So far this academic year, Rubenstein librarians have taught 132 class sessions (though we won’t finalize these numbers until the end of the spring semester). You’d think that’d be enough to fill our time, but we’ve also been meeting monthly to discuss our individual teaching practices and how to improve our students’ experiences in our class sessions. We want to inspire confident special collections researchers for life!
Through our discussions, we realized that we often returned to couple of key points about archives and primary source research in our class sessions. We’d broach those points on an ad hoc basis as they arose in classes, but we wondered if starting our class sessions off with a shared understanding of those points would be useful, reassuring, and perhaps even empowering for our students.
We’ve followed the development of codes of ethics for different spaces and organizations within (and beyond) our profession and thought that model might also work for us. Early this semester, we drafted and began implementing what we’re calling our approach to classes at the Rubenstein Library. (“Code of ethics” seemed so heady that it might have the unfortunate effect of tamping down student engagement.) Here is what we developed:
Explore and be curious! Our class sessions are interactive, hands-on opportunities to look at lots of materials, so take advantage of this time. Challenge yourself to look (even briefly) at items that don’t initially catch your interest—you might be surprised at what you discover.
Our class sessions seek to be inclusive, offering multiple perspectives, viewpoints, or lived experiences, but may not include the voices of every population for a number of reasons. Let’s talk in class about the voices that aren’t being presented.
The background, experience, and knowledge you bring to this class session are valuable. There isn’t one right interpretation of a historical document. Please listen carefully and treat everyone’s responses respectfully.
The material you encounter in this session has the potential to be uncomfortable or upsetting. Be kind to yourself and recognize your limits. You can look at something else or even step out of the room to take a break.
When working with historical documents, you may encounter racist, oppressive, or outdated language in the documents themselves or in the archival record. When we discuss these items, we will want to use terms that reflect the ways these communities describe themselves today.
Later this month, we’ll come together as a group of instructors to talk about how we’ve been able to incorporate the code into our class sessions—but informal reports suggest it’s been useful! Our practice has generally been to give students two to three minutes to individually read over the code (presented on a slide) and then talk as a class about any questions they might have and how the individual points in the code might come up in the class session.
We see this as a living document that we’ll continue to refine and add to as needed. So please do let us know what you think and feel free to borrow or adapt our instruction code of ethics for your own class sessions!
Spend a moment chatting with me and there’s one thing you’ll likely learn: I really like beer. Since my arrival in Durham nearly a decade ago, I’ve spent an uncomfortable amount of my income at Sam’s Quik Shop. It’s changed a lot since my time here—expanded indoor space, the addition of outdoor seating, a less surly staff. However, it has always been a hub for me, a family-owned bottle shop that still feels like the Durham I met years ago. In an evolving cityscape featuring more new high-rise condominiums than personality these days, Sam’s is iconic. Like many local beer drinkers, I was stunned but not altogether surprised by the news that the bottle shop will close at the end of the month and the property sold. As a beer-loving member of the Duke community I started thinking about what Sam’s, in all its historical iterations, has meant to generations of Duke students. Taking advantage of resources available in the Duke University Archives we catch a glimpse of the evolution of Sam’s and a feeling for what the institution meant to generations of Duke students.
In the 1950s, when the Woman’s College was still active, codes of conduct choreographed interactions between men and women on campus. Consequently, students sought friendly establishments off campus where they could socialize freely. One of these was Sam’s Blue Light Basement, named after the hit song “The House of the Blue Lights,” which opened its doors in 1954 to students eager for a new nightlife spot in the city. Modeled on the German Rathskeller, students could dance to juke box tunes, drink beer, and mingle in proximity to the opposite sex, all without the heavy hand of administrative oversight. In a 1981 profile of Sam’s Quik Shop in The Chronicle, owner Sam Boy spoke fondly of current Duke students who tell him that their parents “came a courtin’” to the Blue Light years earlier.
While the basement boomed, the ground floor Blue Light Cafe thrived as well, with locals and students alike lining up for the drive-up food delivery. During the annual Joe College celebration, a mainstay of every Duke students’ social calendar in the 1950s, students found the time between scheduled events for a trip to the Cafe. “At 5 the lawn concert breaks up . . . a quick stop at the Blue Light for an in-car supper,” reads a poetic homage to Joe College weekend in the 1955 Chanticleer. The in-car service was so popular that by the 1960s local police were required to direct traffic on busy weekends. “Cars were lined up outside looking for a place to park,” Sam Boy remembered. In 1974, Sam and his wife Gerry converted part of the business into a convenience store, changing the name to Sam’s Quik Shop, while retaining the neon Blue Light sign that adorned the facade.
The Quik Shop became a one-stop establishment for anything one might need. From convenience store staples to automotive supplies, the Quik Shop had it all. However, alongside the self-serve carwash, books and newspapers, and VHS rentals (over 3,400 titles!), beer was the most prominent feature of their offerings. Sharing shelf space with standard brands like Miller, Budweiser, and for those with an aversion to beer, Bartles and Jaymes and a large selection of wines, the Quik shop also stocked less familiar names and imports like Old Peculiar, Glacier Bay, Chihuahua, and Sol. “That’s our drawing card as opposed to the supermarkets,” noted a prescient Sam Boy in 1981. Sam’s found its niche.
By 1984, a legal drinking age of 21 put beer drinking by law-abiding college students out of reach. However, thanks to advances in home computing technology and photo editing software, a surfeit of fake IDs hit the nightlife scene in the late 1990s. During this scourge of lawlessness, many Durham drinking establishments reported an increase in fake ID confiscation—IDs most easily identified by their atrocious quality. Sam’s on the other hand reported a decline in the number of fake IDs. “Usually we have a whole wall full by the end of the semester,” exclaimed Robert Clark, a Sam’s clerk in 1999. “Right now, we only have four or five.” (If you were one of those lucky students publicly shamed on the walls of Sam’s circa 1999, let us know!).
“It has been said that one cannot stand in the way of progress,” began an editorial by student Marc Weinstein in the October 5, 1990 issue of The Chronicle. The extension of the 147 Expressway to the west turned the area around Sam’s Quik Shop into a construction and traffic nightmare that affected the livelihood of the family-owned business. While approving of necessary infrastructure improvements, Weinstein went on to say that he equally liked Sam’s Quik Shop. “I like being able to snatch a 6-pack of Colt 45 . . . rent Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo, and grab some hot pork rinds at 10 on a Friday night,” said the Trinity senior. Weinstein vowed to contribute in some small way to ensuring the survival of this “shoppers paradise” by making extra trips to the Quik Shop each week. His fear, surely shared by many, was that the institution would go the way of Pete Rinaldi’s Chicken Palace, a beloved eatery on 9th Street.
Alas, progress has finally caught up to Sam’s Quik Shop. As another Durham landmark is swapped for clean, commodious living, let us—Durhamites and Duke students alike—mourn the loss of one of the city’s most enduring locales . . . over a beer, of course.
Post contributed by Mandy Cooper, PhD, exhibit curator, former Research Services Graduate Intern, and Duke History PhD.
One hundred and one years ago, the doors to the East Duke Parlors were “thrown open” and “tables and machines [were] hauled in” along with “oilcloth, bleaching, hammer and tacks.” Led by Trinity College’s newly established branch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the women at Trinity College and in the surrounding community turned the East Duke Parlors into a Red Cross room. According to Trinity’s YWCA president Lucile Litaker, the room was now “splendidly equipped” and “great bundles of material began to appear.” Throughout the next year, women at Trinity were joined by women from Durham to roll and send bandages overseas. The Red Cross room was officially open every Tuesday and Friday afternoon from 2:00-4:30, with the TrinityChronicle reporting in February 1918 that between forty and fifty women had worked in the room the previous Friday. The women at Trinity were determined to do their part for the war effort.
They were not the only ones. By the 1917-1918 school year, the United States had officially entered World War I, and Trinity was feeling its effects. The impact on enrollment was immediate. Trinity saw a decrease of over 100 enrolled students from 1916-1917 and 1918-1919. President William P. Few was alarmed and attempted to boost enrollment in multiple ways: he encouraged current students to remain at Trinity until they were drafted; he toured North Carolina to promote the need for college-educated men to rebuild a war-ravaged Europe; and, like many other North Carolina universities, he started a Student Army Training Corps (SATC) unit on campus. The young men who enrolled in the SATC officially joined the US Army, but remained students at their institutions and were protected from the draft while receiving the training necessary to be considered for officer positions after graduation. Special classes were established for the SATC to ensure that those enrolled received the necessary training. The War Department required that Trinity create a course for the SATC that covered the “remote and immediate causes of the war and on the underlying conflict of points of view.” This course was intended to enhance the SATC’s morale and help them understand the “supreme importance to civilization” to the war.
Few’s worries that Trinity would lose many students “to government service of one kind or another” proved apt. Although Few tried to dissuade freshman Charlton Gaines from leaving Trinity when he heard of his plans, Gaines enlisted and was sent to Camp Meigs for training. He apologized to Few shortly after arriving at Camp Meigs for leaving “without giving you notice of my departure.” Gaines served throughout the war, attaining the rank of Sergeant in the Quartermaster Corps, and never returned to Trinity College.
Even those students who remained at Trinity felt the effects of the war. Friends and former students who had joined the military often returned to campus to visit on the weekends. The Chronicle reported in January 1918, that there would be no Chanticleer for the 1917-1918 largely because of the war. In addition to financial woes carried over from the previous year, the editor-elect had failed to return to Trinity in fall 1917—presumably because he joined the army. As the Chronicle writer reported, though, Trinity was not the only college (even just in North Carolina) that had been forced to cancel the yearbook for the year. In the end, the writer told students that they must “patriotically adapt” themselves to this situation because “since the war began ‘times ain’t what they used to be.’” The Chanticleer returned in 1919 as a special edition. It was issued at the end of the war, published as Victory, 1919, and highlighted the victory of the United States and its allies in the war.
The war had some unexpected effects on Trinity as well. Football had been banned at Trinity since 1895, and in 1918 students petitioned for its return. They argued that a football program would help build a manly physique during a time when there was “a distressing need for physically well-developed men.” As the war was ending, the administration lifted the ban and football returned to Trinity.
Trinity’s connection to the war was never more clear than in the masses of letters that alumni and former students sent to friends still at Trinity, to President Few or other faculty, to the Trinity Chronicle, or to the Alumni Register. Lt. R.H. Shelton wrote to Duke Treasurer D.W. Newsome from the front in France, telling him that he had seen “some of the worst over here.” Shelton continued, “Sherman certainly knew what he was talking about, but his was an infant.” Alumni like Shelton made the horrors of war clear to everyone still at Trinity. The pages of the Alumni Register for the war years are filled with letters from the front, placed in the same volumes as the President’s updates on the war’s effect on the college.
The Alumni Register and the Chronicle both regularly reported on the service of Trinity alumni and students overseas, including the first alumnus killed in action. First Lieutenant Robert “Kid” Anderson was among the first wave of American soldiers sent overseas. Part of the class of 1914, he was killed in action on May 29, 1918, at the Battle of Cantigny in France—the first major American engagement in the war. The news of Anderson’s death was sent both to his family and to President Few. The Alumni Register announced that Anderson had been killed in action in its July 1918 issue. The Register profiled his time at Trinity and his military service before reprinting an account of the memorial service held in his honor in his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, a letter to Anderson’s parents from a fellow soldier that described his, and portions of Anderson’s letters to relatives and friends.
To honor the centennial of the end of the First World War, selected items from the Duke University Libraries are on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Room as part of the exhibit “Views of the Great War: Highlights from the Duke University Libraries.” In addition to the impact of World War I on Trinity College and other people back home, the exhibit highlights aspects of the Great War and tells the personal stories of a few of the men and women (whether soldiers, doctors, or nurses) who travelled to France with the American Expeditionary Force during the “war to end all wars.” “Views of the Great War” is on display through February 16, 2019.
 Lucile Litaker, “The Year with the Y.W.C.A.,” The Alumni Register, Volume IV, No. 2, July 1918; 148-149. Available digitally at https://archive.org/details/trinityalumnireg04trin. For the Chronicle article, see: “Red Cross Notes,” The Trinity Chronicle, Vol. 13, No. 19, Wednesday, February 6, 1918. Available digitally at https://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/dukechronicle_dchnp83014/.
 Memo from the War Department Committee on Education and Special Training to Institutions where Units of the Student Army Training Corps are Located, September 10, 1918. Wartime at Duke Reference Collection, World War I – Student Army Training Corps, Box 1.
 For Few’s statement about losing students, see: William Preston Few to Benjamin N. Duke, July 16, 1917, Few Papers, Box 17, Folder 210. For the Charlton Gaines’s letter, see: Charlton Gaines to President Few, February 19, 1918, Few Papers, Box 19, Folder 235.
 Statement from the Student Committee on Football, May 14, 1918. Trinity College Yearly Files, 1918. Board of Trustees Records, Box 5, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
 Lt. R.H. Shelton to D.W. Newsom, June 25, 1918. Trinity College (Durham, N.C.) Office of the Treasurer Records, Box 1, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Post contributed by Val Gillispie, University Archivist.
The air is finally crisp in Durham, and we are all enjoying the cool weather and colorful leaves. We are changing inside the library, too, with a major shift for the portraits in the Gothic Reading Room. That’s right, the beloved and historic Gothic is getting an art update!
So what’s moving?
The three men responsible for the initial construction of Duke’s campus, Horace Trumbauer, Julian Abele, and Arthur C. Lee, will be moving across the room, next to the John Hope Franklin portrait.
The presidents will all be moved down to make room for future presidential portraits, including a portrait of past president Richard Brodhead, which will be hung in early November.
Founding Duke Endowment trustees will be moving in to archival storage, providing more room for additional portraits.
What’s not moving? James, Washington, and Ben Duke will remain where they are, as will Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and John Hope Franklin.
The change means that the room now has space for new portraits to be added. So we ask you, dear reader: who would you honor with a portrait in the Gothic Reading Room?
Not all of the films are available, unfortunately, as not all have been digitized yet. Only the football game films that have been requested by our users and digitized within the last ten years or so can now be viewed by anyone. The story of how these films became available is a bit complicated, and demonstrates why making digitized content of archival materials is never as easy as folks might think.
The football game films have been in the archives since the 1980s, with additions coming in occasionally. The older films are all actual films – 16mm films, to be more precise. Later films were made on video, including Betacam and DVCam. In total, there are about 2,500 films representing more than 80 years of football games at Duke.
Staff have made copies of some game films for people to view since the originals first came the Archives, and as time went on the format of these copies changed: we have use copies of films on VHS, Betacam, DVD, and digital files.
To keep an inventory of these films, Archives staff created an Access database in the mid-2000s, which includes both football and basketball films. This database included the date of the game, the opponent Duke played, and the outcome of the game, as well as how many films had been made of the game and what boxes they were in. The database was later made available onlineso people could search it and find games they were interested in seeing, and also included some information about use copies.
Unfortunately, the database was difficult, and then impossible, to update. We received more films from Duke Athletics, and more use copies were made, but the database didn’t include these new items. Also, our methods of keeping track of individual films changed. Our current archival practice for handling sound and motion picture recordings is to give each item a unique number so we can track it, and track any copies made of it. The database was made before we assigned these unique IDs to the films, so staff created a spreadsheet with information from the database plus the unique ID assigned to each film.
What’s more, we now manage all of the information about all of our collections in a separate, much larger database, ArchivesSpace. The sports film database could not talk to ArchivesSpace, and the spreadsheet version with the unique IDs wasn’t formatted to go into ArchivesSpace, either.
By 2016, we had well over a hundred boxes holding a couple thousand films of football games (and a similar situation with basketball films), and we had quite a lot of description about the games divided across several places, plus use copies of films and a few dozen digital files of games that people had requested, none of which were easily accessible to the public.
We know people want to see these films. We want people to see these films! So we set to work to figure out how to get a full list of all the games we had, in the same place and format where we keep all the information about our collections; how to let people know which ones have been digitized already; and also let people actually watch the ones that have been digitized.
First I had to get all the metadata about the films together into one place, formatted consistently, with the unique IDs we use to track them included. This involved lots and lots of spreadsheets. I used the original Access database, two different Excel spreadsheets that had been created to assign unique IDs and format data, and OpenRefine. I spent a lot of time cleaning up dates, moving things around, and just so much copying and pasting. I also had to figure out how to organize the films in a way that made sense both to human beings looking at the lists and the way ArchivesSpace stores and displays description. Finally, after months of wrangling spreadsheets, I got the description for football films from the 1930s through 1993 organized by opponent, in chronological order, with any other description we had (final score, what part of the game an individual film covered), and into ArchivesSpace. We created a collection guide that was available online, showing all this information, hooray!
After that, there was still a lot of work to do to get the digitized films available for streaming online. I worked closely with Craig Breaden, the Audiovisual Archivist, to figure out what had been digitized and where those files were. Craig and I also worked extensively with Molly Bragg and Moira Downey in the Digital Production Center to get the digitized films into the Duke Digital Repository, the home of our digital collections. Moira did a ton of work and was very patient with me while we worked out how to do this, since it involved once again making sure the metadata we had was formatted in a way that worked with the DDR systems, that we knew what and where the files were, and many other steps.
Once Moira did the bulk of the work in getting the films into the DDR, there were still a few steps I and my colleague Noah Huffman needed to do to make sure the films would be visible within the collection guide. We were able to make sure metadata from the DDR went into ArchivesSpace, then once Molly’s team published the digital collection, reposted the collection guide. And voila!
Getting digitized archival material available for almost seamless viewing by the public takes a lot of preparation and work behind the scenes. The technologies we use to make copies of recordings, the methods we use to keep track of our materials, and the way we store and display materials online all change rapidly and frequently, so any endeavor like this, even one that seems simple, takes multiple people, multiple systems, and a surprising amount of time. So far, there are 38 films from the Football Game Films Collection available online, but there is still a lot of work to be done with this collection: there are more films to add to the collection guide, and other copies made of films that we hope to make available.
The staff of University Archives is very excited to make the digitized football films available, and we’re glad all our work went in to something we think a lot of people will enjoy. I’m currently working on repeating this process with the Basketball Films, so stay tuned!
We’re starting the school year off w/ lots of interest in Duke’s complex history, which warms (and engages) our archivist hearts. So here’s a handy compilation of ways to learn more about Duke history at the University Archives!
Or you can browse our online exhibits! Integration, Duke during World War II, Duke’s queer history—find them here!
The Duke Chronicle, Duke’s student-run newspaper, is a fantastic historical resource. We’ve digitized the very first issue (December 19, 1905) through Feb 1989 and you can read/search through them here. 1990s issues will be available this fall!
103 years of the Chanticleer (Duke’s yearbook) are also browsable online. So many retro hairstyles!
Tell us a little bit about your new job at the University Archives!
As the Records Manager, I will be working closely with University Archives staff and other university stakeholders to update, redesign, and guide Duke’s records management program to ensure that the significant records of the university, including both paper and electronic formats, are preserved and made available for future research. I will be assisting offices and departments to help them identify, retain, and dispose of their records appropriately by creating records retention guidelines, assisting with records transfer, and providing guidance on electronic records management. You will see me out and about on campus as I work with departments and offices.
Why is records management important?
Records management is all about getting the right information to the right people at the right time. The goal is to ensure that employees have access to the information they need to be successful here at Duke while also protecting personal information and sensitive data in accordance with best practices and federal regulations. Records management is also crucial when documenting university history. The work we do at Duke is important, and we should make sure the records of it are preserved in the Archives for future research and scholarship.
Can you give us a sneak peek of some upcoming changes for the records management program?
The Archives will soon be unveiling new webpages with updated information on records management procedures, including a new online form to streamline the records transfer process. Later this year, we will begin offering introductory records management presentations to offices and department staff.
What is one thing that people may not realize about records management?
Records management is everywhere! Records management plays a role in everything from records creation to access and use to destruction or preservation of records. People use records management every day whether they think about it or not; naming a document, saving a photo, filing an email—all of these tasks involve records management. Records management is a crucial part of our lives—and you may not even notice!
How did you become a records manager/archivist?
My interest in records began during my undergraduate work at the University of Mary Washington, where I studied historic preservation. I then attended the University of Pittsburgh to get my MLIS in Library Science. I took two classes on Records Management, and I realized I had found my calling.
What aspects of your new job are you most excited about?
As a records manager, I get to know campus well. I get to work with new people all the time, and I enjoy working with people from all across campus. I also get to know campus spaces. I frequently go to departments and get to see their storage spaces. I’ve been in more basements, “troll dungeons”, closets, and attics than I can count. While those places are not good spaces for storing records, they make for interesting visits!
Tell us one fun thing about yourself.
I love football—both professional and college! I look forward to cheering on the Blue Devils in the ACC!
Any last words of wisdom?
Are you having difficulties managing your records? You are not alone! Sometimes people feel they are the only ones facing records issues. Every department and office faces these problems, and the Records Management program is here to help. Just ask!
Happy Black History Month! This year we’ll be celebrating #28daysofblack by sharing materials from the Rubenstein Library’s collections and by highlighting our work on current projects. Stay tuned to follow our rare materials catalogers and manuscript archivists as they catalog and process collections that feature black authors, activists, artists, characters, entrepreneurs, and families. You will also be hearing regularly from John Gartrell, Director of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture. John will be posting about the SNCC Legacy project, among many other things. You can follow us on our various social media platforms:
In the 1960s a group of brash young organizers worked alongside local people in the Deep South to change the direction of America. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was a key catalyst for mobilizing grassroots activists to address voting and political power, economic equity, education, and civil rights. Over the last three years, the SNCC Digital Gateway project has worked to create an online platform that highlights the work of SNCC activists, mentors and allies using primary sources from our library and libraries across the country.
Contract with freedmen on Plains Plantation, 1865 June 8-August 28
This worn and creased contract was once framed and ostensibly hung on someone’s wall. It contains language binding newly-freed African Americans and their children to the Plains Plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi and was signed not even a month after the Civil War was over. According to the contract, the laborers committed to working every day “from sun to sun,” except Sunday, with other possible days off. They were to be paid one quarter of the net proceeds for the crop. Surnames of the freedmen include: Wilson, Thompson, Digg, Turner, Lonsway, Hatton, Clement, Willis, Payne, West, Blair, Garner, Kelley, Arran, and Johnson. The contract was written in iron gall ink, which caused corrosion of the paper. It now has a catalog record and a collection guide and is currently with Duke Libraries’ Conservation Department to receive repairs and proper housing.
Radio Haiti is an ongoing, multi-year project to create a trilingual (Haitian Creole, French, and English) public-facing digital archive of all the audio of Radio Haiti-Inter, Haiti’s first and most prominent independent radio station. Our goal is to make the content as accessible as possible to people living in Haiti.
In February, we are going to finish up the processing of Radio Haiti’s papers, and archivist Laura Wagner will be traveling to Haiti to continue to do outreach around the project and to distribute flash drives with a large selection of Radio Haiti audio (around 500 recordings) to libraries in Haiti.
Allen Building Takeover
February 13th will mark the 49th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover at Duke in 1969. This month we’ll be continuing work on the Vice President for Student Affairs Records, which include materials documenting the events during and after the Allen Building Takeover. Some items of note include eye-witness accounts of events written by students as well as materials documenting the administration’s planning for an African and African-American Studies Program in the wake of the Allen Building Takeover.
Terry Sanford was a fixture of North Carolina life and politics for decades, and from 1970 to 1985 he was “Uncle Terry,” the President of Duke University. As a North Carolina State Senator, Governor, and United States Senator, he was known for his tireless support of and advocacy for education, especially public education, as well as his support of civil rights causes, including desegregation. He has left a lasting legacy here at Duke (the Sanford School of Public Policy is named for him), in North Carolina, and across the South.
While he may be well-known at Duke and across the country for his progressive ideals, he is slightly less well-known for a particularly fascinating tradition known as the Varmint Dinner. We’re here today to rectify this oversight and share with you all the story of this peculiar party.
According to an article in the Atlanta Constitution in 1980, the Varmint Dinner, also sometimes called the Critter Dinner, started in the mid-1970s when then-President Sanford and a friend, Jake Phelps, had “a lot of game” and thought “a Varmint Dinner in a formal setting would be a fun way to get rid of it.” The dinner continued because it was a way “to get family and friends together every once in a while.” Hard to argue with that!
So what was served at the Varmint Dinner? Over the years, courses included raccoon (universally shortened to “ ’coon”), venison, catfish, wild pig, squirrel, rabbit, goat, bear, turtle, possum, and snake. The theme demanded the idea that “these entrees should have been recently lumbering around the words somewhere or at least hiding in tall grass beside a winding asphalt highway bracing for a brave challenge to oncoming cars.” Highly romantic description that allowed for basically anything not raised on a farm for the sole purpose of being eaten. In keeping with the down-home feel, the dinner was limited to mostly family and some friends, and the recipes based on instinct, rumor, and trial and error. With help from, according to the article, copious amounts of moonshine.
The article appearing in the Atlanta Constitution does an excellent job of trying to convey the sense of Southern country ingenuity combined with refined charm and grace that the whole idea of this dinner given by Terry Sanford evokes. The Terry Sanford Records and Papers, the collection of materials from President Sanford held in the University Archives, also includes some humorous correspondence that details the attendance of the article’s author at the Varmint Dinner in 1980.
Included in the collection is a note written to President Sanford by Bill Green, a journalist and the then-Director of University Relations, conveying the wish of David Morrison of the Atlanta Constitution to attend that year’s dinner, if there was to be one, and offering to bring snake. President Sanford jotted a reply on the letter that reads: “We’ll have one if we can gather in enough varmints. Seems we have been eating them as fast as they come by –“.
Later correspondence shows that David Morrison, in attempting to deliver his promise of snake, contacted Georgia State Senator Franklin Sutton, apparently a known source of “rattlesnake steak,” who wrote a lengthy and detailed account of how he might trap a snake and why he was unable to procure one. The letter was a fun reminder to me that politicians and executives rarely typed their own correspondence, since it also includes a sharply hilarious postscript from Senator Sutton’s secretary Benita to David Morrison.
We don’t know exactly how long the Varmint Dinner tradition carried on, since this correspondence and the photocopied article from the Atlanta Constitution, as well as half of a photocopied article from an unknown paper, are the only mentions of it in the collection (that I know of, please note this collection has more than 300 feet of material). But if you are looking for a new holiday tradition, and you can lay your hands on some (legally and ethically acquired) varmints, consider what Uncle Terry would do.
These materials came to light during recent reprocessing of portions of Terry Sanford’s collections related to his campaigns for President of the United States in 1972 and 1976. There is a wealth of interesting material in this collection – check it out for yourself!
Correction: After this was posted, a helpful friend of Terry Sanford called to let us know what happened to the Varmint Dinners. The dinners continued while Sanford was President of Duke University and lived at Knight House on Pinecrest Road, but once he stepped down as President and moved to a different residence, the dinner ended. The dinner written about above was one of the last Varmint Dinners held. Paul Vick, our source of information, attended and assures us it was a good one.
Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist
Most Dukies know about the Allen Building Takeover of February 13, 1969. It proved to be a watershed moment for Duke, and led to real change in the curriculum and in social and academic support for students of color. What many don’t know, however, is that there was a protest in the Allen Building just 15 months earlier, the Allen Building Study-In. Although less dramatic than the Allen Building Takeover, it was also organized by African-American students, and it also had real impact on Duke.
The Allen Building Study-In took place on November 13, 1967. The purpose was to protest the use of segregated facilities by Duke student organizations. One year earlier, the local chapter of the Duke Alumni Association had held a banquet honoring the football team at the all-white Hope Valley Country Club—thereby excluding the black players. Two hundred picketers protested the event. The Duke administration took no immediate action, and no prohibition was in place around the use of such facilities.
In September 1967, President Douglas Knight agreed to a policy that banned the use of such facilities by faculty and administrative groups, but did not require student groups to comply. In early November of that same year, the Associated Students of Duke University (ASDU, precursor to today’s DSG) conducted a student-wide referendum on a proposed ban on such facilities, but this motion was defeated. Frustrated with the lack of action by the student body and the administration, the students issued a statement and demands on November 10. They demanded that action be taken on the policy immediately.
With no immediate response from the administration, three days later a group of around 30 students entered the president’s office, staying for seven hours and blocking the entrance to Knight’s office. Reporters from radio stations and newspapers were also present to cover the event. Shortly after the conclusion of the protest, two major university committees recommended the passage of a complete ban on the use of segregated facilities. On November 17, just four days after the Study-In, Knight issued a statement in which he extended the existing policy to cover all student groups, in addition to faculty and staff groups.
Monday, November 13, 2017, will mark the fiftieth anniversary of this peaceful but powerful action by a small group of students. A small exhibit commemorating the Study-In is currently installed near the service desk of Perkins Library.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University