Ethical Culture Leader Algernon Black Confronts Bias and Bigotry

How can men live together on this earth? noted educator and social activist Algernon Black asks in this 1951 talk given at Cooper Union. Black, leader of The Society for Ethical Culture, starts by contrasting the ways in which we are alike and the ways in which we differ. His aim is to strike a balance between the two, based on mutual respect and understanding. Our bedrock similarities–our chromosomes, our bodies, our capacity for thought–are rooted in science, not spirituality. Yet we all possess different “rhythms,” both cultural and personal. He identifies seven levels of human relationship on an ascending scale starting at murderous intolerance, culminating in altruistic love, concluding with a plea that may sound clichéd today but perhaps did not over a half-century ago, “the need for unity with diversity.”

Turning to specifics, Black calls for desegregated schools which must, in turn, result from desegregated neighborhoods. He urges changes in curriculum, questioning why slavery is barely discussed in today’s History classes, which could in turn lead to a discussion of the day’s current race problems. Puerto Rican children should not be taught by teachers who do not speak Spanish. Teachers who teach in Harlem should know something about the community. Black is convinced that education can solve most of society’s ills. His own experiences have taught him that “man is infinitely more plastic than I ever thought.” He speaks at length about the Encampment for Citizenship program and its use of dramatic skits and role-playing as a way to confront the question of how one should respond to public displays of bigotry. He addresses anti-Semitism as well, noting that airlines and banks still do not hire Jews. While he applauds legislation to address these problems he still insists it is the responsibility of the individual who, if properly informed, will do the right thing. This belief that wisdom can be attained through the eradication of ignorance reaches its height during a question-and-answer period when he contends the A-bomb is only a threat because we have “bad human relations” with the Soviet Union.

Algernon Black (1900–1993) was a product of the belief system he came to represent. A child of immigrants, he was knocked unconscious by a public school assistant principal for a committing a minor infraction. His mother then applied for him to be granted a scholarship to the Ethical Culture School, which advocated a faith based on reason rather than God. Black, after attending Harvard, returned to the Ethical Culture and eventually took over the leadership of the society from its founder. As the New York Times notes in its obituary:

Upon the death of Dr. Adler in 1933, Mr. Black was among those most responsible for translating the movement’s message into programs to meet the crises of the Depression. And after World War II, he came to be viewed by many as emblematic of that spirit as he spoke out on social issues like equal housing opportunities or health conditions in Harlem… He headed or sat on numerous committees, panels and boards concerned with juvenile delinquency, racial discrimination and human rights.

As can he heard here, Black was a tireless speaker, hosting many talks on various radio stations. The range of his interests seems, in retrospect, remarkably prescient, addressing many problems that would only gain wider attention in the decades to come. The Ethical Culture website lists how:

…Black worked actively against discrimination in housing, chaired the Civilian Police Review Board, and participated in the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy. In 1944, he founded the Encampment for Citizenship, a summer program for young adults with the purpose of encouraging political activism and volunteerism that sought to educate its participants about civic responsibility, participation in government, and tolerance of diversity. 

Indeed this last program, which he describes in detail during the talk, sounds like a model for many similar camps and organizations that sprang up in the 1960’s and continue to this day. The Encampment for Citizenship website speaks of how:

…Al Black was inspired by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), but thought those programs lacked diversity and didn’t explore the meaning of democracy enough for a lasting impact. The Encampment was founded on the core idea that young people can be a positive force in their communities if they develop critical thinking skills, youth activism, leadership qualities and the courage to break free from stereotypes. … The young men and women who took part in the first Encampment for Citizenship were from every part of the United States and from several other countries. White, Black, American Indian, Japanese-American and Mexican-American, North and South, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, farmer, office worker, factory worker, miner, veteran, student—all were represented. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150857
Municipal archives id: LT1379

Eric Zoro: WNYC’s Morning Man for 20+ Years

This piece was originally published in Wavelength, WNYC’s program guide in November, 1989 and followed a profile of NPR’s Bob Edwards.

To New York listeners, Morning Edition has always been synonymous with another name: Eric Zoro, who as news anchor has been putting together the local and state news in the predawn hours for more than a decade. This fall marks Eric’s 20th anniversary as “morning man” at WNYC.

Eric says his involvement with the news “just evolved. I’ve done everything here –traffic, weather reports, classical music.” Before he began doing the news on Morning Edition and working with WNYC’s news team, Eric was a one-man band. “I would do the morning news at 6am and then go over to City Hall, where I would tape interviews with city councilmen,” he says, adding that the current set-up suits him just fine: “Now that I’m in the studio all the time, I have more control over what I’m doing; I spend more time editing and rewriting. The news is better now because we’re able to devote more time to analysis.”

A “radio nut” since childhood, Eric got into the business shortly after he got out of the navy, when he happened to spot an advertisment for television workshops in the Yellow Pages. With the help of the GI bill, he got his first class radio license and spent several years down South working as a transmitter engineer. In Norfolk, Virginia, Eric started his own radio station literally “in a friend’s backyard.” Although the station “was an impressive hit with the listeners,” Eric had to sell out after a few years. In 1967, he came to New York, where he worked at several station “disc jockeying and doing the news” before coming to WNYC.

Eric says that his career in radio has not been without its risks. Among the mishaps that have occurred while he was on the air are an exploding microphone wire (“Thankfully someone on the other side of the studio window realized what was happening and took the helm”), a radiator that burst, and a nosebleed that obliterated his copy (“I talk my way through it: after a while you can almost repeat some stories verbatim off the top of your head”). Eric has literally put his life on the line: Once, while he was working on some wires at the Virginia station he owned, 3,000 volts passed through his body, throwing him to the floor. “Smoke was coming out of fingertips and I couldn’t talk…but I went back on the air that night.”

As news anchor, Eric says that toughest part of the job is the hours. Five days a week. Eric clocks into the WNYC newsroom at 4:30 after commuting in the dark from his home in Astoria, Queens.

Why does he do it? Partly it’s the love of radio: “The intimacy of radio is beautiful. To me, radio will always rank higher than television because no matter how powerful TV is, radio brings the message home. When you want to know what’s going on in the world or what the weather’s like, turn the radio on and in a few minutes, you’ll know. It’s a business everyone’s got their ear on.” Partly it’s the ambience of public radio: “It feels good to be giving information in a responsible way. We’re not gearing ourselves to 12- or 13-year-olds.” Most of all, says Eric, its the WNYC audience that makes his job truly rewarding. “Sometimes you think no one is listening when you’re on the air. But then, whenever I meet our listeners at fund-raisers, I’m amazed at their warmth and sincerity. They do listen. At WNYC, you connect with a real listener, not a statistic. That’s one of the tangible benefits I get from an intangible job.”


Eric Zoro left WNYC in 1991 and retired to Virginia Beach, Virginia. He passed away in 2004.

Listen here to Eric’s coverage of the Mets reception at City Hall in 1969 after they won the World Series.

Le Moniteur Update

Detail from the Front Page of Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel, March 17, 1801

Le Moniteur Universel was a French newspaper founded in Paris under the title Gazette Nationale ou Le Moniteur Universel by Charles-Joseph Panckoucke. It was the main French newspaper during the French Revolution and was for a long time the official journal of the French government and at times a propaganda publication, especially under the Napoleonic regime. Le Moniteur had a large circulation in France and Europe, and also in America during the French Revolution.

We’ve been steadily working on digitizing the run of Le Moniteur that we hold here in Special Collections and Archives for about a year now (how time flies!). We’ve provided access to the publication through the end of 1808 in the FSU Digital Library. Our run of these papers starts with the founding of the newspaper in May of 1789. So, we’ve loaded 20 years worth of the publication or over 7300 issues! We still have quite a long way to go but we’re happy to be providing online access to a publication that supports scholarship here at FSU through the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution as well as beyond our campus.


New Book! ‘Ark of Civilization: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University 1930-1945’

We’re delighted that our edited volume Ark of Civilization: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University 1930-1945 which took up much of our time and energy last year is now OUT.

When we started researching the Jacobsthal archive at the Institute of Archaeology, we had the great pleasure of meeting a number of researchers who were also working on the histories and archives of other refugee scholars at Oxford. Coinciding with an exhibition on Jacobsthal at the Town Hall in Oxford in 2012, we held a workshop, hosted by Jas Elsner at Corpus Christi College in the (highly appropriate) Fraenkel room, named after refugee scholar Prof. Eduard Fraenkel (we later discovered Jacobsthal had been instrumental in arranging his move from Germany to Oxford).

As it turned out, the workshop was just the tip of the iceberg of uncovering history of the myriad of refugee scholars in the arts and humanities who passed through, engaged with, or eventually found refuge in Oxford.

The resulting volume is a step towards acknowledging the importance of Oxford’s role in rescuing, helping along, and sheltering refugees in the art and humanities, and the immense value they brought to Oxford in return. We were not aiming for an encyclopaedic tome on every scholar who passed through the city, though there is no doubt such a book needs to be written. Equally, there is a lack of knowledge on the history of women scholars, which will need addressing in future research. What we wanted to do through Ark of Civilization was to explore Oxford as an ‘ark of knowledge’ – a refuge, a meeting point, and a centre of thought in the arts and humanities. The contributors to the volume take up this theme, sometimes through individual refugee stories and sometimes looking at the University’s institutions, drawing on archives, oral histories and private collections.

