Author Archive for Mike Millner

The LCRM Project (2008-2012)

Looking back on the Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project four years after it ended in December 2012, one is struck by the number of outcomes it generated, both public achievements and more invisible, behind-the-scenes developments. The complexity of the collaboration and its experimental nature might have made the results harder to see in their totality, although its influence continues. The occasion of the final post before archiving of the blog prompts a brief summary of the work produced under a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which ran from 2008 through 2012 (three years plus a two-year renewal).

Public-Facing Achievements

    Following are the public-facing achievements:

  1. SOHP conference. An influential conference organized by Professor Jacqueline Hall and the Southern Oral History Program, “The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories,” which took place from April 2 to 4, 2009. The conference brought together many scholars working to redefine and expand the study of the civil rights movement.
  2. CCR conferences. Two important conferences offered by the Center for Civil Rights, which were partially funded by the grant: “Looking to the Future: Legal and Policy Options for Racially Integrated Education in the South and the Nation” (April 2, 2009) and “The Unfinished Work: Advancing New Strategies in the Struggle for Civil Rights” (November 1, 2010).
  3. An experimental online collection of civil rights scholarship that was freely available to the public for 15 months. It demonstrated the multifaceted potential of interactivity in scholarly publishing and the value of aggregating university press monographs online, a new phenomenon at the time. Before building our own platform, we evaluated about a dozen other tools and platforms, from commercial (BePress, MarkLogic, etc.) to nonprofit (HighWire, JSTOR, OJS, etc.). Some notable features:The content was full-text searchable.
    • Multiple genres of content were included (books, articles, papers, and reports).
    • Bibliographies were activated with DOI links.
    • A scholarly design feature that was admired by other publishers was the page-turn icon that unobtrustively marked the page breaks in the original books, for citation purposes.
    • Registered users could add comments, and this function was used in five university courses. In addition, comments contributed by archivists that included outbound links inspired the LCRM Project’s later focus on enhanced e-books connected to archival materials (“portal books,” see below).
  4. A series of reprints of archival slave narratives and other compelling nineteenth-century texts, published under a new imprint called DocSouth Books, named for the Library’s Documenting the American South online program. DocSouth books are newly typeset for readability but otherwise unaltered from the original publications, with the original page numbers preserved. One of the first books chosen for the program was Twelve Years a Slave, which we subsequently were pleased to find out was soon to be made into a movie.
  5. Multimedia enhanced/portal e-books, which demonstrated how current e-book publishing can include multimedia primary source materials and link to online archives. (Those with outbound links we dubbed portal books.) The books balanced embedded audio and video interview excerpts and documents with outbound links to full collections, pioneering a new collaborative way for publishers and archives to collaborate, enliven history scholarship, and activate hidden collections.
    • Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues by William Ferris included the author’s original video recordings of blues artists.
    • Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron included documents, audio interviews, and outbound links to collections at UNC and the Avery Center in Charleston.
    • Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice by Mario T. García and Sal Castro included video interviews and documents.
    • Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South 1865-1960 by Rebecca Sharpless contained 100 pages of primary-source documents.
  6. The LCRM blog, to which all the collaborating partners contributed. The category “This Day in Civil Rights History,” researched and written by Allie Shay at UNC Press, was especially popular, while posts about enhanced e-books, and how to produce them, were read the most widely over time.

Process-Oriented Results
Following are some of the less visible, behind-the-scenes results:

  1. Ingest interface. The online platform, which we called Voice in honor of its commenting functionality, was built on Open Source software. Its back-end content management and ingesting tools were as usable and organized as the public-facing interface. Content could be made Open Access or restricted. The code is available on GitHub under the name of Constabaris. https://github.com/UNC-Libraries/Constabaris
  2. XML book production. One of the reasons for the usability of the online collection was the excellent TEI XML schema devised for scholarly books by the Press-Library collaborative production team. It is available through the TEI Scholarly Publishing Special Interest Group (SIG).
  3. Library-press publishing workflows. In addition to the smooth process for ingesting books in the online pilot as described above in item 1, DocSouth Books, which are available as e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks, made use of a new XML-to-typesetting automated tool developed by a vendor called CodeMantra. This Library-Press publishing workflow was formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties; this new publishing partnership helped to inspire a new program in Publishing Services at the Press and could serve as a model for other library-press publishing collaborations.
  4. Digital oral histories. The SOHP developed a new direct-to-digital interviewing process, which involved not only employing new digital voice recorders but also a new process for applying metadata (including latitude-longitude pairs and field notes) and working with archivists to ingest interviews into the Library’s collection more efficiently.
  5. Mapping of oral histories. The SOHP worked with the Digital Humanities Lab to map a growing set of interviews (50 by the end of the grant period), creating a model project, “The Long Women’s Movement,” for the new DHPress toolkit then in development.
  6. Enhanced e-book workflow. The UNC Press team produced documentation for production of enhanced e-books, including an XML-Early workflow and author guidelines. Several other university presses consulted the LCRM team for information on how to produce enhanced e-books.
  7. Item-level digitization at the Library. The Library developed a new on-demand digitization process, which allows partial digitization of collections to the folder level; newly digitized finding aids highlight the materials that are available online. This system also makes it more efficient to connect e-books with primary-source materials.
  8. Extended LCRM digitization project. The project inspired a subsequent Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) digitization project of North Carolina civil rights materials, in which 38 collections from UNC, Duke, NCCU, and NCSU were digitized. In all, 360,252 documents were digitized by this impressive collaboration.

