In 2002 as I searched for a place to house a community center, I was alerted to 733 Euclid St. through a friend. It had been abandoned for several years, was dark and desolate inside and out, and was inhabited by squatters. It had most recently been the Key Day Care Center. The owner of record was the National Association for the Relief of Destitute Colored Women and Children. Endless searching brought up nothing, until I happened on an old Certificate of Occupancy that mentioned the name “Joseph McKinney” among others. More searching finally led to a face-to-face meeting with Dr. McKinney, a distinguished gentleman in his 80s who began to tell the story. I owe Dr. McKinney a lifetime of gratitude for allowing this building to continue to be of service to the community.
This exhibit is a tribute to the untold stories of the work behind the scenes to face the hardships resulting from the end of the Civil War. While great men debated, and philosophized on “The Negro Problem”, great women were quietly serving the day-to-day needs of thousands of children left destitute in the city. For the women who led this effort, there was nothing to debate, there was just work to do. As the charter of one organization came to an end, another woman’s vision unfolded into a similar theme - children must have a home and an education.
In its latest incarnation, the ECAC is answering the call to continue the legacy of service to the community, and among our first acts is to honor those who walked before us. We are grateful that their annual reports to Congress documented their work in such great detail, and those who served the community were not lost to history. We hope that in 50 years ECAC will have added to the list of accomplishments, honoring the many women and men who today perform the daily tasks of caring for and educating young people.
It is only by chance that you are able to read about this history, but there are many stories that have not been told. Our history books won’t always tell us the most important people we need to meet - but you can. Learn the stories of your elders and write them down for your children. Share your old photos with the museums. Find out about your neighborhood. Don’t let a lifetime pass without enriching the next generation.