Dismantle white privilege in collections and services.
Diversify our staff.
Develop better relationships with community organizations and groups.
Document and share Duke’s complex institutional history.
And finally, “practice more inclusive metadata creation, with the goal of harm reduction from biased and alienating description and classification.”
Creating “Guiding Principles” for RL Technical Services
The Rubenstein Library Technical Services Department has been seeking to create “inclusive metadata” for much longer than the summer of 2020, but we have recently been inspired by Duke Libraries’ “Statement of Our Commitment” to more formally and concretely define what “inclusive metadata” means. We began this process by collecting and reading library and community literature, listening to panels and presentations on these topics, and researching what our peers and role models are doing. Our staff met and workshopped a draft of new “Guiding Principles for Description,” which was subsequently edited and adopted by the department and is now available here (along with links to some further reading and references):
The Rubenstein Library Technical Services Department acknowledges the historical role of libraries and archives, including our own institution, in amplifying the voices of those with political, social, and economic power, while omitting and erasing the voices of the oppressed. We have developed these Guiding Principles for Description as the first step in our ongoing commitment to respond to this injustice.
We will use inclusive and accessible language when describing the people represented by or documented in our materials. We commit to continually educate ourselves on evolving language and practices of inclusivity and accessibility.
We will prioritize facts and accuracy, and resist editorializing, valorizing, or euphemistic narratives or phrases in our description. This includes a commitment to revisit and revise our past description.
When describing our collections, we will purposefully seek and document the presence and activities of marginalized communities and voices.
We welcome and will seek to incorporate input and feedback on our descriptive choices from the communities and people represented by and in our materials.
We will be transparent about the origin of our description, and our role in adding or replacing description. We will also commit to increased transparency about our own institution’s past descriptive practices.
We will advocate for and celebrate library description, and the essential labor and expertise of the library practitioners who create and maintain that description, as crucial for any ongoing preservation of, access to, and research within library collections.
Developing this list of guiding principles is only one part of our ongoing commitment to create inclusive description of Rubenstein Library materials. Our department processes and catalogs a wide range of special collection formats (printed books, serials, ephemera, zines, archival papers, institutional records, film, video, born digital files, objects, and more) and creates description that is shared across a variety of platforms like the library catalog, finding aid database, and Duke’s institutional repository. Going forward, we hope the “Guiding Principles” will serve as the foundation for any type of description created or managed by Rubenstein’s catalogers and archivists.
Current and Future Inclusive Description Projects
There is much work already underway, and much more planned as Rubenstein Technical Services continues to prioritize the creation of inclusive description. Some of these projects pre-date the coining of our “Guiding Principles” — for example, we are proud of the ongoing cataloging of the thousands of items in the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, where catalogers are creating name authority records and detailed provenance notes tracing the often hidden role of women in printing, publishing, and book-binding. Our work to preserve and digitize film, including creating detailed description for collections like the H. Lee Waters’ Movies of Local People, have ensured the preservation and availability of community histories. When developing ArcLight, our finding aid interface (just launched in July), an important feature was the addition of a feedback button to encourage suggestions, particularly if a user spots harmful or incorrect descriptive language in our metadata.
Our projects continue this fall despite the COVID-19 pandemic. While working remotely, the Rare Materials Section has prioritized creating new manuscript catalog records for the Rubenstein’s American Slavery Documents, which will center the names and lives of Black people who were enslaved. We will share more about this project as the records are published in our catalog later this year.
Our Archival Processing Section has begun reviewing manuscript collections with outdated, inadequate, or offensive description, and they will be reprocessing, re-describing, and exploring how to be transparent about any changes or updates they make through development of a new style guide for finding aids. This includes acknowledging our library’s past decisions or mistakes, which may mean more blog posts like this one that question and critique our institution’s collecting and descriptive choices. Across the department, we intend to ramp up reparative description projects, particularly for our nineteenth-century Southern white family papers, because we know that the records of enslavers may be the only remaining documentation of those who were enslaved. We are seeking marginalized, hidden, and silenced voices. Even in their silences, our collections have much to say. Please stay tuned, and stay in touch, as we pursue this important work.
At Smith Warehouse, the Technical Services archival processing area of Bay 11 is quiet. But not because the librarians working there have shushed everyone. Rather, the archivists, catalogers, interns and student workers perform many tasks by themselves. And most of us are wearing headphones or earbuds. Undoubtedly we are listening to music, podcasts, sports events, and whatever else we can stream. As a self-proclaimed news junkie, I often listen to live broadcasts.
As an archivist of University Archives records, my worlds collided in a “deja vu all over again” manner. At the end of January and beginning of February I was listening to the impeachment hearings and trial of President Donald J. Trump as I was processing the John S. Bradway Correspondence with Richard M. Nixon records. The collection is comprised of letters written between the Duke law professor, and his former student from 1959-1978. Nixon graduated from Duke Law in 1937, and the two men stayed in touch. These letters were recently gifted to Duke from a historical society in New Jersey.
