Archive for the 'From the Archives' Category

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.

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.

From the Archives: The NAACP Reviews Robert H. Bork

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.

Judge Bork's Views Regarding Racial Discrimination

Former Solicitor General and US Court of Appeals judge Robert H. Bork is remembered for his role in the Watergate scandal and his time serving as an advisor to Mitt Romney, but perhaps most vividly for the historic rejection of his nomination to the US Supreme Court. After President Reagan recommended Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, the nomination was strongly opposed by a public campaign led by Democratic politicians like Edward Kennedy and organizations that included the NAACP, ACLU, and NOW.

Bork’s record as a strict constructionist who often disagreed with the racial and gender reforms of the 1960s and 1970s concerned many civil and women’s rights activists who feared that, as a Supreme Court Justice, Bork might work to overturn recent decisions on abortion and affirmative action. In August 1987, the NAACP released a report on “Judge Bork’s Views Regarding Racial Discrimination,” in which they detailed Bork’s record of opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and his criticism of previous voting rights and affirmative action-related decisions. A copy of the NAACP’s report can be found in the Helen Edmonds papers. In one section the report quotes an article Bork wrote in 1964 where he described the “dangers” implied by the 1964 Civil Rights Act that “enforc[es] associations between private individuals which would, if uniformly applied, destroy personal freedom over broad areas of life.” 1 Bork’s hostility to the Civil Rights Act is attributed by the NAACP to his belief “that it infringed on the freedom of whites to discriminate.” 2 The report also highlighted Bork’s disapproval of laws protecting minorities against housing discrimination and poll taxes, as well as his support of Nixon’s anti-busing legislation, which hoped to limit the use of busing to desegregate public school systems across the South.

It was documents like this NAACP report that swayed opinion against Bork in 1987. After his nomination was rejected, Bork left the Court of Appeals and spent the rest of his life as a scholar, legal advisor, and best-selling author. Despite his controversial career, Bork was an extremely influential figure who inspired a generation of conservative lawyers and politicians. Judge Bork passed away in December 2012.

1. “Judge Bork’s Views Regarding Racial Discrimination.” Helen G. Edmonds Papers. Folder 100, Scan 1.

2. “Judge Bork’s Views Regarding Racial Discrimination.” Helen G. Edmonds Papers. Folder 100, Scan 15.

From the Archives: North Carolina Workers Strike in Gastonia

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.

Photo of an eviction following the Gastonia strike, Guy Benton Johnson Papers, Folder 1294, Item 8

84 years ago in April of 1929, textile workers at the Loray Mill in Gastonia, North Carolina, initiated a historic strike. The strike lasted for months and drew national attention, becoming a representation of the larger ongoing battle between Communist-led labor unions and factory bosses. The Gastonia strikers demanded union recognition, a 40-hour work week, and a minimum $20 weekly wage, hoping to improve the grueling hours, low wages, and poor working conditions that workers at that time were forced to endure. In response, mill owners evicted the families of strikers living in mill-owned houses, leaving hundreds homeless.1 The National Guard was called in to keep the peace, but in June of 1929, union headquarters and the homes of strikers were attacked at night during a police raid, and when laborers fought back to defend themselves, the chief of police was killed.

Letter from the International Labor Defense, Guy Benton Johnson Papers, Folder 1294, Item 4

Seven labor union leaders, including Fred Beal of the National Textile Workers Union (NTWU), were arrested and sentenced to terms of up to 20 years in prison. In response to the Gastonia case, the International Labor Defense wrote a passionate letter to rally support for the Gastonia prisoners and other workers facing charges that included sedition, inciting to riot, conspiracy, criminal syndicalism, illegal entry, and even murder. The International Labor Defense felt strongly that labor organizers and strike leaders were being targeted as part of a “terror wave” constructed by factory bosses who “intend in this way to stop the workers from organizing and fighting against misery and starvation.”2

A key figure in the Gastonia strike was Ella May Wiggins, a textile mill worker and ardent unionist who testified regarding inhumane labor practices in the South.[3] Wiggins’ involvement in the workers’ rights campaign is also notable for her support of integrated unions, and through her influence, the local NTWU branch expanded to admit black workers to its ranks.3 As the Gastonia strike dragged on into September of 1929, Wiggins was on her way to a union meeting with fellow strikers when she was shot and killed by a mob outside of Gastonia. Though five men were initially arrested for her murder, all were quickly acquitted; her fellow unionists refused to forget Wiggins’ sacrifice, and through her death she became a figurehead for the labor reform movement.

