Happy Groundhog Day from the SHC!

 

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

There are few winter days after the start of the New Year that are exciting, but in the midst of the cold, gray winter comes a ray of hope in the form of Groundhog Day!  As a native Pennsylvanian, I have been tracking the groundhog for as long as I can remember.  Every year we would make paper groundhogs and hope that he didn’t see his shadow.  For those of you that didn’t grow up following the exploits of a rodent, Groundhog Day takes place every February 2nd, and legend has it that if the groundhog sees his shadow then it’s six more weeks of winter, but if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring is right around the corner.  And although I’ve heard of there being other animals in other states (apparently even Raleigh has a groundhog it watches named Sir Walter Wally), the true forecaster to me will always be Punxsutawney Phil of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

There are some nonbelievers out there who doubt the prognosticating prowess of the groundhog.  Holt McPherson was editor of the High Point Enterprise from 1930-1937 and 1952-1972.  In the Holt McPherson Collection, we have source materials that he used for the editorials he wrote.  Below is a slanderous article he found written for the magazine People Today, which surmises that the groundhog is not the weatherman he’s cracked up to be.

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 62, in the Holt McPherson Papers #4222, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Regardless of the haters, on February 2nd the first thing I will do when I get out of bed will be to check if Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Gobbler’s Knob.  Afterwards I will check if Sir Walter Wally saw his shadow for a local forecast, and then of course put on one of my favorite movies: Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray.

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SHC All-Star: John Hope Franklin

John Hope Franklin (photographed by Dan Sears) as featured in "African Americans and Segregation" portion of The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History

John Hope Franklin (photographed by Dan Sears) as featured in “African Americans and Segregation” portion of The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History

John Hope Franklin would have been 100 years old on January 2, 2015.

On this campus, we like to take a lot of pride in a well, sometimes I like to think of the curatorial work as building a well for present and future historians. The increased breadth and depth of our collecting will yield more satisfied and refreshed researchers.  I admire John Hope Franklin because he was looking into wells that did not reflect his face, on property which he was not welcome to occupy; and drew conclusions that we still rely on today. More information on the treatment of African American scholars in public archival research spaces can be found in Alex Poole’s American Archivists article, The Strange Career of Jim Crow Archives: Race, Space, and History in the mid-20th century American South.

John Hope Franklin signature in the Southern Historical Collection Registration Book (University Archives, #40052)

John Hope Franklin signature in the Southern Historical Collection Registration Book (University Archives, #40052)

Among many of Franklin’s accomplishments, including degrees from Fisk University and Harvard University, teaching at St. Augustine’s (Raleigh, NC), University of Chicago, North Carolina Central University and Duke University; as well as numerous volumes on American, Southern, and African American history; I think that his involvement with the Southern Historical Association (SHA) is one of the highlights. It boggles my mind that in 84 years since emancipation, no descendant of a slave could stand up among scholars and talk about Southern history. In 1949, Franklin accepted his colleague, C. Vann Woodward’s request to be the first African American on the program at the SHA annual meeting. In his oral history session, Franklin reflects on the group’s concerns about where he would eat and sleep as well as if he would have the gall to stand at a podium and “talk down” to the white people in the audience.

Even after the presentation went on without any problems, racist historians continued to exclude black scholars in implicit and explicit ways. As the number of brilliant yet exiled historians began to mount (Franklin, Savage, Wesley, and Bacote), SHA leadership decided to re-locate the 1953 Knoxville meeting to a place where everyone could participate. The move to integrate the SHA was swift, which made Woodward and Franklin take notice. According to Woodward biographer, John H. Roper, the subsequent conversations among the scholars led to Woodward’s premise on the escapability of Jim Crow, which led to the seminal text, Woodward’s, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, published in 1955.

