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Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University
Updated: 27 min 56 sec ago

Oatmeal Cakes and Baked Oatmeal (1917) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Fri, 03/11/2016 - 15:13

While processing the Slade Family Papers my colleague came across several delightful pamphlets from the US Department of Agriculture on economical and nutritious foods. One in particular caught my eye, “Do You Know Oatmeal?” which was published in 1917. Conveniently, it had already been digitized and was available through the Internet Archive.

Do you know oatmeal?

As a long time fan of oatmeal, I was thrilled to see it get the government promotion it deserves. There were several recipes to choose from, and in a change from some past test kitchen experiences, all the recipes seemed edible to this oatmeal lover. Finally, I decided on “Spiced Oatmeal Cakes” which seemed to be a cross between a cookie and a muffin, and “Baked Oatmeal and Nuts.” As a vegetarian, I was especially intrigued by the direction “Instead of meat, cook this appetizing dish for your family.”

Part cookie, part muffin? Savory oats

According to Wikipedia oatmeal can refer to ground oats, rolled oats in various forms (instant, quick cooking, “old fashioned”, etc.) or steel cut or Irish oats. The recipe did not specify a type, but the long cooking time given on the front page (1 hour in a double boiler) suggested the “old fashioned” variety rather than instant or quick cooking. However, I never cook my oats longer than 10 minutes on the stove top so I was a bit skeptical. In the end, I went with what I had in my cabinet, Quaker Old Fashioned.

The Face of Oatmeal

I started with the oat cakes. All the ingredients were things I already had in my pantry. The only oddities in the recipe were 3 tablespoons of unspecified fat and the lack of oven temperature. I chose canola oil and 350 degrees.

Mise en place

These were very easy to assemble, even with the extra step of precooking the oatmeal. The dough/batter was very dry and I had to add ¼ cup water in order to reach a stir-able consistency. I also did not get 12 cakes.

Into the oven they go! Thirty Minutes Later!

Verdict: They were super tasty warm from the oven. I ate 3. They also smelled delicious while they baked.

The “Baked Oatmeal and Nuts” was equally as easy to assemble. Sadly, this would not feed 5 people, despite what the recipe says. I regularly cook 2 cups of dry oats for 2 people for breakfast, and then add fruit, flax seeds, and sugar. 2 cups already cooked oatmeal, split between 5 people would be a snack at best, even with the addition of peanuts and milk.

I used apple cider vinegar, and I used soymilk instead of regular milk. I also reduced the salt to 1.5 teaspoons. I also accidentally added ½ teaspoon pepper instead of ¼ that the recipe calls for. Since the oven was already preheated, I stuck with the previously decided upon temperature of 350 degrees.

Ingredients for Baked Oatmeal and Nuts The Final Product

Verdict: This was fairly tasty, although a little bland. I would also bake it longer than 15 minutes if I were to make it again.

Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials Cataloger

The post Oatmeal Cakes and Baked Oatmeal (1917) – Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Women at Work: the Nuns of the Ripoli Press

Thu, 03/10/2016 - 12:30

There are many “firsts” in the Lisa Unger Baskin collection, and this early work is one of my favorites. It is one of the first books we know to be typeset by women.

Incominciano Le uite de Pontefici et imperadori Romani [Lives of the Popes and Roman Emperors] was published by the press at the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli in Florence in 1478. The Baskin Collection includes two copies. They are incunabula [cradle books], a term traditionally used to indicate works that were printed before 1501, when printing technology was still in its infancy.

Over the course of nine years (1476-1484), the Ripoli press issued around one hundred different titles, half of which were secular.  The convent’s diario (daybook) notes that the Dominican sisters received modest wages for their labor, which were contributed to a common fund to support the convent.

The nuns work as typesetters was in keeping with the order’s rules. The Dominican constitutions directed the nuns to copy manuscripts for religious use, and the new technology of typesetting accomplished the same end. I have to wonder what it was like for them to literally retool with this new technology.

Handwritten section header

The first copy in the Baskin Collection is complete and is decorated with hand-colored initials called rubrication. Copy two lacks the first six leaves and has not yet had the decorative initials added. It is untrimmed, and over the years comments have been added in several hands and inks. Most interesting is the extensive marginalia around the entry for the (most likely) fictional Pope Joan with its long manicule and notation “papa femina.”

colophon

I look forward to sharing these volumes with students and visitors. If you run your fingers gently over the pages, you can feel the impressions made by the thousands of pieces of moveable type the nuns of Ripoli carefully set by hand.

To learn more about the work of the Convent of San Jacopo Di Ripoli consult:

Post contributed by Naomi Nelso, Ph.D., Associate University Librarian and Director, Rubenstein Library.

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“The Poetic Inflections of a Voice Addressing a Tribe of Men Besieged by Beasts”: Radio Haiti’s Cultural Programming

Wed, 03/09/2016 - 16:18

On December 29, 1972, the renowned writer, poet, and visual artist Frankétienne, one of the fathers of the Spiralist literary movement, wrote a letter to his friend, Jean Dominique.

My very dear Jean, how the years have passed, since that afternoon when I first saw you at Thony Phelps’ house!  That was in 1962, I believe.  You smoked a pipe at the time.  That day, there was talk of a book upon which you would be commenting the next day on the air at Radio Haïti.  Ah!  How the years have passed! 

For Frankétienne, Jean Dominique was both a personal friend and an intellectual interlocutor; the cultural programming he oversaw at Radio Haiti not only showcased Haitian arts and literature, but also influenced them.

