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The Uncrowned Queens Institute

Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr. P.H., Ph.D
Barbara Seals Nevergold, Ph.D

Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of African American Studies, and Barbara Seals Nevergold, Director of Student Support Services in UB's Educational Opportunity Center, began the Uncrowned Queens in 1999. This ground-breaking project focuses on honoring and documenting the lives and accomplishments of previously-unheralded African American women from Western New York and beyond.

The project debuted to the public on February 15, 2001. In 2002 and 2003 Brooks-Bertram and Nevergold published corresponding anthologies, Uncrowned Queens: African American Community Builders in Western New York (volume 1 and volume 2). Today the Uncrowned Queens Institute for Research and Education on Women, Inc. has gained national recognition as well as being a role model for an Oklahoma Uncrowned Queens project that will debut during the state's centennial celebration in 2007.

And the project continues to grow. Its mission is to "conduct research on the issues affecting women of color, to use this research to develop educational programs that will enhance the quality of life for women and their communities, to promote the collection and dissemination of [...] women's collective history and to teach and educate women on the use of technology to preserve and disseminate their histories" (from the Uncrowned Queens Overview).

The Uncrowned Queens's website includes extensive biographies on each of the 700+ uncrowned queens and has won numerous awards including a Silver Award from the American Association of Webmasters. The site also includes information on local African American women's organizations, historical events, and African Americans in the Pan American Exhibition of 1901.

In addition, the Institute hosts an annual conference, focusing on African American women's history. The conferences have drawn participants nationally and internationally, and have had a significant impact on the study and documentation of African American history in Western New York.

The Institute is also beginning a project to capture oral histories of the oldest of the Uncrowned Queens. Interviews with these octo- and septogenarians recounting their lives and accomplishments will be a real resource for the local community as well as researchers on women's and African American history.

The Institute's founders themselves have won numerous awards, both for their work on the Uncrowned Queens Project and for their individual contributions to the community.

Peggy Brooks-Bertram, Dr. P.H., Ph.D

Brooks-Bertram, President of the Uncrowned Queens Institute, is a real renaissance woman. A scholar, educator, activist, and playwright, Brooks-Bertram has degrees in Political Science, Public Health, and American Studies. She has written children's books, produced radio and television programs, and researched in the areas of education, public health, and African American history. She has also developed a faith-based hospice center, worked as an advocate of the parents of public school children, and founded, among other things, an independent consultant firm, Jehudi Educational Services, of which she is the CEO. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society and the Kaleida Health Trustee Council.

Peggy Brooks-Bertram at the Third Annual Uncrowned Queens Conference: Embracing African American Women of Power, Passion, and Purpose, November 2003

In 1988, her play Dynasties of Kush was selected to be included in the University at Buffalo's First International Women's Playwright Conference and, in 2001, Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland awarded her the University's first Distinguished Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to African American History and Culture.

She is also the recipient of the Buffalo Urban League's 2002 Community Life Award. Some of her other awards include the Individual Achievement Award for Family Support Programs for Families of Children with Prader-Willi Syndrome from the National Associate of Counties, the Mary B. Talbert Civic and Cultural Club's Award for Community Service, and the William Wells Brown award from the Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier.

Barbara Seals Nevergold, Ph.D

Nevergold, co-founder of the Institute, currently works at the Equal Opportunity Center at UB as Director of Student Support Services. Before coming to UB, she served a number of important roles in the community, some of which were: working as a French teacher and guidance counselor in the Buffalo public schools, directing the Niagara Frontier Association for Sickle Cell Disease, Inc., and serving as the CEO of Planned Parenthood of Buffalo and Erie County, Inc.

She currently serves on the boards of the Afro American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier, Inc., the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, the Buffalo Rotary Club, and Heritage Centers, a local human services group that works to create opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Nevergold has also written articles on African American and local history and social issues.

Barbara Seals Nevergold at the Third Annual Uncrowned Queens Conference: Embracing African American Women of Power, Passion, and Purpose, November 2003.

Some of the awards that Nevergold has received in recent years are the Excellence in Education Award from Xi Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; the Williams Wells Brown Award in recognition of her efforts to preserve local African American history; and the Community Service Award from the Mary B. Talbert Civic and Cultural Club.