There are important lessons to be learned by looking at the way in which a university and city – which had been, pre-war, essentially provincial, insular and self-contained (even by 1937 83% of Oxford Fellows had been undergraduates at the University) – adapted and transformed in the process of welcoming hundreds of refugee scholars and their families.

One strand that emerges is the importance of individuals on the British side, who worked incredibly hard to do the right thing against often overwhelming odds. These same individuals appear time and time again in the refugee stories, arranging money, papers, and even welcoming refugees to live with them. Their story is only alluded to, and will need looking at in much more detail.

Similarly, it was only by beginning to tell the refugee academic’s stories that we became aware of how much the university and city collectively owed and still owes them. This extraordinary group of Continental classicists, historians, artists, archaeologists, lawyers, philosophers, musicians, and philologists changed the university as transformative new ideas, courses, and institutions flooded in. This legacy still continues today.

A huge ‘thank you’ to all our contributors: Anthony Grenville, Laurence Brockliss, Philip Davies, Harold Mytum, Katharina Lorenz, David Gill, Christopher Stray, Oswyn Murray, Charmian Brinson, Marian Malet, Kate Lowe, Conrad Leyser, Fran Lloyd, Ann Rau Dawes, Rachel Dickson, Alexander Cullen, Bojan Bujic, Anna Teicher, Graham Whitaker, Anna Nyburg, and Rahel Feilchenfeldt.


Leighton Borrowers Project

Today’s blog post comes from Jill Dye, a second-year PhD student at Stirling on a SGSAH-funded Applied Research Collaboration with the University Dundee and the Library of Innerpeffray. Whilst her PhD research focuses on borrowers from the Library of Innerpeffray 1747-1854, Jill has been using the archives at Stirling to research the borrowers from the Leighton Library, Dunblane, as part of the Scottish Universities Research Collections Associate Scheme (SURCAS) Pilot.

How much can we know about ordinary individuals long since deceased? Any search usually starts with parish and census records via one of the many platforms of the thriving genealogy business. Before the first census in 1841, however, the only information you’re likely to find is birth, baptism, marriage and death. While the early censuses record addresses and occupations, such information does not give a particularly good insight into what they were like as an individual, only key places and dates. Any archive that allows us to see more than these simple facts and build a better picture of a person is therefore invaluable.


My research focuses on 18th and 19th century library borrower records, which are particularly rich in historic Perthshire. Whilst my PhD is centred on the borrower records from Innerpeffray, as part of a public outreach project I have recently been focusing on the region’s other incredible borrowing record, that of the Leighton Library at Dunblane, which is housed at the University of Stirling. Borrowing records usually give address and occupation information (far earlier than the census), but more importantly, they show how an individual interacts with the library and the types of books which they were interested in reading. These archives are invaluable not just to academics but to the family or local historian, and yet few know of their existence.

This project aims to highlight the usefulness of this resource to the wider public. The website created from the project explores the borrowings of selected Leighton Library users, using, where possible, local and family history sources to place the records of their borrowing into the wider context of their lives. These individuals range from well-known figures such as the writer John Ramsay of Ochtertyre, to a Minister from St Niniansa local Surgeon, and even a female visitor to the Dunblane Mineral Springs. In a forthcoming guest post on the website, fellow PhD Student Maxine Branagh-Miscampbell will be commenting on the borrowings of a local student. The site will also eventually include an index of names recorded in the register so that anyone researching local individuals can easily identify whether they appear in the record. The project will culminate in a display of material from the Leighton Archives followed by a short talk, free and open to the public, which will take place at the University Library on Tuesday 28 March. More details on the event are available here.

Click here for more information on accessing the Leighton Library collections at the University. For further details on the borrowers project visit

Jill Dye

The Importance of Sunshine Week

This week is Sunshine Week, an annual initiative that seeks to educate the public about the importance of openness in government.  Each year during mid-March, organizations dedicated to advocating for a more open government hold events around the nation to
discuss the various ways we can hold our government accountable to the people by limiting secrecy and advancing the free exchange of information.

The PIDB supports these Sunshine Week events, including one being held today at the National Archives and Records Administration.  The event features a variety of panelists, including the Archivist of the United States and the Librarian of Congress, as well professionals from the Office of Government Information Services and civil society groups, who will discuss the importance of increasing the public’s ability to access government information.

As a Presidential Advisory body, the PIDB will continue its role of advising the President, Executive Branch officials, and Congress on ways to bring sunshine to the security classification system in the interest of our national security.  We believe, and have reiterated in every report written, the need for limiting secrecy to the absolute minimum necessary to achieve our national security initiatives.
Indeed, sharing information as soon as is possible brings credibility and transparency to the security classification system, ideals we know are necessary for its successful functioning.  As current events have demonstrated, the credibility of our government is a major factor in its ability to do its job effectively.  Transforming and modernizing classification and declassification across government so they function more effectively in today’s digital information environment is critical to reducing over-classification and improving access to information that no longer requires protection.
Sunshine Week is also an opportunity to commemorate the tenure of one of our longest serving members, Sanford Ungar.  Sandy completed his third appointment as a member of the PIDB in early March.  Among his many accomplishments while on the PIDB, Sandy was instrumental in developing the recommendations for all three PIDB Reports to the President, including the latest Setting Priorities report, which focuses on the prioritization of historical records of interest in declassification review.  Sandy’s experience as a journalist and historian helped shaped many of his insights while a PIDB member.  His dedicated service to the nation will not be forgotten and we wish him all the best in the next chapter of his professional and personal life.  We are thankful the PIDB will have Sandy as an enduring resource to call upon as we continue our work in promoting a more open government.  On behalf of the members, past and present, we thank Sandy for his contributions and congratulate him on his tenure as a member of the PIDB.

The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America

On the eve of the American Civil War, 1.6 million Irish-born people were living in the United States, most in the major industrialized cities of the North. The stories of 35 Irish families whose lives portray the nature of the Irish emigrant experience are captured in Damian Shiels’ new book, The Forgotten Irish: Irish Emigrant Experiences in America.

The Forgotten Irish

Damian Shiels, a celebrated conflict archaeologist, historian, and author, has focused his research in the widows and dependents pension application files of the American Civil War found at the National Archives. These records often include not only letters and private correspondence between family members, but unparalleled accounts of their lives in both Ireland and America.

The National Archives’ project to digitize these valuable files has opened up an invaluable online resource for Irish social historians. The author systematically examined each of the digitized files associated with Irishmen (using surnames as a primary indicator) in order to retrieve social information. Each of the 35 stories in the book uses at least one digitized file from the National Archives as its base and builds on the family story both through other online resources and historical documentation.

The book’s existence underscores the importance of digitization and our goal to expand public access to historical holdings, and it illustrates the importance of NARA’s holdings to social historians worldwide. In the acknowledgements section of his book, the author states:

“The majority of the research undertaken for this book was conducted from Ireland. This is something that would not have been possible prior to the increased accessibility of online records that has been a hallmark of recent years. Though nothing can truly replace direct archival research, the accessibility of millions of scanned primary documents online has provided a unique opportunity for scholars, particularly those located outside the country in which they have an interest, to engage with (and hopefully contribute towards) their chosen subject.
I had the great privilege of meeting some of the NARA team whose hard work in digitizing the pension files allowed me to explore these Irish stories. They include Archives Specialist Jackie Budell, who coordinates the project. Over the years, Jackie has been a constant source of encouragement, advice, support and friendship, for which I am extremely grateful. More than any other she deserves a special note of thanks for helping this book come to fruition.”

Join us on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 16, 2017 from 7:00pm to 8:30pm EST in the William G. McGowan Theater at the National Archives in Washington, DC for a discussion program with Damian Shiels based on his book, The Forgotten Irish. This will be the book’s launch in the United States, and the first time Damian will speak on this book in the U.S. The National Archives will be the exclusive point of sale in the U.S. for this book through May 1 when it becomes available nationwide.

Michael Hussey, a National Archives archivist and historian, and David T. Gleeson, Professor of American History at Northumbria University and author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America, will co-moderate the discussion and audience Q&A. A book signing will follow the program.

Register to attend the event in person, or watch the livestream of the event on our YouTube channel.

Learn more about this program on our events page, and read more about Damian’s research on his blog, Irish in the American Civil War.

Artists Warn of Elvis and Other Evils

A nation that neglects or scorns ideas “is playing a losing game,” Clifton Fadiman warns as he hosts the 1958 National Book Awards. He hastens to add that the country he refers to is “ancient Egypt.” But the ever-widening gap between mass culture and that of the intelligentsia is clearly on the minds of many speakers. Robert Penn Warren, receiving the poetry award for his volume Promises, speaks of a Hollywood executive wondering why Warren would bother to write poetry, except “for kicks.” He then launches into an erudite discussion of the “poem as structure,” wondering how structure and meaning are related and what is the meaning of structure itself. He concludes by defining the poem as “a little myth of man’s capacity for making life meaningful”

Catherine Drinker Bowen, the non-fiction winner for her biography of Sir Edward Coke, The Lion and the Throne, points out how daunting it was to write about a man no one had ever heard of. She attributes her urge to write to being the youngest of six children. “Nobody would listen to anything I said.” She then gives advice to biographers, chiefly on what to avoid: moralizing, antiquarianism, and pedantry.

