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Awards Mark Importance of
Black History Month

Democrat Photo by Ted Waddell

LOCAL WINNERS: Recipients of the Frederick Douglass Award from the Sullivan County chapter of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History stand together at the ceremony Sunday in Woodbourne. From the left are Thelma McIver, Anita Davis, Ida Mae Mitchell and Kenneth Anderson.


By Ted Waddell
WOODBOURNE - February 18, 2000 — The Sullivan County Chapter of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History hosted their 12th Annual Frederick Douglass Breakfast on Sunday morning at the Woodbourne Fire Department social hall.
The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History (ASALH) was founded in 1914 by university-trained black historians, such as Dr. Carter G. Woodson. He believed that the recovery and documentation of the role of blacks in American history was important as a way to develop cultural pride and a sense of “roots” among blacks and to give all Americans a greater appreciation of the black contribution to life in general.
In 1979, the Sullivan County chapter of the ASALH was formed with the goal of sponsoring educational programs during Black History Month (February).
Today, there are more than 100 chapters throughout the United States.
“As the county observance of Black History Month has evolved since the first Frederick Douglass Breakfast held in 1981, the chapter has come to believe that an important service is rendered by honoring area African-Americans from various walks of life who have led interesting and worthwhile lives,” said President Dr. Lewis Howard.
“Each year we discover more and more people who have built on the foundations they received in the home, in church and in the public schools to build lives valuable both to themselves, their families and the community at large.”
Since 1983, the Sullivan County chapter of the ASALH has recognized outstanding local members of the community with the Frederick Douglass Black History Month Award. The first recipient was Erskine Hawkins, whose career as a musician paralleled the rich history of American jazz.
Other recipients of the Frederick Douglass Award: the Rev. Martha Finn (known as “Mother Finn,” pastor of the Bethlehem Temple Church in Monticello); Samuel, Ruth and Clifford Harden (descendents of William and Fannie Harden, their family goes back to the post-Civil War era in the county); Richard Perry (honored with the National Book Award for Most Promising New Writer for his novel “Montgomery’s Children”); Carl Berry, Sr. (enjoyed working with people all his life); Mary Bryant Dupree (served as a teacher for 34 years); and Josephine Victoria Finn (granddaughter of the late Rev. Martha Finn, she graduated from Monticello High School and went on to become the first black attorney in the county).
This year, former Monticello resident Ida Mae Mitchell and several others were honored for their efforts.
Mitchell, the 2000 Frederick Douglass Award winner, is a native of Alabama by birth. She is the third of six children raised by her father, Van Carstarphen, a strict but loving man of high moral character, who encouraged all his children to be the best they could be and help others along the highway of life.
After attending Alabama State Teachers College (1948-49), she met and later married Forrest Mitchell. (On Sept. 7, 1999, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.) Six months after getting married, the newlyweds packed their meager belongings into a single suitcase, caught a bus north and settled in Monticello, where they worked and lived for almost 45 years.
Mitchell first went to work in Sullivan County as a dry cleaning checker at Cohen’s Laundry in Monticello “with her mind’s eye focused on New York Telephone across the street.” After 2 1/2 years, she landed a job with NYT, where she worked in various positions for the next 11 years.
After the telephone company, Mitchell went to work for Community General Hospital (CGH) of Sullivan County, first as a medical records reviewer, then as head of the department. She worked at CGH for ten years.
Her next decade of employment in the county was as officer manager for a surgical group. Mitchell spent her last five years in the workforce as head of the billing department for the Association of Retarded Citizens.
After six years of retirement, the Mitchells moved to Rainbow City, AL.