John Hope Franklin, President of the Southern Historical Association, 1971 (Southern Historical Collection, #04030)

John Hope Franklin, President of the Southern Historical Association, 1971 (Southern Historical Collection, #04030)

More information on John Hope Franklin and his extraordinary career can be found in the following collections within the Southern Historical Collection:

John Hope Franklin Oral History (#04007: A-0339)

John Herbert Roper Papers (#04235)

Southern Historical Association (#04030)

Throughout 2015, major libraries in the Triangle including Durham Public Libraries, North Carolina Central University, and Duke University will be honoring the legacy of John Hope Franklin. More information on these events can be found here.

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Next Stop: The Great State of Alabama

The documentation of African American “spaces and places” has been identified as a goal of the Southern Historical Collection, and to that end we have successfully partnered with the Historically Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA). We are working with the leaders and community members of various towns to help them leverage their impressive histories to generate cultural tourism and a sense of pride among their citizens. The SHC curatorial team has made visits to these towns to examine archival materials for research and historic value, as well as making recommendations about preservation and potential community documentation initiatives.

Façade of New Hope Baptist Church, Hobson City, Alabama

Façade of New Hope Baptist Church, Hobson City, Alabama

In the second week of December 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting both Hobson City and Tuskegee, Alabama.

Hobson City, Alabama was founded in August 1899 by a group of African Americans when they were politically excluded from the neighboring town of Oxford, Alabama. This made Hobson City the first all Black municipality in Alabama. Through changes in society, industry, and the economy; the town has maintained itself for 115 years. My hosts shared with me the incredible significance of the Calhoun County Training School, the five local churches, and Holloways (a club that was a stop on the illustrious chitlin circuit). One of the highlights of the trip was the delicious barbeque ribs and coleslaw from Brad’s BBQ!

(l-r) Carthell Green, Mayor Alberta McCrory, and Barnard Snow, looking at artifacts in Hobson City

(l-r) Carthell Green, Mayor Alberta McCrory, and Barnard Snow, looking at artifacts in Hobson City

Artwork near the mayor's office in the municipal complex, Tuskegee, Alabama

Artwork near the mayor’s office in the Municipal Complex, Tuskegee, Alabama

I thought that I knew a lot about Tuskegee; starting with the University, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, the Tuskegee Airmen, and the Syphilis Experiment. While all of these elements are commemorated in museums and archives, there is a history of a community in Tuskegee that is not very well known. In the 1923, a Veteran’s hospital, staffed by Black doctors and nurses, was established to care for Black soldiers who fought in World War 1. Dyann Robinson, formerly of the Dance Theater of Harlem is the artistic director of the Tuskegee Repertory Theater. Deborah Grey is the director of the Tuskegee Civil and Human Rights and Multicultural Center which tells the story of Tuskegee from the original indigenous inhabitants to the election of its first Black mayor, Mr. Johnny Ford, in 1972.

Chaitra and Mayor Johnny Ford stand in the middle of the Tuskegee History Committee and various city officials, Tuskegee, Alabama

Chaitra and Mayor Johnny Ford stand in the middle of the Tuskegee History Committee and various city officials, Tuskegee, Alabama

Both visits were incredibly informative and signal the beginning of a long series of partnerships between the Southern Historical Collection and diverse communities throughout the American South.

 

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Happy Holidays! A Highlighted Collection for the Holiday Season

To entertain your family this holiday season, the SHC wants to highlight a digital collection that may provide you with some historical family fun. The Mini Page Archive houses digital versions of the four page features that appeared in over 500 newspapers weekly. The Mini Page was created as an educational and fun tool for children, which covered topics included in school curricula. Many of them also covered current events in an easy to understand style with activities and recipes meant for children. The archive provides digital access to every issue from 1969-2007.  The creator of The Mini Page, Betty Debnam, did much of the work herself during the nearly forty years documented in the archive.

Each issue of The Mini Page contains brief reporting and fun activities that are an exciting way to explore history with children, or even adult family members, this holiday season. The archive has holiday themed issues for each year, with suggested activities meant to spark engagement. For example, the pages from the issue highlighted here explore different holiday customs from different countries, and provide ideas for ways to get kids talking about cultural differences. Feel free to explore this awesome resource!

