All posts by John Gartrell

Remembering Bob Moses, 1935-2021

This post was contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center

The Franklin Research Center and Rubenstein Library mourns the loss of Robert “Bob” Parrish Moses, who passed away on July 25, 2021. Moses was giant in the fight for civil and human rights, who began working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as an organizer soon after the organization’s founding in 1960. He worked in tirelessly on a range of issues including voter registration and community organizing in the Deep South, particularly Mississippi, Alabama, and Southwest Georgia. He would later found the Algebra Project in the 1980s, which was evolution of his work with SNCC, using mathematics as an organizing tool while seeking to expand access to a quality education in the United States.

Bob Moses speaking
Bob Moses speaking at SNCC 40th Anniversary Conference, Shaw University

You can use the following resources in our archives and supporting projects like the SNCC Digital Gateway to learn more about Moses’ life and experiences in the struggle for freedom –

SNCC Digital Gateway

Critical Oral Histories

Joseph Sinsheimer Papers

SNCC 40th Anniversary Conference Videocassette Tapes

Faith Holsaert Papers – 

Bob Moses speaking in 2018
Bob Moses (center, blue coat) leading discussion at SNCC Digital Gateway Closing Conference, 2018 (photo courtesy of Kim Johnson, SNCC Legacy Project)

Duke University has had the honor of working Moses and his SNCC comrades for decades. This work continues today through the collaborative work of the Movement History Initiative. May he rest in power.

NEH Implementation Grant to Duke Libraries Will Increase Access to African American Oral Histories

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

This summer Duke University Libraries will launch a project to provide expanded digital access to the Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South oral history collection, housed in the  David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Libraries and curated by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture.  The project, titled “Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South: Digital Access to the Behind the Veil Project Archive,” received a $350,000 Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Implementation grant supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Behind the Veil (BTV) was undertaken by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (CDS) from 1992–1995 and co-directed by Drs. William Chafe, CDS co-founder and Alice Mary Baldwin Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Robert Korstad, Professor Emeritus of Public Policy, and the late Raymond Gavins, the first African American faculty member in Duke’s Department of History. Chafe, Korstad, and Gavin’s vision for and title of the project refer to the concept of the “veil” introduced by scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois in his iconic book The Souls of Black Folk (1913). In that work, DuBois discussed the metaphorical concept of the veil as “separating the two worlds of white and black,” designed to protect African Americans who had to balance comporting their lives as subservient and compliant in front of a White dominated society while simultaneously living free in their own community.

Henderson, Larry – Birmingham, Behind the Veil Collection

BTV was a groundbreaking documentary project for its time that recorded and preserved the living memory of African American life during the age of segregation in the American South. Over the span of three summers, cohorts of graduate students and early career scholars from universities across the country received training with the project’s scholarly board and then resided in selected locales for two weeks to conduct oral histories. The team conducted interviews with more than one thousand community elders who shared their memories from the Jim Crow Era of legal segregation. Nineteen distinct communities were identified for interviews: Albany, GA; rural Arkansas; Birmingham, AL; Charlotte, NC; Durham, NC; Enfield, NC; New Bern, NC; LeFlore County, NC; Memphis, TN; Muhlenberg, KY; New Iberia, LA; New Orleans, LA; Norfolk, VA; Orangeburg, SC; St. Helena, SC; Summerton, SC; Tallahassee, FL; Tuskegee, AL; and Wilmington, NC.

 

All of the BTV project files were transferred to the John Hope Franklin Research Center in subsequent years after the project’s completion. The BTV collection encompasses a number of formats including over 1,200 taped audio cassette interviews and 3,000 photographic strips, slides and prints, manuscript project files, training materials, administrative records, and born-digital files. The grant work will focus on the digitization and transcription of the oral histories, scanning of the photographic materials, and sharing the collection’s contents with students, educators, and the wider public through virtual programs and webinars. The digital collection will be published in the Duke Digital Repository, where 410 BTV interviews are currently accessible for research. Funds will also allow the project team to hire graduate level interns for archival processing, digitization, and outreach.