Despite the publicity created by pro-union organizations and the many who sympathized with the Gastonia strikers, the Communist ties of the National Textile Workers Union made some wary of unionization, and ultimately the violence in Gastonia set back union organization efforts and left strong anti-union sentiments in North Carolina which persisted for many years. In the Guy Benton Johnson Papers you can find more information relating to the Gastonia mill strike, and examples of the material circulated by pro-union groups like the International Labor Defense to publicize and gain support for the labor reform movement.

1. Guy Benton Johnson Papers, Folder 1294: Labor, Scan 9.

2. Guy Benton Johnson Papers, Folder 1294: Labor, Scan 4.

3. “Ella May Wiggins, Labor Activist,” by Beth Crist. North Carolina Museum of History.

CCC Progress Update: Helen Grey Edmonds Papers completed

Image of Dr. Helen Edmonds

Image of Dr. Helen Edmonds from the NCCU Faculty and Staff Photograph Records, Image Folder 80, Scan 17

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.

TRLN’s Content, Context, and Capacity project has completed digitization of the Helen G. Edmonds Papers, and all digitized content is now available through the collection’s online finding aid. Dr. Helen G. Edmonds is remembered as a noted historian, educator, and civil rights activist who achieved a number of “firsts” during her lifetime, including being the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. at Ohio State University and the first African American woman in the US to become a graduate school dean.1

Edmonds spent the majority of her career at North Carolina Central University in faculty and administrative positions, and she was also heavily involved with local, national, and international organizations including Links, Inc., the National Coalition of Black Women, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the United Nations (where she served as an alternate delegate), and the United Negro College Fund. Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly as an advocate for blacks and women, a mentor to students and youth, and an activist for race relations in North Carolina. In the early 1970s, the Durham Herald praised her by saying, “The nation needs people of Dr. Edmonds’ sound judgment and keen analytical powers in advisory, administrative, and policy-making posts.”2 And in 1982 she was honored by Charles Markham, Mayor of Durham, for her outstanding contributions to the community.

The Helen Edmonds Papers include correspondence with civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers and NC Governor James E. Holshouser, speeches delivered by Edmonds across the country, as well as newspaper clippings, programs, research and lecture notes, reports, and educational materials, which document the incredibly active life of this remarkable woman.

1. Helen G. Edmonds Papers Finding Aid: Biographical Information. http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/e/Edmonds,Helen_G.html#d1e316

2. Helen G. Edmonds Papers, Folder 365: Harry Walker, Inc., 1971-1972. Item 7. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/50003/id/9073/rec/7

From the Archives: “The Participation of Negroes in Southern Life,” a Sociological Study from the 1930s

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.

 Folder 1312: Survey on Discrimination (1938?), Location Unknown: Scan 5

Survey on Discrimination, circa 1930s. Guy B. Johnson Papers, Folder 1312, Scan 5

A former Kenan professor of Anthropology and Sociology at UNC, Chapel Hill, Dr. Guy B. Johnson was a researcher and scholar with strong interests in African American culture and society. Dr. Johnson spent much of his career studying race relations in the American South, and often collaborated with other well known academics, such as Howard Odum and Guion G. Johnson.1 A particularly fascinating study conducted by Johnson during the 1930s distributed questionnaires to African Americans seeking their perspectives on stereotypes, racism, discrimination, and the treatment of Blacks in the South. Hundreds of handwritten responses were collected and contributed to a larger study examining “the Participation of Negroes in Southern Life.” The Guy B. Johnson collection contains hundreds of responses that this survey received. Answers often contain emotional stories of individuals being mistreated, disrespected, and misunderstood, and include details that are arresting and often appalling.