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Preserving Historical Perspectives: Pearl Harbor and Mississippi Histories at the SHC

This Week in History

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy conducted a surprise attack against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This attack is what led to the United States entering World War II.

Below is an address delivered by the then Dean of Administration R.B. House to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill student body after the attack. In it he explains what he sees as the role the students and the University should play in winning the war. Even though he urged students to stay in class and wait to be drafted if that’s what the government decided, many students left school to join the army.

Folder 36, in the R. B. House Papers #3581, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 36, in the R. B. House Papers #3581, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

 

This Day in History

Happy Birthday Mississippi! On December 10, 1817, Mississippi was the 20th state admitted to the Union.

Folder 02872, in the Otis Noel Pruitt and Calvin Shanks Photographic Collection #05463, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 02872, in the Otis Noel Pruitt and Calvin Shanks Photographic Collection #05463, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Above is a picture of women in costume from Columbus, Mississippi.

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Keeping it cool, dry, and constant

Contributed by Biff Hollingsworth, Collecting and Outreach Archivist

A few weeks ago, SHC Director Bryan Giemza and I traveled to the Mississippi Delta to discuss the preservation of several archival collections found in the area. During the visit I couldn’t turn my archivist brain off – I couldn’t help but ruminate on the physical environment around us, especially as it relates to the preservation of archival materials there. I realized that the Mississippi Delta is a very hostile place for paper!

Fresh from this experience, and since we often get questions from the public about the proper storage of personal and family collections at home, I thought I’d offer a few basic guidelines that I’ve learned from working in the field. And perhaps this is the best time of year to consider this, since it is a time when many of you are pulling out Christmas decorations from storage, clearing space in your closets for winter coats, or bringing out old photographs from your personal archives to scan for that awesome (or awkward?) DIY holiday calendar that you plan to give to all your loved ones this year.

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The sun beats down on the Delta – even in November.

Paper preservation experts, such as the Northeast Document Conservation Center and the preservation section of the National Archives, agree on three basic environmental factors for safe storage of documents, photographs, films and other treasures. The storage environment should be:

  • Cool,
  • Dry, and
  • Constant

Three things the Mississippi Delta is not! For example, look what the Delta’s hot and humid climate has done to the paint on the ceiling of one of the buildings that we visited during our trip.

IMG_3687

But how cool is cool? And how dry, and how constant? Well, documents and photographs are a lot like human beings. Both are “comfortable” in an environment that:

  • is about 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit
  • is kept at 40-50% relative humidity (RH)
  • has clean air and good circulation.

Temperature extremes and fluctuations speed up the chemical breakdown of paper that causes them to become brittle or discolored.  Also, excess moisture can result in mold growth and other archival nightmares.

So, where’s the best place in your home to store family collections? It certainly depends on specific environmental factors in your home, but often the best place to store family collections is in the interior part of the living space within your home, like inside a hall closet, where you know things will stay nice and cool, dry, and constant. Also, an added bonus of a hall closet is that collections stay in the dark, out of harmful sunlight.

Just remember: would you want to live in a leaky barn in the Delta? Or in a musty crawlspace under the house? Or in a hot garage?

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Happy Thanksgiving from the SHC!

What would Thanksgiving be without the turkey? Below is an excerpt from an article written by Doug Storer called “Let’s Talk Turkey.” It explains how the turkey became synonymous with Thanksgiving. Doug Storer was a radio producer, talent agent, and writer responsible for creating and producing radio programs from the 1930s – 1960s, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not. In 1960, he started a similar franchise and titled it Amazing But True. It included books, radio shows, newspaper columns, and films. The article below was written for Amazing But True in 1971. To read the whole thing, come visit us after the holiday!

 

Folder 197, in the Doug and Hazel Anderson Storer Collection #5231, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 197, in the Doug and Hazel Anderson Storer Collection #5231, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

As you can see, turkey has been enjoyed on Thanksgiving by Americans for a very long time. Below is an extravagant Thanksgiving Menu from 1916, where they are planning to eat “Roast young Vermont turkey, English dressing, cranberry jelly.”

