) The Milans: Keeping Black History Alive Today | News & Views | Atlantic City Weekly


The Milans: Keeping Black History Alive Today

By Turiya S. A. Raheem
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Feb. 17, 2012

Share this Story:

Mr. Herbert Milan insisted that his wife, Elaine, was in charge, but I could tell that this couple works as a team. 

Former Atlantic City educators and principals, they continue their mission with local students by displaying a Black History Expo covering African-Americans in literature, science, education, politics, the arts and entertainment, sports and more, along with three Powerpoint presentations. 

Last week, the exhibit had more than 40 sections with a special one devoted to locals who have achieved great success in their careers and a featured “Trendsetters” section, A.C. locals under 40 who are doing great things today.

It’s hard to believe Herbert Milan has been an Atlantic City resident for more than 70 years; he doesn’t look a year over 60, if that! 

Born in Greenville, S.C., he and his mother came to our city in the early '40s after a few years of living with an aunt in Philadelphia. 

His mom had no more than a 5th grade education and his biological father he met only once he says sadly “for all of 45 seconds.” He credits his great upbringing to a stern mom and a step-dad he very fondly remembers. 

After serving in the U.S. Navy and working a number of menial jobs, Herbert credits his wife with encouraging him to attend college, first Delaware State, then Rutgers, where he obtained a master’s degree.

Mrs. Elaine Milan is the perfect match for her husband, clearly intelligent, thoughtful and attractive.  She had already graduated from Hampton University when she arrived in A.C. in 1964 to work at Indiana Avenue School, and later, she earned her master’s degree at Glassboro. 

She grew up in Harrisonburg, Va., where her father owned a barbershop and her mother worked in food service at James Madison University and enjoyed doing her own catering.

Between Mr. and Mrs. Milan, they were teachers or principals at practically every elementary school in Atlantic City before retiring in the late '90s. 

Herbert went on to part-time teaching at Stockton and a few years as a compliance officer for the state; Elaine stayed connected to the public schools by becoming coordinator of the Parent Resource Centers, a job she says she’s been trying to quit for 13 years now.

It was through the Parent Resource Centers that their journey towards the Black History Expo began.

Mr. Milan described himself as “a history buff,” but said his wife didn’t have much of an interest in history until the '60s when “everything black was beautiful.” 

Mrs. Milan began collecting articles from magazines, newspapers and calendars produced by Budweiser, Coors and Pabst Blue Ribbon especially for Black History Month. She began cataloguing everything she could find, ordering what she couldn’t find, and putting photos and articles into albums, folders and scrapbooks.

Colleagues at the Parent Resource Centers helped her to first exhibit at her church, St. James AME, and they invited students from nearby schools to come over and visit.

That was around 2001-2002.

Over the next few years, a group of volunteers, Mr. Milan included, traveled from school to school during Black History Month exhausting themselves by mounting the exhibit at one school for a few days, breaking it down on Fridays and mounting the whole thing all over again at another school by the following Monday. 

Not only that, volunteers also had to reconstruct worn and tattered sections from the previous year that had been stored away in the numerous bins the Milans use for their collectibles.

There’s no curator, big budget or temperature-controlled storage facilities. It is simply a labor of love for residents of Atlantic City, especially the children, many of whose parents and even grandparents they taught or supervised years ago.

This year was the third year the Black History Expo was able to coordinate with the city to use the All Wars’ Memorial Building (Soldiers’ Home) for three days of exhibiting. 

Again volunteers, many from the Parent Resource Centers, were there to escort guests and speak to the hundreds of students who now come on school buses to see and learn. Many have done some pre-reading or other activity in preparation for the day. On opening day this year, free and open to the public, there were refreshments, entertainment by the A.C. Theatre Guild, speakers, and the Powerpoint presentation ran all evening.

The Milans have certainly found an impressive way to keep giving to Atlantic City students and residents! 