The correspondence covers the time periods that Nixon worked as an attorney at a law firm, a United States Vice President, a newly-elected United States President, an embattled impeachment defendant, and finally, a former President looking back at his legacy. But the bulk of the letters fall between 1973 and 1974, when President Nixon was first tied to, then accused of, and later resigned due to the Watergate break-in and scandal and subsequent White House cover-up.
Bradway and Nixon’s correspondence show the respect each had for the other. They often mention their spouses, Mary Bradway and Pat Nixon, offering their greetings to them in each letter. The men also write glowingly of each other, and Bradway offered his suggestions to “stay with it” and his view that neither the Republican party nor the country would have anything to gain by Nixon resigning. When Nixon finally did resign and leave Washington, the correspondence continued, and Bradway urged him to write “a book or a series of articles” giving his side of the Watergate story.
Processing this collection with impeachment trial streaming through my earbuds led to an unusual echo chamber. The same phrases that I saw in the documents were being repeated on the floors of the House and the Senate. For example, liberal media was mentioned in both the recent impeachment hearings and the correspondence. The phrase “Impeachment is a political process” and concerns about the health and future of the Republican party were discussed in the letters I read, and in the very recent commentaries I heard. For me it was a startling reminder of how primary source documents very clearly connect to our present-day lives and current affairs.
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Technical Services
Warning: Some of the language in this blog post is outdated and considered offensive today. There are also descriptions of violence against African Americans in the South during Reconstruction.
The way in which archivists think about Reconstruction (1865-1877) in the United States can sometimes determine how we describe and interpret materials produced during that period. For example, if you believe that Reconstruction was an ill-fated, corrupt takeover of the South by Northern Republicans—a brief episode doomed to fail—then it makes sense that you would describe a Republican politician in Georgia as self-interested. The particular politician that I have in mind is John Emory Bryant (1836-1900), who was born in Maine, fought for the Union, and pursued a Republican political career in Georgia after the Civil War. Bryant was also an abolitionist, teacher, agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau, newspaper editor and publisher, and lawyer. The Rubenstein Library holds his papers, the bulk of which were acquired in 1968 (a later addition arrived in 2002). His papers came up recently as a candidate for re-processing due to their popularity among researchers, the aging folders and worn-out boxes housing the collection, and the fact that there were many voices within the collection that could benefit from updated description in the online collection guide. Also, when we investigated further, it became clear that there was a large discrepancy between what was described in the old paper catalog and the online collection guide. The original card catalog entry included 50 cards of description! And the online collection guide included only two small paragraphs. Sometimes this discrepancy happens because of the way the library managed the mass migration of our collection guides online; description was simplified. And sometimes this happens when the description was viewed as problematic for some reason. For the JEB papers, the discrepancy in descriptions could have been for multiple reasons. My task was to assess the description that was available to me and to do my best to improve the collection guide, a process which inspired me to think about how archivists and researchers interpret and describe materials from the Reconstruction Era. This process ultimately led me to edit descriptions of JEB and to make sure that the voices of people of color where discoverable in the collection.
To get an idea of how JEB papers were originally described, here is an unflattering snippet about Bryant from the old card catalog:
On January 1, 1862, Bryant made a significant statement to Emma [his future wife]. He refers to his “enemies,” who are again conspiring against him. He has been under arrest for stealing from a Negro, a charge which was dismissed later. He says he will come out on top, as he always looks out for ‘no. 1.’ This glimpse of his personality is prophetic for the career he later entered.
The description portrays Bryant (JEB) as contentious, selfish, and possibly corrupt; the description also gives weighty significance to this episode in JEB’s life by suggesting that it illustrates an important aspect of his personality and the foundation for his political career. I think it’s also important to note that JEB was accused of stealing from a black person, which, if true, would do significant harm to any claims of integrity he might have had in fighting for the civil and political rights of African Americans.
Why did the previous cataloger of this collection choose to highlight this episode in Bryant’s life? One reason could be because of popular notions about Reconstruction during the 1960s—for example, the cataloger, expecting to find a corrupt carpetbagger, could have been drawn to troublesome moments in JEB’s life and career. After all, JEB was no stranger to conflict and controversy in both public and private affairs. In her book, Carpetbagger of Conscience: A Biography of John Emory Bryant, Ruth Currie-McDaniel probes JEB’s life and career, wading through many of his successes, failures, flaws, and contradictions in order to try to discern what kind of Republican he really was. Currie-McDaniel comes down on the side that JEB was a staunch supporter and fighter for civil rights for African Americans; he was also “a complicated mixture of idealistic reform zeal on the one hand and a certain selfish realism on the other,” as well as being a neglectful husband. To say the least, JEB was a complicated person, and the letters that he left behind tell of a controversial personality.
Eric Foner, who is one of the most well-known Reconstruction scholars and who is heavily inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois (Du Bois wrote “Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880,” published in 1935), lays out an understanding of Reconstruction in which
the [Republican] Radicals in Congress were acquitted of both vindictive motives and the charge of serving as the stalking-horses of Northern capitalism. They emerged instead as idealists in the best nineteenth-century reform tradition…. Their Reconstruction policies were based on principle, not petty political advantage, for the central issue dividing [President] Johnson and these Radical Republicans was the civil rights of freedmen.