A very young and nervous-sounding John Cheever (he was forty-five), winning the fiction prize for The Wapshot Chronicle, speaks of the “amiable coolness” that has grown between himself and the book, now that it is finished. With his trademark optimism he lauds how the novel “depends on the good opinion of strangers,” calling it “a glorious form…a marketplace where we investigate man’s complexity.”

The final forty minutes of the ceremony is devoted to Randall Jarrell’s lecture on the future of culture in America. Jarrell leans heavily on the work of sociologist Ernest van den Haag, arguing that modern technology has created a monstrously homogenizing mass or pop culture in no way comparable to the folk art of previous societies. This dumbed-down “product” is essentially crowding out the formerly respected fields of creative endeavor. Television is held up as the prime culprit, but movies, magazines, and Elvis Presley come in for their share of abuse. Artists are now becoming more “market-oriented.” Jarrell makes a passionate plea for high art, disinterested and uncompromising. He calls out those who wish to straddle the divide, lumping together Peyton Place, South Pacific, Liberace, and What’s My Line, insisting, “It’s better to read Proust. Better in every way.” As a reminder of just how prescient Jarrell was as a critic, he singles out Philip Larkin (this being very early in Larkin’s career) and quotes from his poem Church Going. The talk has a rather desolating effect, as much today as it no doubt did then. One can almost hear the psychic sigh of relief when Fadiman announces that the bar is now open.

Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) was that rare writer successful in both poetry and prose, writing a series of highly praised novels, most notably All the King’s Men. He explained, as quoted in the Poetry Foundation website:

…a poem for me and a novel are not so different. They start much the same way, on the same emotional journey, and can go either way…. At a certain level an idea takes hold. Now it doesn’t necessarily come with a form; it comes as an idea or an impulse…. I’ve started many things in one form and shifted to another…. The interesting topics, the basic ideas in the poems and the basic ideas in the novels are the same.

Catherine Drinker Bowen (1897-1973) wrote a series of highly successful biographies. The biographical dictionary Notable American Women reports how:

…a strong supporter of the rights of women to exercise their talents independent of home and family, in a speech near the end of her life Bowen observed that, “No woman of spirit can focus her entire life on the raising of two children,” she must also use her vital energies “in national causes, world causes.”

John Cheever (1912-1982) was one the preeminent writers of the mid-twentieth century. He is most remembered for his evocation of the American suburb. Martin Chilton, writing in The Telegraph, reports how Cheever: 

…understood the ambition and inferiority complexes of post-war American life. He could be funny about the “crushing boredom” of life in the suburbs with the “stupid, depressed and uncreative” people who populated their tidy houses but he was more than just an angry critic of torpid rural life. As his contemporary John Updike put it: “John Cheever was often labeled as a writer about suburbia; but many people have written about suburbia. Only Cheever was able to make an archetypal place out of it.”

Randall Jarrell (1914-1965) was a poet but also a brilliant literary critic and author of one of the great novels about academia, Pictures from an Institution. His early death was mourned by his friend, Robert Lowell, who, quoted on the website, wrote:

What Jarrell’s inner life was in all its wonder, variety, and subtlety is best told in his poetry…His gifts, both by nature and by a lifetime of hard dedication and growth, were wit, pathos, and brilliance of intelligence. These qualities, dazzling in themselves, were often so well employed that he became, I think, the most heartbreaking English poet of his generation…Always behind the sharpened edge of his lines, there is the merciful vision, his vision, partial like all others, but an illumination of life, too sad and radiant for us to stay with long—or forget.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150532
Municipal archives id: LT7951

West Florida Seminary Cadets at the Battle of Natural Bridge

In honor of the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of Natural Bridge, we are re-posting an entry that was originally published on March 6th, 2013 by Eddie Woodward.

Almost from its inception, there had been a military and cadet component at West Florida Seminary (1851-1901), predecessor to Florida State University. With the commencement of the Civil War in 1861, this aspect of the school’s curriculum increased in importance, so much so that the State Legislature proposed changing the name of the institution to the Florida Collegiate and Military Institute. Throughout the War, the students served as something of a home guard, occasionally guarding Union prisoners of war and always on call in the event of a Federal threat to the capitol. In early March 1865, that threat was realized when word came that a Union fleet had landed troops on the Gulf coast at the St. Marks lighthouse with the probable intention of capturing the capitol in Tallahassee.

West Florida Seminary Cadet Corps, circa 1880s
West Florida Seminary Cadet Corps, circa 1880s

The invading forces, commanded by Brigadier General John Newton, moved northward from the coast, hoping to cross the St. Marks River at Newport and attack St. Marks from the rear. Local militia was called out to delay the Union advance, and among those were cadets from West Florida Seminary. At noon on March 5, the cadet corps assembled at the school and marched to the state capitol where they were enlisted and sworn into Confederate service. The cadet’s principal, Captain Valentine M. Johnson then led them to the Tallahassee train station for their journey southward to meet the invaders. Johnson was a veteran and had served honorably in the Confederate Army until 1863 when he was forced to resign for health reasons. It is nearly impossible to accurately determine the number of cadets that participated in the campaign. However, reasonable estimates put the number at around twenty-five, with their known ages ranging from eleven to eighteen. At the train station, Johnson filtered out those cadets, mostly the youngest of the corps, that would not participate. Others were left behind to continue their home guard duties and to man fortifications as a last line of the capitol’s defense.

VMI Cadet Photograph of Valentine Mason Johnson, circa 1860
VMI Cadet Photograph of Valentine Mason Johnson, circa 1860

The cadets and other Confederate troops boarded a train in Tallahassee which carried them south to Wakulla Station on the St. Marks Railroad. From there, they marched six miles to the small village of Newport. There, in the late afternoon on March 5, they joined forces with a portion of Lieutenant Colonel George Washington Scott’s 5th Florida Cavalry Battalion and a small contingent of Confederate marines and militia. Scott’s men had skirmished with the Federal troops the previous day, gradually falling back from the East River Bridge toward Newport. It was at that bridge that the Union forces hoped to cross the St. Marks River, enabling them to move against St. Marks and perhaps Tallahassee. At Newport, the cadets occupied a line of breastworks running parallel to the river along its west bank. From there, they commanded the approaches to the East River Bridge, which Scott’s men had partially burned. Federal troops on the opposite side of the river still hoped to force their way across and a skirmish soon developed. By nightfall, the firing diminished, and everyone waited in their positions to see if the Federals would resume the conflict the next morning. It was in those trenches on the banks of the St. Marks River that the young cadets from the West Florida Seminary received their baptism of fire.

Map of Natural Bridge from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
Map of Natural Bridge from the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Newton, frustrated in his efforts to cross the St. Marks River at Newport, learned of another crossing upriver at Natural Bridge. At that location, the St. Marks River ran underground for a short distance, creating a natural crossing point. In anticipation of such a move, the Confederate General William Miller positioned Scott’s cavalry at Natural Bridge with orders to delay a crossing until reinforcements could arrive. At dawn on March 6, a battle erupted with the Federal forces unable to force their way across the span. The cadets were soon ordered out of their entrenchments at the East River Bridge and marched along the Old Plank Road to reinforce Scott’s men at Natural Bridge. One mile from the battlefield, two cadets peeled off to aid the wounded at a field hospital. The rest continued on, all the while the sounds of cannon and musket fire growing louder.

When they reached the battlefield, the cadets were positioned near the center of the Confederate line, a giant crescent enveloping the Natural Bridge. There they immediately dug trenches to protect them from enemy fire and were instructed not to fire unless a charge was made on an adjoining Confederate battery. In these early stages, the battle was primarily an artillery engagement and the cadets could do little more than wait it out with the rest of the defenders. All attempts by the Federal troops to cross at Natural Bridge were stymied with heavy losses. The worst fighting occurred in front of the Confederate line in a dense hammock that covered the crossing. The cadets were not heavily involved in this action but remained under constant artillery and musket fire. Cadet Lieutenant Byrd Coles credits the Seminary’s teachers on the battlefield with the safety of the cadets: “no doubt many of the cadets would have been struck if our teachers had not watched us constantly and made us keep behind cover.”

With the arrival of reinforcements, the Confederate troops counterattacked, charging across the bridge and driving the Federal troops a short distance. At this instance, the Union General Newton, realizing that Natural Bridge, like the East River Bridge at Newport, was too heavily defended to cross, ordered a retreat back to the St. Marks lighthouse and the protection of the Federal fleet. The cadets were then ordered to return to Newport to guard against another attempted crossing there. However, the Federal forces had had enough, and the cadets’ active duty had come to an end.

Confederate General William Miller (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
Confederate General William Miller (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

The Confederate victory against the Federal invasion was complete. Confederate casualties numbered three killed and twenty-three wounded (three mortally), with Federal losses totaling 148. The cadets from West Florida Seminary suffered no casualties. With the battle won, some of the cadets returned to Tallahassee, while others remained at Newport where they guarded two Confederate deserters that had crossed over to the Federal army and had been captured during the campaign. After the cadets witnessed their trial and execution, they escorted a group of around twenty-five Federal prisoners of war back to Tallahassee. On their return to Tallahassee, the cadets were welcomed as conquering heroes. A ceremony was held in the State House of Representatives chamber of the state capitol, where the cadets were presented with a company flag. Cadet Hunter Pope accepted the flag in the name of his comrades. It is uncertain what became of the flag, and it is thought that it returned with the cadets to the Seminary and was probably taken by Federal troops when they occupied Tallahassee after the War.

