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.
Everyone in attendance agreed that the talent was spectacular and often informative, and we’re all looking forward to next year’s event.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
A list of Black History Month related events in the Atlantic City region.
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?”
Plus the Album of the Week, Drew Toonz comic and the Noyes Museum's Sculpture exhibit.
"He had no known history of heart or breathing problems. This is a big shock for everybody."
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 ...
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.
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.
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...
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.
Geator Lauds Laboe
Considering the Eve
Tis the Season: 25 Ways
Spirit of the Season
Whiskers & Whiskey