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"A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight."

—Robertson Davies (b. 1913) Canadian novelist

 

Tribute to Frances Latimer

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In January the Eastern Shore Public Library in Accomac will be displaying a tribute to Frances Bibbins Latimer, a researcher, genealogist, writer, historian, speaker, publisher and cornerstone of African American Eastern Shore history. On January 23rd at the Accomac library Frances’s friends will share memories of her. Please join us at 4:30 for tea and cakes.

In January the Eastern Shore Public Library in Accomac will be displaying a tribute to Frances Bibbins Latimer, a researcher, genealogist, writer, historian, speaker, publisher and cornerstone of African American Eastern Shore history. Frances Latimer was born on October 4, 1941 in Seaview, Virginia. She attended public schools in Northampton County, graduated from Hampton University and received a Master’s degree from New York University. After a teaching career in New York City, Frances returned to the Eastern Shore in 1977 and taught in Accomack County. She later achieved tenure as the Director of the local Project Head Start. That legacy alone would be enough to explain her great contribution to the Shore. However, Frances contributed so much more.

With her husband, George Latimer, she founded Hickory House Publishing, which published her work interpreting Eastville’s Court Records and her book Landmarks: Black Historic Sites on the Eastern Shore. Hickory House also published dozens of other varied works including the works of poetry Turn, Turn, Tern, by the late decoy carver Bobby Swain, and Backwater Moon by Kendall Bradley, and also including the  children’s books The Unknown Hero: Will West at Kerr Place and The Story of the Silent Witness by Emilee Mason. These books and others will be on display at the library.

In 1998 Frances was featured in a PBS documentary series called “Africans in America.” Her work became a significant contribution to the series’ teacher’s guide, titled “America’s Journey Through Slavery,” which was underwritten by the National Endowment for the Humanities and endorsed by the National Council of Social Studies.

Frances gave talks at Christopher Newport University, G.H.O.T.E.S. Inc. (Genealogy and History of the Eastern Shore of Virginia), Presentation Virginia and many other venues. In 2004 she received the Woman in History award from the Northampton County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Frances served on the Board of Directors of the Eastern Shore Historical Society, The Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture at Salisbury University, The Eastern Shore Center for Black History and Culture, The Advisory Board for the Arlington Foundation, Inc. and the Eastern Shore Regional Council of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

With many historical works left to publish, Frances Latimer passed away November 25, 2010. In 2013 her book Life For Me Ain’t Been No Crystal Stair: Stories from Virginia’s Eastern Shore African American History was published posthumously. Frances based her title on a quote from Langston Hughes.

In an effort to further the work of future genealogists and historians, it is hoped that her unfinished projects will be published posthumously and the generation of young scholars she dreamed of will rise up to pass on and expound upon the rich legacy that she has given Virginia and the Eastern Shore community. Her love of local history was an inspiration. Frances’s dedication to past history will inspire us to record our present lives and ensure a future for our memories.

On January 23rd at the Accomac library Frances’s friends will share memories of her. Please join us at 4:30 for tea and cakes.

 



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