, through which volunteers deliver books, food for the mind and soul. One of those volunteers is Maureen Flynn, who brings library materials to two women who can’t get to a library.

Her “fantastic” women live in the same assisted living facility, but have different needs and ways of choosing books. One of them talks with Maureen about the kinds of books she likes—and those she does not—but seldom requests specific titles. Knowing her tastes, Maureen reads reviews and scans library shelves for titles she might like. The other woman does her own research and often gives Maureen lists of specific books she wants to read.  In both cases, Maureen talks with the women about the books and about their own interests and histories, and picks up and returns books to the Hollywood library for them.

Maureen goes to the assisted living facility almost weekly to be sure each woman has a good supply of books. She enjoys getting to know these women and has learned a lot from them.  In return, she is able to enhance their library experience, to pass on what she has learned about using the library.  

In addition to Words on Wheels, Maureen also volunteers at the Hollywood Library. She began four years ago, as an expired holds clerk, pulling and processing books people had requested, but did not ever pick up. She found it a great way to learn about good books and laughed that her pants pockets were usually full of scraps of paper with book titles. Now, she pulls holds on Mondays before the library opens, finding books, CDs and DVDs that patrons have requested. That way, she can search shelves without intruding on other patrons’ browsing.

An inveterate helper, Maureen also volunteers at her church, preferring behind the scenes tasks, such as sacristy and altar guild work.  Her helping has paid off in other ways: a former volunteer job at Providence Medical Center led her to a position there until she retired and began volunteering with the library.


A Few Facts About Maureen

Home library: Hollywood

Currently reading: Maya Lin’s "Boundaries"

Most influential book: Lately, it is "Mycelium Running" by Paul Stamets.

A book that made you laugh or cry: All the PG Wodehouse books

Favorite reading guilty pleasure: Murder mysteries

E-reader or paper? Paper, because it is tactile - it’s a life-long preference.

Favorite place to read: In summer, outside and in winter, indoors by a window

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

Dynamic Design Duo

#BlackWilliamsPDX

February 27, 2015

Culturally Creative lunch boxes and water bottles

Photo Credit: http://shop.soapboxtheory.com/

Source:  Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis

Kayin Talton and Cleo Davis are a husband and wife designing force. If you can think of it, they can create it! Recently named curators of the Williams Art Project, their talent and ingenuity will soon be displayed for all to see and enjoy.  When they aren’t creating for the Williams Art Project, you can find them at 3940-3944 N Williams Ave. for all of your designing needs. Or, you can find them online where they specialize in being “culturally creative.” In their own words, “As part of the Honoring the African American History of N Williams Art Project, we are combining stories, memories, and locations to create what is essentially a walk through mid-century life in Portland’s largest Black community. Follow us on twitter @blkwilliamspdx for updates on the project, and share your stories using #blackwilliamspdx.”  Be sure to join in!

Often we need to contact government officials or agencies but knowing where to start can be daunting. Here is a quick list of useful contact numbers and websites to help you reach who you need in government:

Portland, Oregon City Hall with the Portland Building in the backgroundLocal Government

Mutnomah County is, of course, more than just Portland. The following cities in the county have websites and general information phone numbers where you can connect to agencies and officials specific to those communities:

The League of Woman Voters of Portland provides a handy Directory of Elected Officials of local, state, and federal elected officials for the entire Multnomah County including local school districts.

 

State Government

There is no general information line for the state of Oregon. You can visit each agency’s website for their individual contact information or you can look in the state agency directory.

Looking for more information about Oregon government?  Try the Oregon Blue Book.   

 

President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress, 2009Federal Government

USA.gov is the place to start online when looking for any information related to the federal government. Among other things, it includes links to find services, agencies and a telephone and email directory.

 In print you can take a look at the Federal staff directory for an extensive list of who’s who in the Federal government.

What about states other than Oregon? Caroll’s Publishing Company prints an excellent set of contact information guides for the Federal government as well as nationwide CountyMunicipal, and State governments. 

As always, Multnomah County Library staff is happy to help you find the information you’re looking for.  If you have any questions about this topic or anything else please let us know!

