Those who laid the foundation for the Creation of the Meek-Eaton Black Archives
How It Started
Florida Representative Joe Lang Kershaw (D-Miami) (1911-1999), a FAMCEE graduate is
shown here on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives chamber.
The Honorable Joe Lang Kershaw (D-Miami), a Florida A&M College graduate, was the
first African American elected to serve in the Florida Legislature since Reconstruction.
He rendered 14 years of service (1968-1982). In 1971, he maneuvered Florida Statute
241.477 through the Legislature, which led to the creation of the Black Archives.
In recognition of his efforts, a special room on the first floor of Carnegie Library,
the home of the Black Archives, was designated as the Rep. Joe Lang Kershaw FAMUANA
Florida State Senator Arthenia L. Joyner (D-Tampa), is shown here debating on the
floor of the Florida Senate.
Florida State Senator Arthenia L. Joyner (D-Tampa) earned a bachelor’s degree in political
science and a juris doctor degree from Florida A&M University. While attending FAMU,
she was arrested twice during protests to desegregate Tallahassee movie theatres.
She also participated in the first civil rights demonstrations in Tampa, and was arrested
in Washington, D.C. for her participation in civil rights activities. In 1969, she
served as a legal assistant to the Honorable Joe Lang Kershaw, the first African-American
member of the Florida Legislature since Reconstruction and lead sponsor of the bill
that created the Black Archives. Joyner has practiced law for more than 45 years.
She was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000 and later to
the Florida Senate in 2006. Today, she serves as the Florida Senate Democratic Leader
for 2014-2016, making her the first black woman and the second woman ever to hold
The Founding of the Black Archives
Dr. James N. Eaton (1930-2004), founder and first director of the Black Archives,
pictured in historic Carnegie Library posed behind an antique lectern used by famous
guests visiting the campus of Florida A&M University. These special visitors included
leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune, James Weldon Johnson, and
James Nathaniel Eaton, Sr., earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fisk
University in Nashville, Tenn. Afterward, he worked as a history professor at Miles
College in Fairfield, Ala., and a patrolman and assistant principal in Richmond, Va.
before accepting a position as professor of history at Florida A&M University in 1958.
Between 1969 and 1977, Dr. Eaton served as chairman of FAMU’s Department of History,
Geography and African-American Studies. In 1975, he was named founding archivist,
curator and director of what is now the Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research
Center and Museum. For the next three decades, he helped amass a collection of memorabilia
and printed records that now comprise one of the region’s largest collections of first-source
material relating to the history, culture and contributions of people of African descent
living in the United States. The diverse collection was built on the premise of his
personal motto that “African-American History is the History of America.”
Dr. Eaton is nationally and internationally known for his work and expertise in the
areas of American, African-American, Southern, and Russian history. He was selected
“Most Outstanding Teacher of the Year” 25 times in his 45 years of teaching at FAMU.
Anyone who attended his class or listened to one of his lectures was considered “Eatonized.”
In 1978, Dr. Eaton was named FAMU’s first “Distinguished Professor.”
Eaton was a key player in having the historic Carnegie Library placed on the National
Register of Historic Places in 1978. The campus and surrounding community of FAMU
was designated a National Historic District in 1998.
In 1981, Dr. Eaton, with a group of dedicated community members, co-founded the Friends
of the Black Archives, a non-profit volunteer group dedicated to the promotion and
preservation of African-American history. It was founded to support and incite greater
interest in the center and its public services. In 1983, the James N. Eaton, Sr. Endowment
was established to render further support to the museum and archives.
The noted archivist, curator, educator, and historian was the recipient of hundreds
of accolades and awards. Some of his most prestigious honors include being named “Professor
of the Year” in 1991 by Florida’s Council for Advancement and Support of Education
(CASE). In 1997, Florida Memorial College bestowed upon him the Doctorate of Humane
Letters. After nearly five decades of dedicated scholarship and public service, Dr.
Eaton announced his retirement in 2003. That same year, the university bestowed upon
him the title of Professor Emeritus. Additionally in 2003, in recognition of his dedication
in the areas of education, American, African-American and world history, a bill was
introduced in the Florida Legislature that proposed naming the new Southeastern Regional
Black Archives Research Center and Museum expansion facility the Meek-Eaton Building
in the honor of Eaton and his close friend and colleague, U.S. Congresswoman Carrie
P. Meek (retired), who helped secure funds for the new facility.
The Expansion of the Black Archives
U.S. Congresswoman Carrie P. Meek (D-Florida), a six-term U.S. Congresswoman (retired)
and 1946 FAMCEE graduate, was a vanguard in securing funds to expand the Black Archives
facility. In 2006, the Florida Legislature co-named the new facility in her honor.
U.S. Congresswoman Carrie Pittman Meek (retired) has enjoyed an historic trailblazing
career as a public servant, college administrator and educator. She first made history
in 1978, when she was elected to the Florida House of Representatives. In 1982, she
became the first African-American woman elected to the Florida State Senate. After
14 years in the Florida Legislature, Meek was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives
in 1992. She was the first African-American lawmaker elected to represent Florida
in Congress since Reconstruction. Meek was a strong advocate for underserved populations.
She retired from Congress in 2003, and was succeeded by her son, Sen. Kendrick Meek.
She returned to Dade County where she dedicates her time and service to the Carrie
P. Meek Foundation, a non-profit corporation. In 2006, the Carrie Meek - James N.
Eaton, Sr. Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum, located
on FAMU's campus, was co-named in her honor.
The Donation of Carnegie Library
Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919),business mogul, philanthropist, industrialist and the
founder of the Carnegie Steel Company (U.S. Steel).
In 1906, Andrew Carnegie donated $10,000 to build a new library for the Florida State
College for Colored Students (present-day Florida A&M University). The new two-story,
brick facility officially opened to the public in 1908. It was the first Carnegie
Library built on a black land-grant college campus. The facility boasted modern amenities
such as electricity, indoor plumbing and water supplied by the city. In later years,
the Library served as an art gallery, religious center, and in 1976, became the founding
home of the Black Archives Research Center and Museum, which also in 1976, was listed
on the National Register of Historic Places.