Category Archives: Technical Stuff

Percy and Ella Sykes: A Photographic Journey Through Chinese Turkestan

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.

Chinese troops lined up with bayonets and drummer boys.

Three Russian officials standing together, a camel passes by in the background.

 

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:

Kirghiz women standing together in front of a yurt.

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.”Title page of photo album.

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.

Additional links:

Photograph portrait, reportedly of Ella Sykes, from the Long Riders Guild of travel narratives.

Some biographical information was taken courtesy of:  Denis Wright, “SYKES, Ella Constance,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2008, viewed December 10, 2018, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/sykes-ella-constance

Providing Access to Radio Haiti Through Multilingual Metadata

Post contributed by Maggie Dickson, Metadata Architect, Digital Collections and Curation Services

As the metadata architect in the Digital Collections and Curation Services Department at Duke University Libraries, I have the opportunity to work on the design and development of many fabulous digital collections. This includes the Radio Haiti Archive, which has been one of the most interesting—and challenging—projects I’ve worked on throughout my 10+ years of working with digital collections.

Over the past few years, we’ve been standardizing our metadata practices across digital collections so that they will be more scalable and sustainable—we’ve learned the hard way that the more specialized a collection is, the more prone it is to breakages and difficulties over time. The Radio Haiti project needs are really specialized, and the metadata (description) is rich, granular, and multilingual. So, striking the right balance between standardization and specialization is definitely a challenge.

One of the foundational goals of the NEH grant we received for our work with Radio Haiti is to make sure that the collection is accessible to people in Haiti as well as the Haitian diaspora, and therefore we needed to provide description in three languages: English, Haitian Creole, and French. While we’d worked with metadata in multiple languages before, we’d never worked with trilingual content, and the technology we use to present and manage our digital collections doesn’t accommodate multilingual metadata in a sophisticated way. To get around this, rather than create lots of custom metadata fields just for this collection, we decided to use our standard fields, such as title, description, and subject, to store the multilingual content. The metadata displays in the item record and is keyword searchable and, in the case of subjects and formats, faceted. This isn’t the most elegant solution, but it works, and when the digital library community develops support for multilingual content, we will be ready!

Subject headings in English, French, and Haitian Creole.
Example multilingual subject headings.

 

Beyond figuring out how to present the metadata to users of the archive, it has also been an ongoing challenge to figure out how to manage the workflow for the development of the metadata—not only is it complex, it is voluminous! Created iteratively by project archivist Laura Wagner and her team of intrepid translators, the metadata passes through several hands and undergoes quite a few transformations before it is ready to go live on the website. Therefore, it has been critically important that we continuously review and revise our process to make sure nothing gets lost or distorted along the way. So many spreadsheets!

Spreadsheet with complex metadata.
An example snapshot of one of our many spreadsheets.

Through much careful consideration and many meetings with project staff, I think we’ve achieved a good balance between meeting project needs and being responsible to the long-term health and sustainability of this and other digital collections. That being said, we still recognize the inherent limitations to providing broad accessibility to this important content—despite the inclusion of multilingual metadata in the digital collection, it is still embedded in a predominantly English language website for an academic research institution located in the United States. And as project archivist Laura Wagner stated in an earlier blog post, “Radio Haiti’s digital archive is not only for scholars writing about Haiti; it isn’t even principally for them. It is for everyone.”

We’re experimenting with a few options to try to address this limitation, including engaging in ‘digital repatriation’ by distributing flash drives loaded with content to cultural heritage organizations in Haiti, standing up pilot collections of the content to reach a broader audience using YouTube and the Internet Archive, and improving the performance of the digital collection in low-bandwidth environments.

Working on the Radio Haiti Archive has been a challenge both in technological ways as well as how we think about collections, collecting, and access. Providing broad, equitable access to our digital collections, through our use of metadata and otherwise, is an intense and critical challenge, but one which we are beginning to tackle with intentionality and enthusiasm.

Discovering Haitian Culture One Sentence at a Time: A Translator’s Journey in the Radio Haiti Archive

Post contributed by Eline Roillet, Translator for the Radio Haiti Archive

Person with headphones sitting at a computer.
Eline Roillet translating Radio Haiti broadcast descriptions from English to French.

