All posts by John Gartrell

‘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.

Documenting migration at sea: Darrin Zammit Lupi visits Duke

Join renowned photojournalist Darrin Zammit Lupi at a panel discussion and a film screening as he and Duke colleagues unpack the sea migration phenomenon as it affects North Africa and Europe.

 

Armed Forces of Malta marines toss bottles of water to a group of around 180 illegal immigrants as a rescue operation gets underway after their vessel ran into engine trouble, some 30km (19 miles) southwest of Malta September 25, 2005. The number of illegal immigrants reaching Maltese shores has reaches crisis proportions and the Maltese government has launched intensive diplomatic efforts to get aid from other European Union countries to deal with the worsening problem, according to military and government officials. Pictures of the Year 2005 REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi also see GF2DVIBGABAA – RTRPCIF

“Currents of Change: Migration, Transit and outcomes in the Mediterranean” will serve as a dialogue and critical examination of recent immigration in the Mediterranean and its impact on individual, local, and global migration politics, policy and culture.  Darrin Zammit Lupi, along with Niels Frenzen, faculty at USC Gould School of Law and advocate for migrants in the Caribbean and Mediterranean, and Holly Ackerman, Duke Librarian and scholar on sea migration, will discuss these topics.

The “Fire at Seas/ Fuocoammare” Film Screening, photo exhibition, and post-screening discussion will explore the Mediterranean migration trends further.

In addition, an exhibit featuring Zammit Lupi’s work will be on display at the Link Media Wall in Perkins Lower Level.

Both events are free and open to the public. The events are co-sponsored by the Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Library, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Kenan Institute for Ethics, and the Duke Human Rights Center @FHI. “Currents of Change” is sponsored by a generous grant from The Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.

 

Panel Discussion:

Date: Wednesday, November 1

Time: 12pm – 1pm

Location: Rubenstein Library Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room 153

Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist, Duke University at patrick.stawski@duke.edu or 919-660-5823

 

Film Screening:

Date: Thursday, November 2

Time: 7pm- 9pm

Location: Smith Warehouse – Bay 4, C105 – Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall

Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist, Duke University at patrick.stawski@duke.edu or 919-660-5823

October 17 and 18: Celebrating the Robert A. Hill Collection

Help us celebrate the Robert A. Hill Collection. For close to forty years, Professor Robert A. Hill has researched and collected materials on Garvey and served as editor of the 13-volume Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers Project (University of California Press, Duke University Press). His collection now joins the archive of the John Hope Franklin Research Center in the David. M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

“The Remains of the Name: The Origin of the Harlem Renaissance in the Discourse of Egyptomania”

Public Lecture by Prof. Robert A. Hill

Date: October 17, 2017

Time: 5:00PM

Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library

 

“Chronicling Marcus Garvey and the UNIA: The Process of Research and Writing the African Diaspora”

A Conversation with Profs. Robert A. Hill and Michaeline A. Crichlow

Date: October 18

Time: 12:00PM

Location: Ahmadieh Family Conference Hall, John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies

All events are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

These events are co-sponsored by the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Department of African & African American Studies, and the Department of History

Selections from the Robert A. Hill Collection are also on display in the Stone Family Gallery, located in the Mary Duke Biddle Room of the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Dreamers & Dissenters: Carl Corley and Gay Activism Before Stonewall

Post contributed by Hannah Givens, Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia

This post is part of the Dreamers & Dissenters series, in which we highlight Rubenstein Library collections that document the work of activists and social justice organizations. In this series we hope to lend our voices, and those of the people whose collections we preserve, to the reinvigorated spirit of activism across the United States and beyond.

Corley, pictured here at Guadalcanal, served as a scout and quick-sketch artist in the Marines during World War II.

