Post contributed by Naomi L. Nelson, Associate University Librarian and Director, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky, which was on the western frontier of the young United States. His father was a hardscrabble farmer who moved his family several times in search of better opportunities, but the family never escaped poverty.
Lincoln was an avid reader from an early age. He grew up in Indiana and later remembered that he had less than a year’s schooling there—total. He was ambitious and learned by reading. Over his lifetime, Lincoln is known to have read in many disciplines, including the Bible, law and legal history, classical literature, world and American history, and political economy.
In an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in 1859, Lincoln noted “A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones.”
These are words to warm a librarian’s heart. David M. Rubenstein’s Americana Library includes many of the books that Lincoln is known to have read. He has loaned Duke a number of these titles for the exhibition “To Stand by the Side of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the American Nineteenth Century,” now on view in the Rubenstein Library and online.
Post contributed by Lisa Pruitt, Ph.D., Professor of History and Director, Graduate Program in Public History at Middle Tennessee State University, and a recent recipient of our History of Medicine Travel Grant.
What is your research project?
My project looks at the evolution over time of the concept of the “crippled child.” Of course, physically impaired children have always been present and in all societies. But in the mid-19th century US (a little earlier in Europe), reformers began to see physically disabled children of the impoverished and working classes as a social problem requiring both social and medical intervention. The word “crippled” began to show up in the names of charitable organizations and institutions in the 1860s; their numbers proliferated from the late 19th century to the mid-20th. In the early years, a “crippled child” was usually understood to be a child with a physical impairment, but “normal” intelligence, whose condition physicians and surgeons believed could be improved to the point of allowing the child to achieve economic self-sufficiency in adulthood. More severely impaired children were called “incurables” and were typically excluded from medical or surgical treatment and rehabilitation. The most common conditions that caused physical impairment in children were tuberculosis of the bones and joints, rickets (amongst the poorest classes), and congenital defects such as clubbed feet or congenital dislocation of the hip (now referred to as developmental dysplasia of the hip). Impairments resulting from polio began to increase after the turn of the twentieth century. With improvements in sanitation and the development of antibiotics and the polio vaccine, infectious disease became less significant as a cause of physical disability in children by the mid-20th century. At the same time, the emphasis on treating only those children who could be made self-sufficient began to fade. Charity organizations, like the Association for the Aid of Crippled Children in New York, were surpassed in importance by advocacy organizations such as the National Society for Crippled Children (now Easter Seals). By the 1950s, the medical and advocacy communities began to focus on conditions that earlier would have been considered “incurable” – notably, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida.
What did you use from Duke’s History of Medicine Collections?
I used the John Ridlon Papers (1846-1936). Ridlon was a prominent orthopedic surgeon who spent his early career in New York in the 1890s and then practiced in Chicago in the early 20th century. I was drawn to his collection in hopes of learning more about the day-to-day work of orthopedic surgeons at that time and especially the impact of x-ray technology on their practice with children. I am also interested in the Home for Destitute Crippled Children in Chicago, with which Ridlon was heavily involved; I hoped I would find some information about that institution as well.
What surprised you or was unexpected?
I found more than I expected about a controversy in 1902-03 involving the highly publicized visit to the United States of Austrian orthopedic surgeon Adolf Lorenz. Lorenz claimed a very high success rate for his “bloodless” cure for congenital dislocation of the hip. In the fall of 1902, J. Ogden Armour (of the Armour meatpacking fortune) brought Lorenz to Chicago to treat his 5-year-old daughter, Lolita, who was born with bilateral dislocation of the hips. Until I accessed the collection, I did not realize that Lolita Armour had been Ridlon’s patient up until that time. Lorenz’s visit was hyped by the Hearst media empire and provoked a wildly enthusiastic response from the general public. American orthopedic surgeons, including Ridlon, were hostile in their responses to Lorenz.
