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.
Post contributed by Leah Tams, Accessions Coordinator.
The Carl V. Corley papers at the Rubenstein document the career and artistic output of Carl Corley, a white novelist and illustrator, and notably include works of gay fiction and homoerotic art. Even more notable is the fact that Carl always signed his works with his real name. A recent addition to Corley’s papers, consisting largely of correspondence from Corley to a woman named Sabina Allred (later Sabina Allred Allen), greatly enhances and complicates our understanding of Corley, his life, and his work.
The Sabina Allred Allen Collection of Carl Corley Papers, received in February 2022, contains World War II-era love letters from Carl to Sabina. In these letters, he frequently addresses how much he loves and misses Sabina, as well as their plans for the future (engagement, marriage, etc.). Carl wrote to Sabina almost every day until his transfer overseas, after which time he still wrote to her at least weekly.
Also included in this addition of material are illustrations of Sabina that Carl created and gifted to her. The artwork originally accompanied the letters that he sent during World War II, but the drawings were separated from the letters at some point after receipt. Most of the artwork depicts Sabina wearing different outfits and hairstyles, sometimes illustrating a style that Carl mentioned in a letter, while other pieces depict Sabina and Carl together. Several of the illustrations also feature a Southern plantation house that appears to be inspired by Tara from Gone With the Wind, one of Carl’s favorite works.
The World War II-era correspondence between Corley and Sabina ends in early September 1946, after Corley has returned home. In this letter, Corley ends their relationship, citing (among other things) how different they are from each other, as well as issues of trust. A couple weeks later, Sabina married Bobby Arnold on September 21, 1946. Sabina and Bobby divorced in May 1949, and she then married Dempsey Allen on June 13, 1949. Sabina and Dempsey Allen remained together until their deaths in 2008 and 2016, respectively, but Corley did re-enter Sabina’s life in 1999.
Carl Corley and Sabina Allred Allen reconnected in 1999 while Corley was working on his autobiography, which he refers to as “The Art and Writings of Carl Corley.” From these later letters, it seems that Carl reached out to Sabina for her help in reconstructing his adolescence, as well as to see the artwork he created for her during World War II. Sabina was a great source of inspiration for Carl’s artwork, so he likely viewed her as an important figure to include in his autobiography. Carl and Sabina continued to correspond weekly through at least April 2002, discussing politics, family, daily routines, collecting habits, and their past. Many of these letters also contain racist diatribes against Black Americans.
While Sabina Allred is only a blip on the radar in original materials acquired from Corley—she is featured in two small photos in his World War II scrapbook—this new addition suggests that perhaps Sabina’s role in Corley’s life was more significant than the original collection lets on. The addition also suggests that Carl may have been struggling with his identity as a gay man, as well as giving us a window into the bisexual practices of gay men during this period. The Sabina Allred Allen Collection of Carl Corley Papers adds a significant dimension to our understanding of Carl, and we look forward to having faculty, students, and researchers engage with this new material.
Post contributed by Naomi L. Nelson, Associate University Librarian and Director, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky, which was on the western frontier of the young United States. His father was a hardscrabble farmer who moved his family several times in search of better opportunities, but the family never escaped poverty.
Lincoln was an avid reader from an early age. He grew up in Indiana and later remembered that he had less than a year’s schooling there—total. He was ambitious and learned by reading. Over his lifetime, Lincoln is known to have read in many disciplines, including the Bible, law and legal history, classical literature, world and American history, and political economy.
In an address to the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in 1859, Lincoln noted “A capacity, and taste, for reading, gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish, and facility, for successfully pursuing the [yet] unsolved ones.”
These are words to warm a librarian’s heart. David M. Rubenstein’s Americana Library includes many of the books that Lincoln is known to have read. He has loaned Duke a number of these titles for the exhibition “To Stand by the Side of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the American Nineteenth Century,” now on view in the Rubenstein Library and online.
Post contributed by Elliot Mamet, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Duke and Archival Processing Intern at the Rubenstein Library.
What does it feel like to be a fly on the wall at the Nuremberg Trials? The papers of Robert P. Stewart, recently donated to the Rubenstein Library, provide an answer.
Stewart was an attorney and Duke alumnus who served as a legal aide to Judge John J. Parker at the Nuremburg Trials in 1945 and 1946. There, 24 Nazi political and military leaders were indicted and tried with waging aggressive war, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. 19 were found guilty, and 12 were sentenced to death.