Following are some interesting numbers that were compiled during the final months of the LCRM Project:

528
total number of scholars, legal experts, educators and activists who attended SOHP and CCR conferences

456
posts in the LCRM Project blog as of October 2012

5,981
visits to the blog in November 2012, a 473% increase in visits over November 2011 (5981 in 2012 compared with 1043 in 2011), and a 741% increase over November 2010 (which had only 711).

388
faculty (272) and librarians (116) who completed the 30-page, 10-part survey that helped us develop a working prototype of the “Voice” publishing platform

243
new LCRM oral-history interviews recorded, with 50 more in the pipeline

69
UNC Press books included in the online pilot collection

585
UNC Press books converted to TEI XML as a result of the workflow established by the LCRM Project; 152 directly Mellon-funded

816
registered users and 607 annotations at the close of the online pilot’s 15-month test period (July 15, 2011)

38,000
images from 18 LCRM-related document collections that were digitized at the Library, prompted by content in the online pilot

16
slave narratives and other nineteenth-century texts published in the DocSouth Books series by December 2012 (more have been published since)

95
enhancements to Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron, including 60 excerpts from interviews with 15 different individuals

Most-Viewed Posts in This Blog
Following are the most-viewed blog posts in the history of the blog:

  1. “Glenn Beck to Reclaim Civil Rights Movement,” by Seth Kotch (9439 pageviews; 6576 unique pageviews; 1:17 average time on page)—published August 27, 2010.
  2. “SNCC’s 50th: Thoughts from Sue Thrasher” (1886 pageviews; 1569 unique pageviews; 3:02 average time on page)—published May 10, 2010.
  3. “Enhanced E-books and Portal Books,” by Project Director Sylvia Miller (638 pageviews; 530 unique pageviws; 3:46 average time on page)—published August 5, 2011.

Looking Forward
Interestingly, many of the challenges and opportunities that the LCRM Project collaborators recognized during the grant period are still very much alive and pertinent to current debates around the role of libraries and university presses in scholarly communications. While the need to aggregate university-press monographs online was met by both ProjectMuse and JSTOR, hidden primary-source collections still need to be made available and discoverable, while the increasingly multimodal work of scholars still needs versatile publishing solutions.

At the close of the grant, we reported in conclusion as follows:
“The ways in which all three project partners reach their audiences have undergone significant transformation since the start of the LCRM Project. The Mellon Foundation’s generous support over five years’ time has allowed us not only to produce some new and exciting demonstrations and prototypes but in so doing, to transform our internal workflow processes in innovative and lasting ways. We have become more technologically adept, and more flexible, with iterative change now a norm that we embrace. Last but not least, we have established relationships and deepened connections among our organizations and the work that we do. All three project partners recognize that our missions are ultimately similar, to share with scholars, students, and the general public the treasures of history and the stories they tell, via meaningful and useful curation, interpretation, and presentation—all of which might fit an evolving definition of publishing. Based on our experience with the LCRM Project, we are confident that by connecting and integrating our work both conceptually and concretely, we will continue to innovate and produce new forms of scholarly communication that will surprise and engage our audiences in new ways for many years to come.”

Brief Acknowledgments
Principal Investigators. The Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement Project was inspired by Professor Jacquelyn Hall’s essay, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” in which Hall argued that the civil rights movement began in the late 1930s and continued well past the 1960s. Kate Torrey, then-director of the University of North Carolina Press, initiated discussions with Hall and the Mellon Foundation. The other two original Principal Investigators in the collaboration were the late Julius Chambers, the director of UNC’s Center for Civil Rights, and Richard Szary, Associate University Librarian and director of the UNC Special Collections Library. (In the second phase of the project, the Center for Civil Rights was not an official partner on the grant, though the online collection continued to feature their important work.) Toward the end of the project, Jacqueline Hall passed the SOHP baton to Professor Della Pollock, and Kate Torrey passed the Press baton to John Sherer.

