Post contributed by Elliot Mamet, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Duke and Archival Processing Intern at the Rubenstein Library.
The papers of Nick Meglin, longtime editor of MAD Magazine, are now available and open for research at the Rubenstein Library.
Meglin was affiliated with MAD Magazine for decades. As a newly-minted graduate of the School of Visual Arts, Meglin was hired at MAD Magazine in 1956. Over the course of his life he held various titles at MAD, including Idea Man, War Correspondent, Associate Editor, Tennis Editor, Co-Editor, and, upon his retirement in 2004, Contributing Editor. Meglin played a central role in shaping MAD’s editorial voice and recruiting artists to join the “Usual Gang of Idiots.”
The Nick Meglin Papers include extensive material which convey how MAD Magazine was edited and produced, such as layout art, ideas for features, inside jokes between editors, parodies, celebrity correspondence, and detailed accounts of the yearly MAD staff trips. One folder, “Horrifying Cliches,” includes “a freak accident,” “a flaming passion,” “a blessing in disguise,” “a gross understatement,” and “a bloodless coup,” among others. Another folder, Typewritoons, chronicles a 1965 reader contest to generate cartoons from the script of a typewriter.
Meglin’s creative pursuits expanded far beyond MAD Magazine, and the Nick Meglin Papers gives a sense of his enormous output. The collection includes Meglin’s illustrations, many of his essays, song lyrics, and two musicals he wrote, Tim and Scrooge and Grumpy Old Men. It also includes Nick’s greeting card ideas, some of which he sold, including “See, I didn’t forget the occasion!… only the date! Sorry I’m late…” and “happy birthday to the best looking, brightest, and most talented person in the world…me!”
Upon his 2004 retirement, Meglin moved to Durham. While living here, he volunteered for WCPE, creating 84 original sketches of composers and musicians, he taught illustration, and he formed a “usual suspects” lunch club of fellow illustrators and creatives. It is exciting for researchers to be able to access the papers of Nick Meglin at the Rubenstein Library, and to learn more about the colorful life and career of Nick Meglin, who was an illustrator, cartoonist, art instructor, essayist, lyricist, writer of musicals – and always a humorist, too.
 Horrifying Cliches, 1971. Box 1, MAD Magazine Series, Editorial and Administrative Files Subseries. In the Nick Meglin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Typewritoons. Box 2, MAD Magazine Series, Editorial and Administrative Files Subseries. In the Nick Meglin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Greeting Card Ideas. Box 8, Other Professional Materials Series, Other Projects Subseries. In the Nick Meglin Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
I’m Roger, and I grew up in the Boston area. I attended Syracuse University as an undergraduate and earned a Master’s degree in education at Lesley University in Massachusetts. I moved down to North Carolina in 2013 and have served as an educator in private and public schools. I’m currently in my last year at UNC Greensboro’s MLIS program with a specialization in special collections and archives.
My wife and I have two children—ages 3 and 2 months—and we live in Durham. I love all things history and our house is filled with books and magazines related to several historic topics. I really love to cook and try new recipes. We are HUGE Boston sports fans so you will usually find us watching one of my sports teams on TV.
What interests you in working in a library setting, specifically in the History of Medicine Collections?
I’m 35 and a career changer. I had always thought about going back to school to earn an MLIS but never thought I had the time. The COVID-19 pandemic, school closures, and having some extra time to think about career goals rekindled my interest in earning my degree. I’ve always wanted to work in special collections and archives and hope to continue this work after graduation.
As a teenager, I “lived” at libraries and museums in my hometown of Boston. I love studying all things history and being able to handle old artifacts and primary sources—holding history in my hand! I’m that person at museums and historic sites asking questions, trying to touch everything and reading as many labels as possible. Being a history teacher, sharing stories of the past, and having students research and explore topics that interest them has always been important to me.
I love reading, instruction and all things history so I jumped at the chance to work at the Rubenstein Library. The history of medicine is always present when studying other historic topics and the History of Medicine (HoM) collection encompasses that. Even after months as the HoM intern, I’m still blown away by how vast and diverse the History of Medicine collection is and how much it has to offer. I’ve been able to hold manuscripts, artifacts, and books that are centuries old. There’s a special feeling when you pick up these resources; and you can’t help but feel a connection to the past and the individuals who used or created these materials.
