The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection is filled with well-known names and gorgeous examples of books, but as I was looking through the recently cataloged books from the collection, I was excited to see three rather plain-looking books written by Lois Waisbrooker in the late-nineteenth century: Helen Harlow’s Vow, Perfect Motherhood, and My Century Plant. Never heard of them? Don’t worry, that’s kind of the point. Back in college as a history major, I studied Waisbrooker, and while she was never particularly well-known, she’s a fascinating example of how writing and books impacted women’s lives in the nineteenth century.
Historian Joanne Passet has done an excellent job tracing Waisbrooker’s life in her book Sex Radicals and the Quest for Women’s Equality. Waisbrooker was born to a poor family in Upstate New York in 1826, and by age twenty she had been pressured into a marriage she didn’t want after getting pregnant, widowed, and forced to place her two children with other families as she didn’t have the economic means to care for them.1 These early experiences shaped Waisbrooker’s political views and her work: she was a spiritualist and then became interested in free love and sex radicalism.
Without a well-off family to fall back on, Waisbrooker struggled to make a life that allowed her to commit fully to advancing the cause of free love and women’s right to self-determination.2 It was never easy for Waisbrooker, but through writing she was at least able to eke out a living. These are just three of more than a dozen books she published, in addition to number of periodicals she founded or helped edit.
Of course, the life Waisbrooker forged was possible because there were readers eager to read what she wrote. Waisbrooker’s writings validated their own experiences and helped these women connect with a community of people whose views aligned with their own. In her analysis of readers’ letters published in the newspapers and journals founded or edited by Waisbrooker, Passet found that most of the women writing were working-class and rural, commonly from Midwestern and Western states.3 Isolated in their home communities, Waisbrooker’s work gave these women room to discuss topics like marital rape and women’s sexual fulfillment, literature that resonated with their experiences, and a way to imagine new economic and social models.4
We get a glimpse of Waisbrooker’s readers in this copy of Perfect Motherhood: Or Mabel Raymond’s Resolve. A previous owner has pasted in a newspaper clipping describing Waisbrooker’s arrest in Topeka, Kansas “on the charging of sending obscene material through the mails.” This suggests the owner was not just a casual reader, but someone who followed Waisbrooker’s career and thought this clipping worth saving with Waisbrooker’s writings.
Having Waisbrooker’s works along side books like Of the Friendship of Amis and Amile speaks to the depth of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection and to the variety of ways women have engaged with books and the written word. For Waisbrooker these books were a means of survival, for both herself financially and the ideas she championed. For women readers, these books offered a vital intellectual connection with like-minded women and a path towards their own sexual and economic liberation.
Footnotes 1. Joanne Passet, Sex Radicals and The Quest for Women’s Equality (Urbana,Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 112-113. 2. Ibid., 116. 3. Ibid., 47, 55, 119. 4. Ibid., 153.
Post contributed by Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian
Spring, and a woman’s thoughts turn to…bicycles? Apart from sudden showers and the onslaught of inchworms and allergens, spring is perhaps the finest season to ride. Trees are filling out, flowers are a’bloom and the birds are a’tweet: in short the whole planet has its hormones on fine display. What’s a girl not to like—especially on a bicycle built for her, equal in every way to a man’s?
This 1900 ad for Columbia’s chainless bicycle makes the progressive argument that women are entitled to the same quality bike as a man. The copy goes on to show how the bike’s frame accommodates the latest in women’s biking fashions, and how the chainless design facilitates mounting and dismounting while eliminating the possibility of one’s skirt getting caught in a chain—or soiled by it, a concern that persists among our current-day urbanites rolling along with the right pant-leg rolled-up out of harm’s way. Actually, this basic frame design is still with us, in unisex “Dutch” and townie bike styles like the Breezers that Zagster provides for rent. Not only that, but the “bevel gear” drive system was the precursor to today’s eclectic shaft-driven bicycles (still trumpeted as “innovative.” Hah!). All in all, the Columbia was a triumph of engineering in its day, especially with the available option of a coaster brake, which is also still in use in kids’ bikes and beach cruisers.
Columbia additionally had the marketing vision to realize that the bike and rider formed a single ensemble, where the lines of the frame “Contribute to the Graceful Appearance of the Rider…” That came at a price, though. $75 in 1900 roughly equates to around $2000 today, which would put a modern woman in the market for a top-of-the-line bike from today’s major manufacturers. On the other hand, grace is priceless, and the freedom and autonomy provided by the bicycle was likely well worth the investment. In fact, the bicycle has occasionally been praised as an instrument of liberation, and early feminists such as Susan B. Anthony were also advocates for cycling, as much for gender-political as for its health benefits. Liberate the body and the mind will follow!
