Category Archives: Franklin Research Center

Franklin Research Center Commemorates 25 Years

Post by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture

The 2021-2022 academic year marked the 25th anniversary of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture. The Franklin Research Center used the theme “Black Lives in Archives” as the thread for a slate of programs that built upon the center’s mission of advancing scholarship on the history and culture of people of African descent.

The anniversary events kicked off in September 2021 with a virtual lecture by Dr. Emilie Boone, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. Dr. Boone was invited to respond to an exhibition displayed in the Rubenstein Library’s Photography Gallery entitled “James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake: Picturing Blackness in the 1920s.” Curated by Franklin Research Center director, John B. Gartrell and the center’s 2019-2020 graduate intern, Jessica Stark, the exhibit presented selections from two African American photographers who made portrait style images of everyday African Americans at the height of the “New Negro Movement” of the 1920s.

The Black Lives in Archives virtual speaker series featured (clockwise from top left): Dr. Lisa Bratton, Dr. Brandon K. Winford, Dr. Erik S. McDuffie, Dr. Emilye Crosby, and Dr. Emilie Boone.

Black Lives in Archives virtual speaker series during the fall semester featured four scholars who were previously awarded Franklin Research Center travel grants to come to the Rubenstein Library and utilize the Center’s collections. The speakers invited to participate included Brandon K. Winford (University of Tennessee Knoxville), Lisa Bratton (Tuskegee University), Erik S. McDuffie (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Emilye Crosby (SUNY Geneseo). This “return to the archive” by each scholar highlighted the critical importance of Black collections as a foundation for new directions in the field of African and African American Studies.

And in January, the center hosted a special Archivist Roundtable featuring Gartrell, Chaitra Powell (Curator, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill) and Andre Vann (Coordinator of University Archives and Instructor of History, North Carolina Central University). The roundtable was an engaging conversation between three Black archivists discussing the arcs of their respective careers and the challenges and benefits of being caretakers for collections documenting the Black experience. All of the aforementioned virtual events were recorded and are now available through Duke University Libraries’ YouTube channel.

About the Franklin Research Center

In 1995, Dr. John Hope Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, donated his personal archive to Duke. In his honor, the Duke University Libraries founded the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture as a designated collecting area specializing in rare book and primary sources documenting people of African descent. Franklin’s archive and his scholarship have been the guiding lights of the Center’s engagement in public programming, teaching, exhibitions, and collaborations. This celebration of “Black Lives in Archives” honored the Center’s role as a premiere destination for researchers near and far over the last twenty-five years.

Black Lives in Archives: Inviting the Community to Explore

Visitors explore Rubenstein Library materials documenting the richness of Black print culture at an open house event in April 2022.

Post by Orilonise Yarborough, Intern, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture

This past April, the Rubenstein Library hosted an open house event we called, “I Got a Story to Tell: Black Voices in Print.” On display were a wide range of archival materials covering such topics as Durham’s Black history, pop culture, and literature, including a first edition of the Narrative of Sojourner Truth, flyers and photographs from the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke, and romance novels written by voting rights activist and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams under the pseudonym Selena Montgomery. Event organizers poured through the Rubenstein’s collections to locate materials we love and know well, and that illustrate the breadth of Black print materials here at Duke. Based on the sheer volume of material, this was no easy feat!

The Rubenstein Library is open to all, and this event was an opportunity to welcome the larger community outside of academics and researchers. Recognizing that academic libraries can seem intimidating and inaccessible to the general public, the event was designed to demystify the Rubenstein Library and show the multiple ways archival material can be utilized. While historical documents are static, the way we engage with them doesn’t have to be. The event was our own contribution to the current discourse on access to archives and collective histories, showcasing the possibilities that our materials and library spaces hold.

John B. Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture noted that such events remind us of what makes archives special by letting people experience “the kind of metaphysical connectivity where you realize that this was held by someone fifty, seventy-five, one hundred years ago.” In these encounters, time collapses, and the experience of witnessing history becomes a shared experience between the living and the departed.

What’s next? “So many things,” according to Gartrell. “The potential for an event like this is endless.” The Rubenstein Library hopes to make it an annual event, much like Anatomy Day, an open house event every fall that draws on the History of Medicine Collections. With thousands of collections encompassing literature, art, diaries, scrapbooks and rare comics, Rubenstein staff will have the ability to investigate and share Black material culture in a variety of expressions and forms.

Duke Libraries Partners with the Civil Rights Movement Archive to Sustain Activist Centered History

Post contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center

Duke University Libraries is pleased to announce the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Civil Rights Movement Archive (CRMA) that designates the Duke Libraries as the stewards who will preserve and sustain the CRMA when the current managers are no longer able to carry the work forward. The Civil Rights Movement Archive is accessible at www.crmvet.org and was established by the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in 1999 as a web-based platform that is an active social network for movement veterans and a primary resource for those interested in the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s-1960s. The site is populated by a roll call, reflections, documents and images all contributed by movement participants. There are also teaching resources and bibliographic sources designed to assist visitors with teaching and understanding this period. The CRMA recently launched a CRMA Video Channel on Vimeo to provide videos created by Freedom Movement veterans (or their immediate families). The site is visited by nearly 350,000 visitors annually, peaking during the school year, proving the value of the site as a research destination.

CRMA Homepage
CRMA Homepage

The John Hope Franklin Research Center will be the curatorial home for the CRMA. This partnership with CRMA is part of the Center’s commitment to preserving the history of grassroots organizing.  The Franklin Research Center is a partner in the Movement History Initiative and also stewards the SNCC Digital Gateway.

Under the terms of the MOU, Duke Libraries is committed to maintaining the site as a free source of Freedom Movement materials and information that is open to all with no paywall, commercial advertising, login requirements or subscription to continue documenting the Civil Rights Movement from /up-from-the-bottom/ and /inside-out/ perspectives and viewpoints.

CRMA Movement Photography
CRMA Movement Photography

Announcing our 2022-2023 Travel Grant Recipients

The Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022-2023 travel grants. Our research centers annually award travel grants to students, scholars, and independent researchers through a competitive application process. We extend a warm congratulations to this year’s awardees. We look forward to meeting and working with you!

Archive of Documentary Arts

Rebecca Bengal, Independent Researcher, “‘Bad Roads Ruin Even the Best of Cars’: William Gedney’s Kentucky.”

Alexandra Le Faou, Independent Researcher, “James H. Karales European Exhibition.”

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (Mary Lily Research Grants)

Brianna Anderson, Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, University of Florida, “‘A Smidgeon of Ecofeminism’: Envisioning Environmental Issues and Activism in Women’s Zines.”

Rachel Corbman, Faculty, Mount Holyoke College, “Conferencing on the Edge: A Queer History of Feminist Field Formation, 1969-1989.”

Benjamin Holtzman, Faculty, Lehman College, “’Smash the Klan’: Fighting the White Power Movement in the Late Twentieth Century.”

Cindy Lima, Ph.D. candidate, Northwestern University, “Transnational Latinas: A Twentieth Century History of Latina Politics.”

Molli Spalter, Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, Wayne State University, “”Feeling Wrong and Feeling Wronged: Radical Feminism and ‘Feeling Work’.”

Emily Hunt, Ph.D. candidate, Emily Hunt, Georgia State University, “‘We are a Gentle Angry People and We are Singing for Our Lives’: A Story of Women’s Music, 1975-1995.”

Felicity Palma, Faculty, Department of Film and Media Studies, University of Pittsburgh, “of flesh and feelings and light and shadows.” (Grant sponsored jointly with the Archive of Documentary Arts.)

Lara Vapnek, Faculty, Department of History, St. John’s University, “Mothers, Milk, and Money: A History of Infant Feeding in the United States.” (Grant sponsored jointly with the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History.)

John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture

William Billups, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, Emory University, “”Reign of Terror”: Anti-Civil Rights Terrorism in the United States, 1955-1976.”

Thomas Cryer, Ph.D. candidate, Institute of the Americas, University College London, “’Walking the Tightrope’: John Hope Franklin and the Dilemmas of African American History in Action.”

Mikayla Harden, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Delaware, “Remnants: Captive African Children in the Black Atlantic World.”

Frances O’Shaughnessy, Ph.D. candidate, University of Washington, “Black Revolution on the Sea Islands: Empire, Property, and the Emancipation of Humanity.”

Emily Tran, Ph.D. candidate, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “American Reckonings: Confronting and Repressing the Racist Past and Present, 1968-1998.”

Evan Wade, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Connecticut,” Henrietta Vinton Davis: From Teacher to Black Nationalist– an examination of a Black Woman’s Politics.”

Elizabeth Patton, Faculty, Department of Media and Communication Studies, University of Maryland Baltimore County, “Representation as a Form of Resistance: Documenting African American Spaces of Leisure during the Jim Crow Era.” (Grant sponsored jointly with the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History.)

Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History

Mori Reithmayr, Ph.D. candidate, University of Oxford, “Community Before Liberation: Theorizing Gay Resistance in San Francisco, 1953-1969.”

Cathleen Rhodes, Faculty, Department of Women’s Studies, Old Dominion University, “Touring Tidewater: An Immersive Virtual Walking Tour of Southeastern Virginia’s Queer History.”

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History (John Furr Fellowship)

Jennifer Hessler, Faculty, Department of Media, Journalism, and Film, University of Huddersfield, “Television Ratings: From Audimeter to Big Data.”

Conrad Jacober, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Sociology, Johns Hopkins University, “Debt Prophets: American Bankers and the Origins of Financialization.”

Jeannette Strickland, Independent Researcher, “Lever Brothers Advertising and Marketing, 1900-1930, in the J. Walter Thompson Archives.”

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History (Alvin Achenbaum Travel Grants)

Anne Garner, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History and Culture, Drew University, “Recovering Throwaway Histories: Patent Medicine, Black Americans and the Blues in the Postbellum Piedmont.”

Rachel Plotnick, Faculty, Department of Cinema & Media Studies, Indiana University Bloomington, “License to Spill: Where Dry Devices Meet Liquid Lives.”

Elizabeth Patton, Faculty, Department of Media and Communication Studies, University of Maryland Baltimore County, “Representation as a Form of Resistance: Documenting African American Spaces of Leisure during the Jim Crow Era.” (Grant sponsored jointly with the John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture.)

Lara Vapnek, Faculty, Department of History, St. John’s University, “Mothers, Milk, and Money: A History of Infant Feeding in the United States.” (Grant sponsored jointly with the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.)

History of Medicine Collections

Jessica Dandona, Faculty, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, “Skeletons in the Drawing Room: Popular Consumption of Flap Anatomies, 1880-1900.”

Jeremy Montgomery, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, Mississippi State University, “‘Look To Your Map’: Medical Distinctiveness and the United States, 1800-1860.”

Haleigh Yaspan, Master’s candidate, School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Rochester, “Forceps, Women’s Rights, and Professional Turf War: Pregnancy and Childbirth in the United States, 1914-1962.”

Human Rights Archive

Molly Carlin, Ph.D. candidate, School of Media, Arts and Humanities, University of Sussex, “How to Jail a Revolution: Theorising the Penal Suppression of American Political Voices, 1964-2022.”

Tyler Goldberger, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, College of William & Mary, “”Generalísimo Franco is Still Alive!”: Transnational Human Rights and the Anti-Fascist Narrativization of the Spanish Civil War and Francisco Franco Dictatorship within the United States, 1936-Present.”

Thomas Maggiola, Master’s candidate, Department of Latin American Studies and History, University of California San Diego, “Guatemala’s Transnational Civil War, 1970-1996.”

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Research Travel Grants

Jennifer Doyle, Faculty, University of California Riverside, “Alethurgy’s Shadows: Harassment, Paranoia, and Grief.”

Annie Sansonetti, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Performance Studies, New York University, “Reapproaching Feminine Boys and Transgender Girls in Queer and Trans Theory and Art.”

Post compiled by Roshan Panjwani, Staff Assistant, Rubenstein Library

Reflecting on Processing the Behind the Veil Project Archive

Post submitted by Taelore Marsh, Behind the Veil Processing Intern, Franklin Research Center

Over the course of the past nine months, I had to pleasure of being added to the Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South: Digital Access to the Behind the Veil Project Archive project team as a processing intern. The project is a three-year grant funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Tasked with working on the Behind the Veil oral histories to re-process, digitize and publish a digital collection in the Duke Digital Repository. 

Looking at Behind the Veil slides
Taelore Marsh, working through the Behind the Veil photograph slides

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.

Examining slides to identify images

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. 

Applications Open for 2022-2023 Research Travel Grants

The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2022-2023 research 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!

Research travel grants of up to $1500 are offered by the following Centers and research areas:

  • Archive of Documentary Arts
  • Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History
  • History of Medicine Collections
  • Human Rights Archive
  • John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture
  • John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
  • Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (Mary Lily Research Grants)
  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick Papers

We encourage applications from students at any level of education; faculty members; visual and performing artists; writers; filmmakers; public historians; and independent researchers. (Must reside beyond a 100-mile radius of Durham, N.C., and may not be current Duke students or employees.) These grants are offered as reimbursement based on receipt documentation after completion of the research visit(s). The deadline for applications will be Saturday, April 30, 2022, at 6:00 pm EST. Grants will be awarded for travel during June 2022-June 2023.

An information session will be held Wednesday, March 23rd at 2PM EST.  This program will review application requirements, offer tips for creating a successful application, and include an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.  Register for the session here. Further questions may be directed to AskRL@duke.edu.

Image citation: Cover detail from African American soldier’s Vietnam War photograph album https://idn.duke.edu/ark:/87924/r4319wn3g

“I Got a Story to Tell: Black Voices in Print” A Black Lives in Archives Event

Join the Rubenstein Library as we open our collections for “I Got a Story to Tell: Black Voices in Print.” 

Visitors will be able to browse special selections from our collections, chat with Rubenstein Library staff, and explore Black primary source materials. From rare first editions by Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass to published works exploring Black life in Durham to publications by Black students at Duke, the event will give attendees a hands-on experience with the richness of Black print culture!

This event is open to the public. Please register for a free timed-entry pass for attendance, but visitors are welcome to stay for the duration of the event. Space is limited so reserve yours today. 

Date: Monday, April 4, 2022
Time: 11am-2pm
Location: Gothic Reading Room, Rubenstein Library, West Campus
Contact: John Gartrell (franklin-collection@duke.edu)

Reserve your entry pass: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/i-got-a-story-to-tell-black-voices-in-print-tickets-267083793817?aff=ebdssbdestsearch 

Franklin Research Center Commemorates 25 Years of Preserving “Black Lives in Archives”

Post contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture

The 2021-2022 academic year marks the 25th anniversary of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture. The Franklin Research Center, which is based in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, will use the theme “Black Lives in Archives” as the thread for a slate of programming and projects that will build upon the center’s mission of advancing scholarship on the history and culture of people of African descent.

The anniversary will begin on September 14 with a virtual lecture by Dr. Emilie Boone, Assistant Professor of African American Studies at New York City College of Technology, CUNY. Her talk will respond to the exhibition James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake: Picturing Blackness in the 1920s, currently on display in the Rubenstein Library’s Photography Gallery. The exhibit highlights resonances between the work of James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake, two African American photographers working in the 1920s at the height of the “New Negro Movement.” Register for this event here.

 

James Van Der Zee and Michael Francis Blake: Picturing Blackness in the 1920s. On display in the Rubenstein Library

 

Emilie Boone will lead a virtual lecture entitled, “Visualizing a Shared Ethos: Van Der Zee and Blake as Peers” on Sept. 14

Additional programs this semester will include a Black Lives in Archives virtual speaker series featuring four scholars who were previously awarded research travel grants to come to the Rubenstein Library and utilize the center’s collections. This “return to the archive” by each scholar will highlight the critical importance of Black collections as a foundation for new directions in the field of African and African American Studies. The tentative schedule includes:

September 22 – Brandon K. Winford, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee Knoxville

October 27 – Lisa Bratton, Assistant Professor, Tuskegee University

November 9 – Erik S. McDuffie, Associate Professor, University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign

December 8 – Emilye Crosby, Professor of History, SUNY-Geneseo

Earlier this summer, the center announced two exciting projects that will continue to drive the work of preserving the Black archives. “Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South: Digital Access to the Behind the Veil Project Archive” is a National Endowment for the Humanities grant-funded initiative to digitize and publish the Behind the Veil archive. The Behind the Veil project, which was led by the Center for Documentary Studies 1992-1995, was one of the largest oral history archives documenting the African American experience of living in the American South during the early to mid-twentieth century. The project will digitize analog cassette tapes containing close to 1,200 interviews with African American elders from twenty distinct communities. In Spring 2022, there will be a virtual gathering of Behind the Veil project staff and interviewers to reflect on their work and the impact of the collection.

The second project is a three-year Mellon Foundation funded project entitled, “Our Stories, Our Terms: Documenting Movement Building from the Inside Out,” which extends the partnership between Duke University Libraries and the SNCC Legacy Project through the Movement History Initiative. Our Stories, Our Terms will document how movement veterans from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and today’s activists built their social and political movements. The project will also build capacity for archival practice among current activist organizations and share documentary pieces from inter- and intra-generational conversations among activist and organizer communities.

In 1995, Dr. John Hope Franklin, the James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History at Duke University, donated his own personal archive to Duke. In his honor, the Duke University Libraries founded the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American Documentation as a designated collecting area specializing in rare book and primary sources documenting people of African descent, with endowment funding from GlaxoWellcome Inc. Franklin’s archive and his scholarship have been the guiding lights of the center’s engagement in public programming, teaching, exhibitions, and collaborations. This celebration of “Black Lives in Archives” will honor the center’s role as a premiere destination for researchers near and far over the last twenty-five years.

Dr. John Hope Franklin (1915-2009)

Remembering Bob Moses, 1935-2021

This post was contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center

The Franklin Research Center and Rubenstein Library mourns the loss of Robert “Bob” Parrish Moses, who passed away on July 25, 2021. Moses was giant in the fight for civil and human rights, who began working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as an organizer soon after the organization’s founding in 1960. He worked in tirelessly on a range of issues including voter registration and community organizing in the Deep South, particularly Mississippi, Alabama, and Southwest Georgia. He would later found the Algebra Project in the 1980s, which was evolution of his work with SNCC, using mathematics as an organizing tool while seeking to expand access to a quality education in the United States.

Bob Moses speaking
Bob Moses speaking at SNCC 40th Anniversary Conference, Shaw University

You can use the following resources in our archives and supporting projects like the SNCC Digital Gateway to learn more about Moses’ life and experiences in the struggle for freedom –

SNCC Digital Gateway

Critical Oral Histories

Joseph Sinsheimer Papers

SNCC 40th Anniversary Conference Videocassette Tapes

Faith Holsaert Papers – 

Bob Moses speaking in 2018
Bob Moses (center, blue coat) leading discussion at SNCC Digital Gateway Closing Conference, 2018 (photo courtesy of Kim Johnson, SNCC Legacy Project)

Duke University has had the honor of working Moses and his SNCC comrades for decades. This work continues today through the collaborative work of the Movement History Initiative. May he rest in power.

NEH Implementation Grant to Duke Libraries Will Increase Access to African American Oral Histories

Post contributed by John B. Gartrell, Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center

This summer Duke University Libraries will launch a project to provide expanded digital access to the Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South oral history collection, housed in the  David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Libraries and curated by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture.  The project, titled “Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South: Digital Access to the Behind the Veil Project Archive,” received a $350,000 Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Implementation grant supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Behind the Veil (BTV) was undertaken by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University (CDS) from 1992–1995 and co-directed by Drs. William Chafe, CDS co-founder and Alice Mary Baldwin Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Robert Korstad, Professor Emeritus of Public Policy, and the late Raymond Gavins, the first African American faculty member in Duke’s Department of History. Chafe, Korstad, and Gavin’s vision for and title of the project refer to the concept of the “veil” introduced by scholar and activist W.E.B. DuBois in his iconic book The Souls of Black Folk (1913). In that work, DuBois discussed the metaphorical concept of the veil as “separating the two worlds of white and black,” designed to protect African Americans who had to balance comporting their lives as subservient and compliant in front of a White dominated society while simultaneously living free in their own community.

Henderson, Larry – Birmingham, Behind the Veil Collection

BTV was a groundbreaking documentary project for its time that recorded and preserved the living memory of African American life during the age of segregation in the American South. Over the span of three summers, cohorts of graduate students and early career scholars from universities across the country received training with the project’s scholarly board and then resided in selected locales for two weeks to conduct oral histories. The team conducted interviews with more than one thousand community elders who shared their memories from the Jim Crow Era of legal segregation. Nineteen distinct communities were identified for interviews: Albany, GA; rural Arkansas; Birmingham, AL; Charlotte, NC; Durham, NC; Enfield, NC; New Bern, NC; LeFlore County, NC; Memphis, TN; Muhlenberg, KY; New Iberia, LA; New Orleans, LA; Norfolk, VA; Orangeburg, SC; St. Helena, SC; Summerton, SC; Tallahassee, FL; Tuskegee, AL; and Wilmington, NC.

 

All of the BTV project files were transferred to the John Hope Franklin Research Center in subsequent years after the project’s completion. The BTV collection encompasses a number of formats including over 1,200 taped audio cassette interviews and 3,000 photographic strips, slides and prints, manuscript project files, training materials, administrative records, and born-digital files. The grant work will focus on the digitization and transcription of the oral histories, scanning of the photographic materials, and sharing the collection’s contents with students, educators, and the wider public through virtual programs and webinars. The digital collection will be published in the Duke Digital Repository, where 410 BTV interviews are currently accessible for research. Funds will also allow the project team to hire graduate level interns for archival processing, digitization, and outreach.

 

John B. Gartrell, director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center and principal investigator for the grant noted, “The Behind the Veil collection is one of the most used collections in the Franklin Research Center. These oral histories truly broaden our understanding of the everyday lives of African Americans during the early-to-mid twentieth century. They represent one of the largest bodies of scholarship on African American life documenting that time, and I’m excited to share the depth of these stories and honor the scholars who recorded them.” Gartrell will be joined by co-principal investigator Giao Luong Baker, who serves as Duke Libraries’ Digital Production Services Manager. Together they will lead the digitization efforts in collaboration with library colleagues over the course of the next three years (2021–2024).