 

John B. Gartrell, director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center and principal investigator for the grant noted, “The Behind the Veil collection is one of the most used collections in the Franklin Research Center. These oral histories truly broaden our understanding of the everyday lives of African Americans during the early-to-mid twentieth century. They represent one of the largest bodies of scholarship on African American life documenting that time, and I’m excited to share the depth of these stories and honor the scholars who recorded them.” Gartrell will be joined by co-principal investigator Giao Luong Baker, who serves as Duke Libraries’ Digital Production Services Manager. Together they will lead the digitization efforts in collaboration with library colleagues over the course of the next three years (2021–2024).

 

 

 

 

Call for Submissions: 2021 Human Rights Audio Documentary Award

Post Contributed by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist

Annoncement Date: June 1st, 2021

What is audio documentary? How do recording technologies, sonic vernaculars, activism, and dissent come together in a documentary art form that engages with our ears?

This new award, sponsored by the Human Rights Archive and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, seeks to support outstanding documentary artists exploring human rights and social justice and expand the audio holdings in the Archive for long-term preservation and access. The awardee will receive a $2,500 honorarium and be invited to give a talk at Duke.

In our inaugural year we will focus on works that explore language. Books are burned, buildings are bull-dozed, bodies are buried…and people escape with only their language and the memory work it will enable. How can spoken language serve as a form of sonic resistance to colonialism and cultural genocide? How does language persevere even when individuals and entire communities are disappeared? How do the language practices of the indigenous, the displaced, the incarcerated, and the oppressed buttress memory, build community and identity, and demand social justice and human rights?

Why should I apply?
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 the influence that has on private and government policies.

We encourage submissions from individuals or groups from across the globe, whose work is not already in the collections of the Rubenstein Library. Documentarians working in their own communities are encouraged to apply, and we are particularly interested in submissions from communities underrepresented in the archives. We are not accepting submissions from employees of Duke University, or those currently enrolled in a degree-granting program.

For more information on the award and how to apply please visit: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/human-rights/audio-award

This award is an initiative of the Human Rights Archive and the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Learn more about Special Collections at Duke…

Contacts:

Patrick A. Stawski, Human Rights Archivist, patrick.stawski@duke.edu, and Caitlin Margaret Kelly, Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts & Director Power Plant Gallery, caitlin.kelly@duke.edu

Remembering the Tulsa Race Massacre, 100 Years Later

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

From May 31-June 1, 1921, the Tulsa Race Massacre took place in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, OK. Greenwood was one of the most economically prosperous African American communities in the country and earned the name “Black Wall Street.” The events of that day were said to have been sparked by the actions of a mob comprised of White Tulsa citizens that wanted to exact “justice” on a young black teen who had allegedly assaulted a White woman; which at the time was considered an affront to the Jim Crow power structure designed to keep African Americans in Tulsa, and throughout the country, in a subservient social class. The actions of that mob resulted in the looting and burning of businesses, churches, and homes, and the death of anywhere between 100 and 300 African American residents of Tulsa. 

Among the victims during those tumultuous days was Buck Colbert Franklin, father of Dr. John Hope Franklin. Buck Franklin had relocated to Tulsa a few months prior to the massacre to grow his law practice. When the violence occurred, his offices, like so many other buildings in the Greenwood District, were burned and also delayed the arrival of his wife and children to join him in Tulsa for four years. As one the few practicing African American lawyers in the state of Oklahoma, Buck Franklin took up the lawsuits of the African American citizens as they attempted to seek insurance payments, civil and criminal settlements for the events that took place. 

Buck C. Franklin working in a tent after the Tulsa Massacre

Some of the archival legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre can be located in the collections of the Rubenstein Library and the John Hope Franklin Research Center. The following materials document what took place and the history of community members seeking justice, reparation, and reconciliation for two of the darkest days in our country’s history:

John Hope Franklin Papers – https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/franklinjohnhope 

  • Writings Series, contains a number of writings by John Hope Franklin and others on the race riots
  • Personal Series, Franklin family photographs including images of Buck Franklin
  • Service Series, contains article clippings of news stories on the riots, also materials related to a 2003 Tulsa Race Riot lawsuit, Franklin’s participation in the Tulsa Race Riots Reconciliation Committee
  • Audiovisual Series, VHS, The Greenwood Blues: The Tulsa Race War of 1921 (1983)

Thomas Dixon Jr Papers – https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/dixonthomas

