The Radio Haiti Records are the fruit of the work of Haitian dissident and “agronomist” Jean Dominique, and chronicle the station’s role in fighting for the people of Haiti. Jean Dominique was assassinated on April 3, 2000. His widow and Radio Haiti partner, former UN Spokesperson Michele Montas, brought the Radio Haiti Records to the Rubenstein Library last year, and while it has its challenges – its primary language is Haitian Kreyol and its 3,420 analog tape recordings have spent the better of their lives in a mold-inducing tropical climate – it is that rare collection where value (historical, cultural, human) outweighs almost any conceivable obstacle to making it accessible.
To begin the process of digitizing the recordings, as a first step to transcription and translation, we have created a small pilot project that tests our capabilities and captures the kinds of numbers we need to evaluate the costs associated with preserving Radio Haiti in the long term. We made the video below to demonstrate some of the basic considerations in approaching the preservation of this important collection. For more information, check out the Preservation Underground blog, where Head of Conservation Beth Doyle discusses the process we used to clean the mold off the tapes.
Post contributed by Craig Breaden, Audiovisual Archivist
We are pleased to announce a new digital collection, The Duke Chapel Recordings. This collection of 168 recordings features inspiring sermons from a variety of theologians and preachers, including a number of notable African American and female preachers. The collection includes both audio, and where available, video of the services.
The project was a collaboration of the University Archives, the Libraries’ Digital Collections Department, and the Duke University Chapel. The original recordings are part of a large collection held in the University Archives. We hope the recordings are used for a variety of purposes: the study of homiletics, research into the spiritual response to social changes, musical study, and simple inspiration.
Dr. Luke A. Powery, Dean of Duke Chapel, says of the collection, “Duke University Chapel is distinguished in both its faithful preaching and its sacred music. The Sunday morning ‘Protestant hour’ captured within this archive has been the public face and voice of the Chapel for decades; this digital collection makes Duke Chapel’s liturgical history accessible for both those interested in scholarly research in the area of preaching, music, and worship, and those who desire spiritual inspiration. This collection is an interdisciplinary educational resource for teaching and learning, and demonstrates that eruditio et religio is still alive and well at Duke; may it be so for years to come.”
This year, Duke commemorates the 50th anniversary of racial integration at the university, when in 1963 five African American students matriculated into the undergraduate program. Also in 1963, Pepsi sponsored the production of a record album, “Adventures in Negro History,” recently acquired by the John W. Hartman Center as part of the Douglass Alligood Papers. Alligood was one of the first black executives in the advertising industry, and is currently a Senior Vice President at BBDO agency. Long a champion for minority inclusion in the advertising business, Alligood chairs the BBDO’s Diversity Council, which advises management on diversity policies. He has also worked at RCA and for the minority-owned agency UniWorld Group. The record album contains dramatic readings by Detroit-based actors, including Jerry Blocker, Burniece Avery and Jiam Desjardins, which depicts the contributions of people of color to American history. Included are both the famous (Crispus Attucks, Phyllis Wheatley, Ralphe Bunche) and lesser known figures: Christopher Columbus’s pilot, Pedro Nino; Revolutionary War hero Salem Poor; and philanthropist Paul Cuffe.
Post contributed by Rick Collier, Technical Services Archivist.
The Rwandan audiotapes of the International Monitor Institute (IMI) records are comprised almost entirely of the transcripts of radio broadcasts translated from Kinyarwanda into French and English. These are the broadcasts which aired in 1994 during the Rwandan genocide, which took place from April through early July of that year and in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred. The genocide was triggered by the assassination of Hutu President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. An IMI piece on radio as a tool of genocide (available in the organizational records) summarizes these events: “His plane was shot down on his return from Arusha, Tanzania, where he met with RPF leaders and signed an agreement further limiting his regime’s hold on power (known as the August 1993 Arusha Accords).”
During colonization from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, the German and Belgian colonial elite manufactured a native elite in the Tutsis, a process of colonization that Franz Fanon describes in The Wretched of the Earth. Hutus thus experienced discrimination in education and various sectors of the economy. In 1959, Hutus took control of Rwanda following the independence movement, forcing many Tutsis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) comprised of exiled Tutsis, invaded Rwanda, initiating a civil war. Habyarimana’s assassination resulted in an escalation of Hutu anxiety that the Tutsis would seize power of the government and that discrimination against Hutus would be reestablished.
Radio became a powerful weapon used to incite and direct the Rwandan genocide. The majority of radio broadcasts in the Rwandan audiotapes collection are from the privately-owned Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM). What I found especially interesting about the content of these broadcasts (the transcripts of which can be found in the IMI organizational records and the audiotapes of which can be found in the Rwandan Videotapes and Audiotapes inventory) was the way in which its efforts to direct the extermination of the Tutsi population was paralleled by its efforts to claim authority over the telling of history. The radio broadcasts reveal a struggle over who gets to tell history and, therefore, a struggle over a monopoly on truth. In other words, the RTLM broadcasts exhibit a phenomenon which seems to be more universally true, which is the political necessity of storytelling.
There are a few particularly conspicuous aspects of the history-telling of the RTLM broadcasts, one being the discourse of revelation or enlightenment – the idea that if we only peel back the layers, we can finally see the truth. And this encounter with the truth is the basis for political action, or, in this case, the basis on which genocide becomes justified. “Slavery,” for example, is a term that is repeated throughout these broadcasts. Several journalists recall the state of Hutu slavery during colonization in order to characterize the discrimination Hutus experienced. Drawing on such a vocabulary, the radio broadcasts attempt to illuminate the Rwandan genocide as a slave rebellion. Freedom from slavery, according to this narrative, lies in the ability to discover the true history and nature of that discrimination, in opposition to the stories of the colonizers and the native elite. For the same reason, I’m less interested in the truth or accuracy of this, or any, construction of history than in the need and tendency to construct history more generally.
In one broadcast which aired on April 12, 1994 (6 days after Habyarimana’s assassination),[ii] Georges Ruggiu gives his audience a history lesson. He evokes Tutsi discrimination against Hutus in the colonial educational system and the ways in which the Germans and Belgians perpetuated this discrimination. Ruggiu situates the RPF’s efforts to seize power in Rwanda and oppress Hutus within that context. “Now we are going to continue with history,” he begins one segment. He goes on to describe how Hutus, beginning with the first school for Tutsis in 1917, were denied education and how, as a result of this denial of access, the Hutu became slaves to the Tutsi “who, according to the colonial legend, were born to rule.” I suspect that Ruggiu does not understand Hutu slavery as merely metaphorical. The discourse of slavery in these broadcasts seems to represent Hutu slavery as naked reality; that is, these broadcasts understand historical Hutu slavery to be literal. Indeed, in the segment that follows, Ruggiu draws on historical documents that testify to the fact that historically “Tutsis killed Hutu kings and enslaved Hutu people.”
In a second broadcast from April 17, 1994 (11 days after the assassination), journalist Agenesta Mukarutama leads a roundtable discussion about how the RPF seeks to return Rwanda to its pre-revolutionary time in which the Tutsi commanded and the Hutu obeyed. “But,” the broadcast tells us, “Rwandans have learned their history and are ‘saying no’ to a repetition of history.” Genocide is perceived as the only way to break out of an historical cycle of discrimination and oppression. Murego argues that “what it [the RPF] did not understand is a lesson from history. In fact, the political skeleton before ‘59 is clear: Some people command and others obeyed, and the RPF inserted its objectives in that scope . . . Since the conditions have changed, there is now no way to impose oneself as it was before . . . what happened is that it is a genuine restoration of the former reality where some people commanded, you understand who, and others have learnt to say ‘no.’ That is where the president of the PL [le Parti libéral] has made an important statement: ‘those who are saying no today, they are saying no considering their history, the history of their country . . .’” (emphasis is mine).
By suggesting that “there is now no way,” that is, that it would be either impracticable or unbearable for Rwanda to return to a pre-revolutionary state governed by colonial structures, Murego essentially makes a philosophical statement about history – not just what the content of that history is, but more specifically, the temporality in which revolutionary history operates. The Rwandan genocide here is not just a “saying no” to Tutsi rule; it is a “saying no” to a particular conception of the temporality of history that stands in opposition to the revolutionary conception of history. Murego’s argument, here, seems to be that the RPF does not understand how historical time actually works. Ngirumpatse, a participant of the roundtable, follows this up:
“First thing, at the risk of disappointing many Rwandans, especially the educated people, I have always considered the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history. No any people make a revolution just once. France has made a Revolution, it had two or three restorations, it took 100 years for the Republic to impose itself. When I say Republic, I mean the power of people. . . . So I consider the Arusha Agreements as an exception in the people’s history.” Ngirumpatse makes this claim repeatedly: “I consider the Arusha agreements as an exception in history.”
Ngirumpatse refers to the Arusha Accords as exceptional insofar as they are exceptionally generous; this generosity, it seems, arises from the mistaken belief among Rwandans that their revolution was finished once and for all. But again, what is more interesting to me is the temporality of the historical discourse within the broadcasts themselves – the repetition of the insistence that history cannot and will not repeat itself.
Post contributed by Clare Callahan, graduate student assistant in Rubenstein Technical Services and the Human Rights Archive.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University