Saturday, December 31, 2011

Greatest Hits

As 2011 ends, many lists of greatest hits and memorials to famous men and women circulate; Joe Frazier was and could deliver one of the greatest “hits” of all time. As a tribute to his passing in November, this post highlights the long legacy of African American achievement in the sport of boxing through two jewels in the holdings of the Auburn Avenue archives. The first African American world heavyweight champ, Jack Johnson became a lightning rod for the racial politics of the Jim Crow era and, as Mark Scott observes, also “contributed to the world of music by opening a nightclub, in Harlem, the Club Deluxe, that was later bought by gangsters and turned into the Cotton Club” (216). According to Scott, Mohammed Ali’s coaches would evoke Jack Johnson for ringside support: “Ghost in the house, the ghost of Jack Johnson is watching” (216). In a 1909 poster declaring Johnson the “Champion of the World” in the archival holdings, the newly-crowned heavyweight champion is portrayed in his fighting stance, flanked by two ovals, the one on the lower-left depicting his humble origins in Galveston, Texas and the other on the lower-right showing him in the driver's seat of the latest automobile. 
Brandt and Scheible Poster Commemorating Jack Johnson's World Heavyweight Title
As the writer Ralph Ellison would later note, Jack Johnson “was rejected by most whites and by many respectable Negroes, but he was nevertheless a hero among veterans of the Spanish-American War who rejoiced in the skill and élan with which Johnson set off the now-outrageous search for a ‘White Hope’” (215). While the 1909 Brandt and Scheible poster chronicles Johnson’s rise to power, a gorgeous oversized, collectible book from Taschen (made available to the public in 2004) documents the life of the “Greatest of All Time.” Of a limited edition run of nine thousand, the archives of AARL boast copy number 5,362 of this one-of-a-kind monograph, GOAT: A Tribute to Mohammed Ali. This heavyweight (literally) homage to the most famous heavyweight ever can only be described as an experience: a textual, photographic, and artistic montage of Ali’s life and times. A fitting testament to Ali’s larger-than-life status, this biography also collects his many quotable dictums, both comic and prophetic: “I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky—my name not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me” (588).


Ellison, Ralph. Going to the Territory. New York: Random House, 1986.

Scott, Mark. "Jack Johnson: World Heavyweight Champion." In The First Black Boxing Champions: Essays on Fighters of the 1800s to the 1920s, Colleen Aycock and Mark Scott, 200-217. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, 2010.

Posted by Joy Bracewell, AARL Intern

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day 2011: Collection highlights LGBTQ advocate and activist Duncan Teague

A quick look at personal photos and ephemera from the Duncan Teague Collection, which is available for research.  photo courtesy Kesah Peace

Over twenty years ago, HIV/AIDS awareness got its first global platform via World AIDS Day. Celebrated every year on Dec. 1, the day of global unity was created in honor of those whose lives had been claimed by the pandemic and to spread awareness about the nearly 33 million people infected today.  In commitment to our mission, AARL has made efforts to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS by providing materials that highlight the unselfish work of activists like Duncan Teague.

In August 2009, AARL welcomed and celebrated the donation of the Duncan Teague Collection. Teague, a socio-political activist, writer, performance artist, minister, and advocate of the black gay and lesbian community, has been working in HIV/AIDS prevention for the last twenty years. A former two-time grand marshal of the Atlanta Gay Pride, Teague is deeply rooted in advocacy and the Atlanta community, having served in the African American Lesbian Gay Alliance, Georgia Equality, AID Atlanta, Georgia Equality, the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum, and ARCA (AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta).

At almost 50 cubic feet, the collection contains Teague’s papers, those of artist/activist Tony Daniels, and the records of ADODI Muse: A Gay Negro Ensemble.

For more information on Teague and his legacy of fighting to combat HIV/AIDS in the Atlanta community, visit AARL to browse our African American Gay and Lesbian Print Collection.

Also, to learn more about World Aids Day go to:

Yewande Addie, AARL Intern

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Mrs. Dorothy Lee Bolden, Founder and President of The National Domestic Worker's of America, Inc.

The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements have brought to the forefront many social issues not prevalent in mainstream media. These movements garnered national and international support via social media. However, there have been strong voices that have been working and organizing on behalf of the underrepresented citizens for many years.

Dorothy Lee Bolden was the founder and president of the National Domestic Worker's Union of America. Mrs. Bolden started as a Domestic Worker at the tender age of nine and continued working in the trade for forty-one years. She was involved in the civil rights movement with her then neighbor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He encouraged her in community organizing against the Atlanta School Board decision to condemn a neighborhood school. She used the experience as a catalyst to organize her colleagues. Mrs. Bolden became a sounding board for many women and their experiences working for families residing in the exclusive areas of Atlanta. Domestic workers endured 13-hour days with low pay from $ 3.50 to $5.00 in 1960. In 1968 Dorothy Bolden started discussions with other unions about a national union for maids.

Organization and education were critical for community organizing. Maids were negotiating with private families and not corporations. With the assistance of the Urban League, Atlanta radio station WAOK and wider community support, these women were able to improve their working conditions. Dorothy Bolden exclaimed, “We aren’t Aunt Jemima women, and I am sure to God don’t want people to think we are. We are politically strong and independent.” Her organizing efforts gained the attention of the Nixon Administration and she was later appointed to an advisory committee on social services and welfare. Mrs. Bolden spent her time advocating for training and education for domestic workers, while tirelessly supporting community efforts for affordable city services and housing.

Dorothy Lee Bolden eventually organized 10 cities and had 13,000 women benefiting from job referrals and organizing. An Atlanta icon, Mrs. Bolden stated “These women are still struggling. These women have built this country with the sweat of their brow. Their parents worked in the fields. You look over your shoulder and wonder if the field is still there.” Dorothy Lee Bolden started a grassroots movement in the South that went national. Her story might offer some insight for social and political movements on the fine skills of organizing and negotiation.