In America, queer history often seems to have “begun” with the Stonewall uprising in 1969, but over the past twenty years, historians have become increasingly interested in pulp fiction as a site of identity and community-building immediately before that. However, pulp novels are often not preserved, their authors remain anonymous or secretive, and their readerships have never been easy to study. Likewise, Southern queer history is a developing field hampered by a widespread misconception that queer history happens only in cities. Southern pulp author and artist Carl Corley serves as a case study that sheds light on both the gay pulp genre and queer Southern history. Corley’s life is well documented in his collection of papers, art, and published books and in the papers of historian John Howard, both held by the Rubenstein Library, as well as in Howard’s landmark book, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (University of Chicago Press, 1999). A comprehensive digital collection of Corley work is now available online at www.carlcorley.com as the public component of a master’s degree thesis recently completed for the University of West Georgia’s public history program.

 

As a gay pulp author and artist from Mississippi and Louisiana who published under his own name, Corley is at once a unique and a potentially representative figure. His life and work demonstrate that queer Southerners participated in communities and engaged in a national dialogue about queerness. Corley also challenged readers to accept queer people in society with speeches he included in books like A Lover Mourned (1967):

But in this society, … this love of man for man is not a thing which will last. … Someday, maybe it will last. But not now. It’s impossible. We are doomed and condemned and damned from the start. We are pointed out on the streets, made the butt of ill-timed jokes, ridiculed, and sneered at. There is no place that we can go and hide and live out the burning energy of such a love. We cannot live together with a lover because the law will evict us, and if not the law then the people who are our neighbors.

The published cover for A Fool’s Advice (1967), in which a rural young man struggles to reconcile his sexuality and his religion.

Corley’s books probably suffered some editorial intervention in the form of tacked-on sad endings, and many of his books contain the usual references to being led astray into a world of homosexual torment. Usually no such event actually happens in the story and overt pro-gay statements substantially outweigh these occasional twilight references. Corley did not shy away from gay-bashing and violence in his plots, but frequently indulged in editorializing on behalf of his characters, explaining that discrimination was the root cause of any perceived misery in gay life. The conclusion of Corley’s highly autobiographical first novel, A Chosen World (1966), is entirely given to this sort of advocacy. Scholars generally assume that readers were savvy enough to simply ignore added moralizing, and thus embrace Corley’s work as empowering.

Corley’s main contribution to the body of gay literature was his rural perspective. He was known for “specializ[ing] in romantic stories about boys from the country,” and his plots show a complex relationship between the country and the city. The mainstream narrative construction for rural queer people is a journey to the city where anonymity allows one to associate with other queer people and come out. However, with a growing academic interest in rural queer studies, a counternarrative has emerged showing how many queer people have lived in rural areas permanently, and that such regions may not be as hostile to queer people as they have been stereotyped. Corley falls somewhere in between. For him the city can be overwhelming, and may contain corrupting influences, but can also offer opportunities and places to meet other queer people. His young rural protagonist frequently makes a trip to the big city (usually Baton Rouge or New Orleans), where he discovers the existence of a queer subculture. However, although some characters stay in the city and begin participating in this culture, many of return to idyllic country life or express regret for leaving. Corley glorifies the rural South as a place where gay couples can be free, happy, dignified, and in harmony with nature, if only their families and neighbors will give them some peace.

Original cover art for Jesse, Man of the Streets (1968), which explores the torrid world of city hustlers.

While queer activist organizations existed in the 1950s, they were arguably much more secretive than the pulp fandom, and unlike popular fiction they failed to engage queer people where they were, both spatially and socially. They did not attract large numbers of members or subscribers until the 1970s after Stonewall. Also, while activist societies often craved respectability in the 1950s and 1960s, queer media embraced pleasure and desire as part of sexual subjectivity. Many more gay men read pulps than the Mattachine Review, and at the same time, in a time when overt gay themes never appeared on television and rarely in public discourse, the straight mainstream also learned about queer life through pulps. Serious writers like James Baldwin and Christopher Isherwood fit into this loose genre of gay fiction, but these books were hard to find since bookstores and libraries often refused to carry such risqué titles. Cheap, small pulps, on the other hand, had a distribution model based on the magazine trade, shipping directly to outlets like drugstores and train stations, including those in rural areas. As publishers became more reliable, books also came with mail-order forms so customers could purchase them directly from anywhere.

