Devil's Tale Posts (wordpress)
Post contributed by Roseen Giles, PhD, Assistant Professor of Music and Curator, Duke University Musical Instrument CollectionsMemento Mori, approximately 1650, Rubenstein Library
There is a melancholy skeleton who lives in Duke University’s History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Library. In truly every sense, he is a marvel. Meticulously carved from a single piece of ivory, this piece is crafted with astounding virtuosity by an artist who must have known as much about the science of anatomy as they did of the human condition. The composition dates from the middle of the seventeenth century but the name of the artist and the circumstances of its creation are unknown. It is perhaps fitting that the subject of this skeletal wonder is the greatest mystery of all: death. The remarkable details of the carving suggest that it is a vanitas or memento mori, a genre of artworks that remind us through a series of recognizable symbols of the certainty of death and the fleetingness of life. The skeleton itself represents a human life spent; despite our differences and all the things that mark us as unique individuals we will all one day die, leaving behind ossified remains that are, to the untrained eye, indistinguishable one of from the other.
At the skeleton’s feet are some of the most common symbols of the vanitas genre: traces of earthly pursuits such as warfare, monarchy and, perhaps most importantly, objects which point to the passing of time. This level of detail will be familiar to those acquainted with Hans Holbein the Younger’s masterpiece The Ambassadors (1533), a painting which contains quintessential examples of vanitas, among them a lute with a single broken string. Music and sound can in this case stand in as a metaphor for human life, one that is equally transient and decaying as soon as it is brought into existence. Tucked behind our skeleton’s crossed legs we can see a sickle or scythe, the symbol for the tyranny of time and of its god Saturn. The pedestal upon which he rests his arm contains the mechanical parts of a timepiece, innovative new inventions in the early modern period. The skeleton cradles his own head as he leans upon the ticking pedestal in a striking gesture that suggests both a contemplative and melancholy temperament. Perhaps most astonishing is the detail of the sash that surrounds but does not fully touch his back—as if it had been taken up with a momentary gust of wind that froze it in its movement.Andreas Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (1543), p. 163
The stick upon which the skeleton rests his right hand does not seem particularly remarkable, but a comparison to two drawings from Andreas Vesalius’s (1514–64) revolutionary anatomical treatise De humani corporis fabrica [On the Fabric of the Human Body] (Basel, 1543) reveals that there may be more to this detail than meets the eye. In one of these illustrations—possibly attributable to a pupil of Titian, Joannes Stephanus of Calcar (c. 1488–1576)— a skeleton turns his head up towards the heavens (Figure 2). The positioning of his neck and torso suggests a depth of feeling: his head is turned slightly to one side as he looks up and he rests his weight on a staff very much like the one in the ivory vanitas. In Vesalius we can see that the skeleton is leaning not on a walking stick but on a shovel, which he will use to dig his own grave. In yet another of the images from the Fabrica we can see the same skeleton looking not upwards but down with one hand supporting his own head and the other resting on a skull—not his own, apparently— which is placed upon a pedestal very similar to the timepiece in our carving. The anatomical accuracy in both the drawings of the Fabrica and of our ivory skeleton is remarkable enough, but their gestural embodiment of human thought and emotion make these works truly astonishing historical witnesses. Their subjects point to the contradictions of lived existence: the unstable dichotomy between the physical and mental, between anatomy and emotion, between scientific and artistic knowledge.Vesalius, De humani corporis fabrica (1543), p. 164
The unknown artist who made the vanitas skeleton in Duke’s History of Medicine Collections understood the rhetorical power of the ephemeral made material, when the truths of existence are brought into dialogue with the irrationality of consciousness. The very material they chose is telling of this. Ivory is rare and costly but lends itself well to the intricate detail of the piece’s low relief; it is not human bone but stands in for it in a vivid and arresting way. There are many things that such a piece can teach us about the history of medicine and, more specifically, seventeenth-century understandings of human anatomy and the physicality of emotions. But in reminding us that we will certainly die it can also tell us something about how to live. It represents, in short, a kind of contemplative interaction between the living and the dead, an interaction which suggests that the health of the human body is inextricably linked with our thoughts and emotions. In this way our melancholy skeleton can, even by representing death and transience, help us to understand and to improve the health and well-being of the living.
Post Contributed by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist
Annoncement Date: June 1st, 2021
What is audio documentary? How do recording technologies, sonic vernaculars, activism, and dissent come together in a documentary art form that engages with our ears?
This new award, sponsored by the Human Rights Archive and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, seeks to support outstanding documentary artists exploring human rights and social justice and expand the audio holdings in the Archive for long-term preservation and access. The awardee will receive a $2,500 honorarium and be invited to give a talk at Duke.
In our inaugural year we will focus on works that explore language. Books are burned, buildings are bull-dozed, bodies are buried…and people escape with only their language and the memory work it will enable. How can spoken language serve as a form of sonic resistance to colonialism and cultural genocide? How does language persevere even when individuals and entire communities are disappeared? How do the language practices of the indigenous, the displaced, the incarcerated, and the oppressed buttress memory, build community and identity, and demand social justice and human rights?
Why should I apply?
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Library has a strong commitment to human rights and the documentary arts through collecting and making available works by creators from around the world. Our collections document the impact that organizations and individuals have, and the role documentary plays, to motivate the thinking of others, and the influence that has on private and government policies.
We encourage submissions from individuals or groups from across the globe, whose work is not already in the collections of the Rubenstein Library. Documentarians working in their own communities are encouraged to apply, and we are particularly interested in submissions from communities underrepresented in the archives. We are not accepting submissions from employees of Duke University, or those currently enrolled in a degree-granting program.
For more information on the award and how to apply please visit: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/human-rights/audio-award
This award is an initiative of the Human Rights Archive and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Learn more about Special Collections at Duke…
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Post Contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center
From May 31-June 1, 1921, the Tulsa Race Massacre took place in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, OK. Greenwood was one of the most economically prosperous African American communities in the country and earned the name “Black Wall Street.” The events of that day were said to have been sparked by the actions of a mob comprised of White Tulsa citizens that wanted to exact “justice” on a young black teen who had allegedly assaulted a White woman; which at the time was considered an affront to the Jim Crow power structure designed to keep African Americans in Tulsa, and throughout the country, in a subservient social class. The actions of that mob resulted in the looting and burning of businesses, churches, and homes, and the death of anywhere between 100 and 300 African American residents of Tulsa.