Meanwhile, you continue, with ferocity and great faith, in your work as a lucid informant, guiding your listeners, aiding the youth with your advice.  And as for me, I was among that number who listened to you, who followed you closely.  Your critical analyses were for me an invaluable contribution, as much on the human level as on the purely human level. Your Sunday broadcasts enhanced my love of art, cinema and in particular literature, even influencing my reading and literary research.  And, today, now that we have become friends, this remains true.  Jean, my brother, you could not suspect or guess how my conversations with you have oriented and enriched my work as a writer.  Your insights have been of great use to me, with regard to the material of my last book Ultravocal

 The letter is from 1972, shortly after Jean Dominique bought Radio Haiti; it offers a glimmer of what was to come. In the years that followed, Radio Haiti’s main cultural program “Entre Nous” would become something of an on-air salon, a place where painters, poets, novelists, historians, social scientists, storytellers, playwrights, musicians, critics, and others came together to discuss their work.  Émile Ollivier, Mimi Barthélemy, Edwidge Danticat, Amos Coulanges, Tiga, Georges Castera, Syto Cavé, Roger Gaillard, Jean Fouchard, Kettly Mars, Dany Laferrière, Gary Victor, Yanick Lahens, Ralph Allen, Jean René Jérôme…

To listen to these creators of art and of knowledge is to reorient the narrative about Haiti.  The standard story of Haiti is dominated by crisis: rare is the mainstream US news article that does not contain the words “the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.”  Haitian people are depicted as either powerless victims or bloodthirsty criminals.  For centuries, lurid, racist, deterministic narratives have enabled dominant geopolitical powers to undermine Haitian sovereignty and justify exploitation. According to these tropes, Haiti and Haitian people are organically poor – not only materially and economically, but intellectually, culturally and morally as well.  Haiti is atavistic, violent and diseased. Haiti is starving children, “boat people,” ragged people.  Haitian suffering is described, exaggerated, and luxuriated over, but rarely presented as anything other than an inevitability.

Radio Haiti presented Haitian narratives about Haitian crisis, exposing and analyzing the structural causes of oppression and political instability.  The archive contains the voices of the intellectual elite and of the urban and rural poor alike, for Radio Haiti was one of the few places at the time where the oppressed and disenfranchised masses had lapawòl, the power of speech.

And in its cultural programming, Radio Haiti achieved even more: it decentered the narrative of crisis.  It presented not a Haiti of suffering, but a Haiti of beauty and brilliance, one in which crisis is met with and defied by acts of creation.  A Haiti in which art, both implicitly and explicitly, is political.

A few months ago, I found a little piece of ephemera hidden face-down at the bottom of a reel-to-reel tape box.  It had been used as scratch paper: on one side is a handwritten list of sponsors from the late 1980s (Parkay Margarine, Kraft Mayonnaise, Breacol cough syrup, and so on).  On the other side is this:

Raffle ticket, December 1979

By 1979-1980, businesses no longer advertised on Radio Haiti. The station openly opposed the Duvalier dictatorship, and potential sponsors, afraid of reprisal, did not want to be seen as accomplices.  During this time, station manager Richard Brisson famously raised some money by using his car as a taxi. And in December 1979, several celebrated Haitian painters donated their works for an art raffle in support of Radio Haiti.   Each ticket cost three dollars, for the chance to win a piece by one of these twelve renowned artists.  The ticket is a relic, a souvenir of the extraordinary devotion that Radio Haiti inspired.  It is also a poignant reminder of the grinding struggle to keep the station afloat day-to-day in the face of economic obstacles and political oppression.

Sometimes it feels as though Radio Haiti’s story, like that of Haiti itself, is eclipsed by crisis — that Jean Dominique’s assassination has become the principal lens through which we understand and remember Radio Haiti.  But the loss of Jean Dominique and the injustice of his murder matter because his life mattered, because Radio Haiti’s many decades of work and legacy matter.  Before the symbolic weight of memory, before the burden of hindsight, before the doomed prophet, there was the daily work of the station — all of which lives on in this archive.

So much comes before death; so much remains when death is no more.

In his letter to Jean Dominique, Frankétienne outlines the challenges facing the Haitian writer who strives to be accessible.

All writers, at least as far as I’m concerned, would like to be read and understood by their people, by the greatest number of people possible.  It is our dearest hope.  Yet, if that does not occur immediately, then another story, often macabre, begins.  In the case of our country, one must overcome a double illiteracy: 1) obvious illiteracy (the inability to read at all, whether in Creole or in French) and 2) hidden illiteracy (the belief that one knows how to read, but in truth one does not perceive the structure and the possible meanings of a text).  Faced with this double difficulty, or rather facing this double obstacle, the Haitian writer has no choice.  It is absolutely impossible for him to write for the masses that cannot read at all.  And this makes him suffer terribly, especially when, in his books, he reckons with problems that would be of utmost interest to those illiterate masses

Radio was a medium of unparalleled power in twentieth-century Haiti: it enabled people to participate in public discourse, as both listeners and speakers, whether or not they could read and write.  And it allowed writers to reach a far broader audience, to be true public intellectuals.  For this is what Jean Dominique was: a public intellectual. It was on the radio that his intellect unfurled: analytical and incisive, sometimes staggering.

There is a poet character who wanders, searching through words in a verbal delirium, writes Frankétienne in his letter, describing the themes of Ultravocal. 

In the course of his phantasmal voyage, overcome by pain, he discovers that his drama is not entirely personal, that his own rupture is nothing more than one aspect of a far wider tragedy, the great human misery.  From that moment on, the text breaks apart, spreading from the individual to the collective, from the subjective to the objective, from the particular to the general…  And the poet character, entwined with the narrator, dizzy, speaks. The poetic inflections of a voice addressing a tribe of men besieged by beasts.  My voice, perhaps.  Yours, or that of either of us.  And, when the narrator suggests… that one day, evil will be struck down into the dust with a terrible noise, then begins the final song, that of hope.

A week to the day before Frankétienne wrote his letter, Jean Dominique interviewed the painter Rose-Marie Desruisseau, in which she describes participating in ceremonies as part of her research for a series of paintings on Vodou.  (It was revolutionary, at that time, to speak on the radio of Vodou as a topic of intellectual and cultural importance and as everyday practice: Duvalier père had politicized and exerted control over Vodou, manipulating its imagery for his own purposes and power while exercising sanctions on the practice.)  Desruisseau describes her interactions with the Gede spirits, who are intermediaries between life and death. They dance provocatively through the cemetery, and shout and sing obscenities.  They are lively gods of death.  Vulgarity and humor, which transcend respectability and social convention, are the very things that enable Gede to straddle life and the afterlife, to be the master of the crossroads.

Rose-Marie Desruisseau explains:

“J’ai commencé d’abord par les dieux de la mort, tu vois, et puis je n’ai pas trouvé la mort chez eux, j’ai trouvé la vie intense, chez eux… chez les Guédés. Je n’ai pas trouvé la mort du tout.”

“I began first with the gods of death, you see, and it was not death that I found there.  I found intense life there… among the Gede spirits.  I did not find death at all.”

Radio Haiti’s archive, like a cemetery, like Haiti itself, is a place that could be defined by tragedy, loss and death.  The archive, like Haiti’s history, is filled with human rights violations, massacres, impunity, and assassinations.

Yet, listening to artists and iconoclasts, creators and truth-tellers, I recall those same words: It was not death that I found here, in Radio Haiti’s archive.  I found intense life here; I did not find death at all.

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D., Radio Haiti Project Archivist. 

The post “The Poetic Inflections of a Voice Addressing a Tribe of Men Besieged by Beasts”: Radio Haiti’s Cultural Programming appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Trent Lecture on the Brooklyn Interns Hazing Episodes: March 7th

Mon, 02/29/2016 - 13:00

Date: Monday, March 7, 2016
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu, (919) 684-8549

Please join the History of Medicine Collections for our next Trent History of Medicine Lecture Series event. Dr. Ed Halperin, M.D., M.A., will present “This is a Christian institution and we will tolerate no Jews here”:  The Brooklyn Interns Hazing Episodes.

Anti-semitism in U.S. medical education rarely flared into acts of violence, except in Brooklyn. Presenting the results of recently completed research, Dr. Halperin will describe the assaults on the Jewish interns of Kings County Hospital in 1916 and 1927 and the implications of these assaults for the contemporary debate on immigration and higher education.

Dr. Halperin is Chancellor  and Chief Executive Officer at New York Medical College and Professor of Radiation Oncology, Pediatrics, and History as well as Provost for Biomedical Affairs at Touro College.

This event is open to the public.

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections.

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Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Mexican Ravioles (1947)

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 17:00

If the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle has you looking for a new way to satisfy your cravings or if you are simply hoping to make a step up from those late night Taco Bell runs, then this post is for you. If you have a hankering for warm cheese and fried foods (and who doesn’t?), Josefina Velazquez de Leon and her Mexican Cook Book Devoted to American Homes are here to help.

Before I introduce you to the wonders of Mexican Ravioli, the woman behind this delicious (yet messy) dish deserves a brief shout-out. A famous figure in mid-20th century Mexico, Josefina Velazquez de Leon has been called the “apostle of the enchilada” by one food historian. A widow who began teaching cooking classes in the 1920s, Velazquez de Leon was popular with Mexico City’s middle and upper class women. These women came to class hoping to learn how to cook Mexican favorites as well as the secrets to European cuisine. She was a particularly sought after cake decorator and wowed her students with sugar sculptures of such Hollywood icons as Popeye the Sailor Man and Snow White & the Seven Dwarves.

“Apostle of the Enchilada” Josefina Velazquez de Leon

In addition to classes at her Mexico City cooking school, Velazquez de Leon took to preaching the word of the enchilada in magazines and books in the 1930s and 1940s. Initially submitting recipes and helpful culinary hints to women’s magazines, Velazquez de Leon published her first cookbook in the late 1930s with the release of Practical Manual of Cooking and Pastry. Velazquez de Leon would eventually publish 150 cookbooks and establish her own press. Quick to adopt new technologies, Velazquez de Leon worked to reach a larger audience through radio and television programming in the 1940s. Her first of many daily radio programs was called “Laziness in the Kitchen.” The show was intended to teach women to prepare appetizing meals with the modern appliances and packaged foods making their way into Mexican homes at the time. In the early 1950s, Velazquez de Leon made the jump to television with the launching of her show “The Menu of the Week.”

Through print, radio, and television, Velazquez de Leon worked to promote Mexican foods at a time when many of her contemporaries concentrated on international cuisine and traditional Mexican dishes were associated with lower social classes. Her work highlighted the diversity of Mexican cuisine as well as the culinary contributions made by each of the country’s regions to a national food landscape. Velazquez de Leon’s devotion to her nation’s cuisine did not preclude experimentation. She frequently fused culinary elements from other nations with traditional Mexican dishes. The recipe tested here is just one example of this. Another recipe, “Italian Enchiladas,” uses sardines, potatoes, and Parmesan cheese as enchilada filling.

Mexican Cook Book Devoted to American Homes offers a particularly interesting look at Velazquez de Leon’s promotion of Mexican cuisine. The book is tailored to the needs of cooks in the United States. In addition to providing text in both Spanish and English, the book explains the main ingredients and cooking equipment used in Mexican cooking. Instructions for preparing the essentials (such as tortillas and beans) in the mid-20th century American kitchen are also provided. Most of the recipes included are recognizable to the 2016 chef.  However, for the more adventurous American cook, Velazquez de Leon offers a chance to test your skills or possibly cause your dinner guests to flee. “Exquisite eggs,” “huevo rancheros,” and the tantalizingly named “Mexican Macaroni” are sure to delight. The somewhat oddly named “Horse Back Riders with Leather Overalls” seems like more of a gamble. But if you’ve got a radish, a ½ pound of lard, a pork loin, 12 eggs, and a laurel leaf cluttering the pantry it might be worth considering. Sadly, I lacked most of those. Nor did I have the 5 birds required to make “Old Fashioned Pigeon” or the “kid” necessary to cook “A Kid in its Blood.” I assume that this is a reference to a young goat. I also doubted that I possessed the technical abilities or the amount of bleach that would ultimately be needed to create the undoubtedly appetizing “Gut Stuffed with Blood.”

I was a bit less daring and went with the more sedate “Mexican Ravioles.” Despite the delectable end result, the teacher in Velazquez de Leon would probably have been horrified at the mess I made as well as the purple plastic spatula that I melted in a pot of hot lard. This was C plus work at best.  However, not all of the blame should go to the student.The cooking instructions, for instance, require the use of 2 eggs and tomato puree, neither of which made it into the ingredients list. Broth is listed as an ingredient, but fails to make an appearance in the recipe. The appropriate oven temperature is also omitted. I picked 375 degrees for no particular reason.

The ingredients (or, at least, the ones that you actually need) are basic and easy to find. I’ll take this opportunity to point out that lard is a key ingredient. The recipe lists nearly a ½ pound of this, but I used significantly more (a fact which would likely make my Southern grandmother immensely proud).

The dough, a combination of flour, cornmeal, lard, salt, egg, and baking powder, was rolled out and then cut into medium-sized circles. Following the dough instructions provided in the recipe produced an extremely dry mixture. Upon reflection, I assume that this must have been what the broth was for, but hindsight is 20/20 and I simply added hot water at the time.

The dough circles are then filled with cheese, folded closed, and sealed along the edges with egg white.

And now onto the frying! My experience creating fried foods is minimal so I was surprised at how easy this step was. (My experience eating fried foods, on the other hand, is not as I make a yearly pilgrimage to the North Carolina State Fair). I simply tossed a hunk of lard in a pot, waited until it seemed hot enough, and then dropped in the ravioli. I waited until the dough took on an attractive golden brown color and then removed the ravioli from the pot. While this was not the final step, I’ll admit that I “tested” 1 or more of these post-frying. It was a good decision. Warm, fried cornbread-like nuggets filled with melted cheese could never be a bad decision.

Making the sauce was the next step. Onions and green chiles are (that’s right, you guessed it!) fried in lard. Tomato puree is added and the mixture is boiled until thickened. While it thickens, you get to put away the lard and bring out the butter. Layers of ravioli, sauce, cheese, and chunks of butter are created in a baking dish and then put in the oven until golden brown.

Going into the Oven And coming out of the oven

The end result was unsurprisingly delicious. The sauce was slightly spicy. The ravioli were flaky, warm, and topped with melted butter and cheese. It was similar to an empanada, but with a thicker, more cornbread-like dough. Would I make it again? Maybe. It was messy and took an unexpectedly long time to cook. That being said, the fresh-from-the-fryer ravioli were worth the effort.

A lovely little biography of Josefina Velazquez de Leon was used for this post and can be found in Jeffrey M. Pilcher’s The Human Tradition in Mexico.

Post Contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Coordinator

The post Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Mexican Ravioles (1947) appeared first on The Devil's Tale.

Encountering Ghanaian Political History in Durham, North Carolina

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 13:00

The Rubenstein holds the archives of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), perhaps the single most important point of connection for communities who, in their desire to confront troubled pasts, have turned to the truth and reconciliation commission (TRC). The ICTJ archives reveal the workings of the global transitional justice crossroads, they spotlight an institution that carries forward the lessons, expertise, and experience of each commission to those that come afterwards.

In the year 2000, for the first time since the British ceded political authority over the territory they called Gold Coast, Ghana experienced regime change by ballot box. Subsequently, Ghana’s TRC was ushered in by the newly elected New Patriotic Party (NPP) government. For about 18 months, glimpses, recordings, and debates about Ghana’s history of human rights abuse, as rendered by its citizenry, occupied the body politic. But fifteen years later, a lot has happened in Ghana— and frustratingly, much has remained the same.

In the decade since Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) ended, offshore oil reserves in the country’s Western Region have been newly discovered, exploited, and are now flowing. A new colloquialism, dumsor, has been coined as a result of the electricity outages and power sharing which have inexplicably become de rigueur in 21st century Ghana. John Kufuor, the president who oversaw the formation of the Commission, has served his two terms as president, stepped down, watched his political party lose majority control of the presidency and the Parliament, and now spends his days fending off allegations about corruption. From today’s vantage point, the hopes attached to Ghana’s truth and reconciliation commission experiment seem quaint, aggressively optimistic, or misleading, depending on your political persuasion. The sheer difficulty of locating the artifacts of national reconciliation in Accra suggest that ‘Ghana’s TRC moment’ has long ended. It would be easy to dismiss the NRC as a frustrating political ritual, as all flash and no substance. That is—until you access the records of Ghana’s National Reconciliation Commission, many of which are preserved within the ICTJ archives.

https://blogs.library.duke.edu/rubenstein/files/2016/02/Ghana-Post-Small-1.m4v

The voices are clear and cutting; they are as relevant today as they were when the TRC captured the nation’s attention. In the audio archive, I find the crackling somber tones of Jose Aryee, a journalist whose NRC testimony describes the public execution of former head of state Akwasi Afrifa in 1979. “Up to now, I shudder to think of what went on that day. I never was a fan of Afrifa as such. Neither was I a fan of any of those executed people. But the way they died, particularly Afrifa, it was sad. I, at that time, what went through my mind was, I would never be a politician in Ghana. Never. Not for all the gold in King Midas’s palace because… I felt that Ghanaians, we’re like Kwaku Ananse; that is the mentality we have…” In the Rubenstein, these critical musings and stories are preserved, and thrown out across space and time, again, in the hopes that they might be heard, again. And thus, the too-brief afterlife of the Ghanaian NRC is extended.

Post contributed by Abena Asare,  Assistant Professor of Modern African Affairs  at Stony Brook University. 

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A Bitter Look at the Sweet History of Brown Sugar

Thu, 02/25/2016 - 14:10

Amari Victoria Stokes was a student in Kelly Alexander’s Our Culinary Cultures course offered in the Fall 2015 semester in the Center for Documentary Studies. Utilizing Rubenstein Library resources, students in the class were asked to explore the history of a culinary ingredient of their choice, find a recipe that exemplified their chosen ingredient, and prepare it for the class. The following is Amari’s research paper submitted for the class.

Two eggs well beaten, one-cup brown sugar, two teaspoons ginger, one-cup N.O. molasses (boiled), one-teaspoon baking soda, flour to roll out. Mix in the order given. I poured the molasses into a pot and watched small bubbles form and subsequently burst as the dark liquid began to heat. As the molasses boiled on the stove, I started mixing the ingredients in the order specified in the recipe. After the eggs had been beaten furiously with my new silver whisk, I began to measure the brown sugar for what I hoped would be a delicious dessert.

Sticky and compact, I remember struggling to handle this strange sugar during family barbeques as we seasoned our meat. As I thought about it, I realized besides an occasional pineapple upside down cake, outside of barbeque, I couldn’t recall ever having used brown sugar. Why was that, I asked?

The story of brown sugar begins, unsurprisingly, with the story of sugar. Sugars are natural ingredients found in most plants but what we have come to known as sugar is often extracted from sugarcane and sugar beets. Sugar cane, from the genus Saccharum, was originally cultivated in tropical climates in South and Southeast Asia.1 Neither should it be a surprise that the road from brown sugar to white sugar looks very much like the roads taken to get to white bread, white flour, and white cotton. All have similar histories where the unnatural but white version is preferred or is seen as a higher quality than the browner, natural varieties.2

Three hundred years after being introduced to Europeans by Christopher Columbus in 1492,3 by the 19th Century, sugar was considered a necessity.4 This evolution of taste and demand for sugar had major economic and social implications for the entire world. As a result of this demand, tropical islands were colonized and sugarcane plantations began ‘cropping up’ in record numbers. Consequently, the demand for cheap labor to assist in the labor-intensive cultivation and processing of sugarcane contributed greatly to the transatlantic slave trade, which displaced many African peoples.5

As I turned down the heat on the molasses to allow it simmer, I carefully added ground ginger. Watching the ginger disappear into the creamy brown concoction, I thought back to my ancestors. It wouldn’t surprise me if at some point in history one of them had made the same treat for her master’s children while her own children toiled in the hot sun picking cotton or harvesting sugarcane.

At the heart of the American sugar industry was the Domino Sugar Company. Founded during the height of the Industrial Revolution, in 1807, the company was created by William and Frederick Hevemeyer in the city of New York. The company led industry efforts to gain control of brown sugar production and to restrict price competition in the sugar industry. One of the primary tools used was to mount a smear campaign to denigrate brown sugar, whose refining it did not completely control. By blowing up photographs (taken through microscopes) of grotesque but harmless microbes found in brown sugar, reproducing and then distributing them with warning of the supposed dangers of eating brown sugar, the company convinced the American public that brown sugar was of an inferior quality than white refined sugar.6

The success of this campaign and the widespread adoption of white over brown sugar was evidenced in the widely accepted cook book of 1897, Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What To Do And What Not To Do In Cooking, originally published in 1884. An early home economist, Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln was an influential Boston cooking teacher and cookbook author. She was among the first to address the scientific and nutritional aspects of food. At that time, her book was the authority on cooking. In it, she gives detailed descriptions of everything from understanding cooking terms to distinguishing between different cakes based on butter content. In her section about sugar, she makes a clear distinction between brown sugar and white sugar: “All brown sugar and moist sugars are inferior in quality: they contain water and mineral matter, and are sometimes infested by a minute insect. Loaf sugar is the purest.”7 Domino had done its job. Its executives had effectively tarnished the reputation of brown sugar.

To prevent it from boiling over, I quickly took the molasses off the stove. I watched as it oozed into my giant red mixing bowl. Baking soda followed it into the mix. While the recipe in and of itself was not difficult, finding it was an entirely different story. There I was, staring at genuine cookbook from the 1800s. I carefully scanned each recipe looking for the word sugar but then had to further distinguish sugar from brown sugar. Only four of the thousand or so recipes in Mary’s cookbook included brown sugar and among them were Ginger Drops.8 Due in part to the success of the campaign to disparage brown sugar, farmers and workers gave up producing molasses, brown sugar, and sorghum. In the United States, between 1880 and 1915 the per capita consumption of white granulated sugar doubled.9 Brown bashing marketing and advertising had worked. White America had once again embraced what looked like them.

As I added the final ingredient, it became perfectly clear that the history of brown sugar was more than aggressive advertisement but was also an adequate representation of black people in America. My great-grandmother was brown sugar. I am brown sugar. The contemporary artist Kara Walker paid homage to this lost history in one of her thought-provoking pieces that once sat in the remains of the Brooklyn Domino Sugar Refinery, which, after running for 148 years, closed for business in 2004. One has to look no further than the title to know exactly what the piece is about: “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant.” Her exhibit consisted of a colossal kerchief-wearing, white sugar-coated, female sphinx measuring 80 feet long by 40 feet high. Yet, despite its white coating, the sphinx’s features are exaggerated black/African features: very full lips, high cheekbones, large breasts, vulva, and buttocks. Fifteen or so “sugar babies,” child-sized, brown-skinned boys, “attendants” carrying baskets accompany her. Walker’s work brought visitors back to the 18th and 19th century slave trade that was built to profit from the insatiable Western market for, among other things, refined sugar and rum.10 As the exhibit continues, the brown sugar babies begin to melt, leaving a trail of melted ‘bloodied’ molasses. The symbolism of blood and loss is appropriate Walker explained in an interview about “The Subtlety,” that to make the sugar, the cane had to be fed into large mills by hand. It was a dangerous process: Slaves lost hands, arms, limbs and lives.11

Holding court in a dated, 30,000 square foot abandoned industrial space, at the center of “A Subtlety” the giant white sphinx stares at you. “A Subtlety” is meant to serve as a critique of perceptions of black women’s bodies. Culture critic Yesha Callahan of the Root writes, “History has shown us time and time again how a black woman’s body was (and sometimes still is) objectified. From the days of the slave trade to even having black butts on display in music videos, the black woman’s body seems to easily garner laughs and mockery, even if it’s made out of sugar.”12 This mirrors Mary’s Johnson’s sentiment about the uses of brown sugar. Brown sugar “is good for fruit cake, but for all other varieties use the finest granulated or powdered sugar.”13 Just as brown sugar is only good for fruitcake, perhaps black women’s bodies can only be sexualized.

With all the ingredients in, my mixture slowly spilled into the pan, the sticky substance occupied every crevice. My apartment was filled with the sweet, succulent aroma of ginger as my drops began to bake in the oven. I thought back to the passage where Mary reinforced the inferior quality of brown sugar to white sugar. Her “white is right” mentality extends past sugar as it is pervasive in American society as well. Black peoples have always been seen as inferior and have been taught to think the same of themselves, and thus have been limited in their place in society. The whiter you are the better you will be. Blacks have been trying to assimilate into white culture from the time they were stripped from their homelands. Light skinned black people would attempt to “pass as white” to ensure better economic and social opportunities for themselves. Light-skinned black people were seen as less black and thus more valuable than their darker counterparts who measured their color and therefore their worth against the shade of a brown paper bag. Hair straightening products and bleaching creams were just a few of the other ways in which the white European ideal was mimicked. Black women were prized for how closely they could fit the white mold. A fashion magazine editor once lauded the famous Somali-American model, Iman, as being a white woman dipped in chocolate.14 Using white as the standard is not unique to the fashion industry. Similarly, black dolls have historically been made with the same cast as white dolls with the added features of dark hair and darker complexion, but without any of the other defining features of black people. Commercial brown sugar is made in a similar way. Molasses is added to refined white sugar to control the ratio of molasses to sugar crystals and to reduce manufacturing costs. Commercial brown sugar contains from 4.5% molasses (light brown sugar) to 6.5% molasses (dark brown sugar) based on total volume.15

I took the Ginger Drops out and allowed them to cool. I thought about the different sugars I had used for this recipe. Traditionally, sugar cane is crushed and heated which allows impurities to be separated out. These are removed and the juice is boiled down and solidified. This solidified product is brown sugar. Brown sugar is again dissolved, boiled, and filtered. Molasses is the drainage of the raw sugar. Granulated sugar is brown sugar refined again.16 The sugar refining process mirrors the cultural landscape of Americans today. What was once black eventually becomes white and in turn black culture is perceived as acceptable only when appropriated by whites (as white sugar is given regulated amounts of molasses). From Elvis and his guitar to Kylie Jenner and her cornrows, black creativity and innovation is repackaged for massive white consumption. But just as commercial brown sugar is white at is core, cultural appropriators neglect to acknowledge the stories of struggles so prominent in black culture. It’s cool to act black but not to be black.

I tore off a small piece of my sweet confection and popped it into my mouth. Sweet and moist, the drops had the consistency of a brownie but the taste of gingerbread. The recipe for Ginger Drops could be a testament to Mary Lincoln’s innovation in cooking or the Domino Sugar Company’s successful smear campaign, but it better represents the stories of black bodies. Brown sugar does not have to be limited to fruitcakes or Memphis barbeque. It can be used wherever white sugar can be used. Its quality should not be determined by the amount of molasses in it but should instead be celebrated in its natural state and not only after it has been “refined”. Black peoples are pushing back against their assumed inferiority, celebrating their diversity, breaking down barriers, and now emphatically chanting, “Black Lives Matter.” If you have ever had a sweet tooth or enjoyed a sweet treat you are part of this narrative. You are brown sugar.

Notes:
  1. Kiple, Kenneth F., and Kriemhild Coneè Ornelas. “Sugar.” The Cambridge World History of Food. (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000), 284.
  2. Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. (New York: Penguin, 1985), 285.
  3. Abreu Galindo, Juan de, and Alejandro Cioranescu. Historia De La Conquista De Las Siete Islas De Canarias. (Santa Cruz De Tenerife: Goya Ediciones, 1955), 385.
  4. Mintz, 186.
  5. Fryer, Peter. Black People in the British Empire: An Introduction. (London: Pluto, 1988), 252.
  6. Eichner, Alfred S. The Emergence of Oligopoly: Sugar Refining as a Case Study. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1969), 68-69.
  7. Lincoln, Mary Johnson Bailey. Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What to Do and What Not to Do in Cooking. (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1884), 458.
  8. Lincoln, 388.
  9. Cummings, Richard Osborn. The American and His Food. (New York: Arno, 1970), 114.
  10. Cornish, Audie. “Artist Kara Walker Draws Us Into Bitter History With Something Sweet.” NPR. (16 May 2014).
  11. Cornish.
  12. Callahan, Yesha. “Reactions to Kara Walker’s A Subtlety Prove a Black Woman Will Be Sexualized, Even in Art.” The Root. (Root, 28 May 2014).
  13. Lincoln, 371.
  14. Cadwalladr, Carole. “Iman: ‘ I Am the Face of a Refugee'” The Guardian. 28 June 2014.
  15. Figoni, Paula. How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science. (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 82.
  16. Lincoln, 438.

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Virginia Woolf: Writing Surfaces and Writing Depths, March 3

Thu, 02/18/2016 - 21:19
Virginia Woolf’s custom-made writing desk, recently acquired as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, is currently on display in the Rubenstein Library’s Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery.

What: Virginia Woolf: Writing Surfaces and Writing Depths, with Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins
Date: Thursday, March 3 Time: 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Where: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library

Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins

Dr. Leslie Kathleen Hankins is a professor in the department of English and Creative Writing at Cornell College and past president of the International Virginia Woolf Society. She will give a talk on the various writing surfaces used by Woolf throughout her life, including the desk now on display in the Rubenstein Library that was acquired as part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection. How did this desk shape the apprenticeship of Virginia Stephen into a writer? What did she write at this desk? How did it launch her career? In addition to the desk at Duke, Hankins will discuss Woolf’s decorated writing table in Cassis, as well as an overstuffed chair and lap board in a storage room at Hogarth Press and in Woolf’s writing shed. Along the way, she will consider how Woolf’s desk selections demonstrate a nuanced negotiation of gender performance and the writing profession as she crafted an innovative writing space through standing/walking/and shabby chic desk strategies.

Free and open to the public. Reception to follow.

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Pick the President, 1912 Edition

Mon, 02/15/2016 - 13:36

Happy Presidents’ Day! As weird as our current election season has turned out to be, it has a way to go before it compares to the drama and excitement of the 1912 presidential election. That’s the election where William Howard Taft (Republican incumbent), Woodrow Wilson (Democratic challenger), Theodore Roosevelt (former Republican president who lost the Republican nomination and decided to run as the nominee of the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party), and Eugene V. Debs (the perpetual nominee of the Socialist Party) battled it out in a four-way race for the White House. Imagine if there had been televised debates back then.

I recently found this postcard in the Slade Family Papers that capitalized (sorry, Debs) on the enthusiasm surrounding the race. Written to friends in North Carolina just before the election, the anonymous author asks “How are politics in that part of the country? Have you any good reads yet?”

Flip the card over and it is so cool! It’s a “magic moving picture card” that lets you slide the tab between all four candidates to “pick the winner.” I’ve only seen this sort of thing in children’s books, like Gallop.  (This isn’t quite Scanimation, but it is similar to that technology.)

You can see a video of us playing with the postcard below. Who will it be?

The sender adds the words “Hurray for Wilson!” on the side of the window. Turns out, they were right — Wilson did win the contest and served as president from 1913 until 1921.

Psst, the deadline for registering to vote in our upcoming primaries in North Carolina is Friday, February 19. Register here.

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Skip the Valentine’s Day Chocolates, I’d Like a Kelmscott Press Book in a Silk Pouch

Sun, 02/14/2016 - 17:53

This beautiful copy of Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile, part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, was given by May Morris to her beloved, John Quinn, in 1910. It was printed in 1894 at Kelmscott Press, which May Morris’s father William Morris founded. The green morocco leather  binding with delicate gold tooling is the work of May Morris’s friend Katharine Adams.

On its own this would have been an touching gift for any book lover, as Quinn, a patron and collector of art and literature, certainly was. But  Morris went beyond that.  An accomplished needlework artist, Morris created a detailed hand-stitched silk book pouch to go along with Amis and Amile. The centerpiece of her work features a kneeling couple with angels flying above in a sunbeam lit sky. It is surrounded by foliage and birds, with hearts sewn along the top. The final details are seed pearls and glass beads at the corners. The back of the pouch is signed in stitching by Morris with a small “M” in a circle.

Sadly, I cannot tell you that this is a love story has a happy ending. It was a rather one-sided relationship. Whatever romantic interest Quinn had in Morris quickly cooled, despite a gift like this and the loving letters she wrote him. For more insight into Morris and Quinn’s relationship, see On Poetry, Painting, and Politics: The Letters of May Morris and John Quinn edited by Janis Londraville (1997), or Londraville’s article “No Idle Singers of Empty Days: The Unpublished Correspondence of John Quinn and May Morris” in Journal of Modern Literature (Summer, 1994).

Post Contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian.

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Meat Box, or, The Price of Butter Holds No Terror for Users of Swift’s Oleomargarine

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 20:00

This very special edition of the Rubenstein test kitchen is intended to build bridges between Duke and UNC, between a Digital Collections Program Manager and a Serials Access Librarian. Though both librarians, they live completely different professional lives. Until now…

Given the digital nature of Molly’s work, we decided to choose a recipe from those that had been digitized as part of the Emergence of Advertising in America digital collection. After looking at a handful of recipes we realized that Molly didn’t want to cook with beef tongue, Kurt didn’t want to bake, and neither of us wanted to deal with jello. So we settled on this “pretty and palatable” gem of a recipe from the The Kitchen Encyclopedia, by Swift & Company: “Spanish Minced Beef in a Meat Box.”

We were excited about taking on the challenge of constructing a meat box to contain yet more meat that the title conjured in our minds, although we had no idea at all how it might work. It wasn’t until later, when we were about to start cooking, that we paused to ask the following: What exactly is Spanish about a recipe in which the only spices are salt and pepper? Why does the title refer to minced beef in a meat box when there is no minced beef listed as an ingredient in the filling? This last question particularly filled us with anxiety – did we miss something? Should we have assumed that since the recipe title refers to minced beef in a meat box, that we should put minced beef in the meat box, even if it’s not called for? (About the matter of a “meat box.” As our guests pointed out, can something with only four sides properly be labeled a box?)

Cooking can be so stressful!

Before we proceed, however, a question posed by the text: “Have you tried Swift’s Oleomargarine?” If you have not, permit the book to let you know, “It is worth trying” (p. 26).  In case that’s not enticement enough, consider that “The price of butter holds no terror for users of Swift’s Oleomargarine” (p. 27).

Theses quotes are Molly’s favorites of the short, persuasive selling points on the benefits of oleomargarine that appear on every page of the book (and which had to be pointed out to Kurt, who overlooked entirely the margarine-filled pearls of wisdom in his single-minded focus on the meat box). Has it been mentioned that Swift & Company were leading the fight against the tyranny of high-priced butter circa 1911 with their “oleomargarine” and that this cookbook touts that revolution? Indeed, anyone interested in oleomargarine (or House-Cleaning Hints and Helps (p. 9), or The Practical Value and Use of Fireless Cookers (p. 17) … To the Wage-earning Woman (p. 21)) should consider this book a must-read. But we digress.

The recipe calls for the filling to be cooked in an “oatmeal kettle,” and we did not then nor do we now have any idea what that means. Without consulting any resources (bad librarians!), we decided it must be a double boiler, which we don’t own. This leads us to the night’s first derivation from the recipe, as we decided to saute the filling in a saute pan. This filling consists of sweet peppers (red bell peppers, in our case), tomatoes (canned, in our case, rather than whole tomatoes “cut in halves and the seeds squeezed out”) and onions cooked in (you guessed it) oleomargarine, which we substituted with regular margarine (do you know how hard it is to even find margarine at the grocery store these days?).

Regarding the preparation of the filling, refer to these excerpts from our kitchen conversation: “peppers into strips – insanity!” “1 onion to 4 peppers – madness!” This from Kurt, a former student in the esteemed Johnson County Community College Hospitality & Culinary program.

With the filling sauteeing-rather-than-sweating away, we turned our attention to the “meat box.”  The only instruction given by the recipe is to “form into a box whose sides are about an inch thick.” This (relative lack of) instruction generated some pretty fundamental (and philosophical) questions: should the box have a bottom and a top? If it doesn’t have a bottom and a top, is it still a box (see above: guests)? How tall should it be? WHAT IS IT FOR ANYWAY?!?”

Sidebar: When did cookbooks stop presuming any basic knowledge of cooking – as seems to be the case in the books we looked in for recipes – and become the step-by-step manuals they are today?   

In the end we created a kind of meat enclosure, with no meat top and no meat bottom. We basted the box with melted margarine, as per the recipe, before and during cooking. Once it was cooked in a “quick oven” (we used our regular old, modern-day electric oven, which is pretty quick), we put the filling into the enclosure and served it to some fellow librarians who were employed as testers.

Sidebar: Unlike the ongoing mystery of an oatmeal kettle, Kurt believes a quick oven to be one that’s pretty hot, i.e., 425 degrees. This “knowledge” comes from a search in the midst of constructing this post, and might have been more helpful in determining proper oven temperature in the moment (we went a slower 350 degrees), but then, that might have been cheating.

The verdict? Everyone agreed it tasted like bland hamburger. Not bad, but not really flavorful in any way, either. Certainly not flavorful in any way, shape or form associated with “Spanish” cooking. If we ever do this again, we decided we would add sausage, not use margarine, and add some actual seasonings, maybe some paprika, a little garlic, and some rosemary. We wonder what might have been had we not missed the advice on the page opposite that “For … mince meat … the neck is best.” We might also try using potatoes for the bottom of a true box. We are still really unsure whether this dish should have a top, and why this involves forming a box in the first place. Some questions will just have to remain a mystery.

Post contributed by Kurt Blythe, Serials Access Librarian, UNC, and Molly Bragg, Duke Digital Collections Program Manager

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Happy 25th, Webcam!

Fri, 02/12/2016 - 12:55

According to Wikipedia, the webcam era began in 1991 when a camera was aimed at a coffee pot in a Cambridge University lounge and left on for a decade. Nowadays it’s commonplace to communicate via video-conferencing, FaceTime, Skype or other video-phone platforms but the technology has only been widely available for a relatively short time. In the mid-1950s links between  telephones and televisions were developed, but the public only saw the technology for the first time at the 1964 World’s Fair, which also introduced touch-tone phones. Industrial trade ads touting the ability to send phone signals to television screens appeared in the early 1960s, and consumer possibilities of what were then called “Picturephones” began to be marketed in 1963-1964, as seen in this 1964 ad from New York Telephone. It would take another 40 years before smartphones put telephone and video capabilities in the hands of most consumers worldwide.

Image from JWT Competitive Advertisements Hartman Center

Post contributed by Rick Collier, Technical Services Archivist for the John. W. Hartman Center

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“Let’s all sit together:” Greensboro citizens respond to the 1960 Sit-Ins in the Edward R. Zane Papers

Thu, 02/11/2016 - 21:13

 

Excerpt of letter supporting integration of Greensboro’s lunch counters, March 8, 1960. From the E. R. Zane Papers


This month marks the 56th anniversary of the Greensboro Sit-Ins, which began on February 1, 1960 when four African-American students from North Carolina A&T walked from the campus library to the local Woolworth store, sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter, were denied service but refused to leave until closing. Over the next week, several hundred protesters took part in the sit-ins at the Woolworth and later Kress department store in Greensboro.  The sit-ins grabbed national headlines and similar protests followed in towns across the South.

With the city in turmoil, Greensboro Mayor George Roach appointed an Advisory Committee on Community Relations to help coordinate a response to the sit-ins. He appointed Burlington Industries executive and city councilman Edward R. Zane to chair the newly formed committee. In his first act as chair, Zane issued a call to Greensboro citizens asking them to share their opinions on the “race issue.” Specifically, Zane encouraged citizens to send letters to the committee “expressing their views on recent racial problems,” and he laid out five possible solutions to the lunch counter integration question at Woolworth and Kress:

  1. The situation to remain as it is;
  2. The two establishments to remove seats and serve everyone standing;
  3. The two establishments to serve everyone seated;
  4. The two establishments to reserve separate areas for seated white people and seated Negroes;
  5. The two establishments to discontinue serving food.

The Rubenstein’s Edward Raymond Zane collection contains several hundred of these letters from Greensboro citizens from late February to early March 1960. The letters, written by both white and African-American citizens, express support for or opposition to integrated seating at the Woolworth and Kress lunch counters. In aggregate, they provide a window into race relations in the community and help document the prevailing arguments on both sides of the integration issue.

More than a half century later, we remember the Greensboro Sit-ins as one of the seminal events of the civil rights movement. To commemorate the sit-ins, a portion of the Woolworth lunch counter now resides in the Smithsonian and four stools from the counter are on display in the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro. The letters in the Zane collection are less tangible than these powerful artifacts, but provide more direct evidence of one community’s response to direct action protests and serve as testimony to the bravery and courage of the Greensboro Four and other civil rights pioneers who ignited a movement to challenge segregation in public accommodations throughout the South.

Excerpt of letter favoring separate but equal seating arrangements, March 1, 1960. From the E. R. Zane Papers

 

Excerpt of letter supporting integration, March 7, 1960. From the E. R. Zane Papers.

 

Excerpt of letter opposing integrated lunch counters, March 16, 1960. From the E. R. Zane Papers.

 

Letter from Bennet College President Willa B. Player, the first African American woman to become president of a four-year college, March 11, 1960. Over 40 percent of Bennet College students were arrested and jailed during the Greensboro demonstrations. From the E. R. Zane Papers

 

Excerpt of letter from veteran in favor of integrated lunch counters, February 29, 1960. From the E. R. Zane Papers Excerpt of letter opposing integrated lunch counters, February 28, 1960

 

Excerpt from pro-segregation letter, March 11, 1960. From the E. R. Zane Papers

 

Post contributed by Noah Huffman, Archivist for Metadata and Encoding. 

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