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.
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.
Post contributed by Emma Evans, Marshall T. Meyer Intern at the Human Rights Archive
Hello! My name is Emma Evans, and I am a first-year Masters of Library Science student at UNC Chapel Hill. This year I have had the privilege to serve as the 2017-2018 Marshall T. Meyer Intern in the Human Rights Archive at the Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library. As an intern, I have had the opportunity to experience many aspects of archival work, including the arrangement and description of collections, collectively known as archival processing. Processing a collection is like putting together a puzzle — it can be a complex, interesting, and occasionally daunting task. When all the pieces are put into place, however, the process is ultimately very rewarding. This was my experience as I processed the Jerome J. Shestack papers. The numerous hours that I spent with his files rewarded me not only with archival processing experience, but with a newfound understanding of the need to preserve and convey human rights narratives through the archive.
Jerome J. Shestack was a prominent Philadelphia-based lawyer known for his extensive work and leadership as a human rights advocate. His work aimed to bring justice and equality to marginalized groups both in the US and around the world. He is perhaps most well-known for his position on the 1987 judicial committee that voted against US Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, his fight against the mistreatment of political dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, and his leadership as 1997-1998 President of the American Bar Association. These significant moments in his career are well-documented throughout his papers in the form of correspondence, reports, and subject files, and other documents. However, Shestack’s work in law and human rights did not begin and end with these events. His papers also document his lifelong dedication to these efforts as a leading member in 13+ law and human rights advocacy organizations, a leading member of numerous professional committees, a frequent author and speaker, and a well-respected colleague. As Shestack spent the majority of his life working towards justice and equality for all people, the papers span over 60 years (1944-2011, bulk 1965-2000), and are now housed across 85 archival boxes. The collection is divided into six series: American Bar Association, Organizations, Correspondence, Subject Files, Writings and Speeches, and Print Materials, with the majority of files pertaining to Shestack’s professional life.
While arranging and describing the collection, I was constantly in awe of Shestack’s commitment to “taking action” for the cause. His papers make it evident that he never stopped working for the things he believed in. He was constantly speaking at law and advocacy events, attending conferences, writing reports, and providing commentary on public policy. He often held leadership roles in multiple organizations at once, namely the American Bar Association, the International League for Human Rights, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights. These simultaneous appointments made it easy for him to combine his passions of law and human rights to form organizational alliances and work toward common goals. On the other hand, these simultaneous appointments could make archival arrangement challenging, as a document would often describe the work of multiple organizations, making it unclear where it would best fit in the collection. Even so, this challenge further demonstrates Shestack’s steadfast dedication to doing whatever he could to advance universal human rights.
This dedication did not go unnoticed. Shestack was frequently praised for his actions by lawyers, human rights advocates, and politicians alike. His widespread recognition in his professional life gave him the platform to correspond and interact with many influential leaders, including but not limited to George Bush, René Cassin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Correspondence between Shestack and these leaders are included in the collection, and these documents effectively demonstrate Shestack’s work and recognition in action. Furthermore, in some cases, this recognition would lead to further opportunities for leadership. In 1963, he became a member of the first Board of Trustees of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization formed at the request of President Kennedy. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Shestack as the US Ambassador to the UN Commission on Human Rights. His work in both of these appointments is represented within the collection through reports, correspondence, and certificates.
Overall, my experience processing this collection was both challenging and fulfilling. The significance of Shestack’s work in law and human rights advocacy revealed itself throughout the course of the project, and I enjoyed discovering his narrative, an important addition to the Human Rights Archive.
Take a look at the new collection guide for the Jerome Shestack papers online, or visit the Rubenstein Library’s reading room (open to the public) to view the materials.
Post contributed by Mary Kallem, field experience student in the Bingham Center and master’s student at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science.
Few anarchists have gained as much mainstream recognition as Emma Goldman, an iconic figure in labor organizing, feminist history, and prison abolition. The Bingham Center acquired a sizable collection of Goldman’s papers as part of the larger Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a transformative collection documenting the history of women at work.
Dating from 1909 to 1940, the Emma Goldman Papers reflect radical community labor amidst state repression, the financial instability of writers and activists, and a tumultuous political landscape. Goldman’s prescience remains apparent today.
These papers illuminate a historical understanding that reaches beyond her as an individual. In addition to providing an intimate picture of her financial, political, and social lives, this collection also reveals the relational network that constituted anarchist organizing and publishing of her time.
