Martin Delany, George Moses Horton, and the Curious Path of Historic Photos Online

Martin R. Delany, ca. 1861-1865.

Last week, we spotted an interesting photo on a flier advertising a local event. The flier included what is apparently a photo of the enslaved poet George Moses Horton. This is a pretty big deal: very little is known about Horton’s life and we were not aware of any images of Horton (other than imagined drawings, such as in this recent children’s book).

Where, then, did the image come from? And was it really Horton? A quick online search for Horton revealed the photo used in several different places: on a poetry website, a blog, and on a “free social encyclopedia.” However, none of these sites listed a source or any information about how the image was identified as Horton.

The man in the photo appears to be wearing a Union army uniform. Horton was known to have been in North Carolina until the end of the Civil War, when he was reported to have left the state with a Union regiment to find a new home in the north. Could he have been photographed along the way wearing a uniform? It’s certainly possible.

We shared the photo and the story among Wilson Library staff. One archivist thought the photo looked familiar — possibly from the Ken Burns Civil War documentary — but that it had been identified as somebody else, not George Moses Horton. Another archivist did a reverse image search on Google and found that the photo, while most often described as being Horton, is also identified as being another man: Martin Robinson Delany.

Delany was a prominent African American newspaper editor and, during the Civil War, became the first African American major in the U.S. Army. He seemed like somebody who was much more likely to have had their photograph taken at the time. But we still wanted to verify the information: how could we be sure that the photo wasn’t also being misidentified as Delany?

The Wikipedia page for Delany includes a version of the now familiar photo, with a citation to West Virginia University. We got in touch with the special collections library at WVU and quickly heard back from a photo archivist there. The Wikipedia citation pointed to a now-removed web page (sadly a common fate for many Wikipedia citations), but the West Virginia archivist was able to track down an earlier version of the page using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

That web page listed the photo as coming from the U.S. Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. That organization has changed its name to the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, but the collections are still there. The West Virginia archivist pointed to a digitized scrapbook that included the photo we were after.

Martin R. Delany. From the MOLLUS – Mass Civil War Photo Collection, vol. 74. U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center.

The photo is included in a scrapbook compiled by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. It’s definitely the photo we were looking for and the caption was clear: “Martin R. Delany.”

We can now say, with certainty, that the photo that is widely identified as George Moses Horton is not Horton: it’s Martin Delany. While Delany was a contemporary of Horton’s, there’s no evidence that they ever met or had any connection. The only mystery that remains is, how did this photo ever start to be used to represent Horton in the first place? It’s not as if it was a mystery photo of an unidentified person — it was clearly identified as Delany, who was himself a prominent figure.

Tracking down the source of the original photo was an interesting project, and we want to thank the awesome librarians and archivists who helped us get to the bottom of it. There are two big lessons we’re taking away from this: first, it’s always amazing how quickly misinformation can spread online, even by well-meaning people. And second, whenever there’s the slightest doubt about historical information, not just online but in print, it is always a good idea to go back to the original sources. If the answers are going to be found anywhere, they’ll be in the archives.

Update, June 2023: It is now pretty clear that the Delany photo began to be used for Horton due to a faulty Google Images search result. Most likely the issue began when Delany and Horton were discussed on a single web page that included the photo of Martin Delany and the search engine mistakenly returned the Delany photo in searches for Horton. As other web pages began to repeat the error, the problem has grown even worse. In fact, the second Delany photo shown on this very post is already starting to appear in Google searches for Horton.

A Cartoon Mystery Solved

An ink drawing of two trains about to collide on the same track, one labelled "Chemistry" and one labelled "Physics"above a drawing of two roosters about to fight.
A late 1870s conflict between the Chemistry and Physics departments depicted as a train wreck and a cock fight. From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

A few years ago, we posted about a series of cartoons found in the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005). The large, undated drawings showed Chemistry and Physics as colliding trains, fighting roosters, and scuffling men. We weren’t sure when the cartoons were made, or what exactly they meant. But while searching the Daily Tar Heel on today, I stumbled across a story that offers an explanation – a story of inter-departmental conflict and a creative student prank.

