Black Archives adds research center



The Carrie Meek-James N. Eaton, Sr. Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum.
Photo credit: Jessica Gardner 

The Meek-Eaton Black Archives (MEBA) launched its Research Center for Social and Political Justice earlier this month. Co-directors, Darius Young and Reginald Ellis, who work under Florida A&M University’s department of history and political science, collaborated with MEBA Director Nashid Madyun to get the research center up and running. 

“Dr. Madyun as well as its predecessor Dr. Eaton, have done a great job in terms of highlighting the archives, which has been a benefit to us as scholars and to our students in terms of research. The museum is one of the showpieces for the campus. One of the things that we wanted to really develop a little more was the actual research center aspect, where we could produce scholarship that moves beyond the academy and reaches the people in the community,” Young said.

“We will have policy papers that look at anything that relates to civil rights and social justice. Our long-term goal is to not just have policy papers, not just have conferences, but to really be able to take the ideas that come from the center and to begin to enact change, where change needs to take place. The center will be a place where you can have conversations about those issues, whether it’s environmental, social or political. But it won’t just be a place where you can exchange these ideas, it will be a place where you can start to put into effect change in those segments.”

The Carrie Meek-James N. Eaton, Sr. Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum was founded in 1976 by FAMU history professor, James N. Eaton. The Black Archives is located on campus in FAMU’s historic Carnegie Library. The research component is on the third floor. 

MEBA is home to more than 500,000 individual archival records and more than 5,000 individual museum artifacts. 

“Dr. Young and I had a series of conversations about creating this type of center for years now and after a conversation with Dr. Madyun late last spring, we thought the partnership with the Meek-Eaton Black Archives would be a perfect fit because they have about a 500,000-document repository of African American history going back as far as slavery. Dr. Young talked about this concept of not only where we are in America but in the world today,” Ellis said. 

“We felt that an institute of this sort being housed at Florida A&M University, which is one of the premier black colleges in the United States of America, we really thought that it is time for us as scholars to study the issues that impact the community. We want to have a value that looks at issues that impact not only the southeastern region, which is part of the mission of the Black Archives in general, but African Americans and people of color in particular.”

MEBA consists of three components: the archives, the museum and the research. Since the opening of MEBA in the 70s, the research component has yet to be fulfilled. 

“We’ve been able to fulfill the mission as an archive. We’ve been able to fulfill the mission as a museum. We have yet to be able to address what it means to be a research center,” Madyun said. 

“We’ve had grantsmanship, we’ve had lectures here and there, we’ve amassed a remarkable nationally recognized archive with 13 galleries and facilities, we also have the union bank facility, so we’ve done a great job with the resources we’ve had available to us. But now we have the opportunity to consistently look at research as a research center.”

The research center’s mission and vision will be to teach, study and promote civil rights and social justice through its educational and community programs.

“The mission of this research center is to promote research and produce programming on issues of civil rights and social change. As long as we still have these ills in our society, it’s going to be important to have institutions to address those problems. If we can be an asset to the community in that way and be a bridge for some of the things happening in the community to the legislators, to the policy makers, to law makers, to the media, to get that word out, then I think that’s ultimately what we want to do,” Young said. 

“We want to in some way be a bridge to not only move our research into action but to highlight these problems and produce imperial data that addresses those issues and ultimately be used to bring about some sort of change.”

The center also intends on carrying forth the legacy of those who fought for racial, gender, political and economic equality for all underrepresented groups. 

“I think it was a need to study some of these issues that are happening in our community. We are in unique times. I think especially as it relates to the black community, HBCUs really should be at the center of some of the problems that are arising across the state and across the nation,” Young said.

“Myself and Dr. Ellis collaborated and brainstormed about ways we could really move our scholarship to being more practical and to address some of these issues in our community. We came up with the idea to study, promote and develop programming around the ideas of civil rights and social justice, as a reaction to many of the issues taking place today. We also were looking at the opportunity to increase collaboration among students, administrators and the community to address some of those problems.”

This research component will provide ample opportunities including, disseminating original research, producing conferences and a quarterly magazine, contributing to documentaries and galvanizing research from FAMU, other institutions, students and faculty. 

“This is our effort at contributing to the president’s strategic plan. This is a research, doctoral institution attracting scholars, producing scholars in a variety of fields and disciplines. This is our effort in contributing to the university’s way forward.”

Young spoke about the long-term impact of the center on the community.

“We will serve as a hub for students here at Florida A&M University but also our partnering students at Florida State and individuals in the SUS who want to come and research at our center. We have access to the archives at the black archives. As we continue to build out our institute, if those individuals want to come and serve as an intern or a graduate researcher center to research these issues that we are researching ourselves, that will help them develop master thesis or doctoral dissertations,” said Young. 

“I think it’s a win-win for the student body population, the local community and also for the region because of the long-term impact that the center will be able to produce, not just from a research perspective but also a humanitarian perspective in terms of how we change the way individuals look at these issues.”