Purpose of Exhibit
This exhibition features public educator, California State University, Los Angeles alumni, and politician Mervyn M. Dymally (1926 -2012), a Trinidadian immigrant who became the first Black Lieutenant Governor of California. Dymally emigrated from Trinidad as a result of the British vestiges of colonialism and imperialism in the Caribbean and abroad, which resulted in his anti-imperialist activism regarding US foreign policy and international relations. Set against the backdrop of the Cold War, state violence, and the build-up of prisons in California, this living exhibit highlights Dymally's deep commitment to human rights and advocacy for those who have been “Othered”, in history.
We seek to challenge archival silences of the past by contributing to a landscape that finds value in people who have been erased or devalued by an exclusionary practice that has power over which narratives are told and which stories remain hidden. We seek to make space for lived experiences that enhance the existing rich dialogue about state violence, mass incarceration, educational equity, and human rights in our communities.
Dymally’s role in Los Angeles politics and the larger national landscape is highlighted in this curated collection of letters, documents, and photographs. This project results from an organic collaborative effort between faculty and undergraduate students of Cal State LA and the Education Department at the Autry Museum. This project was made possible with the support of a quick grant from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Process of Selecting Materials
In the fall of 2019, Dawn A. Dennis, Ph.D., history lecturer, and Azalea Camacho, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian developed a student-led project-based active-learning experience through teaching history, archival practice, and primary source analysis. Together, they explored various options to engage undergraduate students beyond the classroom by embedding archival practice throughout an undergraduate race and ethnicity history course. The course focused on race and ethnicity intersections with culture, and gender, and socio-economic class in American history. The Mervyn M. Dymally Papers are important to the study of race, immigration, and ethnicity in this nation, the diaspora, and the preservation of public history. Students in two sections of the course learned how to process and interpret the personal papers of Mervyn M. Dymally. One section of the class worked on photographs, while the other section worked on correspondence. Two additional sections of the same history course worked on processing the Dymally papers, which is over 300 boxes of archival materials. The collection consists of legislative files, correspondence, committee and congressional files, press releases, speeches, and photographs.
As students processed the collection, they developed their skills in analyzing primary sources by identifying items that related to the themes and subject areas that were covered in the course for inclusion in the virtual exhibition. In 2020, Kendall Faulkner, Social Sciences Librarian joined the efforts of Dennis and Camacho by providing a lesson plan for the course that focused on exhibit label writing. Essentially, students are part of the collaborative process of building an archival collection from inception to a virtual exhibition that will create new knowledge, facilitate intentional dialogue, build community, and produce research and scholarship opportunities for future students and faculty.
Copyright, Privacy, and Ethics
This exhibit features a collection of archival materials including correspondence, press releases, and news articles from Mervyn Dymally’s Public Official papers, housed at Cal State L.A. Special Collections and Archives.
The curators evaluated the copyright status for each item in this exhibit and we have included items that are considered to be in the Public Domain, as well as materials still under copyright that have been made available under the Fair Use exemption. When invoking Fair Use, we ensure the materials are available for educational purposes with context-building commentary and scholarly criticism. Where we have opted to use the entirety of the item, we anticipate no negative market impact for the creators and have provided a rights statement for each item.
Furthermore, each item was evaluated for ethical and privacy concerns regardless of the copyright status -- Every precaution was taken in an attempt to find a balance between making items available for the purposes of education while protecting the rights and privacy of others.
If you feel your rights have been infringed upon and wish to remove an item from this exhibit, please contact SpecialCollections@calstatela.edu
Please be advised that some items in this collection may feature harmful, triggering, and hurtful language. We recognize this may be problematic for some users and have done our best to minimize these occurrences as well as avoid using offensive or harmful terms in their descriptions. However, we have allowed for a small number of items featuring this language to be present for the sake of historical accuracy and to document the issues and social context of a specific time as well the attitudes and opinions of the people who created the material.