CSUSB library to work on project that documents African American contributions in IE

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– The John M. Pfau Library at Cal State San Bernardino will begin working closely with Jennifer Tilton, professor of race and ethnic studies at the University of Redlands, to reinvigorate the “Bridges that Carried Us Over” project.  

First launched in 2007 by the Wilmer Amina Carter Foundation, the initiative has documented the presence and contributions of the African American community in the Inland Empire. Through recorded oral history interviews, the stories of African Americans pioneers – who contributed significantly to the development of the region – come vividly to life to be preserved for posterity.

A CSUSB alumna, Carter represented California’s 62nd Assembly District from 2006 to 2012. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in education from CSUSB and also worked in legislative and community relations for the university.

The renewed preservation project, now called “Bridges that Carried Us Over: I.E. Black History Archive,” is community-based and collaborative. Its goal is to involve community members, cities, colleges and universities from across the Inland region. A number of oral history interviews have already been completed, with considerably more planned in the coming year. The interviews and their transcriptions will be made available through CSUSB ScholarWorks.

“Students in my college classes constantly ask me why their high schools teach so little about Black history beyond slavery and the southern Civil Rights Movement,” said Tilton, who is leading the collecting effort at the University of Redlands campus. “They rarely learn anything about the incredible and diverse contributions of Black residents to the history and development of the Inland Empire. This archive will give historians and future students the primary sources to be able to write a very different history of our region, one that can recognize the ways Black Americans have shaped our region and built institutions and social networks that pushed America to live up to our ideals. I am honored that my students and I can work to help (Wilmer) Amina Carter complete her vision for this repository.”

Cesar Caballero, dean of the John M. Pfau Library, which houses the archive, was an early supporter of the project. He praised Tilton and Carter for their dedicated efforts. 

“We’re delighted to partner with Dr. Tilton and renew our commitment to Wilmer Amina Carter’s vision,” he said. “‘Bridges that Carried Us Over’ is such an important undertaking, and we look forward to broadening its content.” 

“From the beginning, Dean Caballero supported the idea of establishing the archive,” said Carter. “He immediately grasped the value of the project, providing the guidance and resources needed to make it a reality. So, it’s a pleasure to continue this initiative under his leadership and that of Dr. Tilton, whose collective commitment I greatly admire. The rich oral histories will provide a more textured understanding of African American contributions to Inland region communities, institutions, businesses, schools, and many other civic spheres, illuminating an integral part of the area’s diverse history.”

For questions or more information, contact Jennifer Tilton at jennifer_tilton@redlands.edu or Eric Milenkiewicz at eric.milenkiewicz@csusb.edu.

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