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Join us at the

2nd Annual Black Belt African American


Preserving our history ~ Creating family legacies


February 14 - 17, 2008



Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is most recently the author of Finding Oprah's Roots, Finding Your Own (Crown, 2007) and the host and executive producer of the critically acclaimed PBS series "African American Lives", "Oprah's Roots" and "African American Lives 2."

Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American and Africana Studies. He is co-editor, with K. Anthony Appiah, of Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. With Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, he is the co-editor of the biographical encyclopedia African American Lives (Oxford, 2004), and the online African American National Biography database.

Professor Gates is the author of several books, including The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (Oxford, 1988), winner of the 1989 American Book Award, and Colored People: A Memoir (Knopf, 1994). Professor Gates authenticated and published two landmark African American texts: Our Nig, or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black (1859), by Harriet Wilson, the first novel published by an African American woman; and The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts, one of the first novels written by an African American woman. In 2006, he and Hollis Robbins co-edited The Annotated Uncle Tom's Cabin, edited with Hollis Robbins (W. W. Norton, 2006).

An influential cultural critic, Professor Gates has written for Time magazine, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. He is the editor of several anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (W.W. Norton, 1996). Professor Gates also produced and hosted two previous series for PBS, 1999's "Wonders of the African World" and 2004's "America Beyond the Color Line."

Professor Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge. He received a B.A. in history, summa cum laude, from Yale University in 1973. The recipient of 48 honorary degrees and a 1981 MacArthur Foundation "Genius Award," Professor Gates was also named one of Time magazine's "25 Most Influential Americans" in 1997, one of the "100 Most Influential Black Americans" by Ebony in 2005, received a National Humanities Medal in 1998, and in 1999 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 


  • Genealogy Award: Gwen M. Holland
  • Genealogy Award: Doll Hargrove, Doll's Genealogy Site, http://www.dollsgen.com/
  • History Award: Dr. Richard Bailey, author of They Too Call Alabama Home and Neither Carpetbaggers Nor Scalawags
  • History Award: Jeanette S. McCall, author of The First and Last Bell: A Story of Six Missions for Blacks in Wilcox County, Alabama
  • Preservation Award: Louretta C. Wimberley, founder of the Black Heritage Council, Alabama Historical Commission
  • Preservation Award: Shiloh Community Restoration Project, http://www.shilohcommfound.com/ - Elizabeth Ware Sims, President
  • Cemetery Preservation Award: Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance - Sherry Johnston, President
  • Cemetery Preservation Award: Old Cahawba Slave Cemetery - Linda Derry, Site Director
  • Distinguished Service Award: Lorena Joyce Nicoll
  • Distinguished Service Award: Martha Phyllis Armstrong



Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance (ACPA)
Preserving Cemeteries in the Black Belt 
Session I, Friday, February 15, 9:30 am 

ACPA is a statewide volunteer organization dedicated to honoring, recording, restoring and preserving all cemeteries and burial grounds throughout Alabama. Its goal is to locate confirm and register every cemetery in the state of Alabama, regardless of age, location, or religious and ethnic background. 

David Bice, Heritage Publishing Consultants
Alabama African American Heritage Book
General Session, Saturday, February 16, 12:00 noon

Heritage Publishing Consultants in Clanton, AL are the publishers of the largest family history book project in America. They have completed the 67 counties in Alabama and are the only publisher to ever have published books for every county in an entire state. They  also have completed all of the counties in the Florida Panhandle, and three books in Texas. Owner David Bice has been in publishing for over 30 years and has written over 25 books. He is a frequent speaker on genealogy and Alabama history.

Melvin J. Collier
Family Reunion Planning 
Session IV, Saturday, February 16, 11:00 am

Melvin J. Collier has been organizing and chairing family reunions since the age of 25. Under his direction and advisement, the Reed-Puryear Family Reunion has grown from 75 members in 1998 to over 200 in 2006. The Reed-Puryear Family Reunion has been featured in Ebony magazine, Reunions Magazine, and various newspapers in Mississippi and South Carolina. Their website, which he constructed and has maintained for several years, was voted the Best Family Reunion site for 2006 by the Black Web Awards. Recently, Melvin has become actively involved in the Danner Family Reunion, his maternal great- grandmother's family, which held their first reunion in Omaha, Nebraska in 2007. Melvin currently serves as the Family Reunion Forum manager at AfriGeneas.com and was named their 2006 Volunteer of the Year. A former civil engineer and Mississippi State University graduate, Melvin currently works with the Morehouse College Dr. Martin L. King Collection Archival team in Atlanta, GA and will be completing the requirements to receive a Master's degree in African-American Studies from Clark Atlanta University in May 2008. 

