Monthly Archive for April, 2012

Producing the “Freedom’s Teacher” Enhanced E-Book

Many thanks to our publishing colleagues who sent positive comments and thoughtful questions in response to our announcement of the enhanced e-book version of Freedom’s Teacher:  The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron.  In this blog post, I’d like to review briefly some of the aspects of the enhanced e-book editorial and production process that were new to us.  (This overview is cross-posted on the Association of American University Presses Digital Digest blog.)

Author’s voice, multiplied.  At our invitation, the author provided extended captions for 19 of the enhancements, or 20% of the total.  The author’s voice now appears in the book in three layers: (1) in the audio, in the role of interviewer; (2) in the finished biographical narrative; (3) in the extended captions, which might be said to mediate between the first two.  She is slightly embarrassed when she hears her own voice in the audio; nevertheless, she is interested in the ways in which the enhanced e-book reveals the historian’s research process to readers, especially students of history.  One enhancement is a map, based on her notes from reviewing the 1910 census, on which she has marked the race of Clark’s neighbors in Charleston.  The map connects the raw census data with the finished narrative, in which the author states that Clark’s was a mixed-race neighborhood.  We toyed with a possible headline, “Historian at Work,” which we did not include but which might describe all of the enhancements.

Digitization.  Ideally the author’s materials would become a digital archive at a collaborating institution during production of the book.  However, in this demonstration project, the author had not yet decided where to donate her research materials, including 13 taped interviews.  Making do with the situation, we borrowed her stack of cassette tapes and digitized them in the media lab at UNC’s undergraduate library.  This took about 20 hours of staff time, spread over a couple of weeks, that we were able to justify under the umbrella of the Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project.

Publisher-archive partnership.  Septima Clark’s papers are housed at the Avery Center for African American Research and Culture at the College of Charleston.  Recognizing the potential of the enhanced e-book to bring  the Center’s collections to the attention of a wider audience, the archivists granted permission for use of the materials that the author had identified and, with the support of the college’s Lowcountry Digital Library, digitized them.  The Center’s archivists were enthusiastic partners and even rediscovered in their holdings an interview with Clark that the author had not previously heard.  The collaboration is formally acknowledged on the title page of the enhanced e-book, and links to the Center’s website are included in the captions.

Technology.  The technology that we used was fairly simple; new standards from Barnes & Noble and Amazon allowed us to avoid having to use or write special software.  Starting with an Epub file, we inserted outbound links in the form of DOIs and URLs.  We inserted new content in an appendix and created internal navigation via HTML links inserted by hand; the audio content was in MP3 form.

Audio excerpts.  Cutting the excerpts from the long interviews took only a few hours.  However, choosing and marking the excerpts to be cut took another several hours.  We did it the old-fashioned way, by reviewing transcripts together with the author, who bracketed chosen passages with a pencil.  Once all the MP3 audio files were included in the Epub file, some work had to be done to even out the sound volume.  The very best interview with Clark is, ironically, the one with the most ambient noise; perhaps more experienced sound engineers could have removed some of it.

Ellipsis.  In a couple of cases, the transcripts of interview excerpts included ellipsis points where the author had asked that we skip a digression in the conversation.   However, at first the digitally spliced-together audio did not indicate an ellipsis; this is a minor point, but it seemed to cross a line of scholarly integrity.  Playing around with “Garage Band,” a program that comes automatically loaded into a Mac laptop, we devised a swift clock-ticking sound to indicate the ellipsis.  We hope that people will know instinctively what it is when they hear it. Continue reading ‘Producing the “Freedom’s Teacher” Enhanced E-Book’

On This Day: The Los Angeles Riots of 1992

On April 29, 1992—only twenty years ago today—Los Angeles saw the beginning of what would become a nearly week-long riot—the worst the city had seen since the 1965 Watts riots left 38 dead.

The 1992 riot—which left 58 individuals dead, more than 2,000 injured, 16,000 arrested, and $1 billion in property damage—was a response to the jury’s verdict in the case surrounding the controversial beating of Rodney King.

King, who had been drinking, engaged in a high-speed chase with Los Angeles police on the night of March 3, 1991. An amateur cameraman captured a video which showed four police officers beating, clubbing, and kicking King for over a minute while other officers watched; the video was shown repeatedly on television and came to symbolize racism and police brutality. The officers argued that they had acted in self-defense against an allegedly aggressive Rodney King.

On April 29, a jury (with no black jurors) acquitted the four white officers accused of beating King. The verdict immediately sparked anger and violence, including fires, looting, and beatings.