“What do you know about Haiti?“ asked Laura during my interview in September 2017. I knew it was a Caribbean country where Creole was spoken; I knew it had suffered a devastating earthquake almost a decade ago; and I knew it struggled economically. And that was about all I knew.

“Well,” she said, “you’re going to learn a lot more”.

And thus began my journey with Radio Haiti. As a French Master’s student in literature, I am in charge of translating thousands of broadcast descriptions from English to French. I love translation. It requires not only the ability to understand the sentences in a text, but their very essence too, and in turn to channel this essence into another dialect. Spelling, conjugation and vocabulary are crucial, of course, but to be a good translator, one must also look beyond the words and explore the context.

Text in English, Creole, and French.
Description in three languages for the digitized radio drama about the Battle of Vertières.

The very first description I translated was about the Battle of Vertières which I promptly researched in order to make sense of who Jean Jacques Dessalines was and his significance for Haiti. To my astonishment, the battle was fought between the Haitian rebels and the French colonial army. In all my years in the French educational system, I was never taught about French colonialism. I never knew Haiti was the first successful slave revolution, nor that France asked for an independence debt, which greatly contributed to Haiti’s economic woes.

Two stacks of boxes holding audio reels.
Newly restored and digitized audio reels from the Radio Haiti Archive.

I felt like I was learning a whole new history, one much less European-centric. Over the course of the last 13 months, I got acquainted with Erzulie and the other Lwa; I admired paintings by the Mouvement Saint-Soleil; I was introduced to the liberation theology; and I learned about how the US devised strategies to control and influence the Western hemisphere. What an eye-opening experience!

This new knowledge has changed the way I think about Haitian history and spilled over in to my everyday life, sometimes in unintended ways. For example, I recently met a Dominican young woman at a bar and when she announced her nationality, I eagerly asked her what her take on antihaitianismo was, upon which she looked at me like I had three heads and declared “This is not the kind of thing I want to discuss at a club.”

Still, the Radio Haiti project has taught me more than I ever could have thought about history, geopolitics, and the cultural context of 1970-2000, and I can honestly say that I am learning more and more every day.

Mèsi anpil Laura and Radio Haiti staff for the experience!

Coming Out and Going Out Since 1940

Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Technical Services

Update: Coming Out Day has been postponed due to rain and will be happening October 27th.

Photos, a card for a dance club, a clipping from a newspaper.
A page in the scrapbook dedicated to nightlife in New Orleans.

In celebration of Coming Out Day on October 11th, I would like to introduce our blog readers to a special scrapbook. Recently, the Rubenstein Library acquired and digitized the Joe H. Hernandez scrapbook. We do not know many biographical details about Hernandez. My esteemed colleague Allie Poffinberger cataloged the scrapbook and discovered that Hernandez “was born in 1924 and worked in the San Antonio General Depot between 1951-1954.” Other facts: he was an Army veteran; he attended night clubs and dance halls; he dressed in feminine and masculine clothing (I am using male pronouns here, though I do not know what this person’s preference might have been); he was probably a member of the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.

A photo of Vine Street in Hollywood.
Billy Berg’s flyer, 1948.

Hernandez’s scrapbook is both intimate and wide in its scope. It shows a life full of friendship, romance, glamour, and travel. Early on in the scrapbook there is a souvenir flyer from Billy Berg’s, a night club in Hollywood. The flyer is dated 1948 and signed by musician and showman Slim Gaillard. After a little sleuthing, I found out that the club was known for being racially integrated and for being the first club on the West Coast to host Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Billy Holiday also performed there.

Photos and a matchbook.
A page in the scrapbook that features The Colony Bar in Kansas City.

Another souvenir in the scrapbook is a matchbook from The Colony Bar, an openly gay bar that existed in Kansas City, Missouri in the 1960s. It was the kind of place that threw Tea Dances and flashed the lights on and off when they were about to get busted. Oh, how I wish I knew more!

The ticket stubs, matchbooks, flyers, and signed photographs are enough to create a national map of LGBTQ life in the U.S. from the late 1940s to the 1960s. I wish that I had the time to create this map and to describe the nightlife in detail. I also want to know more about Joe H. Hernandez and his friends and family. So, if anyone’s out there, reading this, and you would like to do further research on this scrapbook, please do and please share your findings!

Also, I want to take a moment to appreciate all of my colleagues who acquired, described, preserved, and digitized this scrapbook. Thanks to you all, this scrapbook is now available for anyone in the world (who has internet access and/or can visit the reading room) to research.

And, Happy Coming Out Day! To learn more about the Rubenstein Library’s LGBTQ materials, please stop by and say hello at our table at the Bryan Center.

Two dancers.
A flyer from Club Babalu in Los Angeles.
Postcards, photographs, matchbooks.
A page in the scrapbook dedicated to Los Angeles.

Jean Dominique on Collective Passion and Geopolitics in Haiti during the 1998 World Cup

Post contributed by Laura Wagner, Ph.D., Radio Haiti Project Archivist

In a 13 July 1998 editorial, Jean Dominique of Radio Haïti-Inter reflected on the geopolitical implications of World Cup soccer, focusing in particular on Haitian love for the Brazilian national team. This passion, and the political ramifications of soccer, continue to this day. Just last week, the Haitian government raised gas prices during the Brazil-Belgium World Cup match, in very wrongheaded hopes that people would be too distracted to notice.

Transcript of original editorial, translated from French:

“La France Métisse”: this is the headline splashed across the front page of an Italian newspaper. “Long live King Zidane,” says the one in Algiers – Zidane is of Algerian descent. The victory of the French team yesterday presents certain social dilemmas: Jean-Marie Le Pen’s[1] blood must have boiled to see the Stade de France streaming with black people and beurs (beurs are French people of North African descent). Soccer is no mere sport ; it is something else as well, and the World Cup has geopolitical implications. But in Port-au-Prince, one has to wonder about the phenomenon of Haitians willing to shed their blood for Brazil or Argentina. At first glance, this appears quite strange. In the aftermath of the World Cup, would it not be thrilling and fun to examine how things unfolded at home and elsewhere, beyond technical and professional terms and 4-2-4 formations, penalties, red cards, or semi-finalists?

Flags painted on a brick wall.
Brazillian, Haitian, and Argentine flags. Photograph by Laura Wagner, 2011.

If the vast majority of Haitians are as head-over-heels in love with Ronaldo as are the residents of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, we should seek the cause of this phenomenon. Is it a sense of Latin-American belonging? Is it a racial reflex? — for Brazil, or at least Brazilian soccer, has been strongly permeated with African diasporic origins. Let’s not forget King Pelé or the brown-skinned Ronaldo himself. But then why would we have in our midst so many fans of Argentina, which has nothing to do with Blackness? Our fervor for and aggressive attachment to foreign soccer teams stem from other factors: outsized love for the game, of course, and in the momentary absence of a national team, the people of our land want to take part in a collective passion. We must love together. And, alas, we must also hate together.

Let us recall Carnival ‘98, let us recall those Sundays of sport and culture organized so skillfully by Dady Lescouflair[2]. Throughout all the neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, we came together to appreciate wholesomeness, sport — all sports! — and painting. And so it must be that for us, soccer draws upon collective urges that have as much to do with politics as they do with religion. Let us add immediately that in Haiti, during this month of the World Cup, the political fervor for Brazil and Argentina would seem at first glance to have nothing to do with imminent political choices; some of the candidates have even argued that soccer represents a new opium to distract the masses from pressing economic concerns… But bear with me.

A less simplistic explanation for this phenomenon should allow us to pose other questions, for Haiti’s passion for soccer retraces the very lines that define and connect our world. We should not dismiss the political ramifications: the popularity rating of Chirac and Jospin[3] and France demonstrates that a national team’s victory can be taken advantage of by politicians. But if we zoom out a little more on this World Cup, we discover first off, as did the journalists of Manière de Voir in a special edition of Le Monde Diplomatique that just happened to be devoted to this very World Cup ‘98, that there exists such a thing as a geopolitics of soccer in our world today. It is as global a phenomenon as the economy, but it differs from the globalization of the economy in a crucial way. Whereas the world economy is dominated by the United States, with Wall Street reigning supreme over the stock markets while Hollywood dictates global culture, in the world of soccer, Brazil is the superpower and the United States plays no role at all. One can see perhaps a parallel with today’s geopolitical dynamics, with the main difference being that a global superpower in soccer arouses universal goodwill and the admiration of all, which is not the case for the United States.

The latter has had some curious reactions to the World Cup. Earlier today, I recalled yesterday morning’s mise-au-point in the New York Times. I recently noted the francophobia on display in weekly and daily newspapers during the preliminary matches at the Stade de France. Subsequently, the special envoys changed course, bouncing back by highlighting France’s successful organization of the World Cup. But this only further revealed the feelings of exclusion the Yankees feel in the face of the globalization of soccer zeal. Barely 12% of viewers from New York to Los Angeles watched the games, while some thirty-eight billion people, all told, sat before their television screens around the world. A bit of humor emerges, however, from this American sense of social isolation and exclusion — these Americans who, as everyone knows, prefer baseball and American football to soccer — they call it soccer, by the way, not football. Michael Elliott, the resident francophobe at Newsweek, losing his luster, evokes the hope — wait for it — that his compatriots might start playing soccer in the future, and he adds, with a touch of humor, that it is high time for the American barbarians to begin to civilize. Let us recall with some nostalgia that even Shakespeare was anti-soccer and that in King Lear, one finds the king himself addressing a peasant — which is to say, a man of the people — as a “base football-player.” Well, well!

So, reading that declaration by Michael Elliott, with the barbarians on one side and the civilized on the other, I remembered a joke from a Marine colonel, who said of our country, quote: “How can you expect a people to evolve after nineteen years of occupation, if they have never even learned to play baseball?” A people that cannot learn to play baseball is not a civilized people, according to that Marine colonel. This World Cup has indeed avenged our footballing people…

This perhaps is taking us away from clashes between Haitian fans of Brazil and of Argentina. But have we truly departed from the questions that these strange passions present to us? A mystery remains, certainly, but the vapors of this opium will dissipate quickly, and the realities of everyday life will quickly resume. It will remain once again a diffuse state of mind. The masses of our homeland, like those elsewhere, are able to come together around a collective passion, to transform it into a sort of mobilization. And in the lingering indifference to the electoral crisis of 6 April 1997, is there not an indication of a collective awakening soon to come? It remains to be seen what the motivations of this coming awakening might be…

A taptap (elaborately-painted bus) in Port-au-Prince, decorated with images of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi and other soccer images. Photograph by Laura Wagner, 2011.

Finally, a small suggestion to one and all concerning the political crisis: why should there not be a decision — at the state level obviously, parliamentary of course — to offer Ronaldo Haitian citizenship, bring him to Port-au-Prince, and then appoint him Prime Minister? But of course, there is the matter of his grandmother’s papers…[4]

Special thanks to Dr. Grégory Pierrot for transcription of the original French text. He recently reflected on race, colonial legacies, and what the 2018 French national team represents to French people of African descent over at Africa is a Country. Thanks also to Eline Roillet for help with this translation.

[1] Jean-Marie Le Pen was a far-right French politician who espoused explicitly racist beliefs.

[2] Evans “Dady” Lescouflair was Haiti’s Minister of Sports and Youth in the late 1990s.

[3] Lionel Jospin of the Parti Socialiste was the Prime Minister of France under right-wing President Jacques Chirac from 1997-2002.

[4] Ericq Pierre was appointed Prime Minister by President René Préval, only to have his nomination rejected by an obstructionist parliament because he could not prove his Haitian citizenship by producing his grandparents’ birth certificates.

Civil War Letters Grapple with Gender, Interracial Marriage, and Working-Class Life

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?”

Weathered blue stationary with cursive handwriting in ink.
Letter from Eunice in Mobile, Alabama to her mother, March 3rd, 1861. She wrote that if war breaks out, “no one can tell or even think when or where or how it will end. There will be such suffering….” Eunice eventually lost her husband and a brother to the war.

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.

Aged stationary with cursive writing in ink.
1st page of a letter about Sabine Pass from Charles Henry in Louisiana to his mother in Massachusetts, September, 13th, 1863. He described waking in the morning on a ship to see a “Rebel Battery mounting about seven or eight large guns.” Charles Henry’s steamer ran aground on a sand bar, and they had to escape on a riverboat that “would hardly hold together.” The Union lost two gunboats and suffered two hundred casualties in the battle, whereas the Confederacy was virtually unscathed.

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.

Small 19th century black and white photo of a woman pasted on a decorated card.
Possible photo of Eunice.
Aged stationary, possibly from 1870. Cursive handwriting in ink.
Letter from William Smiley Connolly. He writes from Grand Cayman to his mother-in-law in Massachusetts. He says that Eunice “is dear to me as my own life.”
Two pages from the old card catalog that mention William Smiley Connolly.

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.

April, 28th 1884. Charles Henry wrote a letter of recommendation for Alphoso Oakes, who was “very feminine in his ways.”

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 very feminine in his ways” (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.”

Hand-written letter on stationary.
2nd page of Charles Henry’s letter about Alphonso Oakes.

 

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.

 

Newly Available: the Papers of Human Rights Advocate Jerome Shestack

Post contributed by Emma Evans, Marshall T. Meyer Intern at the Human Rights Archive

Certificate of appreciation given to Jerome Shestack.
Shestack was a member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights organization founded at the request of President John F. Kennedy.

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.

Typed letter signed by Jimmy Carter
Letter from President Jimmy Carter 1977, Box 85, Folder “Correspondence 1970-1979,” Jerome J. Shestack papers

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.

 

Viv Radyo Ayiti! Vive Radio Haïti! Radio Haiti Lives!

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.

 

Student assistants Krystelle Rocourt and Tanya Thomas with Laura Wagner.
Assistantes-étudiantes Krystelle Rocourt et Tanya Thomas avec Laura Wagner.
Asistan-etidyan Krystelle Rocourt ak Tanya Thomas ansanm avèk Laura Wagner.

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
  • completed description of the Radio Haiti papers, now available online

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.

Onward!

Four people sitting in a circle.
Laura showing agronomy students from the Grand’Anse department how to use the Radio Haiti archive (Cap-Rouge, June 2017).
Laura explique comment utiliser les archives de Radio Haïti à des étudiants en agronomie du département de la Grand’Anse (Cap-Rouge, juin 2017).
Laura montre kèk edityan nan agwonomi ki soti nan Grandans koman sèvi avèk achiv Radyo Ayiti yo (Kap Wouj, jen 2017).

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
  • classifié l’ensemble des archives papier de Radio Haïti, maintenant disponibles en ligne
Crowd holding signs.
Supporters of Radio Haiti greet Jean Dominique and Michèle Montas at the airport in Port-au-Prince after their return from exile in March 1986.
Les partisans de Radio Haïti accueillent Jean Dominique et Michèle Montas à l’aéroport de Port-au-Prince lorsqu’ils sont revenus en Haïti après l’exil, mars 1986.
Fanatik Radyo Ayiti vin akeyi Jean Dominique ak Michèle Montas nan ayewopò Pòtoprens aprè yo tounen lakay yo nan mwa mas 1986.

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 à Tanya 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.

En avant!

Archivist kneeling over a large box with the soundboard inside.
Craig Breaden fits the original Radio Haiti soundboard with protective padding.
Craig Breaden protège la table de mixage originale de Radio Haïti à l’aide de rembourrage.
Craig Breaden pwoteje pano miksaj orijinal Radyo Ayiti a pou l ka dòmi dous.

 

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:

Two audio reels in boxes.
Radio Haiti reel, before and after cleaning and preservation.
Une bande magnétique de Radio Haïti, avant et après le néttoyage et la conservation.
Bann mayetik Radyo Ayiti avan ak aprè li fin netwaye epi konsève.

 

  • 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
  • Deskripsyon tout achiv papye Radyo Ayiti yo, disponib kounye a sou entènèt

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.

Ann ale!

Selfie of two people.
Laura with Gotson Pierre of AlterPresse, Haiti’s alternative media outlet (Port-au-Prince, February 2018).
Laura avec Gotson Pierre d’AlterPresse, média haïtien indépendant (Port-au-Prince, février 2018).
Laura avèk Gotson Pierre, responsab AlterPresse, medya endepandan ann Ayiti (Pòtoprens, fevriye 2018).

 

Florence Tate’s Pan-African Activism

Post contributed by David Romine, Rubenstein Library Technical Services intern and P.h.D . Candidate, Duke University Department of History

Florence Tate flipping through a book with a pen in her hand
Florence Tate working as a journalist at the Dayton Daily News

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.

Faded and worn cloth pennant with the words March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Let the World Know We Want Freedom
A pennant commemorating Florence Tate’s attendance at the 1963 March on Washington.

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.