Sunday, December 30, 2012

Groundbreaking Tucson Women

If you have visited the Quincie Douglas Library of the Pima County Public Library system, you may have seen a small bronze statue among the shelves. The statue depicts a Tucson author, Margaret Campbell, giving a copy of a book she wrote to a young Quincie Douglas, the library’s namesake.

Mrs. Margaret Campbell and
Mrs. Quincie Douglas
Why were these women honored with a permanent memorial?

In 1968 Mrs. Margaret Campbell was Arizona’s first African American novelist to publish a book, which was titled Iba the Dawn. It is a wonderful parable that takes place after the great flood of biblical times.

Born in North Carolina, one of 10 children, Campbell was raised in Cincinnati and relocated to Tucson in 1942 for health reasons. She was a well-known community figure in her South Tucson neighborhood not only for her publishing first, but also for her unusual dwelling. Campbell lived on Santa Rita Street in an underground home that she began digging herself to take shelter from the heat and dust of the Arizona desert. She eventually brought in workers to help her finish the home and to deliver a piano, which she used to give piano lessons to the children in the neighborhood.

Mrs. Quincie Douglas was born in 1905 in Oklahoma and came to Tucson in the early 1930’s with a family that she worked for as a domestic. She later became a well-loved community activist who helped residents of the neighborhood by starting a transportation program for people with limitations.

After retiring in 1964 Douglas suffered a stroke that limited her mobility. Not one to just sit by and accept her limitations, she campaigned to help other people suffering the same fate. In 1965, Douglas received $24,000 from the Tucson Committee for Economic Opportunity and started L.I.F.T.S. (Low Income Free Transportation Service), which was taken over by the city six years later and renamed Special Needs Transportation Service. Today, the service is known as Van Tran. The Quincie Douglas Library and the Quincie Douglas Recreation Center are named in honor of her.

The sculpture's home at the Quincie Douglas Library

The 18-inch sculpture was funded through the Tucson Pima Arts Council and created by local artist Richard Quin Davis, Quincie Douglas' grandson. The statue exists largely because of the effort of Gloria Smith, a local historian and former lecturer in the University of Arizona's African American Studies program. It was dedicated in 2010.

“What’s with that?” Arizona Daily Star.  Caliente section.  April 18, 2003.  Page  F44.

Guest opinion: Presence as varied as Arizona’s history by Gloria Smith on Feb. 19, 2007.

The mystery of Margaret Campbell, by Mark McLemore. August 31, 2011. Arizona Public Media.

Written by Samantha Barry


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