In a sociological survey conducted by Barry M. Dank in 1971, 15% of gay men said they “developed their ideas of what it means to be gay” through reading—a very high percentage compared to the general population of readers. Despite this high number, it is currently impossible to tell exactly how many people were reading pulp novels, how many of them were queer, or how many people read a specific novel or author. Still, comparisons can be made among authors. Corley was popular enough to have three of his novels reprinted in one edition, which suggests a high level of interest. Corley was a recognized author in pulp circles, perhaps a slightly odd one known for rural settings and distinctive covers, but one who contributed to a trend towards establishing gay identity, open sexuality, and demand for respect. Using his own name not only indicates his personal search for literary recognition, but also his status as a successful brand. Corley’s work made rural queerness visible. Although much of his private life remains a mystery, he left behind the most queer-positive work he could in a genre that is only now receiving recognition for the cultural change it helped create.

 

New Acquisitions – “Los Mochileros”

Post contributed by Patrick Stawski, curator, Human Rights Archive

The Human Rights Archive recently acquired a copy of Petra Barth’s photobook “Los Mochileros” which is on exhibit in the Mary Duke Biddle exhibit suite through October 2017.

Through a series of piercing black and white portraits, Barth tells an intimate, visual story of people moving across the US-Mexico border.  As with much of Barth’s portrait work, her collaborators capture the gaze of the camera, rather than be caught by it.  Their pride, their strength, and their history challenge the camera and seem to confront us who stand behind it.

Los Mochileros on display in the Rubenstein Library through October 2017

“Los Mochileros” (The Backpackers) has received critical praise in Lenscutlure.com and the Huffingtonpost.com.  The photobook is part of larger project undertaken by Barth which includes a traveling exhibit of the prints featured in the book.  “Los Mochileros” joins a large body of Barth’s prints currently part of the Human Rights Archive collections which documents her long relationship with Latin America and more generally her interest in the human condition.  Eventually, the prints from “Los Mochileros” will be added to Petra’s collection at the Rubenstein.

I reached out to Petra to delve a little deeper into the origin of “Los Mochileros”.

Q: What was the history and motivation for “Los Mochileros”?

A: The ‘Mochileros” has been a ‘bi-product’ of The Americas. Traveling from South to North, it was natural to cross and stop at the border, being a point of discussion in politics on both sides of the border.  Originally, I enrolled in a workshop in AZ, which did not happen after all. Nevertheless, I did go and decided to explore the region on my own. I did not know at the time that I would return and the impact the story would have on my work.

Q:   Your work at the US/Mexican border has involved both portrait and landscape.  How do you feel each of these contributes to the visual representation of the border?  How do these add to the dialogue around immigration?

A: I feel that my work is quite different than most of the work done in that area, which was my original intention. Despite the fact that it had a more journalistic starting point, I see my work at the border as pure documentary, quiet and not involved in people’s daily life.  I wanted to document the border strip as how I experienced it myself, pure in its identity, as a boundary dividing two countries with barriers, walls and sometimes only barbwire. The display in Venice ties both portraits and landscapes together, as all these people crossed the border somewhere.

Q: Who were some of the important partners that contributed to “Los Mochileros”, directly or indirectly?

A: The project was made possible with the help and support of the Juan Bosco Shelter in Nogales, FESAC Fundacion del Empresariado Sonorense, A.C., BCA Border Community Alliance and all the migrants, of course, who passed through the shelter.

Q: Is there one particular story or moment in the project that stands out in your mind?