The Confederate victory at the Battle of Natural Bridge had no effect on the outcome of the War, and in less than a month, Robert E. Lee would surrender the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House in Virginia. The terms of Joseph E. Johnston’s surrender of the Army of Tennessee seventeen days later, included the surrender of Confederate troops in Florida as well. On May 10, Federal troops under the command of Brigadier General Edward McCook took possession of Tallahassee. The Federal army captured and paroled approximately 8,000 Confederate soldiers, including twenty-four cadets. It is thought that some of the cadets simply returned home after the surrender and before being formally paroled.

Natural Bridge Battlefield State Monument (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
Natural Bridge Battlefield State Monument (State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

Tallahasseeans fondly remembered the service provided by the West Florida Seminary cadets. Beginning in 1885, the state of Florida granted pensions to Confederate veterans, and two years later, they were also extended to home guard units, which included the cadets. Sixteen former cadets applied for pensions, while several others endorsed the applications of their comrades. The Tallahassee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy issued Southern Crosses of Honor to the former cadets who applied for the award, and they received tributes as “The Youngest of the Young Who Wore the Gray.” That phrase, forever associated with their participation in the battle, is inscribed on a monument at Natural Bridge Battlefield, which is today a state park.

As a result of the cadet/students participation in the engagement, on February 28, 1957, the FSU Army and Air Force ROTC units were officially presented with battle streamers by Governor LeRoy Collins in a ceremony at Doak Campbell stadium. Today the Florida State University Reserve Officers’ Training Corps detachment is permitted to fly a battle streamer as a result of the School’s participation in the action at Natural Bridge. It is one of only three colleges and universities in the United States which is permitted to do so. In the 1990s, the campus ROTC Building was renamed the Harper-Johnson Building in honor of Captain Valentine M. Johnson and a twentieth century Air Force ROTC graduate who rose to the rank of general.


For a full account of the battle, see David J. Coles,  “Florida’s Seed Corn: The History of the West Florida Seminary During the Civil War,” Florida Historical Quarterly 77, no. 3 (Winter 1999): 283-319.

The Perils of Poetry, Promotion and Postage

Even though WNYC had been broadcasting on FM for some seven years, the FM radio band in 1950 was still a fairly new medium. AM broadcasting was dominant and a few new FM stations actually promoted themselves by offering FM receivers to listeners in an effort to build an audience.

At the time, WNYC’s schedule had a lot of classical music programming, as the above letter suggests. This also included The Masterwork Hour, radio’s first regular broadcast of recorded classical music, as well as David Randolph’s Music for the Connoisseur, and Edward Tatnall Canby’s Recordings E.T.C. All were largely classical music oriented programs.

You’ll note too in the postscript that Director Siegel reminded listeners that they could subscribe to the station program guide, The Masterwork Bulletin, by sending in some uncancelled postage stamps. Not mentioned, however, was the philatelic nightmare all those stamps had become. Siegel was desperate to unload them. The entertainment trade publication Billboard asked readers if anyone was interested in buying $15,000 worth of unused postage stamps from WNYC and explained:

“Thruout the years WNYC has been accumulating the stamps–roomsfull of ’em. Once a year key execs in the comptroller’s office come over and count them out in an annual audit of the station’s books. Used to be they counted the stamps, one by one, by hand, but they finally gave in and put hundreds of them in sealed envelopes to simplify matters. Not too long ago, Siegel, tired of tiptoeing his way into his office between stacks of stamps and envelopes, tried to get the U.S. Post Office to take them back. U.S. policy calls for payment of around 65 cents on the dollar. Siegel got the ante up to 90 cents, but the corporation counsel said this sort of stuff couldn’t go on with city property. Meanwhile, more subscribers subscribed, and more stamps came in…”[*]

$15,000 in one, two and three cent stamps is indeed a lot of stamps. How did Siegel get rid of them? Did he get face value? When did they stop asking for program guide subscriptions paid for in stamps? These are just some the questions we still seek answers to. Please let us know, if you find out. 


[*] “WNYC is Awash in Postage Stamps,” The Billboard, August 12, 1950, p. 3.

Special thanks to listener Cathy Marczyk.

Women’s History Month

Every March, the National Archives proudly observes Women’s History Month. We recognize the vast contributions women have made to our nation’s history as we explore their stories through letters, photographs, films, and other primary sources. Because the National Archives holds the records of the federal government, each day we find stories documenting the countless ways women interacted with the government and engaged with national issues of the time.

Liberty motors manufactured for government use. Electric welding on the steel jacket on a Liberty Motor cylinder. Lincoln Motor Co. plant. Detroit, Michigan. National Archives Identifier 45567610

Liberty motors manufactured for government use. Electric welding on the steel jacket on a Liberty Motor cylinder. Lincoln Motor Co. plant. Detroit, Michigan. National Archives Identifier 45567610

There are also stories of women’s history from within the National Archives building itself. In October 1975, a new exhibit opened at the National Archives to coincide with International Women’s Year and the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence. The exhibit, “Her Infinite Variety: A 200-Year Record of American Women,” ran from July 1975 to February 1976.  The exhibit examined women’s roles at home, work, in wartime, as reformers, and in public life.

Then in 1976, the National Archives hosted a ground-breaking conference devoted to women’s history, examining records pertaining to women’s history and papers that used these rich resources to demonstrate women’s contributions throughout American history. Read the full story from the National Archives History office on our Pieces of History blog.

I am proud that women currently represent 51 percent of the National Archives’ workforce and commend their tireless efforts and recognize the significant role that they play in accomplishing our mission. Additionally, I support NARA’s Employee Affinity Group (EAG) Women’s Affinity Group (WAG), whose mission is to provide information, resources, networking opportunities, promote career growth, and facilitate mentorships for women at NARA. You can follow WAG on Twitter @RecordsofWomen and on Tumblr.

Women's History Month webpage

NARA’s holdings regarding women are extensive and include documents on a wide range of subjects. You can browse our Catalog for more information about records and information documenting women’s history. Are you interested in transcribing documents to help make these records more discoverable? Celebrate the contributions of American women by transcribing records from our Women’s History Month mission. Learn more and get started on our Citizen Archivist Dashboard.

View more Women’s History resources on

Agnes de Mille: Trailblazer in National Sponsorship of the Arts

Agnes de Mille lauds the Council of the Arts, forerunner to today’s NEA. In this 1966 interview, de Mille, America’s leading exponent of modern dance, describes her role in the founding of the American government’s funding of the arts. The need grew, she explains, from the State Department’s cultural exchange programs. While other countries lavishly subsidize their institutions (West Germany, for instance, spends over fifty million dollars on music alone), American dance companies, symphonies, painters, sculptors, and writers were in such dire need of support that there was a diminishing pool of “export” culture from which to choose. De Mille was at the Rose Garden ceremony during which President Johnson signed the bill. Afterwards, he told her, “Don’t just sit around talking. Do something!” She goes on to enthusiastically describe the program, marveling that there is no cronyism or politicking, how members of the council are leading experts in their respective fields working very hard to be unbiased and equitable in their decisions. The total amount the council is authorized to disperse seems paltry by today’s standards, all of two million dollars, but already one sees the infamous “culture wars” that lay ahead, as when de Mille complains that Republicans, suspicious of any state-sponsored art, have managed to lop off a fifth of the requested allotment for the following year.

Since dance in particular is her area of expertise, she details grants to the American Ballet Theater, Martha Graham, and Jose Limon. Some of these came under the heading of emergency grants because “every dancer in America is in a state of emergency. That’s chronic. If they don’t dance, they don’t exist…whereas a painter can stack paintings in the hall and die famous.” In the future she hopes to channel money towards regional dance companies. Ideally, looking far down the road, she would like America to have four or five major, financially secure companies, one concentrating on folk dance, as well as Martha Graham endowed for life and her work preserved. One gets the sense of a competent, focused, enormously driven advocate. When the host tries summarizing her many accomplishments and positions she points out one more: having organized the stage directors and choreographers, she is the country’s only female head of labor union.

Agnes de Mille was born in 1905. She came from a family with deep theatrical connections. (Her uncle was the famous Hollywood director C. B. de Mille.) Having determined at an early age that she wanted to dance, she performed and choreographed for several companies, notably the American Ballet Theater. Her ballet Rodeo (1943) with music by Aaron Copeland, was a seminal event in American dance history. The dance critic Jack Anderson, writing in The New York Times, describes her style:

Viewing dance as a theatrical and expressive art, Miss de Mille stressed motivated gestures rather than niceties of classical style in her choreography and in her coaching of dancers. For her, bodily movement was a form of communication akin to speech. An eclectic, she drew from ordinary gesture and everyday movement as well as from the technical vocabularies of classical ballet, modern dance and folk and social dance. The dramatic situation always determined the type of movement she employed.

De Mille’s breakthrough, however, came not in the world of ballet proper but on Broadway. Her dances for the hit musical Oklahoma! gave dance a new stature within the form, integrating it with the other elements rather than having exist as a stand-alone hiatus from the dramatic action. Martin Bernheimer, on the Los Angeles Times, describes how:

…she made Broadway history in 1943 with the dream ballet, a creation that integrated dance with the basic narrative. For once, the plot didn’t stop cold for a hippity-hop diversion that would bring on the showgirls. With a little help from Rodgers & Hammerstein, de Mille introduced choreography that propelled the drama forward and, at the same time, added telling psychological comment.