Foner writes that a key element of this understanding of Reconstruction, which is very different than the one depicted by previous historians such as William Dunning and films like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind, is the “testimony of the central participant in the drama of Reconstruction—the black freedman.” While John Emory Bryant was an important player in Republican politics during Reconstruction in the South, I took Foner’s depiction to heart and shifted my gaze beyond JEB’s voice and actions alone. Who were these black freedmen that Foner mentions, and what is their testimony from the Reconstruction Era? This blog post is an exploration of the African-American voices found within the JEB papers.
Daniel Broomfield: School Teacher in Warrenton, Georgia
Scattered throughout the JEB papers, there are myriad portrayals of black people fighting for a better life (and sometimes fighting just to live) by participating in civic, educational, religious, and political organizations. In 1866, one school teacher, who recently built a small schoolhouse, writes to report being shot at:
William John Spence came to the school house last Monday evening just after I had turned out and shot two balls through the house, he then shot three times at me as I run. I only built a small house, I was not able to build a very large one, I done the best I could. I had a good many scholars spelling and reading. I reported to the Bureau here but to very little effect did it take.
This kind of terroristic violence is documented throughout the John Emory Bryant collection, perhaps most strikingly in a deposition describing KKK activity in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia in the 1870s. The African-American victims listed in the document are: Edward Thompson and his wife in Florida; Boss Fullard, Gamble Wright, and John Askie in Dublin, Georgia; and George Daymond in Montgomery County, Georgia. The atrocities recounted in the deposition paint a picture of white-supremacist terror. We do not know the author of the deposition, but for those who are interested in this account and the efforts to hold the perpetrators of terror and violence responsible, we have another collection at the library that has more information. The Williams Woods Holden Papers, 1834-1929, document the life of a “journalist and Republican governor of North Carolina…. He was elected governor as a Republican in 1868, but was impeached by the Democratic state legislature in 1870 for his efforts to combat the Ku Klux Klan.”
Henry McNeal Turner: Republican Leader, Preacher, Post Master General, and Bishop
In the midst of violence, terror, and constant, ever-present racism (including both hate-filled and less incendiary paternalistic propaganda), black freedmen (formerly enslaved people) and black people who were born free pushed full-steam ahead. The same year that the school teacher, Broomfield, writes to report the assault against him, Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) writes a series of letters to JEB. Turner was a chaplain during the Civil War and went on to become a black Republican leader, legislator, preacher, Post Master of Georgia, and bishop in the African Methodist Church. He writes his letters to Bryant while enduring loss and illness in his family; one of Turner’s children had just died and his wife was gravely ill, yet Turner pushed on for Republican causes. He writes to JEB about political news, updates him on his efforts to get subscribers to their Republican newspaper, tells of his hopes for the Georgia legislature, and strategizes ways to inform black citizens about new laws: “Major General Howard at my suggestion is going to print copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil Rights Bill etc. for general distribution through the South for the colored people. I told him there should be thousands of copies distributed like tracts.” When Turner tries to get Democrats to subscribe to his Republican newspaper, he says, “The few democrats that are here, with whom I have come in contact, treat me very scornfully. They say I aught not to speak of those outrages. But the Republicans have assured me, that Mr. Johnson shall execute that civil rights bill or leave his seat. They also say there is more on hand, when they get ready to enforce it, and they will do it.” The Civil Rights Act about which Turner is writing was passed on April 9, 1866 (three days before Turner’s letter). This act provided:
that all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States; and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, to the contrary notwithstanding.
The law was passed, vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, and then passed again with a two-thirds majority. In another letter, Turner offers aid to JEB, who, he has heard, has been arrested and whose paper was suppressed. He writes, “If you are in great need, write to Oliver Sanders of Columbus, Ga. I helped them to organize a society there, and they have some money, which they will send you as quick as lighting if you need it.” Turner’s letters show someone who was deeply engaged in the issues of the time, made personal sacrifices to fight for what he believed in, and cared for his friend and colleague, JEB.
Charles R. Edwardes: Preacher and Labor Organizer
One of the common threads that connects several of the people in the Bryant papers is the importance of newspapers. JEB, along with Turner and William Anderson Pledger (who I’ll mention later), published Republican newspapers, which allowed them to share their ideas more widely and broaden their connections throughout Georgia. One African-American minister, Charles R. Edwardes, writes to JEB in 1869 to tell him about his efforts to get more subscribers for Bryant’s newspaper, and to inform Bryant of a meeting—of the Colored Men of the Mechanics and Laboring Men Association—that he would like to be mentioned in the newspaper. Edwardes reports that there are 87 members of the Association and that he hopes they will have many more members soon. At the meeting, the men counted how much land they had purchased, how many crops they had produced, and how much money they had made as tradesmen. Edwardes explains, “We wants to buy land as soon as we can to give homes to our poor peoples for many don’t [have] homes and land to work and cheated out what money works for. I have some promise to take your paper. I will do all I can to have this paper among my people. Do what you can for us.” 