The Josiah C. Trent HoM Internship has allowed me to explore the research aspect of special collections; and I’ve also been able to create and plan exhibits, helped with reference services and instructional support, and collaborated with other collections at the Rubenstein Library! It’s been a fantastic learning experience.
Can you share a memorable experience from your internship?
It’s really hard to choose just one memorable experience. I’ve enjoyed getting to know other Rubenstein Library staff and meeting researchers from across the world. Walking into the stacks makes me feel right at home and I always have to take a step back and appreciate how special the collection is. Being able to immerse yourself with the material and learning the ins and outs of academic libraries has been especially rewarding.
Participating and helping to coordinate Anatomy Day and researching and curating physical and online exhibits, like Good Vibrations, have been just a few of my favorite moments. Helping with instructional support is always fun as I was able to combine my past experience as an educator and help students interact with primary sources. It’s always fun to see a student’s reaction when something has caught their interest.
Do you have a favorite item you would like to share?
Again, hard to choose just one. The anatomical flap books and the Four Seasons are quite a sight to see and exemplify how people have always had a curiosity to touch and personally interact with materials. I really loved the East Asian medical books featured at Anatomy Day: Shunrinken kasho (Shunrinken school family book)from the Japanese medical manuscripts notebooks and Shinkan Geka Seisō新刊外科正宗. The illustrations in these books are phenomenal.
The amputation set from the mid-19th centuryhas probably been the item I spent the most time with. It’s one of those artifacts that you can’t help but want to learn more about. Being a student of American history and an aficionado of learning about the Civil War, the amputation set from the mid 19th century called my name. I first came across the saw when I was assisting Dr. Jeff Baker and Brooke Guthrie with a History of Surgery class and Dr. Baker asked me if I could handle student questions related to Civil War medicine – which I was more than happy to do!
I was fortunate enough to have a blog post published on The Devil’s Tale and Duke Daily where I was able to investigate the history of the saw and its origins. Holding the amputation saw in your hand, you can easily imagine a world where physicians grappled with decisions regarding the need for an amputation and the thousands of soldiers whose lives were forever changed by the war and surgical procedure. It was an eye-opening experience and allowed me to explore the unique but very complicated role that North Carolina played in the Civil War.
Post contributed by Laura Micham, Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and Curator
The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture is pleased to announce that the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers are now available and open for research. Sedgwick (1950-2009) was a poet, artist, literary critic, and teacher. As a faculty member in the English Department at Duke from 1988-1997, her work helped establish this institution as an intellectual leader in the critical study of sexuality.
Sedgwick is best known as one of the founders of the field of Queer Theory, a field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s. Her call for reparative work and for reading practices grounded in affect and performance have transformed our understandings of intimacy, identity, and politics. She published several groundbreaking books such as Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985), Epistemology of the Closet (1990), and Tendencies (1993). Her works and her collection reflect an interest in a range of issues including queer performativity; experimental critical writing; the works of Marcel Proust; non-Lacanian psychoanalysis; artists’ books; Buddhism and pedagogy; and material culture, especially textiles and texture.
The Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers are comprised of 130 linear feet of materials that document Sedgwick’s scholarly career, her artistic expression, and her personal life. Researchers will find Sedgwick’s writings and speeches as well as the writings of others; her notebooks and calendars; research, teaching, and activism files; event and travel files; correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia; legal, medical, and financial materials; and books and other published material. The collection also includes Sedgwick’s art such as works on paper, textile, clay, glass, ceramic, and other works which are currently being carefully housed by our conservation department.
In order to facilitate the use of the collection, the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Foundation is generously funding research travel grants. In addition to supporting academic research aimed at producing publications and dissertations, the Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Grants will support a wide range of other creative projects such as educational initiatives, exhibitions, films, multimedia products, and other artistic works. The grants are administered by the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture. The deadline for the first grant cycle is April 30, 2022. For more information please visit our Grants and Fellowships site.