Among the victims during those tumultuous days was Buck Colbert Franklin, father of Dr. John Hope Franklin. Buck Franklin had relocated to Tulsa a few months prior to the massacre to grow his law practice. When the violence occurred, his offices, like so many other buildings in the Greenwood District, were burned and also delayed the arrival of his wife and children to join him in Tulsa for four years. As one the few practicing African American lawyers in the state of Oklahoma, Buck Franklin took up the lawsuits of the African American citizens as they attempted to seek insurance payments, civil and criminal settlements for the events that took place.Buck C. Franklin working in a tent after the Tulsa Massacre
Some of the archival legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre can be located in the collections of the Rubenstein Library and the John Hope Franklin Research Center. The following materials document what took place and the history of community members seeking justice, reparation, and reconciliation for two of the darkest days in our country’s history:
John Hope Franklin Papers – https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/franklinjohnhope
- Writings Series, contains a number of writings by John Hope Franklin and others on the race riots
- Personal Series, Franklin family photographs including images of Buck Franklin
- Service Series, contains article clippings of news stories on the riots, also materials related to a 2003 Tulsa Race Riot lawsuit, Franklin’s participation in the Tulsa Race Riots Reconciliation Committee
- Audiovisual Series, VHS, The Greenwood Blues: The Tulsa Race War of 1921 (1983)
Thomas Dixon Jr Papers – https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/dixonthomas
- Includes a letter from Jerome Dowd reflecting on the Tulsa Race Riot
Duke Oral History Program collection – https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/duohp
- 13 interviews conducted in 1978 by Scott Ellworth for his study Death in the Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot, 1921
- Interviews with: B.E. Caruthers, Nathaniel Duckery, Robert Fairchild, Victor H. Hodge, Mozella Franklin Jones, Mr. and Mrs. I.S. Pittman, Henry Whitlow, N.C. Williams, Seymour Williams, William D. Williams
Events of the Tulsa Disaster by Mary E. Jones Parrish, 1922Panorama of ruined Greenwood District printed in the Events of the Tulsa Disaster by Mary E. Jones Parrish
Magic City by Jewell Parker Rhodes, 1997 [fiction]
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Post contributed by John B. Gartrell, director, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture
A new initiative developed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project (SLP), the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Duke Libraries, the New Georgia Project, BYP 100, and the Ohio Voice and made possible by a $630,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to document how today’s activists built their social and political movements. An understanding of the present day mobilizing of protest and political organizing will allow future generations to learn from the experience of today’s movements, their development, and how their achievements offer practical lessons in the struggle for human and civil rights.
The multi-generational project team based in the Duke University Libraries will convene and record conversations among three generations of activists—SNCC veterans of the Emmett Till generation, young people of the Trayvon Martin generation now leading the Movement for Black Lives, and the new generation of organizers mobilizing in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.
“Over the past sixty years, the idea and ideal of American Democracy has been shaped by the three groups that will participate in the intergenerational discussions,” Courtland Cox, Chair, SNCC Legacy Project. A key goal of these conversations is to pass on informational wealth, knowledge and practical guidance between and among the generations. The dialogues will also allow contemporary activists to tell the story of their movements from their own perspective. Hence the project’s name—Our Story. Our Terms: Documenting Movement Building from the Inside Out.Group photo of SNCC and Movement Veterans at the SNCC Digital Gateway closing events, 2018
“We at the Center for Documentary Studies are excited to nurture this essential sharing-of-work among people who are bringing us closest to the aspirations of self-determination and democracy. It’s a privilege to take part in this project with our partners — we’re paving the way for coming generations to build without fear of losing, forgetting, or ignoring their hard-won knowledge and what Courtland so aptly calls ‘informational wealth.’” Wesley Hogan, Director, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
The three-year project will also partner today’s activist organizations with early career archivists who have experience working with groups underrepresented in the archives. The idea is to bring movement organizers and archivists together to use practical and digital tools so that today’s organizers can tell their own stories on their own terms and ensure that their records endure. It will also provide training for those archivists to center ethical practices rooted in respect for community driven archives and learn from movement organizers. Documenting movements that are in-progress today will also serve to inform and encourage future activists and archivists alike.Movement veterans and young activists converse at the SNCC Digital Gateway closing events in 2018
At the conclusion of the project, a digital collection of pivotal historical materials documenting contemporary organizing efforts will be made available online. In addition, all materials generated by the Our Story Project, including the recorded conversations among activists, will be preserved and housed in the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, part of Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
This isn’t the first collaboration between Duke and SNCC veterans. The Our Story Project will build on the example of the SNCC Digital Gateway, a widely used documentary website hosted by Duke that allows visitors to explore the history of the 1960s voting rights organization in detail. That groundbreaking initiative —also funded by The Mellon Foundation—brought together activists, academics, students, and archivists to create a digital history of SNCC that places the voices of SNCC veterans at its center.Selected members of the SNCC Digital Gateway and Our Stories, Our Terms project planning group
“The Our Story Project is an outstanding example of how libraries and archives are learning from and sharing space with communities long underrepresented at elite universities, as well as advocating for increased representation of marginalized stories in our nation’s historical record,” said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs at Duke, one of the project’s principal investigators. “We are grateful for The Mellon Foundation’s generous support of this important work.”
To see examples of other collaborations between Duke, the SNCC Legacy Project, the Center for Documentary Studies, and other project partners, visit our webpage.
Date: April 7, 2021
Time: 3:00 pm ET
Interested in archival and library work? Come learn about the internships being offered at the Rubenstein Library in Fall of 2021!
On April 7th at 3:00pm Rubenstein Library staff will be hosting an information session and open house where you can learn about the Rubenstein Library, meet the intern supervisors, get details on the internship projects, and ask questions.
The following internships available at the Rubenstein Library in the coming academic year:
- Consumer Reports Processing Intern: The Consumer Reports Processing Intern will primarily arrange and describe archival materials held in the Consumer Reports Archives collections, part of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing in the Rubenstein Library. The intern may also participate in outreach, programming, and instruction activities, depending on opportunities and the intern’s abilities and interests.
- Josiah Charles Trent Internship: Working closely with the History of Medicine Collections, this position will provide support for public services and collection development activities of the History of Medicine.
- Human Rights Archive, Marshall T. Meyer Intern: Working with RL Technical Services and Research Services staff, you will primarily provide support for research services, technical services, and collection development activities of the Human Rights Archive.
- John Hope Franklin Research Center Internship: The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture seeks a reliable candidate to fill the position of Franklin Research Center intern. Working closely with the center’s director, you will provide support for public services and collection development activities. This internship provides an opportunity to work closely with the center’s collections which include rare books, personal papers and manuscripts, oral histories, audiovisual, and ephemeral materials that document the African and African Diaspora experience from the 16th century to present day.
New Collections Spotlight: The Attica Prison Uprising: “If we cannot live as people, then we will at least try to die like men”.
Post Submitted by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist
The Human Rights Archive recently purchased two historical publications documenting the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971. The Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services/Print Materials Cataloging Section has expertly cataloged these items and they are now available for consultation in the Rubenstein reading room.
In September of 1971 inmates at Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, rebelled against prison authorities and took control of the facility. After four days of attempted negotiations the state police violently suppressed the rebellion leading to the death of 43 staff and inmates. The Attica Uprising was a watershed moment in the on-going fight to establish respect for human rights within the penitentiary system and to recognize and reform the racist practices and policies of the criminal justice system which feed the carceral machine. We can thus understand that Attica is a direct ancestor of social movements such as Black Lives Matter that continue this fight today. Attica: slaughter at Attica: the complete inside story is written by journalist James A. Hudson and published in 1971, soon after the uprising. The publication begins with a quote from Attica inmate Charles Horatio Crowley who was also known as Brother Flip, “If we cannot live as people, then we will at least try to die like men.”Attica, it is a right to rebel, Cover
Hudson then sets out to provide the details of the actual events of the uprising and oppression, including first-hand accounts from those who were there, a map of the prison grounds with key locations noted, and photographs of the rebellion, the negotiations, and the state’s attack on the inmates and the horrifying aftermath. Hudson also explores what led up to the riot, investigates if the living conditions at Attica were as inhumane as the inmates claimed, and asks readers to consider what role racism played in the state’s deadly response to the rebellion.Attica: slaughter at Attica: the complete inside story, view of destruction inside the prison
Another newly available item is Attica, it is a right to rebel authored by the Revolutionary Student Brigade, circa 1972. Printed in stark black and red, the pamphlet is a collaboration between the RSB, some of the Attica brothers, as well as their supporters. The pamphlet proclaims that “ATTICA IS NOT A TRAGEDY, but a symbol of militant resistance of oppressed people against a system that tries to crush them.” In contrast to Hudson’s journalistic tone, The RBG invokes a clear call to solidarity and action with the Attica inmates by all people involved in resisting a racist system that terrorizes Black people. The back sheet of the pamphlet includes the 33 demands of the Attica rebels, many of which we today recognize as basic human rights, “provide adequate food and water and shelter for this group”, “allow true religious freedom”, “Apply the New York State minimum wage law to all work done by inmates. STOP SLAVE LABOR.”Attica: slaughter at Attica: the complete inside story, Cover
These new items join the Human Rights Archives extensive collections on the experiences of the incarcerated, and the impact detention and incarceration have on their families and communities. These include the papers of Jomo Joka Omowale, one of the Attica Brothers who went on trial in the wake of the uprising, and the papers of Elizabeth Fink, a human rights lawyer who represented prisoners killed and injured during the Attica uprising. To learn more about these collections and how to access them please visit our research guide.Attica, it is a right to rebel, 33 Demands of the inmates
Post contributed by Amelia Verkerk, Graduate Intern, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture
The Brown Papers were a series of publications written and produced by the National Institute for Women of Color (NIWC) as a platform to raise awareness and examine issues and concerns of women of color including lack of representation in politics, harmful and derogatory stereotypes, and systemic silencing of their experiences and voices. NIWC was founded as a non-profit institute in 1981 to create a national network for women of African, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Latina, and Pacific Island heritage. NIWC started organizing annual conferences around the United States in 1982 and began publishing The Brown Papers in 1984 along with another periodical called Fact Sheets on Women of Color.