Los Angeles’s mayor, Tom Bradley, expressed concern over the verdict: “Today the system failed us. Today the jury told the world what we all saw with our own eyes wasn’t a crime … The jury’s verdict will never outlive the images of the savage beating.”

In the wake of widespread violence, a curfew was imposed and numerous arrests were made. Many rioters who were arrested were later released when police officers were unable to identify individuals within the large crowds brought in. The National Guard eventually restored order; schools and businesses reopened in early May.

President Bush toured the destruction several days later; members of both political parties urged him to improve economic conditions for poor African Americans.

A year after the riot, the four previously acquitted officers went to trial for a second time, facing federal charges of violating King’s civil rights. Two were found guilty and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in jail; two were cleared. Each of the four either quit or was fired from the LAPD.

King was eventually awarded $3.8 million in damages. He has since faced several arrests and continues to battle alcoholism. His beating, the officers’ trials, and the days-long riot stand today as a reminder that racial violence is still very much a part of America’s story—and his oft-repeated question “Can’t we all get along?” still rings true, twenty years later.

For more information, check out this BBC story.

James Johnson Jr. and Walter Farrell Jr.’s essay “The Fire This Time: The Genesis of the Los Angeles Rebellion of 1992”—found in the edited volume Race, Poverty, and American Cities (UNC Press 1996)—explores the underlying causes of the uprising.

The Associated Press recently published a short news video about the events: click here.

Click here to read excerpts from President Bush’s speech during the LA riots.

For an interesting opinion about the (lack of) literature concerning the 1992 riots, check out David Ulin’s column in the Los Angeles Times.

Rodney King, in conjunction with Lawrence Spagnola, recently published a memoir about the event: The Riot Within: My Journey from Rebellion to Redemption. For information on his book tour, click here.

Remembering Barbara Johns and the Students of Moton High School

On April 23, 1951—61 years ago today—16-year-old Barbara Johns organized what would become a ten-day strike by African American students protesting against decrepit segregated school facilities.

Farmville, a rural Virginia town, provided a large and well-equipped school for white students while sending African American students to the poorly equipped and exceedingly overcrowded Moton High School—a school which “solved” its overcrowding problem by building shacks made of plywood and tarpaper to house additional students.

Johns, frustrated by the town’s failure to follow through on building a new school, convinced all 450 students to walk out until construction began on a new school building.

This protest set into motion more than the students had originally hoped for. Thurgood Marshall and other NAACP lawyers convinced the students that, rather than requesting a new school, they should demand that the court strike down Virginia’s segregation laws. And, as such, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County was born, filed in the name of Dorothy Davis, a ninth-grade student at Moton.

After the federal district court upheld segregation, the NAACP appealed to the United States Supreme Court. Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County became one of the five cases combined into Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court finally ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.

Today, the strike is commemorated by the Robert Russa Moton Museum, housed in the former high school building.

To learn more about the original Farmville walkout, and to view photographs, click here and here.

To view documents associated with Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, click here.

To view documents associated with Brown v. Board of Education, click here.

To learn more about the long struggle for integrated education in Prince Edward County, check out Jill Titus’ Brown’s Battleground: Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County (UNC Press 2011).

Remembering Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education

On April 20, 1971—41 years ago today—the Supreme Court in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education upheld busing programs designed to speed racial integration.

Coming 17 years after the Supreme Court’s milestone ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the case represented the culmination of years of NAACP litigation aimed at securing desegregation and equal opportunity.

Then the 43rd largest school system in the United States, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system first began to implement court-approved desegregation in 1965 through geographic zoning. However, the system still allowed for voluntary student transfers, and schools remained largely segregated.

The NAACP brought suit against the school board in 1968, and the case made its way through a federal court of appeals to the Supreme Court by late 1970. Each court upheld busing.

In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court acknowledged the challenges school officials faced:

Over the 16 years since Brown II, many difficulties were encountered in the basic constitutional requirement that the State not discriminate between public school children on the basis of their race. Nothing in our national experience prior to 1955 prepared anyone for dealing with changes and adjustments of the magnitude and complexity encountered since then. Deliberate resistance of some of the Court’s mandates has impeded the good faith efforts of others to bring school systems into compliance.