AARL houses and makes available the Dorothy Lee Bolden Papers
Posted by Ayannah Zafir, Archives Library Associate

Friday, November 11, 2011

Forthcoming children's book collection to pave new path toward discovery

Award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Ashley Bryan once said:

 “There are so many ways in which we learn about life and self. Each day opens paths to this exploration. For many of us, books play a major role in that adventure.”

Blazing the trail of self-exploration for children, Bryan has published and illustrated a number of children’s books through the years. With generous donations of some of Bryan’s original artwork, the Auburn Avenue Research Library (AARL) established the Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection. This collection contains sensitive images of children of African descent by national and international children’s picture book illustrators.

Illustration from Ashley Bryan's Walk Together Children, March 1981

In recent years, the AARL Ashley Bryan Literary Festival partnered with the National Black Arts Festival. During this three-day festival organizers engage children, parents, and educators in the Africana experience, in addition to honoring the work of other children’s book illustrators with the same mission. Previous recipients of the Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Award are Bryan Collier and Colin Bootman. Their work has also been included in the children’s picture book art collection. Among Bootman, Bryan, and Collier, Jonathan Green, an illustrator and advocate of artistic literacy, is also featured.

The Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection highlights nearly 60 illustrations from about 20 different works and not only includes autographed published versions, but also drafts and sketches that document a good portion of the artistic process. Artist Bryan Collier has lively illustrations detailing the boxing career and Islamic journey of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali. Whether in the ring or prayer position, Ali comes to life and pops off the pages of Collier’s work. “Walk Together Children,” is a fascinating Ashley Bryan piece that features illustrated scores and lyrics of black spirituals. It is a wonderful way to expose children to the historical significance of how black slaves in America gained strength and interpreted coded messages from these songs.

Is there anybody here? by Ashley Bryan

In the spirit of staying true to Bryan’s quote and the AARL mission of being a resource for educators and the community at large, we hope the collection inspires and influences educators to build picture book art collections within their own organizations/schools and serve as a guide in detailing how artists address Africana-related issues through images. This collection could also be used in research to gauge the impact and effectiveness of communicating ideas to children through reflective illustration.

The Ashley Bryan Children’s Picture Book Art collection is currently being processed and will be accessible via online descriptive inventory.  Also the AARL’s joint Children’s Literature Conference with the University of Georgia will be a great way to experience an extension of the illustrative work in the picture book collection. It can also be an insightful prelude to the annual Ashley Bryan Literary Festival.

 Posted by Yewande Addie, AARL Intern

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Women Writing History and Biography: Looking Back and Thinking Forward

Two pamphlets published within five years of each other on the cusp of the Harlem Renaissance display very different perspectives towards the nation’s past, implicitly imagining divergent paths for the country’s future.  The women who penned these records chose subject matter in accordance with their stances on what was valuable in American history. Listing herself as editor and publisher, Mildred Lewis Rutherford wrote several volumes of a pamphlet-like monthly periodical (1923-1926), entitled, Miss Rutherford’s Scrap Book: Valuable Information about the South, which was printed in her hometown of Athens, Georgia, while Laura E. Wilkes, described as a “teacher in the primary schools, Washington, D. C.” by the title page of her first publication, produced two histories, the title of the second acknowledging the gap in history that she was seeking to fill: Missing Pages in American History, Revealing the Services of Negroes in the Early Wars of America.

Rutherford’s views on the Civil War are immediately hinted by her designation for it in the first volume of her “scrapbook”: The Causes That Led to the War Between the States (1923), one of the holdings of the AARL archival collections. Covering topics that highlight the contentious events splitting the northern and southern states leading up to the bloody conflict, Rutherford recasts history in the light of an explanation that espouses the “Lost Cause," a term that describes a set of beliefs conflating religion with ideology. Proponents of the Lost Cause espoused a heroic interpretation of the South’s involvement in the Civil War. For instance, under her heading about “The Cotton Gin,” Rutherford notes that its “invention undoubtedly led to jealousy,” implying that the warmer climate of the South and its dependence on “free labor” (her euphemism for the work extracted from enslaved peoples) led to more political power for the South (6-7). In her pamphlet, Rutherford not only focuses on her version of the political and economic events leading up to “War Between the States,” but also spars with the ghosts of literary and social history, questioning the accuracy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s depiction of slavery, while not denying the book's efficacy in garnering support for the abolitionist cause: “In 1852 ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ appeared. This was such a misrepresentation of the institution of slavery in the South that it brought just indignation to Southern people” (9). 

On the other hand, historian Pero Gaglo Dagbovie (2004) situates Laura Eliza Wilkes within “the ranks of early black women ‘historians without portfolio,’” a term used by Earl E. Thorpe to describe a “group of nonprofessional persons […] who have a fondness for the discipline of history, feeling that their life experiences peculiarly fit them for chronicling some historical events” (243). In his article, “Black Women Historians from the Late 19th Century to the Dawning of the Civil Rights Movement,” Dagbovie shows that Wilkes sought to highlight the sacrifices of African American soldiers in fighting for the United States in World War I and prior wars, thereby demonstrating “to white Americans that the denial of fundamental citizenship rights to African Americans was unjust” (249). Along with three early editions of each of Frederick Douglass’s biographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1882), the AARL Archives division also owns the first of Wilkes’s pamphlets, The Story of Frederick Douglass: With Quotations and Extracts (1918), initially copyrighted and published by Howard University in 1899 (Dagbovie 2004, 248). In the Preface, Wilkes outlines her audience as “the young folks of the race, because I believe the life of Frederick Douglass will serve as an inspiration to every schoolboy and girl.” In this condensed version of Douglass’s story, Wilkes emphasizes his attempts to further his own education as a boy and young man (9, 11). She ends her sketch of his life with a written portrait, a fitting tribute to Douglass’s attempts at both visual and verbal self-fashioning in his autobiographies, which also foreshadows the beautiful woodcut illustrations of Michael McCurdy’s later version of Douglass’s life as juvenile literature: “Personally he had a magnetic force which drew all to him—of noble bearing, a physique of handsome proportions, crowned by a glorious head of silvery-white hair” (14).   