  • Includes a letter from Jerome Dowd reflecting on the Tulsa Race Riot

Duke Oral History Program collection – https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/duohp

  • 13 interviews conducted in 1978 by Scott Ellworth for his study Death in the Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot, 1921 
  • Interviews with: B.E. Caruthers, Nathaniel Duckery, Robert Fairchild, Victor H. Hodge, Mozella Franklin Jones, Mr. and Mrs. I.S. Pittman, Henry Whitlow, N.C. Williams, Seymour Williams, William D. Williams

Events of the Tulsa Disaster by Mary E. Jones Parrish, 1922

Panorama of ruined Greenwood District printed in the Events of the Tulsa Disaster by Mary E. Jones Parrish

Before they Die: survivors of the Tulsa Race Riot 1921, 2008

Magic City by Jewell Parker Rhodes, 1997 [fiction]

Intergenerational Collaboration Makes History

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

A new initiative developed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project (SLP), the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, the Duke Libraries, the New Georgia Project, BYP 100, and the Ohio Voice and made possible by a $630,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, aims to document how today’s activists built their social and political movements.  An understanding of the present day mobilizing of protest and political organizing will allow future generations to learn from the experience of today’s movements, their development, and how their achievements offer practical lessons in the struggle for human and civil rights.

The multi-generational project team based in the Duke University Libraries will convene and record conversations among three generations of activists—SNCC veterans of the Emmett Till generation, young people of the Trayvon Martin generation now leading the Movement for Black Lives, and the new generation of organizers mobilizing in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

“Over the past sixty years, the idea and ideal of American Democracy has been shaped by the three groups that will participate in the intergenerational discussions,” Courtland Cox, Chair, SNCC Legacy Project. A key goal of these conversations is to pass on informational wealth, knowledge and practical guidance between and among the generations. The dialogues will also allow contemporary activists to tell the story of their movements from their own perspective. Hence the project’s name—Our Story. Our Terms: Documenting Movement Building from the Inside Out.

Group photo of SNCC and Movement Veterans
Group photo of SNCC and Movement Veterans at the SNCC Digital Gateway closing events, 2018

“We at the Center for Documentary Studies are excited to nurture this essential sharing-of-work among people who are bringing us closest to the aspirations of self-determination and democracy. It’s a privilege to take part in this project with our partners — we’re paving the way for coming generations to build without fear of losing, forgetting, or ignoring their hard-won knowledge and what Courtland so aptly calls ‘informational wealth.’” Wesley Hogan, Director, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

The three-year project will also partner today’s activist organizations with early career archivists who have experience working with groups underrepresented in the archives. The idea is to bring movement organizers and archivists together to use practical and digital tools so that today’s organizers can tell their own stories on their own terms and ensure that their records endure. It will also provide training for those archivists to center ethical practices rooted in respect for community driven archives and learn from movement organizers. Documenting movements that are in-progress today will also serve to inform and encourage future activists and archivists alike.

Group photo at SDG closing events
Movement veterans and young activists converse at the SNCC Digital Gateway closing events in 2018

At the conclusion of the project, a digital collection of pivotal historical materials documenting contemporary organizing efforts will be made available online. In addition, all materials generated by the Our Story Project, including the recorded conversations among activists, will be preserved and housed in the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, part of Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

This isn’t the first collaboration between Duke and SNCC veterans. The Our Story Project will build on the example of the SNCC Digital Gateway, a widely used documentary website hosted by Duke that allows visitors to explore the history of the 1960s voting rights organization in detail. That groundbreaking initiative —also funded by The Mellon Foundation—brought together activists, academics, students, and archivists to create a digital history of SNCC that places the voices of SNCC veterans at its center.

Group photo of MHI
Selected members of the SNCC Digital Gateway and Our Stories, Our Terms project planning group

“The Our Story Project is an outstanding example of how libraries and archives are learning from and sharing space with communities long underrepresented at elite universities, as well as advocating for increased representation of marginalized stories in our nation’s historical record,” said Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs at Duke, one of the project’s principal investigators. “We are grateful for The Mellon Foundation’s generous support of this important work.”

To see examples of other collaborations between Duke, the SNCC Legacy Project, the Center for Documentary Studies, and other project partners, visit our webpage.