Folder 4, in the Emily London Short Papers #5181, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Folder 4, in the Emily London Short Papers #5181, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

We hope that you have a delicious day!

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Ms. Powell goes to the State of Black Research Collections Conference (New York, NY)

As you can tell the staff of the Southern Historical Collection is working hard to bring fresh content to our new and improved blog platform. For my part, I will be sharing the most recent highlights of my experience in the stacks, on campus, and around the town, state, country, or the world (wishful thinking). I imagine that this will be helpful for aspiring archivists and anyone who enjoys the process of discovery.

The facade of the Bryant Park branch of the New York Public Library, October 31, 2014.

The facade of the Bryant Park branch of the New York Public Library, October 31, 2014.

During Halloween weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the State of Black Research Collections conference at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City. The conference was intended for anyone who had an interest in African American archives which included museum directors, teachers, archivists, artists, and scholars. The sessions were highly interactive and all of the participants were encouraged to speak up in order to have our comments and observations featured in an upcoming white paper. The organizers were able to host the conference with funds from a Mellon grant, apparently a gathering like this had not happened in the last 20 years! Do you know how much could happen in 20 years? Not the least of which is the evolution of an entire segment of the archives. To give you the proverbial gut check, Kurt Cobain and TuPac Shakur both died 20 years ago, it feels like we have been living without them for a lifetime.

Some of the issues discussed in the conference included funding, supporting young professionals, aggregating collections, collecting current events, working with audio visual materials, and outreach to communities other than traditional scholars. Representatives from the Amistad Research Center (New Orleans, LA), Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (Washington, D.C.), and the California African American Museum (Los Angeles, CA) and many places in between gave presentations. The director of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, Howard Dodson, gave the key note address, focusing on the growth of Black collections from the rare books of Mr. Schomburg himself to the highly disparate collections that we steward today. I appreciated the way that museums, libraries, and archives of all sizes were asked to participate and we were able to see how many of our challenges and goals are essentially the same. After the first day of traditional sessions and plenaries, the second day was all about “moving the needle forward”, where we worked as a group to share ideas about what the next steps might be. I’ll save this content for the white paper, but one popular idea was the establishment of a professional organization that serves black research collections, wouldn’t that be a sight to see!

I would be remiss if I did not share with you sense of wonder just outside the walls of the Schomburg, located on 135th Street and Malcom X Blvd, also known as Lenox Ave. Directly across the street is the Harlem Hospital Center, which has murals, paintings, and sculptures, from Work Progress Administration artists like Charles Alston (papers at the SHC), Alfred Crimi, and Georgette Seabrooke. The sculpture adorning the entrance, Untitled (Family) is by John Rhoden.

Facade of the Harlem Hospital Center, October 31, 2014

Facade of the Harlem Hospital Center, October 31, 2014

Ten blocks south is the incomparable Apollo Theater, Studio Museum of Harlem, and the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building. 125th Street is considered Harlem’s main street as it is serviced by buses and trains and has been the site of so many commercial and entertainment options for African Americans for close to 100 years. This was the home of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s, where poets like Langston Hughes, and musicians like Duke Ellington, and writers like Zora Neale Hurston. The Cotton Club where a young Lena Horne got her start was on 142nd and Lenox Ave. Ella Fitzgerald was the first winner of amateur night at the Apollo Theater and went on to perform with the band at the Savoy Ballroom (140th and Lenox Ave.) in 1934.

Chaitra rubbing the famed, "tree of hope" on statge at the iconic Apollo Theater, November 1, 2014.

Chaitra rubbing the famed, “tree of hope” on statge at the iconic Apollo Theater, November 1, 2014.

As a sophomore in high school, I was completely enchanted by these figures and to be fortunate enough to occupy the spaces of my idols was a real treat indeed. Perhaps Billy Strayhorn and I have something in common as we have lived in Orange County, NC but our hearts stay on an “A train” uptown.

 

 

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