Hicks group, museum get grant

Published 4:16 am Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum, in partnership with the Robert “Bob” Hicks Foundation, was selected to receive a grant totaling $149,986 to create a publicly accessible web archive of photos, audiovisual materials, documents, and oral histories related to the history of the Robert “Bob” Hicks House and 1906 Mill House in Bogalusa.

The award is a Museum Grant for African American History and Culture from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

“This is a great opportunity to create the kind of partnership that we have long desired with the Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum,” said Barbara Hicks Collins, executive director of the Foundation and the daughter of late civil rights leader Robert “Bob” Hicks. “The grant is yet another opportunity to uncover the artifacts, oral histories, documents and stories related to the African-American struggle to gain equal rights as citizens in the 20th century.”

The Hicks House and the 1906 Mill House in Bogalusa, which are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places, played a crucial role in the civil rights movement as unofficial headquarters and base for many of the people and activities crucial to the movement’s success in the 1960s. The Foundation is working to transform the Hicks House, a site of courageous resistance and heroism, into a museum.

The 1906 mill house is also a valuable historic artifact, because prior to the 1960s, many black mill workers in Bogalusa lived in company houses that were replicas of the mill house.

As the living keepers of this history are aging and dying, the pressure to collect and record these memories is vitally urgent, Hicks-Collins said.

Delmas Dunn, president of the Tangipahoa African American Museum, will serve as the project’s authorizing official and Hicks-Collins will serve as the project director. “By building a strong network and collaborative spirit among African-American cultural institutions and historic sites in Louisiana and across the country, we will all benefit,” Dunn said.

Dunn will engage an advisory committee to work closely with the project director and coordinate activities with expert consultants to research the history of the houses, acquire archival materials, record oral histories, build the website, and create a series of six historical brochures. The brochures will be distributed at local museums and libraries, Louisiana welcome centers, schools and universities.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s approximately 120,000 libraries and 35,000 museums. Their mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. IMLS grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow on Facebook and Twitter. IMLS made similar awards in 18 states.

“As centers of learning and catalysts of community change, libraries and museums connect people with programs, services, collections, information, and new ideas in the arts, sciences, and humanities,” IMLS Director Dr. Kathryn K. Matthew said. “They serve as vital spaces where people can connect with each other. IMLS is proud to support their work through our grant making as they inform and inspire all in their communities.”

The Tangipahoa African American Heritage Museum opened its doors in February 2007, and is located at 1600 Phoenix Square in Hammond. Thousands of people have visited the museum, including the late Robert Hicks, to learn more about African-American heritage. Dunn noted that it seemed natural to work with the Hicks Foundation and develop a partnership to help expand the knowledge of Bogalusa and Washington Parish history.

One of the museum’s most popular exhibits focuses on the Bogalusa Civil Rights Movement, the 10-Day March from Bogalusa to Baton Rouge and the contributions of A.Z.Young, Bert Wyre, Gail Jenkins, Robert “Bob” Hicks, Fletcher Anderson, Royan Burris and others.

‘‘This created a close relationship between the two organizations, a relationship that led to the two organizations working together on this IMLS grant,” Dunn said. “We partnered with the Hicks Foundation because of our long-term interest and support of their mission of preserving this history and restoring the historic houses.”

Hicks-Collins is asking individuals who were involved in the Bogalusa civil rights movement and their descendants to please contact her if they are willing to tell their stories and/or share photos and archival materials related to the period. She also would like to hear from families and descendants of people who lived in the Bogalusa Mill “company houses” or who have particular knowledge of the early African-American history of Bogalusa. Hicks-Collins can be reached at 504-237-4656 or bbhicks.collins@gmail.com

“Our efforts today will preserve the history and recognize the courage of civil rights workers and the extraordinary men, women and children from Bogalusa and Washington Parish who helped make a difference and changed the course of history,” Hicks-Collins said.