Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Kwanzaa!

In celebration of Kwanzaa, today’s post features a flyer from the Atlanta Kwanzaa Committee. It highlights activities celebrating the week of Kwanzaa from December 26, 1985-January 1, 1986, including poetry readings, music and dance presentations, and a film viewing. The flyer comes from the records of the Phoenix Arts and Theatre Company, which supported and organized African American arts in Atlanta throughout the 1980s and 1990s. As the flyer indicates, Kwanzaa is a week long celebration that takes place every year from December 26 to January 1. It honors African heritage and culture and includes the lighting of a kinara, a feast, and gift giving.  

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Today’s post features six holiday cards from the Selena Sloan Butler Family papers. Selena and Henry R. Butler were both equally involved in the Atlanta community through professional and civic endeavors. Henry was one of the first African American physicians to establish a permanent medical practice in the Atlanta area upon moving here in 1890. In addition, he was involved in local chapters of the Prince Hall Freemasons, Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, and Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Selena played a crucial role in the establishment of both the Georgia Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers and the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT). The Butlers were also involved in the creation of the Georgia Commission of Interracial Cooperation, as well as members of Big Bethel A.M.E Church. The cards pictured here were sent to the Butler family during the 1941 holiday season.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tis the Season!

As Christmas rapidly approaches, the Archives Division thought it would be festive to share holiday related materials from various collections. This week features two different pieces. The first is a Christmas service program, “Christmas Bells,” circa 1910, from the Adam Knight Spence and John Wesley Work collection. It includes sheet music, prayers, hymns, recitations, and scripture readings. Spence and Work were involved in musical endeavors at Fisk University (Nashville, TN). Spence was the leader of the Mozart Society and Work was the director of the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

The second item is 1957 sheet music for “Angels We Have Heard on High” from the Henry J. and Florine D. Furlow papers. The Furlows were lifelong members of Atlanta's Big Bethel A.M.E. Church, which is reflected by the stamp on the music. In addition to their involvement in the community, both Henry and Florine taught in Atlanta public schools throughout their careers. Despite coming from two different collections, these items compliment each other because they document the involvement of African Americans in local music activities and groups.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Archives and Publics: Andrew J. Young + Photograph Identification

The Andrew J. Young Papers contain nearly 40,000 photographs and slides that document Young’s family, life, and work spanning more than 50 years. There are photos of Young, his children, and his grandchildren as babies; his first ministerial post in the mid-1950s through weddings he performed in the 1990s; the SCLC Citizenship School through his GoodWorks activities; his first Congressional campaign in 1970 through his 1990 gubernatorial campaign; his Ambassadorial trips across the globe through bidding for the Olympics through tropical vacations; and everything in between.  (Below: Ambassador Andrew Young is pictured in his Waldorf-Astoria residence, late 1970s.)

Many prominent people appear in the photographs, including Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, RUN-DMC, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Hank and Billye Aaron, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Jr., Jesse Jackson, Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier, Garth Brooks, Harry Belafonte, Cornel West, Muhammad Ali, George Bush Jr. and Sr., Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Billy Graham, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Ted Turner and Jane Fonda. There are also many prominent Atlantans, such as Shirley Franklin, Sue Ross, Julian Bond, Hosea Williams, Jesse Hill, Joseph Lowery, Ralph Abernathy, Marvin Arrington, Zell Miller, Benjamin E. Mays, Bernard Scott Lee, Bill Campbell, and Maynard Jackson. (Below: Andrew Young, seated, identifies photographs for project staff, pictured left to right, Brenda Tindal, Mike Kaiser, and Cheryl Oestreicher.)

While the majority of the photographs were labeled or identifiable, many were not. On Tuesday, Andrew Young and his daughter Andrea visited the archives and helped identify the people, places, and events. Their assistance was invaluable as it not only helps us to organize the images, but will ease researchers’ use of the collection. As we documented what they said, we listened to their reminiscences about the people, the places, the events, and their lives. (Below: Pictured left to right are Mike Kaiser, Cheryl Oestreicher, and Andrew Young.)

Near the end of his time in the archives, he reflected, “We’ve really had a good life.”

For more information about the grant-funded project to process the Young papers and other civil rights related collections, see the CLIR Hidden Collections Grant blog.

Posted by Cheryl Oestreicher, Project Archivist

[The Andrew J. Young Papers at AARL are closed for processing and expect to be open in March 2011]

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

In honor of the first day of Hanukkah, we post this James Van Der Zee photograph of the Moorish Zionist Temple of Moorish Jews, which was located at 127 West 137th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. The photograph comes from the James Van Der Zee framed photograph collection here at AARL. Van Der Zee was one of the foremost African American photographers during the Harlem Renaissance. His many prints, negatives and glass plates are known for documenting the spirit of the period, while also cultivating black pride, especially between the world wars. In his portraits Van Der Zee worked to both document social life and present aesthetically pleasing pieces of art. The Archives Division welcomes Hanukkah by sharing this piece of Van Der Zee artwork.


