Spotlight Award: B. Bernetiae Reed

B. Bernetiae Reed, project documentarian and oral historian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the 2018 recipient of the Spotlight Award from the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The award recognizes the contributions of individuals who work for the good of the profession and archival collections—work that does not typically receive public recognition.

Reed is a genealogist, historian, author, documentary filmmaker, and social activist. Over the course of decades and apart from any institution, Reed compiled a one-woman archives and extensive oral history collection documenting the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, African Americans in Greensboro, the Tuskegee Airmen, Cooleemee plantation and Judge Peter Hairston, US Color Troops, and civil rights activist Al McSurely, among many other topics. Her work in genealogy and the recovery of African American history led her to author the two-volume The Slave Families of Thomas Jefferson: A Pictorial Study Book with an Interpretation of His Farm Book in Genealogy Charts (2007), which remains an authoritative book on the topic.

After a long career in nursing, Reed earned her MLIS at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2015. Currently she is working on UNC’s Southern Historical Collection’s Community-Driven Archives project, funded by an Andrew W. Mellon grant. In this position, Reed conducts community training in oral history and genealogical methodology to help underrepresented communities preserve their history and heritage. She is active in the dialogue surrounding the documentation of the African American experience. Her goal is to help develop a prototype for a slavery database using Social Networks and Archival Context and to create an online exhibit of letters written by enslaved persons.

Her supporter wrote that “Reed is the sort of tireless champion for communities and archives work who works so hard behind the scenes to make meaningful change” and that she works with “patience and an unfailing vision, grounded in her passion for capturing the stories of the least-heard members of society.”