The mission of NIWC’s Brown Papers and its other projects was to create a “cross-racial/ethnic communication vehicle to identify or define issues, educate and raise awareness about those issues, and encourage coalitions and alliances to address the common concerns of mutual issues” (The Brown Papers, 23). While the NIWC organized and published The Brown Papers, the periodical was written and funded by individual contributors and outside grant organizations. The Sallie Bingham Center holds a copy of the first issue of The Brown Papers which was written by Suzanne Brooks, Aileen Hernandez, Marta Cotera, and Victoria Siu. This issue focuses on the importance of women of color in local, state, and federal offices, such as district court judges, mayors, and ambassadors. Additionally, the authors examine the significance of women holding traditionally male positions (i.e., tribal leaders, professors, business owners, etc.) because “the twin legacies of racism and sexism in the United States have had double the impact on women of color.” (The Brown Papers, 11)
The Brown Papers explores the impact of historical experiences of women of color. Contributor Marta Cotera analyzes the ways in which many matriarchal tribes were further harmed by the American white, patriarchal laws passed in the 20th century, after already facing hundreds of years of legal discrimination. These laws undermine the importance of women in these cultures which has led to the disenfranchisement of indigenous women and the Federal government refusing to recognize matriarchal tribes, both of which perpetuate the lack of proper representation of Native women. The Brown Papers provide a unique insight to these types of discussions women of color were having in the 1980s and continue to have in 2021. Here are a few particular trenchant examples:
“Few women of color have been able to reach the pinnacle of national elective office; no woman of color has sat in the sanctum of the United States Senate; a total of six have left their mark on the House of Representatives… Their life histories are a chronicle of risk-taking, commitment, and involvement.” (The Brown Papers, 4).
“Therefore, this paper would not be complete without a look at American governmental policies that have restricted the political participation of people of color. While this effort is only a preliminary look at the tapestry of American politics in which women of color are woven, it is a look long overdue.” (The Brown Papers, 11).
“But institutionalized racism in society postponed the opportunity for women of color to reap the benefits of this victory [the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment]. Jeanette Rankin of Montana was the first woman elected to Congress (1916); but it took nearly an additional half a century for a woman of color (Patsy Mink) to achieve this goal.” (The Brown Papers, 17)
On February 23, 2021 author Blake Hill-Saya and sponsor C. Eileen Watts-Welch discuss “Aaron McDuffie Moore, An African American Physician, Educator, and Founder of Durham’s Black Wall Street” (2020). Hill-Saya is a classical musician and creative writer. Watts-Welch was former Associate Dean of External Affairs in the School of Nursing at Duke University. The conversation was moderated by John B. Gartrell, director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke University.
Aaron McDuffie Moore was one of the nation’s most influential African American leaders in the early 20th century and a co-founder of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and Lincoln Hospital in Durham, NC. Hill-Saya and Watts-Welch are both descendants of Moore and this project had deep personal connections. They share how their research in the NC Mutual archive (jointly held by Duke and North Carolina Central University) and the collections at Shaw University’s archives aided in illuminating his life and legacy.
This event was co-sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture and the History of Medicine Collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.
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Post Contributed by Patrick Stawski, Archivist, Human Rights Archives
Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America wins 2020 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America
Theresa Keeley’s important and wonderfully detailed book, Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America (Cornell University Press, 2020), is the winner of the 2020 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America.
This is the twelfth year of this prestigious award. The award is supported by the Duke Human Rights Center@the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and the Human Rights Archives at the Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.
Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns is a deep dive into a formative period in human rights, Central American history, and the role of the faith community, in particular the Maryknoll order, on US policy. Keeley will accept the award via a Zoom event that is open to the public. The event will take place on March 16 from 5:30-7 pm.
The judges were unanimous in their praise. Prof. James Chappel, Hunt Assistant Professor of History at Duke University, noted that the book “tells a great story that most people, myself included, know little about. Catholicism, like human rights, is both global and local, and it takes a special kind of historian to explore it with humanity, moral passion, and archival rigor. By integrating geopolitics, theology, and gender into one beautiful narrative, Keeley does all of us a great service.”
Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, currently a senior legal adviser to Human Rights Watch and a former Méndez award winner, commented that the book “covers a history about which I’ve long been curious and that has been central to US human rights policy toward Central America. It does so comprehensively, seriously, and with great care. The author did an impressive amount of research.”
Robin Kirk, chair of the judging committee and the co-director of the Duke Human Rights Center@the Franklin Humanities Institute, commented, “I learned so much from this book: about Central America, US policy, the Maryknolls, and continuing repercussions of divides within Christianity and their links to human rights. Even as an advocate in Latin America, I was unfamiliar with much of this history. So much of this framed the early development of human rights as US policy and a generation of American and European rights activists.”
When notified of the award, Keeley stated, “I am humbled to have my work recognized. At times, I struggled to find ways to convey Central Americans’ and missionaries’ experiences during the 1970s and 1980s. But it was nothing compared to what the people who lived through these difficult, and often violent, times endured. I am thankful to all of the human rights advocates, in the United States and Central America and especially the women religious, who trusted me with their stories. I hope the Méndez Award will bring recognition to them and to the greater need for the U.S. government to consider how its foreign policies affect the human rights of others.”
The judges would also like to extend congratulations to Dan Werb and his excellent City of Omens: A search for the missing women of the borderlands (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019), our runner-up. The judges praised the book’s epidemiological approach and the richly detailed research paired with the stories of the women Werb worked with on the US-Mexico border. Werb’s text was “very compelling and human,” wrote one, “and I loved that it shed light on worlds that most readers do not know about or care to know.”
First awarded in 2008, the Méndez Human Rights Book Award honors the best current non-fiction book published in English on human rights, democracy, and social justice in contemporary Latin America. The books are evaluated by a panel of expert judges drawn from academia, journalism, human rights, and public policy circles.
For more information on the award and previous winners, see https://humanrights.fhi.duke.edu/programs/wola-duke-human-rights-award/.
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Post contributed by Josh Rubin, a first-year student at Duke University from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Rubin is majoring in biology with potential minors in chemistry and linguistics.
