Exploring Black History in Austin
In this episode of The Black Experience in Austin, we will talk with kYmberly Keeton, African American Community Archivist and Librarian, Austin History Center. Austin Public Library about Exploring Black History in Austin – particularly events and developments not commonly known.
Per the Austin History website, the “African American Community Archivist actively seeks out archival materials from the African American community in Austin and Travis County through outreach efforts and programming. The Community Archivist also gives presentations, conducts oral history interviews, coordinates programs and events, provides reference service to the public and acts as a subject specialist in the history of Austin’s African American community.”
We will talk about the importance of this Archive for Black identity as well as for learning about realities of Black history in Austin. The Center’s African American Resource Guide is 127 pages long and concludes with topics on which the Austin History Center seeks more information and materials.
We will also explore how kYmberly Keeton came to this important work and her lessons learned that can be of benefit to all of us.
Her job description involves curating and preserving African American history in the Austin area, but kYmberly Keeton goes well beyond that. She leads genealogy workshops to help African Americans trace their roots and organizes public forums that bring African American history to life for area residents and connect them with a sense of identity.
“Archivists were traditionally behind the scenes, but a 21st century librarian is in front of the scenes,” she says. “We’re more embedded within our community.”
When she arrived in Austin in 2018, Keeton learned about the impact gentrification has had on the city’s demographics, forcing many African American families out to surrounding communities. She has made it her mission to preserve the legacy of these families and their contributions to Austin’s history.
As founder and curator of ART | library deco, an online African American digital art library, Keeton brings an entrepreneurial spirit to her work. With small grants from area organizations, she organized an inaugural statewide genealogy conference at Austin Central Library. This free event, Growing Your Roots, was held in early 2020, and had more than 500 participants.
Keeton draws inspiration from Martin Luther King’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech and its call to service: “I want you to be first in love. I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity.”
“I hope to be thought of as a person who is unselfish and always thinks about others,” says Keeton.
Helpful Links & Resources
African American Community Archivist and Librarian, Austin History Center. Austin Public Library
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