Wilda D. Logan, Supervisor, Records Management Training Program, National Archives and Records Administration.
Wilda D. Logan is currently a Supervisor at the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) Records Management Training Program. She served as an Appraisal Archivist, Work Group Leader, and Supervisor in NARA’s Appraisal division. Ms. Logan started her career at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) at Howard University. During her SAA tenure, Ms. Logan has served on numerous SAA committees, including her current appointment to the SAA Foundation Board. In 2006, she was elected as a distinguished SAA Fellow. Ms. Logan is also a member of MARAC, NAGARA and is a Certified Archivist with the Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA).
Wilda D. Logan was interviewed for Archiving in Color by Steven D. Booth, archivist at the Barack Obama Presidential Library.
How and when did you become interested in the archives profession?
I became interested in the archival profession while attending Hampton Institute (now University). I knew I wanted to become a librarian and would have to eventually get a master’s in library science. So I decided to major in history. At Hampton, history majors were required to write a senior thesis using primary sources. So we were granted special permission to do research at the Hampton Archives. Now you couldn’t just walk in. You had to have an appointment. When I went to meet with the archivist, his name was Mr. [Fritz] Malval, he showed me all types of records about Hampton, some of which dated back to the founding of the college. From the very beginning Hampton realized the significance of its role as an institution of higher learning for African Americans and they documented everything. There were official minutes, letters, news clippings, photographs…everything was so well organized. It was like I walked into heaven! After I completed my senior thesis and graduated from Hampton, I decided to still get my library science degree but to focus on archives; that it would be my career.
And from there you pursued your MLS at the University of Maryland, right?
Yes, that is correct. I received a full scholarship to attend Maryland where I was one of two African American full-time graduate students. While there I, of course, learned a lot about archives and manuscripts. I even took a course that was taught by the former acting Archivist of the United States, Dr. Frank Burke. He was an excellent professor! During my last semester at Maryland, there was an opportunity to do a summer internship. Well, there were these gigantic notebooks with internship opportunities all over Washington, some at the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. As I paged through I realized that I didn’t see any internships about African American collections. So I went to my advisor who was William Cunningham, former director of Howard University Libraries, and spoke to him about wanting to do an internship at an African American institution. He called some folks at Howard and said, “I have a student, can we arrange to have an internship established at Moorland-Spingarn?” So he and Dr. Thomas Battle created an internship for me to obtain graduate-level credits. And I went to work for Moorland while also doing another graduate-level internship at the National Archives. At the end of graduate school, Moorland offered me a professional position as a Manuscripts Librarian and that’s how I started my career.
Wow! So what was your experience like working at Moorland-Spingarn?
Oh, I loved it!
Processing the papers of so many influential Black scholars and educators was like a piece of heaven. I learned so much.
While at Moorland, I processed the papers of Jesse Moorland, and touched letters from Du Bois, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Dr. Alain Locke and Dr. Charles Drew among many other fabulous collections. What I remember most about Dr. Drew’s collection are the love letters he wrote to his wife. I would read those letters and think to myself, “Dr. Drew, you were something else!” It was those types of gems that made me truly appreciate my work experience. I loved Moorland. I loved working at Howard.
Can you talk about the formation of the Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable and the role that Howard University played during the early years?
The Roundtable came out of the minority task force, which was chaired by Dr. Thomas Battle. ]
At that time, there were a lot of issues at SAA regarding diversity. People were talking about us and making decisions for us as if we didn’t exist, because historically there’d been so little minority participation in SAA. Well, a few of us began to speak out and we made it known that we could speak for ourselves especially now that we had the Roundtable.