William Anderson Pledger: Teacher, Republican, Lawyer, Newspaper Publisher
My Dear Sir: The schools of this county being in the hands of the Democrats and they having such an avowed hatred to me till it has become impossible for me to obtain employment. Their hatred is because of my Republican principles, or because that I speak them freely—yet moderately. Consequently I must have recourse to my Republican friends to obtain a livelihood: to you I look as a very dear friend, because you know the privations an active Republican is subjected….
This letter is written by William Anderson Pledger, who was a prominent black Republican in Georgia. He was also an editor, teacher, and friend of JEB. Pledger’s letter press copybook (dated 1875-1879) includes faint copies of letters written to various Georgian politicians and Republicans, including John Emory Bryant, Henry McNeal Turner, E.R. Belcher, Benjamin Conly, Henry Farrow, M.T. Ackerman, and others. Many of the letters show his urgent attempts to attain employment and describe the discrimination that he faced due to his Republican political activities. In a different letter, he writes, “The Democrats have offered me if I would only leave off indoctrinating ‘radicalism’ into the negros’ [sic] heads that they would put at my disposal any position I wanted. You know I can not go back on Republicanism though I perish from this uncivilized conduct.”
Pledger’s letters and scrapbook also show his engagement with social and political organizations, such as the Grand Fountain of Georgia (also referred to as the “colored Good Templars”), a black temperance organization. Pledger was the Grand Worthy Master of the State in Georgia in 1876 and was credited with increasing the membership from 2000 to 8000. These types of fraternal organizations were often at the heart of segregation battles that would go on to define the Jim Crow South. In a newspaper clipping, Pledger writes to the editor about a dispute within the Grand Fountain between the white and “colored” lodges, and he explains how the matter has been settled in his favor by the organization’s supreme court in England. Another clipping from 1878 describes “Emancipation Day,” which “was held in the First Congregational Church on Collins Street on Tuesday night, January 1st to celebrate the anniversary of Emancipation.” There, the Emancipation Proclamation was read aloud and speeches were given, including one by Pledger. It is clear that Pledger was highly active in the public sphere. In The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia, author Donald Grant describes Pledger as being at the center of Republican politics: “he was a delegate to every Republican national convention from 1876 to 1900 and remained on the state Republican committee until his death in 1904.” In 1879, “smoldering black resentment against the white leadership of the Republican party resulted in a revolt by the blacks, who elected a new state committee of twenty-four blacks and eight whites. Black leader William A. Pledger led the revolt and replaced John E. Bryant as party chairman.” During this period of Reconstruction, there was an internal struggle in the Republican Party against the lily-whites (those who wanted all-white leadership) and the black-and-tans (a coalition of blacks and whites). Three years after Pledger was elected chairman, he was “ousted” and “replaced by a white, Alfred E. Buck.” Another important shift during this time was African-American disenfranchisement. During this moment in Reconstruction, black voting and participation were at their height: “In 1876, 53 percent of the eligible black males voted. The white vote was only slightly higher.” However, due to poll taxes, the Populist defeat, the lack of secrecy of ballots, the barring of black voters from primaries (called the “white primary”), intimidation and violence, and other disenfranchising efforts, black voting hit its nadir in Georgia in 1904 at 4 percent.
Pledger was also a journalist and newspaper publisher. He founded The Athens Blade in 1879 “with the credo: ‘The Arm of justice Cannot—Will not Sleep,’” and he was very engaged in the debates of the time, such as the plan for African Americans to emigrate to Liberia. Pledger also helped organize the Afro-American League (which later became the Afro-American Council) in 1890 in Chicago, and he was known for fighting against lynching. He “once led armed blacks to the Athens jail and successfully defied a mob bent on lynching two prisoners.”
Altogether, Pledger’s papers show someone who seized upon the political momentum of the time to fight for a Republican platform that was built on equal rights for African Americans.
As archivists, when we preserve, organize, and describe manuscript collections, sometimes it is tempting to try to decide whether someone like John Emory Bryant did more good in the world than harm. To complicate matters, it is unclear how much significance to attribute to the correspondence, ephemera, and artifacts left behind by historical figures (e.g., we wonder whether these papers represent the whole person). In this case, widening my gaze beyond John Emory Bryant to his broader context and networks helped me address the issues at the center of this collection of papers, such as the Republican social and political fabric during Reconstruction, and, in particular, it illuminated the testimony of those fighting for equal rights, especially people of color. To give credit where credit is due, much of the work to describe this collection had been done by previous catalogers and researchers. My work benefited from the detailed description in the old card catalog, which highlighted contributions by Pledger, Turner, and others. In my revised collection guide, I built on the work that came before me, updated the language, and edited out descriptions that may have tried to pigeon hole Bryant as a self-interested Carpetbagger. Most importantly, widening my view helped me to make choices in my description of the collection, ultimately placing less focus on Bryant’s eccentricities and more focus on making a variety of voices discoverable. For instance, previously, the KKK disposition had been relegated to a “Miscellaneous” folder and was not described. Now, it has its own folder and is discoverable in the collection guide. This is not to say that now—fifty years after we acquired this collection—the description is finally complete. It can always be improved; and perhaps fifty years from now, archivists and researchers will take a new approach to this collection.
