About Quinn Research Center

The Quinn Research Center (QRC) is an archive of Black family history and Santa Monica Bay culture from the early 1900s through the present. We are an educational resource for people who desire accurate historical information about African Americans in the Santa Monica/Venice Bay Area.

We present programs, events, and thematic historical and cultural presentations that increase awareness about the contributions of the Black community, past and present. 

Our mission is to empower community members by being an educational resource that promotes the study and research of Black family history and culture in the Santa Monica Bay area.

Portrait of Dr. Alfred T. Quinn.
Portrait of Alfred K. Quinn and Essie C. Quinn.

The QRC was created by Carolyne and Bill Edwards as a tribute to the legacy of Dr. Alfred T. Quinn, a prominent 20th century Black educator, community leader and icon in the Santa Monica Bay area.  As his niece and steward of Dr. Quinn’s expansive archive, Carolyne is not only preserving her uncle’s achievements, but also sharing a history that is a source of inspiration and empowerment for future generations.

No one knows why Dr. Alfred T. Quinn created his massive archive of photographs, newspaper clipping, pamphlets, and letters - but his niece Carolyne guesses that he was influenced by his father, the Reverend Alfred Kerruthers Quinn, who saved items from the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, where he was a pastor. Maybe this rubbed off on Dr. Quinn and Carolyn’s mother, Daisy L. (Quinn) Payne, who also collected items about the community.

After Dr. Alfred T. Quinn retired, he put together a family album and gave copies of it to each family head of household.  He also created booklets: one contained his numerous awards, and another described the lives of his mother and father, the Reverend Quinn. 

Dr. Quinn was the first African American to be hired as a teacher in the Santa Monica school district in 1951. He was dean of student services for six years and the school’s affirmative action officer for six years during his 24 years on the faculty of Santa Monica College.

It is possible that as an educator, he recognized the importance of preserving community histories.

Dr. Quinn never spoke with Carolyne about the archive he was collecting, but he often shared stories about the thriving and flourishing Santa Monica community of  color where he lived - a community that, in the 1960s, would be displaced and destroyed by the building of the 10 freeway.

Sunday School class at First AME Church Santa Monica, 1823 Michigan Avenue.
Mr. Alfred T. Quinn and his sixth grade class at Garfield Elementary School.

Dr. Quinn and his wife, Sylvia Dorothy Quinn, had one daughter who was tragically killed; afterwards Carolyne became somewhat of a surrogate daughter. Many years later, after Dr. Quinn and Sylvia passed on, and while packing up their home, Carolyne and her husband Bill came across Dr. Quinn’s archive.

Stunned by the size and depth of the archive, and recognizing its importance, they put the entire contents in Sterilite containers and brought them home, filling a guest bedroom to capacity; in fact they had to remove the bed to have enough room to organize it all. Carolyne and Bill connected with an artist and archivist Diane Correa DeRempel, who helped them categorize items.

Susan Lamb and Kathy Lo, librarians at the Santa Monica library, and Dr. Stephanie Amarian, history professor at Santa Monica College (SMC), helped them sort Dr. Quinn’s papers and lectures. Dr. Amarian was responsible for getting Dr. Quinn’s papers housed at the The Ralph J. Bunche Library and Media Center for African American Studies, and SMC history students helped digitize parts of the archive. 275 images became part of the Santa Monica Library’s research holdings in 2022, where they are available to the public.  

“We want people to know that there was a community in Santa Monica that was displaced, and to be able to view the remnants of it,” says Carolyne. “We want current and future generations to be aware of the history of the thriving community that was once there. Seeing people who are beginning to appreciate the archive’s stories gives me a sense of accomplishment. But I feel there is more to the story. Collecting history is never done - there are more stories to be told.”

Many items from the archive are publicly available through the Santa Monica Public Library and the UCLA Digital Library.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Quinn Research Center, visit our contact page by clicking below.

Portrait of Sylvia Dottie and Alfred Quinn.