Written by Richmond Free Press
“In the midst of a pandemic marked by death, large-scale action and change for African-Americans, Michelle Evans- Oliver is working to ensure the stories of Black people in Richmond are preserved and promoted.
As founder and president of the Richmond, Virginia Branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Ms. Evans-Oliver first began this work when the group was chartered in 2020.
“We want to give our story of what really is happening,” Ms. Evans-Oliver says. “We don’t walk, we don’t march, but we make sure that our information is told, is documented and that we know exactly who we are and where we came from.”
The pursuit of this mission carries a personal connection for Ms. Evans-Oliver. She is a descendant of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a historian and author born in Buckingham County who is known as the “Father of Black History.” He established ASALH in 1915 with several co-founders and launched Negro History Week in 1926, which later became recognized as Black History Month.
The ancestral connection led Ms. Evans-Oliver to attend ASALH’s national convention in Richmond in 2016, where organizers were looking to meet with Mr. Woodson’s descendants. There, Ms. Evans-Oliver would not just gain greater insight into ASALH, but also would receive requests every year after the convention to start a branch in Richmond.
“Why not?” says Ms. Evans-Oliver of her choice to start the group. “I know it’s a lot of work, but aren’t all organizations that you start from scratch?”
The organization’s major goal for 2022 is growing its membership. The process so far has been a mix of good and bad, with the pandemic limiting events to virtual discussions and seminars and leading to a drop in the branch’s initial enrollment of 65 members.”