By: Emily Langer
October 25 at 4:25 PM
Louise Daniel Hutchinson, who gathered, documented and preserved African American history during 13 years as director of research at the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum in Southeast Washington, died Oct. 12 at her home in the District. She was 86.
The cause was vascular dementia, said a daughter, Donna Marshall.
Mrs. Hutchinson spent much of her adult life working to collect and share with others the richness of African American history in Washington and beyond. After years of community activism, she joined the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (as it was then known) in 1974 and retired in 1987.
Under the leadership of founding director John R. Kinard, she oversaw exhibits covering years of history in the Anacostia community, the movement of blacks from Africa to overseas colonies and the life and accomplishments of Frederick Douglass, the former slave, abolitionist and distinguished writer.
She took particular interest in documenting the lives of African American women such as Anna J. Cooper, who was born into slavery and became a noted educator and equal rights advocate. “Even black history hasn’t given black women their proper place,” Mrs. Hutchinson once told the New York Times.
Gail Lowe, the Anacostia Community Museum’s senior historian, credited Mrs. Hutchinson with elevating the work of the research department and using individual life stories to illuminate broader history. “In telling the local stories,” Lowe said in an interview, “she validated community experiences.”
Mrs. Hutchinson was “a stickler for accuracy and authenticity,” Lowe said, and insisted that researchers keep magnifying glasses on hand for the close inspection of old photographs. Mrs. Hutchinson, Lowe recalled, spotted Harriet Tubman and W.E.B. DuBois in previously unidentified images.
“Because of the level and depth of her work,” Lowe said, “she was able to . . . provide accurate, documented information that other researchers and scholars relied on.”
Louise Hazel Daniel, one of nine children, was born June 3, 1928, in Ridge, Md., and grew up in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington. Her parents, Victor Hugo Daniel and Constance E.H. Daniel, were teachers and friends of the African American intellectuals and educators George Washington Carver and Mary McLeod Bethune.
After graduating in 1946 from the old Armstrong Technical High School in the District, Mrs. Hutchinson attended colleges including Howard University and did secretarial work before beginning her career in historical preservation. In the 1970s, she assisted curators at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery with the selection of paintings featuring prominent African Americans, her daughter said.
Mrs. Hutchinson’s writings included the books “The Anacostia Story, 1608-1930” (1977), “Out of Africa: From West African Kingdoms to Colonization” (1979) and “Anna J. Cooper: A Voice from the South” (1981).
Mrs. Hutchinson’s daughter Laura Hutchinson died in infancy, and her son Mark Hutchinson died in 1974, at age 8, of a brain tumor.
Survivors include her husband of 64 years, Ellsworth W. Hutchinson Jr. of the District; five children, Ronald Hutchinson of Fort Washington, Md., David Hutchinson of Clifton Park, N.Y., Donna Marshall of Laurel, Md., Dana McCoy of the District and Victoria L. Boston of Clinton, Md.; two brothers, John Daniel of the District and Robert Daniel of Atlanta; a sister, C. Dorothea Lawson of Bay City, Tex.; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
In addition to her museum work, Mrs. Hutchinson participated in initiatives such as the development of D.C. Public Schools curriculum in the 1980s that incorporated the roles of black leaders in local events.
“I have real concerns about accuracy of history,” she told The Washington Post. “I believe it must reflect [the] participation of all.”