But, the Court stated, changes were still due:

The objective today remains to eliminate from the public schools all vestiges of state-imposed segregation. Segregation was the evil struck down by Brown I as contrary to the equal protection guarantees of the Constitution. That was the violation sought to be corrected by the remedial measures of Brown II

Independent of student assignment, where it is possible to identify a “white school” or a “Negro school” simply by reference to the racial composition of teachers and staff, the quality of school buildings and equipment, or the organization of sports facilities, a prima facie case of violation of substantive constitutional rights under the Equal Protection Clause is shown. Continue reading ‘Remembering Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education’

From the Archives: Helping Farmers Help Themselves

This post is the fourth in a series from the UNC Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, where more than 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement, from four area institutions, are in the process of being digitized.  For more on this digitization project, click here.

In November 1962 Frank Porter Graham gave a speech about the National Sharecroppers’ Fund (NSF). He spoke of the NSF’s vision of providing agricultural workers with information about their legal rights and facilitating their access to government programs and loans:

The National Sharecroppers Fund has long sought to help agricultural workers help themselves to know their rights under the laws and programs of the Government, and to win more equal rights as workers and as citizens of our common country.

This speech is from the Southern Historical Collection’s Frank Porter Graham Papers—a portion of which was recently digitized as part of the multi-institutional grant project Content, Context, and Capacity (CCC).

A branch of the NSF evolved into what is now the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI), headquartered in Pittsboro, N.C. RAFI continues the work outlined by Graham half a century ago. Recent events offer a reminder that this work is as vital as ever.

Continue reading ‘From the Archives: Helping Farmers Help Themselves’

Celebrating Freedom’s Teacher, the Enhanced E-book

Two weeks ago, we announced the publication of a special enhanced e-book version of Freedom’s Teacher: The life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron (click here). Produced in collaboration with the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston, the enhanced e-book features nearly 100 primary-source items, including photographs, documents, letters, newspaper clippings, and 60 audio excerpts from oral history interviews with 15 individuals—including Clark herself—each embedded in the narrative where it will be most meaningful. (See the bottom of this post for a video demonstration).

This week, the project team, the author, and professors and scholars of history celebrated the release of this exciting new product—a scholarly work which truly redefines the concept of the “talking book.” Here are a few informal photos from the event at The Crunkelton on West Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

Left to right: UNC Press digital production specialist Thomas Elrod, LCRM project assistant Alison Shay, “Freedom’s Teacher” author Katherine Mellen Charron, and LCRM project director Sylvia Miller.

Adriane Lentz-Smith, Duke University’s Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History, poses with an enlarged version of the book cover.

Author Katherine Charron shows the enhanced e-book on an iPad to Duke University's Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History Adriane Lentz-Smith. Liz Lundeen, a PhD student of history at UNC Chapel Hill, watches.

A video demonstration of the enhanced e-book.


Browsable and searchable from anywhere in the text, the enhancements include transcripts, additional commentary from the author, and outbound links to online archives. The enhanced e-book is available for the Barnes & Noble Nook and the iPhone and iPad via Amazon’s Kindle app.

Check back for upcoming posts about the creation process, from the point of view of the author and project staff.

On This Day: The Letter from Birmingham Jail

On April 16th, 1963—49 years ago today—the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote his famous letter from Birmingham Jail, justifying his presence in Birmingham and describing the importance of nonviolent direct action protest for achieving social justice.

King and others involved in organizing the Birmingham Campaign against segregation, were arrested for violating a court injunction prohibiting public civil rights demonstrations. During his eight-day imprisonment, King composed a response to local white religious leaders’ criticisms of the campaign. Written in several pieces during the week, the letter was compiled in full by King’s lawyers on April 16, 1962.

In his long, hand-written letter, King laid out the events that led to his arrest before launching into a discussion of the importance of improving equality in all regions and communities in America:

[…] I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

He detailed the importance of nonviolent direct action (such as sit-ins and marches) in forcing communities to address important issues:

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks to so dramatize the issue that it may no longer be ignored.

Today, King’s letter is read by individuals across the country and world, so it may be difficult to imagine that, at the time, King was unsure what effect this nearly 7,000-word letter would have:

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

Now considered a classic work and reprinted in various anthologies, the letter was first published in the national press on May 19, 1963. King revised the letter one year later for inclusion in his memoir Why We Can’t Wait.

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

This summary from the Encyclopedia of Alabama provides great context.

For more background information, click here.

Check out Glen Eskew’s But for Birmingham for more information on Birmingham’s local civil rights protests.

Remembering the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

During the weekend of April 15-17, 1960—52 years ago today—the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded during a gathering of some 300 students at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC.