An overriding theme of Stewart’s correspondence is the emotional toll that the evidence of Nazi crimes took on the jurists. His letters tell of film evidence taken by the U.S. army when they first encountered the Nazi concentration camps. “It really was an awful pictorial display of what the Nazis had done—and it upset Judge [Parker] a great deal. The English judges could not even eat.” Judge Parker, Stewart says, became depressed from hearing so much terrible evidence. Compounding this emotional toll was the homesickness felt by the American legal contingent.
Also in Stewart’s letters is discussion of the secret 1939 non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the USSR—an agreement first disclosed at Nuremberg. Writes Stewart, “perhaps the most interesting bit behind the scenes lately is the way one of the defense lawyers is trying to introduce a document which purports to be a photostat copy of a secret treaty between Germany and Russia in 1939.” That non-aggression pact paved the way for the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939.
Outside of court, Stewart encountered colorful characters during his service at Nuremberg. For instance, he lunched with General Dwight Eisenhower at Eisenhower’s Frankfurt villa, calling Eisenhower “a remarkable man—strictly down to earth,” and noting it was “probably the first time during this war that anyone so lowly as a major sat down to break bread with him.”
Some 35 years after returning from the Nuremberg Trials, Stewart reflected on his service in a profile in The Asheville Citizen. “The most dramatic part of the trials,” Stewart said, “was the evidence on the persecution of the Jews. The films shown and the stories told were horrendous, unbelievable. If I hadn’t been there I would never have believed it.” He was there, and his papers at the Rubenstein help us feel what it was like.
 Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Beverly G. Moss, December 2, 1945. Folder 2, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Plummer Stewart, January 12, 1946. Folder 2, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Plummer Stewart, May 30, 1946. Folder 3, Robert P. Stewart Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Letter from Robert P. Stewart to Plummer Stewart, November 7, 1945, and letter from Robert P. Stewart to C. C. Gabel, November 7, 1945. Folder 1, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Tony Brown, “Stewart Had Important Role at Nuremberg,” The Asheville Citizen, September 8, 1981, pg. 9. Oversize Folder 1, Robert P. Stewart papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
For many towns and cities in 20th century America, the holiday season officially began just after Thanksgiving, which was established as a fixed national holiday in 1941. Frequently festivities included a parade that involved local dignitaries, youth clubs, business and social organizations, a Miss Something-or-Other pageant winner, high school bands, fire engines, culminating in the arrival of Santa Claus in some ostentatious conveyance. Town folk stood in yards and sidewalks, sometimes for hours in freezing weather, to witness the spectacle. To this day, even, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade ends with the Santa Claus float.
Afterwards, Santa generally installed himself in one or several of the local department stores, meeting children, hearing their wishes, and sometimes posing for photographs. In all it was a wonderfully odd synthesis of folklore, consumerism, and technology. How did it begin?
It is generally accepted that Macy’s Department Store featured the first in-store Santa Claus character beginning in the 1860s. Perhaps the first in-store Santa Claus that we might recognize, the rotund and jolly old man inspired by the stories of Washington Irving and illustrations of Thomas Nast, was James Edgar who posed as Santa as a promotional act in 1890 at his dry goods store in Brockton, Mass. The idea caught on and soon Santas were featured in department stores across the country. In the early 1940s, photographers and studios such as Art French in Seattle and Kiddie Kandids, based in the Midwest, began photographing Santa posed with children. What started out as a way to make money in what might otherwise be an off-season became a way to create mementos of childhood.
Recently the Hartman Center acquired a small collection entitled “Santa and Me!”, named for a promotional campaign conducted by Kiddie Kandids, a chain of photograph studios that apparently began in St. Louis and expanded to include over 2,000 studios located in major and regional department stores throughout the United States. The photographs, taken between 1946 and 1948, depict Santa with children on his knee, as well as some other themed settings such as Alice in Wonderland and the circus. There are also shots of Santa on a department store stage with the photographer’s booth hidden in a wall, as well as some images of how the camera was set up to capture the moment of Santa and child.
Accompanying documentation describes how to conduct an “Operation Santa Claus” campaign: instructions on pricing; how to match the children to their photographs; distribution; how to set up the camera and process the flow of children. There are even recommendations on processing children through the experience: “This is a candid photograph and the children can be taken as fast as Santa wants to move them along. At the rate of 300 per hour, 2,000 to 3,000 is not unreasonable.”