Some of the local highlights from a Black History fact sheet circulated at the Expo, courtesy of 101 Women Plus:

Billy Bright, 1859, 1st Colored resident to live in Atlantic City

Clinton Edward, 1st Colored person born in Atlantic City

Aquilla Matthews, 1st Negro woman President of the A.C. Board of Education

Clara B. Rice, 1st Negro registered nurse at A.C. Hospital

Geraldine Satchell, 1st Colored girl in Atlantic City to graduate from college

Barbara Hudgins, 1st Black woman elected to A.C. City Council

Hattie E. Merritt, 1896, 1st Black teacher to be hired in A.C. (Indiana Ave. School)

Jordan E. Sayles, 1921, 1st Colored busboy at Dennis Hotel

Archie Rice, 1882, 1st Negro car dealer in Atlantic City

Turiya S.A. Raheem was born and raised in Atlantic City. Currently an English teacher at Atlantic Cape Community College, she loves to describe her neighborhood as “the other Atlantic City,” because it was not the casino-resort mecca most people know today. It was a place with a “cozy, down-home feeling” as she describes in her 2010 book, Growing Up in the Other Atlantic City: Wash’s and the Northside. 

Read more of 'The Other Atlantic City' columns by clicking here.

Add to favoritesAdd to Favorites PrintPrint Send to friendSend to Friend



(HTML and URLs prohibited)

Related Content

Full Audiences as Atlantic City and Library Wrap Up Black History Month
By Turiya S. A. Raheem

Everyone in attendance agreed that the talent was spectacular and often informative, and we’re all looking forward to next year’s event.

RELATED: Dr. Cornel West Speaks at Stockton College Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Atlantic City Black History, Jazz and Poetry Some Exciting Events Planned for Black History Month A.C. Library, Stockton College Celebrate Black History Month

Related Content

Feasibility Update on the Atlantic City Experience
By Turiya S. A. Raheem

The Atlantic City Experience could cost anywhere from $14 million to $51 million. Profits, however, could easily reach $300-400K per year by the third year with the city aiming for more non-gaming attractions in the future.

RELATED: The Atlantic City Experience Watch the Conversations and Storytelling Web Video Series! Princeton Antiques: The Aroma of History Record Our History Old Atlantic City: Pre-Gaming Era 1912 Prohibition Party Convention
 Entertainment: Music, Film and Sports Atlantic City's Casino Era Local History: 'Boardwalk Empire'

Related Content

The African-American Experience in Atlantic City
By Jeff Schwachter

From Pop Lloyd to Pattie Harris to Nucky Johnson and the Northside, not to mention Nina Simone and Sam Cooke and other entertainers' connections to Atlantic City and region.

RELATED: Coasting: Silent Film Screening to Benefit A.C.’s Historic Organ Coasting: ‘The Way We Were’ Exhibit at Noyes Arts Garage Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration at the Atlantic City Free Public Library Bette Davis Tries
 The Other A.C. Commemorates March on Washington Soul Food Supper Club Meeting Atlantic City's Democratic Mayoral Candidates Kelsey's: Rekindling KY & the Curb
 AAHMSNJ Honored with Rosa Parks Stamp Unveiling Tyrone Hart Creating Courthouse Mural Disaster Relief Efforts Big Help to the 'Other Atlantic City' Tats and 'Tiques Back in Atlantic City Beloved ‘Pop’ Lloyd
 Exploring the 1920s in Atlantic City Aretha Now!
 Interview with the Queen of Soul Atlantic County Clerk's Office to Host Historic Event Where Did Summer Go? 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 3 Premiere Screening at Caesars Garden Pier Re-Opens Chief Jubilee and the A.C.P.D. Atlantic City History - Conversations & Storytelling: The Boardwalk, Pt. 2 Atlantic City in 1925 ‘Atlantic City’ — the 1944 Movie ‘Atlantic City Jackpot’ 
 Mayor Langford Still Unsettled About Atlantic City's Tourism District Songs About Atlantic City Waltz Through Time: He Invented Atlantic City Christie Signs Atlantic City Tourism Bills Restoring Atlantic City Atlantic City's Future Sister Jean Webster Embodied Year-Round Spirit of Giving The Great Migration to Atlantic City Reparations for Atlantic City Locals — Just a Thought Kentucky Avenue Renaissance on Tap for Historic Strip The Steel Pier — A Memory of Change Remembering and Revitalizing Historic Kentucky Avenue Back Home with Marte King

Related Content

First Lady of Atlantic City and N.J. Mother of the Year
By Turiya S. A. Raheem

If the mayor does run again, she will play a major role in campaigning, because she enjoys urging people to get-out-the-vote, making them feel a part of something special and taking ownership.

