Matriarch Edna Swann makes her transition
Cyril Josh Barker | 6/26/2014, 10:54 a.m.
Librarian, author and educator Edna Christine Tatum Swann, known as “Mama Edna,” leaves behind a rich history and legacy not only to her own family, but also to the Amsterdam News. Swann passed away on June 22 at the age of 93.
Swann was the older sister to late Amsterdam News Publisher Wilbert “Bill” Tatum. She was the eldest of 13 children and served as a mother figure to her younger siblings.
Swann was born in Sampson County, N.C., on June 27, 1921. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the historically Black North Carolina Central University, where she pledged for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She was one of the oldest living members of the sorority up until her passing.
Swann also had to raise five children while going to school. She had her sixth child later on.
A celebrated teacher, Swann taught in Durham County Schools from the early 1950s until the early 1960s. She was recruited by a national civil rights organization to teach in schools in Westchester County, N.Y, where she worked as a librarian, educator and African-American history teacher.
While teaching in Westchester County, she received a master’s degree in library sciences from Queens College and then went to teach African history at the University of the District of Columbia.
Upon her retirement, she set her sight on traveling the globe and found herself making stops all over Europe and Africa, particularly in West Africa, where she spent long sojourns with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren, who are permanent residents of Nigeria.
Swann went on to author several children’s books that reflected her firsthand experience and knowledge of African heritage.
Making sure that her own family learned about their history and never forgot their heritage, Swann built a library for the family. Her children never had to go to an outside library or a school library; everything they needed was home because she supplied it.
Swann extended her teachings to the home, so her children had resources and teachings most students didn’t get in school, including lessons about African history and other cultures.
As for her hospitality and love for her extended family, Swann is best remembered for opening her home for holidays and special occasions, including Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July and graduations.
She is survived by four daughters, Dianne Swann, Jann Swann, Carrolyn Williams and Chief Wanda Oskar Ibru; her son-in-law Chief Oskar Ibru; seven grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; two sisters; and one brother.
Swann will be interred with her brother, Bill Tatum, in New York City on July 2. Memorial services will be celebrated in her hometown of Atlanta at a later date.