This small collection provides a glimpse into an aspect of mid-century holiday celebrations and a commercial photographic practice that was only a few years old at the time. The collection is available at Duke’s Rubenstein Library and the collection guide may be viewed here.
Post Submitted by Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist
The Human Rights Archive recently purchased two historical publications documenting the Attica Prison Uprising of 1971. The Rubenstein Library’s Technical Services/Print Materials Cataloging Section has expertly cataloged these items and they are now available for consultation in the Rubenstein reading room.
In September of 1971 inmates at Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, New York, rebelled against prison authorities and took control of the facility. After four days of attempted negotiations the state police violently suppressed the rebellion leading to the death of 43 staff and inmates. The Attica Uprising was a watershed moment in the on-going fight to establish respect for human rights within the penitentiary system and to recognize and reform the racist practices and policies of the criminal justice system which feed the carceral machine. We can thus understand that Attica is a direct ancestor of social movements such as Black Lives Matter that continue this fight today. Attica: slaughter at Attica: the complete inside story is written by journalist James A. Hudson and published in 1971, soon after the uprising. The publication begins with a quote from Attica inmate Charles Horatio Crowley who was also known as Brother Flip, “If we cannot live as people, then we will at least try to die like men.”
Hudson then sets out to provide the details of the actual events of the uprising and oppression, including first-hand accounts from those who were there, a map of the prison grounds with key locations noted, and photographs of the rebellion, the negotiations, and the state’s attack on the inmates and the horrifying aftermath. Hudson also explores what led up to the riot, investigates if the living conditions at Attica were as inhumane as the inmates claimed, and asks readers to consider what role racism played in the state’s deadly response to the rebellion.
Another newly available item is Attica, it is a right to rebelauthored by the Revolutionary Student Brigade, circa 1972. Printed in stark black and red, the pamphlet is a collaboration between the RSB, some of the Attica brothers, as well as their supporters. The pamphlet proclaims that “ATTICA IS NOT A TRAGEDY, but a symbol of militant resistance of oppressed people against a system that tries to crush them.” In contrast to Hudson’s journalistic tone, The RBG invokes a clear call to solidarity and action with the Attica inmates by all people involved in resisting a racist system that terrorizes Black people. The back sheet of the pamphlet includes the 33 demands of the Attica rebels, many of which we today recognize as basic human rights, “provide adequate food and water and shelter for this group”, “allow true religious freedom”, “Apply the New York State minimum wage law to all work done by inmates. STOP SLAVE LABOR.”
These new items join the Human Rights Archives extensive collections on the experiences of the incarcerated, and the impact detention and incarceration have on their families and communities. These include the papers of Jomo Joka Omowale, one of the Attica Brothers who went on trial in the wake of the uprising, and the papers of Elizabeth Fink, a human rights lawyer who represented prisoners killed and injured during the Attica uprising. To learn more about these collections and how to access them please visit our research guide.
Post Contributed by Caitlin Margaret Kelly, Curator, Archive of Documentary Arts & Director, Power Plant Gallery
When I opened the newly arrived box the first photograph on top of the stack was one of the few with a title, called, “Two Minute Warning.” It is an iconic image taken on March 7, 1965 in Selma, Alabama, by a young photojournalist for the Birmingham News, James ‘Spider’ Martin. This print is among the more than 40 gelatin silver prints by Martin recently acquired by the Archive of Documentary Arts at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The prints depict the violence of Bloody Sunday, the men and women of the Selma to Montgomery March, and George Wallace on the campaign trail. There are photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and Ralph Abernathy, among many others.
But in among the well-known visages, are many unknown faces, all marching through the landscape. It wasn’t long into my inspection of these prints that I started to notice the suitcases, the socks, a backpack worn by John Lewis, and the straining hands holding up Amelia Boynton – grasping for the fabric of her coat.
While a few of the prints were made in 1965, most were reprinted by Martin between 1993-1999. Some of the later prints come with handwritten reflections. On the back of a photograph of Ralph Abernathy and M.L.K. at the Selma March, Martin writes:
“Dr. King knew he was a target. Many times I was tipped off that he might be assassinated. I look at this picture and think that Dr. King is looking towards heaven and thinking that it is enevitable (sic) that he will die fighting for the struggle. I think of the gospel song “Commin’ Home (sic).”
