UDC: “We Are Black History” – William E. Branch, Jr.
UDC: “We Are Black History”
William E. Branch, Jr.
UDC Alum: Senior Archivist, District of Columbia Archives
He is the keeper of the records, treasures, memories and archives of the District of Columbia. A ferocious reader since he was child, William E. Branch, Jr., consumed every book he could about the civil war, civil rights, and African-American history in his home in Kentucky.
Leaving for college in Tennessee, then becoming a Congressional intern, Branch came to the DC area permanently after his father was stationed at Fort Belvoir in Va. He found a perfect place to hone his skills as a researcher and a book lover in the loan department at the Library of Congress. His job included providing loaner books to Congress and universities around the country.
A full-time employee by day, Branch also became a full-time student in the evenings at the University of the District of Columbia, where his tuition was covered by scholarships from the Library of Congress.
Branch graduated from UDC with a B.S. degree in political science and a minor in history. After graduation, it was providence that turned his recycling company into an entrée into archival work. He was required to take training classes about paper and archiving.
He was a volunteer with several organizations when he met Clarence Davis who shared everything he knew about archiving. Davis, a native of Port St. Joe, Fla., was in the process of developing the National African-American Archives and Museum in St. Augustine, Fla. The two worked together for two years, before Branch was hired by Davis in the Office of Public Records. Branch continued his education and training taking several courses with the national archives.
Since 2004, Branch has worked with archives and records and became Washington, DC’s senior archivist in 2012. He is responsible for an extensive collection of photos, documents, microfilm, maps, portraits, statuettes, scale models, land records, and artifacts dating back to 1790.
The collection includes Frederick Douglas’ death certificate, an electric chair, and a large collection of items from Marion Barry’s administration. Branch is frequently called upon to speak at events, and with historical societies.
He is extremely passionate about DC Emancipation Day – April 16th, a holiday in the District marking the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which president Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862 – signed nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing more than 3,100 slaves.
“I’m always reading about history,” Branch said. “The more I read and learn, a veil is lifting offering different perspectives about African- American people in this world.”
To learn more, follow the link below: https://os.dc.gov/service/district-columbia-archives