Landing, James E. Black Judaism: Story of An American Movement. Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2002.

Leininger-Miller, Theresa. “Van Der Zee, James Augustus.” American National Biography Online.

Michaeli, Ethan. “Another Exodus: The Hebrew Israelites from Chicago to Dimona.” In Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. Yvonne Patricia Chireau and Nathanial Deutsch, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Wintz, Cary D. and Paul Finkelman. “Van Der Zee, James.” Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Research 2.0- African Americans and Freemasonry

Over the last decade author Dan Brown has brought historical subjects of intrigue into the realm of popular culture with novels such as The Da Vinci Code. Through his written works and film adaptations the general public has become familiar with the Holy Grail, the Knights Templar and Priory of Sion, the Illuminati, and most recently, the Freemasons. While Brown’s latest work, The Lost Symbol, gave readers a lesson in the history of freemasonry, it left out a vital chapter of the fraternal society’s history—African Americans. As with many institutions in the United States, freemason lodges were segregated. As a result, African American freemasons organized their own branch under Prince Hall Freemasonry.

Prince Hall Freemasonry is named after Prince Hall, one of the first African American freemasons. In 1775 Hall, along with fourteen other African American men, were initiated by a British military lodge stationed in Boston, MA. Under Hall’s leadership and over time, the first African American lodge, whose original title is argued to be African Lodge No.1 or No.459, gained recognition by the Grand Lodge of England and was given the full rights of a Masonic grand lodge. After the American Revolution, the lodge remained loyal to English counterparts because U.S. Freemasons refused to accept it. However, the Grand Lodge of England provided little support, which led what was then the African Lodge No.1 to declare independence in 1827.

Prince Hall lodges remained in Northern states until after the Civil War, since up to that point only free African Americans had the independence to establish lodges. Even after Emancipation, Prince Hall Freemasonry strove to be acknowledged by white Masonic lodges in the North and South. This effort continued into the twentieth century, and today the majority of grand lodges recognize Prince Hall Freemasonry. Like their white counterparts, Prince Hall Masons saw the development of related organizations, such as the Order of the Eastern Star, which inducted both men and women. While not a Masonic organization, members are admitted based on their relation to a brother of the Freemasons. The African American Order of the Eastern Star was founded in 1874 by Thornton Andrew Jackson, a Prince Hall Mason in Washington, D.C.

For researchers interested in the history and culture of African American freemasonry and that of similar organizations, AARL’s archives contains collections related to Prince Hall Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star. By and large, these records document Atlanta and Georgia chapters during the twentieth century. The Selena Sloan Butler family papers contain materials related to Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler Sr, who was the grand master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia from 1901 to 1931. Other collections that document such groups include the Henry J. and Florine D. Furlow papers and the Douglas Evans/Prince Hall Masons collection. The Vertical Files, which inspire the “Treasures from the Vertical Files” series, also contain a handful of items, though they represent lodges in other states.

ADDENDUM:  Please see archives staff regarding use/access restrictions.


Butler, Henry Rutherford. The History of Masonry Among Colored Men in Georgia. Atlanta, GA, 1911. (AARL owns a copy)

Davis, Harry E. A History of Freemasonry Among Negroes In America. The United Supreme Council, Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, North Jurisdiction, USA (Prince Hall Affliation), 1946. (AARL owns a copy)

Mjagkij, Nina. Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2001.

Walkes, Joseph A. Black Square and Compass: 200 Hundred Years of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1981.

Williams, Loretta. Black Freemasonry and Middle Class Realities. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1980.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives intern

Friday, November 19, 2010

Treasures from the Vertical Files: Gettysburg Address

To commemorate the 147th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, the Archives Division presents its copy of the speech, which was handwritten and signed by President Abraham Lincoln. Just kidding! This reproduction of the address, a souvenir copy, represents a common issue archivists have to deal with—authenticity. It’s not unusual for archives to be presented with documents that deal with important events or issues in U.S. history and are supposedly genuine. However, these materials are sometimes mass produced replicas or attempted forgeries. In the case of this imitation, the Archives staff easily identified it as a reproduction due to paper and ink qualities. Reproductions and counterfeits that aren't this transparent require a more thorough study. Regardless, the Archives Division thought it would be fun to share it with our blog readers as a reminder of this day’s importance in history.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Digitizing Historic African American Education Collections: An Introduction

In a collaborative project, AARL and the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) were awarded funds in 2010 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to digitize and make web-accessible late nineteenth and mid-twentieth century manuscript collections that document the historical development of education for African Americans, primarily in the South. Ranging in date from the early 1860s to the early 1950s, these materials, owned and housed at AARL, are of great national significance as they were created during the near-century long struggle to improve educational opportunities for African Americans in the United States.

The project, named “Digitizing Historic African American Education Collections,” runs from April 01, 2010, to March 31, 2012. Recently, Wesley Chenault, project director for the grant, submitted the first interim narrative report, which highlighted activities, accomplishments, objectives and more for April 01, 2010, to September 30, 2010. Future posts will feature different components of the grant, discuss the project’s methodology, and share updates. For now, here is a glimpse at some of the activities and accomplishments to date.