While living in Sullivan County, Ida Mae Mitchell served her community well: she was a member of the Monticello United Methodist Church, choir and various board positions; Monticello Central School Board of Education and Advisory Commission; member of the United Methodist Church Black College Fund Committee (1984-94); appointed by Gov. Mario Cuomo to the Association of Board of Visitors of NYS Facilities for the Mentally Disabled; member of the Village of Monticello Local Human Rights Commission; the village’s city charter commission; Sullivan County Department of Social Services Citizen Advisory Commission (served as chairperson 1983-93); and, as a member of the ASALH chapter since 1983, she served two years as president.
Since 1987, three graduates of Sullivan County high schools have been singled out for special recognition in addition to the annual Frederick Douglass Award honoree. As they have embarked on useful careers after high school, the local ASALH chapter is proud of their ability to serve as role models for young people who are now enrolled in local high schools.
Keith E. Anderson, one of the High School Graduate Black History Award winners, is the middle son and oldest twin born to Emery and Mattie Anderson in Monticello.
He graduated from Monticello High School in 1991. Anderson received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1996 from Philadelphia College of Textile & Science.
He is currently working as a network administrator for the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) in Philadelphia, Pa.
Kenneth E. Anderson, another one of the High School Graduate Black History Award winners, is Keith’s twin.
On June 21, 1991, he joined his twin brother in graduating from Monticello High School. In 1994, Anderson received a degree in criminal justice from SUNY Farmingdale. Two years later, he was awarded his bachelor’s degree from Long Island University.
At the present, Kenneth Anderson works as a fraud investigator for the NYC Office of Revenue and Investigation.
Upon receiving his ASALH award, Anderson said, “I thank the Creator, my family and my church for preparing us for life. We chose to take those roads where people take education and having a legitimate career seriously.”
Anita Daniels also won the High School Graduate Black History Award. The eldest daughter of McKinley and Ann Daniels, Anita Daniels was born in Monticello. Affectionately known as “Susie,” she was baptized at the First Baptist Church in South Fallsburg, which provided the foundation for her faith and spiritual beliefs and has influenced and guided her life.
In 1983, Daniels graduated with honors from Fallsburg Central School. After getting her degree from Albany Medical School of Nursing, she went on to graduate magna cum laude with dual degrees in nursing and psychology from SUNY New Paltz.
Daniels is currently employed as the Director of Nursing at Rockland Psychiatric Center. Daniels is enrolled in Mercy College’s family clinical nurse specialist program, where she is studing for her master’s degree.
She attributes all of her successes to her strong belief in God and the unconditional support she has received from family and friends.
“My family taught me that anything is possible,” said Daniels while accepting her award. “We as a people are bright, have a positive attitude and are pro-active with a strong sense of commitment.”
Thelma D. McIver (another High School Graduate Black History Month Award winner), a native of Liberty, was born to the late Alvin and Marie McIver, the second of four children. While attending Liberty High School, she was active in sports. McIver graduated in 1977.
She received an AOS in business administration, marketing and retailing from Albany Business College. A passion for helping others led her to work for 10 years at the Parsons Child & Family Center in Albany.
After returning to Sullivan County, McIver became active in family service and health agencies. She serves as co-chairperson of the Sullivan County AIDS Task Force. McIver is also involved with the Relay for Life Cancer group and Sobriety in Action.
After accepting her award, McIver said, “I thank my Higher Power, who I call God, and the community I come from.”
Although widely credited with starting the local ASALH chapter on his own, President Dr. Lewis Howard set the record straight. According to Dr. Howard, a group of people working for the Sullivan County Community Action Commission to Help the Economy (CACHE) got together in December 1978 to lay the groundwork for the chapter.
Based upon his work with similar groups in NYC and Boston, Dr. Howard served as an advisor.
Founding members of the Sullivan County chapter included Wilhelmina Chisholm, Dorothy Larry, Ida McCray, Shan Putora and Gladys Walker.
“In a place like Sullivan County, which is somewhat rural, it was important to let people know that black people played a role in the early development of the county,” said Dr. Howard. “It’s not to boast or brag, but we need to make a special effort in the realm of knowledge now as much as we did in 1914.”

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