RELATED: 2012: The Good, the Bad and the Year That Was Santa Shaq Visits Atlantic City 'Rewind' Recap 'The Wiz,' 'Rhythm and Rhyme' Save-A-Lot, First Supermarket to Open in Atlantic City in Years Is There Still a Need for Black History Month? Talking to Brother Kaleem Shabazz, Longtime Community Activist The Civil Rights Garden on MLK Day Great Celebrations Galore Jammin’ the Life of Hassan Abdullah Gil Scott-Heron: 1949-2011 Expanding Horizons

Related Content

Atlantic City Doesn't Have to Be a Food Desert
By Turiya S. A. Raheem

We didn’t use the term “food desert,” but we knew exactly what consumer advocates meant when they declared our city one. Food deserts are communities where residents have little to no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes fresh meats and dairy products are also included.

RELATED: Skateboarding, Atlantic City and the R.A.D. Movement Happy Anniversary to Me Health, Wellness and Dreams I Guess I’ll Keep Asking

Related Content

Ready for Your Guests This Summer?
By Turiya S. A. Raheem

“Three months to hurry and nine months to worry” was the slogan for locals who looked forward to having work and making as much money as possible during this short period.

RELATED: Unprecedented Concert Line-up for Atlantic City

Related Content

Club Harlem Exhibit Planned for New Smithsonian Museum
By Jeff Schwachter 

On Tuesday, Feb. 22, groundbreaking will commence on the newest Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian’s 19th museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, will occupy a five-acre site on Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th streets N.W., between the Washington Monument and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

RELATED: Ralph Hunter at Home in Atlantic City: African American Heritage Museum Opens at New Arts Garage Coasting: DO B3 Starting Halloween Night at Chelsea Pub
 George Clinton Interview: The Mothership Is Coming to Atlantic City Bill Haley: Rockin' Around the Jersey Shore
 Queen Qulits Exhibit Jazz, Blues and Views
 Sonny Fortune: Still Chasing the Trane
 The Swing King of Marven Gardens The Other A.C. Trusty's Dream Meet the Real Pattie Harris Jazz Vespers Salute Atlantic City's Legendary Chris Columbo Live Jazz Returns to Kentucky Avenue Salute to Mr. Soul, Sam Cooke. Remembering Grace's Little Belmont Live From Club Harlem Welcome to the Club Club Harlem at K.Y. and the Curb

Related Content

Southern New Jersey Celebrates Black History Month 

By Michael Pritchard 

A list of Black History Month related events in the Atlantic City region.

RELATED: Nina Simone Pride of the Northside: The Dolphins 10 Reasons Why The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey Should Be in Atlantic City Northside's Unsung Heroes Causing Stir Pop Lloyd’s Northside Empire

Related Content

Black Marriage Myths — Do You Believe Them?
By Turiya S.A. Raheem

Over the last few months when families were gathering for all types of occasions, some of the young men in our family refused to attend because of “so many divorced couples and so few new marriages.” I was disappointed by their absence but understood their sentiments. Like many modern American families, we’ve had so many divorces now that one niece asked, “Is divorce a tradition in our family?”

RELATED: Interesting Feedback on New Year's Resolutions Grassroots Exhibit in Newtonville Kwanzaa: Setting the Record Straight

Related Content

‘Claiming Citizenship’ Exhibit at Stockton
By AC Weekly Staff

Plus the Album of the Week, Drew Toonz comic and the Noyes Museum's Sculpture exhibit.

