Category Archives: New at the Rubenstein Library

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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. 

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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New Acquisition: Langston Hughes Revises His Text

In the Rubenstein Library, sometimes we primarily judge books by their covers, be they bejeweled, finely bound, or otherwise interestingly decorated.  And sometimes we certainly do not. Case in point: the book below.

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The Library wouldn’t acquire most copies of the third edition of Langston Hughes’s Shakespeare in Harlem, especially not a copy without its original dust jacket and rather heavily worn.  But this was no ordinary copy.  This appears to be  Hughes’s own copy of the last edition of this book issued during his lifetime.

Inscription on front endpaper of this copy of Shakespeare in Harlem.
Inscription on front endpaper of this copy of Shakespeare in Harlem.

Not only that, Hughes made changes to fifteen of its poems, some of them dramatic shifts in the tone, rhythm, length, or meaning of the text.

Hughes's poem "Down and Out," with repetitive lines crossed out and some representations of dialect changed.
Hughes’s poem “Down and Out,” with repetitive lines crossed out and some representations of dialect changed.

The copy recently turned up in a sorority house at Lincoln University, from which it was sold at auction and entered the rare book trade.  Much about the volume remains to be discovered.  The changes that Hughes made in this volume have not been published or incorporated into any of the later editions of Hughes’s collected works or poems.

 

 

 

 

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Heschel Highlights, Part 7

“Alas! My teacher Rabbi Professor Abraham Joshua Heschel is no more…He left this troubled world immensely enriched by his brief presence and sojourn thereon. Demanding of none but himself, Rabbi Heschel’s life was a model for others to follow.”

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The Weekly Original Gospel, 1973

The Abraham Joshua Heschel papers abound with examples of Heschel’s commitment to interfaith work as well as commemorations written after Heschel’s death, and the commemoration quoted above highlights both of these aspects.  Jacob Teshima, the author of the commemoration above, was a student of Heschel’s at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He was also the son of Ikuro Teshima, founder of the Japanese Makuya (tabernacle) movement, or the Original Gospel Movement. The Makuya movement is made up of Japanese Christians who are dedicated to a return to the faith of Hebraic Christianity. This commemoration appeared in a publication of the movement, The Weekly Original Gospel. As part of his commitment to Israel and its people, Ikuro Teshima encouraged Makuya members to learn Hebrew and visit Israel. Ikuro Teshima met with many Jewish leaders in his lifetime including Martin Buber and Zvi Yehuda Kook and spread their teachings to Makuya members.

After helping his father lead the Makuya movement for a few years, Jacob Teshima traveled to New York to work towards his Doctorate of Hebrew Letters (DHL) at JTS. He studied Hasidism under Heschel at JTS and his thesis was entitled “Zen Buddhism and Hasidism: A Comparative Study.” Jacob Teshima’s commemoration reveals his deep respect for Heschel as a teacher and as a religious leader: “Ah, my Rabbi, my dear friend, Abraham Heschel, God’s spokesman in the 20th century of this Earth.”

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Heschel addresses the Makuya Pilgrims

 When Jacob Teshima was learning from Heschel at JTS, Ikuro Teshima and Heschel began corresponding. According to the letters we have in the Abraham Joshua Heschel papers, Ikuro Teshima hoped to bring Heschel to Japan. On April 23, 1971, Teshima wrote that his son Jacob was “thoroughly enjoying” Heschel’s class and invited Heschel to give lectures in Tokyo and Osaka. He offered to book the round trip air-ticket and was eagerly awaiting his arrival. “Shalom from Japan!” another letter from July 22, 1971 began excitedly. The letter continued, “Our prayer is that, after your visit to Japan, you will remember Japan as your third home, perhaps dearer than America.” Besides extending these invitations to Heschel, Ikuro Teshima also translated God in Search of Man into Japanese and published his translation.

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Heschel in his study

In his commemoration, Jacob Teshima included a vignette about a meeting with Heschel on December 22, 1972. Jacob quoted Heschel’s words that afternoon: “Jacob, when I regain my strength, but who knows when that will be; maybe February if I’m lucky; anyhow in May, I hope to visit Japan. I hope you’ll accompany me, Jacob. I’d like to meet your father and see the Makuya people who are so aflame with God’s love.” Unfortunately, Heschel passed away the next day and never fulfilled his wish to visit Japan. But thanks to the Makuya movement’s translation of his books and their dedication to his teachings, Heschel’s presence is alive and well in Japan.

Post contributed by Adrienne Krone, Heschel Processing Assistant

 

Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas in the Radio Haiti newsroom.

Rubenstein Library Acquires Radio Haiti Archives

Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas in the Radio Haiti newsroom.
Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas celebrating the anniversary of the station in the Radio Haiti newsroom, 1990. From the Radio Haiti Records.

The Human Rights Archive at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library and the estate of broadcaster Jean Dominique have announced a partnership to preserve the broadcast archives of the journalist’s iconic Radio Haiti station.  From the 1960s to 2002, Radio Haiti was that country’s first independent radio station, promoting democratic freedoms, speaking out against human rights abuses, and celebrating Haitian life and culture. The station’s archive includes approximately 2,500 audio recordings of programs, as well as 28 boxes of paper records. Recordings include daily coverage of events, cultural programs, interviews on public affairs, political analysis, and roundtable discussions on different aspects of Haiti’s recent history.

“The Radio Haiti collection is an incredibly important resource for understanding the recent history of Haiti,” said Laurent Dubois, Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke. “Because the station broadcast news and reportage largely in Creole and extensively covered events both in Port-au-Prince and the rural areas of Haiti, the collection gives us unequalled access to an understanding of one of the most important grassroots democratic movements in recent history: the movement that overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1986.”

The Radio Haiti archives were donated to the Rubenstein Library by Michèle Montas, station co-anchor and widow of Jean Dominique. Dominique had an unquenchable passion for Haiti and its people, and his quest for truth and justice may have led to his assassination in 2000.

According to Montas the archives “capture a time and place in which journalists and broadcast journalism played a major role in redefining a country and reaching a people. Beyond Haiti, they bear witness to the turbulent transition from a dictatorship to a functioning democracy. ”

Montas stressed that the archives matter today because they touch on and track issues that remain of paramount importance in Haitian society. “By saving these archives and making them once more accessible to large audiences, Duke and the Rubenstein Library are playing a crucial role in advancing the dialogue about Haiti and its future.”

On April 3, Montas will be at Duke to discuss the history of Radio Haiti and its archive. Archivists from the Rubenstein Library will also share some of the challenges of preserving such a large audio collection and discuss the importance this archive has for the broader Haitian community and the human rights movement.  Those interested in learning more about preserving Radio Haiti can visit Duke Library’s Youtube channel.  The event is free and open to the public and will be held at 12 p.m. in the Forum for Scholars and Publics, Old Chemistry Building Room 011, on Duke’s West Campus. Lunch will be provided.

The Radio Haiti archives join other recent acquisitions by the Rubenstein Library documenting the history of Haiti, including the records of the National Coalition for Haitian Rights, the Mark Danner Papers, and a scribal copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence dating from 1804.

The Radio Haiti archives will open for research after conservation review and archival processing are complete. For more information, contact Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist.

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The Curious Case of Frances Benjamin Johnston

FrancesBenjaminJohnstonBlogsizedThe Library recently acquired a small album of photographs taken in Virginia’s Tidewater region. It contains six cyanotypes depicting work at the freight docks of Newport News and other subjects.  Of particular interest is a laid-in cyanotype which appears to be a portrait of Frances Benjamin Johnston, a pioneering female American photographer.

Johnston was a remarkable photographer.  She took portraits of American presidents and the high society of the turn of the nineteenth century from her Washington, D.C. studio, but also participated in ambitious documentary projects, such as her architectural photographs of Southern states.  For one of her best-known commissions, she traveled to Virginia to document the students of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1899-1900.  Her photographs of this important education institution for African Americans and Native Americans are preserved in her collection at the Library of Congress.

Based on the probable identification of the woman in the photograph as Johnston and the photographs of the area around Hampton in the album, these photographs have been dated to the first decade of the 1900s.  However, no information about the photographer is yet known.  Were they a student or colleague of Johnston?  Is it possible that the photographs (or some of the photographs) are by Johnston herself?

African American women aboard a steamboat, from the Tidewater album, ca. 1900.
African American women aboard a steamboat, from the Tidewater album, ca. 1900.

TidewaterAlbumPyroDeveloperBlogsizeThe album is also accompanied by handwritten directions for making “Pyro Developer” and a “fixing bath for platinum prints,” which may provide further evidence that the creator may have been a student or novice photographer.  (The large initial “B” on the “Pyro Developer” formula bears some resemblance to Johnston’s handwriting, but the handwriting of the rest of the formula does not appear to be similar to hers.)

If anyone has clues or guesses to contribute to the mystery of the photographer’s identity, please share them in the comments section below!

Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.

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Preserving a Cork-Covered Scrapbook

I’ll soon be meeting with Conservation staff to discuss the preservation issues surrounding a few collections I’ve cataloged recently, including this one, a scrapbook I felt I had to catalog before it absolutely fell to pieces.

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It is likely that Marianne “Nan” Rothholz created this unique cork cover for her scrapbook that contains 69 letters, 22 V-mails, 6 postcards, and 37 black-and-white photographs.

Nan Rothholz began this scrapbook during World War II, when she served as a member of the National Jewish Welfare Board and the Baltimore United Service Organizations (USO). She and her family hosted servicemen, generally medical professionals stationed at Fort Meade, in their Baltimore home. She became especially close to and followed 5 of the men during the final years of the war in Europe, and to me this scrapbook represents her “filing cabinet” for their V-mail, letters, photographs, postcards, and clippings, rather than a traditional scrapbook.

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Rothholz recorded personal details about each serviceman in ink, then pasted in their related material around it. The paper in the scrapbook is of astoundingly poor quality, and breaks into pieces as the pages are turned.

Our challenge here will be how to keep related material together yet preserve the individual items, all before these brittle pages crumble to bits. Conservation staff will advise me on this, and perhaps digitization will be considered to help preserve the relationships in material that Rothholz initiated. Both the National Jewish Welfare Board and the USO commended her on her work, and our work will honor her as well.

Post contributed by Alice Poffinberger, Original Cataloger.

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Heschel Highlights, Part 5

The Wow! Factor

Welcome to the fifth post in a series documenting the processing of the Abraham Joshua Heschel Papers.

It’s no secret I have an affinity for oversize materials (see here).  And while the Abraham Joshua Heschel Collection only contains a modest number of oversize materials, those that are in the collection are proving to be quite extraordinary. Here are just a few of my favorites:

MaimonidesDust jacket from first edition of Maimonides eine Biographie, 1935.

Completed in only 7 months, the book was Heschel’s first major work. He was 28 years old.

InstitutePoster, Opening of the Term at the Institute for Jewish Learning, London, 1940.

In 1939 Heschel received official confirmation from Julian Morgenstern, president of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, OH, of a position of a research fellow in Bible and Jewish Philosophy. Heschel left Warsaw for London, England to obtain an American visa for emigration to the United States. While in London, he founded the Institute for Jewish Learning to “introduce all ages and classes of Jew to the history and tradition of their forbears.”

Antwort“Antwort an Einstein” in Aufbau, 1940

Heschel’s article “Answer to Einstein” in the newspaper Aufbau (Reconstruction) which was a rebuttal to Albert Einstein’s paper “Science and Religion.” As a recent immigrant, this was an audacious and surprising move for Heschel.

Post contributed by Mary Samouelian, Heschel Processing Archivist in Rubenstein Technical Services.

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Unveiling the Haitian Declaration of Independence

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The first page of the manuscript copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence now at the Rubenstein Library.

Date: Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Time: 5:00-7:00 PM
Location: John Hope Franklin Center for International and Interdisciplinary Studies, 2204 Erwin Road, Room 240
Contact Information: Will Hansen, william.hansen(at)duke.edu

The Rubenstein Library has acquired a very rare manuscript copy of the Haitian Declaration of Independence.  This declaration by the army of black Haitians, of liberty from French colonial rule or death, made on 1 January 1804, carries strong echoes of the rhetoric of the American Revolution some thirty years earlier.  It established the first black republic in the world, and is the first declaration of independence written after the American version of 1776.

The scribal copy of the Declaration now at the Rubenstein was found in the papers of Jean Baptiste Pierre Aime Colheux de Longpré, a French colonizer of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) who fled the country during its revolution and settled in New Orleans.  The copy was very likely made shortly after the Declaration took effect on 1 January, 1804. It is one of only a few contemporary or near-contemporary manuscript copies known to scholars, joining copies at the British Library, the French National Archives, and the National Library of Jamaica.

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A celebration of the Haitian Declaration of Independence will be held on 21 January at the John Hope Franklin Center for International and Interdisciplinary Studies, in collaboration with faculty and staff from Duke’s Haiti Lab.  A round table of scholars of the Haitian Declaration, including Duke Professors Laurent Dubois and Deborah Jenson, Assistant Prof. (and Duke PhD) Julia Gaffield of Georgia State University, and Prof. Richard Rabinowitz and Lynda Kaplan of the American History Workshop, will discuss its history and creation.  The Rubenstein Library’s manuscript copy of the Declaration will be on display in the Center’s gallery. Haitian specialties will be served.