It is truly thrilling to us in the Rubenstein Library, as well as to faculty across the university, that Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s papers have come back to Duke. During her time here she left an indelible mark on our community and her work continues to have a significant effect in shaping the lives and thought of many people.
What I’m proudest of, I guess, is having a life where work and love are impossible to tell apart.
– Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
Post contributed by Roger Peña, MLIS Student at UNC Greensboro and Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern
“We give a written guarantee that our appliance will cure the diseases mentioned…”
“Indoresed[sic] by the government!”
“Every man and woman troubled with weak and languid feelings, nervous, rheumatic, or organic disorders should wear the… electropathic belt”
“Diseases that are now treated successfully by vibration… (colic, gallstones, impotency, insomnia, paralysis, spinal curvature)” See Image for full list.
“Vibration and Electricity are the most natural remedies known.”
The statements above were just a sample of the testimonials and claims found in advertisements, sales brochures, and user manuals for electrotherapy devices on display in Good Vibrations. Electrotherapy, or the “use of electric currents passed through the body to stimulate nerves and muscles” gained notoriety from the mid 1800s and into the 1920s. Consumers and patients were eager to explore the endless possibilities of electricity to cure their medical ailments and improve their vitality. Eager to reach new customers and with little-to-no government oversight, producers of medical batteries, electric suspension belts, and electric rejuvenators claimed that their devices could cure nearly all diseases – many with a money-back guarantee if it didn’t work!
Though widely regarded as a modern innovation, the use of electricity in medicine dates back to ancient Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. Centuries ago, these civilizations attempted to harness electricity from eels and catfish to cure ailments such as gout and baldness. We all remember the story of Benjamin Franklin flying a kite. Turns out: this may have been an experiment with medical purposes. Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein has its protagonist experiment with electricity to bring life back from the dead.
The invention of the battery in the early nineteenth century revolutionized the capabilities of electricity, and its uses for medical purposes were widely studied. From the 1850s to the early twentieth century, once-unimaginable discoveries in battery power and electricity transformed the world. Many people began to believe they could harness this new power for medical, health, and beauty purposes.
Cities around the world became home to university departments, medical societies, and practices devoted to electrotherapy. At the same time, mass consumerism and mass production allowed average citizens to purchase cheap electrical therapy devices from sales catalogs, local electricians, and medical supply companies and salesmen. Portrayed as an alternative to pills and medicine, electrotherapy devices (through low current shock waves or vibrations applied to different areas of the body) claimed to treat a wide range of conditions, such as arthritis, sciatica, gout, impotency, glaucoma, and “nervousness.”
Although such devices were often dismissed as quackery by many in the medical profession, their low cost and widespread marketing attracted a large audience eager to consume all things electric.
The Behind the Veil collection has immense research value for historians and lay researchers who want to know about the lived experience of African Americans during the period of Jim Crow segregation. This collection of rich, personal narratives adds nuance to the long freedom struggle by broadening the localized perspectives from varying cities offering insight into Black communities beyond normative civil rights narratives. That allows listeners to gather a new perspective of the movement and leaders.
As the processing intern, I have had the pleasure of going through the Behind the Veil photograph, A/V, and administrative project files. Simply going through the records of each interview offers insight into the person’s life and the effects of Jim Crow. I noticed that although the interviews were collected in the 1990s, many interviewees were still fearful of retaliation for speaking about their experiences from the early to mid-twentieth century. The records also show that the narrative of Black life portrayed in textbooks and movies as subservient and second-class citizens are not necessarily actual lived experiences. Many of the interviewees were well-educated, owned businesses, and community leaders.
Looking at the records of each interview also expands the discourse of different facets of the long struggle for freedom. For example, they capture complex layers of the Great Migration, revealing how passing –Black people who assimilated into whiteness –affected the nuclear family. Additionally, the records expand our knowledge on Black Wall Streets’ throughout the United States and highlight the dilemma of integration v. desegregation v. equalization. Perhaps most importantly, Behind the Veil exudes the need for a localized approach to history and how everyday people make a change, and why the project in its entirety should be available to the public.
The process of collecting oral histories is not an easy task. Still, as a historian, I get the pleasure of using my sneak peek to draw new connections for my research while thinking of the new connections future scholars will uncover.
