The Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research & Education on Women, Inc. and its Uncrowned Community Builders Project
Barbara A. Seals Nevergold, Ph.D. and Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr. P.H., Ph.D. founded the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc. in 1999. Initially established as a project of the Women's Pavilion Pan Am 2001, the goals of Uncrowned Queens were to commemorate the history of African and African American involvement in the Pan American Exposition of 1901 and to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of African American women during the period of and in the one hundred years since the fair. Drs. Bertram and Nevergold quickly realized that the magnitude of the project and the significance of their efforts to collect, disseminate and archive the histories of African American women and the local African American community represented a major undertaking of a regional history project that required the establishment of a sustainable organization.
As a result their work led to the incorporation of the Institute and the adoption of the mission statement: "to conduct research on the issues affecting women of color, to use this research to develop educational programs that will enhance the quality of life for women and their communities, to promote the collection and dissemination of the individual histories of women, women's organizations and women's collective history and to teach and educate women on the use of technology to preserve and disseminate their histories." The Institute’s name, Uncrowned Queens, was derived from the 1917 poem, “America’s Uncrowned Queens,” by Oklahoma pioneer and poet, Drusilla Dunjee Houston. The poem celebrates “a group of tireless, self-sacrificing black women who worked for the betterment of family and community.” In 2003, the Institute was formally recognized as a 501 c (3) organization by the Internal Revenue Service. The Institute is governed by an eleven-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders. The Institute also trademarked its signature titles: Uncrowned Queens and Uncrowned Community Builders.
During its fifteen year history, the Institute has developed and implemented an award winning website with its signature "techno-pedia", expanded its mission to include African American men, "Uncrowned Kings", which resulted in a revamped new webpage, Uncrowned Community Builders at www.uncrownedcommunitybuilders.com. This new site has an interactive feature called the Biography Tool, which allows visitors anywhere in the world to upload new biographies and photos or edit existing biographies. The Institute’s founders also produced four books and numerous research articles related to the history of blacks in the 1901 Pan American Exposition, the 1905 Niagara Movement, the state of Oklahoma’s Black history, specifically, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot and individual and collective women's histories; sponsored three national/international conferences; developed educational curricula; launched an oral history component; participated in a host of media (electronic and print) documentaries and interviews; presented numerous community-based programs to raise awareness about the Institute; established collaborations with community, civic, educational, corporate and religious organizations and institutions; and worked toward the promotion and implementation of its model in other communities, beginning in the State of Oklahoma.Read More
Programs and Services:
The individual projects that have contributed to the comprehensive programming/services of the Institute include the following:
Uncrowned Community Builders Website --The signature "techno-pedia" is updated frequently and has added new technology that allow users to upload new biographies or edit existing ones. This award-winning website is a digital repository for the historical assets of the African American communities of Western New York, Oklahoma and numerous other communities throughout the country. The website also includes extensive historical articles on African Americans of Western New York at the time of the Pan American Exposition and the Niagara Movement. The website has also been utilized for research, training and teaching in elementary, secondary and post-secondary educational institutions, as well as community-based computer literacy training programs.
Uncrowned Kings –After seven years of inquiries and requests from the community, the Institute developed an Uncrowned King companion project. The Uncrowned Kings initiative identifies African American men who were crucial to the development of their communities. While the Uncrowned Kings Initiative will also have a national focus, we began this initiative with African American men in Buffalo and Western New York. The Uncrowned Kings webpage was launched in April 2007. Subsequently this website was merged with the Uncrowned Queens to create the Uncrowned Community Builders site.
Uncrowned Queens Archival Program -through collaboration with the University at Buffalo's Archives, the Institute established a program to find and secure the personal papers, photos, awards, and other memorabilia of local African American Uncrowned Queens. The first collection to be secured and donated to the Archives is that of Eva Noles, the first African American to graduate from a Buffalo School of Nursing. Mrs. Noles' papers have been cataloged and are available in hard and digital copy to student and community researchers and for teaching.
Educational curricula -the co-founders, both educators have developed curriculum and workshop presentations related to their research on local African American history; African American women's history; Family History research; lessons learned from the development of the project itself, e.g. " How-to's of self-publishing
Media presentations -the co-founders have participated as interviewees on numerous radio/television programs. We have also taped many audio interviews with Uncrowned Queens and Kings that will be available on the website.
Illuminations: Uncrowned Queens Community Builders -a one half hour television program, produced by Uncrowned Queens co-founders that puts a spotlight on the activities of Uncrowned Queens and Kings. The program aired weekly and was produced by Dr. Nevergold, who was also the host. Gregory Barber served as the director and videographer. This program ran for 3 years and has an archive that we are working on placing on the website.
Publications --under Uncrowned Queens Publishing, the Institute's special affiliate, three editions of "Uncrowned Queens: African American Community Builders of Western New York" and one volume of “Uncrowned Queens of Oklahoma” have been published; in addition the Institute produced a monthly on-line newsletter that had a national circulation and over 500 subscribers; the Institute has produced brochures, flyers, newspaper and magazine articles and the co-founders have written articles for refereed journals
“Go, Tell Michelle: African American Women Write to the New First Lady” (SUNY Press, 2009) –Barbara A. Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram – this award winning volume featured letters from one hundred women from across the United States, Africa and the Caribbean. The book documents the beliefs, hopes and reactions of African American women to the election of President Barack Obama and the first African American First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Educational conferences -the Institute has sponsored three national/international conferences (2001, 2002 and 2003) which addressed the issues of African American history and women's history; symposiums were held in conjunction with the State of Oklahoma's 2007 Centennial Celebration and the launch of the Uncrowned Kings project. As part of the plans for the 10th year observance of the Institute’s founding, a series of symposia were held.
Oral history project -the Institute received funding from the Educational Technology Center of the University at Buffalo to conduct a pilot oral history project; this project has established the foundation for a larger, more extended program, including providing instruction in oral history research
Research on black women and men -primarily historical and focused on regional histories noting the individual and collective community stories
Bridging the Digital Divide -A primary service of the Institute has been to teach technology literacy, appreciation and understanding of technology in historical and community preservation; persuade the community to move toward technology for research and preservation of community history; maintain ongoing communication with the community using electronic email and website updates; encouraged comfort and reliance on technology and encouraged individual use of technology
Culture Keeper Award -as an outgrowth of its own mission, through this award the Institute recognizes, supports and promotes the work of individuals and other organizations in the preservation of African American history; Winner have included Eva Noles, The Challenger and the Buffalo Criterion Newspapers, Robert Traynham Coles, Architect and John Brent, Architect, About Time Magazine (Rochester) and Eddie Faye Gates (Oklahoma Tulsa Race Riot Commissioner).
Community Collaboration -The Institute has a long history of building collaborations with diverse community, civic, professional, business and government organizations to accomplish its mission; promote and support its programs; develop and enhance its services
Board of Directors
- John M. Staley, PhD, President
- Derrick M. Byrd, Jr., Vice-President
- Lillian Yvonne Bertram
- Ina Doss Chapman
- Shanna Crump-Owens
- Pashion Corbitt-Marshall
- Kevin Donovan
- Alanna E. Marrow
- W. David Penniman, PhD
- Katie Schneider
- Ayoka Tucker, Esq.
Uncrowned Community Builders™ is creating a searchable database of biographies that anyone will be able to contribute to and search through. Submit your biography now to be included.
(left) Peggy Brooks-Bertram, DrPH, PhD and (right) Barbara Seals Nevergold, PhD. Photo by Cheryl Gorski