Rutherford and Wilkes’s projects were strikingly different, one retrogressive and backward-looking, the other progressive and forward-thinking. While Rutherford was an outspoken “anti," Wilkes championed Douglass for his support of woman’s suffrage. In supporting the “Rightful Place” of the South in history (words used in the title of one of her books), Rutherford emphasized the divisions between the states according to their placement relative to the Mason Dixon line, whereas Wilkes, writing in the nation’s capital, presented a wider scope of place and time, following the international movements of Douglass’s life. Wilkes’s work was recommended in the Crisis, the journal of the NAACP edited by W. E. B. Du Bois, while Rutherford compiled her own list of “Books for Southern Libraries,” including Thomas Nelson Page’s Two Little Confederates (20-21). Thus, Robert S. Levine’s description of identity as unstable within autobiography in his discussion of Frederick Douglass’s work could also apply to the re-writing of history: “it is tied to the contingencies of the historical moment and to the problematics (and challenges) of the autobiographer’s art” (31).


Dagbovie, Pero Gaglo. "Black Women Historians from the Late 19th Century to the Dawning of the Civil Rights Movement." Journal of African American History 89, no. 1 (2004): 241-261. 

Levine, Robert S. "Identity in the Autobiographies." In Cambridge Companion to Frederick Douglass, Maurice Lee, 31-45. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

"The Looking Glass." Crisis 16, no. 6 (1918): 276-279.

 Marshall, Anne E. "Mildred Lewis Rutherford." New Georgia Encyclopedia. Accessed October 29, 2011.

McCurdy, Michael, ed. Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words. New York: Knopf, 1994.

Williams, David S. "Lost Cause Religion." New Georgia Encyclopedia. Accessed October 29, 2011.

Posted by Joy Bracewell, AARL Intern

Thursday, October 6, 2011

AARL Salutes Civil Rights Veteran

Joseph Lowery poses in front of the Motor Voter Bus. Since integration, Lowery has continued his civil rights work in such areas as black voter registration, affirmative action, and AIDS education.

Ninety years ago today, Civil Rights activist Joseph Echols Lowery was born in Huntsville, Alabama. Lowery is a founding member and former president of the civil rights organization SCLC, or the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. A graduate of Paine College and Paine’s Theological Seminary in Augusta, Ga., Lowery also received his doctorate in divinity at the Chicago Ecumenical Institute. Though he has pastored churches in both Alabama and Georgia, Rev. Lowery is well- known for his role in leading the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and the March on Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For over 40 years Lowery has dedicated his life to preaching and advocating for those in need.

Joseph Lowery stands before the SCLC headquarters in Atlanta. In 1977 Lowery succeeded Ralph Abernathy as president of the SCLC, which has been based in Atlanta since its inception in 1957.

 An undying supporter of nonviolent resistance, Lowery used this peaceful method to combat segregation, and encourage the improvement of black voting rights, labor rights, affirmative action, and education. A seasoned expert in mobilizing, Lowery forged ahead into the 21st century, remaining just as relevant in challenging contemporary ails of the day, including police brutality and other global pertinent issues.
He was even instrumental in fighting against the unjust system of apartheid that put former South African president Nelson Mandela in jail. One of his more recent accomplishments took place in 2009, when Lowery performed the benediction for President Barack Obama’s inaugural ceremony. In celebration of the resilient mover and shaker he is, the Auburn Avenue Research Library would like to wish Rev. Lowery a happy 90th birthday.
Though Lowery is still hanging on to his personal papers and memoirs, many of his countless honors and work in the community has been documented within AARL’s collections. More specifically in our collections on Andrew Young and Hosea Williams. Come thumb through our archives division to see some of our exclusive materials. 
The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery will be celebrating his birthday Sunday evening, in a star-studded soiree at the Atlanta Symphony Hall. For information on tickets, visit

Kirkland, W M. "Joseph Lowery." The New Georgia Encyclopedia.
The HistoryMakers. "Rev. Joseph Lowery Biography ."

Posted by Yewande Addie, AARL Intern

Friday, September 23, 2011

MLK and Monuments

September 21st has been designated by the United Nations as International Day of Peace, an event that highlights the legacy of one of the most famous peacemakers in American history: Martin Luther King, Jr. In August, the monument commemorating his life and legacy was opened in a place of prominence in between the Lincoln and the Jefferson Memorials, comprising what the National Memorial Project Foundation’s website terms “a line of leadership." Despite setbacks surrounding the fund-raising efforts for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and differing opinions about its final design, its opening is a landmark achievement. Dr. King’s standing likeness almost mythically emerges from the “Stone of Peace,” which is encompassed by an ample tree-lined space, prompting reflection. While this statue features a stance of power that symbolizes the agency of African Americans in the fight for Civil Rights in the 1960s, Thomas Ball’s Freedman’s Memorial, or Emancipation Monument, in Lincoln Park (Washington, D. C.), remains a testament to the movement towards national conciliation at the expense of equal rights, a circumstance underscored by its dedication on the centennial of the nation’s founding. 