A: There were two moments, which had an impact on the story. The first was during my second visit in the shelter when I realized that I wanted to change the focus of the story. Initially, I had planned to focus on the broader border issue. After meeting and talking to many of the migrants, I decided to make a portrait story and focus on their faces and memories. The second moment was when I edited the pictures for the book, realizing that the people were not only a part of the story. They were a story themselves.

Q: What are your hopes for “Los Mochileros”?

A: I hope that the exhibit which is currently shown in Venice can travel to the US and become a travel exhibit – especially under the current political circumstances and can evoke interest and discussion for the subject. Hopefully through a broader distribution of the book, attention can be brought upon this issue. I hope we can display/exhibit the project in Nogales, so the population living on both sides of the border as well as passing migrants can see it.

From the Far East to the East Side: Broadening Narratives of Immigration and Refugees in the Rubenstein Library’s Human Rights Archive

Post contributed by Jonathan Johnson, Associate Professor in the Department of Art at Otterbein University, a recipient of a 2017 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

 

It was my pleasure to spend a week in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library this summer engaging with photographs, documents and videos from Duke’s Human Rights Archive.  I am in the pre-production phase of an experimental documentary film project that centers around the informal storytelling sessions between recent Southeast Asian immigrants that took place in my mother’s beauty shop in the 80’s and 90’s in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

International Monitor Institute records, 1990-2003. Volume/Box:PH3

I was particularly interested in photographic prints from the International Monitor Institute Records (IMI) that documented human rights abuses in Southeast Asia, particularly in Burma (Myanmar).  Many of these photographs were taken near the Thai border in refugee camps and temporary outposts of various branches of the Karen National Union that oppose the Burmese government. I intend to use these materials as aids to oral history interviews that I am conducting with my mother and others in this community that formed around her beauty shop.

 

International Monitor Institute records, 1990-2003. Volume/Box:PH3

As an artist that uses archives and primary source material (and also creates them), I start with a concept but remain open to the labyrinth experience that often occurs in the archive. For instance, when the random sequencing of photographic prints in an archival folder creates an unintended narrative through formal relationships (color, line, texture) and metaphor.  In one case, the grid-like charred remains from a recently torched resistance army camp follows a wide landscape photo shot from a helicopter.  The sense of scale and context meld into one another, the vast beautiful jungle landscape absorbing the physical and psychological terror of this conflict.  As I storyboard my documentary, I am now thinking about how competing senses of scale and vantage point might stand in as visual representations of the fragmented reflections and narratives that are contained in the oral history interviews that I’m making.

 

This is just one of many examples of when creative research, chance and intuition intersected during my time in the Rubenstein Library. For an artist, this is the most rewarding experience of working in the archive.

 

 

New Acquisitions – African American history marketing and promotional posters, 1967-1984.

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

In response to the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, many advertisers began to see the African American market in a new, and profitable, light. Advertising campaigns were developed over the next few decades celebrating African and African American heritage as a method of advertising products to this demographic. The Rubenstein Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History and John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture jointly acquired this collection of 48 items showcasing black Americans through advertisements and political campaigns aimed at African Americans from the 1970s through the 1990s. Collected by a former public relations associated with the NAACP, this collection represents some NAACP marketing work and advertising images depicting notable African Americans and significant moments in African American history. These posters include biographical sketches of African American writers, scientists, professional athletes, soldiers, civil rights workers, entertainers, and other historical figures. Included are also a number of posters produced by and for the NAACP that the organization’s campaigns to reduce poverty and school dropout rates and increase voter registration and membership in the NAACP. Notable advertising campaigns include Budweiser’s “Great Kings of Africa” Series, Pepsi Cola’s “The Black Presence” Series, and the CIBA-GEIGY Corporation’s “Exceptional Black Scientists” Series.

