Marley Braun recently contacted the Rubenstein Library because she wanted to find a proper home for a very peculiar “letter” that belonged to her great-grandmother, Mrs. Edna Balderston. Perhaps Mrs. Balderston was shocked when she opened the “letter” envelope to find that it actually contained two bills of sale for 3 slaves in Baltimore dated October 11, 1805. The slaves listed in the bills were named Elizabeth, age 20, Harriet (her daughter), 6 months, and Delilah, age 14, for a total of $493.
The slave bills stayed in the family for a few generations behind glass until Marley, a former 10-year Duke employee, and her husband Andy, ’92 Duke alum, decided the bill deserved a place where it could not only be cared for but shared with people interested in its history. Marley and her son Jason came to the Rubenstein this past week to donate the bill of sale and view other bills of sale currently held by the Rubenstein in the African American Miscellany Collection. The bills within this collection span from 1757-1863 and this new addition will further help document the experience of African Americans during the era of slavery; thanks to the Braun family, Marley, Andy, Jason, and Hayley for this fascinating addition to our collections.
Post contributed by John Gartrell, John Hope Franklin Research Center Director.
The Picture File is a collection that covers an expansive scope of visual history. With over 6,000 items spanning the 17th to 20th centuries, it is the kind of collection that makes mining the African American experience both exhaustive and exciting. This reality is best exemplified by the presence of this photograph located in the Geographic Series.
At first glance, the photograph is rather striking, if not disturbing. An African American man standing with hands shackled, surrounded by four uniformed white men. The back of the photo however describes a different story, “Members of the Georgia Hussars with [unidentified African American man] at Clyo, GA in 1908(?) to prevent lynching of prisoner.” The inscription further notes, “This negro afterward died of tuberculosis and syphilis in Chatham County Jail while awaiting a new trial on appeal.”
The historical record of local protection against the lynching of African Americans is indeed a controversial one. But this interesting image at least captures the actual presence of authorities standing guard against violence against this incarcerated man.
We are in the middle of processing the John Hope Franklin Papers, and it has been inspiring to see Franklin’s wide range of intellectual interests and community engagements. He was a very busy man! One recent discovery, mixed in with folded programs and family correspondence, is Franklin’s “Grownup School List,” an all-encompassing list he created of must-reads in African American history. Always a humble scholar, he omitted his own monumental works. We’ve reproduced the Grownup School List here, along with Franklin’s annotations. You can find all of these books, along with Franklin’s own extensive scholarship, online or in the Duke Libraries.
Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). “A remarkable work by a former slave who became a leading thinker and activist in post-Emancipation America.”
W.E.B. DuBois, Souls of Black Folk (1903). “This classic clearly delineates the utter frustration of African Americans who attempt to adjust to the American racial jungle.”
While researching a reference request among the William Mahone Papers, an interesting piece of ephemera was discovered that gives us a peek at the opinions of one African American politician regarding the lingering shadows of the Confederacy almost 15 years after the Civil War ended. On December 20, 1879, a letter was sent to Mahone, who was the recently elected US Senator for the state of Virginia.
The author of the letter, who decided not to sign their name, seemed to take issue with Mahone and the idea that he had turned his back on the Confederacy. He/she noted, “…you who once so nobly lead the Virginia troops to battle could now turn against them is a shame…The wrath of God is upon you.” What could have stirred up such vitriol from the sender of this brief but contemptuous letter? The answer lies in the article that was attached to the letter.
The clipping, though undated, was likely printed in the same year. The bold call of State Senator Cephas Davis, himself a former slave, for a resolution “prohibiting the use of the words one-legged, two-legged or four-legged Confederate soldier,” was undoubtedly newsworthy. Davis would only serve one year in the VA State Senate, but it is interesting that he not only saw himself a victor in the Civil War, but also an agent to ensure the Confederacy would not be remembered.
In 2013, Duke will mark 50 years since the desegregation of the undergraduate student body. The campus-wide theme, “Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future: Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke University” will be woven into annual events, like commencement, reunion, and Founder’s Day, and will also be a topic of reflection through exhibits, speakers, and service opportunities. Working together across the University, this milestone year offers all of us the opportunity to learn more about Duke’s history.
The University Archives has a rich photographic collection, and we have added a number of photos on Flickr as part of the anniversary celebration. They show us moments of protest and performance, as well as celebration. The photographs are featured on a new website dedicated to this fiftieth anniversary commemoration.
Date: Thursday, April 19, 2012 Time: 5:00 PM **Please note new time!** Location: FHI Garage, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse, Duke University Contact: Kelly Wooten, kelly.wooten(at)duke.edu
Cheryl Dunye’s work as a Black lesbian filmmaker has challenged, transformed and sometimes even stood in for a conversation about race, feminism, lesbianism, the archive and the practice of contemporary film.
This program will include a screening of selected shorts from the often neglected early work of Cheryl Dunye followed by a panel discussion featuring local Black lesbian and queer filmmakers Yvonne Welbon, Katina Parker and Julia Roxanne Wallace, moderated by Alexis Pauline Gumbs. This program coincides with the public launch of Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind‘s new Black Feminist Film School. Light refreshments will be served.
Co-sponsored by African and African American Studies, the program in Women’s Studies, the program in the Study of Sexualities, the program in the Arts of the Moving Image, and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.
When I began processing the Charles N. Hunter Papers, I had just completed my work on the N.C. Mutual Collection, which was full of incredible material concerning Durham’s Black business community throughout the 1900s. The Hunter papers constituted a much smaller collection and, as such, I was not prepared to find such a rich and varied amount of information regarding a time period (mainly 1870s-1930s) that is often under-explored and underrepresented in general historical accounts of African Americans in the United States.
The collection paints a broad picture of the evolution of race relations and racial thought during Hunter’s lifetime, including a change in the tone of his beliefs concerning the best way for Blacks to seek equality and dignity within the United States (a change which appears to coincide with increasingly strained race relations in the 1920s). Given Hunter’s extensive experience as an educator in North Carolina, the collection also provides unique insights into the daily workings of the education system for Black children in the post-war, rural South. Additionally, Hunter’s extensive personal correspondence can be found intermingled with the amazing sociological and historical perspectives that are present within his business and community papers. The placement of his personal triumphs and tragedies amidst his professional and community commitments gives his papers a uniquely human dimension. In examining the collection, it was personally difficult for me to see so many personal family tragedies unfold in what seemed like a short period; however, this allowed me to connect with the Hunter by way of seeing the relationship between his public and private life.
Within the Hunter papers, there are a wide variety of interesting artifacts, some of which include: a letter from a friend written on Birchbark (an amazing piece that is now quite thin and fragile); letters that provide greater elucidation of the daily business aspects of the operation of NC Mutual during the early 1900s; Hunter’s affectionate correspondence with the Haywood family, which owned his family prior to emancipation; and a blank 1850s “Slave Application” for the N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Company of Raleigh.
The latter company is one that was distinct from the N.C. Mutual that began its operations in Durham just before the turn of the 20th century, and the history of the Raleigh company is largely unknown or forgotten. In addition to offering general life and property insurance, N.C. Mutual of Raleigh also allowed slave owners to take out policies covering their slaves for a limited number of years. It is unclear how or when Hunter came by this form, but the presence of this document within the collection brings forth the great irony of both a pre-Civil War N.C. Mutual that insured the lives of slaves and a completely separate post-Civil War N.C. Mutual that was created, owned, and operated solely by former slaves and the children of former slaves.
Post contributed by Jessica Carew, a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science Department at Duke University and an intern in the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University