Digging through the Tapes: Exploring the Behind the Veil Collection Pt. 2

Post contributed by Mattison Bond, Project Research and Outreach Associate, Jon Hope Franklin Research Center 

Highlighting Oral Histories by State Part 2

We at the John Hope Franklin Research Center are back with another blog post to highlight some of the unique oral histories that can be found in the Behind the Veil Digital Collection. Last week’s post featured interviews from folks from Alabama, Arkansas, and Florida. This week, we take a deeper look into the collection by focusing on the interesting items that can be found from Georgia, Illinois, and Kentucky.

You can view Part 1 of this series here: Digging through the Tapes: Exploring the Behind the Veil Collection – The Devil’s Tale (duke.edu)

Enjoy exploring!!

Georgia

While searching through the collection using the Georgia location filter, you will find two women that share similar names but different lives, Carolyn Johnson King and Carol Johnson King.

Carolyn King, born in 1948 on what was once a plantation. The Keaton Quarter was owned by a white doctor, had a white overseer, and held multiple black families that worked on the land. Her oral history starts with detailing life in rural Georgia and the relationship that she had with the other families:

Part 1, 13:05 “It was great. Everybody just was quiet and people got together and went to church and we had to go to Sunday school every Sunday… Most people were kin, we were all kin people, one thing. We were all related. All family people, we really were. Like if someone would have a baby, like if my mother had a baby, a lady in another household would come and cook for us and wash for us maybe one or two weeks until my mother able to get up and go and do what she could do, until she got better…If anybody got sick, people would just go to that house and just really take over until that family got better…Everybody, just one happy family. We didn’t have much, but we had a whole lot of love, that was one thing.”

Interestingly she also goes into details about her time as a minster, detailing some of the visions that she experienced in her life time.

Part 3, 1:58 “If I sit down, this angel would sit down. If I get up, it would get up. It followed me around the house for a couple of months… I would see blood. The walls would be covered in blood…And I know some of this that I seen was the devil. The devil was showing some of these things, I know that now.”

About a month before, Sally Graham, who also interviewed Carolyn King, had a conversation with Carol Johnson King. Carol was an educator and the first director of a federally funded Head Start program within the southeastern part of the country. Her oral history details her time as not only an educator and director, but also being apart of the Dougherty County School Board, an activist, community organizer and the wife of famous civil rights lawyer C.B. King.

Along with her story, Carol’s oral history is unique because it has 34 related items that contain the photos of the autograph books of her in-laws Margaret (Maggie) Slater and Clennon King when they attended the Tuskegee Institute. Carolyn recalls that “Daddy King” drove horse and buggy for Booker T. Washington and that George Washington Carver wrote a note in “Mama King’s” graduation book.

Photo image of an autograph book owned by Carolyn King from 1916
Carol King slides: Clennon King’s autograph book – note from T.V. Gaunt, 1916 April 17 https://repository.duke.edu/dc/behindtheveil/btvst007006004
Photo image of a page of an autograph book from 1912 owned by Maggie Slater
Carol King slides: Maggie Slater’s autograph book – note from C. Valentine, 1912 April 20 https://repository.duke.edu/dc/behindtheveil/btvst007006023

It is important to note that both interviews are titled “Carol King”. By paying attention to the “Item Info” found below the interview transcript you can distinguish between the interviews, paying attention to the description info and the occupation. Or you can use these links to find them here!

Carolyn John King’s Interview: Carolyn King interview recording, 1994 July 03 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

Carol Johnson King’s Interview: Carol King interview recording, 1994 June 18 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

Illinois

There are only three oral histories found under the Illinois location filter. All three interviews were recorded in Chicago, Illinois and each interviewee was born in Arkansas. Today we focus on the life of Christine Trailor , one of the seventeen beauticians that can be found in the whole collection.

Christine Trailor was born January 5, 1928, in Crittenden County, Arkansas. Within the interview, she shares her experience learning how to do her own hair and how she came to be a beautician.

“I learned by doing—Well, I always have had to do my own since I was six years old, so I used to have a lot of hair, so sometime a girl would stop on the way to school, and help me do my hair. It was real thick and long. And then I started, when I came here, I guess it was a, well, passing time, and I just started doing hair. Actually, I didn’t play basketball because—I liked playing basketball, but every time I would start to play, it was a girl that didn’t like me. She would come and just ring the ball out of my hand, and that just turned me off. And I started going to the hut, I guess was a way of passing the time, keep from being bored. So that’s when I started doing hair.”

She migrated to Chicago, IL in 1951 after finishing college at Arkansas AM&N. Once there she worked at two tailoring shops, pursuing a career in cosmetology after. Two years later she opened her own shop. At the time of the interview, she was operating her second shop for 22 years.

Within her oral history, researchers can learn not only her experience of being a beautician but also her experience migrating northward to Chicago.

You can listen to the Christine Trailor’s oral history here: Christine Trailor interview recording, 1995 July 15 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

Kentucky

By clicking on the Kentucky location filter, you will find the only five oral histories of “coal miners” within the collection.  From those five, you can learn more about James “Jim” “Red” Eaves, the only federal mine inspector in the collection. Within his oral history, listeners can learn about the family of Eaves, back to his grandmother,

Part 1, 10:43 “And she was an old woman then because she had a Barker stick about four foot long, I guess, where she’d walk with. And she would follow you upside the head with that stick. I had a little old wheel I rolled around the house. She was sitting out in the yard, had a pipe in her mouth, smoking. She told me, said, “Boy, you get on out there if you want to roll that wheel. Don’t roll that around here near me.” I got out there. A few minutes later, I got back close to her. Next thing I know, that stick went upside in my head. The wheel went one way and I went the other. But she didn’t play now. When she told you something, she meant business.”

James Eaves started working in the coal mines around the age of 18. In the later half of his interview, listeners can learn more about his time within the coal mines as one of the few federal mine inspectors that were black. By searching deeper within the collection, you can also view his Foreman of Coal Mines Certificate.

Photo image of a plaque owned by James Eaves acknowledging his status as foreman of coal mining, 1966
Alex Byrd slides: First Class Certificate Foreman of Coal Mining for James Eaves, 1966 https://repository.duke.edu/dc/behindtheveil/btvst010008036

Mr. Eaves also makes an appearance in the oral history of Sydney Gilmore, another coal miner.

You can listen to Mr. Eaves oral history here: James Eaves interview recording, 1995 August 04 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

You can also listen to him on the Sydney Gilmore, Jr. (primary interviewee) and James Eaves interview recording, 1995 July 26 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

Digging through the Tapes: Exploring the Behind the Veil Collection

Post contributed by Mattison Bond, Project Research and Outreach Associate, John Hope Franklin Research Center

Highlighting Oral Histories by State Part 1

After the Civil War, newly freed African Americans began to utilize their newfound rights and freedoms to improve their lives across the South. The Reconstruction era (1865-1876) stands as one of the most progressive periods for African Americans. During this time, Black Americans were actively participating in government, establishing schools, and creating opportunities for housing and employment. But this period of progressiveness did not last forever. The return of the Democratic party and white supremacists to political power, along with the withdrawal of Northern intervention, plunged the South into the period known as Jim Crow (approx. 1880s-1950s).

Jim Crow laws, created and enforced by southern state legislatures institutionalized racial segregation and the disenfranchisement of African Americans. These laws would impact almost every aspect of Black life and essentially roll back most of the progress that was made by African Americans during Reconstruction. What came next would leave a lasting impression on the world. African Americans of all ages, occupations, and backgrounds would begin standing up for their rights. Courageous leaders, determined students, resilient activists, and everyday people would begin boycotting and challenging Jim Crow throughout the country. The Civil Rights Movement (approx. 1950s-1970s) would change the country as they knew it and ultimately lead to the destruction of the Jim Crow system.

The Behind the Veil digital collection offers a rich and irreplaceable repository of oral histories, images, and administrative files from the people that experienced Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement across the South. The collection features the personal histories of individuals from a wide array of occupations and backgrounds. Researchers can navigate the collection using filters to locate historical accounts by occupation, format, and location. To assist you in exploring, the John Hope Franklin Research Center has chosen a few unique examples from different locations within the collection.

We hope you enjoy!

Alabama

Alabama is one of the larger location tags within the collection with over 200 photographs and 100 oral histories. Start your search by listening to the oral history of one of the more famous interviewees within the collection: Johnny Ford, the first African American mayor of Tuskegee Alabama.

Photo of Johnny Ford looking up with hands clasped
Source: Thomas, Deborah. Johnny Ford, mayor of Tuskegee – Tallahassee, Florida. 1984-01-12. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory. <https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/112336>

Johnny Ford was born “deep in beautiful Bullock County” Alabama. He was adopted by his uncle at the age of four, moving to Tuskegee. He shares his experiences growing up in Tuskegee, detailing not only racial segregation but also divides in social and economic classes. With his everyday observations of segregation, he also reflects on when the idea of becoming mayor first crossed his mind.

[10:53] “We would have to watch the games from a tree, climb up in the tree and look over and watch the little White boys and girls playing in the park, playing ball. I used to hear my parents complain about that, and they said, “We are paying for these parks just like everybody else, yet we can’t get in.” I had read about Al Clayton Power and heard about him being elected and all of this. I said, then I remember saying to the guys, we would have to peep through the fence, and I said, “The mayor of this town must be a powerful dude, if he can keep us out of this park. One day I think I’d like to be mayor of this town.”

Ford would go on to be involved in the Civil Rights movement in Knoxville, TN as he attended college. He would work on the Kennedy campaign in 1968 and later help to elect the first two African Americans to the Alabama legislature. Johnny Ford served as the Mayor of Tuskegee from 1972- 1996, and then again in 2004 and 2012.

You can hear the voice of Mayor Johnny Ford by listening to his oral history here:

Johnny Ford interview recording, 1994 July 13 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

Arkansas

There are a total of 64 oral histories that are available under the Arkansas location filter. Within these 64 items you can find the oral history of Willie Lucas. While there are a total of three midwives mentioned throughout the collection, Willie Lucas is the only midwife that has a recorded oral history.

Willie Lucas was born in Hughes, AR in 1921. The daughter and granddaughter of midwives, Lucas was convinced she would not follow in her mother’s footsteps. She recalls her mother waking up in the middle of the night to deliver babies, sometimes having to travel through the cold and rain.

[8:52] “They didn’t have any cars and she would come in sometime and raining in the wintertime and her clothes would be frozen stiff on her. She’s be standing up and I said “Lord I’ll never be a midwife.””

That sentiment did not last long. Lucas would later train to be a midwife, shadowing her mother. The first time she delivered a baby, the parents named the child after her. Within her interview she speaks about the differences of midwifery during her time in the 40s and that of her mother’s time. She details the types of tools that were used, the ways that they were paid, the home remedies that helped with the birthing process, and the obstacles that the medical field posed to midwives.

Her oral history contains two parts and a transcript. You can listen to Willie Lucas’s oral history here:

Willie Lucas interview recording, 1995 July 07 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

 

Florida

There are a total of 216 items that can be found under the Florida location filter. Within these items you can find the oral histories, administrative files, and specifically a collection of images of students and faculty at Florida A&M University, thanks to Sue Russell.

Born in Milton, Florida in August 1909, Russell was the daughter of a teacher and brick mason. She recalls that her mother encouraged education for her and her siblings. They attended school up until the 6th grade in Milton, until they were sent to Pensacola to finish high school.

[44:00] “The biggest problem we had was school problem, I guess, because after we finished the sixth grade there as—Well, they used to call us Negros then. We couldn’t go to school with the Whites… We had to leave Milton for Escambia, or go somewhere else if we wanted to finish high school.”

Photo of a members of a football team four are standing, four are kneeling in front
Seniors from Florida A & M football team, 1936 Source: https://repository.duke.edu/dc/behindtheveil/btvst009006025

Sue Russell first attended Florida A&M College in 1928, graduating two years later with courses in business administration. In 1943, she re-enrolled and eventually completed her four-year degree. It was in school that Russell admits to experiencing her first taste of racial discrimination. Further into the interview she talks about campus life, her ambitions to be a home economics teacher, and some of the discrimination she experienced. Even more interesting is the numerous pictures of students and faculty that attended Florida A&M during the time that Russell was enrolled.

Image of a program document, Home Economics of Florida A & M University, 1933-34
Home Economics, Florida A & M pamphlet – staff portrait, 1933-1934 Source: https://repository.duke.edu/dc/behindtheveil/btvst009006012

You can listen to Sue Russell’s interview here:

Sue Russell interview recording, 1994 August 05 / Behind the Veil / Duke Digital Repository

Behind the Veil Digital Collection Launched and Open for Research

The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture is pleased to announce the launch of the Behind the Veil digital collection, now accessible in the Duke Digital Repository – https://repository.duke.edu/dc/behindtheveil.

Behind the Veil digital collection homepage

Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South was an oral history project conducted from 1992-1995 by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The 3-year digitization project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2021, expands access to this archive of oral histories, photographs, and video recordings of African Americans who remained in the US South through the period of Jim Crow (see grant announcement here – https://blogs.library.duke.edu/rubenstein/2021/07/05/neh-implementation-grant-to-duke-libraries-will-increase-access-to-african-american-oral-histories/).

Olivia Cook and family, New Orleans, 1940s
Three schoolboys, Wilmington, NC 1920s

The digital collection has over 4,200 items, highlighted by over 1,100 fully transcribed interviews and over 1,700 photographic slides. This archive represents the largest repository of stories authored by African Americans from the American South during the period of Jim Crow. In the coming weeks we will be sharing more of the interviews and supporting materials in Behind the Veil through a special blog series.

Behind the Veil Project Staff, 1990s

 

Use these links for more resources on Behind the Veil:

Franklin Research Center Acquires the Celeste and Reggie Hodges Photograph Collection

Post submitted by John B. Gartrell, Director John Hope Franklin Research Center

Ceremonial maskThe John Hope Franklin Research Center is happy to share the acquisition of the Celeste and Reggie Hodges Photograph Collection. The collection documents nearly two decades of their life in West Africa, after they joined the Peace Corps in the late 1960s. While there, the Hodges’ worked as teachers and for international agencies but spent years applying their love of amateur photography to document the everyday life of their neighbors and friends with a unique look at the local customs from fishing, basket weaving, husbandry, religious and rites of passage ceremonies. Over that same time, they were also gifted a number of masks, instruments and other artifacts that have been donated to a number of museums over the last few years (https://nasher.duke.edu/stories/a-personal-gift-2/). Both Celeste and Reggie worked behind the camera and developed their film in a makeshift darkroom when they had access to electricity and water in their village. The photographs display African life before the devastation of wars and Ebola in the 1990s affected the people and places where the Hodges’ lived.  The materials now in the Franklin Research Center include their photo negatives, original prints and digital scans, along with printed materials including artwork done by their students. This body of materials provides an intimate, firsthand perspective of this period and people. The collection will be made available once processing is completed.

Woman cleaning fish

Interview with 2023 Archive of Documentary Arts Collection Award Winner – Gabriella Mykal

Post contributed by Shiraz Ahmed, curatorial intern for the Archive of Documentary Arts

Shiraz Ahmed, curatorial intern for the Archive of Documentary Arts interviews filmmaker Gabriella Mykal via email about her film “Rape Play”, one of the winners of the 2023 Archive of Documentary Arts Collection Awards. Since 2015, the awards have recognized excellence in documentary film, photography, and audio, with cash prizes and the chance to have a body of work archivally preserved and exhibited at Duke.

“Rape Play” (2023) by Gabriella Mykal utilizes experimental techniques to explore how a genre of online erotica has troubling ramifications for young women. At times surreal and eyepopping with its colorful aesthetic, the film addresses this difficult topic with humor and a playfulness reflective of a new generation of filmmakers.

The other winners for 2023 include:

Resita Cox | Film| “Freedom Hill” navigates the environmental racism washing away a North Carolina town of under 2,000 residents.

David Fisher | Film | “The Round Number” explores why and how the number six million was written into the canon, and what its meaning can teach us about the Holocaust.

Holly Lynton | Photo | “Meeting Tonight” portrays a historical worshiping community and its evolving traditions in contemporary rural South Carolina.

This Q&A has been lightly edited.

 

Shiraz Ahmed: What was the starting point for “Rape Play” when you realize this teenage pastime was a larger phenomenon worth of examination?

Gabriella Mykal: “Rape Play” had a false start in 2020 and it took me about a year to get on the right track. The first try was supposed to be a video installation where the visuals involved endurance performances that represented the experience of healing as durational and intentional and efforted. The audio for the installation was going to be interviews with women around me, trusted friends, talking about past experiences of sexual dysfunction and violence.

It just wasn’t working because the approach was not sustainable. The subject matter was too intense, the research too traumatizing. Initially, I was only working around the premise of sexualizing violence. Trends in porn. Visceral assault stories. There was no humor, no lightness to the work. And I realized the form the work was taking was missing the thing I found most interesting about the interviews I was conducting: the tone. These conversations were hyper casual, filled with laughter and speaking in shorthand. I realized the project needed to speak that language, and I needed a point of entry that allowed me enough distance from the subject matter to make my observations without being overwhelmed.

Fanfiction and erotica kept coming back up. Every time we were searching for an analogy, looking for a way to contextualize an abusive ex-boyfriend or a confusing hook up, we would start by saying, “Do you remember reading this fic?” “It’s like this trope.” And we would laugh at the references, and then we would say, “Yes, exactly, I know exactly what you mean.” It became apparent that we all seemed to be moderating and understanding our most intimate experiences through these niche media bubbles. The film needed to look through the same lens.

 

The film’s first scene involves creative use of dramatization and colorful set design. Why use this particular, playful approach for a topic that gets gradually more serious as the film goes on?

I wanted to intro the audience immediately to the text, because if you’ve never read erotica, fanfiction in particular, the film is sort of meaningless to you. The opening aims to immerse the viewer in some of this context, and then disrupt that immersion to take the viewer into a new imagination, this fictitious interview based on these almost ridiculously light conversations about something so heavy.

Visually, I can’t claim having any kind of formal reason for the playful design choices. I just had this image in my mind. Blue walls. Red carpet. A bedroom that’s sparse and strange on a set. I wanted the set design to speak to the imagination and the strangeness that is inherent in written erotica, which is to say, for all the details you might be filling in while reading, there’s also a great deal of blanks left. The blue room is an imagined liminal space of desire and trauma.

 

You interview a number of women who have experience with this genre of erotica, including the actress in your staged scene. How did you approach these individuals and what were you hoping they would gain from this documentary experience?

The process of making this film was a real community effort. The pitch was, “I’m making this film about fan fiction and how it changed my brain chemistry.” I was lucky to find a community of women and queer people who resonated immediately with the subject and wanted to be a part of it.

Everyone I interviewed was not only willing but excited to be open and have these conversations that, when had off camera, are incredibly constructive and healing. Of course, it’s very daunting to have them on camera, so we discussed what we were comfortable with and not comfortable with a great deal before.

What I hoped people would gain by participating was that constructive healing experience that I have when having these conversations, which is to truly relate and level with another person that is coming from a similar place. I think the tone and content of the interviews in the film comes from the fact that you’re watching conversations between dear friends who have a great deal of trust in each other. Putting that on camera, infusing the film with that energy was paramount, that magical bedroom culture that’s created and cultivated by women of all ages constantly. A radical, self-effacing authenticity. A fearless self-exposure.

You often employ clever cinematic techniques that mislead the viewer as to what direction the film is headed in. How do these techniques relate to the overall topic, questions and message you want the film to deliver on?

The thesis of the film is that we have a very complicated relationship to these materials the same way that we have a very complicated relationship to our actual sexual experiences, positive and negative, so the film takes on that complicated relationship. Sometimes it’s highly critical and sometimes it’s celebratory. Oftentimes it’s somewhere in between, or it’s doing both at the same time.

I wanted the film to follow a lineage of meta-modern hybrid docs where the complicated nature of the subject matter informs the film’s ability to “level with you” or to pretend like it’s leveling with you. I’m personally not very interested in documentaries that ever claim to be fully truth telling. I think that docs that use some of these prototypical, historically anthropological formal techniques to allow them credibility are sort of short cutting having to really convince you of anything.

And I think, best case scenario, it’s just the most direct way to go about making nonfiction media, but worst-case scenario, it’s in very bad faith. I wanted “Rape Play” to take a form wherein the content is always in good faith, but the presentation is playful. So, the film is going to, in one moment, make you think that it’s scripted, then make you think that it’s not. Then it’s clearly scripted, but it feels very honest. Then, it’s obviously not scripted, but it’s also highly edited. And then of course there’s the ending sequence in which I talk about a personal experience of sexual violence and the sequence is both deliberate and planned and off-the-cuff.

The film runs on an engine in which the same questions we interrogate ourselves and each other with surrounding sexual violence (is this true, is this valid, is she exaggerating, is she withholding and if so, what?) are reveled in, but deliberately not answered in a way you would expect.

 

Your choices of interview settings – mostly women’s bedrooms, including your own – play a particular role in this film. What were you hoping for these settings to evoke for the subject and the viewer?

The intuitive choice suddenly became, “I should be talking to these girls in their rooms.” Of course, there are two exceptions. Victoria’s interview, which is outside in the same backyard as her scene, and Avalon, who is interviewed in the blue room set from the opening of the film.

The formal argument is that the film, specifically the essay portion that sets up a great deal of the context for these online subcultures that we’re talking about, is deeply invested in discourse and research surrounding bedroom culture amongst teenage girls and how you can effectively call the teenage girl bedroom a hub of cultural production. Across the world, in their respective private domains, these girls are creating assets that they then put into this egalitarian free market for each other in a share economy. I was one of those girls that was sitting in my bedroom online, producing and receiving for years. In a way, I’m still one of those girls; this film was made largely by me, sitting alone, writing and editing in my bedroom. The film hops between intimate spaces, imagined and real, at the rapid pace and leisure that one might experience being online.

Also, the nature of these conversations was extremely intimate, and I wanted to host them in the spaces that people felt the most comfortable. I wanted the viewer to feel like they were really sitting in the room with us having these conversations, like you’re lying in a friend’s bed half asleep, listening to two friends giggling late into the night about the worst things that have ever happened to them.

 

The denouement of this experimental essay film has you revealing your own troubling experience with sexual violence. How did you come to the decision to include this material and why did you employ the technique of fictional reenactment for the conclusion?

To me, it felt not only apparent but completely necessary from the moment that I started this project that anything I asked someone else to be willing to do for the film, I needed to be willing to do. If I was going to ask my friends to recite stories about some of these things that have happened to them, I was also going to recite stories about some these that have happened to me. If I was going ask to my friends to be in it, then I would be in it.

I also felt that it would maybe not make any sense if I never told that story. The thing that had finally propelled me into making the film, the moment of clarity I had about what the real entry point was, was not only that these erotic materials that I had been taking in at such a rapid rate when I was younger seemed to thematically speak to this question of how we deal with learned or inherent sexualization of this kind of violence, but that how I grew up online and then what happened to me were completely intrinsically linked.

There was a direct logic there in which it was set up à punchline. I could not understand one without understanding the other. The film then had that same logic and it had to be explained fully from my perspective to finish the argument.

The idea of reenactment was there from the beginning because reenactment also felt totally thematically in line with the premise of imagination and fantasy. The premise that these materials are not “real” so how do we make them look as “real” as they feel. We’re, I would argue, reenacting them in various ways all the time. From there, I became interested in a question: say this traumatizing thing happens to me because in a kind of abstract way, I was trying to enact some of these things from fictions that I had read… How can I repurpose the power of enacting, to act out, to embody, to play? And how can we use that to heal?

I had no interest in using that power of play to relive the traumatic event. Instead, I returned to an obsessive fantasy that had nothing to do with my assailant and instead had everything to do with reconnecting with myself and the people around me. It was a fantasy of resolution. It was a fantasy of moving on.

If we have these two reenactments, one at the beginning and one at the end of the film, then the beginning is what I once would have thought would be the fantasy of how we can use these texts, then the end of the film is a new imagination of how we can use these texts. We don’t just reenact them, we expand on them, and in that expansion, we release ourselves from them.

 

As part of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, “Rape Play’” will be available for researchers interested in its construction as much as its content. What has working on the film taught you about the form of documentary and its utilization and ability to reveal uncomfortable truths?

Making “Rape Play” taught me a great deal, maybe too much to put into words, but I’ll say this. Documentary is a playground. Documentary is a stage and a therapist’s office. A courtroom. A long car ride. A bunker and a kitchen table. Documentary owes us shock and laughter and discomfort and embarrassment and outrage, but above all else, Documentary owes us truth. We make non-fiction work to debase, self-efface, expose, explain, illuminate, and confuse because the world as we live in it and our lives as we live them are already strange and dense enough as it is. We do the work because it is honest, if not draining and frightening, work, looking and pointing, describing, and criticizing. Documentary, when done right, is the work of not only revealing, but dissecting and living with uncomfortable truths until the alien and the confusing becomes the familiar and the understood.

Proustmania! Reading, writing, sewing Proust today

Post contributed by Matilde Manara, Postdoc Fellow at Institut Lethica, Université de Strasbourg, France.  Manara received an Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Research Travel Grant, 2023-2024.

I approached the materials held in Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Papers as part of a larger project on feminist models of writing, behavior, and knowledge to be found in Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. I am particularly interested in understanding how readers can acknowledge a literary model such as A La Recherche, recognizing its importance in their life and/or art, without necessarily embracing its esthetic, moral, or epistemological foundations (and even by openly rejecting them). Along with Sedgwick’s Works in Fiber, Paper and Proust (2005), I delved into Chantal Akerman’s La Captive (2000), Jacqueline Rose’s Albertine (2001) and Anne Carson’s The Albertine Workout (2014). An important part of this research deals with questions raised by Sedgwick herself in her writings on Proust. In the final chapter of Epistemology of the Closet, she notably writes:

I was reading Proust for the first time during just the short stretch of years during which it occurred to me to have ambitions that were not exclusively under the aspect of eternity: to want to publish visibly, know people, make a go it, get a run for my money. Oddly, of course, it was reading Proust that made me want these adventures and think I could find them. The interminable meditation on the vanity of human wishes was a galvanizing failure for at least one reader: it was, if anything, the very sense of the transparency and predictability worldly ambitions that gave me the nerve and skill to have worldly ambitions of my own. Like, I believe, most young women, I never had a shred of identification with JuIien Sorel or the nineteenth-century French male plot of conquering the capital – until after the years of Proust-reading; then both the hero’s airy ambition and his concomitant uncritical adoption of a master text became intelligible and engaging traits (Sedgwick 1990, 241).

In preparing my visit to Duke, I had planned to explore this potential identification by dividing the materials I expected to consult into two categories: those related to Sedgwick’s academic work (syllabi from the seminars she held on Proust from around 1998 up to 2009, notes and drafts for Epistemology of the Closet and The Weather in Proust, scattered articles, and  records of conferences) on the one hand, and those related to her artistic work (textile art, artists’ books, pieces from her 2005 exhibition, Works in Fiber, Paper and Proust) on the other. The days spent at Duke made me realize how much my plan was naive, even somewhat paradoxical, for these two practices are deeply intertwined and connected to each other in the same “fractal” way she suggests Proust’s novel should be read (Sedgwick 2011, 90-93).

I was most struck by two aspects of the materials I had the chance to consult in the archive. First, to see how Proust’s novel, in both its material dimension (the printed paper) and its virtual dimension (the hypertextual lattice we discover when not following a linear progression), becomes itself the object of a découture (witnessed by pages and pages of copied, printed and collaged quotations organized by Sedgwick under thematic headings such as Weather, Interior-outside, Albertine, Happiness, Anxiety, etc.), thus allowing the book’s complex architecture to emerge, while at the same time making it possible to detach from it, or even build it anew. Second, to observe how these shredded fragments feed into Sedgwick’s vast and increasingly central reflection on immanence (drawn on Proust as much as on Buddhism or the philosophy of Plotinus) to such an extent that the underlined pages of the many (including some multilingual) versions of A la recherche she uses over the years bear testimony to this gradual convergence, revealing how transformative reading the novel could have been for her.

My time at Rubenstein library has certainly given me the opportunity to enrich my project, helping me to better understand how Sedgwick reads, writes and seals in Proust – and not on, as she meant by the title of her exhibition at Harvard in 2005, “Works in Fiber, Paper, and Proust.” But it has also, and most importantly, touched me on a personal level, made my Proustian reader self fully and enthusiastically agree with her when she notices that:

It is harder to say in what this truth-effect of Proust consists. AII the paradoxes of a more traditionally conceived vraisemblance are especially active here: molecularly, there are relatively few individual propositions in or arising from the book that it would make sense to consider true; and even at the molar level, propositions or “values” or “attitudes” (erotic or political pessimism, for instance) that could be extracted from Proust do not necessarily seem true to me, to whom, nonetheless, “Proust” seems so “true”. Plainly, classically, it can be said that the coherence and credibility of the work, its vraisemblance in the usual senses, depend on an internal structuration of materials and codes that can only as relation, as structure, be interdigitated with or tested against the relational structures of a “reality” that surrounds and interleaves and thus mutually constitutes it. The truth-effect I am describing goes beyond questions of the work’s coherence and credibility, however. It has to do with the use of the literary work, its (to sound censorious) expropriability by its readers, its (to sound, in a different vocabulary, celebratory) potential for empowering them. For, unmistakably, the autobiographical parable I have just encapsulated as “the years of Proust-reading” represents both a prolonged instance of textual abuse and a story of empowerment. (Sedgwick 1990, 241).

Building LGBTQ+ Academic Community & Politics

Contributed by Adam Kocurek, PhD Candidate, History, The City University of New York Graduate Center.

With the assistance of a Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73, Travel Grant, I visited the Rubenstein Library in the summer of 2023 to carry out research for my dissertation, a history of LGBTQ+ faculty activism and community building in American higher education from the late 1960s through the late 1990s. During my visit, I explored several collections, ranging from institutional records to the personal papers of LGBTQ+ faculty members.

Masthead of the GLSG Newsletter. It's black type on white paper and looks like it was produced in an early desktop publishing application. There is music note clip art.
GLSG Newsletter

During my visit, I engaged with many magnificent sources that will feature in my dissertation. One such source from the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers, is volume 2 issue 4 of the Gay and Lesbian Study Group of the American Musicological Society “GLSG Newsletter,” published in March 1992. As a Ph.D. candidate at The CUNY Graduate Center, an institution at which Sedgwick worked and made important scholarly contributions, I found it to be an almost surreal and emotional experience going through her collection at Duke University. While Sedgwick was employed at Duke, she spearheaded LGBTQ+ issues at the university, serving as consultant on the University Coordinating Committee for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Studies, as well as being an active member of the Modern Language Association’s Gay and Lesbian Caucus. Through her scholarly and activist networks, she amassed ephemera from around the country, providing amazing insights into the state of LGBTQ+ faculty’s political and social organizing during the 1980s and 1990s.

The GLSG Newsletter provides a fascinating snapshot of a transitionary period in the history of LGBTQ+ faculty organizing for their rights and recognition within higher education. In the wake of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, lesbian and gay academics formed the Gay Academic Union (GAU) in 1973, the first group of out academics who strove to transform academia into an industry more accepting of LGBTQ+ scholarship and workers. The GAU grew to be a multidisciplinary national network, though within four years, it began to fragment and ultimately dissolve due to a number of factors, including sexism within the organization that alienated lesbian members, chronic funding and outreach issues, and the challenges of maintaining a nation-wide vision for LGBTQ+ faculty organizing. While initially fueled by the energy of the Gay Liberation movement, by the late 1970s, many of the organization’s most radical members had splintered away. By the 1980s, its president, Jonathan Dunn-Rankin, was struggling to bring GAU’s chapters together. While Gay Academic Unions persisted into the 1990s, they were no longer part of a national radical movement, and instead isolated often into specific campus chapters.

By the 1980s and 1990s, discipline-specific LGBTQ+ faculty organizations began to proliferate across the United States, such as the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists (SOLGA) which formed in 1979, and the GL/Q Caucus for the Modern Languages (GLQCML). The Gay & Lesbian Study Group (GLSG) of the American Musicological Society, established in 1991, is part of this legacy, and its newsletters provide insights into its vision for LGBTQ+ issues in higher education.

Letter to the editor published by GLSG describing their research on "homosexual hymn writers, especially from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries."
Letter to the editor in GLSG

The March 1992 GLSG newsletter states that their objectives include “promoting communication among lesbian & gay music scholars, increasing awareness of issues in sexuality and music in the academic community, and establishing a forum for the presentation of lesbian & gay music studies,” as well as “to provide an environment in which to examine the process of coming out in academia, and to contribute to a positive political climate for gay & lesbian affirmative action and curricula.” While professional development and networking were key prerogatives for the GLSG, with letters to the editor frequently soliciting help with research and studies, it is very clear that this organization also serves a social function. The GLSG held meetings during the AMS conventions to encourage LGBTQ+ faculty and students to engage with one another. These letters reveal repeated acknowledgment of the importance of forging community, not only for individual professional advancement or to contribute to the vitality of lesbian and gay studies, but to combat loneliness and isolation experienced by LGBTQ+ academics and to share the progressive changes others were working towards at their home campuses. One such contributor, Patrick Brannon from the University of Northern Iowa, writes, “It’s always good to connect with people from afar – eases the isolation that we here in the Midwest feel from time to time… Some of us have been working on passage of a human rights amendment to the University of Northern Iowa’s charter that will provide protection based on sexual orientation.” Similarly to LGBTQ+ faculty organizations rooted in other disciplines, the GLSG attended to a variety of professional, personal, and intellectual needs faced by LGBTQ+ academics in the early 1990s.

An example of when GLSG newsletter published something from another institution's LGBTQ newsletter, explaining "it was just too good." The director of the CUNY Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies was interviewed on an Italian talk show. The host hasked him "What do gay men lack that straight men have?" And he responded, deadpan, "A restricted emotional range."
News item in GLSG borrowed from the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at CUNY.

Something that I find fascinating and have loved exploring with my dissertation is the degree to which these organizations often operated, at least initially, on a very ad hoc basis, openly experimental with their aims and organizing strategies. Many of these groups formed because of the intrepid bravery of a handful of LGBTQ+ faculty who, working without funds and institutional support, were nonetheless able to cater to the needs of LGBTQ+ faculty in their scholarly disciplines. They relied heavily on parallel organizations to provide helpful models and actionable strategies to reach their goals. In this newsletter, under its “News” section, the writers of the GLSG state, “We hope the Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at CUNY won’t mind if we steal one of their news items, but it was just too good,” later adding, “The same Center for Lesbian & Gay Studies at CUNY, commonly known as CLAGS, has inspired graduate students to request and even push for classes in lesbian & gay studies… This is an interesting model: graduate students requesting and negotiating for classes in gay & lesbian musicology might also be successful elsewhere.”

The early 1990s was a tumultuous period in the history of LGBTQ+ activism. Driven by the desperate conditions of the AIDS crisis, in the wake of earlier organizations like the GAU, LGBTQ+ academics strove for recognition of LGBTQ+ studies as worthy of scholarly validation, for their right to equal treatment and protection from discrimination within the academy, and for community outside of campus boundaries. The GLSG newsletter is an artifact that perfectly captures this dynamic moment in LGBTQ+ history and the history of higher education.

Meet Sarah Bernstein, the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern

Sarah Bernstein is our 2023-2024 Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Sarah and I am currently a student in the dual degree program, pursuing both a M. A. in public history at North Carolina State University and a M. S. in library science at the UNC School of Information and Library Science. My background is in the sociology and history of medicine, studying unorthodox and fringe medicine in the United States and England to gain insight into the creation of medical legitimacy and establishment of medical authority. I currently research the ethics of human remains on display in medical collections, museums, and related contexts.

What do you find interesting about working in libraries, especially our History of Medicine Collections?

As someone who studies the history of medicine, I was thrilled for an opportunity to work closely with the History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Library! The idea of being able to hold, teach with, and introduce others to the manuscripts, materials, and artifacts that I have read about and researched was incredibly exciting.

I changed from a history career track to libraries and archives because I was interested in making history come alive and more accessible to people and the public. As a history student, I have always enjoyed research and working with archival materials, and working in libraries and archives felt like the natural next step. The fact that working in libraries enables me to be around a variety of materials, both those related to my interests and especially those that I would not have sought out myself, is a bonus.

What is a memorable experience from your internship?

Black and white woodcut title page illustration. It features a Renaissance-era anatomical theater. In the center is a corpse being dissected. There is a large crowd of people gathered around to watch.
Title page of Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica

My first time pulling and handling the first edition De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius was especially memorable. This title is considered a major advance in the history of anatomy and reflects a deep connection between medicine and art. The illustrations in the book are not only impressive because of their anatomical accuracy, but also because of the minute details which were produced by the artists and printers involved. It was incredibly cool to be in the same room as such a historically significant object that I had learned about in my previous coursework.

The entire experience of curating an exhibition for the Trent History of Medicine Room has also been memorable, and I will never be able to look at a display, exhibition, or museum the same way again. It has been an invaluable learning opportunity to work with Rachel Ingold, curator of the History of Medicine Collections, Meg Brown, the head of Exhibitions Services and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundations Exhibits Librarian, and Yoon Kim, Senior Library Exhibition Technician, on the exhibition and they all were incredibly helpful as I navigated tasks like creating a cohesive narrative for the items to writing exhibition text.

Do you have a favorite item you’d like to share?

It is so hard to choose just one item! At the time that I was writing about the home medicine chest and George Starr White’s My Little Library of Health, these were my favorite items respectively. However, I would love to highlight the Medical Bookplate collection here! These bookplates were decorative labels used by book owners to indicate their ownership.

Art nouveau illustration in black and white with a woman on the left under a tree, holding a bowl with vapor rising from it. She is leaning on a staff with one snake wrapped around. There is text that reads "Ex Libris Dr. Emil Simonson" as well Hebrew text in the top and bottom border.
Bookplate of Dr. Emil Simonson

Here is one of my favorites from the collection: an art nouveau bookplate for Dr. Emil Simonson that was designed by the illustrator and printmaker Ephraim Moses Lilien. The bookplate includes a woman who holds a bowl with vapor rising from it, leaning on a staff with one snake wrapped around (likely an allusion to the Staff of Aesculapius, Greek god of medicine). Lilien incorporated Hebrew above and below the image in the border. The top text is Psalm 137:5 while the bottom reiterates that it is Dr. Emil Simonson’s property using his Jewish name, Aliyahu ben Aire Zimon.

Although I chose a rectangular black and white bookplate for this post, the collection includes numerous sizes, shapes, colors, and styles. The medical bookplate collection contains over 450 medically related bookplates and I have had such a great time going through the binders and seeing the various styles that are represented and how the same symbols of medicine and death are portrayed in both similar and different ways.

Announcing our 2024-2025 Travel Grant Recipients

The Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024-2025 travel grants. Our research centers annually award travel grants to students, scholars, and independent researchers through a competitive application process. We extend a warm congratulations to this year’s awardees. We look forward to meeting and working with you!

Archive of Documentary Arts

Elizabeth Barahona, Ph.D. candidate, Northwestern University, “Black and Latino Coalition Building in Durham, North Carolina 1980-2010.” (Joint award with the Human Rights Archive)

Diana Ruiz, Faculty, University of Washington, Seattle, “Apprehension through Representation: Image Capture of the US-Mexico Border.” (Joint award with the Human Rights Archive)

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

Mary Lily Research Travel Grants

Taylor Doherty, Ph.D. candidate, University of Arizona, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, “Minnie Bruce Pratt’s Anti-Imperialist Lesbian Feminist ‘Longed-for but Unrealized World.’”

Thalia Ertman, Ph.D. candidate, University of California, Los Angeles Department of History, “U.S. Feminist Anti-Nuclear Activism and Women’s Bodies, 1970s-1990s.”

Samuel Huber, Faculty, Yale University, Department of English. “A World We Can Bear: Kate Millett’s Life in Feminism.”

Alan Mitchell, Ph.D. candidate, Cambridge University, Faculty of Art History and Architecture, “Redefining Phoebe Anna Traquair through the lenses of historicism and intersectionality.”

Emily Nelms Chastain, Ph.D. candidate, Boston University, School of Theology, “The Clergywoman Question: The International Association of Women Preachers and Ecclesial Suffrage in American Methodism.”

Ana Parejo Vadillo, Faculty, School of Creative Arts, Cultures and Communications, Birkbeck, University of London, “Bound: The Queer Poetry of Michael Field.”

Carol Quirke, Faculty, American Studies, SUNY Old Westbury, “Feminism’s ‘Official Photographer:’ Bettye Lane, News Photography and Contemporary Feminism, 1969-2000.”

Paula Ramos, Independent Researcher, “Spatiality and gender: spatial circumstances of the creative process of feminist artists in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Dartricia Rollins, Graduate Student, University of Alabama, School of Library and Information Studies, “‘You Had to Be There:’ Charis’ 50-Year History as the South’s Oldest Independent Feminist Bookstore.”

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Research Travel Grants

Ipek Sahinler, Ph.D. candidate, University of Texas Austin, “A Portrait of Young Women as Proto-Queer Thinkers: Eve Sedgwick vis-à-vis Gloria Anzaldúa.”

David Seitz, Faculty, Harvey Mudd College, “‘No Less Realistic’ but with ‘Different Ambitions’: Reparative Reading, Human Geography, and a Return to Sedgwick.

Doris Duke Foundation Travel Grants

Olivia Armandroff, Ph.D. candidate, University of Southern California, “Volcanic Matter: Land Formation and Artistic Creation.”

Cameron Bushnell, Faculty, Clemson University, Department of English. “‘The Invisible Orient’ in Orientalism Otherwise: Women Write the Orient.”

John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture

Thomas Blakeslee, Ph.D. candidate, Harvard University, History Department, “Domestic Disturbances: The Resistant Masculinity of Black Fatherhood from Anti-Slavery to Civil Rights.”

Mara Curechian , Ph.D. candidate, School of English, University of St Andrews, “Acting Like Family: Performing Kinship in the Literature of the Civil War and Reconstruction.”

Michelle Decker, Faculty, Scripps College, English Department, George Washington Williams’s and Amanda B. Smith’s Appalachian Origins and African Explorations.”

Timothy Kumfer, Postdoctoral Fellow, Georgetown University, 2023-2024 Mellon Sawyer Seminar, “Counter-Capital: Grassroots Black Power and Urban Struggles in Washington, D.C.”

Hunter Moskowitz, Ph.D. candidate, Northeastern University, “Race and Labor in the Global Textile Industry: Lowell, Concord, and Monterrey in the Early 19th Century.”

Summer Sloane-Britt, Ph.D. candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, “Visions of Liberation: Gender and Photography in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, 1960-1970.”

Mila Turner, Faculty, Clark Atlanta University, “Bridging Histories: Connecting the Atlanta Student Movement with College Student Activism throughout the Southeast”

Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History

Kadin Henningsen, Ph.D. candidate, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, “Walt’s Companions.”

Julie Kliegman, Author, book-length exploration of transgender pioneers.

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History

John Furr Fellowship

Hannah Pivo, Ph.D. candidate, Columbia University, Department of Art History and Archaeology, “Charting the Future: Graphic Methods and Planning in the United States, c. 1910-60.”

Lewis Smith, Faculty, Brunel University London, Brunel Business School, Division of Marketing, “Marketing the State”: J. Walter Thompson Company and the Marketing of the Public Sector in Britain.”

Alvin Achenbaum Travel Grants

Warren Dennis, Ph.D. candidate, Boston University, “Hard Power Paths: Gender and American Energy Policy, 1960-2000.” (Joint award with History of Medicine with support from the Louis H. Roddis Endowment)

Dan Du, Faculty, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Department of History, “U.S. Tea Trade and Consumption after the American Revolution.”

Will Mari, Faculty, Louisiana State University, Manship School of Mass Communication, “Selling the computer to women media workers: gendered ads during the Cold War.”

Janine Rogers, Ph.D. candidate, University of California Los Angeles, Theater Department, “Performance, Militarization, and Materialisms: Canned Goods in Asian America”.

Foare

Jonathan MacDonald, Ph.D. candidate, Brown University, Department of American Studies, “Psychology Hits the Road: Driving Simulators, Billboards, and Hypnosis on the Highway.”

History of Medicine Collections

Warren Dennis, Ph.D. candidate, Boston University, “Hard Power Paths: Gender and American Energy Policy, 1960-2000.” (With support from the Louis H. Roddis Endowment; Joint award with the Hartman Center)

Ava Purkiss, Faculty, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, “After Anarcha: Black Women and Gynecological Medicine in the Twentieth Century.”

Baylee Staufenbiel, Ph.D. candidate, Florida State University, Department of History, “The Seven-Cell Uterus: De Spermate and the Anatomization of Cosmology.”

Brian Martin, Ph.D. candidate, University of Alabama, History Department, “Racial Theory and African American Medical Care in the U.S. Civil War.”

Human Rights Archive

“Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride” flyer, September 30, 2003, illustrates one area of coalition building in Durham, NC, as described in Elizabeth Barahona’s dissertation research proposal. From the Joan Preiss Papers, Box 27.

Elizabeth Barahona, Ph.D. candidate, Northwestern University, “Black and Latino Coalition Building in Durham, North Carolina 1980-2010.” (Joint award with the Archive of Documentary Arts)

Diana Ruiz, Faculty, University of Washington, Seattle, “Apprehension through Representation: Image Capture of the US-Mexico Border.” (Joint award with the Archive of Documentary Arts)

Kylie Smith, Faculty, Emory University. School of Nursing, Department of History, “No Place for Children: Disability, Civil Rights, and Juvenile Detention in North Carolina.”

Harrison Wick, Faculty, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Special Collections and University Archives, “Examination of Primary Sources related to Social Justice and Latin American Immigration in the Human Rights Archive.”

Roderico Yool Díaz Wins Rubenstein Library Digital Storytelling Award

Photojournalist and documentarian Roderico “Rode” Yool Díaz is the winner of this year’s Digital Storytelling Award presented by the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

An older man in a suit and glasses, is in the foreground, facing the camera. He is in a large room with auditorium style seating. The room is crowded with people. Directly behind him are a number of people with cameras and video cameras, seemingly trying to take his picture.
Ríos Montt durante lectura de la sentencia por Genocidio, 2013.

Yool Díaz received the award for his digital project documenting the 2012-2015 genocide trials against former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt. The project includes photos, video, and audio recordings of the trial proceedings, the reading of the verdict, and Ríos-Montt and his legal team reacting to the verdict.

“Time and again documentarians such as Rode remind us that impactful storytelling is contingent on being present,” said Caitlin Kelly, curator for the Rubenstein’s Archive of Documentary Arts, which co-sponsors the award. “Not just to get the shot and leave, but to hold a story with care such that one cannot put it down so easily. Rode’s work isn’t just coverage of a trial, but an unmasking of a legal performance with consequences far beyond the courtroom.”

Born and raised among Guatemala’s indigenous Maya Kaqchikel community, Roderico Yool Díaz has worked as a photojournalist for over 15 years. In Guatemala, he covers issues related to the aftermath of the internal armed conflict (1960-1996) and current economic and political pressures affecting rural campesino and indigenous communities.

A woman standing outside, holding a handwritten sign that reads "Urge gobernabilidad en Nebaj." She is wearing a woven headscarf and her mouth is open like she is yelling. Further behind her is a crowd of people, some of whom are also holding signs.

As Yool Díaz notes, “This collection is part of a larger archive of five years of hearings from the genocide trial against former dictators Efraín Ríos Montt and Romeo Lucas García. While most of my photojournalistic work has focused on the survivors of the genocide, in this collection I wanted to highlight the defendants as a way of unmasking the leaders responsible for the violence suffered by hundreds of thousands during the war and genocide against the Mayan people in the 1980s.”

The project is divided into four sections: Ríos Montt appears in court for the first time (2012); Intermediate phase hearings, when the case is sent to trial (2012-2013); Genocide trial (March-May 2013); Annulment of the sentence and the second trial (2013-2018).

“Trials are such an important and integral element of the human rights movement going back to Nuremberg,” said Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist at the Rubenstein Library. “The Human Rights Archive has extensive documentation on trials from around the world, but Rode’s project reminds us that trials are not just procedural. His images capture an insurgent, emotional, historical event, one that is simultaneously public yet intimate and affectively human through and through.”

A survivor of the genocide himself, Yool Díaz was born in 1975 on a Dutch-owned coffee plantation where his family had lived and worked as sharecroppers for generations. As a small child, Yool Díaz worked picking coffee and cardamom. He and his family were forced to flee in the early 1980s due to repression by the Guatemalan military. Like thousands of others, his family suffered forced disappearances and recruitment by the Guatemalan military and paramilitary forces.

Yool Díaz spent the rest of his childhood separated from his nuclear family. He worked agricultural jobs and attended night classes. He was the first in his family to attend college, where he studied anthropology, supporting forensic teams in exhumations of mass graves from the internal armed conflict.

After the peace accords in 1996, Yool Díaz witnessed continued violence by police and military against rural indigenous communities, acts that many believed to be a thing of the past. He realized he needed to document the violence to prove that it was still happening.

“I think it is important to understand a story is not just a collection of facts or the narrative of a specific event,” said Yool Díaz. “It is a human experience and has to be treated with care. It is essential not to reproduce the extractivist cycle that for so long has been applied to indigenous people and our communities.”

Since moving to North Carolina, Yool Díaz also documents resilience through culture and activism in Latin American immigrant and indigenous communities of the South.

The Rubenstein Library Digital Storytelling Award is co-sponsored by the Human Rights Archive and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The award seeks to support outstanding documentary artists/activists exploring human rights and social justice, while expanding the digital documentary holdings in the archive and ensuring long-term preservation and access to their work. The award seeks to encourage artists/activists that pull from the strengths of multi-modal documentary and digital deployment. Going beyond the core mission of transmitting information, these digital storytellers create deeply contextualized, multi-sensory projects that may include still image, moving image, oral histories, soundscapes, and documentary writing. Winners receive $2,500 and are invited to present their work at Duke University, where they collaborate with a team of archivists to preserve their work.

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Library has a strong commitment to human rights and the documentary arts through collecting and making available works by creators from around the world. Our collections document the impact that organizations and individuals have, and the role documentary plays, to motivate the thinking of others and support action that will transform the world.

Roderico Yool Díaz papers: https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/yooldiazroderico

Roderico Yool Díaz website: https://rodediaz.com/

 

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University