About the Archive


daisy gary cropped

Take a moment to hear Daisy Gary and her experience having some dinner guests (mp3, 337 KB, 1:08 min).

Daisy remembers when her father allowed three white men who were new in town to stay at their home. They ate dinner together at the same table and they even slept in her brother's room with him.

Some time later when she was in town, Daisy saw one of the men who had stayed with them and she said "Hi, Charley," and he replied "Mista Charley." Daisy called him "Mista pile a slop!" She was outraged. Daisy was older than him and since he had grown up he treated her as if he was above her. He had acted as if her father wasn't the one who had taken him in, fed him, and treated him and the other men as if they were family.

From that point on whenever she seen him she would smile and say "Hi Charley" and he would say that she was "just evil."

Listen to the full interview or read the transcript to learn more about Daisy Gary's experiences.


Novak-opening web

Evolution of the Novak Archive and Acknowledgments:

The Oral History project began in 2004 as part of a Teacher-Scholar award received by Professor Dena Scher in the Psychology/ Social Sciences Department of Marygrove College. In 2006, librarian Michael Barnes adapted the digital interviews into a special collection within the auspices of the Marygrove College Library. Bibliographic records were created to allow a searchable interface that could be included in the website and in the Marygrove Library’s Online Catalog.

In October 2007, Dr. Dena Scher and Michael Barnes officially open the site when JoAnn Novak cut a digital ribbon!

In 2010, Christine Malmsten, Electronic Resources Librarian, added enhancements to the underlying structure and public interface of the website and added the use of analytical tracking of visitor data. Christine Malmsten also sharpened our focus on public access to the collection by raising issues of open access and by adding a creative commons license for each interview. Reference Librarian, Jennifer Meacham, initiated the use of the collection as a classroom resource and as the basis of assignments on the urban experience, Detroit neighborhoods, and migration experiences from the rural South to the industrialized North

In spring, 2010, Dr. Scher received a Scholar-in-Residence award from the Faculty Resource Network (FRN) at New York University (NYU). Michael Stoller, Director of Collections & Research Services for NYU Libraries served as the research consultant for Dr. Scher. Dr. Stoller facilitated consultations regarding oral history collection, preservation and organization of collections, and advanced web design/display.

In 2012, Michael Christel of the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University tested and refined web interfaces for the Civil Rights interviews in the Novak collection. This NSF supported project resulted in advanced search accessibility across all interviews as well as time alignment of audio interviews with the interview transcript. The multimedia web portal created by ETC remains a special feature of the Experiences Collection: Civil Rights Experiences and can be found at http://www.idvl.org/JohnNovak/

Today, Professor Scher continues to facilitate additions to the collection, while Marygrove College librarian, Rebecca Karlis creates bibliographic records and maintains the website. Nathan Katzin provides professional transcription for interviews. Shane Sevo redesigned the site and web presence in 2013 when the collections were reorganized into the Novak Archive. The home page art work is by Danish freelance illustrator, Martin N. Henningsen

Throughout its evolution, the Novak Archive has maintained the goal of learning about history and human progress from the experiences of ordinary individuals. The archive does not seek to interview the famous individual but to support the understanding of life experiences from those who lived them day-to-day. By studying the individual, it is believed that a cultural context is created for understanding motivations for actions and factors that have led to social and political actions. In this process of interviewing and documentation, students at Marygrove College have and are creating a repository of not just their family histories but of the collective experiences of journeys to Detroit.


John-Novak-in-the-classroom web

The Novak Archive is named in honor of John R. Novak, Jr. Dr. Novak was a respected member of the Marygrove College community where he served first as a chemistry faculty, then as coordinator for the chemistry department and the natural sciences and physics department. In 1985 he became Academic Dean and then Vice President for Academic Affairs. Dr. Novak died of cancer in 2002, at age 52.

As Academic Dean, Dr. Novak played a critical role in faculty development, by establishing a sabbatical program and several teaching and scholar awards. Additionally, Dr. Novak helped bring the faculty into the digital age by establishing the infrastructure for technology at the college. Dr. Novak’s support for faculty initiated projects and his keen interest in computer technology provided the intellectual climate and resources for the creation of the Novak Archive.





dena scher web

A message from the founder, Dr. Dena Scher:

This collection began because my students would tell stories about their families---how they came from the South, their experiences of racism and Civil Rights. In fact there were a couple of significant events that led to my desire to preserve and document the student “stories”. In March 2002, I took eight students on a “Roots” travel seminar to North Carolina to study the African-American experience. One of our stops was at the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC. For this experience, we donned gloves and went into a special room to read documents from the Federal Writers project 1936-1940. Sitting in that room and reading about ex-slave experiences like “jumping the broom” galvanized my sense of the power of preserving the lives and experiences of ordinary people. On this same trip, we went to Greensboro, NC where alumnae of Bennett College spoke about the sit in demonstrations at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960. Our group was mesmerized listening to Yvonne Revell and Roslyn Smith. At the end of the session, Ms. Revell made what to me was a shocking statement: It was the first time she had spoken about those events since they had happened. This statement led to a return to NC to document her experiences—Yvonne Revell’s interview was the first in the collection. Ms. Revell speaks of not being able to eat in the city restaurants, the fear she felt at the lunch counter, the participation of the president of Bennett College in supporting the female protesters who were jailed, the jubilation that the demonstrators felt at the closing of the Woolworth’s store, and the impact of these experiences as she became the first black teacher in a white elementary school.