As an addendum, I would like to address the fact that all of the people mentioned in this blog post are men. John Emory Bryant, while being a supporter of equal rights for men of color, did not support women’s suffrage or equal rights for women. However, there is copious correspondence in the collection between Bryant and his wife, Emma Spaulding Bryant, which is deserving of a blog post of its own. Emma Bryant often pushed back against ideas of male dominance and superiority. We have digitized a small portion of her correspondence that documents a particularly passionate response to John, who apparently objected to Emma seeing a male doctor about “uterine difficulties” without John’s permission or presence. Thanks to historian Ruth Currie-McDaniel, you can find a published collection of Emma Spaulding Bryant’s correspondence in Duke Libraries’ general collection: Emma Spaulding Bryant: Civil War Bride, Carpetbagger’s Wife, Ardent Feminist.
Although he wouldn’t know it at the time, 1979 would become the most eventful year of Robert Cox’s life. A British journalist who spent most of his adulthood up to this point in Argentina, Cox found out that his son Peter had received a highly detailed anonymous death threat. The threat came as a result of Cox’s work covering the Dirty War as the editor of the English-language newspaper the Buenos Aires Herald. Cox and his family decided to flee from Argentina. His wife Maud Cox and their five children all came to England and then the United States with him at Harvard where Cox held a Nieman Fellowship. They later came to Charleston, South Carolina where Cox became the assistant editor for the Post & Courier.
A strong theme throughout Cox’s papers is the disappearances of political activists and dissidents, especially those of Jewish descent, throughout the country. Cox himself wrote about the desaparecidos (disappeared) and advocated for the Buenos Aires Herald to cover the violence enacted against them. Articles within the collection that cover the kidnappings range from brief passages to notices created by family members of the “disappeared.” However, one format that stands out above others in the collection never made their way into being published in an official formats – pamphlets created by the family members of the disappeared.
These pamphlets, almost zine-like, were created by Xeroxing official documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, and passages written by the creators alongside one another to create a narrative about what was known about the disappearance of this individual or group of individuals.
We know that at least one of these pamphlets was mailed to Robert Cox himself, as evidenced by Robert Cox’s mailing address on the back of the pamphlet. Working with the ERP (the People’s Revolutionary Army), Jorge Marcelo Dyszel Lewin and his wife Mirtha Nelida Schwalb de Dyszel were disappeared May 18, 1978. They were 22 and 21 years old respectively. Jorge was from a Polish Jewish immigrant family. This pamphlet was likely created by Jorge’s mother, Beatriz Lewin, who was very active in Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo).
Another pamphlet tells the story of the disappearances of Graciela Antonia Rutilo Artes and her daughter Carla Graciela Rutilo Artes. Graciela’s mother Matilde Artes Company created the pamphlet and became active with Las Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo.
The Grandmothers and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo continue to work to hold accountable those who disappeared their grandchildren and children.
Cox did not return to Argentina for over a decade. However, from afar, Cox wrote about Argentina with continued urgency and commitment. His personal papers reflect this engagement, consisting of his own personal writings and those collected by him written by colleagues or other interested parties about Argentina. When democracy was restored to Argentina with the election of Raúl Alfonsín, Cox reported on this and outlined the challenges that lay ahead of the new president as he grappled with the aftermath of the Dirty War. His reporting continues shape how Argentines and the outside world view Argentina and its recent history.
His story is also told through two books written by his wife Maude, Salvados del Infierno: A 25 años de la dictadura Argentina, and his son David, Dirty Secrets, Dirty War: The Exile of Robert J. Cox.
If you are interested in learning more, a documentary film about Cox’s life and work called A Messenger on a White Horse is available from the Lilly Library. A shortened version of the film is also available on Amazon Prime.
Post contributed by Meghan Lyon, Head of General Manuscript Processing at the Rubenstein Library
One of the Rubenstein Library’s older collections, the William T. Blackwell Papers, has recently grown thanks to a generous gift of 19th and 20th century papers and photographs from the Martin family, descendants of the Blackwell family. Before this latest addition, the William T. Blackwell Papers consisted almost exclusively of financial ledgers documenting the dramatic failure of the Bank of Durham, which opened in 1883, extended credit too liberally, and subsequently closed in 1889. This new addition has earlier material, documenting the rise of Blackwell’s fortune during the 1870s, as he and business partners James R. Day and Julian Shakespeare Carr built their factory, manufacturing and selling smoking tobacco through the W.T. Blackwell and Co Tobacco Company. The addition includes a notable cache of letters from Carr (yes, that Carr), documenting his and Blackwell’s partnership and their legal strategies during the Bull Durham trademark litigation through the 1870s.