Donald Debrow
How to Begin Your Family Research
Session I, Saturday, February 16, 9:30 am

Donald Debrow is an experienced genealogist and currently serves as Instructor for the Birmingham African American Genealogy Study Group of the Birmingham Genealogical Society. Donald began his genealogical research to learn the truth behind the stories that he heard at family gatherings. At the time he did not realize the extent of his familyís development until he dug deeply into the recorded presence of his great-great grand parents. The pursuit of his family's history gave him a greater appreciation for, and understanding of, his ancestors urge to survive and leave something to document his heritage. He is a graduate of Wenonah High School in Birmingham and Miles College where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration. He earned a Masters Degree in Supervision and Administration from Alabama A&M and has done graduate work at University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama Birmingham, Tuskegee Institute University and Alabama State University.

Frazine K. Taylor
African American Resources at the Alabama Department of Archives and History
Session II, Saturday, February 16, 9:30 am
Searching for Your Slave Ancestors
Session V, Saturday, February 16, 2:00 pm

Frazine K. Taylor is a former Peace Corps volunteer and administrator who served in the Fiji Islands and traveled extensively in the South Pacific before she obtained her Master in Information Studies degree from Atlanta University. She has over twenty years experience as a librarian, archivist, lecturer and writer and has received numerous awards during her career including Employee of the Year from the Alabama State Employee Association. She is the Head of Reference for the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and is an expert on Alabama records at ADAH. Ms. Taylor is a member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society and serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. She is the President of the Elmore County Association of Black Heritage, Chair of the Black Heritage Council, a member of BBAAGHS and of the Society of Alabama Archivists, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Alabama Historical Association. Ms. Taylor is the author of Researching African American Genealogy in Alabama: A Resource Guide (2008) and researched Tom Joynerís and Linda Johnson Riceís family roots and ties to Alabama for the PBS series, African American Lives 2.

Gwen M. Holland
Genealogy Case Study: The McArthur Family History in Black and White
Session II, Friday, February 15, 11:00 am

Gwen M. Holland is a genealogist with a zeal for documenting and preserving African American family history. She has traced her family lineage to seven generations of slaves and their slave owners. As co-founder of a lineage and historical society, Freedom Walk-America (FWA) based in Chicago, IL, she pioneered a historic records project, The Alabama Project (TAP). TAPís 2001 publication of Alabama Freedmanís Marriage Records was donated to the open stack collection of five of the top ten genealogical libraries in the United States. Traveling extensively to the rural areas of the southern states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, Gwen and the FWA research team have captured on film undocumented places of slave and Freedman cemeteries, schools, churches, and entire communities. She teaches basic genealogy classes in the spring and fall at the Fernwood United Methodist Church in Chicago. Under the auspices of FWA, she will assist in launching the first ever National Obituary Programs. This software has indexed thousands of death records of African-Americans who died between 1863 and 1965. The software will be available in April, 2008. For more information about the projects of FWA and genealogy classes, visit the Southern Lineage Library at www.southernlineage.org. 

B.J. Smothers
Using DNA to Trace Your Roots
Session IV, Friday, February 15, 3:30 pm
Finding Your Ancestors Online
Session III, Saturday, February 16, 11:00 am

B.J. Smothers is a co-founder of AfriGeneasí website, AfriGeneas.com. She has been its developer and site administrator from its inception in 1999. She is also a founder of BBAAGHS and serves as its President. Ms. Smothers has been researching her family history for over 20 years. In 1995 she discovered online genealogy and began transcribing records and sharing them on the internet. She founded African American Census Schedules Online and African American Cemeteries Online. She joined the Alabama GenWeb Project at its inception in 1996 and has been the coordinator of the Dallas County and Wilcox County sites ever since. Her current projects include the Black Belt DNA Project, hosted by Family Tree DNA, with the goal of reconnecting Alabama Black Belt families whose ties were torn apart by slavery, the Civil War and the Diaspora and a pictorial history of Selma, Alabama, with Donald Stone.