I also did not expect to find such a rich vein of material about the early years of the American Orthopedic Association. Ridlon was a prominent member and corresponded extensively with other leaders of the profession. Early concerns and conflicts surface a lot in that correspondence. I did not have time to delve into this correspondence, but I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the professionalization of orthopedics.
One thing I learned about Ridlon’s practice that surprised me was its national scope. I wasn’t even looking for this information, but in the small amount of correspondence that I sifted through, I found that he had long-term patients in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and (less surprisingly) Ohio. They traveled to see him, but I was surprised to find that he also traveled to them. Talk about house calls!
Anything else you’d like to share?
The Ridlon Papers are a rich resource. The correspondence is extensive. I was lucky that a separate folder on the Lorenz controversy had been created by Ridlon at some point, but I suspect that relevant correspondence is also scattered throughout the collection. Allow lots of time!
I found many interesting things in my research, but I’ll share one document that stood out to me. In this copy of one of his out-going letters from 1899, Ridlon comments on how an x-ray changed his diagnosis. The letter is 3 pages; he makes a humorous comment on the x-ray near the beginning.
Post contributed by Richard Branscomb, PhD Candidate at Carnegie Mellon University and a recent Duke Human Rights Archive Travel Grant Recipient.
By many accounts, the riot on January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol building was an unprecedented day of violent, far-right insurrection. Indeed, an attack of that magnitude on the nation’s capital has not occurred since this country’s Civil War. The events of that day drew together various far-right factions with a propensity for antidemocratic violence, including QAnon conspiracy adherents, so-called militia or patriot groups like the Oath Keepers, and the “western chauvinist” group the Proud Boys. While the unfolding violence on January 6 may have been unprecedented, the “revolutionary” narratives undergirding those events are not. And the ultimate incapacity of those rioters to overturn national election results will not preclude others from trying again through other violent means.
My research uses digital and historical archives to trace the sort of conspiratorial narratives that resulted in the January 6 riot. The Rubenstein Library’s exceptional special collections have contributed to the goals of my larger dissertation project, in which I examine particular tropes in the history of firearms advocacy in the U.S. as that history is inflected by ideologies of far-right vigilantism and white supremacist subtext. As a scholar of rhetoric, I’m particularly interested in the ways social movements build and circulate narratives that establish certain senses of identity, urgency, or, in extreme cases, justifications for terroristic violence.
In the Rubenstein Library’s collections, I was primarily examining the periodicals circulated by the civilian militia movement that rose to prominence in the U.S. in the early 1990s. These materials include newsletters and propaganda that these militia groups circulated for recruitment and political antagonism. Overall, what these archival materials help illustrate is that the sort of antidemocratic violence seen on January 6 is neither a new phenomenon of far-right sedition, nor will it be the last. Though hundreds of rioters have now been criminally charged, little accountability appears on the immediate horizon for the sitting members of Congress who refuse to condemn the participants or the election falsehoods that precipitated the riot.
The civilian militia movement has been characterized by a deeply libertarian suspicion (and/or paranoia) of the federal government, and a stalwart dedication to the Second Amendment as a means to reclaim “liberty” for the militias’ overwhelmingly white and male members. This is despite the fact that militias were and are extrajudicial in all 50 states, and that judicial precedent on the Second Amendment does not support private militia formation. The civilian militia movement originated amid a longer history of racist backlash to the incremental victories of the civil rights movement of the twentieth century, which were (and still are) framed on the political right as encroachments of federal government power on everyday American lives. Then, a series of lethal blunders by federal agencies in the early 1990s accelerated militia mobilization across the country: First, in the deadly standoff with a white separatist family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992, and second, the 51-day explosive siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas in 1993. This movement initially peaked in 1996, but it declined amid the fallout from the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building by white supremacist, anti-government extremists that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.