The June 6, 1904 issue of the Daily Tar Heel reports that the Alumni Association invited Judge Francis D. Winston, class of 1879, to speak and share his memories of his time at UNC. In his speech, he recalled:

The reopened University* found itself practically without scientific apparatus. Its scarcity caused a conflict between two members of the faculty. The institution owned a dilapidated air pump, which was claimed by two departments – Chemistry and Physics. The professor of Physics, a man of few words and quick to act, took it to his room in the end of the Old West. In his absence the professor of chemistry had it taken to Person Hall by the college servant. Professor [Ralph Henry] Graves arrived on the scene just as it reached the door. He seized it and had it returned. Professor [Alexander Fletcher Redd] Reed [sic] interfered and they came ‘mighty nigh fighting’with chemistry worsted. And this was in the days of a struggling college, over an instrument which Dr. Elisha Mitchell had condemned as useless in 1856 and which had not exhausted air in a quarter of a century.

An ink drawing showing two men in suits fighting over an air pump, which is on the ground between them. One man is labelled "Chemistry" and the other "Physics." The man labelled "Chemistry" has a speech bubble coming from his mouth that reads, "I'll be damned if you shall!" Above the men is the header "The Climax Reached."
Two men, presumably Professors Redd and Graves, shown in conflict over an air pump. The man labelled “Chemistry” has a speech bubble that reads, “I’ll be damned if you shall.” From the University of North Carolina Papers (#40005), University Archives.

The morning after this occurrence there was seen over the rostrum in the chapel, a large drawing in flaming colors, of two engines approaching each other on the same track. They were labeled Chemistry and Physics. Another scene told the story. Chemistry was derailed and demolished. Every student was at prayers that morning. The interest was manifest.

Dr. [Charles] Phillips was conducting chapel prayers that week. When he entered the door he took in the situation at a glance. When near the bull pen he broke into a quick run. He was applauded. He rushed up the steps to the hanging cartoons, but he failed to reach them, and he tried again and again. He was not without sympathy in the student body. How well do I recall their efforts of help and encouragement, when with his hand within an inch of the paper some one would cry: “Just a little more, oop-a-doop, a little higher.” But it was beyond his reach and he sat down. Wilson Caldwell, the college servant was sent for and the papers removed and prayers were said.

The next morning the artist put the incident into another form by having a game cock labeled Physics after a crestfallen, retreating rooster named Chemistry. The crowd was expectant. The good doctor saw the cartoons as he entered the door. He went to the desk with measured step. He appeared not to notice it. In the lesson that he read occurred this verse: ‘Watch ye therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even or at midnight,’ and here he paused, ‘or at the cock crowing in the morning, lest coming suddenly he might find you sleeping.’

Though Winston’s memories of the cartoons and the event they commemorated – shared thirty years after the fact – may not be entirely reliable, these cartoons now make a lot more sense. We now know that they were created between 1875 and 1879 and refer to a real conflict between two departments on campus. The drawing of the two men fighting over a piece of equipment labelled “air pump” can be taken much more literally than previously thought, as we now know it depicts an actual dispute over an air pump.

Although Winston remembered the train and rooster drawings appearing separately and they are here presented on one sheet of paper, the holes and tears at the corners of these cartoons suggest that these may some of the original drawings he remembered being hung in Gerrard Hall during chapel exercises.


*The University of North Carolina was closed from February 1871 to September 1875. Learn more about the University during the Civil War and Reconstruction. 


Michael Eric Dyson’s 1996 Commencement Speech

Twenty years ago this week, UNC professor Michael Eric Dyson delivered the commencement address at the winter graduation ceremony. The speech, “Is America Still a Dream?,” was immediately controversial.

Daily Tar Heel, 7 January 1997.
Daily Tar Heel, 7 January 1997.