An 1863 Currier and Ives lithograph from the Print Collection of the AARL demonstrates “the standard representation of emancipation” from which Ball’s grouping is derived (Savage 1997, 56). As Kirk Savage explains in his monograph, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves, “The Freedman’s Memorial became the nation’s monument to emancipation even though the design might have better commemorated slavery” (129). Like Ball’s statue, this image also features a standing Abraham Lincoln and a kneeling enslaved African American man, but, unlike the Ball grouping, a mother figure with her children, presumably the formerly enslaved man’s family, are featured in the middle-ground of the composition. In the lithograph, Lincoln’s authority is reinforced through his positioning as the tallest figure, a stance that is exaggerated through the exaggerated through the extension of his right arm into the air and his upward-pointing index finger.
"Freedom to the Slaves," Lithograph, Currier and Ives (1863)
Proclaimed January 1st 1863, by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States

“Proclaim liberty throughout All the land unto All the inhabitants thereof.” Lev XXV.10

Though similar to and resonant of the juxtaposition of Lincoln’s erectness against the subservience of the newly emancipated man in Ball’s Freedman’s Memorial, as a production of print culture, this image had the potential for a wider circulation and would be produced perhaps to ornament the home; by the mid-nineteenth century, the names of Currier and Ives were synonymous with pictorial reproductions that were meant to be available and affordable to all Americans. In the caption, a quotation from Leviticus frames the announcement of “Freedom to the Slaves,” as “Proclaimed” by Lincoln, conflating national events with biblical narratives, a rhetorical device that would have been welcomed by and comforting to many nineteenth-century viewers. The presence of the family grouping would thus possibly mirror the sacred place of home and family, negotiating a nuanced layering of God, nation, and home.
Engraving of The Freed Slave, Illustration for  Frank Leslie's Historical Register of the Centennial Exposition (1877)
At the Centennial Exposition in 1876, the same year that Thomas Ball’s statue was unveiled, however, Francesco Pezzicar’s The Freed Slave presented a very different picture of how the “freedman” could be represented. In his sculpture, a black man with outstretched arms looks upward, clutching a copy of the Emancipation Act in his left hand. Along with the Currier and Ives print, the collections of the AARL contain the reproduction of this statue in the pages of Frank Leslie's Historical Register of the Centennial Exposition. This picture also features a family combination of mother and children, but the most prominent member of this grouping is an African American boy, gazing up at the active and assertive man represented in the statue before him. The contrast between the Currier and Ives lithograph and the illustration in Frank Leslie’s Historical Register displays the prevailing sentiment promoting racial inequality during the Civil War and Reconstruction that would prompt the need for drastic social change one hundred years after emancipation; as King stated in his 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” These two images are among the many such examples of the richness of print and periodical culture located in the Print Collection at the AARL.


Brown, Josh. "Another View of the Statue of Emancipation." Picturing U.S. History. Accessed September 23, 2011.

National Memorial Project Foundation. "Build the Dream." Accessed September 23, 2011.
Savage, Kirk. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.

Posted by Joy Bracewell, AARL Intern

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Questionable verdict reminds some of Ga.'s flawed judicial past

Atlanta Civil Rights Attorney, Donald L. Hollowell 1917-2004

Troy Davis is a name that many will never forget. Convicted in 1989 for killing a Chatham county police officer, Davis was sentenced to death by lethal injection. After 20 years of proceedings, appeals, and denials, Davis was scheduled to be executed on September 21, 2011. The state, nation, and world waited on pins and needles as the U.S. Supreme Court halted the execution for one more appeal; although eventually, it was denied.

But this is not the first time Georgia has made headlines for questionable judicial rulings. Davis’s story is quite similar to Preston Cobb. Preston, a native of Monticello, GA, was accused and convicted in 1961 of killing Frank Coleman Dumas, a 70-year-old white farmer, who owned the land on which he and his family worked. At the time Cobb was just 15 years old. At the mercy of an all-white jury, he too was sentenced to death.

Cobb’s case went through the Georgia courts and was appealed to the US Supreme court by the NAACP’s General Counsel Robert L. Carter and an NAACP Atlanta lawyer, Donald L. Hollowell.

The same outrage and concern Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and many other human rights organizations expressed over Davis’s case, was also reflected in the support Cobb received.
Women’s societies protested the sentencing and the judicial decision to transfer Cobb to a facility for “hardened criminals.” Also many international student groups created petitions and campaigns requesting his clemency. A Dutch delegation even came to the states to plead on Cobb’s behalf to the governor.

At the time of Cobb’s case, Georgia law permitted the execution of convicted children as young as 14 years old. But global attention surrounding the case persuaded Georgia Gov. S. Ernest Vandiver to recommend the law’s revision, setting precedence for those under the age of 18 convicted of crimes and sentenced to death. With the unrelenting help of the NAACP and global support, Cobb’s fate as being the youngest to die by execution in Georgia was never realized. Although he still served a substantial sentence of 18 years in jail.

Though many are saddened or conflicted over Troy Davis’s execution, we remain hopeful that the Davis case will be just as influential as Cobb’s in reforming the justice system and our penal legislation.

If you are interested in seeking more information on this historic case and the tireless work of Donald L. Hollowell , please visit the Auburn Avenue Research Library to access primary and secondary sources in the Reference & Research and Archives Divisions. The Donald L. Hollowell Papers are currently being processed and will soon be available for research.


"Ga. Legislature to Decide Boy's Future." Atlanta Daily World, October 10, 1961, p. 1.

"Hearing in Cobb Case October 26." Atlanta Daily World, October 24, 1961, p. 4.

"The Curtains Fall on The Preston Cobb Case." Atlanta Daily World, February 25, 1968, p. 4.