Post contributed by Kelsey Zavelo, Doctoral Candidate in History and Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern 2021-2022.
Chapter 2: Digging Deeper
In my previous post on this blog, I wrote about finding an 1847 letter written by Jacob Chiles, a formerly enslaved person, in the Joseph Ingram Sr. Family papers here at the Rubenstein Library. In his letter, Chiles explains what slavery and freedom meant to him and his family.
This week I dig deeper into Chiles’s story by exploring what other documents in and beyond the Ingram papers can tell us about him.
Donated to the Duke University Library’s Manuscript Department (now the Rubenstein Library) in 1953, the Joseph Ingram Sr. papers includes approximately 1130 items covering 2.5 linear feet. The bulk of the collection consists of family, business, and transactional correspondence as well as bills and receipts, arranged chronologically, primarily dating to the first half of the nineteenth century.
Based on his reference to having spent “some three score years” in bondage, Chiles may have been around sixty years old by the time of his writing. With Chiles’s possible age and surname in mind, a bill of sale dated June 13, 1803 could be the beginning of his paper trail in the Ingram papers.
The bill details the purchase by Joseph Ingram, Sr. of Anson County, “two certain negroes named Jacob and, other named Ruth, and one horse named Ball for the sum of six hundred Dollars” from a friend of the family, Thomas L. Chiles. The purchase agreement included a clause that essentially boils down to a rent-to-buy-back scheme: Chiles agreed to pay Ingram $60/year to hire Jacob and Ruth on an annual basis, with the understanding that if he were to do this for at least 10 years, thereby paying Ingram up to the original $600, Ingram would “return the said negroes to the said Chiles.” It is likely that Jacob Chiles continued to live in close proximity to both families after 1803, which might explain why he kept Chiles as a surname. In his Last Will and Testament dated 1820, Thomas L. Chiles reaffirmed his agreement to sell Jacob to Joseph Ingram, stating, “It is my will and desire that the Bills of sale I gave Jos. Ingram Sr. for Jacob…to stand good…” Perhaps it was only after this time that Jacob came to live permanently on the Ingram plantation.
The John Hope Franklin Center has digitized scores of similar bills of sale and other items documenting the sales, escapes, and emancipations of enslaved people from colonial times through the Civil War. Browse the American Slavery Documents Collection.
In his letter, Chiles mentions that his two sons, one named Walter, started attending Harveysburg High School during their first winter in Ohio. Founded by Quakers Jesse and Elizabeth Harvey—the latter of whom was also an abolitionist—the Harveysburg School was established in 1831 as the first free school for African Americans in Ohio. Since 1977, it has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as “Harvey, Elizabeth, Free Negro School.” In addition to telling us something about his dreams for his children’s future and possible educational training prior to leaving North Carolina, Chiles’s naming of the school provides a solid foundation upon which historians and others might dig deeper into the historical record to find more traces of him and his family after slavery.
Submitted by Caitlin Margaret Kelly, Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts
The Archive of Documentary Arts is pleased to announce the 2021-2022 Collection Awards. We will be adding four projects related to environmental (in)justice to the Archive, including three photographic portfolios and one video.
Alphabetically the awardees are:
Crystal Z. Campbell, A Meditation on Nature in the Absence of an Eclipse, 2020, Digital Video
A Meditation on Nature in the Absence of an Eclipse is a poetic glimpse of how centuries of extraction, racism, pollution, and commoditizing nature has altered our relationship to sacred land and resources. How has nature been historically shaped and imaged for pleasure, status, and control by many hands of invisible labor? Constellated and intersectional histories and source material include testimony from a Water Protector at Standing Rock protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, contaminated water in Flint Michigan, original footage of Hierve el Agua near Oaxaca, Mexico revered for its healing properties, archival images of gardens and hands of artists who resided in Tulsa, Oklahoma and children brushing their teeth––a reflection of the innocuous ways which contaminated water and resources shapes the lives of individuals completing banal, daily, routine tasks.