After the success of Oklahoma!, de Mille became a choreographing force both on Broadway and in the ballet world. During what is considered the Golden Age of the American musical she choreographed the dances for Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon and many other legendary shows. Her notable ballets include Black Ritual, Fall River Legend, Three Virgins and a Devil, and many others.

As this interview shows, de Mille was also a tireless promoter of dance, as well as author (she wrote a controversial biography of Martha Graham), public speaker, and memoirist. After a near fatal stroke in 1975 she wrote about her grueling struggle to regain control of her body in Reprieve (1981.)  Imperious, a strong and publically visible woman in a time when there were few, she was frank about what her achievement had cost. In a 1981 profile in People Magazine, she expressed no regrets:

“I came to be known on Broadway as a terror,” she notes with satisfaction, “a really tough, intransigent woman.” She has never been one to remember the names of the kids in the chorus or to sweeten her tart evaluations of other people’s work. “I’ve never been a very kind person,” she admits. “I’m me. And I had to do what I had to do.”

Agnes de Mille died in 1993. 


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150008
Municipal archives id: T2215

NEH Logo: web


Significant changes to our online search

NOTE: The clipboard feature described below is currently unavailable. We are working on the problem.

Our online search has been upgraded to version 2.4 of AtoM and with that has come many changes in its look and behaviour. We’d like to guide you through the major differences.


One of the more exciting new features is the change in your access to copyrighted digital objects. Previously, if you were searching the database from home you could only access the thumbnail of a digital object under copyright to a third party (that is, not the City of Vancouver) or of unknown copyright. If you tried to look at a larger image, you would see a warning that said “This digital object can only be accessed in person at the Archives because of the associated rights”. You would have had to come to the Archives to see the full image online.

With our upgraded system, you will now see the larger image in the full record page.

Larger image of photograph with unknown copyright. Reference code AM281-S8-: CVA 180-5649.

Larger image of photograph with unknown copyright. Reference code AM281-S8-: CVA 180-5649.

If you click on that image to save the larger image or access the high-resolution version, an agreement appears asking you to use the image for Fair Dealing purposes unless you have permission from the copyright holder. Continue reading

Books for Troops: C.B.I. Pointie Talkie


The C.B.I. Pointie Talkie Number 4 is a fascinating phrase book issued by the US Army Air Force for airmen in the China Burma India Theater in World War II. Containing sections in Chinese, Burmese, French, Annamese, Thai (Siamese), Shan, Lolo, and Lao, the book offers phrases for airmen to point at when trying to communicate with locals. The phrases range from basics like “Where is the latrine?” to pointed questions that reveal the fears and suspicions American soldiers were likely to have in a war zone, such as “Are there any spies around here?” The Pointie Talkie has recently been added to our rare book collections alongside a 1944 Japanese Phrase Book issued by the War Department.

Share your memories of life on campus!

Opening up the Archive: 50 years of life on campus

University of Stirling Archives


Saturday 18 March 2017

As part of a wide range of events being held across campus as part of Stirling Open Doors the University Archives is throwing open its doors to tell the story of the university’s foundation, growth and development. Come and explore the material we hold documenting the history of the university including our extensive photographic collection and view our new Timeline exhibition.

We are also inviting visitors to share their memories of the university. Bring along your old photographs of the campus and we will digitise them and add them to our collection, preserving further images of life on campus. If you’ve got stories to tell, or memories to share, you can contribute to our Stirling Stories project, which is being organised in collaboration with the School of Arts & Humanities. Students from our Heritage and Film & Media courses will be on hand to interview visitors about their memories of the university, creating a lasting record for the University Archive.

Full details of the University’s Stirling Open Doors Day events can be found at:

Students photographed during Charities Week, 1969.



John P. Cushing (AC 1882) World War I Posters Collection

7403648354_ecc1a4a073_oIn March 2012 eight wooden crates of WWI posters and ephemera were transferred from the Mead Art Museum to the Archives & Special Collections. These WWI materials all came from John P. Cushing, Amherst Class of 1882, and a complete guide to the collection is now available.

John Pearsons Cushing was born in Lansingburgh, New York on September 5, 1861. He attended high school in Lynn, MA after which he studied for two years at Boston University. He transferred to Amherst College in 1880 and finished his B.A. with the class of 1882. He went on to receive his M.A. from Amherst in 1885. During the time he spent working on his masters degree he also taught at Holyoke High School. He acted as Vice-Principal of Holyoke High from 1889-1892.7403655586_0536f7ffe4_o

cushingFrom 1892-1894 Cushing attended the University of Leipzig. His dissertation, ‘The Development of the Commercial Policies of the United States’ was published in 1894. Cushing received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Leipzig that same year. Upon his return to the United States, Cushing became a professor at Knox College in Galesburg, IL from 1894-1900. He returned to New England in 1900 to begin serving as headmaster of Hillhouse High School in New Haven, CT. In 1911 Cushing left Hillhouse in order to begin his own country day school for boys. Hamden Hall opened in Whitneyville (what is now Hamden) CT in 1912 where Cushing acted as headmaster until his retirement in 1927.

newsclippingWhile headmaster of Hamden Hall School for Boys, Cushing encouraged his students to collect WWI posters.  The above newspaper clipping reads “Posters of all sizes and descriptions, posters large and small, posters gray and sad, posters artistic and lurid, in fact every kind of poster that has in any way to do with the conflict of nations now raging is what [the students] are interested in.  One of the objects of their collection, of course, is to obtain as great a variety and as many hard-to-get posters as they are able to, and competition is among them, though the spirit of friendly rivalry prevails.”

During the outbreak of the first World War, governments across the globe realized that they needed an effective way of communicating their needs to the general populace. Through the production of propaganda posters, they could reach a wide audience and create a unified cause for citizens to get behind.

7375720552_0c184bde3f_oCitizens contributed to the war effort by enlisting, constructing military supplies, conserving food, and buying war bonds. Artists contributed by donating their work to various government agencies for the propaganda posters. These colorful works of art appealing to patriotism and nationalism grabbed the attention of the viewer and communicated a message powerfully and succinctly.7939458028_253c0dbb72_oThe visual appeal of the posters was made possible by the printing process known as choromolithography. In this process, a flat piece of limestone is used. The positive part of the image is applied with an oil-based ink. The rest of the stone is washed with a water-based solution. The oil repels water so that when the paper is applied, only the oil sticks and the rest of the sheet is kept clean by the water. This process can be done multiple times with different colors in order to achieve a poster print with as many colors as the artist desires. The most difficult part of this process is keeping the same alignment during multiple prints on the same poster.

This collection contains more than 700 World War I posters, ephemera, and propaganda collected by John P. Cushing (AC 1882). The collection includes work from the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Canada and Spain.  The finding aid for this collection includes item level detail about each poster.  Many of the posters in this collection have been photographed and the images are available on the Archives’ Flickr page.  To view items from this collection in the Archives, please contact the department in advance to request access at


Keri King Studio Visit

Amidst sequential snow storms, unseasonably warm weather, and a wild scramble to install the library’s big annual exhibit, we ventured into the wilds of Providence for a studio visit with our 2017 Creative Fellow Keri King.


Here you can see Keri seated at her wooden drafting table (it’s a family heirloom!).

You can read our previous blog post about Keri’s research process here. During this visit, she described her collage process, and the new methods she’s trying during her fellowship:

This Creative Fellowship is driving me to explore color and new collage techniques. I’m experimenting with a combination of analogue and digital processes to create my illustrative collage. I’m adjusting imagery [from high-resolution scans of library materials] in Photoshop so that each collage element prints at the desired size, before I physically cut it out… Typically, I work in black and white; I generate collage materials by photocopying source documents – I can get the size I need through repeated photocopying using semi-rational fraction-based math. Afterwards, I edit with whiteout, sharpie, and black ink … This go round I’m manipulating my color palette in Photoshop and I’m popping details in the hard copy with paint. It’s yielding a lot of juicy surprises!


Once images are cut out, Keri arranges them on a surface using white artist’s tape, which is repositionable, so she can try various layouts. An awesome collage tip from this pro: “I use Sharpie on the cut edge of the paper to avoid flares of white in the finished product. After doing this for a while, I found out that Terry Gilliam used to do this in his cut-out animations for Monty Python!”

Keri’s finished product–an 8 foot x 8 foot, full-color mural, enlarged from the collage she’s working on in these photos–will be on view at the March 1st On the Table launch party. Join us that evening for live music, a food art installation, and the unveiling of our 2017 exhibition!