These new records with the details of the W.T. Blackwell and Co. business operations would be exciting enough, but the rest of the addition is fascinating too. In fact, the nature of the collection has changed so significantly that we have opted to rename the collection to be the William T. Blackwell Family Papers. This better reflects the range of the materials now held – in addition to William T. Blackwell’s business materials, there is now correspondence, receipts, invoices, and other documentation of the daily life of the Blackwells, both W. T. and Emma Exum Blackwell, whom he married in 1877. W.T. Blackwell’s sister, Lavinia Blackwell, later married J.D. Pridgen, who owned a shoe company in Durham and whose daughters attended Durham High School in the early 1900s. Their scrapbooks, which include snapshots and printed ephemera from their social activities and education in local Durham schools, have amusing, endearing captions. Mary Blackwell Pridgen, one of the daughters, kept scrapbooking as an adult, and her later marriage to Chester B. Martin explains the inclusion of Martin family materials in this collection as well. In 1927, Chester B. Martin co-founded and operated Durham Dairy Products, Inc., which was Durham’s first milk delivery service. Materials from Durham Dairy include a nearly-complete run of company newsletters – Durham Dairy Doings – with great hand-drawn cartoons, profiles of staff and workers, local Durham news, and insights into the company’s marketing and delivery of milk. The multi-generational aspect of this collection has been challenging but fun to sort out – especially since it is all Durham history, and not just about tobacco (or banks!) anymore.
Post contributed by David Dulceany, Marshall T. Meyer Human Rights Intern and PhD candidate in Romance Studies
El Pueblo Inc. is a Triangle area Latinx organization based in Raleigh, NC. They strive for the local Latinx community “to achieve positive social change by building consciousness, capacity, and community action.”  El Pueblo Inc. has been involved in policy change by lobbying state and national politicians and pushing for legislation that benefits the Latinx community, raising health awareness, and especially, spearheading public safety campaigns. For example, in past campaigns, they have focused on reducing drunk driving and encouraging the proper use of child car seats. The organization also specifically focuses on youth issues and youth leadership. They have a separate Youth Program division tasked with running programs for Latino youth that are youth-led. One example is Pueblo Power, a social justice and community-organizing program.
La Fiesta del Pueblo is the organization’s major annual cultural event and it was also the founding event of the organization.  La Fiesta del Pueblo features live music, food, arts, and information booths. The event, as well as El Pueblo Inc. itself, has grown exponentially since its inception in 1994. Over the past 25 years, the event has gone from just a few tents and booths to a massive cultural festival spanning several blocks of Downtown Raleigh and boasting tens of thousands of attendees.
North Carolina, similarly, has seen a tremendous growth in its Latinx population since El Pueblo’s founding. The Latinx population of North Carolina grew by 943% from 1990 to 2010 and it continues to grow: on average, 25% per county from 2010 to 2017.   North Carolina now has the 11th largest Latinx population in the United States.  Naturally, El Pueblo expanded to meet the needs of the growing community and developed a wide array of programs and campaigns as a result.
I felt an immediate affinity for the material in the archive because of my studies and previous work with Latinx communities and with Latinx literature, art, and culture. As a doctoral candidate in Spanish and Latin American studies, I have had the opportunity both as a student and an instructor to engage in experiential and service learning projects with a number of Latinx organizations. I admired seeing how El Pueblo tirelessly fought for the promotion of Latinx culture and the rights of Latinx workers, students, and families in the state.
One joy of working on an archive containing records from recent history is the ability to directly connect to the ongoing development and work of the organization. For example, I attended La Fiesta del Pueblo 2018 and saw firsthand the successful growth of the event, especially comparing it in my mind to the many old photographs of the early years. Through this experience, I had a more intimate and direct sense of the archival material, being able to engage with it in the present.
One example of an interesting item from the collection is the Public Service Announcement ads created by El Pueblo as part of their Nuestra Seguridad Public Safety campaign, a collaboration with the NC government. These ads were the direct response to the rise in DWI incidents among the Latinx population and the resultant xenophobic and racist backlash from concerned citizens and local government officials. Their message is clear, one person’s bad judgment or mistake affects the whole community and closes doors to everyone. The aggressive tone of the ads is strongly expressed in its rhyming slogan in Spanish “¿Manejar borracho? ¡No seas tonto muchacho!” or “Driving drunk? Don’t be dumb, man!”. I find these ads fascinating because they show the success of mobilizing a community to create change, to both increase Public Safety and defend against discrimination.
I believe that this collection would be of interest to any artists, educators, researchers, students, activists, or non-profit workers that want to learn more about the history of the Latinx population in North Carolina and Latinx culture, non-profit organizations in North Carolina, Youth leadership, and the debate on immigration reform post 9/11. The breadth of audiovisual material could also be used in exhibits or as part of book projects.
In our current context of rising anti-immigrant sentiment and policy, El Pueblo Inc.’s ongoing work is ever more relevant and needed.   Their records offer a look into the recent history of the state and how the organization has impacted and strengthened Latinx communities in North Carolina.
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Manuscript Processing in Technical Services
Locus, the Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field, was started in 1968 by Charles N. Brown, Ed Meskys, and Dave Vanderwerf as a science-fiction news and fan zine, and it’s still going! For all of the years that the staff have been creating the magazine, they’ve also been saving and collecting correspondence, clippings, and books by and about science-fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. In 2018 the Rubenstein Library acquired this massive collection (almost 1,000 boxes). It will be a while before we finish processing and cataloging all the books and papers, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t share a sneak peek of the project mid-process.
