By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
California State General Assemblywoman Wilmer Amin Carter said her tour of NSU’s huge new library late last week was a work of pleasure and work.
Carter, who was in Hampton Roads for a family reunion with area family members, Mal and Odessa Nicholson, said she was impressed with the facility, which is one of the largest, physically, among those in the small community of state-supported colleges and universities in Virginia.
“I was impressed with the space and the technology,” said Carter. “I do not think they make them as big or as energy efficient as the one on the NSU campus.”
But while Carter was pleased with the overall character of the NSU Lyman Beecher Brooks Library, her main goal was to tour the school’s growing archives.
The NSU archives houses not only records for the school, but important papers of historic figures, publications, photographs, copies of local newspapers and other publications.
Carter said she has been working with California State University (CSU) at San Bernardino to collect and archive not only her papers documenting her professional political career, but the history and documents of a long list of Black historical, political, social and civic associations in Southern California.
“There are many African Americans who have a rich historic legacy in California, but few people know of this legacy ... how we got here from the South and the contributions we have made to the economic and social culture of Southern California,” said Carter. “I wanted to tour the NSU Library archives to see how it does the job of collecting, organizing, protecting and displaying the history of Black people in this region. I am going to take back what I have experienced and hope that California State will adopt some of NSU’s methods and technology.
NSU Interim Librarian Dr. Tommy Bogger was her tour guide and is credited with building the infrastructure of the school’s archives.
Carter said there were a number of Blacks who moved to Southern California and owned land, established communities and flourished economically in the agricultural business, especially growing and selling oranges.
While CSU will be soliciting archival materials over the coming years, Carter said that she will donate a great deal of material herself.
“I am the member of 26 or more Black civic, social and professional organizations which go back several generations,” said Carter.
“I have access to a lot of information and history associations with those organizations. Once the information is collected and organized and digitized, people will have access to it all. It is really important that not only current generations know they have a place to go to see this information, but think about future generations who want to know the history and contributions of their people.”
After the Civil War which ended slavery, many Blacks fled northward or westward into portions of U.S. territory held by Native Americans and to California to escape whites who wanted to stunt their economic and political growth.
One woman, Lizzie Flakes, led a band of Black migrants who accompanied a group of Mormons from Utah who founded portions of Southern California. The Blacks, Carter said, became land owners and ran farms and other enterprises.
Carter said she subscribes to various Black newspapers, including the New Journal and Guide “to keep up with news in Norfolk and the surrounding area from a Black editorial (content), which is highly informative.” She is hoping that CSU will collect Black newspapers as well for scrutiny by historians and students.
Her husband, William H. Jacocks, hails from Norfolk. He is an author who penned a book several years ago entitled “Incidents, Strengths and Divine Intervention,” so she has been on the NSU campus and is aware of the Black history of the city.
Carter is originally from Mississippi. Her family migrated to San Bernardino when she was 9 years old.
Carter was appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly to serve as Assistant Majority Policy Leader for the 2011-2012 Assembly Session. In that role, she assists the speaker in shaping policy priorities for the Assembly Democrats’ leadership team.
Prior to being elected to the California State Assembly, she served on the Rialto (Calif.) Unified School District Board for 16 years.
She has a host of professional affiliations and political experience. She and her husband live in Rialto. They have three adult children.