Project Staff. Sylvia K. Miller, Project Director, guided the project through its exploratory, implementation, and renewal phases until it closed in 2012. Seth Koch led the SOHP’s contributions as Coordinator of Digital Oral History Initiatives. The Voice online platform was programmed almost single-handedly by Adam Constabaris; Brad Scott prepared the requirements document, and Jeremy Buenviaje was the designer. TJ Ward took over for Adam following the online launch to maintain and upgrade the platform. Kenneth Reed, Digital Production Specialist, devised the XML and metadata schema, the production workflow, and the ingestion interface for the Voice platform; Tom Elrod, his successor in that position, continued to develop new e-workflows for the Press. Russ Damian and Allison Shay were the versatile and able editorial assistants for the project.

Many others too numerous to name at each collaborating campus unit contributed their valuable time and expertise to make the project a success.

   – Sylvia Miller

Faithful Slaves and Black Confederates, pt. 4

By Angelina Ray Johnston and Robinson Wise
[This is the fourth of 4 installments of an essay that was originally published here.]

Aunt Pallas

Aunt Pallas

On December 8, 2012, almost a century after the first “Old Slaves’ Reunion” hosted by Charles Hunter, about 250 people gathered in Monroe, North Carolina, to dedicate a monument to ten black men who assisted the Confederate Army. Located on the grounds of the county courthouse, the granite marker stands in front of Union County’s century-old Confederate monument. Speakers at the dedication included members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Military Order of the Stars and Bars, the Order of the Confederate Rose, the Order of the Black Rose, and Children of the Confederacy. Also in the crowd was Mattie Rice, the 90-year-old daughter of one of the men memorialized on the marker. Born in the 1920s when her father was elderly, Rice is one of the last remaining direct descendants of a former slave alive today.10

The monument is the first of its kind in the country. African Americans who labored, whether coerced or not, in the Confederate ranks during the Civil War were not well documented. The ten black men honored in Monroe were exceptional and had received small pensions from the state of North Carolina. During the war, they had cooked, cleaned, and built fortifications. That they received Confederate pensions is notable, but it is also notable that they received their pensions much later than did white Confederate veterans. Most of the men were in poor health and at the very end of their lives when North Carolina finally agreed to provide pensions to blacks who served in the war. The marker reads: “In Memory Of Union County’s Confederate Pensioners Of Color” and lists the men’s names, noting that one was a free man and the rest were slaves. It concludes: “In Honor Of Courage & Service By All African-Americans During The War Between the States (1861-65).”

The monument seemingly has different meanings for the descendants of the black men honored by it and for the whites who supported its erection. For the descendants, the monument is a modest recognition of their ancestors’ lives. When interviewed about the marker, Jackie Barrett-Washington, great-granddaughter of one of the slaves, responded, “There’s always been markers of white men who served. Now, North Carolina is distinguishing itself by saying there were people of color who were a part of this, too.” For whites, it is an enduring monument to the faithfulness of slaves to their owners and their contribution to the Confederacy. Joel Fesperman, commander of an Albemarle SCV camp, used the occasion to emphasize the common purpose that united the black men and their masters during the war and the shared allegiance that unites blacks and whites today: “We are all brothers and sisters under one flag.” Michael Givens, the SCV commander in chief, used the ceremony as the pretext to induct Aaron Perry, the great-grandson of one of the 10 men commemorated on the monument, into the SCV.11

The juxtaposition of the monument to the black Confederate pensioners and the monument to Confederate soldiers in Monroe, North Carolina is suggestive of the difficulty that Southerners have had acknowledging the historical legacy of slavery. While the monuments to the bravery and steadfastness of Confederate soldiers clutter the Southern landscape, white Southerners studiously avoided acknowledging the cruelty and exploitation inherent in slavery and instead dwelled on the love and fidelity of the mammy and faithful slave figures. Monuments to black mammies and faithful slaves accentuated the purported reciprocal bonds of obligation and affection between them and their white owners and in turn mask slavery’s brutality.

10. Bell, Adam. “Monroe Ceremony Honors Slaves who Served in the Confederate Army,” Charlotte Observer, December 6, 2012
11. Ibid.

“Faithful Slaves” and Black Confederates, Pt. 3

By Angelina Ray Johnston and Robinson Wise
[This is the third of 4 installments of an essay that was originally published here.]