Meet Gloria Jahoda

Coming from a strictly public library background, at first the world of Special Collections felt just as foreign and mysterious to me as I’m sure it does to many people. Luckily, as a graduate assistant in Special Collections & Archives, I’m in exactly the right position to learn more about it every day. While it might seem obvious why some books are special — they’re often very old, or very scarce, or both — archives are a bit more elusive. As the Manuscript Archivist explained to me, archives provide contextual primary source documents to help researchers understand the environment surrounding a person or event.

img_20170223_105153.jpgMy first project as a graduate assistant involved the Gloria Jahoda Collection – or rather, collections. An author whose husband taught at Florida State University, Gloria Jahoda initially donated a portion of her personal notes and manuscripts to FSU Libraries forty years ago. Some donors might offer more material to the archives after the first gift; this can happen quickly or many years later. These new items are assessed to see if they fit within the scope of the initial donation and, in many cases, added to the same collection. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t happen. When I started working with her manuscripts, Jahoda’s work was spread across seven collections, all donated at different times. I was first tasked with looking over the materials to find a major theme that might unite them into a single collection. I divided the work into new series – like smaller chapters in a single book, series help organize a collection by grouping items together based on their original purpose. I then rearranged the materials, removed duplicate publications, relabeled folders, and copied unstable materials (like old newspaper articles) onto paper that wouldn’t discolor or deteriorate. As this was happening, I learned a lot about who Gloria Jahoda was.

She was born in Chicago and was very proud of the fact that her first poem was published at the age of four. She liked to write on overlooked areas of Florida, including Tallahassee, which she described as being “200 miles from anywhere else.” She photographed her cats. She enjoyed classical music, especially by the English composer Frederick Delius. Her book The Road to Samarkand chronicled Delius’s life, including his time spent managing an orange plantation in Florida. She was an elected registrar of the Creek Nation. She spoke about ecology and conservation. Gloria Jahoda was bold, witty, and passionate.


What’s left behind after her death in 1980 are her books and, now, the Gloria Jahoda Papers. Visitors to Special Collections can track the development of Jahoda’s works, learn about her personal interests, and laugh at the jokes in her letters. Jahoda’s books document an interesting time in Florida’s development, and I’m proud to say I contributed to preserving her work for future research.

To learn more about the Gloria Jahoda Papers, the finding aid can be found here.

The American Negro Theater Performs John Millington Synge

In this 1949 radio broadcast, an uncredited cast (Sydney Poitier? Ruby Dee? Ossie Davis? They were all members) puts on Synge’s early one act play Riders to the Sea. First staged in 1904, Synge’s play portrays a household of Aran Island peasants whose menfolk are being remorselessly taken by the sea. The language, a highly stylized version of Hibernian English, sweeps to its incantatory tragic climax. If there is any implied affinity between the hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth existence of this marginalized segment of Irish society and that of the African-American community it is kept well below the surface. The only hint that this is not typical (ie. white) theater company is in the final moments, when the mother, Maurya, as she mourns the drowning of her last son, does so to the background of her daughters’ keening laments…which sound hauntingly like Negro spirituals.

Largely forgotten today, The American Negro Theater was a revolutionary experiment for its time. The website African American Registry tells how:

…the theater was founded in Harlem in 1940 by the Black writer Abram Hill and the Black actor Frederick O’Neal, who wanted to create a company that would provide opportunity for African-American artists and entertainment for African-American audiences unavailable downtown on Broadway. Over the next nine years, 50,000 people attended ANT productions. Hill and O’Neal felt that the mainstream professional theater provided only limited opportunity for African-Americans, and that it encouraged a “star system,” under which actors constantly competed to be the one, breakthrough hit. Hill and O’Neal were more interested in the potential for local Black community theaters, where directors, writers, and technicians would be as important as actors would, and where Black artists would be able to develop their talents. They sent postcards inviting other local writers and actors to join them, and in June of 1940, 18 artists met to form the American Negro Theater.

This combination of artistic and social goals was typical of the period. One can see in the organization’s development a microcosm of how the personal and political climate changed in the subsequent decade. Commercial success accentuated the natural rift that developed as a politically charged attitude towards theater changed to regarding plays, radio and, eventually, movies as more of a pure entertainment experience. reports that:

…ANT’s program was divided into three categories: stage production and a training and radio program. …The play that brought ANT the most recognition, however, was Anna Lucasta. It opened at The Harlem Library Theatre, but Broadway producers were anxious to move it downtown because of its commercial appeal. The show ran on Broadway for 957 performances before it toured throughout the country and later abroad in London, England. The success of Anna on Broadway had a two-fold effect on the company. It caused the demise of ANT because it departed from the company’s community roots and resulted in the loss of its founder Hill, who resigned due to the shift in goals and ideology.

The American Negro Theater’s legacy can be seen most obviously in its famous alumni. However, its influence ran deeper than that. In a time when it was almost impossible for an aspiring black actor to find even apprentice work, much less be considered for “serious” roles, the ANT provided a crucial training ground for a generation of performers who would have otherwise had no alternative. As notes:

Many company members left the ensemble and had immediate success. Ruby Dee after leaving was in the hit Broadway production of A Raisin in The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. Sidney Poitier, also had a turbulent stint with the company, being rejected by ANT twice he finally managed to prove himself and gain roles with company after fellow member, Belafonte, left a show for another job. Sidney was seen in a touring production and began his film career shortly after. Harry Belafonte [was] in his time was one of the most revered members of the acting ensemble. He also left for stardom shortly after his arrival. The educational portion of the company was very extensive and rigid. It allowed many young talented African-American stage actors to be trained in all elements of theater, film, and radio. In 1945, the theater was the first to have its own radio show featuring performances of it operas and a variety show.

No better example of the ANT’s bringing the very possibility of a theatrical career to people who lived worlds away from Broadway is how the future star Harry Belafonte discovered the organization. While working as a “janitor’s assistant” he was given two tickets to a performance…as a tip.

Harlem Cultural Archives, with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, produced this video for the 75th Anniversary of the American Negro Theatre exhibition.


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 8350
Municipal archives id: LT70

Mary McLeod Bethune, Pioneer in Education and Equality

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) was a prominent, influential African American woman of her time who became an American educator, philanthropist, and civil rights activist. In 1904, Dr. Bethune created a school for African American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida known as The Daytona Beach Educational and Industrial School for girls. In 1923, the school combined  with the all male Cookman Institute of Jacksonville which later became Bethune Cookman University. In 1935, Dr. Bethune cultivated and became President of multiple organizations to fight against school segregation and inadequate healthcare for black children. Her organizations consisted of the State Federation of Colored Women’s Club,  the prestigious National Association of Colored Women’s Club, and the National Council of Negro Women. Dr. Bethune also served as the President of Bethune Cookman University until 1942, and later served again from 1946-1947. On April 25, 1944, she fostered the development of the United Negro College Fund which has provided scholarships for thousands of African American students, including 39 black colleges and universities.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune profound work as an humanitarian in such a tumultuous time period in history allowed her to become one of the most eminent leaders in history. She was appointed to numerous national commissions including the Coolidge Administration’s Child Welfare Conference, the Hoover Administration’s National Commission on Child Welfare and Commission on Home Building and Home Ownership. She eventually became an advisor on minority affairs in the Roosevelt Administration, organizing two national conferences on the problematic issues that black Americans faced on a daily basis. While providing counsel to presidents and networking with America’s elite, Mary McLeod Bethune remained accessible to mentor young men and women to be great in their chosen paths academically and professionally.

Dr. Bethune, amazing strength and commitment to service pave the way for African Americans to be victorious. Her, impeccable journey truly exemplifies a line from Maya Angelou’s poem,  called “Our Grandmothers” which states, “I come as one but I stand as 10,000.” She truly envisioned more for her people and stood at the forefront to use her voice as a weapon to promote change.

-Tammy Joyner,

Claude Pepper Library Associate


Mary McLeod Bethune Part 1

Video Creator: Brian Stewart (,Date created: January 24, 2009, Category-Education

Mary McLeod Bethune Part 2

Video Creator: Brian Stewart (,Date created: January 24, 2009, Category-Education

Mary McLeod Bethune Part 3

Video Creator: Brian Stewart (, Date Created, January 24, 2009, Category-Education

The History of the House that Jack Built


FSU Special Collections & Archives is pleased to add a new chapbook to the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. The History of the House That Jack Built is a popular nursery rhyme told as a cumulative narrative. Starting with “This is the House that Jack built,” each verse adds on to the previous one, creating a delightfully nonsensical, rhyming story. This edition was printed in 1841 by Gustav S. Peters, a notable printer of broadsides who often catered to the German-speaking population of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and its environs. While many cheaply printed books of the time were colored by hand, if at all, Peters was one of the first printers in America to make color printing commercially viable (even if, as seen above, his colored printing blocks didn’t always register perfectly). This edition printed by Peters is one of several versions of The House That Jack Built that can be found in the Shaw Collection.

John Glenn, First Man in Orbit

“The view is tremendous!” John Glenn exclaims, as the booster rocket falls away and his spacecraft, the Friendship 7, is launched into orbit. This file is a compilation of news coverage from the 1962 Mercury 6 mission, which successfully put the first American in orbit around Earth and made a national hero of the 41-year-old astronaut. After a brief introduction by a reporter, we listen in on “raw” sound from NASA’s communication with the craft as well as chatter from Mission Control and various tracking stations around the world.

Glenn seems completely comfortable as he narrates his adventure, describing the view, identifying constellations, punctuating the completion of his first orbit by joking, “That was about the shortest day I’ve ever run into.” But the former test- and bomber pilot is hardly a passive spectator. A problem with the craft’s guidance system forces him to “fly by wire,” taking manual control of the firings to stay on course. The flight is, by today’s expectations, startlingly brief. From launch to impact the mission took a little less than five hours. There is a moment of tension during re-entry when a faulty micro-switch indicates the heat shield has detached. But the technicians on the ground are fairly sure this is an inaccurate reading. More drama occurs during the radio silence after re-entry when the craft has not yet been spotted by the Destroyer Noa, which is waiting for it near Grand Turk Island. But all is well, with Glenn being plucked out of the sea and pronounced “a hale and hearty astronaut.” There follows President Kennedy’s congratulatory call to Glenn and then a series of post-flight press conferences with various scientists assessing the mission.

