Category Archives: Franklin Research Center

Green Book Provides Guide to a Bygone Era

Post contributed by Bennett Carpenter, PhD Candidate in Literature and African and African American Studies Intern 

The movie Green Book, in theaters now, has garnered both acclaim and criticism for its depiction of the African American pianist Don Shirley’s 1962 tour through the Jim Crow South. But it has also engendered newfound interest in the original Green Book, a vital resource for African American travelers in the early- to mid-twentieth century.

Car travel appealed to many African Americans in the Jim Crow era, both for the sense of freedom it engendered and as a means to escape the segregation and discrimination experienced in public transportation. But travelling by car presented its own difficulties. In addition to the pervasive threat of police harassment on the road, many hotels, restaurants and even gas stations refused to cater to Black customers—not only in the overtly segregated South but also in the nominally integrated North. As a result, Black travelers had to plan ahead.

Scan of cover of "1962" edition of Green Book: Guide for Travel and Vacations
1962 Green Book Cover

First published in 1936, the Negro Motorist Green Book provided African Americans with an invaluable guide to relatively safe stopping points along the road, along with a list of local businesses that would provide food, gas, a place to sleep and a warm welcome. The book was created and published by New York City mailman Victor Green, who tapped into a network of Black postal workers across the country to provide him with information about local conditions.

Here at the John Hope Franklin Research Center, we hold a copy of the Green Book from the same year that the film takes place—1962. A glance through its pages grants many insights into African American life in the mid-20th century. The entry for Durham, North Carolina, for instance, lists two restaurants, a hostelry and a hotel—all located in the historic Black neighborhood of Hayti.

Scan of pages 74 and 75 from the 1962 Green Book, listing business in North Carolina, including Durham
1962 Green Book, pp. 74-75

Founded by freedmen in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Hayti was an important center of Black life for the better part of a century. It attracted such famous visitors as Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, who called it “the Negro business mecca of the South,” recommending it as a model for other African American communities to follow.

By the time the 1962 Green Book appeared, however, the community was on the verge of precipitous decline. That same year, the city voted to build Highway 147 through the middle of the neighborhood, dividing the community and destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. Federal money promised for rebuilding failed to materialize. The community would be further torn apart by additional attempts at so-called “urban renewal”—famously dubbed “Negro removal” by James Baldwin for its disastrous impact on Black communities.

Today, none of the four Durham businesses listed in the 1962 Green Book remain. Two—the Bull City Restaurant and the Biltmore Hotel, both on Pettigrew Street—have been torn down, the once bustling businesses replaced by parking lots. DeShazor’s Hostelry has also been demolished; a strip mall now occupies the spot where it once stood. At 1306 Fayetteville Street, the former College Inn Restaurant has been replaced by the New Visions of Africa Community Restaurant. Opened in 2004, it provides free daily snacks to children and sells low-cost, healthy meals, with an emphasis on community self-sufficiency.

Scan of cover and page five of "Travelguide." The cover is a photograph of two black women sitting on a boat on a lake. The interior page lists business in Alabama.
Left: 1956 Travelguide cover, Right: Travelguide, p. 5

The Green Book was not the only such travel guide available to African American motorists. A 1956 booklet in our holdings, simply titled Travelguide, also promised to help Black travelers experience “Vacation & Recreation Without Humiliation,” as a caption on the cover put it. Inside the booklet, an inset note predicted that “the time is rapidly approaching when TRAVELGUIDE will cease to be a ‘specialized’ publication,” envisioning “the day when all established directories will serve EVERYONE.”

That day was not far off. In 1964, the passage of the Civil Rights Act ended legal racial discrimination in hotels, restaurants and all other public accommodations, muting the need for specialized travel guides. Within a few years, publication of the Green Book and other Black travel guidebooks would cease. The Travelguide’s optimistic proclamation had thus proved prophetic.

On the top of the same page from the 1956 Travelguide, however, another inset sounded a different note. “Many of the N.A.A.C.P. Presidents in southern states have been removed from this issue,” it announced, “due to the danger of increased violence by those individuals who are opposing the Supreme Court and the Interstate Commerce Commission in respect to segregation in travel.”

In the gap between these two insets—the one prophesizing an end to racial discrimination, the other warning of increasing racist violence—can be read both the triumphs and tribulations of the Black freedom struggle across the twentieth century.