Eminent civil rights activist Ella Baker invited African American college students who had participated in the early 1960 sit-ins to the gathering, with the intention of forming a locally based, student-run organization. Vanderbilt University theology student James Lawson emerged as one leader, drafting the initial organizational Statement of Purpose, which read, in part:

We affirm the philosophical or religious ideal of nonviolence as the foundation of our purpose, the presupposition of our faith, and the manner of our action. Nonviolence as it grows from Judaic-Christian tradition seeks a social order of justice permeated by love. Integration of human endeavor represents the crucial first step toward such a society.


By appealing to conscience and standing on the moral nature of human existence, nonviolence nurtures the atmosphere in which reconciliation and justice become actual possibilities.

By May 1960, the group became a permanent organization, with Fisk University student Marion Barry as the elected chairman. The first official meeting was held in Atlanta May 13-14.

The next few years were busy ones for SNCC, as student activists became deeply involved in the freedom rides, the Albany Movement, the 1963 March on Washington, and the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Issues addressed ranged from desegregation of public facilities to racial problems in education.

After Stokely Carmichael—who would soon be known for his promotion of “black power”— was elected chairman in 1966, the group became increasingly divided over questions of nonviolence and interracial cooperation. By the 1970s, SNCC had disintegrated; however, in its decade-long life, the Committee—made up of young people from across the country—made lasting contributions to the fight against segregation and discrimination.

SNCC’s contributions are remembered and honored today through the SNCC Legacy Project and its strategies of nonviolent direct action continue to be used in such modern-day movements as the 99% Spring Movement.

For more information, and to read the full text of the original Statement of Purpose, click here.

For a detailed summary of SNCC’s history and work, click here.

To hear one SNCC veteran’s stories, click here.

Click here for activist, writer, and educator Sue Thrasher’s thoughts about SNCC, written during the 50th anniversary conference two years ago.

For more about SNCC, check out Wesley Hogan’s Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC’s Dream for a New America (UNC Press 2007).

For more about Ella Baker, check out Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement (UNC Press 2005).

Remembering Jackie Robinson

On April 15th, 1947—65 years ago today—Jackie Robinson integrated the major leagues when he played in his first baseball game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This event had been a long time in the making: Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey intentionally picked Robinson to break the color line because of his strong athletic record and his character. Born in Georgia in 1919, Robinson attended UCLA and was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army. He played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro National League before moving up to the Dodgers.

His presence in the major leagues was initially greeted with insults from some opponents, a rumored strike by the St. Louis Cardinals (this never came to pass), and even hostility from some of his own teammates. However, Robinson stuck with it, established himself as a talented athlete, and developed close relationships with many of his teammates. He spent ten seasons with the Dodgers—six of which resulted in National League Pennants. He was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1949.

Robinson’s contributions reached beyond sports; he was active in national campaigns against drug addiction—from which his son, Jackie Jr., a Vietnam veteran, recovered before being killed in 1971 in a car accident.

Robinson produced an autobiography, I Never Had It Made, before his death. He also starred as himself in the feature film The Jackie Robinson Story, released in 1950.

Numerous biographies and studies exist, including Jules Tygiel’s Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy (Oxford University Press 1983).

For more about Robinson’s life and accomplishments, check out his obituary from the New York Times.

The Library of Congress’s website also provides a great summary, as well as photographs and documents: click here.

On This Day: The Civil Rights Act of 1968

On April 11, 1968—44 years ago today—President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1968, expanding on earlier civil rights legislation through its provisions for equal housing.

Signed only seven days after the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was shot to death, the Act—which also included an “Indian Bill of Rights” to extend protections to Native Americans—provides for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin.

In his remarks before signing the bill, Johnson decried King’s assassination as well as “the looting and the burning that defiles our democracy.” He celebrated the victories of earlier legislation, but proclaimed that there was more to be done, and that it was now the time for action:

Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again.

It proclaims that fair housing for all—all human beings who live in this country—is now a part of the American way of life.

We all know that the roots of injustice run deep. But violence cannot redress a solitary wrong or remedy a single unfairness […]

So, I would appeal to my fellow Americans by saying, the only real road to progress for free people is through the process of law and that is the road that America will travel […]

This afternoon, as we gather here in this historic room in the White House, I think we can all take some heart that democracy’s work is being done. In the Civil Rights Act of 1968 America does move forward and the bell of freedom rings out a little louder.

The Civil Rights Act of 1968 thus significantly expanded on previous civil rights legislation and marked a huge step in eliminating the discrimination in one of the most basic elements of life: finding a home.

To read the full text of the Title VIII, the Fair Housing Act, click here.

To read the full text of President Johnson’s remarks, click here.

To see a photograph of Johnson signing the Act, click here.

Click here to listen to audio recordings from conversations between President Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

For a comprehensive list of civil rights legislation, click here.