More than a decade ago, the Arizona Archives Matrix Project showed that Arizona’s Latino, Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, Indigenous, and LGBTQ communities have long been excluded from local archives and memory. These communities currently make up over 42% of the population but are only represented in 0 to 2% of known archival collections.
Overcoming this challenge has been the mission of the award-winning Community-Driven Archives (CDA) Initiative. As part of CDA, Black Collections at the ASU Library seeks to establish and implement programs and services that will engage, educate, and empower Arizona’s Black community to preserve currently silenced narratives and history.
“Black Collections is the first collection dedicated to ‘uncovering’ the Black and African American history of Arizona State University and of the Black and African American communities that surround our campuses,” said Jessica Salow, Assistant Archivist of Black Collections. “It is critical we understand the impact Black and African American people have had on shaping the history of the Southwest.”
Building this infrastructure and relationships with historically marginalized communities takes time and patience, a deep desire and passion to create change, and highly trained students, staff, and professionals.
A recent Black Collections exhibit at Hayden Library is shining a light on the history of Black artists in Arizona. Developed from the J. Eugene Grigsby Jr. collection, “Black History at ASU: The Legacy of Dr. J. Eugene Grigsby Jr.” shares the story of the renowned Black artist, educator and community activist. Grigsby moved to Arizona in 1946 to establish an art department at the segregated Carver High School and when it closed in 1954 he moved to Phoenix Union High School before coming to ASU where he taught for over two decades. He was a leader not only at ASU but in Arizona's Black community, mentoring many Black students and artists.
You can help CDA and Black Collections preserve stories like Dr. Grigsby’s and host events such as the Black Memory and Storytelling Symposium that share history from Arizona’s Black community.
On Sun Devil Giving Day help recover ASU’s Black history to reflect the scholarship and academic accomplishments of the Black community. Your donation will cultivate change in our community!
“It’s important to tell Dr. Grigsby’s story and continue to share more stories about Black and African American experiences at ASU and Arizona,” said Salow.
On March 16, all donations to Black Collections up to $2,500 will be matched dollar for dollar due to generous donor support.