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The James B. Duke Memorial Library Announces the Inez Moore Parker Fellowship

The James B. Duke Memorial Library at Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) has announced the Inez Moore Parker Fellowship in honor of Mrs. Inez Moore Parker and her daughter Amelia.  Mrs. Parker came to JCSU as an English professor in 1944, and served the University for 30 years. While at Smith she became interested in recording the history of the school, and started seeking out documents and photographs that would help her publish The Biddle-Johnson C. Smith University Story in 1975. Mrs. Parker also developed the Black Culture Center at JCSU by collecting the University’s history, records of the Black Presbyterian Church records, and other African American materials of local and national significance. In November 1977, the Black Culture Center officially became the Inez Moore Parker Archives and Research Center, and the dedication highlighted the great work that she had contributed to preserving the records of the African American experience.

Inez Moore Parker in the Archives in the 1970s

After Mrs. Parker’s death in 1984, the JCSU archives laid dormant for fifteen years. As part of the opening of the remodeled James B. Duke Memorial Library in 1999, archives storage and reading rooms were added to the second floor. That same year the university hired Mrs. Monika Rhue to reorganize the archives. Mrs. Parker’s daughter, Amelia, learned about this effort and secured funding from the Ford Foundation in the amount of $15,000 to be donated towards the reorganization and the hiring of a part-time assistant. For years after this donation, Amelia Parker sent flowers each year in honor of her mother’s legacy to the library and JCSU.

In September 2019, the redesigned James B. Duke Memorial Library will be celebrating twenty years in its current space. The Inez Moore Parker Archives and Research Center has become essential to JCSU students, faculty and staff, and to the Charlotte community. The Inez Moore Parker Fellowship will serve to honor the contributions of the Parker family, and it will introduce the university and the community to the resources housed at the center. The fellowship also seeks to promote the use of primary resources among students and cultivate a culture of deeper understanding for the contributions that African Americans have made to Charlotte and to American history. The program will also expose JCSU students to career opportunities in archives, conservation, public history, and the humanities.

Mrs. Rhue is pleased to announce Dr. Shanna Benjamin as the inaugural Inez Moore Parker Fellow.  Dr. Benjamin was awarded a national fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, and she will be doing research and programming in residence at the Inez Moore Parker Archives and Research Center.  Dr. Benjamin previously taught English at JCSU, and she served as a professor and Dean of the College of English at Grinnell College in Iowa. She is currently working on a book chronicling Nellie Y. McKay, a co-editor of The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. This groundbreaking anthology helped established a tradition of black excellence in writing, and McKay was also a literary scholar who created space for black literature, black scholars, and black feminist thought. Dr. Benjamin’s book, Half in Shadow, is an intellectual biography of McKay that traces twentieth-century black literary history through her life and documents the strategies black women employ to fulfill professional aspirations beyond domestic labor.

The Inez Moore Parker Fellowship will provide space for Dr. Benjamin and to future fellows to do research and access the archives and other resources held at the library. The fellow will plan and/or lead a series of discussions in the library that aim to weave critical thinking into undergraduate research at JCSU. The discussion series will assist JCSU’s faculty in using and infusing archival resources in the classroom and their personal research, and will assist the library in developing an archival training program.