Research

Growing Up with Davis Library

Charlene Regester’s research has brought rare resources on Black history to Carolina’s libraries

Regester views a film.

Charlene Regester’s research has brought rare resources on Black history to Carolina’s libraries

Charlene Regester was a Ph.D. student at Carolina in 1984 when the Walter Royal Davis Library opened for the first time. Regester, now an associate professor in the Department of African, African American, and Diaspora Studies and acting director of the Institute for African American Research at UNC-Chapel Hill, shared that she’s “been parked in Davis Library ever since.”

Register has used the Davis Library to obtain censorship records from the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, paper collections on Black actors and filmmakers, and microfilms of African American newspapers, like the Chicago Defender and New York Amsterdam News. Additionally, the staff at the Media & Design Center at the R.B. House Undergraduate Library obtained hard-to-find copies of films by Oscar Micheaux, an early 20th-century African American author, film director, and producer. Regester has used these findings in her research and courses.

“I’ve learned over the years that your research is only as good as the resources you have access to,” Regester said. “Having access to these materials has opened up a whole realm of opportunity to revisit the past and document it. I hope I have advanced the field because of my own interest in recovering and researching these films, getting a sense for how African American filmmakers had to make films without appropriate budgets or technological inventions. I’m trying to fill that void in history.”

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