With over 300 letters, the collection includes both the revolutionary and quotidian aspects of the relationships between Goldman and her comrades, including Alexander “Sascha” Berkman, Eugene Debs, Alexander Schapiro, and Thomas Keell. The collection also features published material, handwritten articles from Errico Malatesta and Emma Goldman, photographs, ephemera, and more.
This collection of Goldman papers has been in the hands of a private collector until recently, and it is now being opened to the public for the first time. The day-to-day correspondence may be the most striking element of the collection, given its familiar nature: whether asking to borrow money, lamenting poor book sales, or mutually gathering hope, these letters reflect struggle. For those who continue to fight for social change, there is a solidarity to be found in these shared material and emotional conditions.
Radio Haiti Archive receives second National Endowment for the Humanities grant
Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant will enable continued in-depth description of the audio archive of Radio Haïti-Inter
Durham, NC: The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is pleased to announce that the Radio Haiti Archive project has received a second grant from the NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access. While the first phase of the project, Radio Haiti, Voices of Change, focused on the physical preservation and initial description of the Radio Haiti materials, Radio Haiti, Voices of Change II: Bringing Radio Haiti Home will allow library staff to continue creating detailed trilingual description of Radio Haiti’s audio (in Haitian Creole, French, and English) and to digitally repatriate the archive to libraries, archives, cultural institutions, and community radio stations in Haiti.
For three decades, Radio Haïti-Inter was Haiti’s first and most prominent independent radio station. Under the direction of Jean Léopold Dominique and Michèle Montas, Radio Haiti was a voice of social change and democracy, speaking out against oppression and impunity while advocating for human rights and celebrating Haitian culture and heritage. On 3 April 2000, Jean Dominique was assassinated in Radio Haiti’s courtyard, and in February 2003, amid escalating threats to Radio Haiti’s journalists, the station closed for good.
Laurent Dubois, professor of history and Romance Studies and the director of Duke’s Forum for Scholars and Publics, describes Voices of Change II as a “vital project that will allow this rich archive to be made available as widely as possible, notably in Haiti itself. This is of profound importance, for having learned over the past years about the richness of the materials in the Radio Haiti collection, I consider it the most important archive on contemporary Haitian politics, history, and culture in existence.” In the words of the station’s surviving director, Michèle Montas: “It is so important that these voices, which have meant so much to so many, remain alive and vibrant in the land that created them.”
Pwojè Achiv Radyo Ayiti jwenn yon dezyèm sibvansyon National Endowment for the Humanities
Sibvansyon Humanities Collections and Reference Resources pral pemèt nou kontinye dekri achiv odyo Radyo Ayiti-Entè yo an detay
Durham, Karolin di Nò: Se avèk anpil kè kontan David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Bibliyotèk David M. Rubenstein pou Liv ak Maniskri ki Ra) anonse ke pwojè Achiv Radyo Ayiti a jwenn yon dezyèm sibvansyon NEH, nan kad Division of Preservation and Access (Divizyon Konsèvasyon ak Aksè). Tandiske premye etap pwojè a, Radio Haiti, Voices of Change (Radyo Ayiti: Vwa Chanjman) te konsantre sou konsèvasyon fizik ak deskripsyon preliminè achiv Radyo Ayiti yo, dezyèm etap la, ki rele Radio Haiti, Voices of Change II: Bringing Radio Haiti Home (Radyo Ayiti, Vwa Chanjman II: Mennen Radyo Ayiti Tounen Lakay Li) pral pemèt manm staf bibliyotèk la kontinye bay chak emisyon Radyo Ayiti deskripsyon detaye nan twa lang yo (kreyòl, franse, ak angle) epi repatriye achiv yo nan bibliyotèk, achiv, enstitisyon kiltirèl, ak radyo kominotè ann Ayiti.
Radyo Ayiti-Entè te premye radyo endepandan nan peyi d Ayiti, epi pandan trant ane li te pi koni pami tout radyo nan peyi a. Anba direksyon Jean Léopold Dominique ak Michèle Montas, Radyo Ayiti te reprezante yon vwa chanjman ak demokrasi, ki te konn denonse sistèm kraze zo ak enpinite, lite pou dwa moun, epi valorize kilti ak eritaj Ayiti a. Jou 3 avril 2000, yo te krabinen Jean Dominique nan lakou Radyo Ayiti a, epi nan mwa fevriye 2003, kòm rezilta yon dal menas jounalis Radyo Ayiti yo t ap sibi, radyo a fèmen nèt.