Although African Americans lobbied strenuously against any national monument to “mammies,” some African Americans sought to exploit whites’ professed affection for “faithful slaves” and “mammies” to advance black freedom and improve race relations. In North Carolina, Charles N. Hunter (1852-1931) was a tireless champion of black educational opportunities and economic progress even while he also promoted an annual ceremony to commemorate the faithful service of former slaves to their masters. Born a slave, Hunter was the son of a slave artisan and the property of William Dallas Haywood, a member of a prominent Raleigh family. Hunter’s first job was with the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust in Raleigh. After that venture failed in 1874, he began teaching, a profession with which he was associated for the rest of his life. Over the years he taught in schools across the state, and from 1910 to 1918 he served as principal of the Berry O’Kelly School, a black high school on the outskirts of Raleigh. During his tenure, the Baltimore Manufacturer’s Record acclaimed the school as the “finest and most practical rural training school in the entire South.”7

Hunter was simultaneously outspoken and cautious in his demands for racial justice. He was adamant that blacks deserved equal rights but advocated congenial race relations. While he urged blacks to build on longstanding relationships with white Southern elites (aka former slaveholders) he beseeched white elites to fulfill their promises to be the “black man’s best friend.” As one of the founders in 1879 of the annual Negro State Fair, Hunter sought opportunities to promote the interracial amity that was conspicuously absent at the dawn of the twentieth century. Although Hunter, himself a former slave, had no illusions about the slave experience, he did hold that one consequence of slavery had been that blacks and whites had lived together on close terms. Since emancipation, almost all familiarity between blacks and whites had dissolved, and now was replaced by animosity and suspicion.

In 1913, in his capacity as an officer of the Negro State Fair and as a member of the Exslaves’ Association of North Carolina, Hunter set out to revive the former bonds of affection between masters and slaves by organizing and publicizing a reunion of former slaves and their masters during the fair. Former slaveowners contributed funds to pay for the transportation of their aged former slaves to Raleigh and local white women helped prepare and serve a dinner to the former slaves. The banquet was accompanied by speeches, songs, and reminiscences from both former slave masters and slaves. Heartened by his Old Slaves’ Reunion and Dinner, Hunter proclaimed that “Today the Negro’s heart beats as one with his former owners.” Hunter would continue to promote the slave reunion until his death in 1931.8

 

Both during his lifetime and since, some observers viewed Hunter’s ideas about the ties of affection between slaves and masters as naive at best, craven at worst. Yet Hunter’s larger goal was not to perpetuate nostalgia about slavery, but rather to exploit the former familiarity between some whites and their former slaves to enlighten whites in general about black educational, economic, and religious progress since emancipation. Hunter, in sum, sought to strengthen tenuous bonds across the racial line in order to ease the climate of distrust that soured all contact between blacks and whites. He fully understood the obstacles in his path, and although he expressed satisfaction with the slave reunions that he hosted, he publicly acknowledged late in his life that they had failed to substantively improve race relations.9

7. Manufacturer’s Record, April 12, 1917; on Hunter, see John Haley, Charles N. Hunter and Race Relations in North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987).
8. Haley, John. Charles N. Hunter and Race Relations in North Carolina, 176-77; Raleigh Times, December 22, 1913; Fayetteville Observer, January 31, 1927.
9. For more information about Charles N. Hunter’s heritage visit “Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1850s-1932 and undated,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Completion of Duke’s CCC Still Image Digitization, Pt. 3

Duke University Libraries recently completed still image digitization for their contributions to the Content, Context, and Capacity (CCC) Project. Our last post highlighted the Basil Lee Whitener Papers and the records of the Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes (Durham chapter). In this final post on Duke’s digitization activities for the CCC, we focus on the Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers, 1851-1980; the Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002; the Black Student Alliance records, 1969-2006; and the Department of African and African American Studies records, 1966-1981:

  • Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers, 1851-1980 and undated, bulk 1926-1965: In 1953, Rencher Harris became the first African-American to serve as a Durham city councilman. He was also the first African-American to serve on the Durham County Board of Education. Harris was a trailblazing local leader whose files speak to the varied issues that officials must address on a daily basis. Researchers will learn about racial inequalities in Durham County Schools, the intersection of race relations and health care at Lincoln Hospital where Harris was the Secretary for the Board of Trustees, the complexities of zoning under Jim Crow, and the planning of projects that still impact Durham today. Harris also documented his city council campaigns, meaning researchers can see how Harris’s strong get-out-the-vote efforts squared off against racist hyperbole espoused in anonymous newspaper advertisements.
  • Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002 (Available from Duke University Archives (in finding aids): : February 13, 1969 and the subsequent days became the single most significant event in the history of civil rights at Duke. Students from the Afro-American Society occupied the Allen Building, the home of Duke’s administration. While the occupiers remained peaceful, violence erupted outside of the Allen Building between police officers and supporters of the takeover. This collection documents the events that led up to the takeover as well as the tumultuous days during and after the event. Researchers will also find media coverage of the takeover and remembrances written many years later about the impact of the takeover on Duke and the larger civil rights movement.
  • Black Student Alliance records, 1969-2006: The Afro-American Society, which would later become the Black Student Alliance (BSA), formed in 1967 only four years after the first African-American undergraduates were enrolled at Duke. The organization has undergone two name changes since its inception, first becoming the Association of African Students, or The Association, and taking its current name of the Black Student Alliance in 1976. The records in this collection document the BSA’s on-campus activities, writings, and publications. The BSA served as a major advocate for recruiting more African-American students and faculty as well as for recognizing African-American culture in campus life. Their publications (i.e. The Talking Drum) and scrapbooks document African-American student life, especially in the 1990s and 2000s. Recent Duke Alumni will find a great deal of interest in this collection.
  • Department of African and African American Studies records, 1966-1981: Started in 1969 as the Black Studies Program, the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke has become an essential department for the academic life of the university. This collection documents the beginnings of the department under Walter Buford and William Turner. Researchers will find documentation of the challenges of starting any new academic program but they will also learn of the unique struggles that African-American Studies faced in the early 1970s when some questioned the validity of the field itself. This collection also contains evidence of the intellectual history of radical politics, especially in the 1970s.

Researchers will certainly find a great deal of material to analyze in the eight collections cited in these posts. It is the hope of the CCC staff that you will visit the finding aids of each collection and start exploring the varied perspectives, narratives, and memories that help to comprise the Long Civil Rights Movement.

Commemorating Faithful Slaves, Mammies, and Black Confederates, Pt. 2

By Angelina Ray Johnston and Robinson Wise

Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia,

Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia,

[This is the second of 4 installments of an essay that was originally published here.]

The “Faithful Slaves” monument in Mebane (see first installment of this essay) is just one example of the regional, even national, enthusiasm for commemorating “mammies” and “faithful slaves.” Perhaps the most striking manifestation of this impulse was a decades-long campaign to erect a monument to black “mammies” in Washington D. C. As early as 1904, members of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) began campaigning for a memorial to “faithful slaves,” and Southern congressmen took up the cause, unsuccessfully seeking federal funding for a monument in 1907 and 1912.2 A milestone in the UDC’s campaign to commemorate both the Confederacy and “faithful slaves” was the erection of the Confederate Monument in Arlington National Cemetery in 1914. Sculpted by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Confederate veteran and prominent sculptor, the imposing monument includes thirty-two life-sized reliefs, including a frieze depicting a loyal black slave accompanying his Confederate master into battle and another that portrays a departing Confederate soldier bidding farewell to his children, who cluster around an “old Negro mammy.” According to Hilary A. Herbert, who wrote a history of the monument in 1914, the monument depicted “the kindly relations that existed all over the South between the master and the slave – a story that can not be too often repeated to generations in which “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” survives and is still manufacturing false ideas as to the South and slavery in the ‘fifties.’ The astonishing fidelity of the slaves everywhere during the war to the wives and children of those who were absent in the army was convincing proof of the kindly relations between master and slave in the old South.”3

Even after the erection of the Confederate Monument at Arlington, UDC activists remained committed to a national monument dedicated to “mammies.” The value of such a monument was clear to its supporters: one proponent explained that “a noble monument” to the memory of black “mammies” and to “their loyal conduct refutes the assertion that the master was cruel to his slave.”4 Passionately, the monument enthusiasts argued that it “would not only tell the traditions, romance, poetry, and picturesqueness of the South, but would speak the pathetic scenes enacted in many grand old Southern homesteads. No one who was rocked to sleep by the sweet lullaby of the faithful black ‘mammy,’ listened to her weird ghost stories, nursed at her breast, or played about her cabin door would ever be willing to have these tender memories die out. There is the side of sentiment, the side of gratitude, that those who have felt the touch can never give up, nor can they forget the debt due the faithful ‘ten per cent of slaves that remained with their masters after freedom.'”5

In February 1923, the Senate, prodded by the UDC and at the behest of Senator John Sharp Williams of Mississippi, passed a bill granting permission to the Washington D.C. chapter of the UDC to erect a monument to “faithful slave mammies.” In the House of Representatives, Charles M. Stedman of North Carolina, a Confederate veteran, introduced a virtually identical bill. Although the House bill languished while Congress was out of session, sculptors began submitting designs for the monument. Simultaneously, outraged blacks organized in opposition to the proposed monument, and the combination of this opposition and shifting legislative priorities subsequently prevented the passage of the House bill in support of the monument. Eventually the UDC and the monument’s supporters conceded defeat.6

1. For more on “Faithful Slave” monuments, see Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 155-161.

2. Mrs. W. Carlton Adams, “Slave Monument Question.” Confederate Veteran 12 (November 1904): 525 (accessed June 28, 2013).