AARL purchased equipment and hired two part-time library assistants, Colleen Carrington and Grace Lynis Dubinson. Their essential contribution – scanning tens of thousands of historical records – comprises the bulk of the work. DLG’s Sheila McAlister, Andy Carter and Mary Willoughby provided training on scanning techniques and file labeling conventions for AARL project staff. Among grant-related publicity and outreach efforts, AARL's Kerrie Cotten Williams and DLG's Toby Graham discussed the project as part of a panel, “Southern Civil Rights Collections: Bridging the Digital Divide” at the National Conference of African American Librarians in August 2010.

When completed, 74,000 pages of digital content will be made available through AARL and DLG. A couple of these files – a photograph and ledger page from the Atlanta University Collection – are included above. Stay tuned, for there is more to report about this exciting and important digitization project.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Archives and Publics: Aretina Hamilton

Very soon, the AARL Archives blog will feature a post by Aretina Hamilton, pictured above left.  Hamilton, a doctoral candidate in Geography at the University of Kentucky, will talk about her research and relationship to AARL, but the Archives Division thought it might be fun to introduce her early – and in action no less.  Here, Hamilton conducts an oral history with Henri McTerry of Atlanta.  Please check back for more.    

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate   

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Archives and Publics: McCaskill + Jones

In this Archives and Publics post, AARL's Archives Division brings you an update on Dr. Barbara McCaskill's ongoing research into the life of J. (Joseph) Richardson Jones, a cinematographer, photographer, and reporter for the Atlanta Daily World.   It's a reminder not only of the detective-like nature of research, but also its collaborative quality.

In the screen shot below, McCaskill e-mails Toby Graham and Sheila McAlister of the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) about a discovery in the Charles Douglass Business Records at the Middle Georgia Archives and how it relates to DLG's holdings. Through much sleuthing, McCaskill was able to accurately identify a Joseph Jones from a handbill in DLG's repository as J. Richardson Jones. 

The trace led McCaskill, along with Christina Davis and JoyEllen Freeman, to look for holdings in Florida that document Jones's early childhood in Jacksonville, as well as associations in black vaudeville and the LaVilla community, once known as the "Harlem of the South." A research visit is forthcoming. Then it was back to archives in Georgia, where the team visited Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) and uncovered important genealogical information about Jones through the Hanley's Bell Funeral Home Records. 

In February next year, McCaskill and team will present their research at the Southern American Studies Association conference in Atlanta.  

J. Richardson Jones's story continues to unfold, and AARL is happy to be a part in the recovery of a little-known past. Stay tuned for more.

Here is news to celebrate.  After reading the post, Dr. McCaskill responded by e-mail with the following:

"This weekend UGA's Civil Rights Digital Library received the Helen and Milton Schwartz Prize for outstanding projects in the Humanities at the national conference of the Federation of State Humanities Councils. Our research on Jones is an outgrowth of research projects for the CRDL. Also, Christina was a paid R.A. for the CRDL for one year. The timing of this prize is especially meaningful to those of us at UGA, since in January we will commemorate the 50-year anniversary of UGA's desegregation by Charlayne Hunter, Hamilton Holmes, and Mary Frances Early." 

AARL sends heartfelt congratulations!

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Treasures from the Vertical Files: Atlanta Black Crackers Ad

Today’s treasure from the vertical files is an advertisement for the Atlanta Black Crackers from the June 14, 1939 edition of the Atlanta Daily World. It is a fitting theme for this week as it coincides with the end of the 2010 World Series. The ad was placed by Coca-Cola to market their product at games and to wish the team luck. The ad also includes three signatures, which are assumed to be those of team players, whose identities are unknown at this time. In addition to the ad, page five includes various articles detailing the season opening of the Black Crackers, or “Black Crax,” as the Atlanta Daily World called the team.

The League of Colored Baseball Clubs was formed in 1887 as a response to the National Association of Baseball Players banning of black players from its white league in 1867. During this period, black baseball teams in Atlanta found their beginnings at historically African American universities, including what was then Atlanta University and Clark University. The first black professional team in Atlanta, the Deppens, also formed before the start of the twentieth century. The Atlanta Cubs, a semiprofessional team of black college students, succeeded the Deppens and changed their name to the Atlanta Black Crackers in 1919. The team joined the Negro Southern League in 1919 and continued to represent Atlanta in that league until 1937.

Teams in African American leagues, including the Black Crackers, were often plagued by financial difficulty and continually found themselves under new ownership. One reason behind financial problems was the inability to sell out games because of segregation, which did not allow mixed crowds. After Reverend John Harden and his wife purchased the Black Crackers in 1938, the team later became part of the Negro American League. A year later, when the team was sold to Indianapolis, it played under the nickname ABC’s. Soon after, in 1940, a new Atlanta Black Crackers team formed. The demise of the Negro baseball leagues and their teams, including the Black Crackers, began in the mid twentieth century once the all-white major league was integrated.


