In 1962, John Hope Franklin became the first African American to be elected a member of the exclusive Cosmos Club.
The Cosmos Club is a private social club in Washington, D.C. that welcomes individuals from the arts, literature, and science. According to Cosmos Club rules, to be considered for membership, an individual must be regarded as “a person of distinction, character and sociability,” must have done meritorious work in the field of art, literature, or science, and have distinguished themselves in their profession, or through public service. Franklin received the Cosmos Club Award in 1994.
In 1995, on the evening before he was to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House, Franklin hosted a celebratory dinner party for some of his friends at the Cosmos Club. Some of his guests had not arrived, and Franklin decided to head to the entrance of the Club to look for them. There, an elderly white woman handed Franklin her coat check and demanded that he fetch her coat. Franklin politely informed her that all the Club’s attendants were uniformed and if she handed one of them her coat check, they would be happy to assist her. In a talk he gave ten years later, Franklin recounted this event as an example of how racist stereotypes and ideologies about the social position of Blacks remained strongly entrenched in American society.
In 1956, John Hope Franklin was appointed Professor and Chair of the History Department at Brooklyn College, a predominantly White institution. Franklin’s appointment marked the first time that an African American was appointed chair of any department at a traditionally White institution. The New York Times found Franklin’s appointment so newsworthy that on February 15, 1956, they published an announcement with his photograph on the front page. The headline read: “Negro Educator Chosen to Head Department at Brooklyn College. Howard University Professor Will be First of Race to Hold That Rank Here.” The article noted that Franklin was the first African-American chair of any academic department in the New York State college system.
Franklin was a professor at Brooklyn College from 1956 to 1964 and served as chairman of the History Department over that period. During his tenure at Brooklyn College, Franklin published three important books: The Militant South, 1800-1860 (1956), Reconstruction after the Civil War (1961), and The Emancipation Proclamation (1963).
After leaving Brooklyn College, Franklin maintained strong ties with the institution. In 1981, he was invited to be the commencement speaker, and in 1990 he delivered the second Charles R. Lawrence II memorial lecture of the Department of Sociology and President’s Office of Brooklyn College.
After Franklin’s death, in an obituary published in The New York Times, Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, one of Franklin’s former students, said of him: “Having John Hope Franklin at Brooklyn College in the 1960’s was like having a real star in our midst. Students who were lucky enough to get into his class bragged about him from morning until night.”
Aurelia Whittington and John Hope Franklin first met in 1931 when they were students at Fisk University in Nashville, TN. Aurelia was introduced to John Hope by his sister, Anne Franklin, who was her classmate. They remained college sweethearts throughout their time together at Fisk. Aurelia and John Hope were married on June 11, 1940.
Aurelia Elizabeth Whittington was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina in July 1915. Her father, Samuel W. Whittington was a U.S. Postal railroad clerk, and her mother, Bertha Kincaid Whittington, was a piano teacher. After graduating from Dillard High School in Goldsboro in 1931, she enrolled as a student at Fisk University, where she majored in English. Following her graduation in 1935, Aurelia taught English in schools around eastern North Carolina, and further pursued her education. She graduated from Hampton Library School in 1939, and later earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Catholic University.
Aurelia was a devoted homemaker, but also served as John Hope’s adviser and editor, and was often by his side helping him navigate the library stacks when he was doing research.
Aurelia and John Hope had one biological son, John Whittington Franklin, in 1952. The couple fostered Bouna Ndiaye, a student from Senegal.
In her later years, Aurelia faced many health challenges and her husband took an active role in providing care for her. Aurelia passed away in 1999 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
This series is a part of Duke University’s John Hope Franklin@100: Scholar, Activist, Citizen year-long celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. John Hope Franklin.
Submitted by Gloria Ayee, Franklin Research Center Intern
The Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Filmmaker Series will be sponsoring screenings of four films directed by Stanley Nelson prior to his visit to Duke on October 16-18. Co-sponsors of the series are the Archive of Documentary Arts, Center for Documentary Studies, Franklin Research Center, Screen/Society and the Program in Arts of the Moving Image. Voter registration will be available before and after the screenings. Each screening begins at 7:00pm and is free and open to the public.
Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Location: Richard White Lecture Hall, Duke University East Campus
Film: The Murder of Emmett Till
Introduction by Mike Wiley, past Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Date: Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Location: Griffith Theatre, Duke University West Campus
Film: Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
Date: Thursday, October 2, 2014
Location: Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville St, Durham, NC 27701
Film: A Place of Our Own
Date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Location: Durham Public Library, Main Branch, 300 Roxboro Street, Durham, NC 27701
Film: Freedom Summer
Discussion will be lead by SNCC veteran and Visiting Activist Scholar, Charlie Cobb
Post contributed by John B. Gartrell, director John Hope Franklin Research Center
In October, the Rubenstein Library will host the third Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Filmmaker and the inaugural Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Artist.
This year’s filmmaker is award-winning director/producer, Stanley Nelson. Nelson is the director and/or producer of over a dozen documentary films, principally highlighting the life and history of African Americans. His most recent release is the acclaimed Freedom Summer, and this past summer he was recognized as a 2013 National Humanities Award winner. Nelson will visit Duke’s campus from October 16-18 and will engage in a public conversation with Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel on his career and work at the Nasher Museum of Art on October 17 at 6:00 pm, reception to follow.
As the inaugural Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Artist, internationally known sound and visual artist, Steve Roden will participate in a three-week residency in the Rubenstein Library from October 13-30. Roden’s residency will include extensive research in the Rubenstein Library collections to inform his process of artistic creation. Roden will also engage in two public events during his visit. On October 18 at 6:30 pm, he will present an overview of his work entitled “Ragpicker” at the Full Frame Theater at American Tobacco Campus. And on October 23 at 5:00 pm, he will share his experiences working in the Rubenstein Library at the Center for Documentary Studies.
All of these events will be free and open to the public and are made possible through the generous support of Dr. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel. They are additionally co-sponsored by the Archive of Documentary Arts, Center for Documentary Studies, Franklin Research Center, Program of Arts of the Moving Image and Master of Fine Arts and Experimental and Documentary Arts Program.
More details to come soon.
Post contributed by John B. Gartrell, director, Franklin Research Center
The unique collections held in special collections libraries attract researchers from all over the map, no matter if the map is local, national, or global. Those of us who work in special collections have always known this, and we frequently jabber about it to anyone who will listen. But we can’t often show it.
Recently, library staff at Duke’s Rubenstein Library, UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, and NCSU’s Special Collections Research Center combined the data we’ve collected in order to create some maps showing the home cities, states, and countries of our users from calendar year 2013. Special collections staff gathered this data, but it was Duke’s terrific data visualization coordinator Angela Zoss who used Tableau to create these excellent maps for us. Thanks Angela!
The data we gathered shows onsite users of the Duke and UNC Chapel Hill special collections libraries. That is, the blue and green shown on the maps represent researchers who visited our reading rooms to use our collections in-house. The red shown on the maps shows something slightly different – both onsite users and users who made use of NCSU collections remotely (through email reference, etc.).
Among other interesting points, the North Carolina map shows that – outside of the Triangle – the majority of North Carolina researchers are using UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library. This makes sense, since they have the North Carolina Collection! [Note: the pie charts sit over zipcodes.]
The US map makes clear what we all probably suspected – that most of our researchers come from east of the Mississippi and are clustered in the Northeast. Only Duke shows researchers from Utah, and this doesn’t surprise us. Duke holds two copies of the first edition of the Book of Mormon, and many visitors come to Duke each year to see them (the two copies were used a total of 33 times this past year).
The global map shows that each of us – NCSU, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke – had researchers from Canada, the UK, and Japan. UNC Chapel Hill welcomed visitors from China and Japan. Many international researchers came to Duke to use collections such as our economists’ papers. But only NCSU had a user from Bosnia-Herzegovinia!
While we’ve only just begun to share our data with each other, this mapping project demonstrates that, taken together, the special collections libraries at NCSU, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke have truly global reach and impact. Our collections are diverse and exciting, and the world knows it!
Post contributed by David Pavelich, Head of Research Services
The National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR) papers documents this NGO’s advocacy for human rights in Haiti and for Haitian refugees in the United States. NCHR has conducted its mission reaching out to congressmen and international organizations to influence policy, using its connections and credibility to assist Haitians, whether in their individual immigration issues or as this recent discovery notes, to flee persecution in Haiti and reach safety.
Let’s start with a little bit of context. In 1992 Haiti democratically elected its first president ever, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was subsequently forced out of the country for about 6 months. A military regime came immediately into power. Human rights violations became more prevalent, particularly toward supporters of former President Aristide.
During this tumultuous period, three Haitian members of the Aristide’s political party FNCD (National Front for Change and Democracy) [whose names will be withheld for their protection], decided that, for safety reasons, they had no other option than to flee Haiti. They arrived in Guantanamo, Cuba which at that time was used as an immigration transit camp to assess the validity of asylum claims made by Haitians. The asylum process required an initial interview in Guantanamo that would assess whether an immigrant had a credible fear of persecution, and then a second interview in Miami that would assess whether this fear was well-grounded. The screening process was tough, as it is estimated that only 2% of Haitian applicants were granted asylum between 1980 and 1992.
It is in Guantanamo that the three Haitians first came in contact with NCHR. Living conditions at the camp were difficult, and several reports documented humiliating treatments, separation of families or refusal of medical care. As the founding members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, the three Haitians asked NCHR to witness and then advocate for better treatment of Haitian refugees inside Guantanamo’s camps. The three Haitians successfully passed the first step of the asylum process. However, accounts of mistreatment during the second interview in Miami, especially directed towards members of the Association of Haitian Political Refugees, made them refuse to submit to the second interview. Additionally, the omnipresence of the US military in the camps made many Haitians nervous about telling their stories to immigration officials.
Having abandoned the asylum process mid-way, the three Haitians were sent back to Haiti. Beatings by the police on their day of arrival confirmed their fears of political persecution. They decided to go into hiding and attempt to leave Haiti one way or another. They were unable to apply for asylum from within Haiti, and the American embassy was not a sanctuary. The three Haitians called NCHR for help.
NCHR’s strategy was first to get them into the Dominican Republic,
where the United Nations had set up a refugee camp, and then try to obtain permanent residency in the United States, Canada or another Caribbean nation. In a parallel to the American abolitionist Underground Railroad, NCHR resorted to Haiti’s own underground railroad dedicated to helping persecuted Haitians cross the border and enter the Dominican Republic. The underground railroad was managed by a priest on the Haitian side, and by a radio station on the Dominican side.
By means of the underground railroad the three Haitians arrived safely in the Dominican Republic. They were greeted by a team of lawyers, enlisted by NCHR to build their asylum case; further complicated by the three being HIV positive at a time when both the United States and Canada had a practice of rejecting asylum claims of HIV positive individuals unless a waiver was obtained.
That is the last update in the archives about the three Haitians. We do not know how significant the underground railroad was, as so far we haven’t found any other account of its use in NCHR’s archives. We also do not know whether their asylum claims have been successful, or whether they managed to get permanent residency in the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless, we have been able to reconstruct this story using a variety of documents present in NCHR archives: letters of the three Haitians to NCHR written in Haitian Creole, communication between NCHR’s Haiti and New-York teams in English, status reports coming from the underground railroad in Spanish, interview transcripts in French. This diversity illustrates the fact that the issue of Haitian rights encompasses much more than just the Haitian territory: the flow of refugees coming to the Dominican Republic and to the United States has made the protection of Haitian rights a multinational challenge.
Post contributed by Marie Veyrier, student assistant in Technical Services
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University