3. Herbert, Hilary A. History of the Arlington Confederate Monument [Washington, D.C., 1914], 77 (accessed June 28, 2013).

4. Wallace-Sanders, Kimberly. Southern Memory, Southern Monuments, and the Subversive Black Mammy. Emory University, June 12, 2009 (accessed June 28, 2013).

5. Confederate Veteran 13 (1905): 123 (accessed June 29, 2013)

6. Mills, Cynthia. “Commemorating the Color Line: the National Mammy Monument Controversy of the 1920s.” Monuments to the Lost Cause: Women, Art, and the Landscapes of Southern Memory. Ed. Cynthia Mills and Pamela H. Simpson (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press, 2003); McElya, Micki. Clinging to Mammy: the Faithful Slave in Twentieth-century America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), 116-159; MarieJohnson, Joan. “‘YE GAVE THEM A STONE’: African American Women’s Clubs, the Frederick Douglass Home, and the Black Mammy Monument,” Journal of Women’s History 17 (Spring 2005): 62–86.

Commemorating Faithful Slaves, Mammies, and Black Confederates, Pt. 1

By Angelina Ray Johnston and Robinson Wise

Erected June 4, 1922, in Hawfield Presbyterian Church in Mebane, North Carolina

The “Faithful Slaves” memorial, erected June 4, 1922, in Hawfield Presbyterian Church in Mebane, North Carolina

[This is the first of 4 installments of an essay that was originally published here.]

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, white Southerners engaged in a frenzy of commemoration and monument building. In addition to honoring Confederate soldiers and the Lost Cause, they also sought to commemorate African American “mammies” and “faithful slaves.” Anxious to refute any suggestion that slavery had required the dehumanization of African Americans, white Southerners recalled their enslaved caretakers as willing “servants” who had been content, even grateful, for their lot in life. These commemorative gestures, which only hinted at the complex relationship that existed between slaveholders and slaves, served to legitimize white privilege and inform blacks of their “proper” place during the Jim Crow era. Simultaneously, some African Americans exploited the image of the “faithful slave” by pointedly reminding whites who railed against black criminality and fecklessness that blacks had been trustworthy in the past and, in fact, remained so. Even today, recent efforts to commemorate so-called “Black Confederates,” or slaves who allegedly fought on behalf of the Confederacy, demonstrate the continuing contests over acknowledging the historical complexities of American slavery.

One example of white commemoration of “faithful slaves” stands in the cemetery of the Hawfield Presbyterian Church in Mebane, North Carolina. Erected on June 4, 1922, the monument is a roughly-cut, rectangular stone with a bronze plaque. It, along with two other plaques, were donated in honor of the founders of the church, the former and present pastors of the church, as well as the “faithful slaves” who are buried in the church cemetery. The donors of the monument were members of the family of Stephen A.White, a businessman, prominent local politician, and an elder of the church.

A plaque on the stone reads as follows: IN MEMORY OF / THE FAITHFUL SLAVES / MANY OF WHOM WERE MEMBERS OF / HAWFIELDS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH / AND ARE BURIED IN THIS CEMETERY / “BE THOU FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH AND I / WILL GIVE THEE A CROWN OF LIFE” REV. 2:10 / THIS TABLET IS PRESENTED BY THE FAMILY OF STEPHEN ALEXANDER WHITE / AND DEDICATED BY THE HAWFIELDS PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH / 1908 – 1922

This Biblical passage and the monument’s location are telling. The passage presumably was selected to explicitly compare the slaves’ servitude to devout Christians’ obedience to God, who will “give thee the crown of life.” The passage renders the condition of servitude in a manner that whites, who knew of slavery only from the vantage of slave masters, presumably found both acceptable and compelling. Simultaneously, it underscored that faithfulness to masters, as to God, was both a necessity and an obligation. The apparent intent of the inscription is to suggest that just as God gives life to his faithful followers, so too slave masters gave life to their loyal slaves. And while the plaque specifically commemorated former slaves who had been members of the Hawfields Presbyterian Church, no names of any of the “faithful slaves” were included on it. Consequently, the monument memorializes them in the abstract, and these nameless slaves are honored in the context of a segregated church and a segregated cemetery. The monument, in sum, is a memorial to the slaves’ condition vis a vis their white masters rather than to them as individuals.1

