Category Archives: Franklin Research Center

‘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…

New Acquisitions – African American history marketing and promotional posters, 1967-1984.

Post contributed by Jacqueline Reid Wachholz, Director, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

In response to the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, many advertisers began to see the African American market in a new, and profitable, light. Advertising campaigns were developed over the next few decades celebrating African and African American heritage as a method of advertising products to this demographic. The Rubenstein Library’s Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History and John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture jointly acquired this collection of 48 items showcasing black Americans through advertisements and political campaigns aimed at African Americans from the 1970s through the 1990s. Collected by a former public relations associated with the NAACP, this collection represents some NAACP marketing work and advertising images depicting notable African Americans and significant moments in African American history. These posters include biographical sketches of African American writers, scientists, professional athletes, soldiers, civil rights workers, entertainers, and other historical figures. Included are also a number of posters produced by and for the NAACP that the organization’s campaigns to reduce poverty and school dropout rates and increase voter registration and membership in the NAACP. Notable advertising campaigns include Budweiser’s “Great Kings of Africa” Series, Pepsi Cola’s “The Black Presence” Series, and the CIBA-GEIGY Corporation’s “Exceptional Black Scientists” Series.

Great Kings of Africa. A marketing campaign started in 1975 by the Anheuser-Busch Corporation designed to appeal to an African American audience while at the same time promoting African History. During its over 25-year campaign and with a total of 30 different images, it has been either celebrated as a means of showcasing and promoting African history or criticized for, as Rev Michael Pfleger of South Side Chicago’s St. Sabina Catholic Church puts it “one more attempt by the alcohol and tobacco industries to buy a reputation in the African-American community.” The campaign consisted of a series of paintings done by African-American artists commissioned by Anheuser-Busch that were accompanied by a short history of the subject being portrayed

Exceptional Black Scientists, CIBA-GEIGY, 1980-1984: These posters are meant to celebrate current scientific leaders of African American descent and inspire minority students to pursue careers in science. Each individual selected had recently made a substantial scientific discovery in their respective field. The posters are derived from portraits done by noted black artist and illustrator Ernest Chrichlow. This series was advertised directly to teachers, and was meant to be placed in the classroom, science fairs, or community centers.

Black Presences, PepsiCo, circa 1980s: A series of posters, that celebrated the African American ‘presence’ in America’s history and culture. Each poster features a portrait of the individual selected, a short biography, and is entitled by the category of culture (arts, sports, history, etc.) that the individual belongs to.

 

These posters are available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

New Acquisitions – Two Significant Gatherings of Black Activists and Intellectuals

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

The Amenia Conference, 1925

This past year the John Hope Franklin Research Center has added to its collections materials that document significant public gatherings of black intellectuals during the 20th century.  The first is a publication authored by seminal black scholar W.E.B.DuBois, The Amenia Conference, an Historic Negro Gathering. Published in 1925, DuBois wrote his reflections of a notable meeting held in 1916 in Amenia, NY that was called by the fledgling NAACP, designed to bring black intellectuals who were working to solve, what DuBois referred to in his Souls’ of Black Folk (1910), as the “problem of the color-line.” With close to 60 attendees, this small publication is one of the few, if not only, documents that provides descriptions of the meeting as DuBois noted no record was kept of the conversations. Held one year after the death of Booker T. Washington, in many ways the dean of black leadership at the turn of the 20th century, DuBois stated that “…the Amenia Conference was a symbol. It not only the end of the old things and the old thoughts and the old ways of attacking the race problem, but in addition to this it was the beginning of the new things.”

 

6PAC Press Release

Later in the century, after the wave of black activism in the form of the Civil Rights Movement in the US and waves of independence movements in Africa and the Caribbean during the 1960s, the 6th Pan-African Congress (6PAC) was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in 1974. The Courtland Cox Papers document the planning and programs held during the week long meeting that was the first Pan-African Congress held in Africa. Cox himself left Howard University in the early 1960’s to a join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and organize against disenfranchisement and poverty in America’s Deep South. Coming out of SNCC, he and a number of SNCC activists became involved in organizing around black consciousness and black solidarity on the global level.

Photograph of 6PAC Meeting

Cox spent time in Tanzania in the early 1970’s and served as secretary-general for the 6th Pan-African Congress, a conference whose history dated back to 1900, although it was the first held after World War II. Over the course of the week in Dar es Salaam, sessions were held to discuss everything from economic empowerment in Africa, environmental issues in black communities, and the meaning of black solidarity around the world.

Both collections are open and available to researchers in the Rubenstein Library.

Organizing Lowndes County: Then and Now

Organizing Lowndes County: Then and Now

Date: Monday, April 10

Time: 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Location: Amadieh Family Lecture Hall, Smith Warehouse, Bay 4

Home to the Black-led independent political party that first adopted a snarling black panther as its symbol, Lowndes County, Alabama, has long been a stronghold for organizing around Black political and economic rights. In this roundtable discussion, Civil Rights Movement veterans Jennifer Lawson and Courtland Cox will be joined by Catherine Flowers, Lowndes-native and founder of the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (ACRE). They will speak about their experiences organizing in Lowndes County past and present, from building the Lowndes County Freedom Party in the late 1960s to fighting for access to clean water and sewage disposal today.

 

Co-sponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University Libraries, and the SNCC Digital Gateway Project

Strong People: SNCC and the Southwest Georgia Movement

Strong People: SNCC and the Southwest Georgia Movement

Saturday, February 4, 2017

5:00PM

Great Hall, North Carolina Central University School of Law

Please join us for a conversation with five veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in Southwest Georgia. In 1961, field secretaries from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Commitee (SNCC) came to Albany, GA to begin orgainzing around voting rights. Born in Southwest, Georgia, Janie Cuthbert Rambeau, Annette Jones White and Shirley Sherrod joined SNCC’s work and helped build what became an ongoing and locally-sustained movement for justice. Together with northern SNCC staff, Faith Holseart and Larry Rubin, these young activist played a critical role in SNCC’s organizing efforts in the Southwest Georgia region. Participants in this panel will discuss each of their experiences in the Movement and reflect on what made the movemnt in Southwest Georgia so strong. Charlie Cobb, a fellow SNCC organizer, will facilitate the conversation.

Applications Now Accepted for the 2017-2018 Travel Grant Program

t1867-1The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2017-2018 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, and the Human Rights Archive (new this year!) will each award up to $1,000 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 also offers the Eleanore and Harold Jantz Fellowship, a $1500 award for researchers whose work would benefit from use of the Jantz Collections.

The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, NC, 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, 2017. Recipients will be announced in March 2016.

The Struggle Continues: A Dialogue with SNCC Veterans

The Struggle Continues: A Dialogue with SNCC Veterans

Date: Thursday, September 29, 2016

Location: The Forum for Scholars and Publics (Old Chem 011)

Time: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Light lunch served beginning at 11:45

Top to bottom: Judy Richardson, Charlie Cobb, Maria Varela
Top to bottom: Judy Richardson, Charlie Cobb, Maria Varela

Please join us for a conversation with three veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as they discuss their work after SNCC and the southern freedom movement. Charles Cobb, journalist (founder of National Association of Black Journalists) and author (This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible), Judy Richardson, filmmaker (Eyes on the Prize) and author (Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC) and Maria Varela, photographer, community organizer and MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow, will reflect on how their experiences in SNCC impacted the choices they made with the rest of their lives. From opening the Drum and Spear bookstore and the Center for Black Education in Washington, D.C. to organizing with Latino and native resistance groups in the Southwest, the panel will look at how the worldview and approach they learned in SNCC infused itself into their later work and continues to do so today. The discussion will be moderated by John Gartrell of the John Hope Franklin Research Center at Duke’s Rubenstein Library.

This program is presented in partnership with the SNCC Digital Gateway Project. The SNCC Digital Gateway is a collaborative project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project (SLP) and Duke University that tells the story of SNCC from the perspective of the activists, themselves. It is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and builds off of the pilot website of the SLP-Duke collaboration, One Person, One Vote: The Legacy of SNCC and the Fight for Voting Rights (http://onevotesncc.org). The forthcoming website, SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn From the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Work (https://snccdigital.org) tells the story of how young SNCC activists united with local communities in the Deep South during the 1960s to take control of their political and economic lives. In it, SNCC veterans, historians of the Movement, archivists, and students weave together grassroots stories, digitized primary source materials held at repositories across the country, and new multi-media productions to bring this history to life for a new generation.

New Acquisitions Roundup: Haytian Papers

This week and next, we’ll be celebrating the beginning of a new fiscal year by reviewing some notable items and collections that arrived here at the Rubenstein Library in the past year.

In 1816, Prince Saunders published the 1st edition of the Haytian Papers. A Collection of the Very Interesting Proclamations and other Official Documents, Together with Some Account of the Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Kingdom of Hayti, in London.  Saunders, an African American educator and former instructor at Boston’s African School, had been appointed as an advisor to Haitian emperor Henri Christophe in that same year. The first American printing of the Haytian Papers was published in 1818 in Boston as an extension of Saunders’ work to promote emigration to Haiti by black Americans.HPapers_3crop

HPapers_2The Haytian Papers volume presents a compilation of fascinating state documents, including correspondence between Christophe and French officials addressing France’s attempts to retake Haiti after the independence revolution that took place nearly ten years prior to the book’s publication. Saunders is especially careful to articulate in his introduction that the Haytian Papers are also proof of the intelligence and capacity of the black leadership and citizens of the country.

This recent acquisition by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture is now available for use.

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