Darnell, Tim. “Atlanta Black Crackers.” New Georgia Encyclopedia, 2006.

Heaphy, Leslie A. The Negro Leagues, 1869-1960. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Company, 2003.

Lanctot, Neil. Negro Baseball League: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Treasures from the Vertical Files: Salesman of Death

Today’s treasure offers the opportunity for some Halloween themed fun, as well as a discussion of ephemera identification in archival processing. Pictured here is a business card of Mr. G.W. Durham, a funeral director in Campbellsville, Kentucky. One side of the card gives an interesting description of Durham’s professional expertise along with his picture and contact information, while the other lists costs and services.

In addition to aligning with the theme of death often associated with Halloween, this business card also presents the subject of ephemera identification. When processing archival collections, archivists come across a variety of materials, some which are known as ephemera. According to the Society of American Archivists, ephemera is defined as “materials, usually printed documents, created for a specific, limited purpose, and generally designed to be discarded after use.” Examples of different types of ephemera include brochures, event tickets, and advertisements.

When organizing a collection, it is necessary for an archivist to identify different types of ephemera for labeling purposes and in order to better assist researchers. However, some, including Durham’s business card, are not easily identifiable compared with modern formats. His cards fit into the category of personal cards, which Chris E. Makepeace, author of Ephemera: A Book on Its Collection, Conservation and Use, says includes visiting cards, identity cards and business cards. But they do not conform exactly to the qualifications of current day business cards and may have been called by a different title during the period used.

While the exact identifying term of Durham’s card may be unknown at this time, it is still a valuable tool for researchers. The information printed on personal cards – names, addresses, telephone numbers, professions, and even business details – might not be available otherwise, making this type of ephemera historically significant. Personal cards allow researchers to learn about individuals and businesses and are helpful for genealogical research. They may seem like things to be thrown away but are useful, important forms of documentation.


Makepeace, Chris E. Ephemera: A Book on Its Collection, Conservation and Use. Vermont: Gower Publishing Company, 1985.

Moses, Richard Pearce. A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology. The Society of American Archivists.

Rickards, Maurice and Michael Twyman. Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator and Historian. Routledge: New York, 2000.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Treasures from the Vertical Files: Harlem Uproar House Souvenir Booklet and Menu

The latest treasures from the vertical files include a souvenir booklet and menu from the Harlem Uproar House, which was once located on 51st Street at Broadway in New York City during the 1930s and 1940s. The menu details the food and beverage offerings of the establishment, which was open every night from 6pm to 4am. The souvenir booklet introduces the various performers employed, who took part in the four shows given each evening.

Harlem nightclubs were a well known fixture of the Harlem Renaissance, however the existence of black nightclubs in New York City dates back to the 1860s. As the popularity of nightclubs rapidly increased during the 1910s steps were taken to make them appear more respectable. This included the adoption of the French term “cabaret,” which sounded far more sophisticated than a mere club.

With the passage of Prohibition, Harlem cabarets also took on the identity of speakeasies, illicitly serving alcohol to their patrons. As white New Yorkers began showing interest in the “exoticism” of Harlem, some nightclubs became segregated, serving only whites and sometimes light skinned African Americans. However, these establishments remained exclusively staffed by black singers, musicians, performers, cooks, and wait staff. The white practice of venturing to Harlem in order to relax their class values and morals was known as “slumming.”

Despite furthering discrimination through the practice of segregation, Harlem cabarets are also renowned for the opportunities they gave African American musicians. The nightclubs allowed black singers and musicians a variety of venues to perform in, where jazz and blues prevailed. The smaller clubs typically featured a modest sized band and solo singer, while larger ones might also include entire musical numbers as well as an assortment of performers.

Harlem cabarets and nightclubs are recognized for the role they played in fostering the development of jazz and blues music, as well as the careers of African American musicians, such as Duke Ellington. However, these establishments also were targeted by politicians and police for allegedly violating vice laws and challenging prevailing social and sexual mores. Today, clubs like the Harlem Uproar hold the fascination of researchers for this blurring of racial, class, sexual, and cultural boundaries.


Mumford, Kevin. Interzones: Black/White Sex Districts in Chicago and New York in the Early Twentieth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

Vogel, Shane. The Scene of Harlem Cabaret: Race, Sexuality, Performance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

Wintz, Cary D. and Paul Finkelman. Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. Volume 1 and 2. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Monday, September 20, 2010

(Public) Humanities + Archives = Activating the Cultural Footprint

I recently finished a ten-week internship in the Archives Division at the Auburn Avenue Research Library as part of my master’s program in Public Humanities at Brown University. I am frequently asked about public humanities and its relationship to the work of archives.