One of the things they don’t tell you in library school is that your personal and professional readings will occasionally overlap—something I’ve found to be especially true as I’ve worked to complete a long gestating newspaper project at the Rubenstein. When I serendipitously encounter primary sources in my readings, I’m forced to ask myself (and occasionally regret asking myself): Does the Rubenstein hold this? In the case of The Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper written by the Cherokee Nation, the answer turns out to be a resounding yes, and one that I’m glad I pursued.
“We, the representatives of the people of the Cherokee Nation in Convention assembled, in order to establish justice, ensure tranquility, promote our common welfare, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty”—The Constitution of the Cherokee Nation, created in 1827 and published in the first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix.
In the 19th Century, the Cherokee were under attack. Voluntary removals were increasingly involuntary, forcing the Cherokee farther and farther from their homes in the southeast United States. Treaties ostensibly designed to protect the Nation’s lands went unenforced by the state and federal governments (Zinn, 2015, p.143-148) (Brannon, 2005, p.14). And in 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law, thereby granting the federal government power to forcibly migrate Native Americans into lands beyond Mississippi (Primary documents in American history). The Cherokee were subsequently “rounded up and crowded into stockades” in October 1838 and made to march (Zinn, 2015, p.148). Today we recognize this as the start of the Trail of Tears, a cataclysmic event resulting in the deaths of some 4,000 Cherokees (Primary documents in American history).
The Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper first published by Isaac H. Harris on February 21, 1828, navigates this sliver of time in the history of the Cherokee Nation, a time in which it fought to maintain its lands, protect its people, and keep its ways of life. In the first issue, the editor, Elias Boudinot, juxtaposes the opening salvos of the recently written (1827!) Constitution of the Cherokee Nation with a letter written by Thomas L. McKinney to the Secretary of War about the Cherokee people. A public notice underlining the difficulties in creating the paper and a column critical of the Federal government can also be found. The Cherokee Phoenix thus proves to be a remarkable historical document, made all the more remarkable by the fact it’s written in both English and Cherokee—a language that did not have a written component until 1821 (Brannon, 2005, p. x).
The Cherokee syllabary was created by Sequoyah, a silversmith and trader by profession, who felt that written language could be harnessed and used to the Cherokee’s advantage. In his initial attempts, Sequoyah tried to create a “symbol for each word in the language,” but that soon proved insufficient, and he turned his attention to the sounds of the language, paying particular attention to the syllables (Sequoyah and the Cherokee Syllabary). Eventually, he was able to isolate 85 syllables and devise associated symbols that could be combined to create a written component of the Cherokee language. The first to learn how to read and write using this syllabary was Sequoyah’s daughter, A-Yo-Ka. Incredibly, in eleven years, Sequoyah’s efforts proved successful: he developed an entirely new means of communication for his Nation. By 1825, there were Cherokee translations of hymns and the Bible, and thousands of Cherokee were literate (Sequoyah’s syllabary) (Sequoyah and the Cherokee Syllabary).
Three years later, the Cherokee nation purchased its own press and began publishing the Cherokee Phoenix in New Echota Georgia, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. The type was cast by Reverend Samuel Worcester, a missionary, postmaster, and now printer (Samuel Worcester). Forty-seven issues were published under its original name. And now, almost 200 years later, the Cherokee Phoenix name is still in use: The Cherokee Nation publishes both online and print editions of the newspaper, with a subscription base of 40,000 readers (Cherokee Phoenix celebrates 184 years).
Brannon, F. (2005). Cherokee phoenix, advent of a newspaper: The print shop of the Cherokee Nation 1828-1834, with a chronology. Tuscaloosa, Ala.: SpeakEasy Press.
Cherokee Phoenix celebrates 184 years. (2012, February 21). Cherokee Phoenix. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/
Primary Documents in American History. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Indian.html
Samuel Worcester. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/History/Biographies/SamuelWorcester.aspx
Sequoyah and the Cherokee Syllabary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/History/Facts/SequoyahandtheCherokeeSyllabary.aspx
Sequoyah Museum: Sequoyah’s Syllabary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.sequoyahmuseum.org/index.cfm/m/6
Zinn, H. (2015). A People’s History of the United States (Reissue ed.). New York, NY: Harper Perennial Modern Classics.
Post contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger.
Ashley Rose Young, a doctoral student in History at Duke, is the Reference Intern at the Rubenstein Library.
Tell us about your academic background and interests.
Food and history have long been a part of my life. My mother’s family owns a gourmet grocery food business in the city of Pittsburgh, and my father, a history teacher, instilled his passion for American history in me and my three brothers. As a child, my summers were marked not by family vacations to Disney World, but by trips to historic sites such as Fort Ligonier, Gettysburg, and Colonial Williamsburg.
As a history major at Yale University, I was able to further explore my interests in a wide variety of courses ranging from Global Environmental History, to Ancient Egyptian History, to African American History Post-1865. Two terms abroad at Regent’s Park College at Oxford University introduced me to the fascinating history of court culture in Early Modern Europe, the anthropological study of ancient Etruscan civilization, and the rise of the Baptist faith in America. Perhaps one of the most pivotal moments in my undergraduate career was my Archives and Collections internship at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, which inspired my senior thesis on the ethnic and racial imagery in postbellum cookbooks, “‘Cooking in the Old Creole Days’: An Exploration of Late 19th and Early 20th Century Creole Culture and Society Through the Study of Creole Cookbooks.”
As a PhD student at Duke University, I’ve sought to engage not only with the history department but also the Center for Documentary Studies, branching out into the study of oral histories. I’ve partnered with the Southern Foodways Alliance to profile the nationally known Carrboro Farmers’ Market through oral histories—a project that illuminated the highly political, rich culture of alternative foodways in North Carolina.
In the fall of 2012, I began to immerse myself in debates and questions about the digital humanities, participating in the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge as well as the HASTAC Scholars program. This community influenced my dissertation research in several ways. I am, for example, mapping the demographic data of food vendors and public markets in twentieth-century New Orleans to see where power was concentrated and how people survived outside of the commercial core.
My larger dissertation project, “Nourishing Networks: Provisioning Southern Cities in the Atlantic World” examines the history of New Orleans’ public market culture. Whereas scholars have tended to examine how markets functioned in a single city, my project situates places like the French Market within a global context. On both sides of the Atlantic, municipal governments developed local food systems that prioritized fair pricing, cleanliness, and the construction of modern market halls. This European-influenced public market culture was not unique to the American South; it existed in most major American port cities. As a result, vendors, consumers, and local officials across the U.S. forged a cohesive public market culture during the nineteenth century that has yet to be fully understood. Regional food cultures were not isolated. Rather, they were interconnected and—even more importantly—crucial to the development of a larger American culture.
What led you to working in libraries?
I have a passion for public scholarship in all of its iterations. Working at the library, brainstorming with researchers, helping them advance their dissertation projects while enriching my own work are all part of building a lively career. These daily interactions help me break down the barriers that exist between the academy and the public, thereby enriching both the Duke and Durham communities.
As an intern, how does your work at the Rubenstein influence your research and writing?
It’s a known adage that reading widely improves your academic projects. The same goes for researching. Working with materials that are “completely unrelated” to my dissertation helps me think of new ways in which to investigate the development of Creole communities and culture through diverse sources.
What does an average day at RL look like for you?
My days vary, which is wonderful. Typically, though, I help patrons with remote research. I also work the Reference Desk and the Circulation Desk. So, I am often the first face that a research sees when she walks into the Rubenstein or I am one of the two librarians who help her access materials once she heads into the Reading Room. Sometimes, I assist with or lead class visits to our library. This is always a real treat. I enjoy working with undergraduate students who I find some of the most inspiring scholars on campus.
What do you like best about your job? What excites you most?
Some of my favorite work involves helping students with independent research projects. As a culinary historian, I am always eager to work with students who are interested in our rare and historic cookbooks. Some of these students trickle into the library on their own and inquire about our collections. Most of the time, however, I meet students when classes make special visits to work with materials at the Rubenstein.
What might people find surprising about your job?
During one class visit, I taught students how to read medieval square notation from large, vellum songbooks. I even sang a few Gregorian chants for them and ended up sight singing alongside a music student. It was a delight to hear that ancient music come to life. It was haunting and also beautiful.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Our collections are so vast and our patrons’ interests so diverse that it is sometimes difficult to answer their specific questions or meet their particular needs. I strive to help our patrons to the best of my ability, but sometimes neither I nor our staff can help researchers find the materials or information necessary for their projects.
Do you have a favorite piece or collection at The Rubenstein? Why?
I enjoy working with the Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks, 1850s-2000s (especially the nineteenth-century cookbooks). They are fragile, ephemeral, precious, and fascinating. American taste is something that has changed over time. So, some of the recipes seem a bit “strange.” Our staff, though, enjoys diving into the messy history of historic cooking and many of us have blogged about our experiences on the Rubenstein Test Kitchen series (which I highly recommend that you check out).
Where can you be found when you’re not working?
When I’m not working, I like to walk through the Duke Gardens. This time of year, they are stunning. I love how pools of sunlight collect in the tulips. A quick jaunt through the garden helps me get centered and ready to revise my most recent dissertation chapter.
What book is on your nightstand/in your carryall right now?
I am reading two books at the moment. The first is Jason Gay’s Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living. The other is a book of poems titled, Self Portrait as Joseph Cornell, by Ken Taylor, a local poet who lives in Pittsboro.
With constant access to moving images via your cell phone, laptop, or tablet, I expect it is difficult to imagine when even simple movement in a book was revolutionary. But just image the impact of being able to manipulate part of a page in a book in the 18th century!
The Rubenstein’s History of Medicine Collection features many early movable books, which were usually intended for scholars. These were generally the “turn-up” style, often used by students of anatomy, where separate leaves, each featuring a different section of the body, were hinged together and attached to a page. One of the best examples, De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome was printed by Andreas Vesalius in 1543.
It wasn’t until the late 1700s that movable books intended for entertainment were produced, usually for children. In 1765, Robert Sayer created a movable book that involved lifting a flap. Ann Montanaro explains the construction of these books in her “A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books:”
[the] books were composed of single, printed sheets folded perpendicularly into four. Hinged at the top and bottom of each fold, the picture was cut through horizontally across the center to make two flaps that could be opened up or down. When raised, the pages disclosed another hidden picture underneath, each having a few lines of verse.
These books quickly became popular and had different names based on their content or composition of illustrations, including “metamorphoses,” “harlequinades,” as well as the unfortunately-named “toilet books.”
As part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, we recently received one of these metamorphoses books, handmade by Elizabeth Winspear in 1799. Unfortunately, that is the limit of all we know about her. The book features just four pages in full color with accompanying verse, each page with two flaps that reveal a new drawing underneath, in stages. The verses include instructions for how to move the flaps. One reads: The Lion Roaring from his Den / with porpose [sic] for to rainge [sic] / He’s turn’d into another shape / Turn down & see the sight so strange
I don’t want to give everything away! There is immense entertainment value to this little item. Initially we are introduced to Adam, whose Eve is not what one has come to expect. However, it is clear that Winspear also intended some instruction or moral training to occur by reading this book, for all does not end well, despite a character’s obtaining gold and silver. The piece ends as a cautionary tale.
The Rubenstein Library’s three research center annually award travel grants to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and independent scholars through a competitive application process. Congratulations to this year’s recipients, we look forward to working with all of you!
Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture
Jason Ezell, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies, University of Maryland, “Queer Shoulders: The Poetics of Radical Faerie Cultural Formation in Appalachia.”
Margaret Galvan, Ph.D. candidate, English, The Graduate Center, CUNY, “Burgeoning zine aesthetics in the 1980s through the censored Conference Diary from the controversial Barnard Sex Conference (1982).”
Kirsten Leng, assistant professor, Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Breaking Up the Truth with Laughter: A Critical History of Feminism, Comedy, and Humor.
Linda Lumsden, associate professor, School of Journalism, University of Arizona, The Ms. Makeover: The survival, evolution, and cultural significance of the venerable feminist magazine.
Mary-Margaret Mahoney and Danielle Dumaine, Ph.D. candidates, history, University of Connecticut, for a documentary film, Hunting W.I.T.C.H.: Feminist Archives and the Politics of Representation (1968-1979, and present).
Jason McBride, independent scholar, for the first, comprehensive and authorized biography of Kathy Acker.
Kristen Proehl, assistant professor, English, SUNY-Brockport, Queer Friendship in Young Adult Literature, 1850-Present.
Yung-Hsing Wu, associate professor, English, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Closely, Consciously Reading Feminism.
History of Medicine Collections –
Cecilio Cooper, PhD candidate in African American Studies, Northwestern University, for dissertation research on “Phantom Limbs, Fugitive Flesh: Slavery + Colonial Dissection.”
Sara Kern, PhD candidate in History & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Penn State University, for dissertation work on “Measuring Bodies, Defining Health: Medicine, Statistics, and Civil War Legacy in the Nineteenth-Century America.”
Professor Kim Nielsen, Disability Studies & History, University of Toledo, for research on her book, The Doctress and the Horsewhip, a biography of Dr. Anna B. Ott (1819-1893).
John Hope Franklin Research Center –
Beatrice Adams, Rutgers University – Why African Americans remained in the American South during the Second Great Migration.
Erik McDuffie, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Garveyism in the Diasporic Midwest: The American Heartland and Global Black Freedom, 1920-1980
Gretchen Henderson, Georgetown University – A narrative and libretto for an opera rooted in African American slavery and history entitled CRAFTING THE BONDS
Maria Montalvo, Rice University – All Could Be Sold: Making and Selling Enslaved People in the Antebellum South (1813-1865)
Nick Witham, University College London, Institute of the Americas – “The Popular Historians: American Historical Writing and the Politics of the Past, 1945-present”
John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History –
FOARE Fellowship for Outdoor Advertising Research:
Dr. Francisco Mesquita, Fernando Pessoa University, Portugal, “Billboard Graphic Production and Design Analysis”
John Furr Fellowship for JWT Research:
Jeremiah Favara, University of Oregon, “An Army of Some: Recruiting for Difference and Diversity in the U.S. Military”
Alvin Achenbaum Travel Grants:
Megan Elias, Borough of Manhattan Community College, “Be His Guest: Conrad Hilton and the Birth of the Hospitality Industry”
Sarah Elvins, Department of History, University of Manitoba, “Advertising, Processed Foods, and the Changing Notions of Skill in American Home Baking, 1940-1990”
Alison Feser, Anthropology, University of Chicago, “After Analog: Photochemical Life in Rochester, New York”
Spring Greeney, Environmental History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Line Dry: And Environmental History of Doing the Wash, 1841-1992”
Elizabeth Castaldo Lunden, Media Studies – Center for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University, “Oscar’s Red Carpet: Celebrity Endorsements from Local to Global (A Media History)”
Eric Martell, History, State University of New York – Albany, “Kodak Advertising in the U.S. and Latin America, 1920-1960”
Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship:
Dr. Jennifer Welsh, Lindenwood University-Belleville – Research on the presentation of female saints in German Catholic prayers and devotional works from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
On April 26, 1963, François Duvalier ordered his forces – the army and the Tontons Macoutes – to wreak unprecedented violence throughout the city of Port-au-Prince. It was the perhaps the single moment in which the encompassing brutality of Duvalierist repression was realized in full.
On April 26, 1986, two and a half short months after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, eight civilians were gunned down by the army at a commemoration of the violence that had taken place twenty-three years before. It was one of the first of many events that proved that Duvalierism and Macoutism would outlive the Duvalier regime.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The morning of April 26, 1963, the presidential car bringing François Duvalier’s children Jean-Claude and Simone to school was attacked by four armed men; the Duvalier children’s chauffeur and two bodyguards were killed. Duvalier père responded by issuing a call to arms on the national radio, commanding and authorizing the Macoutes and other Duvalier partisans to hunt down and kill the perpetrators, or ostensible perpetrators, of the attempted kidnapping.
François Duvalier believed that a group of military officers were plotting against him, in particular Lieutenant François Benoît, whom Duvalier accused of having masterminded the kidnapping attempt. (It was later discovered that the attack had been engineered by Clément Barbot, the former chief of the Tontons Macoutes who had once been one of Papa Doc’s closest confidants.) That day, Duvalierist forces hunted down and tried to exterminate the entire Benoît and Edeline families (the family of François Benoît’s wife). The Benoît home was burned down, and Lieutenant Benoît’s mother, father, toddler son, the baby’s nanny and another household worker were killed. At least seventy-four people were killed or disappeared that day. Many were military officers; many others were relatives of military officers (including small children), household workers employed by targeted families, or people who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. An elderly lawyer named Benoît Armand was murdered merely because his first name was Benoît. Since Duvalier had his supporters given carte blanche to carry out these killings, the rampage was both opportunistic and indiscriminate.
That arbitrariness was not incidental. On the contrary: it was a fundamental part of the Duvalierist machine, essential to creating a climate of fear and exerting political and social control. In 1991, Jean Dominique spoke with members the Komite Pa Bliye (the Do Not Forget Committee), a sometimes-uneasy alliance of survivors and relatives of the victims of Duvalierist violence (including Guylène Bouchereau, whose father, Captain Jean Bouchereau, was among the officers who disappeared on April 26, 1963). Jean Dominique summarizes the ruthless logic of the regime’s terror: “If an individual man decided to fight against Duvalier, Duvalier would say, ‘if you fight against me, your entire bloodline will disappear.’ So, in addition to the destruction that the dictatorship carried out, it established a rule of terrorism, a domino effect that would exterminate entire families, entire bloodlines.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jean-Claude Duvalier’s fall and hasty departure from Haiti on February 7, 1986 was followed by an initial swell of hope that the democratic project could at last begin. Devoir de mémoire (the duty of remembrance) was part of that process: commemorating the tragedies and atrocities of the past so that they would not happen again. But the democratic dream stalled almost as soon as it took off; neither the authoritarian structures the regime had created nor the sense of terror that the regime had inculcated could be removed as easily as the dictator himself.
On April 26, 1986, a group of people, among them several surviving members of the Benoît and Edeline families, commemorated the massacres of April 26, 1963 by organizing a mass at Sacre Coeur church followed by a march to Fort Dimanche, the notorious prison where untold opponents of the Duvalier regime were tortured and killed. Many young people, excited at the possibility of social and political change, participated in the demonstration. Jackson Row, twenty-six years old, worked as a typist at the Nouvelliste. He would have been a small child, unaware, when the 1963 violence took place. High school students Wilson Auguste and Wilson Nicaisse, aged eighteen and sixteen, had not yet been born in 1963. They were too young, all of them, to really remember the bloodiest years of the Duvalier regime. Nevertheless they went out that day to commemorate the injustices of the past. The mothers of both Wilson Auguste and Jackson Row would later speak of how their sons had never even seen Fort Dimanche before that day.
Gary Desenclos, a human rights observer at the march, watched the events unfold from a point between the crowd assembled in front of Fort Dimanche and the soldiers standing guard. As Desenclos explains on Radio Haiti, the commander instructed the other soldiers that if there was any “provocation” from the demonstrators, they should respond to the provocation. “That was the first warning, for me,” Desenclos reflects. “Because, I don’t know – those people didn’t have any kind of defensive weapons, tear gas, anything like that. So when you say ‘respond to provocation’ and you’ve got a rifle in your hands, I don’t know what that could mean.” The protestors were peaceful. At times they became impassioned, shouting and chanting, but they were unarmed, and, according to Desenclos, François Benoît managed to calm the crowd. And then, suddenly (“this was, for me, the most incomprehensible thing,” Desenclos recalls), the soldiers stepped back. The crowd advanced. And then, from somewhere, a shot rang out, the sound of a projectile, likely a tear gas canister, being launched.
After the fact, some people would argue that the shot could have come from within the crowd. But, as Desenclos observed, the only person with a projectile launcher was that same commanding officer. Desenclos heard the shot. “And it came from my far left. There was no crowd at my far left…. The shot didn’t come from the crowd. It came from the soldiers.”
The soldiers opened fire, the massacre began. They shot blanks into the air and bullets into the crowd. The measured, neutral testimony the human rights observer becomes more fragmented as he recalls the massacre. “I can tell you something, because I work for a human rights mission: I find this completely against all principles of human rights. At a certain point, several people in the crowd tried to save a young man, they tried to carry him away. And I saw two or three soldiers point their rifles at them and said, ‘Lage l atè. Lage l atè. Lage l atè. Drop him. Drop him. Drop him.’” At one point, Desenclos saw a man ripped apart by bullets. “He told me his name in that moment, but I’ve forgotten his name. There was no one there to help him, and I went to him, and he said, Pa bliye di ki m rele entèl. Don’t forget to tell them my name was so-and-so.”
Among those killed that day were Jackson Row, Wilson Auguste, and Wilson Nicaisse.
The relatives of the three young men wrote a letter to the Minister of Justice. It begins:
“We are: Mezilia Solivert, mother of Jackson Row; Vernilia Vernet, mother of Wilson Auguste; Matania Nicaisse, sister of Wilson Nicaisse. Our children and brother left their homes to fulfill a duty in alongside others who had lost their loved ones: mothers who lost their children, children who never knew their fathers, those who lost sisters, and all those who have suffered down to their core. It was the first time in twenty-nine years that such people could cry for what they had lost. It was the first time they could discover where their relatives’ bones were buried. It was the first time that they would light a candle and bring flowers to the dead. Our children and brother never came home. They fell before Fort Dimanche, the same place where Duvalier’s criminals and evildoers carried out their murders.
“Our children and brother went to a peaceful demonstration. They had no guns, they had no machetes, they had no knives in their hands. They died just as those who died under Duvalier. And just the same, to this day we don’t know how this happened, nor who is responsible. Democratic organizations, newspapers, radio, everyone has cried out… but nothing has come of it. It’s as though it were nothing at all. Minister, sir, we raised our children, we turned them into brave men, and all we have reaped is pain. They took them from us.”
* * * * * * * * * * * *
On the one-year anniversary of the 1986 massacre, the mothers and sister of the slain young men demand justice on the airwaves of Radio Haiti. Their grief is still fresh. Their testimonies are raw, choked and painful. They are working-class women, supporting their families as small-scale vendors (ti machann) in downtown Port-au-Prince. Unlike, for example, François Benoît and the members of the Komite Pa Bliye (relatively affluent and educated people who chose to participate in devoir de mémoire because of the violence and loss they had endured in their families), these three women are almost certainly unaccustomed to making public claims for justice. As they speak, the lives and personalities of the young victims emerge in touchingly real terms.
Her voice hoarse, Mezilia Solivert describes her son, Jackson Row. “Jackson was someone, a young man, who never had a problem with anybody. Everyone liked him, he liked everyone. Old and young, he respected everyone.” He saw the procession from Sacre Coeur to the prison, and decided to join. “He helped the people carry flowers and everything,” his mother recalled. “He came back to my home, changed his clothes, and he told me he’d never seen Fort Dimanche, this was the first time he was going to Fort Dimanche. And he left, and he never returned.” Jackson Row’s friends couldn’t bring themselves to tell his mother that he had died. They brought her his small radio and his wallet, and told her that he’d been tear gassed and taken to the hospital, but that he wasn’t dead. “And then I got to the hospital and saw him lying among the dead, with a bullet in his head.”
Vernilia Vernet, mother of Wilson Auguste, an eighteen-year-old high school student, remembers her son in poignant, sweet detail. She is on the verge of tears the entire time she speaks. “I worked hard to raise that child right. He was a child who never went out. When he wanted to go [to the demonstration], he said, Mama, I’m going downtown and then he said, ‘If I had the money, I’ve never been to Fort Dimanche, I’d like to see Fort Dimanche.’ So he heard the mass on the radio, and he said, ‘That mass, that’s something I’d like to be part of.’ So he got himself cleaned up, he put on his clothes, and he went to the mass… When I came home from working downtown, I asked, ‘Oh, where’s Wilson? He hasn’t eaten the food I left for him? Where’s Wilson?’ And my youngest said, ‘Mama, I was going to tell you. He’s been out since this morning to go to the mass, he was so excited about it, he went to it, and he still hasn’t come back.’ And I said, ‘Well, pitit mwen, he must be dead.’ He was a child – he was never looking for trouble. He never went out. The latest he ever came home was 8 pm when school gets out, other than that he didn’t go out at all. And that child was dear to me. Ever since he died…! I’m barely alive at all. That child spoiled me so. If I got home later than usual from downtown, he would say, ‘Oh! Makomè! What were you doing out so late? You know I miss you when I haven’t seen you all day. You need to hurry home.’ When I get home, he even washes my clothes for me. That child did laundry for me. Sometimes I’d come home to find my clothes, even my underwear, washed – he’s the one who washed them for me. I never had to lift a finger at home. Since that child died, I’ve wasted away.”
“Justice, to me, is for these things to stop happening in the country of Haiti. Shooting people for no reason,” continues Mezilia Solivert. Her words unconsciously recall Jean Dominique’s analysis of the lethal logic of Duvalierism, refracted through her own experience, demonstrating again that though the Duvaliers were gone, Duvalierism and Macoutism remained. “When they kill someone’s relative, it’s the whole family they’re killing. They don’t realize that. But that’s it. When you kill one person, you’re destroying the entire family. Because when you kill one person, that was the one who helped the whole family. So you’ve destroyed the entire family.”
Post contributed by Laura Wagner, PhD, Radio Haiti Project Archivist.
At the University Archives, we work hard to dispel the stereotype that we are merely reactive documenters of Duke’s history, that we wait to receive evidence of activity reflected in the records of the offices, organizations, and bodies that donate or transfer materials to us. We pursue student organizations‘ materials and meet regularly with representatives from both transitory and permanent bodies active in the Duke community. Since 2010, we have selectively crawled websites related to Duke.
The recent activism on campus has given us the opportunity to try new methods of documentation. Students and protesters disseminated much of the information related to the Allen Building Sit-In staged by Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity (DSWS) and ongoing tenting on the Abele Quad on Twitter, Instagram, and other web platforms. The Chronicle published a lot of coverage in print issues of the paper, but created multimedia presentations online and on Twitter. What follows are some of the methods we used to approach capturing online materials related to student activism, brief summaries of how well we did, and some early thoughts on what our responsibilities are with respect to access and re-use of this material.
We used three tools to primarily collect web materials, each with its own strengths. The Rubenstein Library subscribes to the Internet Archive’s Archive-It web crawler, which allows us to execute captures of web pages. I wrote about our broader efforts around Archive-It and Duke History last year on this blog. Archive-It is best suited for more static websites, and is less effective at capturing dynamic conversations. For the recent student activism, Archive-It came in handy when capturing the website of the DSWS, as well as the ongoing, related criticism of campus culture at Duke by the #DukeEnrage collaborative.
Archive-It has some capability for capturing Twitter, but it’s Twitter as viewed on Twitter.com: it’s a flat presentation of a Twitter feed or search. Here is a comparison of a tweet presented by Twitter, and what it looks like in its raw form.
This lack of flexibility influenced our decision to look elsewhere for capturing Twitter. We settled on two applications: Social Feed Manager and Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet (TAGS). Both tools, once configured, query the Twitter API, retrieve tweets in their native form, and do some level of processing on them. Social Feed Manager stores tweets and allows the user to export them as a CSV or Excel file for offline storage. TAGS parses tweets into a Google Sheet, which can be downloaded for offline storage. For logistical reasons, we chose to use Social Feed Manager in the rare occasion of attempting to capture the tweets of an entire account—in this case, the @dsws2016 account.
We used TAGS to crawl hashtags. Since November, we had been capturing tweets related to #DukeEnrage, #DUBetter, and #DukeYouAreGuilty. Once the Allen Building Sit-in began, we added #DismantleDukePlantation and #DukeOccupation2016. Most of these were relatively low-use hashtags, with one exception: use appears to have coalesced around #DismantleDukePlantation, resulting in around 7000 unique tweets from the week of the sit-in, and another 2000 from the time since.
This work is still ongoing. So far, I think of our efforts as a modest success. The web, and especially social media, is ephemeral (although, oddly and wonderfully, aspects of the web we thought would disappear have persisted). That said, these efforts represent only one or two angles into the online conversation. Newer platforms like Yik Yak and Snapchat are either location based or expose content only temporarily. The tools available to capture Instagram are not as developed as those for Twitter. We cannot, nor do we want to, capture everything.
There are also questions of ethics and access. We received (enthusiastic, as it happens) permission from students associated with DSWS to capture their Twitter feed*. It would be impossible to seek permission from each individual Twitter user who tweeted using #DismantleDukePlantation. Although everything we targeted is still currently available through Twitter, the users who created it likely did not expect it to be re-contextualized—even if they fully understood the terms of service they clicked through when they signed up for the service. Twitter would frown upon us releasing material we captured through the API on the open web. For the time being, we tentatively plan on making the Twitter content available in our reading room, though we would need to consider anonymizing the data first.
This is by far not the only arm of our effort in documenting recent and ongoing student activism on campus. We fully expect for administrative records from relevant University offices to be transferred to the University Archives. We have been in touch with classes interested in further documenting the student voices involved. Selectively capturing Twitter and crawling static web pages allows us to capture student activists and their activities in the moment
* A former University Archives student worker, responsible for outreach in DSWS, granted UA explicit permission to capture the group’s Twitter and Facebook content.
Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.
Having access to Duke’s collection was an incredible experience. I treated it like a short artist residency. I set up my lights, a pop-up tent, my camera and a tripod in a study room within the library. Every morning, a cart was wheeled in with OB/GYN tools, anatomy text books and glass slides. It was exciting (and a little nerve-wracking), opening up boxes and not knowing their contents. For some items, I felt I was discovering the files for the first time. In a way I was: besides the archivists who received and catalogued them, some of the items had never been requested. I often felt as though I were in the medical field—donning nitrile gloves, carefully removing the items from their boxes, gently lying them down on the fabric of my pop-up lighting tent, careful not to harm them in any way. I found myself photographing them as abstractions or as jewelry, a style of cataloguing unlike other projects I have photographed.
My work focuses on historical and contemporary women’s lives and I am particularly interested in the past’s technology and how it relates to today. I have previously done photographic projects on antique vibrators, social media and the practice of keeping a commonplace book and with this project, the history of labor and delivery technology. While the process of getting pregnant has changed with IVF and the location of delivery may have changed, the actual process of delivery has not changed. Although American society emphasizes new products & experiences, and the medical world uses recent technology & procedures, women continue to deliver only one of two ways—vaginally or via Cesarean section. Prior to my arrival at Duke, I assumed the tools used in labor and delivery were harmful to the infants and delivering women. I also wondered how deadly labor actually was—in fictionalized accounts in both books and screen, no female who delivered a newborn ever lived, and seldom the child. I expected antique tools to be brutal and different in appearance than today. It surprised me that many of the tools I photographed resembled contemporary tools, only with time’s effect through rust or evident aging.
My research at Duke is the beginning of both my project and into further research on the history of the OB/GYN tools and their uses. Although in its early stages, I plan to study these tools’ history, as well as their use & influence today. The final images may be printed as slides, emulating turn of the twentieth century magic-lantern plates or late-twentieth century educational slide shows. Whatever form these images take, I was particularly inspired by the anatomical lift-the flap books & broad sides and will create an artist book influenced by these interactive educational guides. I look forward to sharing future developments of this project. Thank you to everyone at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library for their assistance during my stay.
Post contributed by History of Medicine Travel Grant recipient Lindsey Beal. Beal is a photo-based artist and professor in Providence, Rhode Island. Her work and further information can be found at lindseybeal.com.
In the University Archives, we have seen a few time capsules in our day. More often than not, they end up being a bit of a letdown. Newspaper has crumbled, cloth has mildewed, and time has taken its toll on these relics of the past. This year, however, we were fortunate enough to be the recipients of a time capsule that, while modest from the outside, has preserved its remarkable contents in mint condition.
The time capsule was laid in the cornerstone of the Washington Duke Hotel in 1924. The hotel was the first to be built in Durham, and was the product of a fundraising campaign by many leaders of industry and other interested parties, including Duke University administrators. The hotel was a glamorous destination for many years, but by the 1970s the gleam had faded. In 1975, the hotel was imploded. The site today is a plaza, best known for its bull statue.
Someone thoughtful apparently removed the time capsule, and many years later delivered it to the new Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, adjacent to Duke’s West Campus. The staff of the Washington Duke Inn kindly took care of this time capsule until this year, when it was gifted to the University Archives, and we have an opportunity for the first time to highlight this fascinating collection in a new exhibit, on display outside the Biddle Rare Book Room.
The time capsule itself appears to be made from recycled printing plates, and was soldered by hand. Inside were examples of the products produced in Durham in 1924: cigarettes, tobacco bags, cotton cloth, hosiery, and socks. Also included were a photo of John Buchanan, the Chairman of the Executive Committee tasked with raising funds for the venture, and a photo Washington Duke, the hotel’s namesake. A key, possibly added to the time capsule many years later, is a reminder that this was a hotel from another era—no key cards here! A prospectus for the dazzling new hotel promises, “that Durham will have a real civic, social, and commercial center, for around the new Hotel will radiate every big function that transpires in our city.”
The exhibit will be on display outside the Biddle Rare Book Room until mid-June and is available during the general library’s open hours.
Post contributed by Val Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University