John Glenn (1921-2016) already had a spectacular career in aviation before being selected as one of the seven original Mercury astronauts. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross six times, flying missions in both World War II and Korea. In 1957, he set a transcontinental speed record from Los Angeles to New York, spanning the country in 3 hours and 23 minutes, the first transcontinental flight to average supersonic speed. But none of this, of course, compared to the excitement generated by his orbiting Earth, as the United States attempted to catch up in the “space race” with the USSR. The New York Times reported:

The whole continent watched on television as Colonel Glenn’s capsule was launched. The world listened by radio. And almost 100,000 persons had a direct view from here and the beaches around as the Atlas rocket booster bore the Project Mercury capsule upward with a thrust of 360,000 pounds…. There were the usual cries of “Go! Go!” at take-off. Tears came to the eyes of some viewers, in the blockhouse, at the observer’s stand two miles from the launching pad, and on the beaches.

Glenn went on to be elected a US Senator, representing Ohio for twenty-five years. One of his major accomplishments was being the chief author of  the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. This did not, however, mark the end of his career as an astronaut. As the website notes:

Despite his advancing age, Glenn was not yet finished with the space program. On Oct. 29, 1998, while still a senator, Glenn made history again when he rode the space shuttle Discovery to become the oldest space traveler. Over the course of nine days, the shuttle orbited Earth 134 times.

Unlike many astronauts who were not comfortable with the attention becoming a national icon brought, Glenn seemed to thrived as a public figure. After serving in the Senate he founded what eventually became the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, which is dedicated to encouraging careers in public service. And he still commented on current political questions, exhibiting the same commonsense approach he did under far more pressure-packed circumstances. As Fox News noted:

The astronaut, now 93 with fading eyesight and hearing, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he sees no contradiction between believing in God and believing in evolution. “I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact,” said Glenn, a Presbyterian. “It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.”


Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection.

WNYC archives id: 150264
Municipal archives id: LT9329

Guidance on Presidential and Federal Records

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has long had a special relationship with the incoming Presidential Administration, including providing archival and records management guidance and support to the White House upon request. This relationship continues throughout the Administration, until the Presidential records are transferred into the National Archives for permanent preservation in our President Library system.


The 2016 Guidance on Presidential Records is available on This document, which NARA has prepared for every incoming administration since 2000, provides basic background information on the Presidential Records Act (PRA) of 1978, as amended, 44 U.S.C. §§ 2201-2209; how the National Archives implements the PRA; and how we assist the White House in managing its records under the PRA.

NARA has also continued to engage with Federal agencies to inform them of their records management responsibilities under the Federal Records Act (FRA).  The Office of the Chief Records Officer at the National Archives has updated its Documenting Your Public Service publication and developed other resources for agencies to ensure that records management is an integral part of agency transition plans. See the Records Express blog for more information about records management guidance for the Presidential transition.

It is important to understand the distinction between Presidential records and Federal records, which are governed by the two different laws described above:

Presidential records only apply to the President, the Vice President, their immediate staff, or a unit or individual of the Executive Office of the President whose function is to advise or assist the President, in the course of conducting activities which relate to or have an effect upon the carrying out of the constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties of the President. (For further details, please see the Presidential Records Act.)

Federal records apply to all “federal agencies” in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches, but do not include the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Architect of the Capitol. 

The rules governing Federal and Presidential records and their preservation have not changed since the FRA and PRA were amended in 2014, but updating and sharing our guidance is one component of the support that NARA offers to both Federal agencies and the White House, especially when a new administration begins.

Claude Pepper Library Celebrates Black History Month

 Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall became the 1st African American man to serve as Justice of the Supreme Court. Throughout his career he possessed tenacity and resilience in ending legal segregation by becoming a legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In that work, he broke barriers in American history by guiding the litigation to eradicate the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation laws. Moreover, he became victorious in his position as Justice of the Supreme Court by crafting a distinctive jurisprudence marked by uncompromising liberalism, unusual attentiveness to practical considerations beyond the formalities of law, and an indefatigable willingness to dissent.

Marshall was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908 and was the grandson of a slave. Marshall’s father religiously instilled morals and values in his son’s upbringing as well as an appreciation for the United States Constitution, including the rule of law. As a result, his father’s words served as a strong foundation which later became evident in his profound role in law. Marshall completed high school in 1925 and later followed his brother, William Aubrey Marshall, to the historically black Lincoln University in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Surprisingly, his classmates at Lincoln included a distinguished group of  future Black leaders who would later make their mark on the world. For example, poet and author Langston Hughes, the future President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, and musician Cab Calloway. Before Marshall graduated from Lincoln University, he married his first wife, Vivian “Buster” Burey. Sadly, their 25 year marriage ended with her untimely death from cancer in 1955.

Later in 1930, Marshall applied to the University of Maryland Law School, but was denied admission because he was black. He did not know that this event he perceived as a failure would later turn into one of the most ground breaking cases that would leverage his professional career and negate superficial college admittance procedures based on race. Thurgood sought admission at Howard University Law School and was accepted that same year. During that year, Marshall became deeply influenced by the new dean, Charles Hamilton Houston. Houston instilled in all of his students the desire to apply the tenets of the Constitution to all Americans. In 1933, Marshall took on his first case involving the University of Maryland Law School which was the same Law school that denied his admission years before due to his skin color. He successfully sued the University of Maryland for the refusal of admitting a young African American Amherst University graduate by the name of Donald Gaines Murray due to race. Author H.L. Mencken celebrated Marshall’s victory by writing that the decision of denial by the University of Maryland Law School was “brutal and absurd,” and they should not object to the “presence among them of a self-respecting and ambitious young Afro-American well prepared for his studies by four years of hard work in a class A college.”

After accomplishing this huge milestone in his career, Thurgood Marshall  followed his Howard University mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston to New York and later became Chief Counsel for the NAACP. During this period, Mr. Marshall was asked by the United Nations and the United Kingdom to help draft the constitutions of the emerging African nations of Ghana and what is now Tanzania. It was felt that the person who so successfully fought for the rights of America’s oppressed minority would be the perfect person to ensure the rights of the white citizens in these two former European colonies. After amassing an impressive record of Supreme Court challenges to state-sponsored discrimination, including the landmark Brown v. Board decision in 1954, President John F. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In this capacity, he wrote over 150 decisions including support for the rights of immigrants, limiting government intrusion in cases involving illegal search and seizure, double jeopardy, and right to privacy issues. Biographers Michael Davis and Hunter Clark note that, “none of his (Marshall’s) 98 majority decisions was ever reversed by the Supreme Court.” In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson appointed Judge Marshall to the office of U.S. Solicitor General. Before his subsequent nomination to the United States Supreme Court in 1967, Thurgood Marshall won 14 of the 19 cases he argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the government. Thurgood Marshall lead an impeccable career in law by winning more cases before the United States Supreme Court than any other American.

Until his retirement from the highest court in the land, Justice Marshall established a rapport by using his voice to enforce change to improve the lives of minority groups and improve laws to promote equality. Having honed his skills since the case against the University of Maryland, he developed a profound sensitivity to injustice by way of the crucible of racial discrimination in this country. As an Associate Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall left a legacy that expands that early sensitivity to include all of America’s voiceless. Justice Marshall died on January 24, 1993.

-Tammy Joyner, Claude Pepper Library Associate

African American History at the National Archives

February is Black History Month. This month and every day, the National Archives celebrates the extraordinary contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.

The National Archives holds a wealth of material documenting the African American experience, including millions of records related to the interactions between African Americans and the Federal government. These materials are highlighted in online resources, in public programs, and throughout traditional and social media.

African American History webpage

You don’t have to live in Washington, DC or visit one of our research rooms to be inspired by the wealth of information available at the National Archives. Visit our African American History webpage to learn more about events and activities celebrating African American History. This webpage contains photographs, historical videos, articles, links to online resources for research, public programs and events, Presidential Library resources, exhibits, and much more.

You can also browse our Catalog for more information about records and holdings documenting the African American experience. Are you interested in transcribing documents to help make these records more accessible? We’ve created an African American History transcription mission in celebration of Black History Month. Learn more and get started on our Citizen Archivist Dashboard.

Questions about conducting research at the National Archives? Visit our African American History research group on History Hub. And see our Pieces of History blog for more information and resources about the National Archives holdings related to African American History.

Hero of World War II

Dorie Miller (1919-1943), was the 1st African American man awarded the U.S. Navy Cross to acknowledge his heroic efforts when the battleship of West Virginia was attacked at Pearl Harbor.

