Tag Archives: Instruction

We Are All Bound Up Together: Race and Resistance in the American Women’s Suffrage Movement

by Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture, and Meg Brown, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Librarian

August 2020 marked the centenary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment enfranchising many American women after nearly eighty years of activism. In order to explore the complexities and strategies of the American women’s suffrage movement, students in Duke’s Fall 2019 “Women in the Economy” course examined materials in the Rubenstein Library and then created the exhibition, Beyond Supply and Demand: Duke Economics Students Present 100 Years of American Women’s Suffrage.

One of the biggest challenges for the students was that the full range of contributions to the American women’s suffrage movement is not represented in the Rubenstein Library’s collections, or in the historical record generally. The dominant narrative of the movement, like the historical record of it, has focused on white women who benefited from the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and neglected the contributions and struggles of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Nevertheless we—students and librarians—tried throughout this exhibit to present a diversity of historical figures and viewpoints.

Because the idea for the suffrage movement began at an anti-slavery conference and borrowed much of its methodology from the abolition movement, it made sense to begin the exhibition there with the first of the ten themes students researched, “Abolition, Racism, and Resistance.” It was equally important to look at all of the themes through the lens of race and resistance because, though much of the current and historical narrative around the suffrage movement has focused on its white leaders, every dimension of the fight for the vote involved BIPOC communities.

Printed photo of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Her head faces the camera while her body is turned to the left. A reproduction of her signature appears below the photo.
Portrait of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Harper, Frances E. W. Iola Leroy, or, Shadows uplifted. Philadelphia, Pa.: Garrigues Brothers, Publishers and Booksellers, 1893, Lisa Unger Baskin Collection.

For example, BIPOC such as Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an abolitionist, suffragist, temperance leader, and one of the first African-American women to publish a novel (Iola Leroy, or, Shadows Uplifted, Garrigues Brothers, 1893), fought for human rights through their work in women’s clubs and churches in addition to suffrage organizations. Harper spoke at suffrage conventions in the nineteenth century and often clashed with white leaders. She adamantly believed in acknowledging the racism faced by Black people and how that could not be separated from the struggle for equality, including within the suffrage movement. At the same time, white suffragists and anti-suffragists upheld racist arguments, often dividing the movement and excluding BIPOC.

Photo of A. J. H. Cooper seated at a table. A handwritten "Yours sincerely, A. J. Cooper" appears below the photo.
Image of A. J. H. Cooper, A Voice From the South. Xenia, O. : Aldine Printing House, 1892.

As the exhibit illustrates in almost every section, BIPOC suffragists were not deterred. For example, in the “Bible as a Tool,” religious leader, educator, and activist Nannie Helen Burroughs advocated for civil rights and voting rights for Black people, citing the lack of Christian values in discrimination and segregation and the moral importance of voting. Anna Julia Cooper, along with her groundbreaking volume A Voice From the South (Aldine Printing House, 1892), are featured in the “Regional Realities” section. Considered to be one of the first published articulations of black feminism, Cooper analyzes African American women’s realities facing racism, sexism, economic oppression, and lack of voting rights. This book was an especially powerful statement in a region of the country where most white pro- and anti-suffragists centered their campaigns on the preservation of white supremacy.

The green cover of "Why Disfranchisement is Bad." The cover bears the pamphlet's title and the author's name, along with an illustration of a flower.
Grimké, Archibald Henry. Why Disfranchisement is Bad. [Philadelphia : Press of E.A. Wright; 1904?]
Black men are also featured in the exhibit, including Archibald Grimké, a lawyer, politician, journalist, founding member of the NAACP, and activist for African American and women’s suffrage. Born into slavery in South Carolina, Grimké was the nephew of Sarah and Angelina Grimké—often referred to as the “Grimké Sisters”—prominent abolitionists and women’s rights activists. In Why Disenfranchisement Is Bad (Press of E.A. Wright; 1904?), published with the support of Booker T. Washington, Grimké links the enfranchisement of African Americans to achieving racial equality and economic growth. The pamphlet was used to educate the public regarding harmful laws that limited voting rights.

A black and white photo showing Fannie Lou Hamer seated at an event holding an American flag.
Vaughs, Cliff. Photograph of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, 1967. Civil Rights Movement and Wayside Theatre photographs, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The final section of the exhibit, “The Long Tail of Voting Rights,” shows the continued conversation around women’s rights and voting rights after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. After 1920, there were invigorated movements to educate and mobilize new women voters, and to fight against voter suppression tactics like literacy laws and intimidation at the polls that disproportionately disenfranchised Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. One of the leaders of these movements was Fannie Lou Hamer who, having personally experienced literacy tests and poll tax requirements, became a field secretary for voter registration and welfare programs with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In this role and as leader of the Freedom Democratic Party, she helped and encouraged thousands of African Americans to become registered voters. In her 1971 speech which she titled “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free,” she told the National Women’s Political Caucus in Washington that Black and white women had to work together toward freedom for all.

Dr. Genna Miller, the faculty member who taught the class, observed:

“The learning that went on during the exhibit project went beyond just the names and dates related to the suffrage movement.  Students learned research methods and critical thinking skills. Students embraced the opportunity to examine and interpret historical documents written by labor activists, journalists, political and social reformers, and others who offered diverse lenses through which to consider and understand the significance of women’s suffrage, and the vast array of issues that the movement encompassed. Participating in this project with my students and the library staff has been an amazing experience. This could only happen at Duke!”