Critical to the film is the intentional use of unlicensed footage, bearing a brand across the center that detracts from what’s happening in the actual footage, and becomes a viewfinder for how that footage is read or deemed important enough to view because there is a branded stamp of approval. Historically, the watermark is used to connote ownership and authenticity. The film is a consideration of how documentary practice can be another form of resource extraction, of which this filmmaker is implicated. Licensing fees are an example of the barriers to access, ultimately deciding who will control critical narratives of environmental racism and discourse. Originally commissioned by Wave Hill Public Garden & Cultural Center, the work was made in 2017 and reedited in 2020.
Crystal Z Campbell (they/them) is currently a 2021–22 UB Center for Diversity Innovation Distinguished Visiting Scholar, multidisciplinary artist, experimental filmmaker, and writer of Black, Filipinx, and Chinese descents. A 2021 Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Arts, Campbell finds complexity in public secrets—fragments of information known by many but undertold or unspoken. Using archival material, recent works revisit counternarratives of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, questions of immortality and medical ethics with Henrietta Lacks’ “immortal” cell line, ponder the role of a political monument and displacement in a Swedish coastal landscape, and salvage a 35mm film from a demolished Black activist theater in Brooklyn as a relic of gentrification.
Their work in film/video, performance, installation, sound, painting, and text, has been exhibited and screened at The Drawing Center, MOMA, Nest, ICA-Philadelphia, Bemis, Studio Museum of Harlem, SculptureCenter, and SFMOMA. Honors and awards include a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship, with Pollock-Krasner Award, MAP Fund, MacDowell, Skowhegan, Rijksakademie, Whitney ISP, Franklin Furnace, Tulsa Artist Fellowship, UNDO Fellowship, and Flaherty Film Seminar. Campbell’s writing has been featured in World Literature Today, Monday Journal, GARAGE, and Hyperallergic. Campbell, a former Harvard Radcliffe Film Study Center & David & Roberta Logie Fellow, was recently named a Creative Capital Awardee, and is founder of the virtual programming platform archiveacts.com. Campbell lives and works in New York and Oklahoma.
Stacy Kranitz, Fulcrum of Malice, 2017, Photographs
Fulcrum of Malice is the story of one community’s fight against the 25 polluting facilities that surround them. For more than fifty years, Alsen, LA has been caught in an environmental discrimination struggle that disproportionately burdens it with environmental hazards unparalleled in nearby white communities. Within a four-mile radius there are 11 petrochemical plants, 3 Superfund sites, 5 hazardous waste pits, 2 city garbage dumps, and 3 privately owned waste facilities surrounding them. Residents first began complaining of breathing problems, spontaneous nose bleeds, and headaches in the late 1970’s. High cancer rates, asthma, birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages continue to plague the community to this day. Many of the historic African American neighborhoods along the 140-mile Cancer Alley petrochemical corridor were developed after the Civil War when the government established small land grants for former slaves working on sugar cane plantations along the Mississippi River.
Alsen was established in 1872 as a small agrarian community on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. The environmental threats first began in the early 1900s when Louisiana politicians enticed large petroleum companies to the region with lenient environmental policies. In the 1950s, the government voted to rezone the farmland around Alsen from agriculture to industry. The rezoning faced little opposition since there were very few registered voters in Alsen at the time and no elected officials of color in the parish. The petrochemical industry became the backbone of the state’s economy and government officials were eager to bring in more companies. They did this by relaxing industrial zoning regulations near low-income Black communities along the Mississippi river. This method has been used to justify and grow petrochemical corridors around the world. This work is a testament to what has happened. Even if the government and industry continue to refuse to address this problem, the community itself deserve a visual record of the damage that details those responsible for it. This work is for them. And this work is for the rest of us because it is time, we all take responsibility and collectively acknowledge our complicit role in this pattern of systemic racism. The portfolio will be accompanied by a book containing the complete series of images and an investigative narrative detailing the histories of the 25 polluting facilities surrounding the community of Alsen.
