Tag Archive for 'Rencher Nicholas Harris'

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.

From the Archives: A Culinary Lens to Segregation

This post is the 9th in a series from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing more than 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions.  For more on this digitization project, click here.

Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers, Box 4, Folder 4, scan 71: Durham City Schools – Cafeteria System, Revenue and Expense, Year Ended June 30, 1959 (rnhms01004071).

Rencher Nicholas Harris was Durham’s first African American city councilman as well as a member of the Board of Education and the Secretary for the Board of Directors of Lincoln Hospital.  His papers, collected at the Rubenstein Library and now digitized through a collaborative TRLN large-scale digitization project, cover the scope of his civic efforts from public health to transit planning. The document shown here from the Harris collection is a budgetary analysis of Durham school cafeterias in 1959, yet it is also a prime example of how civic documents demonstrate racial realities.

At first glance, the document lists the budgets of all of the public school cafeterias in Durham, separated into white and “negro” categories.  Examine the figures more closely and the depth of racism in the school segregation policy becomes clear.  For example, compare the operation expenses of white Durham High and African-American Hillside High ($68,475.27 to $39,346.22, respectively).  In addition, the white schools show a net income of $6,205.02 versus the net monetary loss of the African American schools of $4,638.23.  These statistics present a strong quantitative case against the “separate but equal” doctrine that legally supported Jim Crow laws.  One must remain cautious at overusing the figures given above without further contextual evidence.  Fortunately, such context is provided in the digitization of the Rencher Nicholas Harris papers. With Harris’ entire collection online, researchers now have the opportunity to determine the full significance of these statistical witnesses to inequality.

By Josh Hager, CCC Graduate Research Assistant at Duke