Dyson, a faculty member in the department of communications, wrote about rap music and contemporary African American culture, topics he addressed in his commencement speech. Dyson spoke first about the idea of the American dream, saying, “The only hope for extending the American Dream is an acknowledgment that for many it has not been achieved.” He talked about the anger and frustration of many young people in the so-called “Generation X” and argued that youth culture in general, and rap music in particular, “sometimes conceals, at other times reveals, personal and social pain, the stark underside of the American Dream.”

Defending contemporary rap against its critics, Dyson said that in the work of many rappers “there is also a celebration of the freedom of lyrical creativity, rhetorical dexterity and racial signification.” He gave examples, quoting from the lyrics of Snoop Doggy Dogg and Notorious B.I.G., some of which included profanity.

Dyson encouraged the graduates to “get rid of the amnesia that clogs the arteries of American national memory” and to acknowledge that “the American Dream has been long in the making, and that your piece of it today as a college graduate, has come at great expense.” In his closing remarks, he commented on Michael Jordan’s recent gift to the UNC School of Social Work, and expressed disappointment that Jordan did not donate to support the new Black Cultural Center at Carolina.

Daily Tar Heel, 8 January 1997.

The use of occasional profanity, the criticism of Jordan, and the overall challenging tone of the speech were controversial. Apparently some students and parents walked out during the speech, but the larger outcry came later in local media and in letters from alumni to UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker. Several parents who attended the ceremony wrote to Hooker with complaints, as did many more alumni who read about it in local papers.

In his responses, Hooker was often apologetic, writing to one parent, “In my judgment, our speaker could have advanced his thesis without using offensive language, especially at a family-oriented ceremony such as graduation. Commencement is an occasion that calls for challenging, but also inspiring and uplifting comments.” A Daily Tar Heel editorial criticized Hooker, writing, “More than anything, he should have stood up for the truth behind Dyson’s comments. In sparking such controversy, he dared to present a harsh truth in place of sugar-coated platitudes.

Ultimately, the focus on the rap lyrics and the comments about Jordan overshadowed the larger content and message of Dyson’s speech. A Charlotte Observer editorial a few days later noted that his message was “not so radical,” continuing: “He was challenging graduates to understand our American history, the good and the bad in all its complexity.” In the Daily Tar Heel coverage of the controversy, Jane Brown, who was Chair of the Faculty, said, “The focus on the language in the rap lyrics distracted from the main message. (Dyson) was speaking for people who are rarely spoken for. A lot of people appreciated that.” The DTH editorial was even more direct: “Dyson, instead of facing criticism, should have received a standing ovation.”

Dyson left UNC in 1997 for a faculty position at Columbia University. He is currently on the faculty at Georgetown University and continues to write and speak about African American history and culture.

Sources and Further Reading:

Michael Eric Dyson:

Charlotte Observer, 22 December 1996.

Daily Tar Heel, 7 January 1997 and 8 January 1997.

Independent Weekly, August 20-26, 1997.

Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Michael Hooker Records, 1995-1999. Series 1, folder 29 (Commencement: General, January – March 1997). University Archives.

Office of President of the University of North Carolina (System): C. D. Spangler, Jr., Records, 1986-1997. Series 2.1, folder 809 (Commencement, December 15, 1996 – Mike Dyson Controversy). University Archives.

Haunted House of Master Mangum

From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1985


David Brown begging for sympathy from visitors in Mangum’s Haunted House Wednesday Night (From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1985)

Halloween is fast approaching, and students across campus are deciding what costume to wear for a night out on Franklin Street. The tradition of roaming Franklin Street on Halloween began in the early 1980s and while the tradition is well known across the state, it’s not the only way students on campus have celebrated the holiday.  In the fall of 1981, residents of Mangum dormitory decided they wanted to buy an ice machine for the building. When they learned the University wouldn’t cover the costs under its enhancement policy, they took matters into their own hands and decided to raise the money themselves by staging a haunted house.