Applications Now Accepted for the 2019-2020 Travel Grant Program

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2019-2020 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture, the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the History of Medicine Collections, the Human Rights Archive, and the Archive of Documentary Arts, will each award up to $1,500 per recipient ($2,000 for international applicants to the Human Rights Archive) to fund travel and other expenses related to visiting the Rubenstein Library. The Rubenstein Library also awards up to $1,500 for individuals who would benefit from access to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender history collections through the Harry H. Harkins, Jr. T’73 Travel Grant.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, North Carolina, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.

More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2019. Recipients will be announced in March 2019.

Joint Center for Political Studies and Economic Studies Records now open for research

Post submitted by Leah Kerr, Project Archivist, Rubenstein Library Technical Services

The Joint Center for Political Studies and Economic Studies (JCPES) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that informs programs and policy seeking to improve the socioeconomic status and civic engagement of African Americans. The think tank was founded in 1970 as the Joint Center for Political Studies (JCPS) to aid black elected officials create effective policy and successfully serve their constituents. Founders included the social psychologist Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, and newspaper editor Louis E. Martin. The organization later became the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) 1990.

Assorted print materials from the Joint Center archive

The collection is comprised of administrative records including correspondence, memorandums, budgets, funding reports, publications, policy research studies, conference materials, photographs, audiovisual media, and electronic records. Among its many publications, JCPES published FOCUS magazine from 1972 to 2011, which covered national issues for an audience largely comprised of black elected officials (BEOs). The collection also includes oral histories and interview transcripts, an extensive history of JCPES, and original Southern Regional Council publications. The JCPES Records collection is rich with photographs from events including presidents, the Congressional Black Caucus, and many African American mayors and other elected officials.

Follow link to the collection guide: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/jcpes/

Florence Tate’s Pan-African Activism

Post contributed by David Romine, Rubenstein Library Technical Services intern and P.h.D . Candidate, Duke University Department of History

Florence Tate flipping through a book with a pen in her hand
Florence Tate working as a journalist at the Dayton Daily News

The story of how Florence Tate, a journalist from Dayton, Ohio, and a fixture in the city’s civil rights struggle, became active in African independence movements unfolds in her archive, recently processed and available for researchers at the Rubenstein Library at Duke.

Born in 1931, Florence Tate grew up in during an era when African Americans had already begun to see links between budding African liberation movements and domestic civil rights struggles. Honing her skills in mass communication and expanding her connections with Black reporters and government officials as the first Black female reporter for the Dayton Daily News, Tate also hosted young African exchange students in her home. Along with her husband Charles Tate, she was active in the Dayton chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), founded several local civil rights organizations including the women’s group Umoja, and was a tireless member of Friends of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). When the Coordinating Committee for the 1972 African Liberation Day invited her to participate as the national communications coordinator, she was able to put her skills to use on a national scale. While there had been other days that celebrated African liberation movements in the 1950s and 1960s, the 1972 African Liberation Day, held on Saturday, May 27, proved to be the largest in history and marked a sea change in African American activism.

Marches were scheduled for numerous American cities, including, Chicago and Pittsburgh, but the largest protest was to be held in Washington, DC. On the morning of the march, nearly 10,000 African Americans, some traveling from as far away as Houston, assembled in the Washington neighborhood of Columbia Heights where they set off on a long, snaking route to the National Mall. The marchers walked down Embassy Row and through Rock Creek Park, surprising many white citizens of the District as they loudly chanted, “We are an African People!” Among those leading the march was Queen Mother Audley Moore, a dedicated Black nationalist who had advocated for African independence movements since her days as a member of Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association. At the end of the route, marchers listened to speeches at the Mall given by Imamu Amiri Baraka, Rep. Charles Diggs, and others who implored them to think of the “Black community” as greater than that of any one nation.

Faded and worn cloth pennant with the words March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Let the World Know We Want Freedom
A pennant commemorating Florence Tate’s attendance at the 1963 March on Washington.

While much of Tate’s work on the march was behind the scenes, organizing and handling administrative details, and crafting press releases and other public statements, her role was nevertheless central to the national event. Two years later, during the Sixth Pan-African Congress (6PAC) held in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, Tate traveled to Africa for the first time. Not only was she there in the capacity as a reporter, but she was also visiting her daughter, Geri, who was living in Tanzania at the time. It was at 6PAC that she came to meet several Angolan revolutionaries and, upon returning to the United States, began to devote more and more of her time to their cause.  She founded several organizations to get the message of the Angolan liberation movement out to Americans and publicly advocated for those fighting the Portuguese government in African American political circles. These activities were not without controversy. Florence Tate threw her support behind the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) at a time when many of her closest fellow activists, and her own daughter, supported the Popular Movement of the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the group that went on to govern independent Angola.

As her archive reveals, Tate’s skillful use of official documents and opinion pieces increased American awareness of the conditions of the Angolan independence fighters. However, two of the groups she organized in Washington went further than op-eds and reportage. One of the first organizations she founded, Friends of Angola, organized a call for trained doctors, nurses, and other medical specialties to apply to be doctors in Angola. Another group, the African Services Bureau, publicized the plight of the Angolan groups fighting Portuguese rule. Having relocated to Washington, DC, she hosted dissident Angolan independence fighters on their visits to the United States, introducing them to diplomatic officials, writing press releases, and publishing op-eds in various American newspapers that were critical of the remaining colonial governments in Africa. Even as she served as the Press Secretary for Marion Barry’s first Mayoral Administration and later for Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential run, Tate remained focused on Angola throughout the 1980s.

While driven by the idea that the Black community extended beyond national boundaries, Tate’s archive reveals the ways in which she was also influenced by the personal connections and her on-the-ground experiences in Africa. Correspondence in her archive reflects the development of long-standing personal friendships and constant communication with Angolan revolutionaries and dissidents throughout the subsequent years of the Angolan Civil War, which did not end until the early 1990s. While other activists’ archives have documented the relationship between African Americans and the West African nations of Ghana, Nigeria, and Guinea, Tate’s archive is one of the first to offer insight into the freedom struggles in former Portuguese colonies, and bring to life in less-explored ways the links between the US Southern Freedom Movement and freedom movements in Southern Africa.

 

SNCC Digital Gateway Closing Events, March 23-24

SNCC Digital Gateway Closing Events

Dates: March 23-24, 2018

Locations: March 23 – White Lecture Hall, Duke East Campus, March 24 – LeRoy T. Walker Complex, North Carolina Central University

On Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Durham, North Carolina, the SNCC Legacy Project, Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, and Duke University Libraries will host closing events for the SNCC Digital Gateway, a project made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This two-day symposium will reflect on the creation of the SNCC Digital Gateway, where those who made the history are central to telling the story. Activists, scholars, and archivists together reflect on how SNCC’s organizing can inform struggles for self-determination, justice, and democracy today. Highlights include: Keynotes by Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson, co-executive director, Highlander Research & Education Center and philip agnew, co-director, Dream Defenders. We hope you can join us! Follow this link to register and see the full schedule: https://snccdigital.org/conference/

Sojourner Truth’s Narrative

Post contributed by Jessica Janecki and Lauren Reno

Over the past few years, the Rubenstein Library acquired some early editions of the Narrative of Sojourner Truth. These new acquisitions allowed catalogers in the Technical Services department to reevaluate and re-catalog these editions of the Narrative according to more current standards. We were surprised to find upon searching OCLC, the union catalog used by libraries around the world, that authorship for the Narrative was given to Olive Gilbert in most of the catalog records for various editions. This gave us pause and cause to look more closely at the history of the Narrative, the life of Sojourner Truth, and ultimately how to approach the cataloging of one of the most important books of the 19th century by one of the foremost abolitionists and feminists.

The attribution to Gilbert is problematic given that the first edition in 1850 and subsequent editions to 1878 reference Truth as the author in the publication statement with wording such as, “Printed for the Author,” or “Published for the Author.” Cursory research would show that Truth acted as her own publisher and distributor. This statement confirms that she also considered herself the author. Additionally, Gilbert’s name does not appear anywhere on any 19th century editions of the Narrative. Meaning, those attributing authorship to Gilbert had to be conducting some research into the history of the Narrative, and were likely to come across the fact that Truth was also the publisher and distributor.

1850 edition of Narrative of Sojourner Truth
Title page and frontispiece portrait of the first edition of ‘Narrative,’ 1850.

What emerged when we looked at more recent research, mostly consulting Nell Irvin Painter’s biography Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, was unsurprisingly that the history of the writing and publication of the Narrative is complex. This however does not account for this century-long misattribution of authorship.

Continue reading Sojourner Truth’s Narrative

#28daysofblack at the Rubenstein

Post contributed by Rubenstein Library staff

Materials from various collections at the Rubenstein Library that feature African Americans.
Photos from collections in the Rubenstein Library that will be featured during Black History Month.

Happy Black History Month! This year we’ll be celebrating #28daysofblack by sharing materials from the Rubenstein Library’s collections and by highlighting our work on current projects. Stay tuned to follow our rare materials catalogers and manuscript archivists as they catalog and process collections that feature black authors, activists, artists, characters, entrepreneurs, and families. You will also be hearing regularly from John Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture. John will be posting about the SNCC Legacy project, among many other things. You can follow us on our various social media platforms:

Twitter: twitter.com/rubensteinlib

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rubensteinlib/

Franklin Center Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JHFResearchCen

Franklin Center twitter: twitter.com/JHFResearchCen

Look for the #28daysofblack, #bhm, #blackbooks, and #blackarchives hashtags.

Here’s a brief rundown of the projects we will be working on for #28daysofblack:

SNCC Legacy Project

In the 1960s a group of brash young organizers worked alongside local people in the Deep South to change the direction of America. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was a key catalyst for mobilizing grassroots activists to address voting and political power, economic equity, education, and civil rights. Over the last three years, the SNCC Digital Gateway project has worked to create an online platform that highlights the work of SNCC activists, mentors and allies using primary sources from our library and libraries across the country.

Contract with freedmen on Plains Plantation, 1865 June 8-August 28

Contract that binds newly-freed African Americans to the Plains Plantation in Mississippi.
Newly acquired Freedmen’s contract, 1865.

This worn and creased contract was once framed and ostensibly hung on someone’s wall. It contains language binding newly-freed African Americans and their children to the Plains Plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi and was signed not even a month after the Civil War was over. According to the contract, the laborers committed to working every day “from sun to sun,” except Sunday, with other possible days off. They were to be paid one quarter of the net proceeds for the crop. Surnames of the freedmen include: Wilson, Thompson, Digg, Turner, Lonsway, Hatton, Clement, Willis, Payne, West, Blair, Garner, Kelley, Arran, and Johnson. The contract was written in iron gall ink, which caused corrosion of the paper. It now has a catalog record and a collection guide and is currently with Duke Libraries’ Conservation Department to receive repairs and proper housing.

Radio Haiti

Destroyed office of Radio Haiti.
Radio Haiti in 1986.

Radio Haiti is an ongoing, multi-year project to create a trilingual (Haitian Creole, French, and English) public-facing digital archive of all the audio of Radio Haiti-Inter, Haiti’s first and most prominent independent radio station. Our goal is to make the content as accessible as possible to people living in Haiti.

In February, we are going to finish up the processing of Radio Haiti’s papers, and archivist Laura Wagner will be traveling to Haiti to continue to do outreach around the project and to distribute flash drives with a large selection of Radio Haiti audio (around 500 recordings) to libraries in Haiti.

Allen Building Takeover

February 13th will mark the 49th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover at Duke in 1969. This month we’ll be continuing work on the Vice President for Student Affairs Records, which include materials documenting the events during and after the Allen Building Takeover. Some items of note include eye-witness accounts of events written by students as well as materials documenting the administration’s planning for an African and African-American Studies Program in the wake of the Allen Building Takeover.

Continue reading #28daysofblack at the Rubenstein

‘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).

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

Rubenstein Events: Music and the Movement and more…

Please join us this week for three very exciting events:

The SNCC Digital Gateway Project presents “Music & the Movement,” Tuesday, September 19, 7:30-9:30 pm

Please join us for an exciting discussion with five veteran activists on Tuesday, September 19th at 7:30 p.m. at NCCU’s Alfonso Elder Student Union. Music & The Movement – During the Civil Rights Movement, mass meetings overflowed with people singing and clapping to freedom songs, demanding justice in the face of oppression and showing courage in the face of danger. Join us for a roundtable discussion with five veteran activists as they speak about the power of the music of the Movement. As song leaders, Bettie Mae Fikes, Charles Neblett, and Hollis Watkins carried the music in their own communities in the South or across the nation as part of the SNCC Freedom Singers. Meanwhile, Candie Carawan and Worth Long worked to document the music of the Movement, recording and preserving the songs that moved people to action. They experienced firsthand how music was a tool for liberation, not only bringing people together but holding them together. The conversation will be moderated by SNCC veteran Charles Cobb. Many thanks to our co-sponsors: SNCC Legacy Project, Duke University Libraries, The Center for Documentary Studies, North Carolina Central University, and SNCC Digital Gateway Project.

Event Speakers: Bettie Mae Fikes, Charles Neblett, Hollis Watkins, Candie Carawan, and Worth Long
Event Location:  NCCU’s Alfonso Elder Student Union
Event Contact: CDS Front Desk
Event Contact Phone: 660-3663

Exhibit Tour and Reception: ‘I Sing the Body Electric’: Walt Whitman and the Body, Thursday, September 21, 11:45-1:30pm

Continue reading Rubenstein Events: Music and the Movement and more…