Carl Spielvogel, 1928-2021

Post submitted by Jacqueline Reid Wachholz, Director, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, & Marketing History

The Rubenstein Library mourns the loss of Carl Spielvogel, advertising executive, diplomat, and donor, who died April 21st.  He started his long career at the NY Times and was their six day a week advertising columnist from 1957-60.  His successful column caught the eye of many folks on Madison Avenue, but Marion Harper hired him for public relations at the ad agency McCann-Erickson in 1960, which led to a long career with that agency and its future parent company,

Interpublic, where he ultimately became vice-chairman.  He left Interpublic in 1979 and soon after partnered with Bill Backer to found a new ad agency, Backer Spielvogel.  Against all odds the startup agency quickly took off with several big clients, including Miller beer, for whom the agency coined the slogan “It’s Miller Time,” and “everything you ever wanted in a beer … and less” for its product Miller Lite.  The new agency succeeded in taking large accounts away from other agencies, but maintained its small agency advantages of flexibility and personal service.  He retired from the agency he helped found in 1994 and undertook other ventures as chairman and chief executive of United Auto Group, and later found Carl Spielvogel Enterprises, a global investment and marketing company. President Bill Clinton appointed him ambassador to Slovakia from 2000 to 2001.  A lifelong New Yorker, Spielvogel also served as board member for many corporate, civic and cultural institutions.

The Rubenstein Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History has the papers of Carl Spielvogel, including an oral history conducted with him in 2013.

New Collections Spotlight: The Attica Prison Uprising: “If we cannot live as people, then we will at least try to die like men”.

Post Submitted by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist

The Human Rights Archive recently purchased two historical publications documenting the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971.  The Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services/Print Materials Cataloging Section has expertly cataloged these items and they are now available for consultation in the Rubenstein reading room.

In September of 1971 inmates at Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, rebelled against prison authorities and took control of the facility.  After four days of attempted negotiations the state police violently suppressed the rebellion leading to the death of 43 staff and inmates.  The Attica Uprising was a watershed moment in the on-going fight to establish respect for human rights within the penitentiary system and to recognize and reform the racist practices and policies of the criminal justice system which feed the carceral machine.  We can thus understand that Attica is a direct ancestor of social movements such as Black Lives Matter that continue this fight today. Attica: slaughter at Attica: the complete inside story is written by journalist James A. Hudson and published in 1971, soon after the uprising.  The publication begins with a quote from Attica inmate Charles Horatio Crowley who was also known as Brother Flip, “If we cannot live as people, then we will at least try to die like men.”

Attica, it is a right to rebel, Cover

Hudson then sets out to provide the details of the actual events of the uprising and oppression, including first-hand accounts from those who were there, a map of the prison grounds with key locations noted, and photographs of the rebellion, the negotiations, and the state’s attack on the inmates and the horrifying aftermath. Hudson also explores what led up to the riot, investigates if the living conditions at Attica were as inhumane as the inmates claimed, and asks readers to consider what role racism played in the state’s deadly response to the rebellion.

Attica: slaughter at Attica: the complete inside story, view of destruction inside the prison

Another newly available item is Attica, it is a right to rebel authored by the Revolutionary Student Brigade, circa 1972.  Printed in stark black and red, the pamphlet is a collaboration between the RSB, some of the Attica brothers, as well as their supporters.  The pamphlet proclaims that “ATTICA IS NOT A TRAGEDY, but a symbol of militant resistance of oppressed people against a system that tries to crush them.”  In contrast to Hudson’s journalistic tone, The RBG invokes a clear call to solidarity and action with the Attica inmates by all people involved in resisting a racist system that terrorizes Black people.  The back sheet of the pamphlet includes the 33 demands of the Attica rebels, many of which we today recognize as basic human rights, “provide adequate food and water and shelter for this group”, “allow true religious freedom”, “Apply the New York State minimum wage law to all work done by inmates. STOP SLAVE LABOR.”

Cover image, book
Attica: slaughter at Attica: the complete inside story, Cover

These new items join the Human Rights Archives extensive collections on the experiences of the incarcerated, and the impact detention and incarceration have on their families and communities.  These include the papers of Jomo Joka Omowale, one of the Attica Brothers who went on trial in the wake of the uprising, and the papers of Elizabeth Fink, a human rights lawyer who represented prisoners killed and injured during the Attica uprising.  To learn more about these collections and how to access them please visit our research guide.