The humanities are comprised of subject areas that analyze, interpret, and reflect on the human condition. According to the 1965 legislative act that created the National Endowment for the Humanities, the humanities are “branches of scholarly and cultural activity … [that help us] achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future.” These include the fields of anthropology, archaeology, art history and theory, ethics, history, language, literature, jurisprudence, philosophy, and religion.

While university professors and writers are obvious examples of humanists, the interdisciplinary field of public humanities supports the tools and spaces to incorporate a wider group of participants into this sphere. This is reflected in the work of my fellow students, who connect with community historians, schoolchildren, farmers, teenaged Civil War re-enactors, and others in sites as diverse as museums, archives, rural farms, dance studios, national parks, community art centers, neighborhood porches, and cyberspace.

Public humanities recognizes that the general public is an active creator, and not merely a consumer, of humanities. Thus, public humanities also serves as a vehicle for civic engagement for all members of a community. As Thomas Ehrlich writes in Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, “Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.”

My summer internship gave me many opportunities to promote the “knowledge, skills, values, and motivation” for civic engagement through the humanities. Processing the Mary Park Washington Papers and creating the collection finding aid allowed me to provide access to Washington’s vast knowledge of African American art and artists, her process as an artist commenting on history and society, and the documentation of her civic engagement as an arts educator and advocate.

I also launched social media initiatives for the Archives Division, creating a Twitter account and this blog, and expanding the Archives’ presence on Facebook. In addition to providing a forum for sharing our collections, social media helps us communicate with our users and donors, allowing us to learn about their priorities, knowledge, and needs. One example was the post on behalf of Dr. Barbara McCaskill, seeking community knowledge about photographer J. Richardson Jones. Social media also helps potential donors (maybe you!) see the far-reaching impact of archives and the importance of donating their papers to an institution such as AARL.

Thanks to the AARL’s collaborative relationship with cultural heritage and humanities organizations in Atlanta, I was also able to work on a special project for the Georgia Humanities Council, in support of their initiative to promote civic reflection on issues of race. Last year, the GHC organized a town hall meeting for the initiative, demonstrating how ordinary people can use their knowledge of morality, history, and philosophy to reflect on ways to improve their communities. Using the insights raised in this town hall meeting as well as my knowledge of Atlanta’s history gained from working in AARL’s Archives Division, I formulated discussion questions and a reading list that will hopefully help stimulate similar discussions in community groups across Georgia.

The interconnectedness of the Archives Division’s staff, collections, donors, collaborators and community of users invigorates the humanities and promotes civic engagement. My internship reinforced the power of archives to help the public use, build upon, and share diverse forms of cultural knowledge in order to improve community life. Janice Sikes-Rogers, an AARL librarian, calls this process “activating the cultural footprint.” How do you see the Archives Division as your partner in activating the cultural footprint?

Posted by Krystal Appiah, Brown University

Friday, August 27, 2010

Research 2.0

This post launches another series, Research 2.0, which will address traditional and emerging ideas and practices related to research in the digital age.  

One of the greatest frustrations I encountered as a genealogical researcher twenty years ago concerned access to vital statistics and other records. Travel outside of my locale was not only difficult, but not an option. Later, as a graduate student, most of my research involved reviewing records on microfilm and requesting books through interlibrary loan. Now technological advances allow researchers to access resources online, sometimes from the comfort of home. Times have changed.

During the summer of 2010, I participated in an Advanced Archives Practicum hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library for the University of West Georgia. In addition to assisting with processing the James Bryant Smith Collection, I conducted research for entries on Drs. Eliza A. Grier and Henry Rutherford Butler that will be submitted to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Whether you are tracing your family’s history or conducting research, the availability of online digital collections and databases opens doorways to information that once seemed difficult to find and was time consuming to research.

The life of Dr. Eliza A. Grier provides one example. Grier was the first African American woman to receive a license to practice medicine in Georgia in 1897, following her graduation from Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (now Drexel University College of Medicine) that year. News of her licensure traveled as far west as Utah and as far north as New York. Grier’s career as a doctor of obstetric and gynecological medicine ended abruptly, however, when she fell ill in 1901 and later died in 1902. All of this information I found with ease in online databases of historic newspapers and through digital collections. (Pictured left is a graduation program from Fisk University, where Grier graduated in 1891. She later attend the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. Courtesy of AARL.)

Another example is that of Dr. Henry Rutherford Butler, Sr, who practiced general and pediatric medicine in Atlanta in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. One of the first African Americans to receive a medical license in Georgia, Butler and a former classmate, Dr. Thomas Heathe Slater, owned and operated the Butler and Slater Drug Store, the first pharmacy in Atlanta that catered to African Americans. Additionally, Butler served as a Grand Master of the Prince Hall Affiliation of Masons for the State of Georgia. Again, this brief biographical sketch was obtained from information found in online databases and collections and in a relatively short amount of time.  (Pictured right is a Father's Day card given to Butler from his son, Henry Rutherford Butler, Jr, in 1927. Courtesy of AARL.)

For researchers, times have truly changed – and for the better.

Posted by Sarah Middlemast, University of West Georgia

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ostriches + summer interns, part 2

What’s the connection between South African ostriches and summer interns? For the purpose of this post, it’s Krystal Appiah (pictured above), a Brown University graduate student and former summer intern in the Archives Division at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Had she been here last week when Anita Martin, Library Associate, inventoried issues of the Penny Magazine from a recent acquisition, Appiah would have delighted in the mid 19th century publication of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, a London-based organization, and would have written an engaging, well-researched post about the aim of the publication, its intended readership, and the racialized political economy of British colonization and its affects on Africa. Alas, Appiah completed the internship and returned to Providence, Rhode Island.

That post is forthcoming, but for now Appiah’s departure offers an opportunity to reflect on the benefits of internships to interns, host institutions, and beyond. In Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors, and Students – one of the few resources on the subject – authors Jeannette A. Bastian and Donna Webber write that internships have the potential to be “transformative, revelatory, and life expanding” (p. 20). While Archival Internships is written from the perspective of academic institutions, much of it can be tailored to government, corporate, and non-profit settings. Done well, internship programs can go far beyond course requirements or attractive resume add-ons for interns and, conversely, a simple means to get the tedious and mundane completed for host sites.

As a public research library specializing in the use and preservation of unique materials related to African and African American culture and history, AARL’s “public” varies in myriad ways as does the backgrounds and parent institutions of its interns. For the past two years, AARL has partnered with the International Rescue Committee’s Youth Futures Internship Program, working with Clarkston High School (Decatur, GA) students, some of whom are originally from Burma, Mexico, and Nepal. We host interns from the Georgia Archives Institute, as well as students from several Atlanta metropolitan colleges and universities, including Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Morehouse College, and more. This summer, we welcomed our first out of state intern, Krystal Appiah, who literally transformed the Archives Division, giving it a welcomed “social media make-over.” That wasn’t the only change for the better.

Appiah made the very most of her time, attending library programs, assisting staff in other divisions with professional projects, visiting archivists at neighboring institutions, working with the Georgia Humanities Council, and, as a result of her post on Mary Parks Washington, catching the attention of the executive director of the African American National Biography, who asked that she submit an entry on Washington. Framed another way, that’s one intern, one university, a public research library, a state humanities council, and a publisher brought together over a relatively short amount of time through one arrangement that, at a very basic level, is designed to provide one party with a little hands-on experience and the other a free (or almost free) set of hands to work on day-to-day activities.

Archival internship programs, then, are and can be so much more. They can foster inter-institutional relationships, encourage interdisciplinary dialogues, and facilitate transnational cultural awareness and understanding. In so doing, they can create the conditions for the life expanding, the revelatory, and the transformative noted by Bastian and Webber.

Returning to the Penny Magazine, isn’t that the purpose of useful knowledge?

Works Cited:
Bastian, Jeannette A. and Donna Webber. Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors, and Students. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2008.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Friday, August 13, 2010

South African ostriches + summer interns

If you are wondering what South African ostriches and summer interns have to do with one another, good. We have your attention. However, we will not share that information until next week, when certain individuals return from the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA), held this year in Washington, DC. Packed with dynamic and informative guest speakers, panels, sessions, presentations, and more, "ARCHIVES*RECORDS" is being held as a joint meeting of the Council of State Archivists (CoSA), National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), and SAA. To our colleagues from the Society of Georgia Archivists who are presenting, we wish you good luck!

Posted by Kerrie Cotten Williams, Archivist, and Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Archives and Publics: Handling History

Archives preserve collections of documents, records, and manuscripts that hold some level of historical interest. This can include documents of national importance, such as the Declaration of Independence, down to a local company’s financial records. However, one of the most interesting types of collections that can be found in an archives is that of the common person. As an archivist-in-training, I have the opportunity to access these pieces of history as well as to learn how to handle them and preserve them properly. According to fellow intern Sarah Warren, that is why she chose the archival field of history as her career path. “I realized that I have the chance to maintain documents, letters, and photographs,” she notes. “To have direct contact with personal stories as a full-time job seemed too good to be true.” By training how to be archivists and public historians, we can organize these documents created by everyday people and give them a value and voice that they may not have otherwise. (Right: photographs, Archives Division, AARL.)

Archival study can serve as a branch of public history because, as archivists, we are trained to preserve historical documents for public access. We learn preservation and processing techniques and put them to practical use in the public forum so that researchers can use these historical items for years to come. Archives serve a similar purpose as a museum: they maintain documents of the past for the benefit of the present and future. Shannon Danielle Smith, another University of West Georgia intern, considers the idea of “putting history into practice in the public field, rather than inside a classroom” the best part of being a historian.

The University of West Georgia’s Public History Program gives both undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to take classes and learn how best to present historical information to the public. We are trained not only to teach, but also to interpret and exhibit. Graduate students have the opportunity to earn a Museum Studies Certificate, which offers classes in conjunction with the Atlanta History Center and trains in all aspects of museum careers: exhibits, collections, administration, and education. The archival branch of the public history program offers courses in basic theory and management as well as an advanced practicum, which offers hands-on experience in the Archives Division at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Through classes, internships, and research assistantships, we have the chance to work directly within our field so that we are prepared to pursue a career in promoting history to the public in museum and archival settings.

Through graduate internships, I have had access to rare books and artifacts that I never thought I would have access to. An education in archival and historical preservation involves handling history in a way that not only enriches our studies but also our passion for history. Archives offer direct contact with history itself, whether it includes perusing a personal collection like that of James Bryant Smith, or researching the Georgia Political Heritage Collection at the University of West Georgia. Entering the professional field of public history means that I will get to share that passion with the general population on both local and national levels. The work that I am being trained to do behind the scenes creates an accessible way for the public to interact with history on a hands-on, personal level that reaches beyond looking at a museum exhibit through plated glass. (Left: rare book by Phillis Wheatley, Archives Division, AARL.)

Posted by Tiffany Luoma, University of West Georgia Intern

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Archives and Publics: A Scholar Taps Community Memory

From time to time, a new feature, Archives and Publics, will focus on connections between archives and various publics – scholars, interns, genealogists, students, documentary filmmakers, authors, and others. Through this series, we hope to draw attention to the ways in which different groups access and use archives.

Here, Dr. Barbara McCaskill, one of our researchers, asks the public to share information about a little-known African American reporter, photographer, and filmmaker: J. (Joseph) Richardson Jones (b. January 12, 1900, d. February 9, 1948). While Dr. McCaskill and Christina L. Davis of the University of Georgia have conducted extensive archival research across the country, they hope to tap into community and individual memories of Richardson. The documents below summarize their findings thus far and offer contact information.

Please share. Thank you.

Posted by Krystal Appiah, Archives Intern, and Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Life and Letters of James Bryant Smith

As part of the Advanced Archives Practicum class offered by the University of West Georgia's Public History Program, we are required to complete seventy-five internship hours for Auburn Avenue Research Library. Our first group project was to process the James Bryant Smith Collection, which details the life of the Tuskegee Airman from Columbus, Ohio.

A war veteran and POW, Smith’s collection contains over 750 letters to and from his wife, Florence Smith. The majority of the letters date from 1943 and 1944, when Smith left Columbus to become one of the first airmen to complete aviation training at Tuskegee Air Field. Several significant personal events are recorded in these early letters, from James and Florence’s engagement and marriage to the birth of their first child. The Smiths also corresponded about their day-to-day activities, which included his flight training and her work at an Ohio airplane assembly plant.

Smith arrived at the Tuskegee Air Field in Alabama in January 1943 and trained as a fighter pilot with the 1155th Single Engine Flying Training Squadron (S.E.F.T.S.). Smith remained a career serviceman after World War II ended, and he served in various training capacities in Hawaii and Colorado. When the Korean War began in 1950, Smith’s unit was quickly shipped out. On September 8th his family received notice that he had been missing in action since July 26th. During this time, for approximately three months, Smith was a Prisoner of War.

As a Tuskegee Airman, Smith was in a unique position to help improve race relations within the nation. Prior to the Tuskegee Airmen, no African Americans had been military pilots, and the War Department was so resistant of the notion that it attempted to eliminate the unit before it could even begin. Only those with a certain level of flight experience or higher education could apply, but it underestimated the number of eligible men who would apply. James and Florence discussed other racially-charged events, such as the Detroit Race Riots in June 1943, as well as every-day discrimination, like the segregation of train cars.

In addition to James and Florence Smith’s correspondence during World War II, the collection also highlights Smith’s subsequent military career. Smith saved many documents, publications, and artifacts from his service in the 1950s and 1960s, which would be of great interest to military enthusiasts.

Posted by Shannon Danielle Smith and Sarah Warren, University of West Georgia interns

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Treasures from the Vertical Files: American Negro Exposition of 1940

Today’s spotlighted treasure is the program and guide book of the American Negro Exposition, held in Chicago from July 4 through September 2, 1940. (Left: Cover art by R.S. Pious)

Organized by African Americans, this diamond jubilee of the abolition of slavery celebrated African American achievement during the previous seventy-five years. Amidst a national climate of prejudice and discrimination against African Americans, one of the Exposition's goals was to promote racial understanding and good will.

Organizers successfully solicited pledges of financial support and exhibits for display from federal and state governments, charitable foundations, businesses, and fraternal organizations. (Right: A page of local business ads in the Exposition program.)

Organizers also hoped to educate the world about the contributions of African Americans to civilization. Using dioramas, murals, and exhibits, entire sections of the exposition were devoted to representations of African American religion, music, sports, literature, art, science, and industry. A hall of fame featured portraits of 30 African Americans.
The American Negro Exposition (left) followed a century-long tradition of expositions and world’s fairs, including the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, Paris’ Exposition Universelle in 1889, and Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition. These expositions gave visitors the opportunity to see and experience new technologies (electricity, Ferris wheel, Eiffel Tower), products (carbonated soda, Juicy Fruit gum and Cream of Wheat), and peoples (Lapps, Native Americans, Africans). Most world’s fairs also reinforced the imagined superiority of colonial powers, contrasting their industrial and technological inventions to anthropological exhibits of “primitive” colonized peoples. One such example at the 1904 St. Louis Exposition was an exhibit of Filipino Igorot peoples, who lived in a village on the fairgrounds, constantly on display as exotic “savages.”