RELATED: ‘Spring for Hope’
 South Jersey Cancer Fund Benefit Artist Lennox Warner’s Theater
 'You Can’t Sell Good Art with Bad Art' Sketching Out an Arts Colony Stockton Senior Art Exhibits New Noyes Exhibits

Related Content

Remembering Atlantic City Musician Hassan Abdullah
By Jeff Schwachter

"He had no known history of heart or breathing problems. This is a big shock for everybody."

RELATED: In Memoriam 2011: 
Gone But Not Forgotten
 July Jazz Sundays in Ocean City Jazz on the Beach Series Jazz on the Beach Series Line-up Announced The Jazz at the Point Festival Celebrates 12th Year

Related Content

Locals Load Up on Awards
By Turiya S. A. Raheem

When she accepted the Dorothie Dorrington Award for Community Service on Thursday, Nov. 12 at the Council of Black Faculty and Staff of Stockton College's annual awards, dinner and dance banquet, Gilliam surprised everyone by walking through the audience and pointing out ...

RELATED: Local Youth Benefit from Professionals, Volunteers Art Dorrington Ice Rink and Community Updates The Puck Starts Here
: AHL All-Star Classic Skates into Boardwalk Hall Atlantic City Arts Commission's Time to Shine Embracing Talent in Atlantic City Coasting Remembering the Messenger Nurturing Youthful Talent

Related Content

The Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation On the Ice – Off the Streets
By Turiya S.A. Raheem

To date, more than 400 children have come through the Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, where education, opportunity and life skills are stressed as much as the sport. In 2006, the students won the Hockey in the Hood tournament in Detroit. Mr. Dorrington has been Atlantic City’s Softball Commissioner since 2002.

RELATED: An Educator’s Untimely End 28th Annivesary of 101 Women Plus Organization Oscar Nominations Announced Locals Laud Lezak 2006 Top 40 under 40 Coasting

Related Content

5 Questions With Author Turiya S.A. Raheem
By Michael Pritchard

It’s been very weird. When I decided to self-publish my book in Dec. 2009, I did it because an agent in New York told me — and this is pre-Obama — that nobody’s interested in black history now. I said, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘Nobody is interested. That’s just the truth.’ Then, I think it was in April, HBO calls me.

RELATED: How Folks Felt about the 2011 Elections Visiting My Alma Mater: Atlantic City High School What Has Happened to Atlantic City's Churches? Atlantic City Town Hall Meetings Saving Atlantic City Students — and Schools Delicious Diversity in My Hometown New Column: You’re from Where? Nucky Goes North It Takes a Village Coastie Turned Scribe

Related Content

Coasting: Library Honors Black History
By AC Weekly Staff

The Atlantic City Free Public Library will offer a series of special programs in February to celebrate Black History Month. The programs include a month-long exhibit called “A Pictorial of Club Harlem and the Way We Were,” which will highlight, through photos and memorabilia, the legendary A.C. club and the local African-American community during the mid-1900s. The grand opening for the exhibit, presented in conjunction with the African-American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey (AAHMSJ), will be held Monday, Feb. 1, 6pm, in the library’s second-floor meeting room (1 N. Tennessee Ave.) in A.C. The exhibit is free and will remain open for public viewing during normal library business hours. Guest speakers will include AAHMSJ founder Ralph E. Hunter Sr. and former Club Harlem dancer Pattie Harris. “Since I started here in Feb. 2006 we’ve always done a lot for Black History Month, and this is at least the third straight year we’re honored to have Ralph Hunter as part of the exhibit,” says A.C. Library public...

RELATED: Coasting: Bay-Atlantic Symphony Does Macca at Borgata

Related Content

Atlantic City’s Mr. October
By Michael Pritchard

When it comes to celebrating the life and career of John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, one of the greatest stars of the early 20th century Negro Leagues and a man who adopted Atlantic City as his home, there is never a shortage of stories.

RELATED: Pop Lloyd Weekend Celebrates the Great Roberto Clemente The Last Link to Pop Lloyd Exits the Field Pop Lloyd Weekend Celebration Day One Atlantic City History - Conversations & Storytelling: Sports History in A.C., Pt. 1