Stacy Kranitz’s work explores representation and otherness within the documentary tradition. Her work focuses on the complex relationship between land and people. Kranitz was born in Kentucky and currently lives in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Tennessee. She has received funding support from the Michael P. Smith Fund for Documentary Photography, Southern Documentary Fund, Magnum Foundation and the National Geographic Society. In 2019 her work was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Discovery Award. She has presented solo exhibitions of her photographs at the Diffusion Festival of Photography in Cardiff, Wales and the Rencontres d’Arles in Arles, France. Her work has been written about in the Columbia Journalism Review, British Journal of Photography, Journal of Appalachian Studies, Time, The Guardian, Liberation, and the Royal Photographic Society Journal. Her photographs are included in permanent collections at the Harvard Art Museums and the Museum of Fine Art, Houston. She works on assignment as a photographer for publications including Time, Vanity Fair, The New York Times and National Geographic. For the past twelve years, she has been working on a project called As it was Give() to Me. A monograph of this work will be published by Twin Palms in 2022.
Emilio Nasser, La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan, 2016, Photographs
“Times have changed and the story of La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan has been disappearing. People say that when you don’t believe in something, it ceases to exist”
This project re-imagines the story of La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan in the face of its possible disappearance through collaboration with the community of Tlacotalpan, Mexico. La Cornuda is the mysterious being who lives in the depths of the Papaloapan River in Veracruz Mexico, who appears to disappear, frightens, scares away and explains the unexplained.
Through a collective, playful and participatory re-construction, La Cornuda is reinvented. In its attempt to survive the forgetfulness of modern times, it makes a decision that requires courage. Leaving the river, crossing the threshold of the shore, transforming itself, and entering into Tlacotalpan. While La Cornuda walks around invisible to the eyes of the community, the photographic lens reveals its new life.
La Cornuda de Tlacotalpan documentary project is part of an ongoing series called Memory is a Swamp (2016-ongoing), focused on myths, urban legends, local stories and oral histories that adopt, retell and re-interpret these narratives in a changing contemporary world, opening a space for experimental visions, re-framings and collaborative working contexts.
Through photographic practice, video, drawing and diverse collaborative strategies, Emilio Nasser’s projects have been attempted to navigate the infinite and multiple possibilities in visual narratives. Embarking on different paths, his works are based on and with local histories, re-visited myths, oral memories, identities, belonging, imagination, community, and some other things that are still complicated to explain with words on a conscious level. Graduated in Photography at Spilimbergo School of Applied Arts in Argentina. Then, at the outbreak of the 2001 socio-economic crisis, he became a cook. While living between Latin America and Europe, he has engaged in multiple educational experiences; such as Criticae-Max Pinkers, Folio Phmuseum, Laura El-Tantawy-Sybren Kuiper, Experimental’s Photobook-Julián Barón, 20Fotógrafos, Estudio Marcos López, Rodrigo Fierro-Gabriel Orge, among others. Currently in ISSP Masterclass-Rhizoma: Political Constellations with Lisa Barnard. Exhibited at spaces like Phmuseum Days (IT), Verzasca Foto Festival (CH), Emergentes International Photography Award-Encontros da Imagen (PT), Valongo Festival Da Imagen (BR), Yet-Magazine (CH), PHEspaña (ES), SCAN PhotoBooks (ES), Ojo de Pez (ES). Twice awarded grants by the Fondo Nacional del Arte (AR).
Lawrence Sumulong , “No Longer Can I Stay; It’s True.” The Marshallese in Springdale, Arkansas, 2016, Photographs
No longer can I stay; it’s true. No longer can I live in peace and harmony.
No longer can I rest on my sleeping mat and pillow
Because of my island and the life I once knew there. The thought is overwhelming
Rendering me helpless and in great despair. My spirit leaves, drifting around and far away
Where it becomes caught in a current of immense power –
And only then do I find tranquility
-The Bikinian Anthem (1946) by Lore Kessibuki (1914-1994)
In 2016, I looked at daily life in Springdale, Arkansas, where the largest community of Marshallese in the United States currently resides. Specifically, I focused on the traumatic history of the Bikinians, a community of about 5,000+ Pacific Islanders, whose homeland in the Bikini Atoll remains radioactive and uninhabited due to years of deadly US nuclear testing.
The Bikinians have lived in exile on the islands of Kili and Ejit in the Marshall Islands for 76 years. Currently, there are only a few remaining Bikinians out of the original 167 who were asked to leave their homeland in 1946 by the US military.