The representation of people of color as inferior and uncivilized did not go unchallenged. For the 1900 Paris Exposition, W.E.B. Du Bois created the “American Negro Exhibit” to demonstrate the dramatic progress of African Americans in the thirty-five years since emancipation. This exhibit of 50 photographs featured various aspects of African American middle-class life including images of people, homes, businesses, professional organizations, schools, and churches.

Hailed as “the first real Negro World’s Fair,” the 1940 American Negro Exposition was an even more ambitious attempt for African Americans to control the representation of their achievements and aspirations. Unfortunately, despite initial support, the American Negro Exposition was plagued by poor attendance, labor strife, and withdrawal of promised sponsorship. Nevertheless, historian Adam Green cites the Exposition as an often forgotten example of African Americans proactively shaping their lives and communities. (Right: Artist William Edouard Scott painted murals depicting important scenes in African American history to surround the general exhibition hall.)


“American Negro Exposition,” The Crisis 1940 (June): 175, 178.

Green, Adam. Selling the Race: Culture, Community, and Black Chicago, 1940-1955. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Rose, Julie K. “The World’s Columbian Exposition: Idea, Experience, Aftermath.” Published August, 1, 1996.

Posted by Krystal Appiah, Archives Intern

Treasures from the Vertical Files

We’ll be launching a new feature called Treasures from the Vertical Files, highlighting nuggets from our vertical files collection. Archivists frequently assemble vertical files of materials for quick reference about individuals, events, and organizations. Vertical files usually consist of newspaper clippings and ephemera (materials for a specific purpose, and that were generally designed to be discarded after use), such as ads, event programs, and brochures. Since vertical files are typically compiled on an as-needed basis by different people over a period of decades, sometimes little is known about the origin of the materials. In this way, vertical files often contain unexpected treasures of unusual materials.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mary Parks Washington Papers

One of the jobs that archivists do is process collections. When collections arrive at the archives, they are often unorganized or organized in a way that only makes sense to the creator of the collection. In addition, an archivist may need to treat preservation issues such as mold, acidic paper (for example, brittle, yellowed newspaper), or damaging adhesives. During processing, archivists arrange, preserve, and describe collections so that they are accessible to users.

This summer, I’ve been working on processing the papers of Mary Parks Washington, an Atlanta-born visual artist, arts educator, and arts advocate. Washington uses the art forms of drawing, painting, sculpture, and collage to explore themes of history and memory. She also developed a unique collage form which she calls “histcollage,” an assemblage of old documents (such as family photos, insurance policies, and letters) that she incorporates into her drawings and paintings.

As a young woman, Washington had several experiences that helped nurture her talents and love of the arts. Washington exhibited her artwork while she was still in high school at Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High. The artist Hale Woodruff, a professor at Spelman College, was one of the judges and continued to mentor her when she attended Spelman to study art.

After her graduation from Spelman in 1946, Woodruff helped Washington receive a scholarship from the Rosenwald Fund to attend the Summer Art Institute at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Washington’s experience at Black Mountain was a contrast to her life and schooling in Atlanta. In addition to being at a racially integrated institution, classes were informal with students often spreading their work on the floor to be critiqued by their instructors. Washington bought a pair of “dungarees” especially for the relaxed atmosphere since she had never before worn pants. At Black Mountain Washington studied with several renowned artists including Josef Albers, Jean Varda, Beaumont Newhall, and Gwendolyn Knight. It was at Black Mountain that Washington developed lifelong friendships with Knight, her husband artist Jacob Lawrence, and sculptor Ruth Asawa, who was one of her roommates.

Following her summer at Black Mountain, Washington began her career as a teacher at David T. Howard High School. In 1947, Washington once again used her summer vacation to study art, this time at the University of Mexico. In order to forestall desegregation attempts in higher education, the State of Georgia paid the out-of-state tuition for African American students. Using Georgia’s segregationist policies to her advantage, Washington was the first person to receive out-of-country tuition from Georgia. Her histcollage Georgia Out-of-State Tuition explores this experience.The Mary Parks Washington Papers document these events as well as Washington’s career as an arts educator, her friendships with artists; her role as arts advocate, and her participation in civic and community service organizations.

Photo credits: Mary Parks Washington at Black Mountain College,1946, Photographer: Beaumont Newhall. Marriage License and Georgia Out-of-State Tuition, excerpted from Atlanta: Remembrances, Impressions and Reflections, 1996 © Mary Parks Washington, Photographers: James Devrances & John Bremons

Posted by Krystal Appiah, Archives Intern