A Few Highlights
I recently finished processing the manuscript portion of the collection, which includes seven boxes of files relating to more than 800 authors. My favorite part of these files is the correspondence, the bulk of which was written between 1960 and 2009. Many writers wrote to Locus to share news that could be included in the magazine or to quibble about inaccuracies and to suggest corrections. Overall, the correspondence creates a sense of community among a very diverse and spread-out group of writers; people wanted to know who was publishing what, who changed agents, who was involved with such-and-such scandal or lawsuit, who died, who got re-married, etc. Fans may swoon over the signatures of Octavia E. Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Issac Asimov, and Ursula K. Le Guin (to name a few). Many of the letters are amicable, some are irate, and some are sassy and humorous. Here, one of my favorite writers, Octavia E. Butler, writes to make an important and sErious correction:
Researchers will find evidence in these letters of a thriving community of writers, publishers, and editors all working to create relatively new and modern genres of fiction.
Perhaps of special interest to fans and scholars will be the international ties of the collection, especially to Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., China, and Japan. Below, Alexander Korzhenevski provides a report about a science-fiction conference in Sverdlovsk (U.S.S.R.). He writes that the 1989 convention “was the biggest (so far) SF convention in the Soviet Union.” Later in the report he alludes to publishing organizations in the U.S.S.R. by describing how two books arrived at the convention: “Both books were published through (not by, because cooperative organizations here still have no publishing rights) new publishing cooperative organizations (one of them “Text” is headed by Vitaly Babenko), and both of them were delivered to the convention by fans by train (no help from state book-trading organizations).” Korzhenevski’s file also includes a flyer for his business, which is described as “the very first independent literary agency in Russia, operating since 1991.”
This collection has the best stationery by far of any manuscript collection that I have processed. I wonder what researchers in the distant future will think about these creative designs? Here are 14 of my favorites:
Post contributed by Paula Jeannet, Visual Materials Processing Archivist
This post is part of “An Instant Out of Time: Photography at the Rubenstein Library” blog series
A recently acquired photograph album offers a study of the landscape, culture, and the realities of travel in a remote region in the steppes of Central Asia, through the camera of British Army officer Sir Percy Molesworth Sykes. Charged as acting Consul-General in Chinese Turkestan, now Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China, Sykes had to travel from England to the capital city of Kashgar. In an unusual turn of events for the time, he was accompanied on this arduous overland journey by his sister, Ella Constance Sykes, also a Fellow of the Geographical Society and a well-regarded writer on Iran.
In March 1915, when the two set off for their arduous nine-month journey, World War I was in full tilt, thus their northerly route through Norway. Meanwhile, in Central Asia, after decades of conflict which included the Crimean War, Russians, Turks, English, Chinese, and British Empire troops from India, were still grappling to extend their control over these strategically important regions. Lieutenant Colonel Sykes’ camera recorded the presence of these nationalities.
In researching this collection of photographs, I discovered that brother and sister also recorded their experiences in a co-authored travel memoir, Through deserts and oases of Central Asia (1920, available online); it includes many of the photographs found in the album. To find a written companion piece to a photograph album is a stroke of luck, as with its help I could confirm dates, locations, and a historical context for the photographs found in the album.
Ella Sykes wrote Part I of the memoir, which describes the journey in vivid detail, and her brother, Part II, which focuses on the region’s geography, history, and culture. In her narrative, Ella occasionally recounts taking photographs of various scenes, such as the image on page 92 of women at a female saint’s shrine. A note in the image index states that “The illustrations, with one exception, are from reproductions of photographs taken by the authors” (emphasis mine); clearly, some of the book’s illustrations are her work. The question arises, did she take any of the images found in the album?
Of the photographs in the album that also appear in the Sykes’ book, several are found in the section written by Ella, leading one to think perhaps she took them, including a different version of this group, found in the album:
However, the title of the photograph album, handwritten in beautiful calligraphic script, states: “Photographs taken by Lt. Col. Sir Percy Sykes to illustrate Chinese Turkestan, the Russian Pamirs and Osh, April-November, 1915.”
With this title in hand and my cataloging hat on, and without firm evidence of Ella’s hand in the album’s images, I officially record Sir Percy Sykes as the album’s sole creator.
Through researching the context for Percy Sykes’ photograph album (a copy of which is also held by the British Library), I learned a bit about the history of the region and of his role in the administration of British affairs. I was also serendipitously introduced to Ella Sykes. Even though in her fifties when she traveled, she clearly had great stamina as a horsewoman and adventurer, and was a keen observer of the people, landscapes, and animals she encountered. Sir Percy writes in the book’s preface: “To my sister belongs the honour of being the first Englishwoman to cross the dangerous passes leading to and from the Pamirs, and, with the exception of Mrs. Littledale, to visit Khotan.” (p. vi) Ella Sykes was a founding member of the Royal Central Asian Society and a member of the Royal Geographical Society as well. She died in 1939 in London, while her brother Percy died in 1945, also in London.
For more information about the photograph album, see the collection guide. The album is non-circulating but is available to view in the Rubenstein Library reading room. It joins other Rubenstein photography collections documenting the history of adjacent regions in the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia, India, and China.