Laurent Dubois, pwofesè istwa ak etid lang latin yo epi direktè Forum for Scholars and Publics nan Inivèsite Duke, dekri pwojè Voices of Change II kòm yon “pwojè fondalnatal ki pral rann achiv rich disponib osi lwen ke posib, sitou ann Ayiti menm. M twouve sa gen anpil enpòtans. Pandan plizyè ane m ap aprann ki richès achiv Radyo Ayiti yo gen ladan yo, ki fè m konsidere l kòm achiv ki pi enpòtan sou politik, istwa, ak kilti Ayiti kontanporen ki egziste sou latè beni.” Nan pawòl Michèle Montas, antanke direktris sivivan radyo a: “Li kapital ke vwa sa yo, ki gen anpil enpòtans pou anpil moun, toujou rete vivan ak vif nan peyi ki te kreye yo.”
Post contributed by Laura Wagner, P.h.D., Radio Haiti Archivist
This blog post is in French and Haitian Creole as well as English. Scroll down for other languages.
Cet article de blog est écrit en français et créole haïtien en plus de l’anglais. Défilez l’écran vers le bas pour les autres langues.
Blog sa a ekri an franse ak kreyòl anplis ke angle. Desann paj la pou jwenn lòt lang yo.
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is thrilled to announce the successful completion of the first major stage of Radio Haiti: Voices of Change, made possible through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Between July 2015 and spring 2018, project archivist Laura Wagner, audiovisual archivist Craig Breaden, and a committed team of student assistants have:
completed preliminary description of the entire Radio Haiti audio collection, including nearly 4,000 open reel and cassette audio tapes
managed the cleaning and high-resolution digital preservation of the tapes at Cutting Corporation in Maryland, and secured a CLIR Recordings at Risk grant to digitize — at Northeast Document Conservation Center — recordings that had suffered acute deterioration
created additional detailed, trilingual metadata (in Haitian Creole, French, and English) for more than half of the Radio Haiti audio, now available on the Duke Digital Repository
Our student assistants and volunteers, past and present, both undergraduate and graduate, have been an invaluable part of this team. They have listened to and described Radio Haiti audio; blogged about the archive; used the materials in the archive in their own research; and brought expertise, excitement, and enthusiasm to this very rewarding but intense project. Mèsi anpil to Tanya Thomas, Krystelle Rocourt, Réyina Sénatus, Catherine Farmer, Eline Roillet, Sandie Blaise, Jennifer Garçon, and Marina Magloire for everything you have done and continue to do.
In addition to our in-house work on the archive, Laura has also conducted two outreach trips to Haiti to raise awareness of the project and to distribute flash drives to cultural institutions, libraries, community radio stations, and grassroots groups.
But the project isn’t over yet! We are currently seeking additional funding to continue in-depth detailed description of the audio.
La bibliothèque David M. Rubenstein Livres Rares & Manuscrits est fière d’annoncer le succès de la première étape du projet Radio Haiti: Voices of Change, rendu possible grâce au généreux soutien de la National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Entre juillet 2015 et mars 2018, Laura Wagner, chef de projet et Craig Breaden, archiviste audiovisuel, appuyés par une équipe d’étudiants passionnés, ont :
rédigé une description préliminaire de l’intégralité des archives audio de Radio Haïti, dont près de 4000 enregistrements sur bobines et cassettes
géré le nettoyage, la préservation et la numérisation en HD des cassettes via l’entreprise Cutting Corporation (Maryland) et digitalisé les enregistrements les plus fragiles au Northeast Document Conservation Center grâce à la bourse CLIR Recordings at Risk
créé des métadonnées trilingues (créole haïtien, français et anglais) détaillant plus de la moitié de la collection, maintenant disponibles sur Duke Digital Repository
Nos étudiants et nos volontaires, passés et présents, en licence, master et doctorat ont joué un rôle inestimable au sein de l’équipe. Ils ont écouté et décrit des centaines d’émissions de Radio Haïti, rédigé des articles de blog au sujet de la collection, utilisé les documents pour leurs propres recherches et amené leur expertise, leur enthousiasme et leur motivation à ce projet intense et très gratifiant. Mèsi anpil àTanya Thomas,Krystelle Rocourt, Réyina Sénatus, Catherine Farmer, Eline Roillet, Sandie Blaise, Jennifer Garçon et Marina Magloire pour vos précieuses contributions.
En plus du travail en interne sur la collection, Laura s’est également rendue en Haïti par deux fois afin de promouvoir le projet et de distribuer des clefs USB contenant les archives à diverses institutions culturelles, bibliothèques, stations radio locales et associations.
Mais le projet n’est pas encore terminé! Nous sommes actuellement à la recherche de financement supplémentaire pour poursuivre la description détaillée en profondeur des documents sonores.
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Bibliyotèk David. M. Rubenstein pou Liv ak Maniskri ki Ra) gen anpil kè kontan anonse ke premye etap pwojè Radio Haiti: Voices of Change (Radyo Ayiti: Vwa Chanjman) a abouti. Pwojè sa a te posib gras a finansman jenere National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) la.
Soti nan mwa jiyè 2015 rive nan prentan 2018, achivis prensipal la Laura Wagner, achivis odyovizyèl la Craig Breaden, ak yon ekip etidyan trè angaje gentan reyalize objektif swivan yo:
Yo fin fè yon premye deskripsyon sou tout dokiman sonò Radyo Ayiti yo, ki gen ladan yo prèske 4.000 bann mayetik ak kasèt
Yo jere netwayaj ak konsèvasyon dijital tout tep yo, ki te fèt nan Maryland avèk konpayi Cutting Corporation, epi yo jwenn yon sibvansyon CLIR “Recordings at Risk” pou dijitalize tep ki pi frajil epi pi domaje yo nan Northeast Document Conservation Center
Kreye deskripsyon ki pi detaye epi ki trilèng (an kreyòl, franse, ak angle) pou plis pase 50% dokiman sonò Radyo Ayiti yo, ki disponib kounye a sou Duke Digital Repository la
Etidyan ki travay sou pwojè sila a, kit yo asistan peye kit yo benevòl, kit yo etidyan nan lisans, metriz, oswa nan doktora, bay pwojè a yon gwo kout men. Yo tande epi dekri odyo Radyo Ayiti a, ekri blog sou achiv yo, sèvi avèk materyèl yo nan pwòp rechèch pa yo, epi yo pote anpil ekspètiz, eksitans, ak antouzyas pou pwojè sa a, ki se yon pwojè ki vo lapenn men ki difisil, tou. Mèsi anpil Tanya Thomas,Krystelle Rocourt, Réyina Sénatus, Catherine Farmer, Eline Roillet, Sandie Blaise, Jennifer Garçon ak Marina Magloire pou tout sa nou fè pou sovgade eritaj Radyo Ayiti-Entè, ak tout sa n ap kontinye fè.
Anplis ke travay n ap fè lakay nou nan Karolin di Nò, Laura gentan fè de vwayaj ann Ayiti pou sansibilize moun sou pwojè a epi pou distribye djònp bay enstitisyon kiltirèl, bibliyotèk, radyo kominotè, ak òganizasyon de baz.
Men pwojè a poko fini! Aktiyèlman n ap chèche lòt finansman siplemantè pou nou ka kontinye fè deskripsyon detaye dokiman sonò yo, an pwofondè.
Post contributed by Claire Payton, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History intern and Ph.D. candidate, Duke University Department of History
At the end of World War II, the meaning of family changed in profound ways. In Europe and North America, young couples set about starting new families. Their enthusiasm for procreation generated the demographic explosion known as the “baby boom.” Those who could afford it filled their homes with refrigerators, television sets, and baby toys, midwifing another major post-war transformation: the rise of consumerism.
Riding these twin dynamics, an upstart Parisian advertising firm was able to build up a small French company into a famous international brand. Publicis was a small ad firm founded in 1926 by Marcel Blustein-Blanchet, the son of Jewish immigrants. Blustein-Blanchet managed to flee when the Nazis occupied France in 1940. Publicis was shuttered and the office and equipment were seized by the government. But when the war ended he returned and, in 1946, reopened Publicis. One of the first new clients he signed while rebuilding from scratch was a small new company that specialized in maternity clothes called Prénatal.
Founded by Jean-Maire Mazart in 1947, Prénatal seized upon the social transformations of the era. With the help of Publicis, the company targeted young pregnant women who were looking to overcome the war through the power of consumerism. Mazart’s idea, inspired by the United States, was to provide women with high-end clothes in different sizes depending on how far along they were in their pregnancy. The idea was an immediate hit in France, and Prénatal expanded quickly. It diversified its products to include baby items so that loyal clients could continue to have things to buy things even after pregnancy was over and motherhood began. Within two decades, there were two hundred Prénatal storefronts in France, with more around Europe and overseas.
One of the ways Publicis drummed up excitement for its clients was to design large displays at major marketing events. These photos show its Prénatal installation at a 1950s Foire de Paris (Paris Fair) which was held in the luminous Parisian marketplace, Les Halles. The photos are part of a new acquisition at the Hartman Center, a Collection of French Advertising Display Binders that feature photos of Publicis advertisements, installations, and displays from the 1950s. The Publicis-Prénatal strategy is evident in the slogan painted on the walls: “Tout pour la future maman…Tout pour le nouveau ne” (Everything for the mom-to-be…Everything for the newborn). The design of the Prénatal display showcased the message that ideal mid-century motherhood–glamorous, clean, elegant–was available with the signing of a check.
By the late 1960s, the message pedaled by Prénatal and Publicis had lost some of its charm. The very people who might have worn Prénatal clothes as infants grew up to challenge post-war ideas of consumerism and the heteronormative nuclear family that the company’s products celebrated. With the increasing availability of contraceptives in the late 1960s, women could aspire to more than a fashionable and well-heeled pregnancy. Mazart sold the company in 1972; it closed its last doors in 1997. More able than its client to adapt to changing cultural norms, Publicis today is one of the world’s leading multinational advertising and public relations agencies.
Post contributed by David Romine, Rubenstein Library Technical Services intern and P.h.D . Candidate, Duke University Department of History
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.
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.
Post contributed by Heather McGowan, Public Services Intern for the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture
Eleanor Butler was the youngest daughter of the Earl of Ormonde of Kilkenny Castle in Ireland. Her siblings wed and secured their family’s future, but in 1778 39-year-old Eleanor had no plans to marry. Her brother threatened a nunnery and life in a convent for Eleanor.
Twelve miles away, 23-year-old orphaned Sarah Ponsonby, was facing the unwanted sexual advances of her cousin and guardian Sir William Fownes. As Lady Betty Fownes became ill, Sir William was waiting for the day he could call Sarah his new Lady Fownes.
Both women were trapped in unbearable situations. The Ladies met in 1768, Eleanor was appointed Sarah’s tutor and the two formed a deep friendship. They decided to run away to England together and missed the ferry, forcing the two women to hide in a barn. They were caught and taken home. When Sarah became ill, Eleanor ran away to Sarah’s home at Woodstock and hid in Sarah’s bedroom, where Sarah’s maid Mary Carryll smuggled food in to the room. Eleanor was found again, but her family refused to take her back. After a few days, Sarah’s family let them go. The Butlers agreed to provide Eleanor with an annual income of £200, and Sarah’s beloved cousin, Mrs. Sarah Tighe, agreed to a yearly supplement of £80.
In 1778, the Ladies, along with their maid Mary, eloped to the rural vale of Llangollen in Wales and settled down for a life of “delightful retirement.” The Ladies redesigned their cottage in the Gothic style, and spent 50 years studying literature, learning languages, and piecing together a collection of woodcarvings and other works of art. The letters that make up the majority of the Ladies of Llangollen collection in Rubenstein Library are written from Sarah to her cousin, Mrs. Sarah Tighe, who hesitantly accepted the Ladies’ lifestyle.
The two Sarahs wrote to each other for the remainder of Ponsonby’s life about their lives in Ireland and Llangollen. Tighe kept Ponsonby abreast of political happenings (revolutions and counter-revolutions in Ireland between the 1770s and 1820), as well as social and family matters at home, while Ponsonby told Tighe of her idyllic life iwth Eleanor reading, gardening, and enjoying the culture in Llangollen.
Despite their hopes to live a life of quiet retreat, their elopement catapulted the Ladies into the nineteenth century press. The highest echelons of cultural and social elites found their way to the door of the Ladies home, Plas Newydd. They entertained up to 20 visitors a day; William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Walter Scott and even Queen Charlotte all came to talk and spend time with the Ladies of Llangollen. Questions about the nature of the Ladies ‘romantic friendship,’ circulated around this extraordinary pair both during and well after their lifetimes. Eleanor was described as masculine, while Sarah was seen as more feminine, but once in Llangollen, both cropped their hair and wore dark riding habits. The Ladies shared a home and a life of devotion in their retreat at Llangollen. Eleanor Butler died on June 2, 1829 and three years later Sarah Ponsonby died in December of 1832. Upon Sarah’s death, Plas Newydd was publicly sold.
In addition to the letters in the collection, the Ladies of Llangollen, their home, and Llangollen itself are thoroughly documented in drawings, photographs, and print materials produced throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their position as courageous and audacious Irish aristocrats who broke away from the constraints of convention gained them substantial notoriety.
This collection, especially the objects and printed material, capture the world’s curiosity about the Ladies’ life. Their images were printed on tea cups, figurines, prints, and postcards, and their story was told and retold in accounts by neighbors, friends, and visitors to Llangollen. As a result, Llangollen became a destination and an ongoing source of fascination because of the two ladies who risked everything to live the life they always dreamed of, together.
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.
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.
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:
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
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 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.