As a member of the news media, Spider Martin was on site to cover a march. It wasn’t until the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge that he also became a witness to the violence of Bloody Sunday. John Lewis is quoted as saying, “he left, through the power of his camera and with a quick eye, images that will educate and sensitize unborn generations.”.
The particular print, which I mentioned at the start of this blog post, came with a note from Martin’s daughter, Tracy, “He would make a perfect print and send to the client which was common a long while back, but he would always make them a titch darker and contrastier because he thought all printed publications lost that in the print process.” This particular print, now part of the ADA, may have been destined for publication in the book ‘Weary Feet, Rested Souls’ by Townsend Davis.
In addition to the newly added photographs by Spider Martin the Archive of Documentary arts, also holds the work of photographer James H. Karales, and his coverage of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. They are joined by various other collections at the Rubenstein Library including the Abraham Joshua Heschel papers documenting his participation in the Selma to Montgomery March.
Post contributed by Noah Huffman, Archivist for Metadata, Systems, and Digital Records
On July 1, 2020 the Rubenstein Library will launch a new and completely redesigned discovery and access interface for our collection guides (a.k.a. finding aids). The new site, soon-to-be available at archives.lib.duke.edu, will replace our current finding aid platform and is the result of over a year of planning and six months of local development work. Duke staff can access a demo app (VPN required) for a sneak peak of the interface before it launches.
Built on the open-source ArcLight software, the site will offer researchers new ways to search, browse, and explore nearly 4,000 detailed inventories of collections held in the Rubenstein Library, including the Duke University Archives. In total, the site will contain information about the contents of nearly 80,000 boxes of material held in the Rubenstein, including manuscripts, letters, diaries, organizational records, photographs, audio visual recordings, oral histories, objects, zines, digital materials, and much more.
What to expect from the new finding aid site:
While the new site will contain the same data available on the old finding aid site, you will notice many differences in the way information is structured and presented. Listed below are just some of the new features along with a few screenshots of the new interface. We’ll provide more details about the new interface after the July 1st launch. In the meantime, you can read about some of our design and development work in a blog post from Sean Aery, the primary developer for ArcLight at Duke.
Advanced searching by name, place, subject, format, and title
Filter search results by name, place, date, format, subject, and several other facets
Limit search results to only materials available online
Browse Duke-focused collections by University Archives Record Group (for university offices, schools, former presidents/provosts, athletics, student/campus life, etc.)
Easily navigate large finding aids and complex collection hierarchies (by series, sub-series, etc.)
View digital objects in the context of their collections: More seamless integration with the Duke Digital Repository
Bookmark collections, boxes, or folders of interest; save the bookmarks; and email them to yourself or others
View a rotating gallery of featured items on the homepage (with citations and links to collections)
Mobile-friendly display, but also optimized for wide displays
Improved visibility of restriction information: Know when materials are restricted or require certain conditions for access
WCAG2.0 AA compliant: works well with screen readers and other assistive technologies; easily navigable by keyboard
Faster page-load times for large finding aids and for researchers with low-bandwidth connections
We welcome your feedback!
We’re proud of the new site and we hope it empowers researchers to discover and interact with our collections in new ways. Still, we know that there is more work to do and we welcome your feedback. If you have questions, find a bug, or want to suggest a new feature, please let us know!
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Rubenstein Technical Services
For someone like me who studied Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness in school, the Congo River can play an outsized role in my imagination as a place of brutal Western imperialism. So, you can imagine, how, when I was carefully paging through a diary from 1852 for a ship named the Mary Adeline, I froze in a moment of recognition upon seeing the words, “I was in the Congo River 12 days, during which time got ashore Shark’s Point. Was attacked by the savages, defended the vessel successfully and was eventually got off by … [the] steamer ‘Firefly’ and schooner ‘Dolphin.’”
This ship’s diary was written almost forty years before Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, during a time when enslavers were still abducting people from Africa and selling them if not legally, then illegally, especially to countries in South America (by that time many countries, including the US, had outlawed the transatlantic slave trade). The diary was kept by a man named Appleton Oaksmith—captain of the Mary Adeline—and though he does not mention enslaving people in the diary, I was suspicious. I wanted to know what he was doing in the Congo River and why he was “attacked.” So, I began to do more research.
