All posts by John Gartrell

Researching Migrant Exclusion in the Human Rights Archives

Post contributed by Llana Barber, Associate Professor of American Studies at the College at Old Westbury (State University of New York) and author of Latino City: Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000She was a recipient of a 2018 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

Political cartoon depicting Haitian migrants
National Coalition for Haitian Rights Collection

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that all people have the right to emigrate – to leave their country. There is, however, no corollary right to immigrate – to enter another sovereign nation – inscribed in international law. I wondered what it means that people have the right to leave their country of origin, but all other countries have the right to deny them entry? Does that effectively just give people the right to die at sea, as thousands of migrants do each year, or in treacherous desert borderlands?

I am a historian of migration to the United States, but it has become clear to me through my research that U.S. immigration and border policies are actually designed to keep most of the world out. To truly understand those policies and practices, it isn’t enough to study the history of those small numbers of people who immigrate; we must write the history of those turned away.

My current research explores the incarceration, interdiction, repatriation, and deportation of Haitian migrants, including asylum seekers, from the 1970s to 1990s. I argue that this militarized migrant exclusion was central to the formation of the U.S. as a nativist state – a political economic system centered on controlling human mobility across national borders – beginning in the 1980s. Other nations adopted similar policies of excluding or periodically expelling Haitian migrants in this era, particularly the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. In concert, these practices functioned to deny most Haitians the fundamental right to emigrate.

Photo of Haitian migrants from Caribbean Sea Migration
Haitians watch anxiously as INS agents and USCG personnel from cutter Chase board their 35-foot craft on 25 October 1981, Caribbean Sea Migration Collection

A generous Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant enabled me to begin exploring several relevant and rich collections at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. While I was only able to spend a week at the Rubenstein Library on this initial visit, I plan to return for another month of research, and it will take even longer to work my way through the stunning digitized Radio Haiti and Caribbean Sea Migrations collections.

A major strength of these collections, from what I have seen so far, is that they cross national and linguistic borders. The National Coalition for Haitian Rights collection, for example, contains activist records and investigative reports from Haiti, the U.S., the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, and an array of other countries. Material is in English, French, Haitian Creole, and Spanish. Research in this collection truly gives a sense of how central Haitian asylum seekers became to global political struggles around racism, imperialism, and migrant rights in the late 20th century.

Most importantly, the voices of individual Haitians on the island and in diaspora resonate clearly in these collections.

Educational Opportunity and Legal Strategy: Exploring the ACLU of North Carolina Records

Post contributed by Esther Cyna, doctoral student in History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, a recipient of a 2018 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

How did advocates for equal educational opportunities for children in North Carolina shift their legal strategies when desegregation battles became increasingly difficult to wage in the mid-1970s? It is with this research question in mind that I explored the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (NCCLU) records, which are part of the Human Rights Archive at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. I spent a week exploring this rich collection to get a better understanding of civil rights attorneys’ thinking.

One case in particular captures many of the tensions that my work seeks to disentangle: Leandro v. State of North Carolina, the major school finance case in the state, tackles issues of educational inequalities in the state and sheds light on structural inequities exacerbated by an inequitable funding formula, and provides a fascinating example of how legal strategy changed over time.[1]

While at Duke University, I had the honor of interviewing a leading scholar and attorney in the field, Prof. John Charles Boger, former Dean of the UNC Law School, whose name appeared in the NCCLU papers on several occasions, and who was involved in writing amici briefs for the Leandro case in the 1990s and 2000s.[2] I was immersed in the NCCLU papers, and then had a long conversation with Prof. Boger in the Von der Hayden Pavilion, just a few feet away from the archival research room, in a wonderful dialogue between written sources and human accounts.

One of the major themes in this research is the relationship between funding inequities and test scores, and implications for poor students’ opportunities. The period that I study witnessed the rise of standards-based reform and standardized testing, most notably promoted by Governor Jim Hunt. Attorneys in the Leandro case underlined the disturbing correlation between low-wealth—and therefore low funding, since school funding relies on property tax—and low achievement as measured by standardized tests. The following excerpts from the initial Leandro complaint points out that students in poor, rural counties in the state often failed on the state’s own standards because of a chronic lack of resources in their districts.[3] Attorneys claimed this was evidence of the state’s failure to honor its constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education to all children in the state:

“The inadequacies of the educational opportunities for schoolchildren in the plaintiff districts may also be seen from the State’s designation of the school systems of Halifax, Hoke, Robeson, and Vance Counties as being on either low performing or warning status for 1991, 1992, and 1993.” (Complaint draft, Leandro v. State, May 25, 1994, p. 21)

“A further indication of the inadequate educational opportunities available to schoolchildren in the plaintiff districts is student performance on the State’s own standardized tests.” (Complaint draft, Leandro v. State, May 25, 1994, p. 76)

Delving into these issues thus provides us with necessary context to understand what many have called the “achievement gap,” as well as labels such as “low performing” and “failing,” which became increasingly used to designate poor, struggling school districts at the end of the 20th century.

In the Common Sense Foundation records of the Human Rights Archive, I found that in 2001, a commission sponsored by the Durham Public Education Network studied the discrepancy between test scores of white students and black and Hispanic students in the public schools of Durham, North Carolina. 90% of white and Asian students performed at or above grade level in reading and math, compared to 60% of African American students. The report included the following sentence in bold, capital letters: “the achievement gap is no one’s fault, but it’s everyone’s responsibility.”[4] The statement suggests that differences in test scores between students could not be traced to the decisions and policies of historical actors. The commission agreed that the difference should be addressed, but it presented it as a disembodied reality: the “achievement gap”—as measured by standardized testing in 2001—had no history, no context, and no fixed meaning. Yet understanding the history of unequal funding and chronic disadvantage for poor school districts and poor students sheds light on a true, documented opportunity gap.

The Marshall T. Meyer travel grant allowed me to delve into archival sources that will be the backbone of a chapter on legal strategy in my dissertation, and I want to thank Patrick Stawski and the entire staff at the library for their support. Not only did I gather important archival sources, but I was also able to really gain a much better understanding of the legal and economic context of the period I am investigating. I left the library with a lot of pictures, but more importantly with a deeper and much more nuanced understanding of people’s actions, discourse, and beliefs.

[1] American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Records, Box 323, Folder: “Paralegal Office Cases, Leandro (4 of 14), Complaint / Super Ct.,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[2] See for example NCCLU papers, Box 284, Folder: Legal Committee Meeting Minutes, 1987, July 17-1997, Dec. 6. Prof. Boger’s work was praised in a NCCLU meeting document: “Leandro v. State – amicus brief was filed at the NC Supreme Court. Kudos were given to Ann Hubbard and Jack Boger for their fantastic job on the brief.”

[3] Complaint draft of Leandro v. State, May 25, 1994, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Records, Box 323, Folder: “Paralegal Office Cases, Leandro (4 of 14), Complaint / Super Ct,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[4] “Closing the Achievement Gap Through Community Action” Spring 2001, Common Sense Foundation Records, Box 14, Folder: “Achievement Gap,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. I also found a copy of this document in the Theresa El-Amin papers. “Closing the Achievement Gap Through Community Action” Spring 2001, Box 4, Folder “Durham Public Schools: Education+Testing,” sub-folder “Closing the Achievement Gap,” Theresa El-Amin papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript, Duke University.

How to Define A Successful Synagogue and Other Practices of Activism

Post contributed by William R. Benner, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Speech, and Foreign Languages at Texas Woman’s University, a recipient of a 2018 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

Bet-el Pamphlet from the Marshall Meyers Papers
“Bet-el pamphlet 1984”, Marshall T. Meyer Papers, Box 14, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

How do we fight for truth and justice in a market driven present? This is an ethical question that is central to my current research on the post-dictatorship generation’s brand of activism in the Southern Cone and it is a question that drew me to the Marshall T. Meyer papers in the Human Rights Archive housed in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. My trip was made possible by a generous Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant. I would like to thank Patrick Stawski and Eric Meyers for their expertise and enthusiasm in my research. I would also like to thank the staff at the Rubenstein and Perkins Libraries for their professionalism.

After a week of diving into the Marshall T. Meyer and the Abraham Joshua Heschel archives, I began to notice a curious difference between Heschel’s and Meyer’s usage of synagogue pamphlets. While Heschel’s pamphlets emphasize the progressive vision of Jewish life within the current cultural, philosophical and political atmosphere, Meyer’s Bet El pamphlets include a wider range of local and international political and cultural topics. Further, Bet El’s pamphlets were clearly written for adolescents as there is a section at the back that asks the youth about a variety of topics. Interestingly, Meyer even included advertising for local companies whose employees supported the synagogue.  When asked in the magazine Nueva presencia about the success of the Bet El synagogue during the repressive military dictatorship in Buenos Aires (1976-1983), Marshall Meyer responded by insisting “éxito” or “success” was an inappropriate term to describe the growth of Bet El. He explained that the term is used for commercial reasons and puts synagogues in competition with each other. Instead, Meyer states that it is the congregation’s collective search for an authentic spiritual identity that has encouraged the community to grow.

Bet-el pamphlet from the Marshall Meyer Papers
“Bet-el pamphlet 1984”, Marshall T. Meyer Papers, Box 14, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

I am currently working on an article examining Meyer’s use of pamphlets to distribute his progressive vision of religious activism. Meyer’s ‘success’ and his discomfort with the notion of commercial success is a conflict that I observe in the recent artistic productions by the post-dictatorship generation in Argentina. For example, in the blog Diario de una princesa montonera, the author and child of the disappeared Mariana Eva Perez confesses “Luchás por la identidad y la justicia y al mismo tiempo acumulás millas/ You fight for truth and justice and at the same time you accumulate [frequent flyer] miles”. Perez, like Meyer before her, struggles with the idea that she is in some way profiting off of the suffering of others. In the future, I hope to incorporate my archival work on Marshall T. Meyer in a larger book project that will attempt to articulate different practices of human rights activism during and after the last dictatorship in Argentina and how these practices addressed the ethical issue of ‘success’.

 

 

Joint Center for Political Studies and Economic Studies Records now open for research

Post submitted by Leah Kerr, Project Archivist, Rubenstein Library Technical Services

The Joint Center for Political Studies and Economic Studies (JCPES) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that informs programs and policy seeking to improve the socioeconomic status and civic engagement of African Americans. The think tank was founded in 1970 as the Joint Center for Political Studies (JCPS) to aid black elected officials create effective policy and successfully serve their constituents. Founders included the social psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, and newspaper editor Louis E. Martin. The organization later became the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) 1990.

Assorted print materials from the Joint Center archive

The collection is comprised of administrative records including correspondence, memorandums, budgets, funding reports, publications, policy research studies, conference materials, photographs, audiovisual media, and electronic records. Among its many publications, JCPES published FOCUS magazine from 1972 to 2011, which covered national issues for an audience largely comprised of black elected officials (BEOs). The collection also includes oral histories and interview transcripts, an extensive history of JCPES, and original Southern Regional Council publications. The JCPES Records collection is rich with photographs from events including presidents, the Congressional Black Caucus, and many African American mayors and other elected officials.

Follow link to the collection guide: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/jcpes/

Socialism & States’ Rights

 

Post submitted by Ali Nabours, Human Rights Archives, Marshall T. Meyer Research Grant recipient

I recently had the honor of conducting dissertation research at the lovely David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Human Rights Archive, made possible by the Marshall T. Meyer Research Grant and the helpful, hospitable staff.

My research reveals connections between Populism and Progressivism, in both the implementation of the New Deal, and the formation of Louisiana Governor-turned-Senator Huey P. Long’s Share Our Wealth program. Both are part of a single tradition I refer to as Southern Socialism. Comparing letters and clippings in the Huey P. Long Papers with the David Gordon George Papers suggests that, to dissidents, “states’ rights” was about resisting federal intervention, not about limiting government involvement at the state and local levels.

George’s writing captured the Virginian’s evolution from Socialist to “a New Deal Democrat, with a small ‘d’ on the democrat.” Although George went on to become a mainstream Southern conservative – supporting both Barry Goldwater and George Wallace in later decades – in the 1930s he represented one iteration of the South’s Leftist tradition. Clippings George preserved demonstrate the values that motivated him to join the Socialist Party, and later leave it. He eschewed party affiliation, rejecting Southern Democrats, who maintained anti-democratic policies such as the poll tax, and Socialists, whom he believed “moved so far to the leftward it is in danger of committing political ‘suicide.’”[i]

In 1937, George wrote a series of articles which illustrate the maintenance of Confederate identity among white Progressives even as they embraced seemingly contradictory values and policies of the political Left. George promoted the Lost Cause cultural identity in several stories for the Sunday Magazine of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, referring to the Confederate flag as contemporary Southerners’ “own flag,’ comparing the last battles of the Confederate Navy to epic Viking funerals, and praising “almost self-sufficient plantations” as the most “outstanding feature” of the Old South.[ii] His affinity for Southern nationalism is remarkable when juxtaposed with other articles in George’s papers advocating Leftist priorities, including government intervention in the establishment of co-operatives, racial justice, state-supported vocational and academic education, and expanding democracy through repealing the poll tax.[iii]

Individuals often simultaneously subscribe to two seemingly contradictory ideologies, yet George’s disparate interests suggest that, for him and other members of the Southern Left, states’ rights were not incompatible with a sort of “small scale” socialism.[iv] “States’ rights” to George was not about slavery or the protection of the socioeconomic status quo, but rather, about a government-supported cooperation to benefit the South’s labor force, which was inextricably tied to local geography through agriculture or extractive industries such as mining and lumber. For dissidents outside the Socialist Party, suspicion of a distant federal government melded with a community-based agrarian tradition, creating a coherent socialist vision tailored to the South.

This way of thinking may explain Huey Long’s peculiar politics. Long’s Populist and Socialist priorities were frequently based on local- and state-level control, not nationalization. For example, Long favored securing and promoting state banks over national banking reform, arguing in a letter to supporters, “One of the first things we must try to do now, before it is too late, is to save the system of community banks for the people so that all resources of finance may not be more closely tied up in a few hands.”[v] Likewise, the Conference of Southern Governors, which David George served as a board member, outlined methods for the states to repeal anti-democratic policies without federal legislation.[vi] Socialist policies in the South were conceived as state, not national, initiatives, making “states’ rights” the right to manage their own economies – just as their Confederacy had done in the war to protect slavery.

[i] “George Asserts Socialist Party Nearing Suicide,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Nov. 17, 1935), David Gordon George Papers, Box 7, Folder: Socialist Activities, Clippings, 1933-1935, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[ii] George, David G., “The Flags of the Confederacy,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Dec. 5, 1937), Box 12, Folder: Printed Material and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1937, 1 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; George, David, “The Shenandoah — Last to Fly Southern Cross,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Oct. 17, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, Box 12, Folder: Printed Material and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1937, 1 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; George, David G., “Curles Neck — A Modern Plantation,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Nov. 7, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, Box 12, Folder: Printed Material and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1934-1937, 2 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[iii] George, David G., “The Virginia Farmer Approaches Co-Operation.” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Oct. 10, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, Box 12, Folder: Serial and Writings, Newspapers and Clippings, 1934-1937, 2 of 2, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; George, David G. “Independent Candidate for House of Delegates To Represent Hanover and King William Counties,” Pamphlet (November 7, 1939), David Gordon George Papers, Box 7, Folder: Elections, 1939-1941, 1939 George Campaign, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University; “The Sins of the Poll Tax,” Richmond Times-Dispatch (Nov. 28, 1937), David Gordon George Papers, 1919-1976, Box 4, Folder: Poll Tax, 1937-1942, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[iv] Granting that Southerners resented national business monopolies and the global economic system as much as other Americans, the South was unique in that land monopolies were largely local. A lasting distrust for the federal government among white Southerners, the perpetuation of the plantation system, and a period in which dissent leaned Left combined to encourage local- and state-level reforms, as opposed to nationalization.

[v] Huey P. Long to “My dear Friend,” Letter, (Jan 28, 1933), Huey Pierce Long Papers, 1929-1940. Section A, Box 85, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[vi] Conference of Southern Governors, “Plain Facts About the Poll Tax,” Pamphlet (ca. 1943), David Gordon George Papers, Box 4, Folder: Poll Tax, 1937-1942, David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

SNCC Digital Gateway Closing Events, March 23-24

SNCC Digital Gateway Closing Events

Dates: March 23-24, 2018

Locations: March 23 – White Lecture Hall, Duke East Campus, March 24 – LeRoy T. Walker Complex, North Carolina Central University

On Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Durham, North Carolina, the SNCC Legacy Project, Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, and Duke University Libraries will host closing events for the SNCC Digital Gateway, a project made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This two-day symposium will reflect on the creation of the SNCC Digital Gateway, where those who made the history are central to telling the story. Activists, scholars, and archivists together reflect on how SNCC’s organizing can inform struggles for self-determination, justice, and democracy today. Highlights include: Keynotes by Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson, co-executive director, Highlander Research & Education Center and philip agnew, co-director, Dream Defenders. We hope you can join us! Follow this link to register and see the full schedule: https://snccdigital.org/conference/

Assassination of a Saint: winner of Duke 2017 Méndez Book award

Post contributed by Patrick Stawski, Archivist, Human Rights Archive

Assassination of a Saint: winner of Duke 2017 Méndez Book award

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Noon – 1:00 pm

Rubenstein Library Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room 153

photo of Assassination of a Saint
Assassination of a Saint by Matt Eisenbrandt

Duke University named Matt Eisenbrandt’s Assassination of a Saint: The plot to murder Óscar Romero and the quest to bring his killers to justice (University of California Press, 2017) the winner of the 2017 Méndez Book Award.   Eisenbrandt will be visiting Duke on March 20, 2018 to receive the award and discuss his book.  The event is free and open to the public, light lunch served.  Following the event, The Gothic Bookstore will be selling copies of the book and Eisenbrant will be on hand for a signing.

Assassination of a Saint traces the thrilling story of how an international team of lawyers, private investigators, and human-rights experts fought to bring justice for the slain archbishop. Eisenbrandt, a lawyer who was part of the investigative team, recounts how he and his colleagues interviewed eyewitnesses and former members of death squads while searching for evidence on those who financed them, with profound implications for El Salvador and the United States.

This award honors the leadership of Juan E. Méndez, a human rights champion who has devoted his life to the defense of human rights. First awarded in 2008, this award selects among the best current non-fiction books published in English on human rights, democracy, and social justice in contemporary Latin America.  Méndez’ papers are housed at Duke’s Human Rights Archive.

Co-sponsored by the Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), the Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute (DHRC@FHI), and the Forum for Scholars and Publics.

A Cylinder from ‘On the Square’

This post is contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent Intern, History of Medicine Collections

Purified talcum powder, 20th century
Morganton, NC: Spake Pharmacy
Item hbirdw0001
Warren Bird Collection Artifacts
History of Medicine artifacts collection, 1550-1980s

There are many extraordinary items in the History of Medicine artifacts collection: Bloodletting fleams, trepanation kits, bone saws, and ivory handled dental tools. But for me, the most magic dwells in the unassuming items that ask us to tell their stories, such as a diminutive paper cylinder measuring 3 ¼ inches in height and 2 inches in diameter. This Kraft brown tube is capped on each side by scalloped-edge paper in dark blue. I fall in love with the simplicity and utility of this object – its design, its size, its weight in my hands. A small amount of its contents, Purified Talcum Powder, remains inside. A label emblazoned across the front declares that the product was dispensed at Spake Pharmacy in Morganton, North Carolina.

The January 1937 edition of The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy heralds the opening of the Mimosa City’s newest drug store: “The Spake Pharmacy is the name of a new drug store which was formally opened in Morganton on Dec. 9 (1936) by Mr. Y. E. Spake. The new proprietor has spent fourteen years in drug work in Morganton, coming to that town from Kings Mountain where he was a partner in the wholesale drug firm of the Mauney Drug Co. The prescriptionist will be Mr. W. P. Phillips, originally from Morehead City, who goes to Morganton from Charlotte where he was connected with J. P. Stowe and Co. The new store, Mr. Spake says, ‘will offer complete prescription service, in addition to maintaining a modern fountain and a complete line of other medical supplies, cosmetics, and other goods.’”[1] At the time of the store’s opening, purified talcum powder could be obtained from a wholesale druggist for approximately 20 to 40 cents per pound.

Freeman’s Violet Talcum, 1900s-1910s
Freeman Perfume Co., Cincinnati. Text on reverse explains difference between talcum and face powders. Offer for a sample of Freeman’s Face Powder. For sale by G.E.B. Fairbanks Druggist, Providence, R.I.
Cosmetics Trade Samples and Sachet collection, 1890s-1930s
Box 1
Item RL11349-0024

Talcum powder is a refined powder form of the mineral talc, which rose to commercial popularity during the 19th and 20th centuries. Advertised as ‘thoroughly antiseptic’ and intended for use by the young and old alike, it was generally applied after bathing, shaving, or partaking in outdoor activities. Talcum powder was thought to cool the skin on hot days, sooth irritation, and keep the skin ‘comfortable.’ On babies, it was used to prevent chafing and ‘nappy’ soreness. Adults dusted the powder on their bodies to absorb dampness and neutralize body odors. Advertisements aimed specifically at women promoted its scented quality, proclaiming that talcum powder would keep them ‘dainty’ and fragrant ‘like a newly opened flower’ when essential oils were added to the product – typically rose, lavender or violet. Given its myriad uses, powder-filled tin canisters, glass bottles, and paper cylinders like the one dispensed at Spake Pharmacy, would have been a common sight within the medicine cabinets and on the dressing tables of many American households.

Ross, M. (1944). The 1944 Cat’s Tale, Vol. II. Morganton, NC: Morganton High School, 79.

Occupying a small space on North Sterling Street, Spake Pharmacy first operated under the catchphrase, “The little store with the big heart.” In addition to dispensing and delivering prescriptions, they sold fountain drinks, Blue Ridge Ice Cream, and Martha Washington candies. In the early 1940s, Yates Ellis Spake moved his business to a prominent location at the corner Union and Sterling Streets and adopted the iconic slogan, “On the Square.” While the talcum powder cylinder is undated, the presence of this simple slogan on the label indicates that it was dispensed sometime after the move.

Between 1936 and January of 1953, Spake and his team filled over 300,000 prescriptions.[2] A set of these were captured in a small 1950s feature, entitled ‘Rx Oddity’: “Yates E. Spake of Morganton sends us a list of three prescriptions filled for a customer recently: (1) 1 bottle of Cortone Tablets, $30; (2) 1 Rx for Terramycin Caps., $14.40; and (3) 1 Rx for an ice cream cone, 5c. ‘I have never experienced anything like this during all my years in the drug business,’ says Yates.”[3]

 

(September 1946). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXVII(9), 378.
Y.E. Spake appears as the first standing from left.

Under the leadership of J.A. Hurt, Spake Pharmacy moved locations for a third and final time in 1966 to 307 West Union Street. Spake Pharmacy last appears in the Carolina Journal of Pharmacy’s ‘List of Drug Stores’ for Morganton in 1970 with J. A. Hurt, Jr. certified as pharmacist in charge. By 1971, the address was assumed by Burke Pharmacy, Inc.

[1]Happenings of Interest. (January 1937). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XVIII(1), 8.Named Manager of Spake Pharmacy. (March 1953). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXXIV(3), 94.

[2]Named Manager of Spake Pharmacy. (March 1953). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXXIV(3), 94

[3]Rx Oddity. (December 1951). The Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. XXXII(12), 581.

‘Hidden Figures’ in the Robert A. Hill Collection: Mittie Maude Lena Gordon

Post contributed by Meggan Cashwell, Franklin Research Center Graduate Intern, PhD candidate, Department of History

The FBI records in the Robert A. Hill Collection are extensive and include trial transcripts, government profiles of black nationalists, and reports of racial conditions during the Great Depression and Second World War (i.e., Hill’s 1995 publication The FBI’s RACON). Hill spent many years tracking down these documents for his research on Marcus Garvey since the FBI followed Garvey while he was living in the U.S. What I found fascinating when I was working on processing this portion of the collection is that it illuminates the lives of black nationalists largely hidden from view, such as Mittie Maude (Maud) Lena Gordon (1889-1961).

The obvious roadblock facing any researcher wishing to explore FBI records, however, is that much of the content is redacted (see document). The challenge, then, is to use what remains to uncover the important contributions that Gordon and other lesser-known activists made. During my research to better inform our collection processing, I noticed that scholars of the Black Nationalist movement have pointed out that the focus on Marcus Garvey has in large part overshadowed the efforts of women. While Garvey-centered, the materials in the Robert A. Hill Collection allow us explore the life and work of female activists like Gordon, recognizing the important role of women in addition to better understanding Garvey’s impact in the U.S. both before and after his mail fraud conviction and subsequent deportation back to Jamaica in 1927.

Gordon was born in Louisiana and grew up in Arkansas with her nine siblings. Her family followed the teachings of Bishop Henry McNeal Turner, who advanced the idea that former slaves should relocate to Africa. Gordon adopted many of Turner’s views, namely that there was no other viable option for African Americans, particularly those living in the South, but to leave the U.S. As an adult, Gordon moved to Chicago where she joined Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and became the “lady president” of her division. Gender discrimination within the UNIA caused her to disaffiliate in 1929. In 1932 she established the Peace Movement of Ethiopia (PME) in her restaurant and garnered around 300,000 members. It was there that she launched a Liberian letter-writing campaign that linked the struggles of the Great Depression to those facing Liberians. The campaign culminated into a petition bearing almost a half a million signatures that she sent to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in which she requested support for African Americans to move to Liberia.

Gordon’s dreams of African American relocation were never realized. She was arrested in 1942 at a PME meeting and charged with sedition on grounds that she had used the meetings to foster opposition to the war effort (see document). Gordon refuted the claims, but was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison in 1943.

Gordon’s trial is one of many transcripts in the FBI portion of the Hill Collection. These documents tell us a great deal about racial conditions during the 1930s and ‘40s and what activism looked like on the ground. My hope is that by shedding light on Gordon’s life and other female black radicals, we can broaden our understanding of the Black Nationalist movement and how we approach the materials that record its history.

This blog is based on research documents in the Robert A. Hill Collection as well as secondary literature. For further reading on Gordon, see Keisha Blain’s forthcoming, Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

Engravings of Clemens Kohl

Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections

 

Currently on display in the Josiah C. Trent History of Medicine Room are six engravings from Clemens Kohl, a prolific illustrator and engraver from the eighteenth century.  The engravings on display can be found in the work Die Welt in Bildern: vorzüglich zum Vergnügen und Unterricht der Jugend (The World in Pictures: Especially for the Pleasure and Instruction of the Youth) by Joseph Edlem von Baumeister. Published in Vienna in the late eighteenth century, the six-volume set was intended to give a younger audience a sense of the world through realistic images, which were designed by Johann Sollerer and engraved by Kohl.

While the Rubenstein Library does not retain the multivolume work of von Baumeister, we do have six engravings from Die Welt in Bildern that are medically themed and housed as part of the History of Medicine Picture File. The engravings depict different scenarios: Medicine/Physician, Afflictions/Disabilities, Diseases, the Pharmacy, the Hospital, and Death. Perhaps framed at one point, these hand-colored copperplate engravings would have made a stunning conversation piece.

 

And while you’re visiting the Trent History of Medicine Room, take some time to check out a new rotation of medical instruments and artifacts. From cupping glasses to glass slides with specimens as well as an apothecary boiler and pill roller, hopefully you’ll find an item, or two, to pique your interest.