All posts by John Gartrell

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.

The Enduring Power of Witness

Post Contributed by Caitlin Margaret Kelly, Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts & Director, Power Plant Gallery

Spider Martin Photographs

When I opened the newly arrived box the first photograph on top of the stack was one of the few with a title, called, “Two Minute Warning.” It is an iconic image taken on March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama, by a young photojournalist for the Birmingham News, James ‘Spider’ Martin. This print is among the more than 40 gelatin silver prints by Martin recently acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The prints depict the violence of Bloody Sunday, the men and women of the Selma to Montgomery March, and George Wallace on the campaign trail. There are photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and Ralph Abernathy, among many others.

But in among the well-known visages, are many unknown faces, all marching through the landscape. It wasn’t long into my inspection of these prints that I started to notice the suitcases, the socks, a backpack worn by John Lewis, and the straining hands holding up Amelia Boynton – grasping for the fabric of her coat.

While a few of the prints were made in 1965, most were reprinted by Martin between 1993-1999. Some of the later prints come with handwritten reflections. On the back of a photograph of Ralph Abernathy and M.L.K. at the Selma March, Martin writes:

Spider Martin Photographs

“Dr. King knew he was a target. Many times I was tipped off that he might be assassinated. I look at this picture and think that Dr. King is looking towards heaven and thinking that it is enevitable (sic) that he will die fighting for the struggle. I think of the gospel song “Commin’ Home (sic).”

As a member of the news media, Spider Martin was on site to cover a march. It wasn’t until the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge that he also became a witness to the violence of Bloody Sunday. John Lewis is quoted as saying, “he left, through the power of his camera and with a quick eye, images that will educate and sensitize unborn generations.”[1].

Spider Martin Photographs

The particular print, which I mentioned at the start of this blog post, came with a note from Martin’s daughter, Tracy, “He would make a perfect print and send to the client which was common a long while back, but he would always make them a titch darker and contrastier because he thought all printed publications lost that in the print process.” This particular print, now part of the ADA, may have been destined for publication in the book ‘Weary Feet, Rested Souls’ by Townsend Davis.

In addition to the newly added photographs by Spider Martin the Archive of Documentary arts, also holds the work of photographer James H. Karales,[2] and his coverage of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. They are joined by various other collections at the Rubenstein Library including the Abraham Joshua Heschel papers documenting his participation in the Selma to Montgomery March.[3]

[1] http://www.spidermartin.com/new-page-1

 

[2] https://repository.duke.edu/dc/karales

 

[3] https://archives.lib.duke.edu/catalog/heschelabraham

 

Clydie F. Scarborough and the Scarborough Nursery School

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

Born in 1899, Clydie Fullwood Scarborough was a native of Opelika, AL, and the daughter of former slaves who had no formal education. After studying chemistry and education at Talladega College, Clydie, moved to Durham upon graduation and received a position at Hillside High School to teach science and history. Her marriage to John C. Scarborough, owner of Scarborough Funeral Home and a leader among Durham’s African American businessmen, further immersed her in the affairs and interests of Durham’s African American community.

Scarborough with class
Clydie Scarborough (center) pictured with a group of nursery children (c. 1930s)

In 1925, John Scarborough purchased the old Lincoln Hospital building with plans to open a day care home for young children, many of whom resided in the African American community of Hayti. Scarborough felt a deep charitable need to provide better health conditions and care in his community. The home served infants, preschoolers, and school-age children, and Clydie served as one of the key caregivers in the early days of the home.

The creation of the Scarborough Nursery Home allowed Mrs. Scarborough to resume her career as an educator. In 1932 she became executive director of the home and instituted kindergarten facilities. By 1938, she was pressing for the home’s expansion and formal licensing by the North Carolina Department of Social Services. Through the 1940s, she found additional support for the school through federal funding and foundation entities including the United Way. The home became known as the Scarborough Nursery School, Inc.

Scarborough class grads 1937
Scarborough kindergarten class graduates (1937/8)

Under her 50 years of leadership, the school would nurture generations of Durham’s youth in their formative years while providing working families with reliable child care. Mrs. Scarborough’s dedication to service also extended far beyond her work with the school. She was a member of the YWCA, Durham Committee of Negro Affairs, NAACP, North Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children, and the Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and its Causes Inc.

Now over 90 years old, Scarborough Nursery School, Inc. continues its mission today. It is the oldest licensed nursery school in the state of North Carolina. The Clydie F. Scarborough Papers are available for research in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke.

Book Talk w/Prof. Richard Bell, Nov. 5

Please join us Tuesday November 5, Rubenstein Library 349, Breedlove Conference Room, for a conversation with Professor Richard Bell, Associate Professor of History, University of Maryland, as he shares his latest book STOLEN: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home. Bell will describe his research of the fascinating story of five free African American boys stolen from Philadelphia in 1825 and sold into slavery in Mississippi, and the efforts of parents, neighbors, and activists to rescue them and bring their captors to justice.

This event is co-sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture and the Department of History

Lunch will be served

New Discoveries in the Robert A. Hill Collection: Rev. Claudius Henry and The International Peacemakers

Post contributed by Meggan Cashwell, Technical Service Intern

I recently processed the latest accession to the Robert A. Hill Collection: The Jamaica Series. The series consists primarily of Professor Hill’s research on the Rastafari Movement and Rev. Claudius Henry. While evaluating the materials I came across several particularly fascinating items, including the “Rev. Henry Picture Album.” As I carefully examined each image, the history of Rev. Henry and his followers unfolded.