First, I should provide a little more context. This diary was donated to the library as an addition to the Appleton Oaksmith papers, which the Rubenstein has held since 1937. The library had previously borrowed the diary in the 1950s so that it could be microfilmed. And now, decades later, the owners of the physical diary decided to donate it to the Rubenstein. It’s part of my job in the library to process new additions to collections, and this addition of the diary led me to try and discover what exactly the diary was about and how I might add it to the existing collection.
I did not know much about Oaksmith. In our online catalog, the description of Oaksmith stated merely that he was an “adventurer, author, ship owner, and industrial promoter of Hollywood, N.C.” A quick Google search for Oaksmith led me to think that “adventurer” was at best a polite euphemism and at worst a papering-over of the history of illegal slave trading. Here is one of the first entries I found about Oaksmith and his ship, the Mary Adeline:
“The U.S. brig Mary Adeline departed from Rio de Janeiro in April 1852 destined for the coast of Angola. After having been visited by the British steamship Fire Fly investigating evidence of slave trading, the Mary Adeline ran aground on a sandbar at Shark’s Point near the mouth of the Congo River. Within hours an estimated fifteen hundred to three thousand Africans attacked the boat. They used muskets, spears, oars, and cutlasses as weapons, along with hooks and poles to climb the side of the ship. The small crew of the Mary Adeline fought back by shooting a six-pound cannon that killed several of the Africans…. News of the battle spread quickly. Couriers capable of running fifty to sixty miles a day surely carried this information along the African coast. Inhabitants of Salvador learned of the attack after the return of the Mary Adeline to Salvador in late July. A planned attack by Africans of a slaving vessel helped to convince Bahians and foreigners resident in Salvador that a resumption of the slave trade would pose significant and unwanted risks.”
This passage is from Dale Torston Graden’s monograph, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil, Bahia, 1835-1900. Graden’s description of the battle in the Congo River suggests two important points: 1) It is likely that Oaksmith was attempting to enslave West Africans, and 2) the attack played a significant role in limiting or ending the slave trade in Brazil. If these things were true, why did previous archivists describe Oaksmith as an “adventurer” and not as an enslaver?
This question sent me searching our digitized collection of the Rubenstein’s old card catalog. This is often the first place I look when trying to find more information about collections that the library has held for a long time, given that sometimes, descriptions in the old card catalog were never migrated to the online catalog due to length, complexity, or outdated language. The old card files on Oaksmith included a long biographical sketch. The writer of the description chose to describe the battle on the Congo River through the lens of the crew members of the Dolphin who helped Oaksmith escape. According to the Dolphin, Oaksmith fought “gallantly” against “3000 natives who had assembled for the purpose of plundering [the Mary Adeline’s] valuable cargo.” Later, the card file mentions that Oaksmith was indicted for slave trading, that he escaped from jail, and that he was eventually pardoned by President Grant. I was confused by the card file and by our online description, especially in juxtaposition to other scholarship that I found online. Was Oaksmith on the Congo River to enslave people? What was his valuable cargo? Why was he attacked? If he was eventually indicted, when was he convicted? How should I change the description of Oaksmith in the online catalog?
“[In 1852] the British Prime Minister to Brazil, Henry Southern, wrote to the foreign office about indications that the US vessels Mary Adeline and Camargo were being prepared to engage in the slave trade. ‘Mr. Marsden, a broker in Rio, a citizen of the United States,’ continued Southern, ‘is the party who is actively interested in getting up and aiding these speculations.’”
Later in 1852, the Camargo “disembarked 500 slaves at Bracuhy, south of Rio de Janeiro.” Marsden was jailed but was eventually freed. The captain of the Camargo, Nathaniel Gordon, escaped from Brazil, but was hung ten years later in the United States for slave trading. (Gordon is the only person in US history to have been executed for the crime of slave trading; his conviction and hanging are largely credited to the politics of that moment with the start of the Civil War and the beginning of Lincoln’s presidency.) The last place that Gordon abducted West Africans was at Shark’s Point on the Congo River, the same place that Oaksmith had run aground years earlier. And as for Marsden, after he was released from jail, he went on to be involved with a New York shipping company that was caught trafficking enslaved people to Cuba. Oaksmith also had significant ties to Cuba: his brother Sidney lived there, and Oaksmith himself was perhaps best known by historians as an ardent supporter of William Walker who “planned to establish a Central American empire that would ultimately include Spanish Cuba.”