And then technology intervened with the development of small digital recorders, audio downloads, and web sites. The collection of oral histories dovetailed with my training and skills as a clinical psychologist and my teaching of interviewing techniques. Historian Tom Klug and participation in the Oral History Association helped me to understand the expectations of historical primary documentation.

The interviews that were collected by students would have been languishing on my computer memory, if not for Michael Barnes. With the support of the Marygrove College library administration, Michael Barnes created the web site and online repository for the interviews.

Through these interviews, I know each of the people interviewed personally---

I am amazed by the tenacity of Sam Moore in moving from the poverty of Texas where they existed on leftovers from the white people’s house and then by sharecropping to living in the back of a bowling alley when he moved to Detroit.

I am delighted by Edith Floyd’s description of playing gladiator using a mule and the hood of a car on the farm in South Carolina.

I am thoughtful when Frank Rashid speaks of the events of July 23, 1967 and his father receiving a phone call that the family store was being looted. What happened next sparked the 16-year-old’s questioning, “What role did we play? And when you own a liquor store you recognize that you do play a role.”

I am touched by US-born Esperanza Perez who at age nine worked in the cotton fields of Texas five days of the week. Then with less than $5, she crossed the border to Mexico to stay the weekend with family.

And on and on….

It was a joy for me in November 2011 when Daisy Gary at age 96 and her great granddaughter visited our PSY436: Clinical Perspectives: Interviewing course. Daisy’s great granddaughter Danielle Washington was a student in the psychology course on interviewing skills in 2006. Daisy Gary was born in Arkansas in 1915---she was 91 when her great grand daughter, Danielle Washington, interviewed her. As a girl Daisy picked cotton, shucked corn, and stacked peanuts in Arkansas. Her father was mixed white and Cherokee Indian, her mother was Italian and black and her grandmother was a slave freed by a “good master”. She moved from Arkansas to Texas to Detroit, she had two husbands, one was bad and the other was stupid---in telling about her life she recounts incidents of discrimination and racism and in the interview you hear her feisty way of not being subdued by racism.

That day when Daisy and Danielle visited the class we all listened to a clip from Danielle’s 2006 interview of her great grandmother. You really should listen for yourself to hear Daisy call Mr. Charlie, a pile of slop!


A partial list of how the Archive has been used:

Belles of Liberty: Gender, Bennett College And The Civil Rights Movement by Linda Beatrice Brown (Women and Wisdom Foundation 2013) includes four interviews as primary sources. The interviews included in Belles of Liberty were the recollections of Yvonne Revell, Gwendolyn Mackel Rice, Roslyn Smith, and Esther Terry.

The Novak Collection has been recognized for its interviews on migrations to Detroit. The migration interviews were featured in The Great Migration North: 1910-1970 (Laurie Lanzen Harris, Omnigraphics 2011) and as a featured educational link for IN MOTION: The African-American Migration Experience: The Second Great Migration. IN MOTION was developed by The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Michael G. Christel and Bryan S. Maher of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA featured the Novak collection at a presentation on October 11, 2012 at the National Oral History Association meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. The presentation title was Technologies Improving Access to Oral Histories: Fully Searchable Stories Presented in a Multimedia Web Portal.

In November 2010, Dena Scher, Ph.D., Michael Barnes, M.L.I.S., Jennifer Meacham, M.L.I.S., & Christine L. Malmsten, M.L.I.S. presented a session, Interviews and Documentaries: Case Studies In Experiential Learning That Benefit the Community at the FRN National symposium, “Engaging students in the Community and the World”, Washington, D.C.

Detroit Journeys Collection

Detroit Journeys Collection

The Detroit Journeys Collection features interviews focusing on the experiences of individuals migrating within the U.S. or from outside the U.S. to Detroit, Michigan.

Experiences Collection

Experiences Collection

The Experiences Collection features two sections. The first section includes interviews with women from Bennett College who participated in the Woolworth's Lunch Counter civil rights demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina. The second section includes interviews with migrant workers from Homestead, Florida.

Become A Marygrove Student!

Apply Now!