The first Mangum Haunted House opened at 7 p.m. on October 30, 1981 and visitors paid $1 for a guided tour through “madmen, a hell scene, a cemetery scene, and a lot of other scary scenes,” according to Mangum Resident Assistant Billy Leland (from the Daily Tar Heel, 30 October 1981). The 1st Annual Mangum Haunted House was open until midnight on the 30th and from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m. on the 31st.  The event was a success, and an ice machine was purchased.

The event continued until the mid-1990’s, with Mangum residents trying to create a new and scarier version of the haunted house each year, and beginning in 1982, proceeds from ticket and t-shirt sales were donated to the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center.

“Slime, anyone?” From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1985
From the Daily Tar Heel, 31 October 1986

The International Program in Sanitary Engineering Design

IPSED 2nd Session, October 1963. Photograph by Pete Julian.
IPSED 2nd Session, October 1963. Photograph by Pete Julian.

We recently received a group of photographs documenting the International Program in Sanitary Engineering Design (IPSED), a program established by the School of Public Health in 1962. The program attracted participants from all around the world to attend classes and complete internships in North Carolina, before returning to their home countries. Application materials show that some of these engineers were responsible for delivering potable water to entire regions and cities in their home countries, which included Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Libya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Sudan, Taiwan, and Venezuela.

IPSED participants and faculty, 4th Session.
IPSED participants and faculty, 4th Session.

According to a report found on the website of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), IPSED was developed to fill a gap in sanitary engineering education for engineers from “developing countries.” Prior to the creation of IPSED, promising sanitary engineers from these countries would attend schools in Europe or the United States. The design concepts taught at these schools had little practical application in the engineers’ home countries, where they would face radically different socioeconomic and technological conditions. The classes and internships offered by the IPSED program were oriented toward the unique sanitary engineering challenges that these engineers would face when they returned home.

The photographs shown here give a glimpse into the lives of a diverse group of sanitary engineers, learning and collaborating in Chapel Hill in the 1960s and 1970s.

IPSED participant visiting the Ohio State Department of Health, 11th Session, 1969.
IPSED participant visiting the Ohio State Department of Health, 11th Session, 1969.
IPSED participant at the Durham Water Filtration Plant, 11th Session, 1969.
IPSED participant at the Durham Water Filtration Plant, 11th Session, 1969.

See the finding aid for the Records of the School of Public Health for more information about this recent acquisition.

Barack Obama’s 1994 Visit to Chapel Hill

In 1994, the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center sponsored a three-day program for leaders of African American student groups at UNC. The Black Student Leadership Summit included sessions on leadership and community outreach and gave students opportunities to discuss issues and ideas. The event kicked off on the evening of September 2, 1994, with an opening reception and dinner followed by a featured speaker from out of town: Barack Obama.

Program for the 1994 Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.
Program for the 1994 Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

The future president had received nationwide attention when he was elected as the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He was working as a Civil Rights lawyer in Chicago at the time of his visit to Chapel Hill.

Obama, whose first name was misspelled as “Barak” in the conference program, was listed as a “motivational speaker.” Unfortunately, there is little record of his speech or his visit. The booking was arranged through an agency, so there is no correspondence with Obama. The file did not include any photographs and the conference was not covered in the Daily Tar Heel.

Excerpt from an invitation to the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.
Excerpt from an invitation to the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

The conference was held at the Aqueduct Conference Center south of Chapel Hill, so it’s likely Obama never even made it to campus. About all we can tell from the records is that the the visit was short: notes on travel arrangements showed that he arrived the afternoon of the 2nd, spent the night at the Omni Europa, and then flew back on the morning of the 3rd. Obama received a $1,500 honorarium for his talk.  A handwritten note in the file said that he was travelling with his wife, so it appears that future First Lady Michelle Obama was here as well.

Excerpt from evaluations of the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.
Excerpt from evaluations of the Black Student Leadership Summit. Stone Center Records (40341), University Archives.