The relatively recent emigration to the United States entails yet another significant move away from their ancestral homeland. Their migration was motivated by the ability to live, work, and study in the United States according to the Compact of Free Association. However, as a new immigrant and historically exploited community, the Marshallese American livelihood remains entwined with blue collar work in the poultry industry of Northwest Arkansas.
Pre and post covid-19 pandemic, the successes and struggles of both the Bikinian and general Marshallese population offer a complicated look into what it means to be a part of American society. I wanted to learn from an adjacent and related ethnic experience, to foster empathy across cultures, and understand who we are as Americans in this new administration and era. To that end, I saw the use of printing on banana fibre paper to be a visual way of connecting my own heritage with the Marshallese experience in that it is a crop endemic to both the Marshall Islands and the Philippines.
I am a Filipino American photographer based in Brooklyn, New York City. I also run a commercial studio with my wife, Sarah, and our two Siamese-Maine Coon cats, Miko and Oliver. My personal work looks for ever-shifting approaches to documentary storytelling and imagery as a means of both questioning my own point of view as well as depicting reality. My perspective reflects how particular historical moments alter, disrupt, and shape one’s society and sense of self. Despite the United States existing as both my place of residence and birthplace, my work for over a decade had focused exclusively on my relationship to the Philippines. Most recently, I’ve been documenting emerging Asian American and Pacific Islander communities at a time where it feels absolutely necessary to depict the nuances within the panoply of AAPI experiences and histories, while also thinking about intersections.
Post contributed by Kelsey Zavelo, Doctoral Candidate in History and Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern 2021-2022.
Chapter One: Finding the Extraordinary
While browsing the Joseph Ingram Sr. papers to answer an ordinary reference question, I came across an extraordinary letter. From his new home in Warren County, Ohio, on March 4, 1847 a man named Jacob Chiles wrote to John M. Ingram of Lilesville, North Carolina to satisfy John’s request that Jacob write him once resettled—in Jacob’s words—”in order that you may know how I feel under the blessed arm of freedom.”
I paused, and I read the line again. “…under the blessed arm of freedom.” At that moment I knew I was reading something special: a letter written by someone special. In 1847, Jacob Chiles was a free man writing to someone who once claimed him as property.
If for no other reason, Jacob’s three-page handwritten letter is remarkable for the simple fact that it exists. Because of the literacy skills and resources needed for their production, letters are historical documents that privilege the retelling of some people’s stories over others’. While letters written by political and social elites, business leaders, literary figures, and other (mainly white) educated adults were common to the US antebellum period, letters penned by enslaved- and formerly-enslaved persons were rare. And while some “slave letters” were transcribed by a literate person on behalf of the author, Jacob appears to have penned his letter himself.
Slave letters were rare, but they do exist. Anti-slavery newspapers reprinted the correspondence and other writings of hundreds of black people who escaped or otherwise left bondage to further the abolitionist cause. Still others, especially persons laboring as house servants, artisans, and drivers wrote—sometimes frequently—to family, friends, masters and mistresses, businesspersons, and others. Published in 1974, 1977 and 1978 respectively, Robert Starobin’s Blacks in Bondage, John W. Blassingame’s Slave Testimony and Randall M. Miller’s “Dear Master” reflect a few historians’ conscious attempts to assemble, analyze, and render accessible a rich sampling of letters by persons that the institution of slavery had intended and functioned to silence. Over the years, researchers and staff at the Rubenstein Library have identified dozens of “slave letters” in across its collections.
The content of the Jacob Chiles letter is as extraordinary as is its materiality; it requires no editorial note. (Take, for instance, Jacob’s personal wager to John about the benefits of wage labor: “If you will not pay your hands[,] treat them well…feed them well[,] use the whip but little[,] incourage [sic] them a great deal & I will agree to become your slave again if you do not get more labour from their hands & and that performed in a better manner.”)
In a coming post [now available], I elaborate on what other documents in the Ingram family papers and beyond may suggest about Jacob’s biography and life in bondage. At this point, I simply implore you, dear reader, to read and contemplate Jacob’s letter, his own words.