1. For more on “Faithful Slave” monuments, see Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 155-161.

Completion of Duke’s CCC Still Image Digitization, Part 2

Duke University Libraries recently completed still image digitization for their contributions to the Content, Context, and Capacity (CCC) Project. Our last post highlighted the Charles N. Hunter Papers and the Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers. This time we focus on the Basil Lee Whitener Papers and the records of the Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes (Durham chapter):

Box 11, Folder 1: Photographs circa 1970s

Box 11, Folder 1: Photographs circa 1970s

  • Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. Durham Chapter records, 1968-1998:   Founded in 1968 by Elna Spaulding, the Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes (WIAPVC) was an inter-racial non-profit organization dedicated to community improvement that would help to prevent violence of all kinds (domestic violence, street crime, etc.).  The organization’s records document the struggles in finding funding in its nascent years.  In fact, researchers will see correspondence with such luminaries as Senator Sam Ervin, First Lady Patricia Nixon, and the producers of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson asking for funds for WIAPVC’s community efforts.  In addition, researchers will discover documentation of the evolution of WIAPVC, organizational writings and workshop contents, selected photographs and clippings, and related material from other community organizations.
  • Basil Lee Whitener Papers, 1889-1968:  Political historians will find this collection of the utmost interest.  As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1957 to 1968 elected from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Whitener was one of a group of Southern Democrats (“Dixiecrats”) to vociferously oppose civil rights legislation.  Whitener’s papers digitized for the CCC project include his correspondence with reform proponents and opponents and his discussions with other congressmen discussing legislative strategies to quash reform.   Researchers will find the proposed amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1957 introduced by Whitener’s predecessor as well as the argument that civil rights legislation would ultimately undermine federalism itself.  In addition to his involvement with civil rights, Whitener also served on the House Judiciary Committee when that group discussed two prominent issues—the selection of juries in federal trials and the appeal of Jimmy Hoffa’s tax evasion conviction.  The Hoffa transcripts are especially interesting, as researchers will learn the secret happenings in smoke-filled Memphis hotel rooms, including a cameo from Elvis himself.

Completion of Duke’s CCC Still Image Digitization, Part 1

The Duke University Libraries are proud to announce the completion of the still image digitization for the Duke-held collections of the Content, Context, and Capacity (CCC) Project.  Funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), this inter-institutional collaborative project of Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, and NC Central digitized records relating to the Long Civil Rights Movement.  The Long Civil Rights Movement is a term used by historians to expand the traditional definition of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s both further into the past and into more recent times.  Collections from this project date back to as early as the 1880s and to as late as the first decade of the 2000s.

The scope of the CCC Project is quite large.  In total, all four institutions will digitize over 350,000 documents.  Duke’s share of that total is approximately 66,000 scans from eight collections.  In addition, during the next (final) year of the project, the CCC staff will transition to the digitization of audio collections.  Duke will focus on the digitization of the North Carolina tapes from the Behind the Veil Oral History Collection, which is scheduled for publication in 2014.

Researchers will find many interesting topics in Duke’s CCC Collections.  These collections allow for an in-depth exploration of the politics of integration and the history of African-American thought.  They will introduce researchers to the efforts of an organization advocating non-violence.  They even allow researchers to view Duke itself as a microcosm of the changes wrought by the Civil Rights Movement.

Available from Rubenstein Library (in finding aids):

  • Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1850s-1932 and undated:  The child of enslaved parents, Charles Norfleet Hunter would become one of the most prominent African-American educators and reformers in North Carolina.  He led several African-American schools in and around Raleigh, North Carolina.  Through his education efforts, he worked with the Tuskegee Institute and corresponded with Booker T. Washington.  As a reformer, Hunter helped to found the North Carolina Industrial Association, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of African-Americans working in both the industrial and agricultural fields. Hunter’s collection contains fascinating correspondence as well as personally-compiled scrapbooks of newspaper articles relevant to the African-American community.  Perhaps the most valuable group of documents in the collection is Hunter’s writings and speeches wherein he presciently discussed the social condition of African-Americans using rhetoric that sounds quite like what one would expect to see out of the 1960s.  Researchers will find the Hunter papers enlightening and full of potential projects on a plethora of important subjects.
  • Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, 1909-1997 and undated, bulk 1935-1983:  Asa and Elna Spaulding were one of the most prominent couples in the modern history of Durham.  Asa Spaulding served as the President of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance as well as on several presidential commissions.  Elna Bridgeforth Spaulding served as a Durham County Commissioner for five terms, founded and led the Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, and served on the White House Commission on Aging.  For the CCC Project, Duke has digitized all of Elna Spaulding’s papers.  Researchers will find the correspondence of Mrs. Spaulding with local and national leaders.  They will also find the touching letters between Elna Bridgeforth and Asa Spaulding during their courtship.  Mrs. Spaulding also collected files on the many organizations in which she was active or with which she corresponded, including Women-In-Action, the County Commissioners, the North Carolina Democratic Party, and National Council for Negro Women.  With over 25,000 images to peruse, researchers will find plenty of material worthy of further attention in Elna Spaulding’s papers.

From the Archives: Durham County Citizens’ Councils Advertisement Appalls Locals

Durham County Citizens' Council racist propaganda from 1968

This post contains highlights of material from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions. For more on this digitization project, click here.

An advertisement asking readers to “Compare the platform of the Communist Party and the Black Power or Civil Rights Movement,” was published in the Durham Herald circa 1968. The ad was sponsored by the Durham County Citizens’ Councils, a North Carolina branch of the white supremacist organization known as the “Citizens’ Councils of America” (and formerly as the “White Citizens’ Council”). The ad lists 1928 tenets of the Communist Party as proof that the mission of Civil Rights activists is aligned with a Communist agenda. It highlights goals that the Citizens’ Councils objected to, such as a “Federal law against lynching,” “Abolition of laws forbidding intermarriage of persons of different races,” and “Abolition of all Jim Crow laws.” The Citizens’ Councils’ fears are further illustrated by a map that marks a section of the South with the label, “the Black Republic;” land which the ad claims had been “promised Negro’s (sic) for their supporting Communist goals… [and was] now being demanded by Black Power Advocates.”1

The Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records contain the responses of some Durham Herald subscribers who were shocked and offended by the advertisement’s message. The printing of the Citizens’ Councils’ ad spurred many Triangle area readers to write in to the Editor of the paper, describing their disappointment and amazement at finding such a “blatantly untruthful” ad within the pages of the Durham Herald. 2 One such writer was John Paul Carter, who wrote passionately that by including this piece, the paper was reducing itself “to irrationality and hate-spawning.”2 
C.E. Edmondson of Hillsborough lamented, “How much longer must black Americans be subjected to such hatred and discrimination?”3 And Elma R. Knowlton dismissed the claims that the Civil Rights Movement is inherently “Communist-inspired,” saying it was instead “America-inspired,” a movement which “seeks not to destroy the hope and promise that is America, but to realize it.”3

You can read more about this incendiary advertisement in the Women-in-Action collection.

1. Advertisement. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005004

2. Letters to the Editor of the Durham Herald. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005003

3. Letters to the Editor of the Durham Herald. Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes Records, Box 10, Folder 5, Item: wiams10005007

From the Archives: A Symphony in Citizenship

The first page of the 1952 skit "A Symphony in Citizenship"

One of the many undertakings of NCSU’s Cooperative Extension Service in the 1950s was youth citizenship education. In addition to providing basic lessons on government, the Cooperative Extension Service also sought to teach children acceptance of immigrants through programs such as a 1952 skit entitled “A Symphony in Citizenship.”1

“A Symphony in Citizenship” opens with a mother explaining to her two children – Skippy and Margaret Alice – that the United States is made up of immigrants just as an orchestra is made up of instruments. As she explains, various nationalities walk across the stage, bow, and sit down next to Uncle Sam and his wife, Columbia.

An American Indian is attributed with teaching the first immigrants how to live in the new land; Dutch, Italian, and Chinese characters follow, and all are honored for their diverse gifts and talents. When a “Negro” woman enters the stage, the names of Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver are invoked. After the arrival of Iranian and Indian immigrants, the symphony concludes with the mother’s lesson that “Even as a great musical symphony is made up of many notes and played on many instruments, so is the symphony of America made up of many people from many countries – Americans all – building and working together for a greater America in a peaceful and better world.”

While hardly an all-inclusive look at the immigrant populations of the United States, for the 1950s this was a remarkably progressive skit: negative stereotypes are avoided, and the children in the skit are encouraged to think of everyone in America as a type of immigrant.

1. The full skit can be viewed at http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/ua102_052-002-bx0021-001-000/pages/ua102_052-002-bx0021-001-000_0129.