As a part of the MedRen Focus program this fall, I was able to participate in the Cabinet of Curiosity activity. This activity, along with Lorraine Daston’s chapter on “Marvelous Particulars” in Wonders and the order of nature, exposed me to, what I believe to be, one of the most interesting Renaissance concepts: wonder.Object of wonder
For this Cabinet of Curiosity activity, I was required to find an item in nature, describe it using only sensory vocabulary, and attempt to classify it based on categories I would create myself. These categories were not intended to reflect the knowledge we possess today. I was supposed to embody a Renaissance naturalist and organize what I found in nature based on characteristics from direct observation. I ended up taking a stroll through Duke Gardens with another member of my focus cluster to begin my search. It didn’t take long for us to pass the Koi pond and walk by the most elegant type of bird. We ended up staying about half an hour just to watch its behavior and actions. I decided to take a picture of it and, inevitably, it became my object for the activity. I described it as being a blueish gray color, having expandable appendages, and as something which possessed the marvelous ability to fly. If I were to have a cabinet of curiosities of my own, it would be centered around exotic creatures, with this creature in particular being classified as an aviation animal, one with the occult ability to lift itself off of earth’s bounds.Examples that students in the MedRen Focus program chose for the “Create Your Own Cabinet of Curiosity” activity.
For several interrelated reasons during the Renaissance, the distinct discipline of wonder–the careful examinations of natural marvels–provided a means of elaborating on the inquiries which developed about the unknown. The studies by Renaissance naturalists and physicians like Giovanni Dondi and Michele Savonarola explained the reasons natural marvels were able to satisfy such queries. First, it was speculated that “most marvels… derived their wonderful properties from occult properties… Second, their intrinsic fascination and charisma set them apart from mundane phenomena,” and third, the mere expansion into the New World further broadened the heterogeneity of marvels simply given their novelty (Daston 136). Thus, a “marvel” or “natural wonder” was a label for an entity with captivating, inexplicable, and unfamiliar physical and functional properties. Such a determination relied on that fact that the emergent study of wonder was empirical and collaborative. To the former, a marvel’s intrinsic properties could not have been recognized from their superficial features but had to be deduced from the senses which were viewed as infallible. To the latter, many of the mysterious properties of marvels had to be described for the first time by Europeans, requiring diverse expert knowledge to generate complex associations as a way to classify such unusual phenomena. In light of the unknown, wonder differed from traditional natural philosophy because it embraced “the emotion of wonder itself” (Daston 144). Characterized by the sense of awe, studying the marvel provided a way to comfort the limitations of the human mind and satisfy the need to regain human control of the unknown. Some additional aspects of wonder worth mentioning include its focus on diversity as opposed to universality and the notion that the people who studied the marvelous were deemed wonders themselves.
by Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, and Meg Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Librarian
August 2020 marked the centenary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment enfranchising many American women after nearly eighty years of activism. In order to explore the complexities and strategies of the American women’s suffrage movement, students in Duke’s Fall 2019 “Women in the Economy” course examined materials in the Rubenstein Library and then created the exhibition, Beyond Supply and Demand: Duke Economics Students Present 100 Years of American Women’s Suffrage.
One of the biggest challenges for the students was that the full range of contributions to the American women’s suffrage movement is not represented in the Rubenstein Library’s collections, or in the historical record generally. The dominant narrative of the movement, like the historical record of it, has focused on white women who benefited from the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and neglected the contributions and struggles of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Nevertheless we—students and librarians—tried throughout this exhibit to present a diversity of historical figures and viewpoints.
Because the idea for the suffrage movement began at an anti-slavery conference and borrowed much of its methodology from the abolition movement, it made sense to begin the exhibition there with the first of the ten themes students researched, “Abolition, Racism, and Resistance.” It was equally important to look at all of the themes through the lens of race and resistance because, though much of the current and historical narrative around the suffrage movement has focused on its white leaders, every dimension of the fight for the vote involved BIPOC communities.Portrait of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Harper, Frances E. W. Iola Leroy, or, Shadows uplifted. Philadelphia, Pa.: Garrigues Brothers, Publishers and Booksellers, 1893, Lisa Unger Baskin Collection.
For example, BIPOC such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an abolitionist, suffragist, temperance leader, and one of the first African-American women to publish a novel (Iola Leroy, or, Shadows Uplifted, Garrigues Brothers, 1893), fought for human rights through their work in women’s clubs and churches in addition to suffrage organizations. Harper spoke at suffrage conventions in the nineteenth century and often clashed with white leaders. She adamantly believed in acknowledging the racism faced by Black people and how that could not be separated from the struggle for equality, including within the suffrage movement. At the same time, white suffragists and anti-suffragists upheld racist arguments, often dividing the movement and excluding BIPOC.Image of A. J. H. Cooper, A Voice From the South. Xenia, O. : Aldine Printing House, 1892.
As the exhibit illustrates in almost every section, BIPOC suffragists were not deterred. For example, in the “Bible as a Tool,” religious leader, educator, and activist Nannie Helen Burroughs advocated for civil rights and voting rights for Black people, citing the lack of Christian values in discrimination and segregation and the moral importance of voting. Anna Julia Cooper, along with her groundbreaking volume A Voice From the South (Aldine Printing House, 1892), are featured in the “Regional Realities” section. Considered to be one of the first published articulations of black feminism, Cooper analyzes African American women’s realities facing racism, sexism, economic oppression, and lack of voting rights. This book was an especially powerful statement in a region of the country where most white pro- and anti-suffragists centered their campaigns on the preservation of white supremacy.
Grimké, Archibald Henry. Why Disfranchisement is Bad. [Philadelphia : Press of E.A. Wright; 1904?]Black men are also featured in the exhibit, including Archibald Grimké, a lawyer, politician, journalist, founding member of the NAACP, and activist for African American and women’s suffrage. Born into slavery in South Carolina, Grimké was the nephew of Sarah and Angelina Grimké—often referred to as the “Grimké Sisters”—prominent abolitionists and women’s rights activists. In Why Disenfranchisement Is Bad (Press of E.A. Wright; 1904?), published with the support of Booker T. Washington, Grimké links the enfranchisement of African Americans to achieving racial equality and economic growth. The pamphlet was used to educate the public regarding harmful laws that limited voting rights.Vaughs, Cliff. Photograph of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, 1967. Civil Rights Movement and Wayside Theatre photographs, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
The final section of the exhibit, “The Long Tail of Voting Rights,” shows the continued conversation around women’s rights and voting rights after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. After 1920, there were invigorated movements to educate and mobilize new women voters, and to fight against voter suppression tactics like literacy laws and intimidation at the polls that disproportionately disenfranchised Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. One of the leaders of these movements was Fannie Lou Hamer who, having personally experienced literacy tests and poll tax requirements, became a field secretary for voter registration and welfare programs with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In this role and as leader of the Freedom Democratic Party, she helped and encouraged thousands of African Americans to become registered voters. In her 1971 speech which she titled “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free,” she told the National Women’s Political Caucus in Washington that Black and white women had to work together toward freedom for all.
Dr. Genna Miller, the faculty member who taught the class, observed:
“The learning that went on during the exhibit project went beyond just the names and dates related to the suffrage movement. Students learned research methods and critical thinking skills. Students embraced the opportunity to examine and interpret historical documents written by labor activists, journalists, political and social reformers, and others who offered diverse lenses through which to consider and understand the significance of women’s suffrage, and the vast array of issues that the movement encompassed. Participating in this project with my students and the library staff has been an amazing experience. This could only happen at Duke!”
