All posts by Aaron Welborn

“The Public Readings of Charles Dickens,” as performed by Michael Malone

Charles Dickens at his last public reading in London, 1870

Join us for a special celebration of Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday!

When: Wednesday, February 8, 7:00 p.m.
Where: Biddle Rare Book Room, Perkins Library (Map)

Throughout the 1850s and 1860s, Charles Dickens performed in a series of dramatic public readings adapted from his own works, impersonating characters from famous scenes in Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Great Expectations, and other beloved novels. In celebration of Dickens’s 200th birthday in February, please join award-winning Duke author, Professor of the Practice of Theater Studies, and consummate Dickensian Michael Malone as he re-enacts these entertaining performances.

The event is held in conjunction with the exhibition Charles Dickens: 200 Years of Commerce and Controversy, on display outside of the Biddle Rare Book Room beginning January 30, featuring rare first editions of Dickens’s works and other materials from the holdings of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

A reception with refreshments will be held after the performance. This event is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact:
Will Hansen
william.hansen@duke.edu
919-660-5958

Women’s Health Pioneer Supports Bingham Center

A $1 million pledge to endow the directorship of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University has been made by journalist, activist and women’s health care pioneer Merle Hoffman, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Thursday.

“The Bingham Center is one of the leading women’s history research centers in the U.S., documenting centuries of women’s public and private lives, including education, literature, art and activism,” Brodhead said. “We at Duke are grateful for this generous gift by Merle Hoffman, which will help further the Bingham Center’s mission to preserve and promote the intellectual and cultural legacy of women from all walks of American life.”men’s History and Culture at Duke University has been made by journalist, activist and women’s health care pioneer Merle Hoffman, President Richard H. Brodhead announced Thursday.

The center, part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, is home to many of Hoffman’s papers.

After abortion laws were liberalized in New York state in 1970, Hoffman founded Choices Women’s Medical Center, one of the first ambulatory surgical centers for women, which has become one of the largest and most comprehensive women’s medical facilities in the U.S.

In 2000, the Bingham Center acquired both Hoffman’s papers and the records of Choices Women’s Medical Center. Since then, the center has collected the papers of numerous other providers, clinics and reproductive rights organizations that document the work of activists, health care workers, attorneys and others involved in reproductive health.

The center also has a large body of works that documents four centuries of political activity surrounding women’s reproductive rights, thanks in part to several generous gifts from Hoffman, said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo University Librarian and vice provost for library affairs.

“Associating Merle Hoffman’s name with the directorship creates an enduring connection between the Bingham Center’s leadership and Hoffman’s outstanding contributions to the health, safety and empowerment of women everywhere,” Jakubs said.

Hoffman is also the publisher and editor-in-chief of On the Issues Magazine, and her autobiography, Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Board Room, is set to be published in January 2012.

Hoffman said she decided to endow the center’s directorship as a way “to continue to support the visionary efforts by Duke University to honor and document the many courageous women who have fought their own ‘intimate wars’ in the long struggle for reproductive justice. I hope that the Bingham Center will become the bridge between theory and practice that will catalyze future generations to joyfully go further and deeper in the continual battles for women’s equality.”

Center director Laura Micham said Hoffman’s latest gift “will enable us to expand our activities and impact, bringing us closer to our goal of building one of the premier research centers for women’s history and culture in the world.”

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture was established in 1988 to acquire, preserve and provide access to published and unpublished materials that reflect the public and private lives of women, past and present. It is named in honor of author, playwright, teacher and feminist activist Sallie Bingham.

Recorded Stories of America’s Jim Crow Past Now Available

Unidentified family photo, donated by Larry Henderson, Alabama.

One hundred oral histories of life in the Jim Crow South, complete with transcripts, have been digitized and made available on the Duke University Libraries website and iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store.

From 1993 to 1995, dozens of graduate students at Duke and other schools fanned out across the South to capture stories of segregation as part of “Behind the Veil,” an oral history project at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS). The students sought to preserve the stories before the men and women who survived Jim Crow passed away. The interviews — some 1,260 in all — were recorded on regular cassette tapes, transcribed and archived in Duke’s special collections library.

Some of the interviews were included in an award-winning book and radio documentary, Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South, produced 10 years ago by the CDS and American RadioWorks.

But many of the interviews were omitted from the book and documentary.

For example, in 1957, a group of African-American businessmen in Memphis launched a boycott of the city’s largest daily paper to protest the paper’s policy of not using courtesy titles, like Mr. or Mrs., when referring to blacks. The businessmen bought every copy they could find of The Commercial Appeal and threw them into the Mississippi River.

“I don’t care how prominent you were, you were just Willie Brown,” said Imogene Watkins Wilson, a schoolteacher whose husband edited the Memphis Tri-State Defender, the city’s leading African-American newspaper. “You weren’t Rev. Willie Brown, you weren’t Dr. Willie Brown, you weren’t Professor Willie Brown. And then, if [they] referred to your wife, she was Suzie. Not Mrs. Suzie, just Suzie.”

Wilson recollected the start of the seven-week boycott in a July 1995 interview with a Duke student, but her story never made the original project’s final cut. Now her memories — along with the personal accounts of scores of other Americans who lived through the Jim Crow era — are among the hundred stories that have been digitized and made available for free for researchers, genealogists, educators and others.

Another newly digitized story is told by Ernest A. Grant of Tuskegee, Ala., who recounts how his mother was forced to flee town for burning a white insurance agent with a hot iron after he made unwelcome advances toward her. And Jesse Johnson of Norfolk, Va., a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, describes officer training in the 1940s at Fort Lee, Va. as “the most segregated, the most prejudiced camp in the United States.”