Who is Jason Melius and what is he doing in the WSSU Archives?

There has been a new face in the WSSU Archives for a little over a month now.  Who is this guy and what is he doing?

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Why, hello there! Jason working hard in O’Kelly Library- the WSSU Archives

My name is Jason Melius.  I am a native New Yorker who has lived in Winston-Salem since 2006. I graduated from WSSU in December, 2012 with a BA in History.  After WSSU I applied and was accepted into UNC-G’s Master of Library and Information Science program.  I am in my final year in the program, and this semester finds me back at WSSU working on my practicum under the supervision of O’Kelly Library’s Archivist Thomas Flynn.

When I departed WSSU, I wanted to be able to return in some capacity to give back to the institution which gave me an outstanding foundation. I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to work on the project I have been given.

In the fall of 2015, Dr. Larry Little began to donate his personal collection to the school archives. I had the honor of taking one of Dr. Little’s political Science classes in my last semester at WSSU. I was impressed and humbled by the experience. Here is a man who has truly dedicated his life to improving the lives of others.

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Past event in honor of The Larry little Black Panther Legacy Collection

Dr. Little was a founding member and later leader of the Winston-Salem Chapter of the Black Panther Party. The Panthers were painted as racist revolutionaries by the government and media. In reality, they were trying to protect themselves and their communities from police brutality, corruption, drugs and institutionalized racism. For instance, in the winter of 1970 when Winston-Salem police evicted several elderly African Americans from their homes and drug their belongings to the curb, the Panthers stepped in. They moved the people back into their homes and then stood guard to make sure they were not turned out into the cold once again.

The Winston-Salem Panthers were dedicated to community outreach. Dr. Little was at the very heart of these programs which included free breakfasts for school children, a free ambulance service, free pest control, clothing drives and even free rides to prisons for people with incarcerated family members.

Following the Black Panthers, Dr. Little entered the world of local politics, serving Winston-Salem as a City Councilman. He later received his juris doctorate from Wake Forest University. This lead him into working on some very significant civil rights cases such as that of Joanne Little and Darryl Hunt. Since the early 1990’s, he has been a tenured political science professor, here at WSSU.

So what’s up with Dr. Little’s collection?

As I said, Dr. Little donated most of his collection to the WSSU Archives. When I heard that it was going to be digitized and the archives was looking for help, I jumped at the chance.

The collection consists of tons of newspaper clippings, photographs, FBI files, personal correspondence and even bumper stickers from Dr. Little’s early political campaigns. The largest (and heaviest) piece of the collection is the historic marker commemorating the W-S Chapter of the Black Panthers, which was vandalized soon after it was unveiled on October 14, 2012. Naturally, the vast majority of the collection consists of materials related to the Black Panther Party.

I am in the process of cataloging and eventually digitizing the collection. Just last week, I finally finished sorting and taking a proper inventory of the materials. It was a daunting task to say the least! Lucky for me, Mr. Flynn is incredibly patient.

The next few weeks will be spent creating metadata for all of the photographs which have been scanned and uploaded into our database. If you are interesting in seeing how the processes work, have questions or just want to see the new guy working in a tiny room in the library’s bottom floor, please stop by Mondays or Fridays between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M!

Author: Jason Melius

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