Author set to appear

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Author and Fort Scott native Edsmond Jerry Collins will be in town this week to sign copies of his first published book about area African-American families and their histories.

Collins will be here Thursday and Friday to inscribe copies of his book, "Footprints of African-American Families in Fort Scott, Kansas," at the Gordon Parks Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and again during the Fort Scott Family and Friends reunion social hour at the Elks Lodge on Friday.

"Footprints of African-American Families in Fort Scott, Kansas," was published this year by 48-Hr Books out of Akron, Ohio. It examines the history of local families dating back to the 1800s.

For 15 years, Collins interviewed area families and did extensive research on a group that had virtually no written history.

Collins said he was inspired by the fact that he felt that African-American history in Fort Scott had been "pretty much overlooked."

"There was nothing written that one could review and one could set down and really learn about what has happened to the African-Americans since the 1800s," Collins said from his home in Fairfield, Calif. "You read publications regarding the Buffalo Soldiers and the colored regiments that were established here in Fort Scott, but after the 1800s very little was published regarding the African-American families and their involvement in the area."

Information about noted hometown legends Gordon Parks, George Washington Carver and E.J. Hawkins is readily available, but Collins said they are not the only African-Americans who have made "substantial contributions to the community."

The book provides only capsules of the history of families from that period, Collins said, because it primarily focuses on families and their children who were in Fort Scott or are currently residing here.

Starting with the settlement of the first African-American residents along Gordon Road, the book goes on to discuss noteworthy individuals from the late 1800s-1930s and 40s to the present.

Collins is in town promoting his book as part of the Fort Scott Family and Friends reunion, set for July 19-21.

Committee member Kirk Sharp said the group invited Collins because he was a regular guest speaker at previous reunions.

"When we used to have him on a regularly basis, he talked then about writing this book," Sharp said, adding this blends well with what the committee promotes and celebrates.

"Footprints of African-American Families in Fort Scott, Kansas" is Collins's first book. He is also a new role psychologist in California. New role psychologists use a combination of psychiatry, neurology and psychology to treat patients with brain and other neurological disorders.

The first-time author said he will donate copies of the book to the Visitor Center at Fort Scott National Historic Site, the Lowell Milken Center, Fort Scott Public Library, the Historical Society and Gordon Parks Center.

"This is a wealth of knowledge," Collins said, of those "African-American families that we often don't hear about."

"This is probably the most concise history of African-Americans in Fort Scott who have resided here since the 1800s," he said. "It is the most comprehensive written manuscript that gives one a picture of the experiences of those families who have lived in Fort Scott and have contributed to the fabric of the city."

Schedule of events for the Fort Scott Family and Friends Reunion:

Thursday, July 19

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.-Registration: Check in at the Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center at Fort Scott Community College 2108 S. Horton St.

2 p.m.-Poetry Performance by George Wallace at the Gordon Parks Museum/Center for Culture and Diversity at Fort Scott Community College.

7 p.m. to 9 p.m. - Reception/Social Hour at the Lyons Twin Mansions bed and breakfast, 742 and 750 S. National. Refreshments available.

Friday, July 20

9 a.m.-noon - Registration: Check in at the Danny and Willa Ellis Family Fine Arts Center at Fort Scott Community College 2108 S. Horton St..

9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- Come-and-go reception at the Lowell Milken Center, 4 S. Main. View never-before-seen photos, films and archives of African-American families in Fort Scott as far back as the 1930s. Visitors will be able to purchase copies of photos. Refreshments will be available.

6-7 p.m.- Social hour at the Elks Lodge.

7-8 p.m.-Reunion banquet dinner at the Elks Lodge.

9 a.m.-1 a.m.-Reunion dance at the Elks Lodge.

Saturday, July 21

11 a.m. to 6 p.m.-Reunion picnic: Food and activities at Gunn Park (Shelter House 5)

9 p.m.-1 a.m.-Reunion dance at the Elks Lodge.