After forming the Roundtable, we decided to start a newsletter. Well, there were those within SAA who opposed this because they didn’t want to financially support extending resources to non-members. So Dr. Battle stepped in. He decided that Howard would absorb all costs and that the staff at Moorland would publish and distribute the newsletter for free. The newsletter was available to anybody who was interested in archives, manuscripts, and special collections about people of color. The first year, we collected names and addresses, and our mailing list had at least a couple hundred contacts. With that info we were able to go back to SAA and say, we’re here, we exist and there are people—not all African Americans—who are interested in our collections and what we have to say. We made such a huge impression that our newsletter was used as a model for other Roundtables. But we often had to remind folks that SAA was not paying for it, Howard was. That was a significant contribution of Howard and the crew: Diana Lachatanere, Paula Williams, Deborra Richardson, Karen Jefferson, the late Donna Wells, the staff at Moorland-Spingarn, and myself, but Dr. Battle led the initiative.
Besides AAC how else have you been involved in SAA?
Well, my very first appointment was the Program Committee in 1983. Since then I’ve either been appointed or elected to serve on, let’s see, the Membership Committee, Nominating Committee, Status of Women Committee, Committee on Institutional Evaluation and Development, Colonial Dames Scholarship Committee, Diversity Committee, Committee on Professional Education and Development, and Appointments Committees. I’m sure there are a few that I’m forgetting. Oh, and Council! How could I forget that? When I agreed to be nominated for Council, I didn’t think that I would win, especially not a national election. I remember I called Bernice [Brack] at SAA to let her know that the Colonial Dames Scholarship Committee had selected the recipient for that awards cycle and she told me the news! I was really, really surprised. After I got over my initial shock I reached out to some colleagues at the National Archives who had also served on Council for guidance and to learn about their experience, and what to expect. Being on Council was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had professionally. I learned so much about the profession and different subject areas that weren’t a part of my duties at the National Archives. And I enjoyed working with my assigned committees, sections and roundtables as a Council liaison. Last year, I finished my appointment on the selection committee for the ARL/SAA Mosaic Scholarship Program, which is a very competitive process. I honestly think it’s one of the better programs that recruits diverse professionals and supports them while they’re in grad school. I’m currently a board member of the SAA Foundation, which raises money for the various SAA awards and scholarships, and provides grant opportunities for the archival community. I volunteered and was unanimously approved by Council for this position.
Considering your active involvement within SAA, did you ever imagine that you would contribute to the organization in such a meaningful way?
No, not really. My main goal was to make sure that as Black professional archivists we were represented in SAA and that we were speaking for ourselves. We didn’t need a committee of people who didn’t look like us, talking about us. I felt as though we had to dispel the myth that we didn’t exist in large numbers and that we didn’t participate. So we strategized and began to volunteer. Next thing you know we were all active on some level. I remember we would get together in a hotel room and actually create sessions for the next program cycle. There were some diverse folks that attended the conference but did not want to volunteer to participate on any SAA group. But the diligent few went to work. We would put in 12 to 14 hour days at the annual conference, networking and learning the SAA culture and structure. Now that I think about it we worked pretty hard.
We encouraged and pushed each other whenever there was an opportunity to be represented. Yes, we were archivists of color but we also had expertise in acquisitions, reference, records management, etc. For many of us being actively involved in SAA enhanced our professional development and careers. It was important for us to break down those barriers and I like to think that we did that.
Now that it’s been 30 years, is there anything you would like to see the Roundtable accomplish or do in the during the next 30 years?
For the future, I say keep doing what you’re doing. I think the new generation is making a tremendous impact as you can see from the increased numbers of diverse conference attendees. I remember being in Atlanta…it brought tears to my eyes to see so many people of color at the Roundtable meeting. And I thought about Brenda [Banks]. She would have been so elated to see that. Our hard work has paid off. Things changed because we were there and said that it could be changed by being active, doing the work. And I think that the new generation, with all this new technology can have an even greater impact. You can’t whine and complain about the lack of diversity and not devise strategies to do something about it. So I think our role, when I look back over the last 30 years, has been to increase our presence within SAA in a meaningful and dynamic way. We achieved this because we were active in the association. I’m still surprised that we’ve had not one but two Black presidents and with Meredith’s recent win soon it’ll be three. We have multiple Fellows now. And we’re leading committees and sections. None of this would have ever happened had we decided just to be members. We changed all that. And I hope that the work we’ve done will be continued.