D’wayne Edwards

 

Pensole Founder D'wayne Edwards Photo: bmeccommunity

When he's 17, he crushes the competition in a Reebok design competition. While attending college, he secures a job with L.A. Gear, an old-school footwear company. Every day he submits shoe drawings and a suggestion to hire him as a shoe designer. After submitting a total of 180 sketches, he’s offered a job as the youngest footwear designer in the industry at that time. Eventually, his hard work and determination land him a job at Nike as design director for brand Jordan. His designs sell more than $1 billion, he owns over 30 patents and designs shoes for some of the world’s top athletes, woosh! He decides to leave Nike and use his own money to start Pensole, a shoe design academy. And he’s right here in Portland!

Further Exploration: http://www.pensole.com/dwayne-edwards/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Footwear Design by Choklat, Aki

Introduction: This, the final week of Black History Month, we focus on NOW!  The past several weeks featured African Americans, both dead and alive, who made significant contributions to American culture. Their ingenuity, creativity and dedication inform and influence how we live, NOW! The same inventiveness, originality and artistry continues today, as we will see in the lives of this week's features. And you don't have to go very far to find most of them. History is NOW! We live, NOW! We end this month's journey through Black history with a focus on NOW! Enjoy and engage.

Clarke Flowers

 

Portland Model Clarke Flowers Photo:

She’s beautiful and taking the fashion world by storm. Clarke Flowers proves you can pursue your dream while obtaining a college degree. Here’s the kicker: She didn’t start modeling until she was 18 years old! As winner of the 2014 Portland Fashion and Style award for Best Female Model, Flowers is versatile. She’s done editorial, glamour, lifestyle, swimwear, promotional and fashion, but her favorite is owning the runway. And good news: She’s right here in Portland. Although there are rumors of her relocating to Los Angeles. Where ever she goes, Portland has the distinguished honor of claiming her as our own.

Further Exploration: www.optionmodelandmedia.com

Available at Multnomah County Library: The Fashion Industry by Roman Espejo

 

Ben Arogundade

hoto of Ben Arogundade - Photo from www\.benarogundade\.com

We wrap up this week’s fashion theme with a book recommendation, author Ben Arogundade’s Black Beauty. As stated on Amazon:

“Through over 150 color and black and white photographs and an engaging, informed text, Black Beauty discusses the position of blacks within the beauty hierarchy of the West, as well as the kinds of work available to black models within the past century. Author Ben Arogundade also offers insight to the ways in which certain styles of black beauty have been promoted above others. In considering black icons and celebrities from Marcus Garvey, Josephine Baker, and Muhammad Ali to Billy Dee Williams, Grace Jones and Lauryn Hill, Black Beauty reveals the many differing images of those who have embodied black beauty in our culture. Portraits by Herb Ritts, Albert Watson, Richard Avedon, and other eminent photographers are included in this stunning compilation.”

Further Exploration:  http://www.arogundade.com/ben-arogundade-biography-bio-author-and-e-book-publisher-arogundade-books.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Black Beauty by Arogundade, Ben

 

Laquan Smith

Laquan Smith Photo: VibeVixen

 

What happens when you’re turned down by two of the top design schools in the country and you have no contacts or experience? Ask Laquan Smith. His grandmother gave him a sewing machine and taught him how to sew at the age of 13. This and ambition were all he needed to turn his dream and ideas into fashion history!

Anne Lowe, Willi Smith and so many, many others may have lit the match, but Laquan Smith is taking the torch and running. He is the new face of contemporary fashion. You may not know Laquan, but no doubt you’ve seen his work. His designs are devoured by today’s pop culture icons: Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Raven Symone, Alicia Keys, Tyra Banks and more. He even designs for the Joffrey Ballet! Vogue Editor-at-Large Andre Leon Talley took Smith under his wings and taught him to fly in the often fickle world of fashion. Smith uses unconventional materials like PVC and scuba material to create breathtaking works of art, we mean ... clothes. Laquan isn’t the only fresh face in fashion; check out David Tlale.

Further Exploration: http://www.laquansmith.com  and http://www.bet.com/video/b-real/2014/style/laquan-smith-spring-summer-2015.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: A.L.T. A Memoir by Talley, Andre’ Leon

Training Is Her True CallingVolunteer Andrea Dobson

by Sarah Binns

In a world of constant technology changes and a maze of digital devices, we've all been baffled: Why did my photos disappear? Do I need the latest software update? But really, where are my photos?! For the past ten years Multnomah County Library volunteer Andrea Dobson has heard these kinds of questions on a daily basis in her role as a technology trainer; luckily, she always has the answers.

Based at downtown's Central Library (“My favorite place in the universe,” she says), Andrea teaches technology classes ranging from iPad lessons to resumé workshops, all for free. She also volunteers on Sundays at a new walk-in tech support booth in the Central Library lobby. “There's nothing that people have come in with that we haven't been able to help,” she says. That said, “A lot of [questions] that people have, I'm not familiar with either, but I Google it and we figure it out.” Constantly learning on the job is a perk of Andrea's position.

Teaching others has long been a part of her life. Prior to her volunteer job at the library, Andrea worked as a TriMet bus mechanic for 20 years before moving to its training department, “which was my true calling,” she says. Tri-Met computerized quickly, which led Andrea to learn desktop publishing and other computer skills. Always a book lover, she pursued library volunteering once she retired; ten years ago, she began by staffing computer labs. Andrea sees technology as a critical, though often overlooked, library service: “I think what the library is doing in the technology area is so important. It’s really impossible these days to get a job or really participate in our society in a lot of meaningful ways if you don’t have access to the Internet.”

Andrea also volunteers to support military families through the Red Cross and travels the world over: she's been on 15 adventures, including trips to Turkey, Spain and Iceland. Wherever she goes, though, she knows she'll return to her Central Library spot: “It's one of those places where you feel like nothing bad could ever happen.”  


A Few Facts About Andrea

Home library: Lives halfway between Hollywood and Central, but spends most of her time at Central: “Downtown feels like my neighborhood.”
Currently reading: “I'm always reading three or four things, including a nonfiction book. Right now I'm reading America's Bitter Pill, about how the Affordable Care Act got created.”
Favorite book from childhood: “I read a lot of books later, after high school—Dickens was like that, I read everything by him when I was 30 and I was mad for not paying attention when I was in school.”
A book that made you laugh or cry: “I really loved Kurt Vonnegut and Tom Robbins—his books made me laugh a lot.”
Favorite browsing section of the library: Travel section, history and biography
E-reader or paper? Paper, but an iPad for traveling: “It's nice to get on an airplane without 50 pounds of books on my back.”
Favorite place to read: In bed at night

See last month's Volunteer Spotlight.

 

Willi Smith

Willi Smith Photo: Chron

 

He was hailed as one of the most successful men in the fashion industry. It was the late 1970s to the mid-1980s — if you weren’t wearing Williwear, why get dressed, DAHLING? Willi Smith took the fashion world by storm. He believed designing should be fun and unconventional. He’s known for the signature highwaist wrap pants. He was edgy and youthful. He even designed Mary Jane’s dress in the popular comic book Spiderman! Smith designed for men and women. He created innovative clothing that people could afford. Smith was born in Philadelphia and attended the Philadelphia College of Art. He later received two scholarships to attend Parsons. He dropped out at 19 to do his own thing! His fashion house was worth 25million, in the 80s! ”I don’t design clothes for the Queen," he once said, "but for the people who wave at her as she goes by.”

Further Exploration: http://www.complex.com/style/2013/02/the-25-greatest-black-fashion-designers/

Available at Multnomah County Library: Fabric of Dreams, Designing My Own Success by Hankins, Anthony Mark

 

 

Kermit Oliver

Kermit Oliver

This is the type of story books are made of. A quiet Texas postal worker designs for a well known fashion house and until recent years, this was unknown. Now, Kermit Oliver is retired. At one time he was a postal worker minding his business, providing for his family and painting on the side; a form of relaxation, a way to take the load off after a hard day of work. He’s a recluse, almost agoraphobic, actually. As a shy child raised on a ranch near Rufugio, TX and the son of a vaquero, he took comfort in art as a means to communicate without words. His artwork is colorful and calls on nature, children and his experience growing up on a ranch for inspiration. Oliver has a natural need for privacy and aversion to attention. He’s the only American artist to have his paintings printed on the famous and costly Hermes scarves. A former student and teacher of art, Oliver’s work can be found in galleries, museums and on the wall of high art collectors. While Oliver’s work commands five figures, his so called success didn’t come without heartbreak. If you think Oliver’s art is amazing, discover Kehinde Wiley.

Further Exploration:  http://www.npr.org/2012/10/21/163273742/how-a-texas-postman-became-an-herm-s-designer

Available at Multnomah County Library: Wake Up Our Souls. A Celebration of African American Artists by Bolden, Tonya and The History of African American Women Artists by Farington, Lisa E

Donyale Luna

 

Donyal Luna Photo: NYmag

On March 1st, 1966, this image appeared on the cover of British Vogue. Can you guess why her hand covers her face (particularly her nose and lips)? Before Beverly Johnson (yes, Beverly Johnson), Ya-Ya Dacosta, Naomi Campbell, Damaris Lewis, Iman and Tyra Banks; there was Donyale Luna. Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Luna rose to fashion fame at a young age. In 1965, she was sketched on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, dubbed the reincarnated Nefertiti and worked with the top photographers and designers of the time. Luna even had mannequins made in her likeness! She transformed the fashion world and buffed accepted images of beauty. Donyale struggled with her racial identity. Eventually, her life came to a tragic end at a young age. If you think Donyale transformed fashion and images of beauty, wait until you discover, Diandra Forrest

Further Exploration: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/07/first-black-supermodel-whom-history-forgot.html

Available at Multnomah County Library: Commander in Chic by Taylor, Mikki

Introduction: This week we focus on fashion! From big earrings and mixed prints to fabrics and style, the influence of African American culture on fashion is undeniable. Join us this week as we highlight the contributions of 7 African Americans and their impact on fashion.

Anne Lowe

Photo of Anne Lowe and the wedding dress she designed for Jacqueline Kennedy. Source Women's World

 

She designed the most photographed wedding dress in history, Yet, you probably never heard of her. Anne Lowe is the creative genius behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s wedding dress. In fact, she designed dresses for the Duponts, Rockefellers, Roosevelts and many more of New York’s high society. But due to race relations at the time, Lowe did not always receive credit . In fact, it was not uncommon for a white designer to receive credit for her work. In 1946, it was Lowe who designed Olivia de Havilland’s dress for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. However, Sonia Rosenberg received recognition, not Lowe. Despite being New York society’s best kept secret, Lowe did receive due acknowledgement in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Town and Country. Lowe led the way for contemporary designers Tracy Reese, Samantha Black of Project Runway, Azede Jean-Pierre, Laura Smalls and a host of others. If you think Anne Lowe’s story is incredible, discover Elizabeth Keckly.

Further Exploration: http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p=11922

Available at Multnomah County Library: Threads of Time: The Fabric of History, Profiles of African American Dressmakers and Designers 1850-2002 by Reed-Miller, Rosemary

 

Sarah E. Goode

Patent by Sarah E. Goode, by Krhaydon Public Domain, wikipedia

These days, tiny homes are all the rave. But, actually, this trend is a little old. In 1884, Sarah E. Goode (a Chicago furniture store owner) invented a folding cabinet bed to fit in what is known  today as tiny homes. Goode wanted to make it possible for people living in small homes to have furniture that fit in restricted space. When folded, the cabinet bed looks like a desk. Goode is known as the first African American woman to receive a patent, on July 14, 1885. Today, there’s a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education (STEM) school in Chicago named after Sarah E. Goode.

Further Exploration: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/goode-sarah-e-c-1855-1905

Available at Multnomah County Library: Women Designers in the U.S.A 1900-2000. Diversity and Difference by Multiple Contributors

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson Photo: uspto\.gov

There is no way to list all the accomplishments of Lonnie Johnson, here. In short, he has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. He was a systems engineer for the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. He worked on the Strategic Air Command helping to develop the Stealth Bomber program. He’s owner of Johnson Research and Development. In all, he has more than 100 patents. But, his most popular invention is the SUPER SOAKER!That’s right; Lonnie Johnson invented the summer time mega watergun enjoyed by millions all over the world!

Further Exploration:  http://www.biography.com/people/lonnie-g-johnson-17112946

Available at Multnomah County Library:  What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem

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