Doris Miller, known as “Dorie,”was born in Waco, Texas, in 1919. He was one of four sons. After high school, he worked on his father’s farm until 1938 when he enlisted in the Navy as a mess attendant (kitchen worker) to earn money for his family. Unfortunately, at the time the Navy was segregated so combat positions were not open to African Americans. Yet, Dorie went against all odds by proving that African American men had the ability to serve in combat equal in skill to any man regardless of race. On December 7, 1941, Dorie arose at 6 a.m. to serve breakfast aboard USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Dorie, immediately reported to his assigned battle station and began moving the ship’s Captain to safety who was brutally wounded. Miller then returned to deck and noticed that the Japanese planes were still dive-bombing the U.S. Navy Fleet. As a result, he picked up a 50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun without any professional training and managed to shoot down three to four enemy aircraft. With great bravery he fired until he ran out of ammunition, by then the men were being ordered to abandon ship as the West Virginia slowly began to sink.

Shortly after, the Pittsburgh Courier , one of the country’s most widely circulated black newspapers sent a reporter out to recognize and honor Miller’s bravery. On April 1, 1942 Miller was commended by the Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, and on May 27, 1942 he received the Navy Cross for his extraordinary courage in battle. In fact, Miller’s rank was raised to Mess Attendant First Class on June 1, 1942. Dorie Miller was later sent on tour in the States to raise money for war bonds, but he was called back in the Spring of 1943 to serve on the new escort carrier known as the USS Liscome Bay. The ship was operating in the Pacific near the Gilbert Islands. at 5:10 a.m. on November 24, the ship was brutally hit by a single torpedo fired from a Japanese submarine. The torpedo lead to a massive bomb explosion in minutes. Miller was initially listed as missing; by November 1944, his status was changed to “resumed dead.” Only 272 men survived the attack.

Because of Dorie Miller commendable sacrifices for his country there is a Dorie Miller park in Hawaii and several schools and buildings that are named throughout the U.S. to exemplify his valiant temperament during such a monumental event in history.

The Claude Pepper Library Celebrates the Legacy and Life of Dorie Miller and Salutes him for his bravery.

-Tammy Joyner

Claude Pepper Library Associate

Giving an Omeka Site a New Home

Slizewski-Smith, Erika, “St. Peter's Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed February 7, 2017,
Slizewski-Smith, Erika, “St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Tallahassee, Florida,” Religion @ Florida State University, accessed February 7, 2017,

Special Collections & Archives maintains an Omeka instance mostly to be used with the Museum Objects classes that use our physical exhibit space periodically and also need to include a digital exhibit with their work. Our hope is that someday the FSU Digital Library will be able to handle the digital exhibit needs for these classes. However, for the moment, Omeka is our tool for this need.

We were approached a few months ago by a professor looking for a new home for his Omeka site that classes had used to collect information and share his student’s work from Religion classes at FSU. As these collections fit in well with the collecting areas of Special Collections & Archives, particularly as we expand our collections of local religion institutional records, this Omeka site was a good candidate for migration to the Special Collections Omeka instance.

Happily, Omeka provides a plug-in that allows for the migration of materials between Omeka instances to be a fairly painless process. The site has been migrated (mostly) successfully. A few lingering problems with video files is being working on by the professor and some Library IT staff. In the meantime, enjoy this new addition to the FSU Special Collections & Archives Omeka lineup, Religion @ Florida State University.

Association of Moving Image Archivists Conference 2016

This past November I attended the 2016 conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA). It took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – the City of Bridges. Here are a few of the highlights.

The Roberto Clemente Bridge – one of 446 in Pittsburgh! Photograph by Jana Grazley

The Roberto Clemente Bridge – one of 446 in Pittsburgh! Photograph by Jana Grazley


A pre-conference tradition since 2013 is the AMIA/DLF (Digital Library Federation) Hack Day, wherein participants collaborate on short projects to develop solutions to various problems associated with moving image preservation and access. Hack Day is a free event focused on practical outcomes and skill-sharing amongst developers and non-developers. This year’s projects included:

  • Checksumthing, a Python script to transform the data inside checksum sidecar files to the archivist’s desired format. The project won two awards – Best Solution to the Stated Problem and the audience favourite award.
  • Loggr, a schema and template for logging audiovisual artifacts (errors, usually visual, introduced during the digitization process) using consistent terminology. Loggr can help archivists create reports on the frequency and severity of artifacts in order to prioritize quality control work.
  • Linked Film Description Framework, a linked open data driven web resource that retrieves descriptive information about film titles from resources listed in Wikidata;
  • Wikidata for Digital Preservation, a contribution to an ongoing project to describe file formats, software, and other elements of digital preservation as structured data on Wikidata. This team created a crosswalk that compared existing audiovisual file format properties in Wikidata with properties from other sources of format description, and made recommendations for new properties to be added to Wikidata. I participated in this team, and we won an award for best embodiment of the Hack Day Manifesto!


A common misconception among non-archivists is that for fragile or obsolescent media, digitization is “the end” – that once media are digitized, the preservation and access problems are solved. In reality, the new digital file requires just as much (if not more!) management and care as the physical item for which it is a surrogate. Many of this year’s sessions focused on the work that needs to be done after digitization. Brendan Coates of the University of California Santa Barbara and Morgan Morel of George Blood Audio Video presented QCT-Parse, a series of scripts for automating actions in QCTools. QCTools is open-source software for performing quality control on digitized video files, and QCT-Parse includes scripts for generating, then parsing a QCTools report in order to speed up quality control work. QCT-Parse is a wonderful example of the way open source allows members of the preservation community to build upon one another’s tools, and I look forward to exploring its application to our quality control workflows here at CVA.

Output of the QCTools Report Parser available as part of QCT-Parse

Output of the QCTools Report Parser available as part of QCT-Parse

Chris Lacinak of AVPreserve and Jon Dunn of Indiana University presented on Indiana University’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, which is now addressing the challenge of mass description following mass digitization. In order for researchers to be able to discover digitized audiovisual content, description needs to be sufficiently granular, and IU is exploring how best to harness multiple existing sources of metadata and emergent technologies like facial recognition and content matching to generate meaningful descriptions on a large scale. I look forward to seeing how outcomes from this project might apply to the rest of the field.

Metadata generation mechanisms (MGMs) in IU’s three project phases

Metadata generation mechanisms (MGMs) in IU’s three project phases


There was also a curated stream dedicated to the digital preservation of audiovisual content – a very timely topic as more and more organizations amass digital AV through digitization projects and acquisition of born-digital records. The stream was spearheaded and curated by Kathryn Gronsbell of the Carnegie Hall Archives, Shira Peltzman of UCLA, Ashley Blewer of the New York Public Library, and Rebecca Fraimow of WGBH and the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. This stream was particularly relevant for me as I’m currently tackling over twelve terabytes of born-digital video created in the making of GVTV in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Anne Gant of Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum spoke about the challenges of acquiring and accessioning born-digital moving image donations, including the need to allocate more staff time to up-front activities like checking hard drives upon receipt. Tim Babcock of Penn State talked about establishing a digital preservation program from scratch, and addressed the intimidation beginners can feel in the face of daunting best-practice documents and the courage we all need to be open about our digital preservation practices so we can learn together. This sentiment was echoed across the Digital Preservation stream and the Do-It-Yourself Community Archiving Symposium which ran concurrently (and which was kindly recorded and posted for those who couldn’t attend the conference or, like me, were busy in the Digital Preservation stream).

Tim Babcock confronts a perennial digital preservation challenge

Tim Babcock confronts a perennial digital preservation challenge

Together with Tom De Smet of the Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision, Dinah Handel of the New York Public Library, and Travis Wagner of the University of South Carolina, I participated in a theory-versus-practice panel that addressed the distance between expectations and realities of digital preservation work, and the sometimes limited applicability of standards and codified best practices to practitioners’ real-life situations. I spoke about the early stages of my work on GVTV, including creation and analysis of disk images containing thousands of video files, and, in the spirit of openness, took audience members on a play-by-play of everything that didn’t work the way I thought it would. It was great to exchange stories and ideas with my fellow panelists and other conference attendees, and I returned to Vancouver ready to dig in to GVTV with renewed vigour.

AMIA conferences draw attendees from all over the world, and the annual conference is a great opportunity to compare notes with others in the field and keep current with the latest developments in moving image archives professional practice.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

Poems of Cabin and Field (1899) by Paul Laurence Dunbar, featuring photographs by the Hampton Institute Camera Club
Image credit: Wikimedia

Although Paul Laurence Dunbar was only 33 years old when he died of tuberculosis on February 9, 1906, he left behind a lasting legacy of poems, short stories, and novels. The eldest son of former Kentucky slaves, Dunbar published his first poems in his hometown newspaper at the age of sixteen. His first collection of poetry, Oak and Ivy, was published in 1893. While much of his poetry was written in traditional English verse, Dunbar achieved widespread popularity for writing in African American vernacular dialect. Several volumes of Dunbar’s poetry like Poems of Cabin and Field (1899), Candle-Lightin’ Time (1901), When Malindy Sings (1903), and Li’l’ Gal (1904), shown here, featured full-page, black-and-white photographs taken by the Hampton Institute Camera Club, with whom Dunbar frequently collaborated to illustrate his verse. The hundreds of photographs in these books have significant cultural value as representations of rural African American life at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Art Nouveau bindings designed by Margaret Armstrong and Alice Morse on volumes of Dunbar’s verse from the Shaw Collection

Several volumes of Dunbar’s poetry are included in the John MacKay Shaw Collection of Childhood in Poetry. In his short life, Dunbar spoke with passion, humor, and elegance of the human experience, inspiring later writers such as Maya Angelou, who titled her autobiography after lines from Dunbar’s poem Sympathy

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!