Great Kings of Africa. A marketing campaign started in 1975 by the Anheuser-Busch Corporation designed to appeal to an African American audience while at the same time promoting African History. During its over 25-year campaign and with a total of 30 different images, it has been either celebrated as a means of showcasing and promoting African history or criticized for, as Rev Michael Pfleger of South Side Chicago’s St. Sabina Catholic Church puts it “one more attempt by the alcohol and tobacco industries to buy a reputation in the African-American community.” The campaign consisted of a series of paintings done by African-American artists commissioned by Anheuser-Busch that were accompanied by a short history of the subject being portrayed

Exceptional Black Scientists, CIBA-GEIGY, 1980-1984: These posters are meant to celebrate current scientific leaders of African American descent and inspire minority students to pursue careers in science. Each individual selected had recently made a substantial scientific discovery in their respective field. The posters are derived from portraits done by noted black artist and illustrator Ernest Chrichlow. This series was advertised directly to teachers, and was meant to be placed in the classroom, science fairs, or community centers.

Black Presences, PepsiCo, circa 1980s: A series of posters, that celebrated the African American ‘presence’ in America’s history and culture. Each poster features a portrait of the individual selected, a short biography, and is entitled by the category of culture (arts, sports, history, etc.) that the individual belongs to.

 

These posters are available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

New Acquisitions – Wonderful Wunderkammer

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

In the sixteenth century, printed works depicting early museums and personal collections of physical objects began to emerge. Such collections were curated overwhelmingly by men of a certain standing in society, including a number of physicians.  Personal collections included items such as shells, gems and minerals, coins, sculptures, fossils and animals, and more. Rooms showcasing such objects were stuffed with as much as could be displayed, including mounting crocodiles on ceilings and finding a place for the unicorn horn (or rather, the tooth of the narwhal, an arctic whale).

These cabinets of curiosities, or wunderkammer, provided a space for visitors to see objects from the world within one room – objects that were both natural as well as man-made.  In many ways, these cabinets of curiosities were precursors to modern day museums, and printed works from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries provide text as well as stunning images of the legacy of wunderkammer.

 

The History of Medicine Collections has recently acquired a magnificent work of wunderkammer, a work by German physician Michael Bernhard Valentini (1657-1729), titled Museum Museorum, printed in 1714. This three volume set, printed in two volumes, includes catalogs from other such curiosity collections as well as a list of all known museums at the time (of which he notes are around 159). Numerous copper engravings are found throughout the text, including six extra-illustrated engravings printed on blue paper. Along with providing a survey of museums and details on collecting, Valentini also covers topics including animals, plants, minerals, and their medicinal use, along with shells, fossils, physics, and natural philosophy.

These volumes and other printed books related to cabinets of curiosities are available for researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

Reflections from the Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive Intern

Post contributed by Heather McGowan, Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive intern

Hello! I’m Heather McGowan, a second-year student at UNC SILS in the Masters of Library Science Program, and since January I have worked as the Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Archive Intern at the Rubenstein. I was interested in this internship with the Human Rights Archive because I have always been interested in the ways archival work interacts with social justice and human rights. Working on a collection that revealed the voices of those people who have often been silenced in the record, was my initial interest in this internship, but it has become much more. The work that ICTJ has done to preserve the voices of even the lowest in society, the abused and impoverished, fueled my treatment and work on this collection. Keeping the people at the center has created a collection that reveals the life changing work of ICTJ and its partners, as well as the stories of those who lived, and those who died fighting to see truth and reconciliation.

ICTJ staff members Vasuki Nesiah, Mark Freeman and Priscilla Hayner in Uganda

The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) founded in 2001, is a global non-profit that works with partners in post-conflict, conflict, and democratic countries to pursue accountability, truth, and reconciliation for massive human right abuses. Through a series of measures including criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations programs, and institutional reforms, ICTJ and its partners strive to bring justice and strength to victims, activists, state leaders, and international policy makers.

When I began working on the collection at the beginning of this year, the ICTJ records consisted of a small fully processed collection of about 40 archival boxes and three large unprocessed accessions of about 160 shipping boxes. Throughout the last six months the collection has begun to take shape and become a powerful testament to ICTJ’s global work.

The largest part of the ICTJ records is the Geographic Series. The Geographic Series is comprised of files representing about 100 countries and forms the backbone of ICTJ’s collection. The country files include ICTJ reports, journal articles, publications about governance, rule of law, political stability, reparations, and human rights violations, as well as materials from various country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. These materials are unique to each country and provide insight into the impact ICTJ’s work has on every citizen, from victims to perpetrators, children and women to ex-combatants. These files highlight ICTJ’s mission to support peace, truth, and transparency in each country they work with.

A conference on national reconciliation in Ghana

Closely related to the Geographic Series is the Administrative Series, which contains a Staff Files sub-series. These are the files of 16 prominent staff members of ICTJ; former presidents and co-founders, program directors and prosecution unit leaders. The staff files narrate the story of ICTJ from its initial creation to it developing into a strong, influential, global leader in transitional justice. I found one of the highlights of this series to be the files of Priscilla Hayner, one of the co-founders of ICTJ. The initial grants for ICTJ, the architecture plans for their space, the original program units, and the founding mission are all captured in her files. Her work in Ghana, Peru and Sierra Leone is richly detailed with trip reports, mission updates, and research about the best ways to develop transitional justice mechanisms in these countries. Her personal notes, correspondence, writings, and even meeting minutes offer a glimpse into the minds at work in ICTJ.

ICTJ staff members and local truth commission leaders in Ghana

The other half of the hands-on work of ICTJ is documented in the Program Series. ICTJ is organized into program units that each focus on a different thematic subject, such as gender, as well as into units by region. One of the most robust units is the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) Program. In the past decade, MENA has worked in Iraq as the country transitions from the tyrannical rule of Saddam Hussein into a democratic nation. In 2004, MENA and ICTJ conducted interviews with Iraqi citizens. The transcripts of these interviews are now housed in the ICTJ archive and are filled with details about human rights in the Iraqi context; about what is was like for Iraqis to live in fear of their livelihood and about the hope for reconciliation.

In addition to the hands-on work they do, ICTJ has a robust research unit captured in the Reference and Reports Series. These materials were collected by ICTJ and formerly housed in their Documentation Center and Library at their New York headquarters. The publications include annual reports from human rights NGOs as well as thematic publications about children and women in conflict, displacement, refugees, disappearances, human trafficking, judicial reform, economic issues, security and conflict analysis, genocide and torture, accountability and human rights.

 

In processing this collection, I was struck by the details of ICTJ’s work. Before working with this collection, I had a vague idea of the work that ICTJ did throughout the world, but in processing, arranging, and describing the ICTJ records, I have come to understand the complexities of trying to bring peace to victims of human rights abuses. The most interesting part of the collection, for me, are the truth and reconciliation commission files. The whole process involved in creating, executing, and continuing the legacy of TRCs is much more complex than I ever conceived. For example, the Rwandan genocide occurred in the 1990s, but the work of the TRC continued well into the mid to late 2000s. By taking statements from victims, disarming and demobilizing former soldiers, creating spaces to have hearings, and putting in place new policies the TRC sought to heal the pain caused by the Rwandan genocide. Another, lesser known genocide, took place in Guatemala over the land to build the Chixoy Dam. From 1980 to 1983 in the village of Rio Negro, about 5,000 indigenous Mayan people were slaughtered and dumped in mass graves by the government. The loss of life and the relative unknown nature of this case made it even more shocking when I uncovered it. ICTJ worked with Mayan communities and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to initiate a human rights case against the Guatemalan military in 2005. This case and the work toward reparations for the people of Rio Negro has faced challenges from the corrupt government of Guatemala, but it has seen success as military dictators have been sentenced to prison. ICTJ engages in complex work often with uncertain outcomes, but it is work that I believe takes the right steps towards healing.

The ICTJ records will be fully processed by the end of the summer, including the audiovisual and electronic records components.