One powerful account from the collection is a narrative written by 20-year-old Onah Belle Hawkins, a junior in college from southern Georgia. As she responded to the questions of the survey, Hawkins described her frustration with the lack of opportunities for blacks in higher education and the daily reminders of racial discrimination present in shops, movie theaters, and restaurants wherever she went. She wrote about segregated trolley cars and how she was always led to the back of the store when trying on shoes, and even how a white debt collector came to her family’s house armed with a revolver and threatened her and her mother. Her candid replies fill the space provided and even continue onto the back of the questionnaire.2

In the 1930s, Dr. Johnson and his colleagues hoped that the information gathered through this study would help “to open the minds of white people of the South.”3 The wealth of information contained within the survey responses can still present a fascinating and revealing resource for researchers today. Survey responses can be found in Subseries 5.8.3, Folders 1311 through 1320 of the Guy B. Johnson Papers.

1. Guy Benton Johnson Papers Finding Aid, Biographical Information
2. Folder 1312: Survey on Discrimination (1938?), Location Unknown: Scan 9
3. Folder 1311: Survey on Discrimination (1938?), Location Unknown: Scan 1

From the Archives: Burford’s Success Story–the Black Studies Department at Duke

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.

In 1972, Walter Burford, the director of Duke’s Black Studies Department, referred to Duke’s program as “the most progressive in the South.” 1 Though at the time there was still much progress to be made towards the department’s permanent establishment, its presence was seen as a huge benefit for students on campus and the wider Durham community. In Burford’s eyes, Black Studies was a crucial element of a modern education, and he was “convinced that no one can receive a complete education without exposure to the experience and concerns of black people.” 1

After its founding in 1970, the Black Studies department sponsored courses, symposia, and lectures to give the African American experience a stronger voice in Duke’s academic community. In addition to high participation from the school’s African American students, courses offered by the department also saw interest from many white students; in a 1972 article written for Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, Burford mentions religion and pre-medicine majors in particular “who see the relation of black studies to their own fields.” 1

While the creation of the Black Studies Department was a huge achievement for Duke, of the designation “most progressive in the South,” Burford acknowledged that “given the history of white, Southern institutions, I don’t know how much that is saying.” 1 Burford especially hoped to be able to bring more black faculty to Duke so that course offerings in the department could be expanded, but at the time continued funding was a major concern. Initial development for the department was sponsored by a $100,000 two-year grant from the Ford Foundation. In the third year, Duke University took responsibility for supplying the program’s funding, though annual funds were reduced from $50,000 to $41,000. To continue to meet the needs of the young department and its students, Burford strongly believed that the program would need space and money to grow.

Burford’s thoughts on Duke’s Black Studies Department can be found in this 1972 article from The Chronicle, digitized through the CCC grant as part of the Department of African and African American Studies records.

 

1. http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/uaafro/#daams02035

From the Archives: Images for Women’s History Month

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.

As we conclude Black History Month and begin a month dedicated to the appreciation of women’s history, we highlight two noteworthy photographs from the Jessie Daniel Ames Papers.

Negro Women attending Interracial Conference at Tuskegee, 1938. Image folder p0375, item 1

Negro Women attending an Interracial Conference at Tuskegee Institute, 1938. JD Ames Papers, Image folder p0375, item 1

The first image features an assembly of celebrated African American women, including Mary McLeod Bethune, a civil rights activist and educator who founded Bethune-Cookman University; Bethune was a close friend of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt for many years and facilitated the formation of the “Black Cabinet,” a group of prominent African American leaders who advised FDR regarding concerns of the black community. Second from the right is Nannie Burroughs, remembered for helping to establish the National Association of Colored Women and for her  work in the National League of Republican Colored Women. In 1940, she visited university president James E. Shepard at North Carolina Central University. Standing next to Burroughs is Charlotte Hawkins Brown, a well-known North Carolina educator.