Donald P. Stone
Lecture and Book Signing: Fallen Prince
General Session, Friday, February 15, 12:00 noon

Donald P. Stone is a writer and social and political activist. He is the author of Fallen Prince: William James Edwards, Black Education and the Quest for Afro American Nationality, a biography of his grandfather, the founder of the Snow Hill Institute and a frequent contributor to literary and political journals and magazines. His latest essay, "Reflections on the Movement", appears in CRUX: a conversation in words and images edited by Alice Lovelace, Walter Kefoue Chakela, Michael Simanga, Malkia M'Buzi Moore, and Felton Eaddy. Donald serves on the Board of Directors of BBAAGHS and the Snow Hill Institute Restoration Project. He is currently at work on a book of essays and a pictorial history of Selma, Alabama, with B.J. Smothers.

Lovie Johnson Warren
Researching School Records in the Black Belt
Session III, Friday, February 15, 2:00 pm

Lovie Johnson Warren is an experienced genealogist who been conducting research on her West Central Alabama ancestors for several years. Specific counties of her research include Marengo, Jefferson, Mobile and Wilcox counties. Her ancestral surnames include the Quivers, Quivous, Davenport, Dumas, Gaines, Hudson, Kimbrough, Bridges, Threadgill, Napier, Williams, and Compton families. In conducting her research, she has documented branches of her family tree and their migration from Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to Illinois. Ms. Warren is a member of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society,  BBAAGHS and the Afro-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Chicago (AAGHSC). Her research has been presented at AAGHSC's 2001 Annual Conference. In Sept. 2003, she was the featured presenter on the AAGHSC program on Chicago Access Network TV. Ms. Warren has developed expertise in identifying, location and analyzing post-emancipation / reconstruction era country school records for "colored" children. She is especially interested in the historical enumeration census/records of the children of former slaves. 

A.J. Wright
Early African American Physicians in the Alabama Black Belt
Session VI, Saturday, February 16, 3:15 pm

A.J. Wright, M.L.S., has been researching the history of anesthesia in the United States for more than twenty years and in Alabama for the past decade. In the process of doing his research he began to come across records of Black physicians who were practicing in Alabama shortly after the Civil War and who began to receive certification in Alabama beginning in the late 19th century. Among the prominent Black Belt physicians researched by Mr. Wright are: Lincoln Laconia Burwell who graduated valedictorian from both Selma University in 1886 and from Leonard Medical School of Shaw University in 1890; John Wesley Moorer graduated from Selma University and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN., and did post-graduate work at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore; Cornelius Nathaniel Dorsett who was born a slave in 1852 and became Alabama's first licensed Black physician and founded Hale Infirmary in Montgomery, Alabama's first hospital for Blacks; and, Halle Tanner Dillon, who in 1891 became the first African-American woman and first female to sit for the Alabama medical licensure examination. Mr. Wright is an Associate Professor and Director, Section on the History of Anesthesia, Department of Anesthesiology Library, University of Alabama at Birmingham.


A partial list of exhibitors and vendors (list growing daily)

AARP - Selma
African American Cemeteries Online
African Ancestry
African-Atlantic Genealogical Society - Central Alabama
Africatown Community Welcome Center
Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society - Metro Atlanta
Alabama Department of Archives and History
Alabama Cemetery Preservation Alliance
Alabama Historical Commission
Birmingham African American Genealogy Study Group
Black Belt of Alabama DNA Project
Black Belt Community Foundation
Black Belt Treasures
Black Classics Books and Gifts
Black Heritage Council
Bioethics Quilt Project
Brenda J. Smothers and Donald P. Stone, authors
Camden Academy Alumni Association
Cotton House
Congressman Artur Davis
Dena L. Norris, poet
Everyman Books
Family Tree DNA
Freedom Walk America
Future Education Center
Heritage Publishing Consultants
Jeanette S. McCall, author
Journeys for the Soul
Lincoln School Museum
Montgomery Genealogical Society
National Council of Negro Women - Wilcox Section
National Voting Rights Museum
Ninth and Tenth (Horse) Cavalry Association - Alabama Chapter #1
Norris Family of Wilcox County and Selma, AL
Old Cahawba Slave Cemetery
Richard Bailey, historian and author
Robes and Gowns of Selma
Safe House Museum
Selma-Dallas County Historic Preservation Society
Selma-Dallas County Tourism and Convention Bureau
Shiloh Community Restoration Project
Slavery and Civil War Museum
Snow Hill Institute Restoration Project
Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation
StoryCorps Griot Project
Wilcox County Historical Society
Women in Land Ownership  
Ziccardi's Crowns and Mardi Gras Wigs

1 Jan 2008 :: 10 Feb 2008
Copyright 2008 by BBAAGHS, Inc. All rights reserved.
Black Belt African American Genealogical & Historical Society, Inc.