It turns out that there is a copious amount of scholarship on Oaksmith and the illegal slave traders of his time. While I have not yet determined with certainty the purpose of Oaksmith’s journey to the Congo River in 1852 aboard the Mary Adeline and the reasons for the battle that ensued, I found historical evidence for his later attempts at slave trading, thus justifying two changes in the collection description: mentioning in the online catalog that Oaksmith was indicted for outfitting the slave ship Augusta in 1861 and finally convicted for outfitting the slave ship Margaret Scott in 1862, and adding “Slave trade – United States – 19th century” as a subject heading. I also decided to remove the word “adventurer” from his biographical description, lest it glorify the horrors of the slave trade and chattel slavery. The Appleton Oaksmith papers have also been added to a list of collections to which Rubenstein archivists hope to return, down the road, so that we can provide more detailed and just description. This is one of many legacy collections at the Rubenstein that deserve to be reprocessed and re-described so that we can better document the history of slavery and redress archival errors, silences, omissions, and erasures.
As for the ship’s diary that inspired this blog post, it has finally joined the rest of Oaksmith’s papers at the Rubenstein Library and will be requestable in the reading room once the library has reopened.
 Dale Torston Graden, From Slavery to Freedom in Brazil, Bahia, 1835-1900 (Albuquerque: University of Mexico Press, 2006), 8.
 Card catalog entry for the Appleton Oaksmith Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Post contributed by Craig Breaden (Audiovisual Archivist for the Rubenstein Library) and Liz Adams (Rare Materials Cataloger for the Rubenstein Library)
Harold Becker’s film, Ivanhoe Donaldson (1964), which was filmed during August, September, and October 1963, follows the titular Ivanhoe Donaldson, a 21-year-old Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary as he travels from his home in East Lansing (Michigan), to Danville (Virginia), Selma (Alabama), and Greenwood (Mississippi), organizing demonstrations and voter drives. This rare 16mm film was recently acquired by the Rubenstein Library and is one of the first films we have digitized using our newly-purchased motion picture film scanner (a Filmfabriek HDS+). The film scanner, beyond offering impressive technical capabilities (we can scan each image up to 4k!), allows us to further our commitment to the preservation and discoverability of our moving image resources in the interest of the histories they generate and illuminate. In this case, footage shows Donaldson and other SNCC staffers, including Cordell Reagon and Avon Rollins, running workshops to show civil rights activists how to protect their bodies from high pressure water hoses and riot sticks; it shows canvassers urging citizens to exercise their right to vote; and it shows SNCC staffers invoking the name of Medgar Evers and discussing the efficacies of indirect and direct action in the wake of the 16th Street Bombing in Selma, Alabama.
Ivanhoe Donaldson not only documents the work of Donaldson and SNCC, but it also captures the joy with which they work. Between footage of workshops and peaceful demonstrations, the camera follows staffers as they clap their hands and sing civil rights staples like “We shall overcome.” Donaldson is frequently shown singing boisterously, even if in the words of Dorothy Moore, “he can’t sing too well.” But more than anything else, it’s incredibly clear that Donaldson loves to sing, and when he does, there’s nowhere he’d rather be. And as audience members, we’re right there with him.
With the courage of his namesake, Ivanhoe Donaldson both shaped and survived a crucible moment in American history as a field secretary for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, organizing and training young people to put themselves in harm’s way, challenging white supremacy and asserting the right to vote. Becker’s emotionally-charged cinema vérité, the product of following Donaldson and his foot soldiers through the South in the summer and fall of 1963, provides an immediacy that is unique to film and, as SNCC’s members age and pass, a meaningful perspective to supplement memory. Also, having a resource created with documentary and poetic intention at the time the events occurred — much like James Karales’ photographs from an earlier period of SNCC’s existence — enlivens the dialogue of past and present immeasurably.
The digitization and preservation of the Ivanhoe Donaldson film is part of a larger effort made by the Rubenstein Library over the last decade to ensure that SNCC’s legacy is captured in documents, photographs, oral histories, and conferences, and made available on websites such as the SNCC Digital Gateway (https://snccdigital.org/). To learn more about Ivanhoe Donaldson, you can view a biographical entry and listen to an interview at https://snccdigital.org/people/ivanhoe-donaldson/.
So, you might be wondering, when can I see the whole Ivanhoe Donaldson film? Since the film is still under copyright, we cannot post it to the web. But, you can view the newly digitized preservation copy by requesting the film in the online catalog and then visiting the reading room at the Rubenstein Library.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University