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2022 Time: 5:00 p.m. Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library Contact: Rachel Ingold (email@example.com or 919-684-8549)
The Rubenstein Library houses the Parapsychology Laboratory Records, a collection of 700 boxes of materials that reveal a comprehensive picture of the Laboratory during its existence at Duke. The collection includes personal papers of J. B. Rhine, J. G. Pratt, Louisa E. Rhine, and others, as well as professional correspondence, research records, legal and financial papers, clippings, and photographs.
Join us on Thursday, April 14, at 5 p.m. for a panel discussion on J. B. Rhine: ESP at Duke. Panelists will discuss J. B. Rhine’s pioneering research on telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis.
Barbara Ensrud, Moderator
Sally Rhine Feather, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, co-editor of J. B. Rhine : Letters, 1923-1939 : ESP and the Foundations of Parapsychology
John G. Kruth, Executive Director of the Rhine Research Center
James Carpenter, Ph.D., Psychotherapist
Tom Robisheaux, Ph.D., Professor of History, Duke University
We recently welcomed Zachary Tumlin as a new staff member in the Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services department! We asked Zachary a few questions to help us—and you—get to know him a little better.
I am currently processing the papers of Dr. Marc Nerlove, who concentrated on agricultural economics and econometrics. His collection was originally 206 boxes because he was active for 60 years before retiring from the University of Maryland, which is where I earned my graduate degree from. It was not until after I started this job that I learned that he lives in the same neighborhood that I just left, literally only a few minutes’ walk from door to door.
What did your path to becoming an archivist look like?
I am originally from West Virginia and earned my Bachelor of Music in Music Education from West Virginia University (WVU). I was a middle school band director in the state for three years but had a poor experience, and that combined with an autism diagnosis led me to reconsider my career goal to be a high school or college director of bands. I came across librarianship and specifically music librarianship online while exploring my options, and this reminded me of times when I managed sheet music collections for performing ensembles that I was a member or leader of (something I had done since high school).
I have been fortunate to have a large personal library since childhood, and I have always naturally been drawn towards preservation and systemization (I can access born-digital files dating back to elementary school assignments). How autism manifests itself in me combined with my personal characteristics make me well-suited for this field and there are others like me, whether they are out and proud all the way to not even suspecting that they might meet the diagnostic criteria.
Lastly, I have conducted geological research on my family and am a member of the National Society Sons of the American Revolution under two ancestors with others possible. I understand the importance of being able to document and share your story through records.
Tell us about the advocacy work that you do.
My self-advocacy is grounded in the fact that I am an adult diagnosed Autistic, but I also identify as neurodivergent and Disabled because of the need to not silo myself among others who have received the exact same diagnosis. My areas of emphasis include employment, policy and law, history and culture, education, and representation in media.
My initial goal was to connect with anyone and everyone on campus who is doing anything significant related to accessibility and Disability and get involved, so if I have not met you yet, please reach out!
What are you most looking forward to in your new job and in Durham?
First, my most recent job search lasted from January 2019 to December 2022 and totaled 645 applications, 84 screening calls or first round interviews, and six offers, so while my current position is only grant-funded for one year, it is still nice to be able to rest, even if only temporarily.
Second, I eventually narrowed my search to the Washington, DC metropolitan area (where I was still living) and North Carolina (where someone very important to me had relocated to). I needed to secure full-time employment and move closer, so I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to prove myself and the Triangle feels like the best place for me in NC if I had to leave DC. I am looking forward to seeing Australian, Autistic comedian Hannah Gadsby at the Performing Arts Center in April.
Tell us something unique about yourself.
My primary instrument is trombone and at WVU I studied under professor Dr. H. Keith Jackson (now Dean of the College of Creative Arts). In my first semester, I saw (and recorded) him perform a theatre piece (a piece of music that includes directions more commonly seen in theatre—for staging, costuming, lighting, dialogue, movement, etc.). A couple years later, a doctoral student performed a different one (this one included prerecorded audio). Both instances motivated me to ask Dr. Jackson if I could continue this pattern and we agreed on “General Speech” (watch my performance on my YouTube channel). Afterwards, I gave a companion lecture on theatre pieces to the trombone studio, which is a kind of public speaking/presenting I do much more often now.
Thanks Zachary, and welcome to the Rubenstein Library! We’re glad to have you here.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University