Attica, it is a right to rebel, 33 Demands of the inmates

Developing a Historical Biography and The Vital Importance of Black History Archives

On February 23, 2021 author Blake Hill-Saya and sponsor C. Eileen Watts-Welch discuss “Aaron McDuffie Moore, An African American Physician, Educator, and Founder of Durham’s Black Wall Street” (2020). Hill-Saya is a classical musician and creative writer. Watts-Welch was former Associate Dean of External Affairs in the School of Nursing at Duke University. The conversation was moderated by John B. Gartrell, director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke University.

Aaron McDuffie Moore was one of the nation’s most influential African American leaders in the early 20th century and a co-founder of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and Lincoln Hospital in Durham, NC. Hill-Saya and Watts-Welch are both descendants of Moore and this project had deep personal connections. They share how their research in the NC Mutual archive (jointly held by Duke and North Carolina Central University) and the collections at Shaw University’s archives aided in illuminating his life and legacy.

This event was co-sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture and the History of Medicine Collections in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University.

 

 

2020 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America

Post Contributed by Patrick Stawski, Archivist, Human Rights Archives 

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America wins 2020 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America

Theresa Keeley’s important and wonderfully detailed book, Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America (Cornell University Press, 2020), is the winner of the 2020 Juan E. Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America.

This is the twelfth year of this prestigious award. The award is supported by the Duke Human Rights Center@the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and the Human Rights Archives at the Rubenstein Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.

Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns is a deep dive into a formative period in human rights, Central American history, and the role of the faith community, in particular the Maryknoll order, on US policy. Keeley will accept the award via a Zoom event that is open to the public. The event will take place on March 16 from 5:30-7 pm.

The judges were unanimous in their praise. Prof. James Chappel, Hunt Assistant Professor of History at Duke University, noted that the book “tells a great story that most people, myself included, know little about. Catholicism, like human rights, is both global and local, and it takes a special kind of historian to explore it with humanity, moral passion, and archival rigor. By integrating geopolitics, theology, and gender into one beautiful narrative, Keeley does all of us a great service.”

Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, currently a senior legal adviser to Human Rights Watch and a former Méndez award winner, commented that the book “covers a history about which I’ve long been curious and that has been central to US human rights policy toward Central America. It does so comprehensively, seriously, and with great care. The author did an impressive amount of research.”

Robin Kirk, chair of the judging committee and the co-director of the Duke Human Rights Center@the Franklin Humanities Institute, commented, “I learned so much from this book: about Central America, US policy, the Maryknolls, and continuing repercussions of divides within Christianity and their links to human rights. Even as an advocate in Latin America, I was unfamiliar with much of this history. So much of this framed the early development of human rights as US policy and a generation of American and European rights activists.”

When notified of the award, Keeley stated, “I am humbled to have my work recognized. At times, I struggled to find ways to convey Central Americans’ and missionaries’ experiences during the 1970s and 1980s. But it was nothing compared to what the people who lived through these difficult, and often violent, times endured. I am thankful to all of the human rights advocates, in the United States and Central America and especially the women religious, who trusted me with their stories. I hope the Méndez Award will bring recognition to them and to the greater need for the U.S. government to consider how its foreign policies affect the human rights of others.”

The judges would also like to extend congratulations to Dan Werb and his excellent City of Omens: A search for the missing women of the borderlands (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019), our runner-up. The judges praised the book’s epidemiological approach and the richly detailed research paired with the stories of the women Werb worked with on the US-Mexico border. Werb’s text was “very compelling and human,” wrote one, “and I loved that it shed light on worlds that most readers do not know about or care to know.”

First awarded in 2008, the Méndez Human Rights Book Award honors the best current non-fiction book published in English on human rights, democracy, and social justice in contemporary Latin America. The books are evaluated by a panel of expert judges drawn from academia, journalism, human rights, and public policy circles.

For more information on the award and previous winners, see https://humanrights.fhi.duke.edu/programs/wola-duke-human-rights-award/.