In 1938, a joint meeting of two women’s groups was held at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Though they functioned as separate organizations, the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL) and the African American women members of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation (CIC) shared a common mission: the battle against racial discrimination and violence in the South.

During the Civil Rights Era, collaboration between organizations was a common method of sharing resources, ideas, and enthusiasm. An initiative from a 1934 CIC staff meeting showed both the importance of such collaboration and the value placed on women activists when it stated that “One of the most important pieces of work to be developed is securing closer cooperation between Women’s Organizations and the Commission on Interracial Cooperation.”1

Attendees of the joint meeting of the ASWPL & African American members of the CIC at Tuskegee Institute, 1938. Image folder p0374, item 1

Attendees of the joint meeting of the ASWPL & African American members of the CIC at Tuskegee Institute, 1938. JD Ames Papers, Image folder p0374, item 1

Jessie Daniel Ames, who served as the director of the CIC’s Women’s Committee in 1929 before founding ASWPL in 1930,2 is pictured in the front row of the second image, second from the right. In the beginning, ASWPL constituted a small group of women; Ames’ initial membership goal was to have at least one representative from every Southern state. Many of these women were pastors’ wives and other well-connected upper and middle class ladies who could help in the recruitment of local and state officials to the anti-lynching cause. Over time, this small association grew to become one of the most effective social programs in the US, with a total of over two million members.3

Through the mission of community education, the efforts of these Southern women had tremendous effects. Between 1922 and 1938, the number of lynchings in the South decreased by fifty percent. Many lynchings  were prevented by sheriffs and community leaders whose vocal support had been enlisted by ASWPL.3

At the time, a common justification of lynching was that the practice existed primarily as a necessary response to sexual attacks against white women. ASWPL was a strong opponent of this concept of lynching, and through the course of their research, ASWPL discovered that almost 80% of lynchings occurred over interracial conflicts unrelated to charges of sexual assault on white women.4 ASWPL was “profoundly convinced that lynching is not a defense of womanhood or of anything else, but rather a menace to private and public safety . . . [In addition] lynching tends inevitably to destroy all respect for law and order. It represents the complete breakdown of government and the triumph of anarchy.”5  With this message, ASWPL played a key role in effecting the decline of lynchings in the US. And in the process, the organization became extremely influential in changing traditional perceptions of gender in the South.

 

1. Excerpts from the Staff Meeting, 1934. Commission on Interracial Cooperation, 1920-1963.

2. Wormser, Richard. Jim Crow Stories: Jessie Daniel Ames. The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow. Educational Broadcasting Corporation (2002).

3. Nordyke, Lewis T., “Ladies and Lynchings,” Survey Graphic, 28 (November 1939).

4. Barnes, R.L., Jessie Daniel Ames and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, 1930-1942. US History Scene, October 2011.

5. Resolutions, Conference of Southern White Women, Atlanta, GA. November 1, 1930.

CCC Progress Update: Jessie Daniel Ames Papers now online

Series 1 of the Jessie Daniel Ames Papers has been digitized by TRLN’s Content, Context, and Capacity project and is now available online through the collection’s finding aid. This collection of documents focuses on Ames’ work for racial justice and women’s rights, particularly related to her involvement in the Atlanta Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching.

Photo of Jessie Daniel Ames, 1941. J.D. Ames Papers, Folder 15, item 4.

After becoming a widow at the age of 30, Jessie Daniel Ames went on to not only raise three children on her own, but also lead an extremely active life as a civil rights activist and the founder of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL). Through ASWPL, Ames rallied Southern women in small towns, focusing on church groups and other women’s clubs, to join her in standing against a hideous practice, which was often falsely touted as “necessary for the protection of southern women.” 1

The ASWPL’s primary mission was one of education, emphasizing the need for justice to be carried out through legal processes rather than by violent means. The organization also intervened in specific cases, and was kept informed of potential lynchings throughout the South by its network of concerned women covering 13 states. Much of the extraordinary life of Jessie Daniel Ames is preserved within this collection, and we invite you to learn more by exploring its contents.

1. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/03686/id/2440/rec/4