Posted by Yewande Addie, AARL Intern

Thursday, September 15, 2011

From Natchez to Buckingham Palace

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield became the first and one of the most celebrated African American singers to gain recognition in both Europe and the United States. Her determination, talents, and gifts took her to places beyond what anyone could imagine for a slave from Mississippi during the 1850's. Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, also known as The Black Swan, possessed an incredible and powerful clear 27-31 note voice range. She sang soprano, tenor, and bass. James Trotter, one of her vocal contemporaries, described her as having “remarkably sweet tones and wide vocal compass.” She worked hard and persevered to overcome the challenges surrounding her.

Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was born a slave in Natchez, Mississippi as Elizabeth Taylor in 1824. At the tender age of one, she was taken to Philadelphia by her namesake and owner Mrs. Elizabeth Greenfield, who she was named for. Once settled in Philadelphia, Mrs. Elizabeth Greenfield joined the Society of Friends and freed the slaves she owned. However, Miss Elizabeth continued to serve as a maid and companion. A self-taught vocalist and musician Miss Elizabeth learned to play the piano, guitar, and harp, often providing entertainment for Mrs. Greenfield’s guests. After Mrs. Greenfield’s death, she supported herself by giving public and private performances, gaining significant recognition throughout the Northeast.  

On March 31, 1853, in a landmark engagement, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield made her New York City debut at Metropolitan Hall, drawing an all-white audience that exceeded nearly 4,000 people. Though she had quite a following among white audiences, some of her contemporaries were not as favorable of her success. In a very critical review, well-known abolitionist and orator Fredrick Douglass, stated: “We marvel that Miss Greenfield can allow herself to be treated with such palpable disrespect; for the insult is to her, not less than to her race. She must have felt deep humiliation and depression while attempting to sing in the presence of an audience and under arrangements which had thus degraded and dishonored the people to which she belongs...She is quite mistaken if she supposes that her success, as an artist depends upon her entire abandonment of self-respect…We warn her also, that this yielding, on her part, to the cowardly and contemptible exactions of the negro haters of this country may meet her in a distant land in a manner which she little imagines.“

Nevertheless, a few days following her recital, she traveled to Europe for engagements in England, Scotland, and Ireland, in hopes of finding a good teacher to further develop her vocal technique. Shortly after her arrival in England, she was abandoned and left penniless by her manager in London. Luckily Greenfield crossed paths with Harriet Beecher Stowe, a zealous American abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, while in London. With Stowe’s assistance, she was able to sing for the Duchess of Norfolk, the Duchess of Argyle, and the Duchess of Sutherland.  She even received a royal invitation to sing for Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.

Illustrated News, 2 April 1853
The Prints Collection at AARL

Upon returning to America, Greenfield received anything but the royal treatment. She was refused entrance to a university music class because of her race. Determined, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield opened a music studio in Philadelphia, where she created and directed an opera troupe in the 1860s. Greenfield used music and her opera troupe to fight the oppressive systems of American slavery and racism. Her troupe traveled the world singing for integrated audiences and donating proceeds to colored nursing homes and orphanages. Ironically, Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield’s efforts brought her side-by-side with one of her harshest detractors, Frederick Douglass. Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield continued to perform until she died suddenly in Philadelphia on March 31, 1876 of paralysis.

 Check out the Auburn Avenue Research Library’s archives to learn more about the artistic and socially conscious contributions of people like Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield. 


Southern, Eileen. The Music of Black Americans: A History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Trotter, James. Music and Some Highly Musical People. New York: General Books, 1997.

Posted by Debra Coulter & Yewande Addie, AARL Interns

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remembering a Labor Day Hero: Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson

Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson, circa 1970

Although many of us enjoy celebrating the Labor Day holiday weekend with cookouts, parties, or restful leisure activities, reflection over the holiday’s purpose is often the last thing on our minds. The federal holiday was made official in the 1890s to atone for the country’s violent response to the infamous Pullman Strike. It was also a way to commemorate the hard work of American employees and the courage of labor organizations that lobbied to improve ill-working conditions, reduce work hours, increase wages, and to act as mediators between profit-driven industries and neglected employees.

There is evidence of the undeterred efforts of labor unions and the people that were instrumental in creating union branches within our very own archive. Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson mobilized community members and organized protests with her then neighbor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights movement. As a community activist, she drew from her Civil Rights organizing experience and personal employment past to develop the National Domestic Workers Union of America, Inc., which successfully improved the wages and working conditions of domestic workers in Atlanta, and other U.S. cities.

With bestsellers and blockbuster hits like “The Help” reminding today’s moviegoers of the daunting task of caretaking for Southern white families in the 1960s, it is empowering to know one of Atlanta’s very own was instrumental in improving the lives of domestic workers who really did in fact endure challenges and inequalities. Let us never neglect to remember our labor champions, the reason for the holiday.

For more information on the life and achievements of Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson and her work with the National Domestic Workers Union of America, Inc., visit AARL to view the Dorothy Lee Bolden Thompson Collection. Also have a look at a recent blog post from one of our researchers, Daniel Horowitz Garcia, which features even more additional resources.


Green, James. Death In the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America. New York: Anchor Books, 2007.

Posted by Yewande Addie, AARL Intern

Thursday, September 1, 2011

AARL home to Amelia Boynton-Robinson papers

Left to right, Dick Gregory and Amelia Boynton-Robinson, Auburn Avenue Research Library, August 2011

The Auburn Avenue Research Library is now home to the Amelia Boynton-Robinson papers. At 100 years old, Mrs. Boynton-Robinson, pictured above right, is an activist/organizer, speaker, playwright and author. Born in Savannah, Georgia, she is the oldest living graduate of Tuskegee University. Mrs. Boynton-Robinson worked closely with civil rights leaders to plan and strategize rural and regional efforts. Her home in Selma, Alabama, was a meeting place for leaders during the 1960s, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Joan Baez, John Lewis, and Andrew Young. Mrs. Boynton-Robinson along with her husband, Samuel, organized Alabama residents in voting rights campaigns and civil rights activities. Mrs. Boynton-Robinson’s collection reflects her wide range of activities and includes, newspaper clippings, awards, letters, ephemera and photographs. The collection is approximately 8 cubic feet and will be open for research once processed. 