A Code of Ethics for Rubenstein Library Instruction

by Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist, with extensive contributions from Kate Collins, Research Services Librarian

For the past several years, the Duke University Archives has welcomed students from an introductory writing course, “Sports and Social Inequality.” The course provides some preparation for engaging with archival documents—such as photographs of members of a 1930s honorary athletic society dressed in blackface, and stereotypical media descriptions of Asian-American athletes. But confronting those materials in an instruction session can still be a shock. When University Archives staff checked with other Rubenstein Library instructors, we realized that teaching with difficult materials was a challenge we all struggled with.

The Rubenstein Library’s collections document a wide range of history, including some of the ugliest parts, such as racist and anti-Semitic language and imagery, as well as graphic descriptions and depictions of violence. As a group, we began to work toward a shared way of framing these materials in our instruction and were able to introduce our code of ethics—called “Our Approach to Instruction”—in January 2019.

For each course that visits the Rubenstein Library, we often have only one class session to reach all of the students as a group. With such a limited amount of time to make an impression, our code of ethics needed to state our values up-front and clearly, and in a way that demonstrated a commitment to centering students.

At the heart of “Our Approach to Instruction” is a recognition of both the academic knowledge and lived experiences students bring to our classrooms, as these inform and shape their understanding of and emotional reactions to history and primary sources. For this reason, our code of ethics is intended to be used in all classes, not just those with obviously uncomfortable or upsetting material.

It’s been a pleasant surprise to see widespread support for our code of ethics. During instruction sessions, we’ve observed students absorbing and applying it through the questions they ask and the interpretations they bring to the materials in front of them. Faculty members have reinforced its messages over the course of their students’ interactions with primary sources. Instruction librarians across the country have gotten in touch via email and social media with questions and suggestions, as well as the news that they’ve adapted this approach in their own instruction sessions.

We’ve brought the code of ethics along with us as we’ve shifted into online or asynchronous teaching for the 2020-2021 academic year. With our time “in front of” students further limited, our code of ethics has helped us to quickly establish a shared foundation for exploration and discussion. Even our new instruction modules—lesson plans incorporating digitized Rubenstein Library materials that provide an alternative to face-to-face instruction sessions—incorporate the code of ethics. A case in point: the Exploring the Chanticleer module, in which students might encounter offensive images in Duke’s yearbook. Or The Eugenics in North Carolina module, which introduces students to this still-contested and upsetting chapter in North Carolina’s history.

When the Rubenstein Library’s instructors created “Our Approach to Instruction,” we did so with the understanding that it would be a living document, open to frequent reassessment and revision. We commit to keeping it a central and evolving part of our teaching toolkit. And we encourage you to share your thoughts about it with us!

Global Health Humement Project & World AIDS Day Event

When: Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Time: 3:00 – 5:00 p.m., reception to follow
Where: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room (room 153) of the Rubenstein Library

This semester, Global Health Professor Kearsley Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives class is tackling a new project using Rubenstein Library collections. Working with poet and writer Kelley Swain, students are exploring the Maria de Bruyn Papers, a rich collection of global health materials related to de Bruyn’s work as a medical anthropologist globally addressing HIV/AIDS.

Students in Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives explore the de Bruyn papers.
Students in Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives explore the de Bruyn papers.

Students are delving into the de Bruyn papers as they work with Kelley Swain and learn more about the Humement project, based on the work of artist Tom Phillips, and apply this to their class. You can find details about their work in a recent DGHI newsletter. (A very important note: Original materials were not altered. Students spent an afternoon selecting original documents to scan and reproduce for their projects.)

In conjunction with the work of Professor Stewart’s class, the History of Medicine Collections is co-sponsoring an event with the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Health Humanities Lab, and the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & the History of Medicine to recognize World AIDS Day. The event will be held on Wednesday, November 30, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. with a reception to follow, held in Room 153, the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room of the Rubenstein Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Speakers will include Maria de Bruyn, Alicia Diggs of North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN), poet and writer Kelley Swain, and students from Professor Stewart’s HIV/AIDS Narratives class.

An exhibit in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room will highlight a small sample of what can be found in the Maria de Bruyn papers. In addition, students in Professor Stewart’s class will be showcasing their work on the Student Wall in Perkins Library in December and January.

Instruction Round-Up!

Dr. Ara Tourian and students
Dr. Ara Tourian presenting at Anatomy Day

This was another busy semester for Rubenstein librarians, who taught or co-taught more than 70 classes between September and early December! The classes ranged widely in subject, from feminist comics to medical history.

One exciting event, nicknamed “Anatomy Day,” brought 100 medical students to the Gothic Reading Room to investigate historical anatomical atlases and other books and manuscripts from the History of Medicine Collections. Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections, led a team of Rubenstein librarians in presenting these treasures to the students.

Rachel Ingold and students
Rachel Ingold, Curator of the History of Medicine Collections

A few of the Duke classes that met in the Rubenstein Library this past semester are:

  • Beyond Wonder Women: Comic and Graphic Novel Feminisms
  • History of Photography, 1839 to the Present
  • Documentary Photography and the Southern Culture Landscape
  • Early Soviet Culture 1917-1934
  • American Slavery/Emancipation
  • Accelerated Intermediate Italian
  • On the Boundaries of Medicine
  • The Physician in History
  • Hidden Children
  • Dante and the Afterlife of the Book

We also hosted classes from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

The Rubenstein staff offers a vast array of class instruction and support options. Please contact us to learn more about what the Rubenstein staff can do for your class!