Emperor Haile Selassie
Emperor Haile Selassie

Professor Hill shared his extensive knowledge of Rev. Henry in an interview for Reggae Vibes. He was wrapping up a research trip in Jamaica in 2010 when he decided to spend part of the remainder of his time meeting with members of Rev. Henry’s International Peacemakers Association at Green Bottom, Clarendon. The elders welcomed him to “Bethel,” a facility Henry and the Peacemakers constructed decades earlier, and they shared about their relationship to the movement.

Rev. Henry (1903-1986) considered himself a prophet after experiencing a vision at age eighteen. He began preaching, eventually moving to Cuba and then America before returning to Jamaica in the 1950s to fulfill his revelation. Rev. Henry accumulated thousands of followers, and in 1959 built The African Reform Church of God in Christ. Professor Hill claims that Rev. Henry’s following constituted the largest Back-to-Africa Movement of its time. Rev. Henry traveled to Ethiopia more than once to meet with officials affiliated with Emperor Haile Selassie, considered by many Rastafarians to be the messiah (image one). Their ambitions to relocate were never realized. In 1960 Rev. Henry and fifteen others were arrested on grounds that they were plotting an insurrection against the Jamaican government. At their trial in 1960, which Professor Hill attended when he was 16, they were found guilty.

 

International Peacemakers making bread at their compound
Peacemakers making baking bread

In 1966 Rev. Henry was released from prison and went back to his followers in the parish of Clarendon. There in Green Bottom, Rev. Henry and others built a commune called the International Peacemakers Association. The Peacemakers were self-sustaining. The pictures displayed in the album show the Peacemakers making tiles, gardening, farming, ranching, baking bread, and performing a host of other duties (images two and three). There was also a school, baptismal house, community center, and worship facility, among other structures (image four).

The picture album is a part of a separate subseries which also contains loose and mounted photographs, correspondence, receipts pertaining to the construction of the commune, programs, posters, and other materials. Collectively, they offer a rich history to researchers, and encourage scholars to ask new questions about the Rev. Henry, the Peacemakers, and their legacy.

Sources:

“Rev. Henry Picture Album,” Robert A. Hill Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

“Rev. Claudius V. Henry and the Radicalization of the Rastafari Movement in Jamaica, 1957-1960,” Interview with Professor Robert A. Hill by Boris Lutanie, Reggae Vibes, Paris, France.

Alexus Bazen, “Ethnography of the International Peacemakers Association,” https://www.curf.upenn.edu/content/bazen-alexus-ethnography-international-peacemakers-association.

War in Black and White: African American Soldiers’ Photograph Albums

Post contributed by Bennett Carpenter, John Hope Franklin Research Center Intern and PhD candidate in Literature

“Understand, sir, we are not asking for favors but as citizens of the United States and as members of her army we are asking redress for a wrong that has [been] so grievously and so flagrantly perpetrated against us. Yes we are her citizens but seemingly also present in the army of this great democracy are the forces that we might have seen in Nazi Germany when she was at her peak.”

So wrote a group of African American soldiers to their commanding officer to complain about discriminatory practices barring them from using the swimming pool on their military base. Stationed in occupied Japan, the soldiers were tasked, they went on to note, with defending democracy against the threat of authoritarianism; yet it did not seem as if “democracy” always defended them.

African American Soldiers in Occupied Japan

The letter, part of the Maynard Miller Photograph Album collection at the John Hope Franklin Research Center, helps document the complexity of the African American military experience. From the Revolutionary War through the present day, African Americans have fought and participated in every war in United States history. At times, military service offered African Americans opportunities for economic, professional and political advancement and escape from segregation and discrimination at home. At other times, however, racially discriminatory practices followed Black soldiers into service and denied them equal opportunities to advance, receive recognition and even to serve.

 

Now, with the digitization of the John Hope Franklin Research Center’s collection of African American Soldiers’ Photograph Albums, we can witness some of that complex history through the lens of Black soldiers themselves. The eight photograph albums in our holdings grant rich and fascinating insights into the African American military experience across several decades and continents.

Soldiers at Pool Facility in Munich, Germany

Along with the Maynard Miller Photograph Album, four other albums come from soldiers stationed abroad during World War Two. The Henry Heyliger Photograph Album likewise shows images of occupied Japan, while two other albums illustrate the experience of African-American soldiers in India and Italy. Finally, an album from Munich, Germany paints an interesting contrast with the discriminatory practices detailed by Miller, showing Black and white soldiers swimming together in an apparently unsegregated pool.

These contrasting experiences point to tectonic shifts in the Black military experience immediately before, during and after World War Two. Prior to the war, African Americans wishing to serve in the military had been largely restricted to support duties. In 1941, Black labor leader A. Philip Randolph threatened a mass march on Washington unless African Americans were granted equal opportunities, prompting President Franklin Roosevelt to lift racial restrictions on military service. While hundreds of thousands of Black soldiers subsequently served in the war, they were restricted to segregated units, such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the 761st Tank Battalion, popularly known as the Black Panthers. The armed forces would be ordered fully integrated by President Harry Truman in 1948, though the last segregated units persisted until 1954.

World War Two also led to another tectonic shift, as women other than nurses entered the American armed forces for the very first time. Our Women’s Army Corps Scrapbook includes fascinating early images of some of the very first women, both Black and white, to pass through the doors of the WAC Training School in Des Moines, Iowa. The second half of the scrapbook contains images of members of the 404th WAC band, the first and only all-women’s African American band in US military history.

Members of the 404th Women’s Army Corp Band

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/