In Memoriam | Spelman Alumna, Archivist Brenda Banks Chose to Change the World

Dr. Trichita Chestnut (National Archives and Records Administration), the late Brenda Banks (retired Georgia State Archives), Andrea Jackson (Atlanta University Center, Woodruff Library), Taronda Spencer (Spelman College), and Cynthia Patterson Lewis (Martin Luther King Jr. Library/Archives); at Society of American Archivists Annual Meeting, 2007


I have very few pictures with Brenda Banks, my Spelman College sister. As a leader in the world of archives, she was always present in my professional life. I posted this photo of us Spelman alumnae archivists six years to the day of her passing, then again today, before I had learned of this terrible loss.

I remember so well that Brenda was one of the first people to offer me a job when I attended the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting in California as a graduate student assistant at New York University. At that time, she was the deputy director of the Georgia Archives.

Brenda, the first African American to serve as president of SAA, and was also a fellow—the highest honor bestowed by our professional organizations—of both SAA and Society of Georgia Archivists.

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She advocated for HBCU archives and archivists through a nationwide initiative to train and educate staff responsible for the care of our historical records. Brenda was also the board chair for the Georgia Archives Institute, an important institute dedicated to advancing skills of staff working with archives who may not have had formal training.  She was the first project manager for the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection housed here at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library. Most recently, she served as project archivist for the Audre Lorde Papers at Spelman College Archives.

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I learned so much from Brenda, as well as from Spelman College alumna, archivist and college historian, the late Taronda Spencer. They were two of my ‘big sister’ archivists. They were very proud Spelman women. They are both now together—I hope looking down on us as guardian archives angels!

Although these are sad days for those of us who knew her and thrived because of her expertise and mentorship, I look forward to celebrating her life at the upcoming SAA Annual Meeting here in her town of Atlanta. It will be very special to honor her as an archivist, alumna, and legend, with others who deeply cared for her.

She was the very embodiment of Spelman and “A Choice to Change the World.”

Andrea JacksonA 2001 graduate of Spelman College, Andrea Jackson is the chief archivist at Atlanta University Center’s Robert W. Woodruff Library. One of the prized collections she maintains is the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection.