All posts by Aaron Welborn

In Memoriam: Michael Malone

Left to right: Michael Malone, Allan Gurganus, Will Hansen (former Rubenstein Library Assistant Curator of Collections) and Deborah Jakubs (University Librarian Emerita) at a 2009 Duke University Libraries event celebrating the acquisition of Malone’s papers.

Guest post by Deborah Jakubs, Ph.D., University Librarian Emerita

Michael Malone, former Duke professor of Theater Studies and English and Durham native who died on August 19, 2022, was truly many things to many people. Novelist, television writer, crafter of mysteries, gifted teacher, award winner—he was all that, as well as the producer of local plays and musicals, host of cabarets and soirees, a true community builder with a generous heart and a wicked wit. As his close friend writer Allan Gurganus noted, Michael “was so many people and… had so many gifts. You’re not sure which Michael to mourn. You feel like you’re losing more than one person.”

Malone was the author of fourteen works of fiction, including Handling Sin, Uncivil Seasons, and Dingley Falls, and wrote short stories and nonfiction as well as plays and musicals. He gained success and renown as the head writer for the daytime soap opera One Life to Live, winning an Emmy in 1994. He also won the Edgar Allen Poe Award and the O’Henry Award for his short fiction.

I was fortunate to know Michael and his wife Maureen Quilligan, the R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor Emerita, and count them as friends. We met not long after Maureen came to Duke from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000 to chair the Department of English, and Michael joined Theater Studies. We developed a fast friendship. It was impossible not to fall under Michael’s spell, to be won over by his irrepressible creativity and curiosity about people and their lives. Being in his company was always joyful.

From the moment of their arrival on campus, Michael and Maureen were enthusiastic fans of the Duke Libraries. They often expressed their gratitude for the extensive collections and the expertise of individual librarians and archivists. That appreciation led Michael to give his papers to the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library in 2008. The Libraries celebrated the acquisition of his archive as well as the publication of his ninth novel, The Four Corners of the Sky, with a reading and book signing in April 2009.

Malone was an unabashed fan of Charles Dickens. He and Gurganus (whose papers are also in the Rubenstein) collaborated for over a decade on the annual two-man performance of A Christmas Carol at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Hillsborough. In 2012, to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens and in conjunction with the library exhibition, Charles Dickens: 200 Years of Commerce and Controversy, the Libraries hosted “consummate Dickensian” Malone impersonating characters from Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and Great Expectations. In a DukeToday story about the event, he said: “Keep a Dickens novel around you always. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry, you’ll be eager to know what happens next.” I’d say keep a Malone novel around, too, for the same reasons.

Michael will be missed by many, many people whose lives he touched. As photographer and Hillsborough resident Elizabeth Matheson noted, “He believed so thoroughly in community and that at its best, life should be a feast where everyone is invited.” Thank you, Michael, for hosting the feast.

Malone and his wife Maureen Quilligan (R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor of English Emerita) at a 2012 library event where Malone performed dramatic readings from the works of Charles Dickens.

Nuestra Historia: Developing an Exhibit on the History of Duke’s Latinx Students

Visitors gather at the opening of “Our History, Our Voice/Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz.” The exhibition was on display in the Chappell Family Gallery, January-July 2022.

The following excerpt is from Dr. Cecilia Marquez, Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History. Dr. Marquez was one of the speakers at an event celebrating the exhibition, Our History, Our Voice/Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz. The exhibition was on display in the Chappell Family Gallery from January through July 2022.

I came to Duke as an Assistant Professor in the History Department in August 2019. Nine months later, just after I had found a doctor, a grocery store, and a routine, the world shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with my students, I was reaching for some kind normalcy and some kind of optimism in what was an increasingly bleak world of quarantines, Zoom calls, and isolation. The exhibition Our History, Our Voice/Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz can’t be understood outside of this context. As much as the exhibition was a call for recognition, it also became a way to build community when we were scattered across several states.

It feels almost clichéd to say I learned as much from my students as I taught them, and yet it’s true. The students I have encountered at Duke, and those who curated this project, are some of the most resilient and dedicated young people I have ever known. I watched these undergrads withstand an unprecedented and generational trauma because of COVID-19. Through that they produced something truly beautiful and supported each other in the process. Their vision and dedication to this project was the fuel that made it all possible.


“In high school, as an AP US history student, my burning question was constantly: where are Latinos in US history? Where were we in the Civil War? Where were we in World War II, and in other big moments in US history? That was my constant burning question.”   Elizabeth Barahona


The exhibition is a testament to all parts of Duke really working together: faculty, staff, and students. Too often the emphasis at Duke is on faculty and students but this exhibition would not have been possible without library staff who led the way as we learned what it meant to create an exhibition.

Members of the exhibit curatorial team (left to right): Joan Munne’, Senior Lecturer of Romance Language, Elizabeth Barahona (T ’18), Carlo-Alfonso Garza (T ’22), Benjamin Romero (T ’21), Juanita Vargas Ibanez (T ’23), Karina Moreno Bueno (T ’21), Gabriela Fonseca (T ’22), Leticia Flores, Senior Clinical Research Specialist at Duke University Health System, Damary Gutierrez Hernandez (T ’22), Cecilia Marquez, Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History.

During this project, Assistant University Archivist Amy McDonald taught dozens of my students how to discover and engage with archival material. Meg Brown, head of Exhibition Services, taught them how to make an exhibit, construct a project, and reimagine it again and again. Teaching Latinx history these past two years was a collaborative endeavor with Amy, Meg, and my co-conspirator in this project, Senior Lecturer in Romance Studies, Joan Munné, as we imagined this exhibition and brought it to fruition. At every step, I was reminded that the work we do at Duke is a collective and community effort that is not possible without the library and its staff.


“[This exhibit] It’s history in the making. You are witnessing history right now. It’s time to hear about those other stories. Those brown stories that have been here, but are not told because no one is asking us or writing about us.” Elmer Orellana


It is my hope that this exhibition is the beginning of telling the history of Latinxs at Duke, not the end. There are many voices that were not represented in the exhibition, maybe some reading this now. The exhibit opened during Black History Month, making us acutely aware that Black Latinx students could not attend Duke until March 1961, when Duke first accepted Black students. Generations of Latinx students were systematically excluded as a result of Duke’s racist admissions policies. Early research from Dr. Javier Wallace, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Duke, suggests that during this time Black Latinx students found a home at North Carolina Central University (NCCU). The absence of their stories in the early period of the exhibition is notable and an urgently needed future direction of this project. In the process of constructing this exhibition and future projects like this one, we also construct a fuller and more representative archive of what the Latinx community looks like at Duke.

Nuestra Historia was sponsored by the Duke University Libraries and the following Duke entities: Latino/a Studies in the Global South Program, History Department, Romance Studies Department, the Provosts’ office, Dean Valerie Ashby, the Dean of Humanities, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, and the Franklin Humanities Institute who funded a Story+ Program to continue the work of this exhibit in the digital sphere.

Witness to Guantanamo

The data from detainees in Guantanamo was adapted from the ACLU website “Guantanamo by the Numbers”. In an attempt to humanize the information, the graphic was hand painted on the wall of the gallery by local artist Renzo Ortega.

Post by Caitlin Margaret Kelly, Curator of the Documentary Arts & Director of the Power Plant Gallery, and Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist

On January 11, 2002, the first prisoners in America’s War on Terror arrived at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Roughly seven hundred and eighty detainees have been housed at the prison thus far. Most of the men were never charged with a crime, yet many were imprisoned for more than a decade. Over the past twenty years many other lives were drawn into Guantanamo: families of the detained, defense lawyers, prosecutors, doctors, interrogators, military personnel, journalists, and diplomats.

Peter Honigsberg has recorded the stories of the people who lived and worked at the naval base, voices that speak truth to power. He founded the Witness to Guantanamo (WtG) Video Collection to draw the history of Guantanamo out of the shadows and reveal its impact on the lives of individuals as well as our nation. He donated the collection to the Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library in 2018.

Oral histories are displayed on televisions throughout the gallery during the Witness to Guantanamo exhibition at the Power Plant Gallery.

In January 2022, the Human Rights Archive and Archive of Documentary Arts collaborated to mount an exhibition drawn from the collection in the Power Plant Gallery in downtown Durham. The first-hand testimonies were paired with photographs by Duke professor Christopher Sims and drawings by court artist Janet Hamlin, in addition to psyops flyers, infographics and maps locating Guantanamo within both the visual and historical record.

Reflecting on his experience visiting the exhibition with his class, Zac Johnson T’22 writes, “Both pain and perseverance were noticeable in the voices of detainees. They spoke about hunger strikes, learning to build relationships with others, and losing hours of sleep every night. They spoke about being physically weak, but never losing hope for the future, even if they believed the U.S. would never hand it to them. Their voices switched back and forth across languages as they sought the right words to explain the torturous circumstances that surrounded them at Guantanamo.”

Photographs of the day to day landscapes of Guantanamo Navel Base by Christopher Sims, Associate Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Undergraduate Education Director, Center for Documentary Studies, Duke University.

Another Duke student explained, “This exhibit was a great opportunity to immerse myself in a project that uses storytelling in such a unique and impactful way… the portrayal of these stories forces the viewer to confront the speaker face to face in a way that felt remarkably similar to a personal conversation. I found myself avoiding the speakers’ eyes when they shared particularly tragic or humiliating details, and I somehow felt rude removing my headphones and leaving the station while the speaker was in the middle of telling their story.”

The exhibit was accompanied by a number of virtual and in-person events, including talks by Christopher Sims and Uyghur American activist and WtG interviewee Rushan Abbas and a panel discussion with Peter Honigsberg; Cahalm MacLaughlin, Director of the Prison Memory Archive; and Duke professor Leela Prasad.

Videos and transcripts from the Witness to Guantanamo Collection are available for public viewing through the Duke Digital Repository.

Franklin Research Center Commemorates 25 Years

Post by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture

The 2021-2022 academic year marked the 25th anniversary of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture. The Franklin Research Center used the theme “Black Lives in Archives” as the thread for a slate of programs that built upon the center’s mission of advancing scholarship on the history and culture of people of African descent.

The anniversary events kicked off in September 2021 with a virtual lecture by Dr. Emilie Boone, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. Dr. Boone was invited to respond to an exhibition displayed in the Rubenstein Library’s Photography Gallery entitled “James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake: Picturing Blackness in the 1920s.” Curated by Franklin Research Center director, John B. Gartrell and the center’s 2019-2020 graduate intern, Jessica Stark, the exhibit presented selections from two African American photographers who made portrait style images of everyday African Americans at the height of the “New Negro Movement” of the 1920s.

The Black Lives in Archives virtual speaker series featured (clockwise from top left): Dr. Lisa Bratton, Dr. Brandon K. Winford, Dr. Erik S. McDuffie, Dr. Emilye Crosby, and Dr. Emilie Boone.

Black Lives in Archives virtual speaker series during the fall semester featured four scholars who were previously awarded Franklin Research Center travel grants to come to the Rubenstein Library and utilize the Center’s collections. The speakers invited to participate included Brandon K. Winford (University of Tennessee Knoxville), Lisa Bratton (Tuskegee University), Erik S. McDuffie (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Emilye Crosby (SUNY Geneseo). This “return to the archive” by each scholar highlighted the critical importance of Black collections as a foundation for new directions in the field of African and African American Studies.

And in January, the center hosted a special Archivist Roundtable featuring Gartrell, Chaitra Powell (Curator, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill) and Andre Vann (Coordinator of University Archives and Instructor of History, North Carolina Central University). The roundtable was an engaging conversation between three Black archivists discussing the arcs of their respective careers and the challenges and benefits of being caretakers for collections documenting the Black experience. All of the aforementioned virtual events were recorded and are now available through Duke University Libraries’ YouTube channel.

About the Franklin Research Center

In 1995, Dr. John Hope Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, donated his personal archive to Duke. In his honor, the Duke University Libraries founded the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture as a designated collecting area specializing in rare book and primary sources documenting people of African descent. Franklin’s archive and his scholarship have been the guiding lights of the Center’s engagement in public programming, teaching, exhibitions, and collaborations. This celebration of “Black Lives in Archives” honored the Center’s role as a premiere destination for researchers near and far over the last twenty-five years.

Black Lives in Archives: Inviting the Community to Explore

Visitors explore Rubenstein Library materials documenting the richness of Black print culture at an open house event in April 2022.

Post by Orilonise Yarborough, Intern, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture

This past April, the Rubenstein Library hosted an open house event we called, “I Got a Story to Tell: Black Voices in Print.” On display were a wide range of archival materials covering such topics as Durham’s Black history, pop culture, and literature, including a first edition of the Narrative of Sojourner Truth, flyers and photographs from the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke, and romance novels written by voting rights activist and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams under the pseudonym Selena Montgomery. Event organizers poured through the Rubenstein’s collections to locate materials we love and know well, and that illustrate the breadth of Black print materials here at Duke. Based on the sheer volume of material, this was no easy feat!

The Rubenstein Library is open to all, and this event was an opportunity to welcome the larger community outside of academics and researchers. Recognizing that academic libraries can seem intimidating and inaccessible to the general public, the event was designed to demystify the Rubenstein Library and show the multiple ways archival material can be utilized. While historical documents are static, the way we engage with them doesn’t have to be. The event was our own contribution to the current discourse on access to archives and collective histories, showcasing the possibilities that our materials and library spaces hold.

John B. Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture noted that such events remind us of what makes archives special by letting people experience “the kind of metaphysical connectivity where you realize that this was held by someone fifty, seventy-five, one hundred years ago.” In these encounters, time collapses, and the experience of witnessing history becomes a shared experience between the living and the departed.

What’s next? “So many things,” according to Gartrell. “The potential for an event like this is endless.” The Rubenstein Library hopes to make it an annual event, much like Anatomy Day, an open house event every fall that draws on the History of Medicine Collections. With thousands of collections encompassing literature, art, diaries, scrapbooks and rare comics, Rubenstein staff will have the ability to investigate and share Black material culture in a variety of expressions and forms.

New & Noteworthy Acquisitions from the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture

Broadside: “Abeng, a Description of Nanny the Leader of the Windward Maroons”

This broadside by Michelle Cliff was printed by the Helaine Victoria Press. The press, which took its name from the middle names of founders Jocelyn Helaine Cohen and Nancy Taylor Victoria Poore, brought together lesbian feminist politics with fine press technique and was famous for its extensive body of women’s history postcards. Born in Jamaica, Cliff was the partner of Adrienne Rich, who also had a limited-edition broadside published by Helaine Victoria Press, which is included in the holdings of the Bingham Center.

Tribal Connexions: A Celebration of 2 years of Aché

This booklet marks the two-year anniversary of Aché, a Black lesbian journal based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A pioneering publication, Aché was “born out of our need, as Black Lesbians in the Bay Area, to have our own issues addressed, separate from the larger ‘Woman of Color’ community” (from the introduction to the first issue). The typical issue contains relevant articles on topics including artists and authors, healing and spirituality, international Black lesbian communities, art, poetry, and interviews. This anniversary booklet includes photographs and biographies of contributors, reproductions of journal covers, and a poem by Storme Webber.

Meanwhile, Elsewhere: Science Fiction & Fantasy from Transgender Writers

Meanwhile, Elsewhere is winner of the 2018 American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award. The collection brings together twenty short stories of science fiction and fantasy from transgender writers. When its original publisher went out of business the book fell out of print, LittlePuss Press republished the volume in 2021.