Posted by Kerrie Cotten Williams, Archivist

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Full Circle: Mentoring and Internship Programs in Archives

Pictured above is former AARL Archives Intern Maya Thomas, who processed the Charmayne Johnson family papers.

On Saturday, August 27th, Kerrie Cotten Williams and I participate on the panel "Fostering a Diverse Profession: Mentoring and Internship Programs," at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists in Chicago. We will be joined by Erika B. Castaño (University of Arizona), Steven D. Booth (National Archives and Records Administration), and former AARL intern Krystal Appiah.

Kerrie is moderating the panel, while I present about AARL's Archives Internship Program, which I coordinate and manage. As I prepare my presentation, I am reflecting on the role mentoring plays in the program. In Archival Internships: A Guide for Faculty, Supervisors, and Students -- one of the only texts on the subject -- authors Jeannette A. Bastian and Donna Webber write mentoring "may be the most valuable contribution that supervisors can make to an intern's education" (42). Though I'm still formalizing my ideas on "value" in the contexts of professional development, education, and ethics, I certainly agree with the authors that mentorship is a subject that deserves greater attention than it has received in professional literature.

As I continue to think about meaningful measures and outcomes for AARL's Archives Internship Program, it is gratifying to take pause and acknowledge the successes that former interns have achieved in a highly competitive job market. Towards the end of her internship, Krystal Appiah's blog entries caught the attention of the editor of the African American National Biography, who asked her to write an entry about Mary Parks Washington, which is now published. Since graduating from Brown University in May, she has kept busy as a participant in the HistoryMakers' Increasing African American Diversity in Archives Fellowship. Nicole Carmolingo, a major contributor to the blog, published an entry on Henry Rutherford Butler for the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Her second entry about the Big Bethel A.M.E. Church in Atlanta is forthcoming, and she recently began work fulltime as a project archivist in a for-profit setting. Another former intern, Rico Hall, just began the new Master of Archival Studies program at Clayton State University and is working on a special project at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

While I cannot take credit for their successes, I can say that mentorship plays an important role in AARL's Archives Internship Program. Here, informal conversations about the profession are common, and for interns who ask (and do good work), letters of recommendation and referrals are easy to come by. We intentionally foster a supportive environment for discovery, exploration, and dialog because the intern and mentor relationship is reciprocal and mutually beneficial. All the time and energy comes back full circle.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Monday, August 15, 2011

Donors as Advocates: Duncan E. Teague

I was doing a bit of housekeeping recently when I came across an overdue idea for a post -- donors as advocates. Earlier this year, February 11th-12th, readers may recall that AARL held a two day program to announce and celebrate the donation of the Duncan E. Teague collection, which includes the invitation pictured above. (Teague is a founding member of ADODI Muse.) On Saturday, February 12th, WABE aired Rose Scott's interview with Teague, who spoke about the importance of preserving the past, especially that of underrepresented communities.  Listen here.

While advocacy in the field is not a new topic, per say, it is one that remains relevant, especially in uncertain economic times. These days we all are expected to do more with less, and AARL is grateful to have the support of patrons and donors, like Duncan Teague, whose familial, social and professional networks reach far beyond the walls of the library.  

Two publications are listed below for those interested in reading about advocacy and archives.


Finch, Elsie Freeman. Advocating Archives: An Introduction to Public Relations for Archivists. Chicago: Society of American Archivists and Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1994.

Hackman, Larry J., ed. Many Happy Returns: Advocacy and the Development of Archives. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2011.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

GHRAB Award: UGA's Dr. Barbara McCaskill and Christina L. Davis

Yesterday, I was informed that the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board (GHRAB) selected Dr. Barbara McCaskill and Christina L. Davis's project “J. Richardson Jones: The Atom Bomb of Auburn Avenue” for a 2011 “Research Using the Holdings of an Archives” Award.

A statewide program, GHRAB awards exceptional efforts in archives and records work. To appreciate the scope and depth of their project, which included many research hours in AARL's Archives Division, read the 1-page description below. The poster pictured above, from the Atlanta Life Insurance Company Records, advertises one of Richardson's works, "Parade of Negro Progress."
Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Exhibit on African Name Origins on loan from Emory @ AARL

"African Origins: Africa's History in a Name," an exhibition of materials from the Emory University libraries, is currently on exhibit at Auburn Avenue. The exhibit is located on the first floor of the building, in the library's reading and reference room.

The exhibit features reproductions of photographs and drawings from the slave trade, as well as route maps and other historical information. A focus of the African Origins project is getting public involvement in collecting information about African names of those slaves transported over the Atlantic. You can both search and contribute information to their database at African Origins. The exhibit will be on display during library hours through October 30, 2011.

Posted by Jessica Epstein, AARL Archives Intern

Friday, July 15, 2011

Life & Times of Robert Small, freed slave and U.S. Congressman

Currently on display in the Cary McPheeters Gallery @ Auburn Avenue: The Life and Times of Robert Small. Small lived from 1839-1915. Born into slavery in South Carolina, Small went on to free himself and his family by comandeering a Confederate ship to Charleston harbor. He later served in the South Carolina state legislature and represented South Carolina as a U.S. Congressman.

Photographs, drawings, ship models and other documents and artifacts representing Small's personal and political life are currently on view in the gallery on the library's first floor. The opening event is next Sunday, July 24, and Donald Sweeper will be performing a reenactment as Robert Small. The exhibit will continue to show through September 18, 2011. You can read more about the exhibit here.

