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De Veaux Reflects on Giving to Amistad

May 3, 2019

Donor support is essential to Amistad’s mission of telling America’s story. Financial funding is critical to this mission, but so, too, are donations to the archive itself. Last year, Amistad announced that author, poet, playwright, journalist and activist Alexis De Veaux had begun donating her personal papers to Amistad. De Veaux now reflects on the importance of donation.

 

“I supported Amistad with my literary donation. It’s bigger than any financial contribution I’ve made,” De Veaux says. “The main reason I wanted to donate to Amistad Research Center was because of the center’s mission of looking at not only America - Blacks born in America - but the Black Diaspora. My work has crossed over into those veins.”

 

After 25 years as a professor and departmental chair in the Department of Women’s Studies, De Veaux retired from the University of Buffalo six years ago. She now lives in New Orleans.

 

De Veaux’s expertise is in black Diaspora women’s literary production and social histories. Until former student Kara T. Olidge departed the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture four years ago to become the Executive Director at Amistad Research Center, Amistad just wasn’t on native New Yorker De Veaux’s radar.

 

She gifted Schomburg with half her papers, the ones from the 1970s to 1980, and Amistad with the half dating from the 1990s to 2000.

 

“This constitutes what I’ve done as writer and teacher,” said the former Essence magazine contributor. De Veaux was the first North American journalist to interview Nelson Mandela after his release from Robben Island. In 1990, she flew to South Africa to meet with the late president. “Amistad now has my teaching notebooks.”

 

“Writers have to seek out institutions that house our historic realities. For them to do that, we have to give them the tools,” De Veaux says. “We want the generations coming to know not just what we went through, but what they’re going through.”

 

To the dedicated staff going about the everyday work of helping Olidge “unearth, record, and preserve the histories of the multitudes of Black people who have lived and are documented in the way of an archive,” De Veaux sends particular kudos.

 

“It’s important not to think of Amistad Research Center as simply a local institution. When we tend to think of it as a New Orleans institution, we render it small in the work we’re all doing every day,” De Veaux says. “Amistad Research Center takes its place among other internationally-recognized Black institutions that forward the mission of Black realities. It’s important to approach the Amistad with the kind of respect that it deserves.”

 

At the University of Buffalo, De Veaux’s teaching was centered on how Black women have written themselves into the history of a culture when they weren’t allowed to insert themselves into history books. This is why Amistad’s mission resonates so deeply within her.

 

“Amistad Research Center is centered on the housing and taking care of what our historic reality is. If we don’t do it, no one else is going to,” De Veaux says.

 

 

 

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