As evidenced by archived materials of far-right groups, Ruby Ridge and Waco inspired militia mobilization for years afterward. For instance, the Missouri 51st militia was named for the length of the Waco siege. These events also inspired varying degrees of exhortative rhetoric in militia group publications, up to and including insurrectionary violence. In a March 1995 periodical for the Alabama-based Gadsden Minutemen Unorganized Militia, one writer reflected on how the movement ought to respond to government overreach, particularly incidents like Ruby Ridge and Waco. The writer concludes by emphasizing the “divine” spirit of the movement, even drawing a timeline from the American Revolution to the 1995 anniversary of the Waco siege’s disastrous end—the date that would in fact coincide with the Oklahoma City bombing:
“As on April 18, 1775, on July 4, 1776, on April 19, 1995, we are ‘ … endowed by our Creator … ’ Not endowed by government. I, we are free, independent and sovereign, with full authority over our lives, our bodies, and our property. We are rightly answerable to outside authority only for direct infringement of the rights of others. Otherwise only divine authority will obtain. It is our duty, laid on us by God and the generations, to defend our, our children’s, and our neighbors’ liberty. In extremis, to kill; if necessary to die. We, I, individuals, each alone, are individually responsible.”
Though this militia group was not responsible for the terrorism in Oklahoma City, these bald exhortations resonate —in extremis—with the broader rhetorical strategies of these civilian militias then and now. Groups like the Gadsden Minutemen and the Missouri 51st militia publicly decried the horrendous violence in Oklahoma City, while asserting that their mission was not to overthrow the federal government but instead to compel the government to “return” to a nostalgic constitutional past. Still other groups like the influential Militia of Montana circulated “false flag” conspiracies about the bombing, claiming it to be yet another federal ruse to dismantle their movement. After the failed insurrection on January 6, 2021, some on the far-right recapitulated this storyline by claiming that the Capitol riot was itself yet another “false flag.” Still others, including members of Congress, have extended that “revolutionary” timeline to include January 6, 2021.
In all, my research is concerned with critically contextualizing the prominence of heavily-armed vigilante groups in the American political system, particularly their violent vision of enforcing governmental accountability. To be sure, the government and our elected leaders must be held to account for their travesties and abject failures. However, civilian militias and their allies rely on armed intimidation and blatantly antidemocratic terrorism, methods that must be situated in the longer history of racist exclusion and silencing that paints a narrow view of just who “we the people” are. This is why archives like the Rubenstein Library’s collections are particularly valuable for reminding us how we got to where we are now, including the far-right normalization of extremist words and deeds.
Above: Portrait in oils of Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore painted by his daughter Lyda Moore Merrick. Located in the North Carolina Collection, Stanford L. Warren Branch of the Durham County Library, Durham, N.C.
Too often we relegate the lives of our ancestors to the basket of nostalgia. We think that because our modern times have dressed us up in different clothes and surrounded us with technology that the lives and struggles of our ancestors can’t speak with any real directness to ours. It is easy in the rush and rattle of the present to allow seasoned historians to define us in macrocosm while overlooking the importance of our own more granular history; a thread waiting to be pulled in the warp and woof of who we think we are. Libraries and historical archives exist to help us pull that thread and expand our understanding of history and our place in it.
Eight years ago, I was chosen by the Durham Colored Library board of directors, led by chairperson C. Eileen Watts Welch, to follow my own ancestral thread and write a biography of my great- great-grandfather, Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore. The dream of this historical biography of Durham’s first Black physician far predates my involvement; it actually predates me. Dr. Moore’s daughter, my great-grandmother, Lyda Moore Merrick, dreamed of a book about her Papa. My grandfather, Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts, a legendary surgeon and healthcare activist in his own right, also dreamed of this book. His dream inspired his daughter, C. Eileen Watts Welch, to make this biography a reality. The Durham Colored Library, an organization founded by Dr. Moore himself in 1913 and now a non-profit focused on uplifting Black narratives, sponsored the project.
The Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library was the first of many such archives that I would find myself exploring on my journey. The hallowed feeling of that space and the respect with which my ancestral papers are cared for there was in and of itself a revelation. Black history is not, in my experience, often afforded this level of protection or gravitas. Having to make a reservation to review things I remember first seeing on my grandfather’s desk years ago was very emotional for me. One document discovery I made, however, vividly illustrates the importance of these archives.
Several years into my research, I was cross-referencing the papers of Dr. Moore’s contemporaries to glean any possible mentions of him. One day, in Charles Clinton Spaulding’s papers, (Dr. Moore’s nephew and another member of Durham’s “Mighty Triumvirate” along with John Merrick) I noticed a file labeled “Anon. memo book.” I am based in Los Angeles, so I asked my research partner (and aunt) C. Eileen Watts Welch if she had time to go and see what it was. When she finally found it, it took her breath away.
In her hand was a brown leather-bound doctor’s visiting book from Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore’s first year of practice in Durham (1888-1889). She could actually feel the imprint of his fingers in the leather. She called to tell me. We both cried. She told me it even smelled sort of earthy and sweaty and maybe even like the saddlebags of the horse he rode on his rounds. Together we had unearthed the Rosetta Stone of Black healthcare in Durham.
The entries start neatly and sparsely and, as the year goes on, the pages fill to the brim. Payments are often recorded as produce, a basket of eggs, a dollar here and there. He is attending to everything from burns and pellagra to child birth and gunshot wounds. His stress level and commitment are visible in the pressure of his pencil on the paper. This miraculous connection was made possible because the Rubenstein Library cared enough to preserve, itemize and digitally list this precious artifact. I will be forever indebted to C. C. Spaulding, the NC Mutual Life Insurance Company’s staff and archivists through the years, and every librarian and archivist who made sure that, 129 years later, his ancestors would get to feel the imprint of his fingers in his visiting book.
Archives and historical collections have the power to heal, inspire and affirm the many diverse threads in the fabric of our national tapestry. History includes all of us.
I hope our adventure sparks the beginning of yours.
Aaron McDuffie Moore: An African American Physician, Educator and Founder of Durham’s Black Wall Streetby Blake Hill-Saya is available from UNC Press and can be found wherever books are sold. Contact The Durham Colored Library for official autographed copies.
 This item was previously identified as “Anonymous memo book.” Due to Blake Hill-Saya and C. Eileen Watts Welch’s research, the Rubenstein Library was able to rename the description for this item. It can now be found as, Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore doctor’s visiting book, Charles Clinton Spaulding papers, 1889-1990, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
The many disruptions of the past year required RL staff to re-envision all aspects of the ways that we support research and teaching. Adapting to virtual work and social distancing forced us to slow down and to check in on our personal and work priorities. In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the national reckoning about race, we committed to recentering our strategic objectives around anti-racism. Here are some highlights from the year:
Focusing on Digital Access & Digital Collections
With our reading room closed, staff focused on digital delivery, sending nearly 170,000 scans to researchers and students all over the world—eight times the number we delivered the previous year.
Pre-pandemic RL instructors created Our Approach to Classes and continue to refine this methodology to make class sessions more inclusive and welcoming.
The Collection Development Department is reviewing and revising our collecting policies to be more transparent about our collecting practices.
The Research Services Department seeks to practice equitable access models through their customer service training, and reading room, reproduction, and reference policies.
University Archives is partnering with counterparts at Johnson C. Smith University, Davidson University, and Furman University to host a cohort of interns and staff who will explore the racial history of each institution.
University Archives and Exhibitions collaborated with Prof. Cecilia Marquez and her students to develop an exhibition on Latinx history at Duke.
To call attention to the low number of people of color and women among design professionals, the Exhibitions program committed to using only fonts created by people of color for two years.
University Archivist Valerie Gillispie received a CASE District III Gold Award for her article “A More Complicated Love” in Duke Magazine, which calls on our community to reckon with this history so that we can build a better Duke.
All RL staff were encouraged to participate in the Racial Equity Institute’s Groundwater training and our informal diversity, equity and inclusion reading group met bi-weekly on Slack. Several managers in the RL are taking a course on Inclusive Management Practices.
As we prepare to welcome the Duke community back to campus, and hopefully visitors in the coming months, research and instruction will continue to implement changes to our programs to reflect our anti-racist strategic objectives.
The Franklin Research Center is collaborating with the SNCC Legacy Project, the Center for Documentary Studies, the New Georgia Project, BYP 100, and the Ohio Voice on the grant “Our Story. Our Terms: Documenting Movement Building from the Inside Out,” funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The multi-generational project team 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.
Using the Guiding Principles for Description and Style Guide, RL Technical Services has begun reviewing finding aids and catalog records for harmful language. In one project, archivists are sponsoring a Data+ student team to extract structured data from over 300,000 catalog cards created from the 1930s through late 1990s so that we might provide better access to this information and use it to analyze our manuscript collections.
Date: April 7, 2021 Time: 3:00 pm ET Location: Zoom Register Here
Interested in archival and library work? Come learn about the internships being offered at the Rubenstein Library in Fall of 2021!
On April 7th at 3:00pm Rubenstein Library staff will be hosting an information session and open house where you can learn about the Rubenstein Library, meet the intern supervisors, get details on the internship projects, and ask questions.
The following internships available at the Rubenstein Library in the coming academic year:
Consumer Reports Processing Intern: The Consumer Reports Processing Intern will primarily arrange and describe archival materials held in the Consumer Reports Archives collections, part of the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing in the Rubenstein Library. The intern may also participate in outreach, programming, and instruction activities, depending on opportunities and the intern’s abilities and interests.
Josiah Charles Trent Internship: Working closely with the History of Medicine Collections, this position will provide support for public services and collection development activities of the History of Medicine.
Human Rights Archive, Marshall T. Meyer Intern: Working with RL Technical Services and Research Services staff, you will primarily provide support for research services, technical services, and collection development activities of the Human Rights Archive.
John Hope Franklin Research Center Internship: The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture seeks a reliable candidate to fill the position of Franklin Research Center intern. Working closely with the center’s director, you will provide support for public services and collection development activities. This internship provides an opportunity to work closely with the center’s collections which include rare books, personal papers and manuscripts, oral histories, audiovisual, and ephemeral materials that document the African and African Diaspora experience from the 16th century to present day.
Post contributed by Amelia Verkerk, Graduate Intern, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture
The Brown Papers were a series of publications written and produced by the National Institute for Women of Color (NIWC) as a platform to raise awareness and examine issues and concerns of women of color including lack of representation in politics, harmful and derogatory stereotypes, and systemic silencing of their experiences and voices. NIWC was founded as a non-profit institute in 1981 to create a national network for women of African, Alaska Native, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, Latina, and Pacific Island heritage. NIWC started organizing annual conferences around the United States in 1982 and began publishing The Brown Papers in 1984 along with another periodical called Fact Sheets on Women of Color.
The mission of NIWC’s Brown Papers and its other projects was to create a “cross-racial/ethnic communication vehicle to identify or define issues, educate and raise awareness about those issues, and encourage coalitions and alliances to address the common concerns of mutual issues” (The Brown Papers, 23). While the NIWC organized and published The Brown Papers, the periodical was written and funded by individual contributors and outside grant organizations. The Sallie Bingham Center holds a copy of the first issue of The Brown Papers which was written by Suzanne Brooks, Aileen Hernandez, Marta Cotera, and Victoria Siu. This issue focuses on the importance of women of color in local, state, and federal offices, such as district court judges, mayors, and ambassadors. Additionally, the authors examine the significance of women holding traditionally male positions (i.e., tribal leaders, professors, business owners, etc.) because “the twin legacies of racism and sexism in the United States have had double the impact on women of color.” (The Brown Papers, 11)
The Brown Papers explores the impact of historical experiences of women of color. Contributor Marta Cotera analyzes the ways in which many matriarchal tribes were further harmed by the American white, patriarchal laws passed in the 20th century, after already facing hundreds of years of legal discrimination. These laws undermine the importance of women in these cultures which has led to the disenfranchisement of indigenous women and the Federal government refusing to recognize matriarchal tribes, both of which perpetuate the lack of proper representation of Native women. The Brown Papers provide a unique insight to these types of discussions women of color were having in the 1980s and continue to have in 2021. Here are a few particular trenchant examples:
“Few women of color have been able to reach the pinnacle of national elective office; no woman of color has sat in the sanctum of the United States Senate; a total of six have left their mark on the House of Representatives… Their life histories are a chronicle of risk-taking, commitment, and involvement.” (The Brown Papers, 4).
“Therefore, this paper would not be complete without a look at American governmental policies that have restricted the political participation of people of color. While this effort is only a preliminary look at the tapestry of American politics in which women of color are woven, it is a look long overdue.” (The Brown Papers, 11).
“But institutionalized racism in society postponed the opportunity for women of color to reap the benefits of this victory [the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment]. Jeanette Rankin of Montana was the first woman elected to Congress (1916); but it took nearly an additional half a century for a woman of color (Patsy Mink) to achieve this goal.” (The Brown Papers, 17)
Post contributed by Sagan Thacker, recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Asheville BA in History. Read more in their senior thesis, “‘Something to Offend Everyone’: Situating Feminist Comics of the 1970s and ‘80s in the Second-Wave Feminist Movement,” forthcoming in the University of North Carolina at Asheville Journal of Undergraduate Research and available to read here.
I soon found several articles that turned popular notions of comics on their heads. Most notable was a February 1976 article from the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, newspaper Amazon: A Feminist Journal. Written by Barb Behm about the now obscure Pricella Pumps/Star Buckwheat Comic Book by Barba Kutzner (1976), the article cogently praised the book’s relatability and satire of American society and its metaphorical significance for all women. Behm touted Kutzner’s protagonist as both a character with which women could heartily identify and a way to break free from the oppressive system and celebrate non-normativity.
This source was instrumental in showing that feminist underground comics, far from being tangential and lowbrow parts of the second-wave feminist movement, were instead an important part of the intellectual discourse within feminism. By finding a critic who enthusiastically engaged with the work on a level beyond its perceived lowbrow status, it became clear that some feminists viewed comics as a valid and direct medium to write and engage with feminism on a level that would not be widespread until the zine revolution of the late 1980s and early ‘90s. This reframing of comics’ literary history deepens our understanding of second-wave feminism and gives a more nuanced portrait of its discursive diversity.
In The Silver Swan, Sallie Bingham chronicles one of the great underexplored lives of the twentieth century. Bingham is especially interested in dissecting the stereotypes that have defined Duke’s story while also confronting the disturbing questions related to her legacy. According to Gloria Steinem, “Sallie Bingham rescues Doris Duke from this gendered prison and shows us just how brave, rebellious, and creative this unique woman really was, and how her generosity benefits us to this day.”
Treason: A Sallie Bingham Reader is a collection that captures the spirit of the author’s illustrious writing career via short stories, a novella, and a play. From the complex stories of artistic influence and the exhilaration and fright of solitude, to the incendiary rage of a betrayed young wife who sacrifices everything for revenge, to the struggles for independence of the three women who surrounded Ezra Pound like subservient stars, these fictions seize the reader’s attention while slashing stereotypes.
Please join the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture for a panel discussion grounded in the history of Southerners on New Ground (SONG) that will explore how activist archives inform intersectional struggles for social justice. Mandy Carter (SONG co-founder), Wesley Hogan (historian), Lisa Levenstein (historian), and Mab Segrest (SONG co-founder) will reflect on the importance and contemporary relevance of SONG’s organizing in the 1990s and beyond.