Posted by Jessica Epstein, AARL Archives Intern

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Archives and Publics: "Harriet Rising"

The Archives and Publics series highlights connections between archives and various publics – artists, scholars, genealogists, students, documentary filmmakers, authors, and others – and the ways in which different groups access and use archives, with a focus on AARL's constituents.

Today's post features Harriet Rising, a collaboration between artist Lisa Tuttle and writer and activist Alice Lovelace, part of a large temporary public art project titled Elevate: Art Above Underground, presented by the Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs.  Harriet Rising and other installations open August 26th in downtown Atlanta.

Tuttle contacted the Archives Division, hoping to locate images of Harriet Tubman, which will cover various portions of eight four-sided columns, installed in clusters of four on either side of Pryor Street, along the Upper Alabama pedestrian corridor above Underground Atlanta.  Since some of the images will be enlarged to cover the 8' x 3' columns, she needed high resolution images, which AARL was able to deliver.  

In Tuttle and Lovelace's narrative description of the project, they identify several goals that Harriet Rising will accomplish:

1. Bring renewed attention to Harriet Tubman and her historical importance as an American hero.
2. Draw parallels between the historical significance (Civil War to Civil Rights) of Underground Atlanta and the Underground Railroad.
3. Lifting the visibility of courageous women and organizations working today in the Atlanta community for human rights, particularly those working on behalf of minorities and women, often unrecognized.
4. Add dynamic visual, poetic, educational content to visitors' experiences as they walk along Upper Alabama Street this fall. 

Tuttle and Lovelace will bring attention to a number of individuals, among them Glory Kilanko (Director and CEO of Women Watch Afrika, Inc.), Azadeh N. Shahshahani (National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project Director, ACLU of Georgia and the chair of Refugee Women's Network), Loretta Ross (a founder and the National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective) and Ella Ruth Hunnicutt, Minnie Ruffin, Ann Mauney, and Judy "Artemis" Conder of Grandmothers for Peace.  Organizations highlighted include 9 to 5 and WAND.      

Tuttle and Lovelace write:

In the United States, there are many women who embody the spirit of Harriet Tubman, working everyday to make life better for women (and therefore entire families) and working for a better world.  The lives of these women are not as transparent as Tubman's.  They should be.

The Archives Division is pleased to support Lisa Tuttle and Alice Lovelace's work.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum!”

Disney’s latest film release in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise continues a long standing fascination with pirates and images commonly associated with them – ships, parrots, scenes of debauchery, and the token bottle of rum. While piracy has a rich history, its ever present companion, rum, has a history that connects to colonization, slavery, and the appropriation of African and African American imagery in advertising, evidenced by rum bottle labels from the early twentieth century, part of AARL’s Ephemera collection.

While the Portuguese were the first to corner the market on the European slave trade in the 15th century, it was their Spanish neighbors who introduced African slaves to the Caribbean, or West Indies, at the beginning of the 16th century. During this period, Spanish and Portuguese colonists realized that the climate of the Caribbean proved ideal for sugarcane cultivation, leading to the development of sugar mills throughout the islands. As other European powers began to establish their presence in the Caribbean and North and South America, they too began to exploit imported Africans for slave labor.

According to the Trans-Atlanta Slave Trade Database, the exportation of sugar from the Eastern Caribbean began in 1641. The industry spread quickly to mainland Central and South America. After 1650, sugar had become “king” of the Caribbean, especially in the English, Dutch, and French colonies. The process of converting sugarcane into sugar produces multiple by-products, including cane juice and molasses. Islanders discovered that these products could be used to create crude, cheap liquor – rum. As the alcoholic beverage was refined, its popularity soared in both the New and Old Worlds. At the height of rum’s popularity in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was consumed by seafaring adventurers and common families in Colonial North America alike, and utilized as currency in the transatlantic slave trade. As slavery was abolished throughout the world in the 19th century, rum began its decline along with sugar production. However, the industry remained embedded in the Caribbean economy and consumer imagination.

The labels pictured here are from rum producers located in the Caribbean, with the majority originating from islands under French sovereignty. The featured labels come from rum production in the 1930s and 40s. Earlier product labels depicted sea or island images, including ships or beach scenes. A fascinating topic for further research and examination would be the period when advertisements in the industry shifted to images and stereotypes of people of African descent, a commercial practice that occurred in the United States during the same time period that the pictured rum labels were produced.

In American product advertising, the Aunt Jemima logo (before the 1989 make-over), which is based on the mammy archetype that developed in minstrel shows during the mid-1800s, is perhaps one of the most relatable examples. The archetypal mammy was usually dark skinned, overweight, large breasted and adorned with a head covering – the happy slave of romanticized plantation life born of the white imagination. Despite differences, these labels visually reference the mammy figure. The female characters wear headscarves or wraps, large loop earrings, are mostly darker in complexion, and are smiling. These depictions represent an exoticism and idealism of blackness, specifically female blackness, for white consumers. Like the Aunt Jemima image, those depicted in rum labels represent a historical moment shaped by racism, consumerism, and colonialism – a complex and troubled past documented in this post through ephemera.

(The rum labels that appear are currently unprocessed. For access, please contact the Archives Division. The books mentioned below, used for this post, are available for research at AARL.)

Alderman, Clifford L. Rum, Slaves, and Molasses: The Story of New England’s Triangular Trade. Crowell-Collier Press, 1972.

Kern-Foxworth, Marilyn. Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Greenwood Press, 1994.

Manring, M.M. Slave In a Box: The Strange Career of Aunt Jemima. University of Virginia Press, 1998.

McElya, Micki. Clinging to Mammy: The Faithful Slave in Twentieth Century America. Harvard University Press, 2007.

