African American News and Genealogy

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Women preserve history of Toledo's African-Americans

Lillian Ashcraft-Eason and Edrene Cole work on oral history project By RHONDA B. SEWELLBLADE STAFF WRITER Marilyn J. Anderson recalled her grandmother Alice Gray Shoecraft as a tall, stately woman who shared stories of interactions with Native Americans, and who helped found Warren AME, considered Toledo's oldest African-American church. Marcellus McFarland and Morris Esmond, now both in their 80s and friends since their youth, reminisced of their days playing in locally sponsored "all-Negro" traveling baseball leagues. Pay was minimal - about $3 a day - and racism was alive and well as the teams traveled through other towns. Stephanie Poindexter noticed her grandmother, Vanilla Cook, in a black-and-white photograph taken in the early 1920s. The Cook family, early black settlers in the Toledo area, later owned several businesses, including a tourists' home and cleaning service. These memories, observances, and stories have been carefully collected and compiled into the African-American "Toledo Oral History Project II," by Edrene Cole, a retired Toledo Public Schools principal, and Lillian Ashcraft-Eason, director of Africana Studies at Bowling Green State University. The project includes a written document of essays and photographs, and oral history interviews saved on more than a dozen DVDs. The women's almost-two-year project is a continuation of the vast amount of information first documented in Mrs. Cole's 1972 University of Toledo master's thesis, "Blacks in Toledo," which chronicled early African-American life here. "My primary concern in my thesis was black life here prior to the turn of the century, but I also wanted to do a Part Two on what life was like from the 1950s on," said Mrs. Cole, who also worked extensively on the current oral history project with Mrs. Ashcraft-Eason's husband, Louis Djisovi Ikukomi Eason, who died last fall. He was a historian in culture studies and a coordinator of an ethnic cultural arts program at BGSU. Full Story:


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