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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Great Plains Black History Museum manuscript collection

Repository: Great Plains Black History Museum

Collection Description (Extant): The Great Plains Black History Museum of Omaha, Nebraska, manuscript collection consists of historical records dating from 1857-2009. For almost four decades, from 1976-2002, the Curator of the GPBHM amassed the manuscript materials of African Americans in the Great Plains Region (Wyoming, Iowa, South Dakota, Colorado, and especially Nebraska). The content of this large collection represents the history of African Americans West of the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and from Texas to South Dakota and Chicago. During it heyday, the Museum thrived under the care of founder and Director Bertha Calloway. The private non-profit museum opened its doors to the public, offering displays of African American homesteaders, cowboys, soldiers, and African Americans in the sciences and in sports. The collection also contains rare books and sheet music, with holdings in African American literature, cookery, and local politics. The Collection boasts rich cultural holdings including: interviews with elders from the post-Civil War Era, church histories, and Masonic rituals and events acted out in local contexts. The contents of the GPBHM provide historical documentation of African American activities and pursuits representative of a wide array of subjects, disciplines, and periods. Over half of the materials represent African American life in Omaha, Nebraska. Another quarter of the boxes document African American life and history in other Nebraska cities and towns, as well as Africana community life in Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, and Kansas. The Original Curator of the Collection became ill in the final years of the twentieth century, and the GPBHM Board of Directors initiated a number of different strategies to preserve the collection and keep the holdings safe and intact.

In this collection you will find: photographs of Mildred Brown founder of the African American newspaper the Omaha Star; documentation of the life of Nebraska artist Anna Burckhardt; information on Ava Speese and family (African American homesteaders). Other homesteaders whose lives are documented here are John Bridewell, Harriet Green, Ollie Walker, Hester and Charles Meehan, and Myra Kincaid. Contained here are records documenting B. Calloway's Ms. Black Nebraska pageant; and a joint Black Studies Department/GPBHM Oral History Project II. Included here are details on the artistic careers of local musicians from the 1930's -1960s, especially, noteworthy are holdings on Basie Givens' "Basie Bombadiers"; Earl Graves Orchestra [c. 1957], and Dan Des Dunes Band. There is a "Negro" Business Directory for Omaha from 1941, and Women (s) Christian Temperance Union Papers. Here also are documentation of African Americans in early Radio and Television. The collection holds the minutes of meetings held at the integrated YWCA site at Camp Brewster. Other papers document the deep involvement of North Omaha men and women in African American Masonry. Also included are the partial runs of local Black alternative newspapers, and institutional records including the BLAC Papers (Black Liberators for Action on Campus) a student group at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, whose members were active in the Anti-Apartheid Movement of the 1980's. The collection documents the experiences of African American cattlemen on the plains. Materials on the Federation of Colored Women's Clubs are housed here, as is a series on African American voluntary associations. Materials on the De Porres Club provide details regarding African American activism in Omaha, and there is a wealth of information on many aspects of the local Civil Rights Movement. Contained here, as well, is information on African American social clubs.

This collection is arranged in nine subgroups: 1) Local Histories; 2) Black Institutions; 3) Family Papers; 4) Newspapers; 5) Rare Books; 6) Musical Scores; 7) B. Calloway's Research Collection Africana; 8) Photograph Collection; and 9) Artifacts.

Access Copy Note: The collection is temporarily stored at the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln, Nebraska, where it is being conserved and inventoried.

The Nebraska State Historical Society holds the tapes for the Alonzo Smith interviews described in the container list.

Collection URL: External Link

Date(s): 1857-2009

Extent: 125. cu. ft.; 6 cu. ft. photographs

Language: English

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American athletes
African American churches
African American cowboys
African American newspapers
African American press
African American radio broadcasters
African American scientists
African American veterans
African Americans--Civil rights--Nebraska
African Americans--Colorado
African Americans--Iowa
African Americans--Kansas
African Americans--Nebraska
African Americans--South Dakota
African Americans--Wyoming
Civil rights movements--Nebraska
Fraternal organizations
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Urban League
Women--Societies and clubs
Young Women's Christian Association of the U.S.A.




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   September 26, 2018
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