Thompson, Barbara. Black Womanhood: Images, Icons and Ideologies of the African Body. University of Washington Press, 2008.

Wallace-Sanders, Kimberly. Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern-Memory. University of Michigan Press, 2008.

Posted by Nicole Carmolingo, AARL Archives Intern

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Final Touches: Opening a Collection for Use

For an archivist, one of the most satisfying moments before a collection officially opens to researchers is affixing labels to boxes. In terms of the tasks associated with processing, there is no more to do. All arrangement and description is complete. All folders are labeled. All extraneous bits and boxes have a home. Everything is in its final place.

Pictured above, AARL Intern Nicole Carmolingo attaches the last label to the Shirlene Holmes papers, which opens soon, after final revisions are made to the finding aid. Details about the collection will accompany the announcement posted here. For now, Nicole has a deserved happy moment for processing, arranging, and describing 35.19 linear feet of materials comprising 50 boxes and 5 oversize boxes.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Saturday, June 18, 2011

YouTube and Outreach

Thanks to Nicole Carmolingo and Jessica Epstein, two amazing interns at AARL, the Research Library is increasing its Web presence via YouTube.  Take a look.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

African American Art & Artifacts

Mary Parks Washington, "Progress in Education," 1996, acrylic on wood figures 1 1/4 to 5 3/4 inches

Today’s post is about opportunities the AARL has as a result of a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Preservation Assistance Grant. NEH support will enable AARL staff to provide optimum care and access for one its fastest growing collections, Arts and Artifacts (AA), through consultation services provided by two art conservators. The goals of the project, which is currently underway, include:

1.  Assess current conditions of the individual items included in the AA collection.
2.  Obtain recommendations for the care, conservation, and storage of the collection.
3.  Incorporate recommendations in AARL’s renovation and expansion project plans.
4.  Increase awareness and skill level of Archives staff in the identification of conservation needs for artwork on paper.

Pictured above is Progress in Education, a series of nesting dolls in the style of Russian matryoshkas, one of the items examined for the grant. It was created by Mary Parks Washington, a native Atlantan educator and artist, whose work and background have been featured in this blogWashington benefitted from higher education despite the racist policies and practices of her time. Progress in Education shows in visual form the increased opportunities available to African American students following abolition.

Washington’s example follows some aspects of the traditional Russian model; it has five figures, all on the same theme (in this case, people representing stages of African American education after emancipation). It does not feature a woman, as do most traditional matryoshkas. Generally, matryoshkas portray the innermost figure as a small child, infant, or earliest point in a chronological period. Washington’s example matches this, with the smallest doll as a grade school student. As the dolls grow larger in size, they represent achievement of educational degrees with higher esteem (high school, college, master’s level graduate work, and finally doctoral level graduate work).

The work of Washington and other artists in the AA collection is used by patrons for research, as well was AARL staff for educational outreach activities, including exhibitions and donor development. As planning begins for the expansion and renovation of our current building, the conservators’ assessment will help guide architects’ designs for space, housing, and environmental needs of the collection. Furthermore, the assessment will provide direction for the collection's overall growth and care.

Posted by Jessica Epstein, AARL Intern

Monday, May 23, 2011

Digital Tools for Archives: Movies and Music and Comics...Oh My!

Nicole Carmolingo, AARL intern, was at a recent Society of Georgia Archivists workshop called "Technology for Advocacy and Outreach: A Bootcamp for Archivists Going Digital." The seminar was held Saturday, May 14, on campus at the University of West Georgia. In one day, participants created both a web comic and a video relating to part of their institutional collections. Nicole chose to focus her creations on Henry Rutherford Butler.

Henry Rutherford Butler lived from 1862-1931, attended medical school and became one of the first African American physicians to open a practice in Atlanta. Butler and his wife were highly active in both Atlanta and national African American organizations, both as members and founders. The Selena Sloan Butler papers, held by the AARL, contain valuable material about Butler, his wife and their son, as well as life in Atlanta in this era.

As you can see, Nicole used Comic Life and Moviemaker, two open source media programs, to create the content above and below. We hope you enjoy learning a little more about Butler's life. You can click here to link to the AARL finding aid for the Selena Sloan Butler Collection. We would love to hear from you about whether you would like to see more video and comic strip content from us.

Posted by Jessica Epstein, AARL Archives Intern

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Archives and Publics: Freedom Riders Redux

As a quick refresher, the archives and publics series draws attention to relationships between repositories and users. Part advocacy, part outreach, posts highlight research developments, institutional partnerships, community projects that use primary sources, and much more. Below is an excerpt from an e-mail I received recently from UGA's Dr. Barbara McCaskill. In it, she shares good news, which I happily pass along.

Hi Wesley! JoyEllen Freeman, who has been helping Christina and me on the J. Richardson Jones project and visited AARL with us last time, was selected as one of the 40 college students re-enacting the Freedom Rides between May 6 and May 16. If you think it's appropriate, we'd love for you to announce this on the AARL blog, and also to include the link below to the PBS website. JoyEllen has begun to post blogs and pictures from the trip and your readers can follow them on this link and respond.

I'll be sending pictures from the Jacksonville trip, along with information about two terrific students for the graduate internships, in a few days--I am knee deep in grading and exams right now. I also have received new information about Mr. Jones's radio shows from a collector who has contacted us, and who is sending us copies of the shows. I'll send more information about that for a new blog entry when I contact you again soon. Thanks!

Below is an introductory video to JoyEllen, one of the inspirational 2011 Student Freedom Riders.

We congratulate JoyEllen, and look forward to sharing more updates on the J. Richardson Jones project and to announcing a creative, new internship partnership developed by Dr. Barbara McCaskill.

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate