All posts by Meghan Lyon

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Tizhe Lizanguage bizof Lizovers: Carny Latin Reincarnated

While I processed a collection of correspondence between two lovers, a handful of letters stuck out. Martha Simpson, then Martha Eleanor Booker, a young African American woman working on her teaching degree at Elizabeth City Teachers College, had a penchant for writing in code. Paul Simpson, her love interest, did not share the same inclination, but did indulge her in his responses. As I read through the letters, the code used in three of them piqued my curiosity. My search revealed that the code used seems to be a form of carnival Pig Latin, also known as Czarny, Z-Latin, or Carny (Hautzinger 30).

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Martha first sneaks in her secret code at the closing of a letter from January 10, 1951, with a little taunt, “Ha, ha, I bet you can’t read it.” Paul’s response to this letter, dated January 13, 1951, briefly acknowledges that he, indeed, could read her secret language with the opening line “Dizear Cizheré,” before continuing his letter unencumbered by the extra z’s.

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But Martha doesn’t give up.  She continues the code in a response from January 17, 1951, written half in this “z-language,” eventually switching back to conventional English.

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Martha’s next letter clearly was not on pink paper (did you catch that one?), but she did keep on with her code. The secret language was formed by inserting iz after the first consonant, and if there was no consonant present, beginning the word with biz. In linguistic circles, this is known as iz-infixation and has been linked to rap and hip-hop music. Examples include Frankie Smith’s 1981 hits Double Dutch Bus and Slang Thang (or Slizang Thizang), both of which boast the iz-infix in their lyrics. More recent examples include work by Snoop Dogg and Kanye West (Viau 1). But these letters come decades before the iz-infix made it big in music, and the question remains: Where did this secret language come from?

We think the answer is this: carnival slang. Published accounts of Carny go back to 1926 (Russell and Murray 401), well before Martha was writing to Paul. It was a language immersed in the subculture of the carnival, intended to distinguish between outsiders and the true Carnies, given the questionable legality of the carnival. Sarah Hautzinger describes it as a dialect that “rearranges English to make it unintelligible to the unenlightened ear” (32). In Czarny, “a Z-sound is inserted after the first consonant, and if the word begins with a vowel, before the vowel sound, in the first syllable only” (32). This certainly seems a lot like the iz-infixes found in the letters between Martha and Paul. Rumor has it that this carny talk found its way into popular culture years later.

Whether or not their secret language was descended from Z-Latin, the coded (and uncoded) correspondence between Martha and Paul D. Simpson provides an interesting read. Recently acquired by the Rubenstein, these roughly 300 letters detail the love, life, and struggles of a young African American couple on their way to becoming teachers.

For more information on the Martha and Paul D. Simpson Papers, check out the collection guide.

For further reading on Carny Latin and the iz-infix, see:

Hautzinger, Sarah. “Carnival Speech: Making the Jump.” Journal of American Culture, 13: 29–33, 1990. Web. 16 December 2014.

Russell, Carol L. and Thomas E. Murray. “The Life and Death of Carnie.” American Speech, Vol. 79 No. 4: 400-416, 2004. Web. 16 December 2014.

Viau, Joshua. “Introducing English [IZ]-Infixation: Snoop Dogg and bey-[IZ]-ond.” 2006 LSA Summer Meeting, 24 June 2006. Web.  16 December 2014.

Post contributed by Janice Hansen, a Ph.D. student in Germanic Languages &  Literature and Technical Services intern at The Rubenstein. 

Pamela Merchant

“Human Rights, Truth Telling, and Justice” Symposium

Date: Friday November 14th, 2014
Time: 9:00am-4:00pm
Location: Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Franklin Garage

The Human Rights Archive is co-sponsoring a symposium that will focus on truth telling and justice in the context of human rights. The exciting list of speakers includes representatives from two of the Archive’s partners:

Eduardo GonzalezEduardo González is Director of the International Center for Transitional Justice’s (ICTJ) Truth and Memory Program, which provides advice to countries on truth commissions, declassification of archives, memorialization activities, museums, and other instruments. He has provided technical and strategic support to truth-seeking initiatives in places as diverse as East Timor, Morocco, Liberia, Canada, and the Western Balkans. Before joining ICTJ, he helped organize and carry out the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Previously, he worked as an advocate for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. The historical records of ICTJ are also part of the Human Rights Archive in the Rubenstein Library.

Pamela MerchantPamela Merchant is the Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), and an attorney with 25 years of experience in the conduct and management of complex state and federal litigation. She joined CJA in October 2005 and has overseen a period of significant growth – both programmatically and financially. Under her leadership, CJA has grown from an organization devoted solely to human rights litigation in the U.S. to one that also engages in human rights litigation in foreign jurisdictions, such as Spain and Cambodia. Ms. Merchant has testified before Congress on accountability for human rights abusers and other human rights issues and received degrees from Georgetown University and Boston College School of Law. Ms. Merchant will explore changes in the field over the past 30 years with a particular focus on the resilience of survivors and their communities and the critical role they play in building high impact human rights cases.

All sessions are open to the public. For a free lunch, please RSVP to emily.stewart@duke.edu by Thursday November 13th.

Schedule

9:00 am- Coffee and Pastries
9:30-10:30 am- Andrea Petö, “Revised and Revisionist Histories in Eastern Europe” (followed by Q & A)
10:30-11:30 am- Kimberly Theidon, “Incarnations: Legacies of Violence in Peru” (followed by Q & A)
11:45-1:00 pm- Lunch
1:00-2:00 pm- Pamela Merchant, “Truth telling, Human Rights Litigation and Resilience” (followed by Q & A)
2:00-3:00 pm- Eduardo Gonzalez Cueva, “Truth Orthodoxies: The Truth Commission Model, 30 Years after Argentina” (followed by Q & A)
3:00-4:00 pm- Roundtable discussion

Sponsored by The Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library, the Duke Human Rights Center at FHI the Trent Memorial Foundation. Cosponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies, Duke History Department, and Duke Cultural Anthropology.

For further information contact Patrick Stawski, Duke University patrick.stawski@duke.edu 919-660-5823.

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Rights! Camera! Action! presents “Wasteland”

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Rights!Camera!Action! Presents “Wasteland” (2010)
Director: Lucy Walker Producers: Angus Aynsley and Hank Levine
Full Frame Audience Award 2010
Total running time: 95:00

Artist Vik Muniz, known for painting with nontraditional materials, returned to his native Brazil to portray workers in one of the world’s largest garbage dumps, Jardim Gramacho, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. He collaborated with these “catadores”–self-designated scavengers of recyclable materials–to create portraits of them made entirely of garbage, returning the profits from their sale to his subjects. Over three years, the filmmakers followed Muniz and this eclectic band of catadores, revealing both the dignity and despair of their lives, in a multivalent collaborative work engaging with issues of artistic process, social justice, responsibility to one’s subjects, class mobility, activism, and beauty. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles.

There will be a reception at 6:30 p.m. and the screening will begin at 7 p.m. A panel discussion with Professor Pedro Lasch follows the screening.

Date: Thursday October 30th, 2014
Time: 6:30pm-8:30pm
Location: Smith Warehouse, Bay 4, Franklin Garage

Sponsors: The Duke Human Rights Center@ FHI, the Human Rights Archive, and the Archive of Documentary Arts and Screen/Society. Co-sponsored by the Global Brazil Humanities Lab.

For further information contact Patrick Stawski, Duke University patrick.stawski@duke.edu 919-660-5823.

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An Unlikely Alliance: Medical Civil Rights Reformers and Southern Senators in the Age of Deluxe Jim Crow

ThomasKarenprofilepicDate: Wednesday, October 29, 2014
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Room 217, Perkins Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold, rachel.ingold@duke.edu  or (919)684-8549

Please join us on Wednesday, October 29 at 5:30 p.m. for our next Trent History of Medicine lecture. Karen Kruse Thomas, Ph.D., will present An Unlikely Alliance: Medical Civil Rights Reformers and Southern Senators in the Age of Deluxe Jim Crow. A reception will follow the talk.

How could Jim Crow segregation ever be described as “deluxe”? Thurgood Marshall, lead counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, used the term “deluxe Jim Crow” to refer to the efforts of southern state and local governments to shore up segregation by spending money to improve separate black facilities and programs. This strategy was applied to the fullest extent in health care, with federal assistance from the Hill-Burton hospital construction program and other health initiatives. Although the majority of civil rights history scholarship has focused on issues that captured extensive media attention such as school desegregation, public accommodations, and voting rights, the story in health care was largely overlooked, at the time and since. Yet the unlikely alliance during the mid-twentieth century between medical civil rights activists, southern policymakers, and New Deal liberals has much to teach us about the possibilities and limits of political compromise, especially in the context of our own era of Congressional deadlock.

Karen Kruse Thomas has served as Historian of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health since 2012. Dr. Thomas earned her doctorate in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has taught U.S. history at the universities of North Carolina, Minnesota, and Florida. Her publications in the history of medicine and public health have received national awards from the American Association for the History of Medicine and the Southern Historical Association. She’s also received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library. In 2011, the University of Georgia Press published her first book, Deluxe Jim Crow: Civil Rights and American Health Policy, 1935-1954.

The event is sponsored by the History of Medicine Collections and the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.

Photograph by Randy Yau.

Tomorrow! Sound performance by lowercase music pioneer Steve Roden

Photograph by Randy Yau.
Photograph by Randy Yau.

Tuesday, October 21, 7:30pm
The Carrack Modern Art
111 W Parrish St., Durham
Cost: Free!

Steve Roden—a renowned sound artist, painter, writer, and collector of photographs and 78s—is in residence at Duke this month. He’s giving a talk and visiting classes, but this is the only performance he’s giving of his lowercase style of music in which quiet, usually unheard, sounds are amplified to form complex and rich soundscapes.

Roden’s solo exhibitions include the Chinati Foundation, Marfa; the Henry Art Museum, Seattle; and the San Francisco Art Institute. Roden has been part of group exhibitions at the Fellows of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Mercosur Biennial in Porto Allegre, Brazil; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; the Serpentine Gallery, London; the Sculpture Center, New York; the Centre Georges Pompidou Museum, Paris; and Miami MOCA, Miami. Check out his website here and more examples of his work here, and be sure to come tomorrow to hear him perform!

Photograph by Randy Yau.

Steve Roden: Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Artist

[10/23 UPDATE: The CDS event for Oct. 23 has been canceled.]

In October 2014, the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library will welcome internationally known sound and visual artist Steve Roden as the inaugural Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Artist.  Named in honor of Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a prolific author, interviewer, curator, and champion of the arts, this new artist-in-residence program will provide an extended opportunity for an artist to study and engage with archival, manuscript and other special collections in support of developing a new body of creative work.  The Library’s diverse and unique collections have the potential to inspire a variety of works, from new documentary films and textile designs to installations and theatrical plays, and the fellowship will be open to artists working in all media.

Photograph by Randy Yau.
Steve Roden. Photograph by Randy Yau.

Roden is a visual and sound artist based in Pasadena, California, whose work includes painting, drawing, sculpture, film, video, sound installation, text and performance pieces. Roden has shown and performed art around the world, and his work is included in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, Texas, and National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece, among others.

In 2011, Roden completed a month-long residency in Berlin where he studied the Walter Benjamin archives at the Akademie der Künste. Since he neither speaks nor reads German, Roden turned his discerning eye toward the visual elements of Benjamin’s archives. Through this paleographic lens, Roden created a series of works in multiple formats inspired by the color-coded symbols Benjamin used to organize and annotate his work. Several of these were featured in two 2013 solo exhibitions entitled “Ragpicker” at CRG gallery in New York City, and Susanne Vielmetter LA Projects in Los Angeles.  Roden is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in lowercase music, a form of experimental music that involves quiet sounds, analog technology, small found objects, and cheap electronics, among other elements.

Roden will be in residency at the Rubenstein Library October 13-30, 2014.  During this time, Roden will be available to meet with scholars, students and staff from across the academic disciplines at Duke and will offer two public talks.

On Saturday, October 18 at 6:30 pm, Roden will present “Ragpicker” at the Full Frame Theater of the American Tobacco Warehouse. Through an interactive discussion format, Roden will consider both g both his work and his creative processes, Roden will show images of some recent work and the found objects, junk, and other detritus of everyday life that inspired them. The event will be followed by a reception, and both are free and open to the public.

Roden’s residency will culminate with a public discussion about how the archival collections, people, and experiences he engaged at Duke may inspire future works.  This event will be held at the Center for Documentary Studies on Thursday, October 23 at 5:00 pm, and will be followed by a reception on the Center’s front porch. [UPDATE: This event has been canceled.]

Roden’s visit is jointly organized and sponsored by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts Program at Duke University.

Tiny letters for Gertie from her fellas; a lock of Gertie's hair returned after a break-up; crumpled up love-note; Gertie's doodles of a former suitor's name

New Collection: Meet the Wilsons

It is a rare treat for me to have a chance to process some 19th century family letters. The family papers of Col. David S. Wilson, from Dubuque, Iowa, arrived in March 2014, thanks to a generous donation from the Kirby, Pfohl, and Quigley Family. The collection was discovered in an attic. It reached the Rubenstein Library as it was discovered, with rusty pins and covered in black dust. Considering its age and environment, the letters themselves were in terrific condition — just filthy. A lot of my time was spent cleaning the paper with special sponges that attract grime.

The original state of the Col. David S. Wilson Family Papers; an up-close view of a rusty pin (used before the invention of the safety pin).
The original state of the Col. David S. Wilson Family Papers, before they were cleaned and sorted; an up-close view of a rusty pin (used before the invention of the paper clip).

I was pleasantly surprised by the contents of the letters. Col. David S. Wilson is moderately famous in Iowa history for his service in the state legislature in the 1850s and early 1860s, and for raising the 6th Iowa Cavalry in 1862. His regiment fought the Sioux in the Dakota Territory. Wilson later worked as a lawyer in both San Francisco and Washington, D.C., and eventually was appointed district judge back in Dubuque.

The collection does not focus on Wilson’s military career, but instead consists largely of letters between David and his family, particularly his wife, Henrietta, and their four children. The letters cover personal topics such as in-laws, health, and finances, and reveal the hardships the family faced as David was frequently separated from his loved ones. They seemed to genuinely miss each other, and it was nice to see such warmth conveyed in their letters.

Also notable in the collection were the courtship letters received by the couple’s daughter Gertrude (also known as “Gertie”) in the mid-1870s. Gertie had at least six different suitors in 1872 and 1873, and their letters to her dominate the correspondence from that period. Emotions turned raw as she rejected a few declarations of love. Gertie finally married George Brock, from Chicago, in March 1874.

Tiny letters for Gertie from her fellas; a lock of Gertie's hair returned after a break-up; crumpled up love-note; Gertie's doodles of a former suitor's name
Tiny courtship letters for Gertie from her fellas; a lock of Gertie’s hair returned after a break-up; a crumpled up love-note; Gertie’s doodles of a former suitor’s name.

The collection includes more than just correspondence; there are also some legal documents, land grants, and a diary from David S. Wilson’s 1860 term in the General Assembly. One of the land grants includes a signature from President Franklin Pierce. The children’s activities, particularly their schooling, are documented through report cards and flyers. I also came across this handmade score book, which was largely empty, but I was excited to see what sport it was for: baseball. Along with all his other activities, it turns out that David Wilson was also a pitcher.

David Wilson's score book from his baseball games.
David Wilson’s score book from his baseball games.

The Col. David S. Wilson Family Papers are now fully processed and available for researchers. You can explore it for yourself using the collection guide.

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

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What’s on our accession shelf?

Every visitor to Technical Services likes to peek down the accessioning shelves and see what new collection materials have recently arrived. One of the most unusual accessions we’ve ever received is a birdhouse, which arrived this spring as part of an addition to the Evans Family Papers. It is a nearly identical miniature of the family’s Durham house, which is still standing (and occupied) on Dacian Avenue. According to the family, the original house was modeled on the style of Le Corbusier. It was built in 1938, making it one of the first examples of “modern architecture” in Durham.

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The Evans Family Birdhouse, with a photograph of the original house for comparison.

The family moved away from Durham in 1950, and kept the birdhouse as a fond token of their former home. We were relieved to learn upon intake that no birds ever took up residence. (That would have made for some interesting conservation concerns!)

Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Technical Services Archivist.

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Bruno Foa’s Trip to Jerusalem

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Portrait of Foa from the Bruno Foa Papers.

Bruno Foa (1905-1999) was an Italian-born, Jewish economist, lawyer, consultant, and professor. Educated in Italy as an economist and lawyer, Foa became Italy’s youngest full professor of economics at age 28. In 1937, he married Lisa Haimann, a refugee from Munich, and they moved to London in 1938. While in London, Foa worked for the British Broadcasting Company, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and guest lectured at the London School of Economics. In 1940, Foa moved his family to the United States. He began work at Princeton University on a Rockefeller Foundation Grant and later moved to Washington D.C., where he worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, the Office of Inter-American Affairs, the Bureau of Latin American Affairs and the Federal Reserve Board.

We have recently re-processed the Bruno Foa Papers in order to enhance their description and access for researchers as part of the Economists Papers Project here at the Rubenstein Library. The papers include interesting details about his many trips abroad to Italy, Somalia, Spain, and the newly-established country of Israel. It is an added bonus when a collection we acquired for its relevance to the history of economics ends up including materials on other topics too–like mid-twentieth-century travel writings.

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Souvenir postcard collected by Foa during his trip to Jerusalem.

During his life, Foa was invited several times to guest lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His first trip was in 1946, just two years before Israel was declared a state. From his writings, Jerusalem seemed to be a city split between the struggles of the time and the echoes of the past. Foa writes, “Jerusalem is indeed an armed camp, and looks like a besieged place. Barbed wire–miles of it– is spread around all public buildings and throughout the city. Tanks and armored cars scout the streets day and night: one of them its Bren guns ready to fire, is permanently stationed at the center of Jaffa Road.” His letter then describes the resiliency of a people who have come to accept as normal daily bomb and landmine explosions, and the strain and tension developing between the Jewish and Arab populations.

But Foa also talks about the natural beauty of the city. From atop Mount Scopus, the view of the city seems to transcend the struggles going on below. “It is a stern view, since Jerusalem is built on stones (beautiful yellow stones) and is surrounded by rocky hills–yet it is a glorious view, when bathed by the warm Palestinian sunshine or the glory of the moon. There, on Mount Scopus, Titus and his legions stood, and from there laid siege to the city. There is the Valley of Final Judgement–as stern as death itself. On the other side, one can see the Jordan, the Dead Sea, the desert of Judaea and the mountains of Noab. Beauty, history and tragedy fill the air. It is a most unforgettable sight.” Bruno Foa’s writings allow us to take a step into the past and see Jerusalem as it stood nearly 70 years ago.

Post contributed by Vicki Eastman, a graduate student at Duke’s Center for the History of Political Economy.

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Rights!Camera!Action!: The Devil Came on Horseback

the_devil_came_on_horsebackWhen: Thursday, March 20th, 7:00pm
Location: FHI Garage, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse
Free and open to the public.
The Devil Came on Horseback, 2007 (TRT: 87 minutes)
Directors: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg; Full Frame/Working Films Award and the Seeds of War 2007

An up-close and uncompromising look at the crisis in Darfur, this film exposes the ongoing tragedy in Sudan as seen through the eyes of one American witness, former U.S. Marine Captain Brian Steidle, an official military observer. Armed with just a camera, paper and pen, but with access far beyond that of a journalist, Steidle’s photographs and testimony reveal a genocide that had by 2007 claimed over 400,000 lives. The film presents the historical and economic basis for the Sudanese government’s support and encouragement of the atrocities, alongside UN and US debates on the definition of “genocide,” as millions of people suffer. In Arabic and English with English subtitles. A panel discussion follows the screening.

Contact: Patrick Stawski, Duke University Libraries, 919-660-5823, patrick.stawski@duke.edu