The Center for Death Penalty Litigation records: the Practical and Intellectual Lessons of Archival Processing

Post contributed by Hannah Ontiveros, Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive Intern

Fall semester 2020 was an odd one, with new challenges, global uncertainty, and everyone stepping out of their comfort zones to find a way to continue learning and working. For me the semester brought unfamiliar work and novel scholarly considerations. As intern for the Human Rights Archive, I spent the semester processing an addition to the Center for Death Penalty Litigation collection. The CDPL is a Durham-based organization that handles post-conviction appeals for indigent people on Death Row in North Carolina. Their ultimate goal is death penalty abolition. Processing this collection raised productive challenges and questions, creating for me a fresh vantage point from which to consider archival practices and the study of human rights.

 

Archive Boxes on a Shelf
Center for Death Penalty Litigation Archive Boxes

The process of rehousing documents, seemingly a simple task of moving papers to a fresh, neatly labeled folder in a fresh, neatly labeled box, comes with unexpected challenges and questions. If the documents weren’t organized and separated into folders to begin with, where do they go now? How do we label folders to be succinct and descriptive for future researchers while reflecting the documents’ original use by the CDPL? What does one do when they come across, as I did, a folder containing one single piece of paper, with nothing on it but letterhead? (I kept the document alone in its folder—some future researcher might come across it and glean meaning that I can’t see.)

And then there are the photographs. Photographs need to be placed in protective Mylar coverings. This preserves the paper and ink and protects the photos from librarians’ and researchers’ hands when handling them. Again, a seemingly standard task with unexpected challenges. In the CDPL collection, the Human Rights Archives house the organization’s case files, which are expansive. CDPL keeps records from clients’ entire legal history, including their original trial and subsequent appeals, even those not argued by CDPL attorneys. The case files for George Goode, for example, include discovery from his original trial, including crime scene photos. This raised two problems: how do I process these photographs while watching out for my own mental well-being, and how do I describe these photographs for future researchers?

Some of the crime scene photos in the Goode subseries and in others (most notably, David Junior Brown) contain really graphic imagery, including substantial gore. It was very difficult to place the photos in Mylar protectors and rehouse them without looking at them. But I determined that, for the sake of my mental health I couldn’t look at them too much. So I devised for myself a simple and makeshift system of keeping photos faced away from me as much as possible, and keeping them covered with a piece of scrap paper. Having needed to glance at these images in order to process them, I knew the collection required careful description so researchers won’t come across these images without proper warning and preparation.

Center for Death Penalty Litigation File

This raised questions for me of how to describe files with sensitive information in them. We need content warnings that adequately prepare people for the content they’re about to see, but that don’t editorialize too much. Personally, I would describe some of the crime scene photos in this collection as “horrifying,” but that may not be particularly helpful to researchers. Moreover, such description may color researchers’ understanding of the case in a way that’s not productive to grasping the legal stakes at play. With advice from Tracy Jackson in the Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services Department, I opted for describing the images as graphic, and containing gore and deceased persons—at the very least, researchers will know what’s in these folders before opening them. I also opted to place the content warnings in the file and box description in the collection guide, as well as on the physical folder. My hope is that no researcher comes across the photos unaware. It is important that these images, along with the other documents in the collection, are preserved and available for use for productive research on the death penalty and human rights. But it’s also important that researchers are prepared so that their work isn’t hindered by coming across shocking imagery in the archive.

 

This processing project was also surprising to me on an intellectual level. The study of human rights is important to my own work. But the driving questions about human rights in my dissertation surround issues of global responsibility for refugees, citizenship, and discourses of deservingness. Prior to processing CDPL documents, I had not given much scholarly thought to death penalty abolition, or to criminal litigation as a method for human rights goals. But this processing project made me think about these things. It made me think about how human rights goals are strived for in criminal courts, and the boundaries and possibilities of the law as an avenue for human rights. Through CDPL documents I could see how attorneys understand their clients as whole and deserving people. I can also see how they utilize legal strategies to make whatever gains they can toward their overarching goal of stopping all executions. This is the value of this internship—it broadens my theoretical and methodological understanding of human rights as a field; and it challenges me to think outside of my existing scholarly and political human rights commitments. Ultimately this will make me a better scholar, with a greater appreciation for how documents are created and preserved, and with a more expansive understanding of the field of human rights.