Educational Opportunity and Legal Strategy: Exploring the ACLU of North Carolina Records

Post contributed by Esther Cyna, doctoral student in History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, a recipient of a 2018 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

How did advocates for equal educational opportunities for children in North Carolina shift their legal strategies when desegregation battles became increasingly difficult to wage in the mid-1970s? It is with this research question in mind that I explored the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (NCCLU) records, which are part of the Human Rights Archive at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. I spent a week exploring this rich collection to get a better understanding of civil rights attorneys’ thinking.

One case in particular captures many of the tensions that my work seeks to disentangle: Leandro v. State of North Carolina, the major school finance case in the state, tackles issues of educational inequalities in the state and sheds light on structural inequities exacerbated by an inequitable funding formula, and provides a fascinating example of how legal strategy changed over time.[1]

While at Duke University, I had the honor of interviewing a leading scholar and attorney in the field, Prof. John Charles Boger, former Dean of the UNC Law School, whose name appeared in the NCCLU papers on several occasions, and who was involved in writing amici briefs for the Leandro case in the 1990s and 2000s.[2] I was immersed in the NCCLU papers, and then had a long conversation with Prof. Boger in the Von der Hayden Pavilion, just a few feet away from the archival research room, in a wonderful dialogue between written sources and human accounts.

One of the major themes in this research is the relationship between funding inequities and test scores, and implications for poor students’ opportunities. The period that I study witnessed the rise of standards-based reform and standardized testing, most notably promoted by Governor Jim Hunt. Attorneys in the Leandro case underlined the disturbing correlation between low-wealth—and therefore low funding, since school funding relies on property tax—and low achievement as measured by standardized tests. The following excerpts from the initial Leandro complaint points out that students in poor, rural counties in the state often failed on the state’s own standards because of a chronic lack of resources in their districts.[3] Attorneys claimed this was evidence of the state’s failure to honor its constitutional obligation to provide a sound basic education to all children in the state:

“The inadequacies of the educational opportunities for schoolchildren in the plaintiff districts may also be seen from the State’s designation of the school systems of Halifax, Hoke, Robeson, and Vance Counties as being on either low performing or warning status for 1991, 1992, and 1993.” (Complaint draft, Leandro v. State, May 25, 1994, p. 21)

“A further indication of the inadequate educational opportunities available to schoolchildren in the plaintiff districts is student performance on the State’s own standardized tests.” (Complaint draft, Leandro v. State, May 25, 1994, p. 76)

Delving into these issues thus provides us with necessary context to understand what many have called the “achievement gap,” as well as labels such as “low performing” and “failing,” which became increasingly used to designate poor, struggling school districts at the end of the 20th century.

In the Common Sense Foundation records of the Human Rights Archive, I found that in 2001, a commission sponsored by the Durham Public Education Network studied the discrepancy between test scores of white students and black and Hispanic students in the public schools of Durham, North Carolina. 90% of white and Asian students performed at or above grade level in reading and math, compared to 60% of African American students. The report included the following sentence in bold, capital letters: “the achievement gap is no one’s fault, but it’s everyone’s responsibility.”[4] The statement suggests that differences in test scores between students could not be traced to the decisions and policies of historical actors. The commission agreed that the difference should be addressed, but it presented it as a disembodied reality: the “achievement gap”—as measured by standardized testing in 2001—had no history, no context, and no fixed meaning. Yet understanding the history of unequal funding and chronic disadvantage for poor school districts and poor students sheds light on a true, documented opportunity gap.

The Marshall T. Meyer travel grant allowed me to delve into archival sources that will be the backbone of a chapter on legal strategy in my dissertation, and I want to thank Patrick Stawski and the entire staff at the library for their support. Not only did I gather important archival sources, but I was also able to really gain a much better understanding of the legal and economic context of the period I am investigating. I left the library with a lot of pictures, but more importantly with a deeper and much more nuanced understanding of people’s actions, discourse, and beliefs.

[1] American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Records, Box 323, Folder: “Paralegal Office Cases, Leandro (4 of 14), Complaint / Super Ct.,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[2] See for example NCCLU papers, Box 284, Folder: Legal Committee Meeting Minutes, 1987, July 17-1997, Dec. 6. Prof. Boger’s work was praised in a NCCLU meeting document: “Leandro v. State – amicus brief was filed at the NC Supreme Court. Kudos were given to Ann Hubbard and Jack Boger for their fantastic job on the brief.”

[3] Complaint draft of Leandro v. State, May 25, 1994, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Records, Box 323, Folder: “Paralegal Office Cases, Leandro (4 of 14), Complaint / Super Ct,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

[4] “Closing the Achievement Gap Through Community Action” Spring 2001, Common Sense Foundation Records, Box 14, Folder: “Achievement Gap,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. I also found a copy of this document in the Theresa El-Amin papers. “Closing the Achievement Gap Through Community Action” Spring 2001, Box 4, Folder “Durham Public Schools: Education+Testing,” sub-folder “Closing the Achievement Gap,” Theresa El-Amin papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript, Duke University.

Here’s a Few Ways to Learn Duke’s History!

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!

Travel through 178 years of Duke history with this nifty timeline.

Or grab your coffee & head to the permanent Duke University history exhibit outside the Gothic Reading Room. Color photo of the Duke history exhibit wall located outside the Gothic Reading Room.

Learn more about the workers who built the Duke campuses & their working conditions on the website created by this past summer’s Story+ project, “Stone by Stone: Who Built the Duke Chapel?”

Our research guides will point you to key resources on popular topics, like athletics & student activism.

Our website has tons of historical information, like historical articles written by UA staff (including one about the Robert E. Lee statue removed from Duke Chapel).

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!

Or see what the Pratt School of Engineering was like with digitized issues of DukEngineer.

Want to see Duke history rather than read about it? Our Flickr site has 3,000+ photos!

Black and white photo of man working with a 1980s computer. The screen reads "Chanticleer."
This 1982 photo is on Flickr. Might not be the best set up for looking at Flickr, though.

And the easiest way to learn about Duke history? Stop by the University Archives and talk to your friendly university archivists!

Learning to Listen: A Student Assistant’s Experience in the Radio Haiti Archive

Post contributed by Tanya Thomas, Radio Haiti Student Assistant

Photo of Tanya outside beside a blossoming bush.
Student Assistant Tanya Thomas.

As a Haitian-American raised in Miramar, FL and Petit-Goâve, Haiti, moving to Durham, NC in 2013 for my freshman year at Duke was a culture shock. For one thing, I learned the hard way that ordering patties from a restaurant menu meant getting the ground beef portion of a burger, not a deliciously deep-fried, meat-filled Caribbean staple. As I began to settle into life at Duke and in Durham as a pre-med student majoring in International Comparative Studies with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean, I started working on the Rubenstein Library’s Radio Haiti Archive project. The main part of my job was to listen to interviews from Haiti’s first independent radio station, Radio Haiti-Inter, a station that ran from the early 1970s to 2003, finally closing a few years after the assassination in spring 2000 of the station’s director, the agronomist-turned-journalist Jean Dominique. Working on the Radio Haiti project was my work-study job, but the job meant so much more to my Duke experience than extra cash. It gave me the opportunity to explore and understand the history of my homeland, which is why when I graduated in 2017, I wanted to keep working on the project, even while applying to medical school and working as a medical scribe in Miami.

Web page that includes description in English and Haitian Creole.
A screenshot of an interview described by Tanya Thomas in the Radio Haiti Archive.

As an assistant for the Radio Haiti Archive, part of what I do is listen to Jean Dominique’s daily Face à l’Opinon interviews. I then describe these interviews in English and Haitian Creole so that anyone, from academics who study Haitian history to someone curious about twentieth century Haitian life, can browse and learn. I tag the relevant topic, place, and name labels to go with the descriptions. What made Radio Haiti special was the fact that Jean Dominique interviewed peasant farmers and grassroots activists just as often as he did political leaders and members of the intellectual and economic elite. It’s one thing for a renowned journalist to interview a member of parliament about how a policy affects peasants. It’s another to interview a rice farmer and local activist about how government organizations are actually impacting their livelihoods. No social position was too small to be heard on Radio Haiti. Listening to hundreds of these interviews helped me gain skills and insights that I will use moving forward as a doctor who aims to provide care to underserved populations.

Tanya and Laura sitting back-to-back in a work cubicle.
Tanya Thomas working with Laura Wagner, Radio Haiti Project Archivist.

As a medical scribe, I work in the consult room as the patient is being seen by the doctor. I listen to their health concerns in real-time and type their symptoms and relevant information about their life circumstances into their electronic medical record. In the summarizing sections of the notes, I condense the entire visit to the patient’s most pressing symptoms. I also record what the doctor tells me that she or he finds during the physical examination, and the treatment plan they decided on with the patient. I write these notes not only for the doctor’s own reference, but also for anyone with access to the patient’s record. For example, this could be a paramedic taking a seriously ill patient to the hospital, or a judge in a court of law if the visit were to come up in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

In that respect, medically scribing a patient encounter is quite like describing Radio Haiti recordings. In both these jobs, my notes must be clear enough to lay out the situation so that someone reading what I wrote for the first time can be caught up enough to know what the most pressing thing that happened was, and what related issues can be investigated for further context. Though I am a subjective human being, I must faithfully and dispassionately communicate what happened and who said it with as little subjective input as possible. Whether listening to descriptions of injustice and human rights violations in the Radio Haiti materials, or creating a record of the pain and suffering of a patient in the clinic, it can be difficult to keep my emotions from clouding my understanding of events, but critical distance remains crucial to the work at hand. Moreover, the patients we served in the Miami clinic were, like many of the people Jean Dominique interviewed at Radio Haiti, people who are excluded from the political process or silenced in clinical encounters: immigrants, undocumented people, people who do not speak English, and poor people. I have learned to balance the processing of personal information with the larger social responsibility of providing a service to the marginalized, and this skill is something I will keep nurturing throughout medical school and beyond.  As I reflect on this past year and prepare to start medical school this month, I realize that by working as a medical scribe and an assistant for the Radio Haiti Archive the most important skill I have learned this year has been listening. As one of Radio Haiti’s old jingles went, “Radyo Ayiti: anvan nou pale, nou koute w!” (“Radio Haiti: before we speak, we listen to you!”)

The Rubenstein Library staff, and particularly the Radio Haiti team (Laura Wagner, Craig Breaden, Patrick Stawski, Sarah Schmidt, and Naomi Nelson) would like to congratulate Tanya on starting medical school at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine this week! We are proud of you, we appreciate everything you’ve done for this project, and we wish you bon chans as you undertake this next exciting step.

How to Define A Successful Synagogue and Other Practices of Activism

Post contributed by William R. Benner, Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Speech, and Foreign Languages at Texas Woman’s University, a recipient of a 2018 Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant.

Bet-el Pamphlet from the Marshall Meyers Papers
“Bet-el pamphlet 1984”, Marshall T. Meyer Papers, Box 14, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

How do we fight for truth and justice in a market driven present? This is an ethical question that is central to my current research on the post-dictatorship generation’s brand of activism in the Southern Cone and it is a question that drew me to the Marshall T. Meyer papers in the Human Rights Archive housed in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. My trip was made possible by a generous Marshall T. Meyer Research Travel Grant. I would like to thank Patrick Stawski and Eric Meyers for their expertise and enthusiasm in my research. I would also like to thank the staff at the Rubenstein and Perkins Libraries for their professionalism.

After a week of diving into the Marshall T. Meyer and the Abraham Joshua Heschel archives, I began to notice a curious difference between Heschel’s and Meyer’s usage of synagogue pamphlets. While Heschel’s pamphlets emphasize the progressive vision of Jewish life within the current cultural, philosophical and political atmosphere, Meyer’s Bet El pamphlets include a wider range of local and international political and cultural topics. Further, Bet El’s pamphlets were clearly written for adolescents as there is a section at the back that asks the youth about a variety of topics. Interestingly, Meyer even included advertising for local companies whose employees supported the synagogue.  When asked in the magazine Nueva presencia about the success of the Bet El synagogue during the repressive military dictatorship in Buenos Aires (1976-1983), Marshall Meyer responded by insisting “éxito” or “success” was an inappropriate term to describe the growth of Bet El. He explained that the term is used for commercial reasons and puts synagogues in competition with each other. Instead, Meyer states that it is the congregation’s collective search for an authentic spiritual identity that has encouraged the community to grow.

Bet-el pamphlet from the Marshall Meyer Papers
“Bet-el pamphlet 1984”, Marshall T. Meyer Papers, Box 14, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

I am currently working on an article examining Meyer’s use of pamphlets to distribute his progressive vision of religious activism. Meyer’s ‘success’ and his discomfort with the notion of commercial success is a conflict that I observe in the recent artistic productions by the post-dictatorship generation in Argentina. For example, in the blog Diario de una princesa montonera, the author and child of the disappeared Mariana Eva Perez confesses “Luchás por la identidad y la justicia y al mismo tiempo acumulás millas/ You fight for truth and justice and at the same time you accumulate [frequent flyer] miles”. Perez, like Meyer before her, struggles with the idea that she is in some way profiting off of the suffering of others. In the future, I hope to incorporate my archival work on Marshall T. Meyer in a larger book project that will attempt to articulate different practices of human rights activism during and after the last dictatorship in Argentina and how these practices addressed the ethical issue of ‘success’.

 

 

What You Can Do Yourself: Home Health Guides in the History of Medicine

Photograph of colored plate in book illustrating various uses for water to promote health. Figure 1 is a band standing in a bathtub, Figure 2 is a woman seated at a table, using a tube connected to a bag of water to rinse her nose, Figure 3 is a woman seated in a chair with her feet in a shallow tray of water Figure 4 is a man lying on a low mattress with the back of his head resting in a a shallow tray of water
“Methods of Applying Water” from New Curative Treatments of Disease… vol. 1, (1901) Fig. 1 – Exercising in a cold bath, Fig. 2 – Nasal douche, Fig. 3 – Foot bath, Fig. 4 – Head bath

What is that rash? What should you do if you have a snakebite? Are carrots really good for one’s health? What does chicken pox look like?

Long before WebMD and other online tools existed, popular medicine guides were created and consulted to answer such questions. In the United States, there is a long tradition of such home health guides designed to help the common person diagnose and treat illnesses. These guides, often physician-approved and authored, included ways to prevent illness and injury while offering instructions and remedies.

Home health guides offered laypeople (assuming they could read) information on a range of topics: basic anatomy, symptoms of illnesses, exercises for good health, “cures” by water or electricity, sexual education, and much more. These popular medicine guides continued well into the twentieth century with works like Our Bodies, Our Selves. Such works are still printed today in the digital age.

An exhibit featuring a sample of these popular medicine guides from our History of Medicine Collections is currently on display. You can visit the exhibit What You Can Do Yourself: Home Health Guides in the History of Medicine in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room from July 24 – October 13, 2018.

Health Knowledge : A Thorough and Concise Knowledge of the Prevention, Causes, and Treatments of Disease, Simplified for Home Use, vol. 2, (1921).

“Why Are You Constantly Harassing Us on the Street?”

Post contributed by Molly Brookfield, a Ph.D. candidate in the departments of History and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. She is writing a dissertation about the history of sexual harassment in public places in the United States. Her research at the Sallie Bingham Center was generously funded with a Mary Lily Research Grant.

Imagine you are a young woman walking down the street on a sunny summer day in New York City. The sidewalk is crowded with people and you are thinking about the day ahead. You’re so absorbed in your thoughts that the shouted remark from a fellow passer-by jolts you unpleasantly back to your surroundings. The remark comes from a man who is also hurrying down the sidewalk. Maybe he shouts, “Looking good, honey!” or “How’s it going, sweetheart?” The specifics of the remark aren’t what’s important; it’s enough to know that he’s tried to grab your attention in a loud and public way that has startled you and forced you to acknowledge his presence. Annoyed, you turn to face the man, reach into your bag, and grab hold of a stack of cards you’ve had made for this occasion. You hand a card to the catcaller, and his eyebrows arch as he reads the first lines: “Brother, I feel insulted and oppressed by your comment. You and men like you make it unpleasant and difficult for all of us women, including your mothers, sisters and daughters, to leave our houses alone. Why are you constantly harassing us on the street?”

This was the tactic taken by New York feminist Marigold Arnold in 1971. That summer, Arnold handed mimeographed cards to men who harassed her in the street and the Women’s Health and Abortion Project published the full text in their newsletter—which is where I found it, while visiting the Sallie Bingham Center on a Mary Lily Research Grant. According to her mimeographed card, Arnold wanted men who catcalled to know that they “interrupt … [women’s] train of thought when we are walking alone, acting as though simply because you are a male we will be honored by your talking to us.” But Arnold was adamant, “We don’t feel honored.” In distinctly 1970s-flavored rhetoric, Arnold’s card declares, “The road of true liberation for all people is for each of us to struggle against oppressing our brothers and sisters. No more oppressive comments to women on the street.”

Arnold’s mimeographed statement was just one way that New York women resisted sexual harassment on the street in the 1970s. The New York Radical Feminists (NYRF) had a Street Harassment Committee that held self-defense workshops. Women raised awareness of street harassment with poems, stories, and cartoons in the group’s newsletter (see image). In 1976, members organized a Women’s Walk Against Rape, similar to the more recent Take Back the Night marches. When one of their members was harassed in Zabar’s, a deli on Broadway, the NYRF even started a blacklist of New York businesses where male employees harassed women.

These documents illustrate that women have experienced sexual harassment in public places since at least the 1970s (and my dissertation will show it has been a problem for much longer). While the New York Radical Feminists did not completely succeed in eradicating street harassment, their work can be viewed as a precursor and inspiration to groups like Hollaback! or Stop Street Harassment, work that is increasingly relevant as we continue to grapple with the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in American society.

All materials cited here can be found in the New York Radical Feminists Records, Box 1 at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Nature’s Remedy: “All Druggists Sell the Dainty 25 Cents Box”

Post contributed by Erin Rutherford, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern, 2017-2018

In early 1900s America, an individual seeking relief from myriad ailments could choose from myriad purported treatments. When looking to cure “indigestion, bad breath, loss of appetite, sick headache, and rheumatism,”[1] one could turn to an array of syrups, lozenges, tonics, or tablets. One such product, extremely popular for several decades, was Nature’s Remedy.

The man behind Nature’s Remedy, Augustus Henry Lewis, began his pharmaceutical career as a pharmacist in Bolivar, Missouri. Teaming up with his nephew James Howe, Lewis moved his company to St. Louis in 1901, soon becoming the A.H. Lewis Medicine Co.

Nature’s Remedy patent medicine tin. History of Medicine Artifacts Collection, 1550-1980s. Beyer Family Collection Artifacts, 18th century-circa 1935. Received from Dr. and Mrs. Emil C. Beyer. Box 8, Item hbeyer0031.

Tin boxes filled with Nature’s Remedy churned out of the factory. By 1906, the business had grown so much that it moved into “a handsome new building at the corner of Fourth and Spruce Streets.”[2]

 

Paper ad targeting women and girls
Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection. John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History

 

Advertising campaigns described Nature’s Remedy as “Mother Nature in a pleasant, helpful form – all vegetable and a skillful blend of her own plan of insuring health.”[3] Slightly more descriptive circulars referred to the product as a vegetable preparation that “act[ed] on the stomach, liver, kidneys, and bowels.”[4] Marketing was so rigorous that the company enlisted a composer to produce a tune to popularize Nature’s Remedy. The first chorus from the 1928 sheet music, purchased to be played at home on a ukulele or banjo, reads as follows: “No matter whether you have wealth, Just as long as you have health, You ‘feel like a million!’ If you just wear a great big smile, You are in the latest style, You ‘feel like a million’ But when you wear a frown, And your health is run down, You feel bad, you look sad, At the whole world you are mad! And then you follow nature’s course, Banish all of that remorse, You ‘feel like a million!’”[5]

Black and white bilboard advertisements.
Item ID AAA7481, Nature’s Remedy digestive aid tablets, Dentyne gum, Doran’s Coffee, Loveland (4 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. [1900s-1910s].

Black and white billboards.
Item ID BBB4564, Wheat, Cigarettes, Gasene Naphita Soap, Natures Remedy Tablets, Fatima Cigarettes, Fatima Cigarettes, Adams Black Jack Chewing Gum, unknown, Holsum Bread (9 advertisements). Foster & Keisler (Placement Company). Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Archives, 1885-1990s. Undated.

What ingredients did these tablets contain? A chemical analysis conducted on the product in 1923 by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed the presence of burdock, juniper berries, sarsaparilla, mandrake, rhubarb, dandelion, prickly ash, aloes, cascara, and Belladonna root.[6] A write up in JAMA went on to delicately allude to its effects: “The manufacturers of these tablets direct the purchaser to take one every night for a week. They very kindly allow the sufferer (from the effect of the tablets) a few days to recuperate and then suggest that the week of torment be repeated and if this is survived, another few days of rest is allowed before another round of torture and so on ‘until the bowels become strong enough to do their work.’”[7]

Whether of the belief that the product was a nostrum, a placebo, a bonafide cure, or a temporary comfort, the list of contents – and Mr. Clark’s description – make the purpose of the pill clear: It was a cathartic mixture, a purgative, a laxative.

Although some may read the remedy itself as cause for a sour stomach, there is something rather kismet in this tale. Under the full leadership of Mr. Howe, the same “handsome” factory went on to manufacture one of America’s leading brands of antacid tablets.

[1] A.H. Clark, “Nature’s Remedy Tablets,” JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association, March 1919. Quoted in American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 5th edition (Chicago: American Medical Association, 1923), 63.

[2] “A. H. Lewis Medicine Co. Outgrew Its Building,” The Pharmaceutical Era (35), 6 (1906), 639.

[3] Identifier MM0227 Mother Nature – as Health’s Guardian. 1923. Medicine and Madison Avenue, Digital Collection, John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History. Retrieved from https://repository.duke.edu/dc/mma/MM0227

[4] American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 63.

[5] Waldon, W. Feel Like a Million. St. Louis, Mo.: A. H. Lewis Medicine Co., 1928. Print.

[6] American Medical Association, Propaganda Department, Miscellaneous Nostrums, 64.

[7] Ibid., 65.

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.

Anything and All Things of Interest to Women: The Sarah Westphal Collection

Post contributed by Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

Join the staff of the Bingham Center as we celebrate the newly acquired Sarah Westphal Collection and the opening of an exhibition of works from the collection.

The attention to recovering traces of women’s voices and women’s agency that motivates all of Sarah’s research and work in the field of medieval gender studies also underwrites her approach to building her collection.

—Ann Marie Rasmussen, Professor and Diefenbaker Memorial Chair in German Literary Studies, University of Waterloo

Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2018
Time: 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153
RSVP on Facebook (optional)

Speakers:

  • Jean Fox O’Barr, Duke University Distinguished Service Professor
  • Ann Marie Rasmussen, Professor and Diefenbaker Memorial Chair in German Literary Studies, University of Waterloo
  • Thomas Robisheaux, Duke University History Department

The exhibit will be on display in the Michael and Karen Stone Family Gallery from July until December, 2018

Sarah Westphal, who received her PhD from Yale in 1983, was a member of the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature and an affiliate of the Program in Women’s Studies at Duke from 1983-1986. In addition to her long academic career as a scholar of medieval German literature, Westphal has spent thirty-five years amassing a collection of over six hundred books written, printed, illustrated, or published by women from the seventeenth to the twentieth century. Westphal’s particular interest is women in Britain and continental Europe in the eighteenth century. The collection includes monumental works such as a beautifully-bound first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) as well as previously unrecorded works and unique manuscript collections.

In Sarah Westphal’s own words the collection is “anything and all things that women published or were interested in, especially in the eighteenth century.” The collection ranges from literature for children and adults to science, cookery, travel writing, prescriptive literature, political and philosophical treatises, biographies of women by women, and works by women printers and artists. This exhibition presents eighteen items selected by Westphal, each with its own complex story.

Color photograph of Sarah Westphal

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.

 

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University