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Rubenstein Technical Services
There is just too much to write about in the Lois Wright Richardson Davis family papers, a collection that tells the tale of a mother and her seven children divided by the American Civil War. For a relatively small collection (0.75 linear feet), the letters reveal many triumphs, trials, and heartbreaks, as well as many aspects of the historical and social contexts of their time. Two of Lois’s sons (and a stepson) fought for the Union, while two of her sons-in-law fought for the Confederacy. This split in the family came about just before the war, when two of Lois’s daughters (Ellen and Eunice) and their husbands decided to move from Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama, where they hoped to find better employment prospects. Soon after they arrived, the war broke out and the sons and sons-in-law volunteered for opposing sides. Remarkably, the family members were not hostile toward one another in their letters, and often inquired after the health and safety of one another. Sometimes they even joked about their tragic situation. In one letter, daughter Eunice wrote from Mobile to her brother up North asking, “Are you coming down here to fight us?”
The bulk of the letters shared between the family members describe their experiences during the “fatal conflict” and offer valuable first-hand narratives about important battles and skirmishes. For instance, in a letter from 1863, Charles Henry, who was Lois’s eldest son and who was a soldier in the Union Army, wrote home about a harrowing battle at Sabine Pass.
However, it would be remiss to categorize these letters as simply being about the Civil War. The family members were excellent writers, and their descriptions offer insights across many categories of human experience. For instance, the historian Martha Hodes, who wrote her dissertation on interracial romantic relationships, was drawn to Eunice’s story. During the war, Eunice’s first husband died of cholera in the Confederate Army. She struggled for many years with poverty and illness, but she remarried to a successful Afro-Caribbean sea merchant, William Smiley Connolly. They married in Massachusetts in 1869, and she moved with him and her two children to Grand Cayman. The letters document their loving relationship and their life on the island. Unfortunately, the letters also reveal that Eunice, William, and their children were killed in a hurricane.
So, why am I writing about these letters now? I was searching through the old card catalog (now digitized into PDFs) at the Rubenstein for collections that may include materials about people of color. Sometimes in older collections, people of color were not included in the description, or the description that was included is outdated (and sometimes offensive). In my search, I stumbled upon the catalog record of the Lois Wright Richardson Davis papers, which mentioned William Smiley Connolly, the “black sea caption and shipowner.” Upon further inspection, it became clear that some of the description could be updated and that the letters were in over-stuffed folders, so I set out to reprocess the papers. Because one of the goals of reprocessing was to highlight certain voices that had been previously under-described, I created a collection guide with descriptions of each folder’s contents, making it easier for researchers to search for William Connelly’s letters and to find descriptions of African Americans. The collection provides valuable and often disheartening historical evidence of racism and slavery from the letter writers’ perspectives, as well as evidence of African-American contributions to the Union. I also made it more apparent that this collection not only emphasizes soldiers but also provides rich information about the lives of working-class women in the 19th century. As the years go by in the letters, the female correspondents covered many topics including illnesses, religious beliefs, child-rearing, single-motherhood, and employment. There are many surprises in the collection, many of which I tried to document in the collection guide, including one letter in particular that skims the surface of the complexity of gender.
It is a letter written by Charles Henry after the war. He wrote many letters in support of veterans who were seeking pensions. One of these letters described a possibly gender-fluid, transgender, and/or gender-nonconforming soldier nicknamed “Lucy.” The letter piqued my interest because I am often looking for past evidence of LGBTQ folks in archival collections and am intrigued by situations when ordinary ways of describing sex and gender breakdown. As Charles Henry described “Lucy,” he slipped in and out of the language of the gender binary. It is difficult to tell if Charles Henry was making fun of “Lucy” in a derogatory way—for as I went through the collection, it became apparent that Charles Henry sometimes had a biting sense of humor—or if he was merely recalling a beloved fellow soldier who was “young, slim, smooth faced, and veryfeminineinhisways” (Charles Henry underlined certain words for emphasis). For the purposes of the letter, Charles Henry described “Lucy’s” rheumatism caused by the war and finished by saying, “I presume nearly every man in Co. A. 26th Regt. Mass. Vet. Vols would remember ‘Lucy’ and ‘her’ sickness for he was a great favorite in the company and previous to his capture was an excellent soldier and after his return he was so mild in his manner and amiable in his disposition that his sickness excited the sympathy of all.”
I could go on and on about these letters but am told that blog posts are to be somewhat brief. Plus, I want to save many of the invaluable epistolary moments of the collection for others to discover on their own. I hope that researchers, instructors, and students will continue to visit this collection and that they will be as captivated as I was by the lives that it reveals. You can learn more about the Lois Wright Richardson Davis family papers by visiting the collection guide and by visiting the Rubenstein’s reading room (open to the public). I also highly recommend Martha Hodes’s book about Eunice and William, The Sea Captain’s Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Ninteenth Century.
Update: The Lois Richardson Davis family papers have been digitized. You can peruse the collection in the digital repository and also access digitized items in the collection guide.
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.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University