The post We Are All Bound Up Together: Race and Resistance in the American Women’s Suffrage Movement appeared first on The Devil's Tale.
by Meghan Lyon, Head of Technical Services
The “Duke University Libraries Statement of Our Commitment” (issued in June 2020) commits Duke Libraries to expanding cultural competence and combatting racism. One of the statement’s five goals is to “Practice more inclusive metadata creation, with the goal of harm reduction from biased and alienating description and classification.”Creating “Guiding Principles” for RL Technical Services
The Rubenstein Library Technical Services Department (RLTS) has been seeking to create “inclusive metadata” for much longer than the summer of 2020. But we were inspired by Duke Libraries’ “Statement of Our Commitment” to more formally and concretely define what “inclusive metadata” means. We began this process by collecting and reading library and community literature, listening to panels and presentations on these topics, and researching what our peers and role models are doing. Our staff met and workshopped a draft of new “Guiding Principles for Description,” which was subsequently edited and adopted by the department and is now available here (along with links to further reading).
Developing these guiding principles is only one part of our ongoing commitment to create inclusive description for Rubenstein Library materials. RLTS processes and catalogs a wide range of special collection formats (printed books, serials, ephemera, zines, archival papers, institutional records, film, video, born digital files, objects, and more) and creates description that is shared across a variety of platforms, such as the library catalog, finding aid database, and Duke’s institutional repository. Going forward, we hope the “Guiding Principles for Description” will serve as the foundation for any type of description created or managed by Rubenstein’s catalogers and archivists.Current and Future Inclusive Description Projects The Narrative of Sojourner Truth, 1850. As part of their work to catalog the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, Rubenstein catalogers corrected a century-long misattribution of authorship in the Library of Congress Name Authority File, returning credit back to Sojourner Truth.
There is much work already underway across Duke Libraries, and much more planned as Rubenstein Technical Services continues to prioritize the creation of inclusive description. Some of these projects pre-date the coining of our “Guiding Principles” — for example, we are proud of the ongoing cataloging of the thousands of items in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, where catalogers are creating name authority records and detailed provenance notes tracing the often hidden role of women in printing, publishing, and book-binding. When developing ArcLight, our finding aid interface (launched in July), an important feature was the addition of a feedback button to encourage suggestions, particularly if a user spots harmful or incorrect descriptive language in our metadata. With the recent addition of a new Filmfabriek HDS+ film scanner, RLTS has launched a new film preservation program. One of the first projects on the scanner was the Civil Rights-era film Ivanhoe Donaldson, digitized in support of the SNCC Digital Gateway project. You can read more about the preservation of this important film here.
Our projects have continued this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While working remotely, the Rare Materials Section has prioritized creating new manuscript catalog records for the Rubenstein’s American Slavery Documents, which will mean better discovery and access to the names and histories of Black people who were enslaved and emancipated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.Free papers for Nancy Gardner, 1806. Catalogers are creating new description for manuscripts like this from the American Slavery Documents collection, along with creating name authority records that align with our new “Guiding Principles for Description.”
Our Archival Processing Section has begun reviewing manuscript collections with outdated, inadequate, or offensive description, and they will be reprocessing, re-describing, and exploring how to be transparent about any changes or updates they make through development of a new style guide for finding aids. This includes finding and correcting our library’s past descriptive decisions or mistakes. This is a long-term commitment—we have tens of thousands of collections!—but we have already gotten started. One example is described here, where a diary recently added to the Appleton Oaksmith Papers led to new subject headings in the collection’s description, plus an edited biographical note clarifying Oaksmith’s occupation as a slave trader. Across the department, we intend to ramp up reparative description projects, particularly for our nineteenth-century Southern white family papers, because we know that the records of enslavers may be the only remaining documentation of those who were enslaved. We are seeking marginalized, hidden, and silenced voices. Even in their silences, our collections have much to say. Please stay tuned, and stay in touch, as we pursue this important work.
by Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist, with extensive contributions from Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian
For the past several years, the Duke University Archives has welcomed students from an introductory writing course, “Sports and Social Inequality.” The course provides some preparation for engaging with archival documents—such as photographs of members of a 1930s honorary athletic society dressed in blackface, and stereotypical media descriptions of Asian-American athletes. But confronting those materials in an instruction session can still be a shock. When University Archives staff checked with other Rubenstein Library instructors, we realized that teaching with difficult materials was a challenge we all struggled with.
The Rubenstein Library’s collections document a wide range of history, including some of the ugliest parts, such as racist and anti-Semitic language and imagery, as well as graphic descriptions and depictions of violence. As a group, we began to work toward a shared way of framing these materials in our instruction and were able to introduce our code of ethics—called “Our Approach to Instruction”—in January 2019.
For each course that visits the Rubenstein Library, we often have only one class session to reach all of the students as a group. With such a limited amount of time to make an impression, our code of ethics needed to state our values up-front and clearly, and in a way that demonstrated a commitment to centering students.
At the heart of “Our Approach to Instruction” is a recognition of both the academic knowledge and lived experiences students bring to our classrooms, as these inform and shape their understanding of and emotional reactions to history and primary sources. For this reason, our code of ethics is intended to be used in all classes, not just those with obviously uncomfortable or upsetting material.
It’s been a pleasant surprise to see widespread support for our code of ethics. During instruction sessions, we’ve observed students absorbing and applying it through the questions they ask and the interpretations they bring to the materials in front of them. Faculty members have reinforced its messages over the course of their students’ interactions with primary sources. Instruction librarians across the country have gotten in touch via email and social media with questions and suggestions, as well as the news that they’ve adapted this approach in their own instruction sessions.
We’ve brought the code of ethics along with us as we’ve shifted into online or asynchronous teaching for the 2020-2021 academic year. With our time “in front of” students further limited, our code of ethics has helped us to quickly establish a shared foundation for exploration and discussion. Even our new instruction modules—lesson plans incorporating digitized Rubenstein Library materials that provide an alternative to face-to-face instruction sessions—incorporate the code of ethics. A case in point: the Exploring the Chanticleer module, in which students might encounter offensive images in Duke’s yearbook. Or The Eugenics in North Carolina module, which introduces students to this still-contested and upsetting chapter in North Carolina’s history.
When the Rubenstein Library’s instructors created “Our Approach to Instruction,” we did so with the understanding that it would be a living document, open to frequent reassessment and revision. We commit to keeping it a central and evolving part of our teaching toolkit. And we encourage you to share your thoughts about it with us!
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Post contributed by Jessica Janecki, Rare Materials CatalogerThe Project
Over 200 items—bills of sale, rental agreements, “free papers,” and even one arrest warrant—make up the American Slavery Documents collection held in the Rubenstein. In Technical Services, rare materials catalogers are in the process of individually cataloging the documents in the collection.
An important part of the cataloging process involves researching the names we find in the documents so that we can correctly identify people and either associate them with their Library of Congress Name Authority File heading or create an authorized heading for them. In attempting to describe enslaved or formerly enslaved persons, the majority of whom did not have last names, we tried to do as much research as possible (is the Sue mentioned in one document the same Sue mentioned in another document? If not, how can we distinguish them?) Our hope is that by identifying and describing these individuals researchers may be able to connect them to other parts of their stories that may be contained in other repositories.
However, even with the addition of subject headings, authorized name headings, genre/form terms, and other helpful metadata, there are just some things that cannot be easily encapsulated in a catalog record. One example is the story of Lott and Frankey.Lott and Frankey Deed of manumission for Frankey, 1801
To begin this project of individually cataloging the American Slavery Documents collection, I deliberately chose one of the happier document types: this deed of manumission freeing an enslaved woman named Frankey. It is dated June 25, 1801 and was recorded at the court of Albemarle County, Virginia by clerk of court John Nicholas.
In it, William Champe Carter, Frankey’s enslaver, declares:
…in consideration of the sum of forty two pounds to me in hand paid by Lott (the waggoner) who was liberated by my deceased father Edward Carter, esq., as well as in consideration of the meritorious services of she, the wife of the said Lott, named Frankey, I have emancipated and set at liberty, and by these presents do emancipate and set at liberty my said negro slave Frankey…
In other words, Frankey’s husband Lott purchased her freedom for 42 pounds.
From this deed we know nothing else about Frankey other than her name, the name of her husband, and that in June 1801 she lived in Albemarle County, Virginia. In my research I have not been able to discover how she came to be enslaved by William Champe Carter, which of the many Carter family plantations she might have lived at, or even her approximate age.
The deed actually tells us more about Lott than Frankey. We learn that Lott had been enslaved by William Champe Carter’s father Edward Carter, who also emancipated him. When Edward Carter died in 1792, he left instructions in his will to emancipate Lott, one of the few enslaved persons he mentioned by name in his will. We also learn Lott’s profession as William Champe Carter refers to Lott as “the waggoner,” which means wagon driver.
If Lott was a free man by 1792, what might he have been doing between his emancipation and when he purchased Frankey’s freedom in 1801? In the deed he is referred to as Lott “the waggoner,” suggesting that he found employment after his emancipation. I searched early Virginia property tax records (available here) and found 2 promising entries in Albemarle County. The first from 1795 reads: Negro Lott emancipated by Edwd Carter decd [ie deceased] 1 tithe 2 horses and the second from 1797 reads: Wagoner Lott free negro 1 tithe 1 horse. These entries show that the commonwealth of Virginia recognized Lott as a free man, and one who owned enough personal property to owe property taxes. The 1797 entry helpfully confirms that he worked as a wagon driver. That these tax records are from Albemarle County also shows that Lott stayed close to Frankey during the 9 years he worked to earn the 42 pounds to buy her freedom.
What happened to Frankey and Lott after 1801? In the tax records for 1803, 1805, 1806, and 1807 there are references to Lott Saunders, a “free negro.” Is this the same Lott? Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing for certain and after that the trail grows cold. Searching for any traces of Frankey are especially difficult as court documents from a lawsuit in 1821 between members of the Carter family show that at least two women still enslaved on Carter plantations were named Frankey.
If Frankey and Lott remained in Virginia after Frankey’s emancipation they would have faced challenges. William Champe Carter refers to the “privileges” to which “emancipated slaves are entitled under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” One of those “privileges” was constantly having to prove their freedom. The 1793 state law An Act for Regulating the Police of Towns in this Commonwealth, and to Restrain the Practice of Negroes Going at Large required free people of color to register with the towns where they worked or lived and pay a fee for a copy of their certificate of registration. This registration had to be renewed every year. If they could not produce their certificate they could be jailed indefinitely.Future Connections
The story of Frankey and Lott is one of many glimpses of humanity and struggle (as well as oppression and cruelty) that can be found in the American Slavery documents collection. It is our hope that our efforts to individually catalog the documents will improve access and allow users to discover materials (and the lives that they reveal) by searching names, places, subjects, and document types in addition to browsing the digital collection. And in this process of discovery, connections will continue to be made, so that the humanity of lives lived, such as Frankey’s and Lott’s, will continue to be revealed and remembered.Full transcription of Deed of Manumission
Transcript of recto:
To all whom these presents shall come, know ye that for divers good causes and considerations me hereunto moving, but more especially in consideration of the sum of forty two pounds to me in hand paid by Lott (the waggoner) who was liberated by my deceased father Edward Carter, esq., as well as in consideration of the meritorious services of she, the wife of the said Lott, named Frankey, I have emancipated and set at liberty, and by these presents do emancipate and set at liberty my said negro slave Frankey, giving her all the privileges and [?] to which emancipated slaves are entitled under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, given under my hand and seal, at the county of Albemarle, in the state of Virginia, this 25th day of June in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and one.
Signed, sealed, and delivered in the presence of [blanks for witnesses]
William Champe Carter
Transcript of verso:
At a court held for Albemarle County the 6th day of July 1801 this deed of manumission from Wm Champe Carter to Negroe Frankey was produced into court and acknowledged by Wm Champe Carter party thereto and ordered to be recorded
 The Carters of Blenheim: a genealogy of Edward and Sarah Champe Carter of “Blenheim” Albemarle County, Virginia. [Richmond, Va. : Garrett & Massie], 1955.
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Post contributed by Naomi Nelson, Associate University Librarian and Director of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Over the past three years, staff in the Rubenstein Library have engaged in a series of conversations, readings, and workshops to better understand white supremacy, racism and racial bias; to explore the ways racism is institutionalized in the RL’s collections, staffing, services and practices; and to make and implement plans that will move us closer to being an inclusive, welcoming, and respectful organization.
During the past year, we have been part of the efforts at Duke and in the Duke Libraries to develop plans that will address systemic racism. Together we developed a statement of commitment to anti-racism that sets our priorities and a four-year roadmap with concrete objectives. We acknowledge that these objectives are just the next steps along a very long road that will take much more than four years to walk. We will track milestones and update the plans as we go forward. We share these plans as part of our commitment to the work.Maps showing the planned (and unrealized) redevelopment for the largely African-American Hayti/Elizabeth Street area in Durham. From “Outlook for Durham,” Spring 1957.
Post contributed by Kaylee P. Alexander, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern 2020-2021.
Bumper stickers, a MAGA hat, a Hillary Clinton nutcracker, ads for Dick Nixon jewelry, and a Barry Goldwater beer can are just some of the relics of past presidential campaigns to be found in the over thirty boxes of the Kenneth Hubbard Collection of Presidential Campaign Ephemera at the Rubenstein Library. Gimmicky, kitschy and teeming with bad puns, objects such as these have become somewhat ubiquitous in American campaign culture, and the Hubbard Collection covers nearly every presidential campaign that took place between 1828 and 2016. Representing Republicans and Democrats—both winners and losers—as well as candidates running with the U.S. Socialist and Prohibitionist parties, the Hubbard collection provides interesting material and visual cultural insights in the history of American elections by demonstrating a wide range of strategies for advertising and showing support for would-be U.S. presidents.
Going through these boxes over the past month, I was not shocked to find what seemed like an endless supply of buttons, pins and ribbons. Nor was I very surprised to find objects such as that Hillary nutcracker, or the Bill Clinton tie that was kept in the box alongside it; these ridiculous artifacts seemed somewhat logical to me, having seen the bizarre assortment of collectibles—from bobble heads and action figures to, most recently, facemasks—for candidates who have run in my lifetime. No matter how many objects or documents I came across in the collection, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about the first folder I had pulled: a folder containing just one postcard, with a donkey illustration and twine tail. “Pull for Your Candidate,” the postcard instructed, and, in an oddly amusing sort of way, a portrait of William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925) emerged above the donkey as you pulled on its tail. I couldn’t help but chuckle.“Pull for Your Candidate” Postcard for William Jennings Bryan campaign (1908), Kenneth Hubbard Collection of Presidential Campaign Ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Printed by the Elite Post Card Company of Kansas City, Missouri, the verso provided space for you to compose your own message and address the card to whomever you wanted to send it to. Designed for the 1908 presidential election, in which Bryan faced off against Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, William H. Taft in a “battle of the Bills,” the postcard provided an attention-grabbing method of advocating for one’s presidential pick, not unlike today’s letter writing campaigns, or even contemporary social media activity urging folks to get out and vote.G. H. Allen, “Each Bill Would be THE Bill, But which Bill will?” Postcard for the 1908 Presidential Election.
A proponent of a progressive income tax and stronger antitrust laws, Bryan was hailed “The great Commoner.” 1908 would be the third and final time that Bryan, formerly Nebraska’s 1st District Representative, would run for president. Unfortunately, it would also be his biggest defeat, earning just 162 electoral votes to Taft’s 321. With Taft’s defeat after one term by New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, Bryan would serve as Secretary of State from 1913 to 1915. Despite his presidential losses, however, Bryan is still considered to be one of the most influential, albeit somewhat controversial, politicians of the Progressive Era.
A bit of digging revealed that a Republican version of the 1908 postcard, featuring an elephant in place of the donkey, had also been produced for Taft, an example of which can be found in the Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker American Political Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. With both of these postcards available to potential voters, one would have been able to literally and figuratively pull for their candidate and motivate others to do so as well.“Pull for Your Candidate” Postcard for William H. Taft campaign (1908), Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker American Political Collection, St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum, University of Missouri-St. Louis.
So, with a few days to go before Election Day, be sure to take a lesson from the Elite Postcard Company and pull for your candidate. Every vote matters.
Post contributed by Kaylee P. Alexander, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern, 2020-2021
Man dies to live, and lives to die no more…until then, we eat cookies.
Tucked away in the Rubenstein Library’s box of memorial cards, ribbons, notices and ephemera in the Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature is a lone advertisement for a curious confection: funeral biscuits. Imploring the reader to prepare for death, the ad suggests that one’s funerary arrangements simply cannot be complete without Hick’s biscuits.Advertisement for Joseph Hick’s Funeral Biscuits (n.d.), Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Joseph Hick was a Yorkshire confectioner. In 1803, he had opened his first confectionery in partnership with Richard Kilner. In 1822, Kilner dissolved the partnership, leaving sole ownership to Hick, who relocated the business to 47 Coney Street. Hick operated his own confectionary until his death in 1860, when his estate and confectionery were left to his three children. Hick’s youngest daughter was Mary Ann Craven, the wife of Thomas Craven whose confectionery at 19 High Ousegate had been in operation since 1840. When Thomas died in 1862, Mary Ann was left in control of both confectioneries, which she merged and renamed M.A. Craven. In 1881, her son, Joseph William, joined the firm and the company was renamed M.A. Craven & Son.
With its thick black border, Hick’s advertisement mimics the design of early obituaries while inclusion of the elegy, “Prepare to Die,” hints towards the tradition of funeral cards. It is most likely, however, that the advertisement was intended to provide the reader with a sample design of what they might expect to encounter on the paper wrapper of Hick’s funeral biscuits.Funeral Announcement for Mrs. Mary G. Reed (1832), Leona Bowman Carpenter Collection of English and American Literature, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Biscuit wrapper for the funeral of Mrs. Oliver, Collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.
In nineteenth-century England—particularly in Yorkshire and Lancashire—it was customary to send funeral biscuits to the family and friends of the recently deceased. These confections would often be served with wine to funeral guests, and the wrappers, which frequently bore the name of the deceased, became souvenirs for those who had been in attendance. While the collecting of funeral tokens, from gloves to spoons, was commonplace well before the nineteenth century, the distribution and collection of funeral biscuit wrappers seems to most closely anticipate—in design, materials, and text—contemporary practices surrounding funeral cards.Marble grave relief with a funerary banquet and departing warriors (2nd century B.C.), Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
The custom has typically been seen as a relic of Antique practices in which funerary banquets and offerings of wine and cakes for the dead were standard commemorative practices. The English tradition has also been likened to the Welsh practice of sin-eating, in which a designated sin-eater would consume a ritual meal, passed to him over the coffin, in order to absorb the sins of the deceased.
An 1896 text on English customs describes the use of funeral biscuits as follows:
At a funeral near Market Drayton in 1893, the body was brought downstairs, a short service was performed, and then glasses of wine and funeral biscuits were handed to each bearer across the coffin. The clergyman, who had lately come from Pembrokeshire, remarked that he was sorry to see that pagan custom still observed, and that he had put an end to it in his former cure. […] At Padiham wine and funeral biscuits are always given before the funeral, and the clergyman is always expected to go to the house, and hold a service before the funeral party goes to church. Arval bread is eat at funerals at Accrington, and there the guests are expected to put one shilling on the plate used for handing round the funeral biscuits. (Ditchfield, 202-203)
This tradition was not limited to the British Isles. Variants could also be found in other countries of Northern Europe, and was carried to the American colonies in the seventeenth century by the English and Dutch settlers. Here, the life of the funeral cookie lasted through the nineteenth century, before crumbling in the twentieth. The tradition lives one, however, in the passing out of funeral cards that, like the packing of the funeral biscuit, function as mementos of the deceased.
Though the original recipe(s) for funeral biscuits seem to have been lost to time, some have suggested that ginger or molasses cookies would have been the go-to flavors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So, if you’re, like me, interested in resurrecting this uncanny confection, check out these historical and contemporary recipes!
Paul Chrystal, Confectionery in Yorkshire Through Time (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2009).
Margaret Coffin, Death in Early America: The History and Folklore of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning (New York: Elsevier/Nelson Books, 1976).
H. Ditchfield. Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time: An Account of Local Observances, Festival Customs, and Ancient Ceremonies yet Surviving in Great Britain (London: George Redway, 1896).
Robin M. Jensen, “Dining with the Dead: From the Mensa to the Altar in Christian Late Antiquity,” in Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context, Studies of Roman, Jewish, and Christian Burials, eds. Laurie Brink and Deborah Green (New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008)
Summer Strevens, The Birth of The Chocolate City: Life in Georgian York (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2014).
Post contributed by Matthew Barrett, Graphic Artist and Historian at the Canadian War Museum
In December 1944, Flight Lieutenant Percy Edward Ryberg was sentenced to dismissal from the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) for renting a London apartment with two airmen accused of homosexuality. Ryberg, a medical officer, had earlier published a book, Health, Sex and Birth Control (1942), which included a chapter devoted to understanding homosexuality. The circumstances of the case left me with many questions about Ryberg. I was intrigued to learn that the Rubenstein Library held Dr. Ryberg’s papers.Graphic history of Ryberg’s court martial, drawn by the author
Thanks to a History of Medicine Collections travel grant from Duke, in September 2019, I was able to explore Ryberg’s history in far more depth. The visit was well worth the trip as his writings and correspondence offered unique insights into his professional career and private life.
Ryberg was born on February 26, 1908 in England but grew up in Argentina. After graduating with a medical degree from the University of Buenos Aires in 1935, Ryberg worked as a physician in the city. Then in 1938 he earned a three-year fellowship to the Mayo Clinic. Following the outbreak of WWII, he joined the RCAF as a medical officer. He served overseas in England until his dismissal in December 1944.
After the end of his military service, Ryberg took up a position in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University in June 1945. Within a few years he opened a private psychiatric practice in New York where he also received appointments to various clinics and hospitals. After a medical career that spanned seven decades, Ryberg died on December 16, 2001 at the age of ninety-three.
Despite having read thousands of pages from his diaries, letters, and memos, Ryberg remains something of an enigma to me. His papers reveal the complexity and contradictions of a private life that departed from the ideal he promoted. He wrote about sexual health and rejected judgmental morality but since teenage years he was deeply ambivalent about sex and tried to repress homoerotic feelings. He upheld marriage as the most important and profound experience in life, but privately called his own marriage a “convenience” that he said brought nothing but regret. A constant theme in Ryberg’s life was the ambiguous definition of “normal.” It is a question that the doctor attempted to answer his entire career and was in part what led him to study medicine.Graphic history (in style of Dr. Kildare comics) of Ryberg’s career, drawn by author
Ryberg sometimes acknowledged the contradictions at the center of his own life and professional identity. He complained that the public placed physicians and psychiatrists on pedestals only to express “spiteful triumph” when revered medical authorities are exposed for human faults and thereby “reveal their feet of clay.” He resented such sayings as “‘Practice what you preach!’ Or, ‘Physician, heal thyself!'” Ryberg argued that “the psychiatrist who is honest with himself and with others tries very hard to practice what he preaches, though he, like other people, may not always succeed.”
I have only highlighted a few of the contradictions between his professional advocacy and private life, but his long career and contributions to psychiatry deserve far deeper analysis. I continue to work through his papers to better understand his life and experiences.
For more detail on Ryberg’s court martial and his medical career see my article, “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Doctor: Medical Attitudes toward Homosexuality and the Court Martial of Dr. Percy Ryberg,” recently published in the Canadian Journal of History. It is freely available for a limited time at: https://utpjournals.press/doi/full/10.3138/cjh-2019-0053
Matthew Barrett is a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the Canadian War Museum. As an artist and historian his postdoc project explores graphic and illustrative storytelling as forms of historical interpretation and analysis.
 “Sample Column,” October 1954. Ryberg papers, box 3.
 Percy Ryberg, to Barbara Ryberg, 30 Oct 1953. Ryberg papers, box 2.
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Post contributed by Liz Adams, Rare Materials Cataloger
“I don’t know when I’ve ever been so flattered to see so many people getting up this early in the morning.”
Lady Bird Johnson wasn’t exaggerating when she stumped for her husband’s presidential campaign in front of a crowd of 12,000 Durhamites on Wednesday, October 7th, 1964. It was 6:45 AM when a group of “early birds for Lady Bird” congregated to meet her at the Durham Parking Lot, brandishing free coffee and donuts. It was 7:04 AM when North Carolina politicians—including Terry Sanford (the governor and future president of Duke)—began their remarks. And it was 7:11 AM when the woman of the hour spoke behind Thalhimer’s department store in downtown Durham, highlighting the “present prosperity” of North Carolina, Lyndon B. Johnson’s familial connections to the state, and the Great Society he planned for the country.A flyer held by the Rubenstein Library offering free coffee and “do-nuts” for those waking up early to meet Lady Bird Johnson in downtown Durham.
To understand why Lady Bird Johnson stopped in Durham 56 years ago, we need to frame our story: It was 1964, and the Civil Rights Act (CRA) had just gone into effect on July 2nd. According to Hersch & Shinall (2014), the CRA “sought to improve access to voting, public accommodations, and employment as well as improve the overall status of individuals discriminated against on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin” (p. 425). At its heart, the CRA sought to create equalities where none existed, especially for Black Americans. It was and is an important, imperfect piece of legislation, one that only passed after years of tragedy and occasional triumph, including the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, the March on Washington, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Jr. Relying on an uneasy coalition of Republican and Democrat votes, Lyndon B. Johnson plowed the CRA through Congress. Southern Democrats and the Republican nominee for president, Barry Goldwater, stood in opposition (Hersch & Shinall, 2014).
Lady Bird Johnson believed in the CRA and her husband. Just as relevant to our story, she was also a native Texan and is quoted saying—in a piece for PBS NewsHour by Judy Woodruff—that she was “proud of the South” and “proud that [she was] part of the South” (2014). Lady Bird Johnson thus knew she needed to act. And so as Meredith Hindley documents in “Lady Bird Special,” on October 6th, she climbed aboard a train named the Lady Bird Special and embarked on a Whistle Stop Tour, a four-day trip winding through eight Southern states. Liaising with the spouses of local politicians and their partners, she shored up support for the CRA, defended her husband’s past decisions, and fought for his future plans. In total, she gave 47 speeches and traveled over 1600 miles. Occasionally her path intersected with Lyndon B. Johnson’s campaign trail, but for the most part, she travelled alone or with her daughters. Finally, on October 9th, 1964, the Lady Bird Special arrived in New Orleans, La., and the President and First Lady of the United States reunited (Hindley, 2013).
28 days later, on Tuesday, November 3rd, 1964, Americans went to the polls. In a landslide victory, Lyndon B. Johnson won 44 states (and Washington, D.C.), 15 million more votes than Barry Goldwater, and 486 Electoral College votes (Levy, 2019). And although five of the six states he lost were in the South, there was a southern state he didn’t lose: North Carolina (Levy, 2019).
Hersch, J., & Shinall, J. B. (2014). Fifty Years Later: The Legacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.2523481
Hindley, M. (2013, May/June). Lady Bird Special. Humanities, the Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities, 34(3). https://www.neh.gov/humanities/2013/mayjune/feature/lady-bird-special
Lady Bird’s Whistle Stop: Durham, NC: 10/7/64, 7:04 AM, Sound Recordings of Lady Bird Johnson’s Whistle Stop Campaign Tour, 10/6/1964-10/9/1965, Records of the White House Communications Agency, LBJ Presidential Library, viewed via YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fyDOFkmGg8
Levy, M. (2019, October 27). United States presidential election of 1964. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 6, 2020, from https://www.britannica.com/event/United-States-presidential-election-of-1964
NewsHour, P. (2014, October 06). Remembering Lady Bird Johnson’s whistle-stop tour for civil rights. Retrieved October 06, 2020, from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/remembering-lady-bird-johnsons-whistle-stop-tour-civil-rights
Post contributed by Sagan Thacker, recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville BA in History. Read more in their senior thesis, “‘Something to Offend Everyone’: Situating Feminist Comics of the 1970s and ‘80s in the Second-Wave Feminist Movement,” forthcoming in the University of North Carolina at Asheville Journal of Undergraduate Research and available to read here.“Would You Buy a Comic Book from This Woman?” by Barb Behm, in Amazon: A Feminist Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), February 1976. From the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, Box 1.
In January 2020, I traveled from Western North Carolina to the Sallie Bingham Center to study feminist newspapers in two of the Bingham Center’s incredible collections: the Women’s and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Movements (LGBT) Periodicals and Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals collections. I was looking for material about feminist underground comics of the 1970s and ‘80s—books such as Wimmen’s Comix and Tits and Clits. I wanted to determine what feminists of the time period thought about the comics, and whether they viewed them as serious literature or just mindless entertainment.
I soon found several articles that turned popular notions of comics on their heads. Most notable was a February 1976 article from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, newspaper Amazon: A Feminist Journal. Written by Barb Behm about the now obscure Pricella Pumps/Star Buckwheat Comic Book by Barba Kutzner (1976), the article cogently praised the book’s relatability and satire of American society and its metaphorical significance for all women. Behm touted Kutzner’s protagonist as both a character with which women could heartily identify and a way to break free from the oppressive system and celebrate non-normativity.
This source was instrumental in showing that feminist underground comics, far from being tangential and lowbrow parts of the second-wave feminist movement, were instead an important part of the intellectual discourse within feminism. By finding a critic who enthusiastically engaged with the work on a level beyond its perceived lowbrow status, it became clear that some feminists viewed comics as a valid and direct medium to write and engage with feminism on a level that would not be widespread until the zine revolution of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. This reframing of comics’ literary history deepens our understanding of second-wave feminism and gives a more nuanced portrait of its discursive diversity.Cover by Barba Kutzner, Amazon: A Feminist Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), February 1976. From the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance Periodicals Collection, Box 1.