While we don’t know what Obama said, we do know that his speech was well received. With approval ratings that President Obama (or any politician) would envy, 21 out of 22 people responding to a post-conference survey said that they enjoyed Obama’s talk. Attendees said that they “Liked his views and thoughts about values and picking our battles,” and “liked the fact that he was a very successful Black man fighting for the betterment of Black people.” One respondent called him “inspirational.” Another said, “He was a little long.”

The records of the 1994 Black Student Leadership Summit are in the records of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History in the University Archives.

“The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?”: A. H. Patterson’s 1902 Speech

In researching Professor Andrew Henry Patterson for my last blog post, I came across an interesting document among his personal papers. In 1902, while still a professor at the University of Georgia, Patterson delivered a speech at the centennial assembly of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, N.C. titled “The Planet Mars – Is It Inhabited?” Following this address, the speech was supposed to be stored in a sealed envelope in the Salem Academy archive and reopened in 2002 “to  compare theories in 1902 with those 100 years later.” However, attempts to find the speech at the Salem Academy archives in 1964 were unsuccessful. The speech now held by UNC is a copy of a draft of the original, acquired from Andrew Patterson’s son Dr. Howard Patterson.

It is now fourteen years after Patterson had intended the speech to be reopened, and our knowledge of the planet Mars far surpasses what was theorized in 1902. The most compelling evidence for life on Mars discussed in the speech was the existence of canals on the Martian surface, first observed by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877. Patterson devotes a great deal of his speech to corroborating the existence of these canals by citing other astronomers, concluding that “On the whole, I believe we may consider the existence of the so-called ‘canals’  as proved by most careful and reliable observers in many parts of the world.” Patterson proposes the theory that these canals are artificially created for irrigation. Astronomers of the period also observed that the polar caps of Mars appeared and disappeared according to the Martian season, theorizing that these could be sources of water for the vast irrigation networks. Patterson even imagines just how differently life might have evolved on Mars, stating “what manner of beings thet [sic] may be we lack the data even to conceive.” In his conclusion, Patterson stated his belief “that Mars seems to be inhabited is not the last but the first word on the subject.”

Despite the wide gap in astronomical knowledge between 1902 and today, the accuracy of some theories is impressive. With regards to the difficulty many astronomers had in observing Schiaparelli’s canals, Patterson cites a Dr. Fison, who argues “that these canals have not been seen at the Naval Observatory, Harvard Observatory, Yerkes Observatory and others having far better telescopes than those used by Schiaparelli, who had an 8 1/3-inch glass, and by Lowell, who had a 24-inch, and therefore the canals must be optical illusions.” Fison was ultimately correct about the canals being optical illusions. Patterson also quotes Fison accurately describing the surface of Mars as “a succession of bleak arid deserts over which the rays of the vertical sun would seem to struggle in vain to mitigate the blasting chill of attenuated air.” However, Fison then went on to suppose the existence of “elementary forms of vegetation capable of withstanding the rigors of a climate more than artic [sic] in character.” Patterson addresses the question of polar ice caps by citing scientists who believed “the snow caps to be composed of solid Carbon Dioxide, instead of water. . . . the spectroscope shows no trace, or at least very little, of water vapor on Mars.” We now know that the polar caps are composed of both frozen carbon dioxide as well as water-ice.

114 years after Andrew Patterson delivered his speech on Mars, it is now possible to view the surface of Mars in 360 degrees through a web browser. Using virtual reality technology, it is even possible to see what it would be like to stand on the “bleak arid deserts” of Mars from a first-person perspective.

From the Archives: James Walker to Robert House: “I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

UNC admitted its first African American students in 1951. While the students were able to enroll in classes and live in a dorm, many of the campus activities remained either closed to African Americans or strictly segregated. We came across an example of the students’ ongoing struggle to participate in normal campus life in a letter from James Walker to Chancellor Robert House in January 1952.

As the law school students planned their traditional spring dance, the question arose about whether the recently-admitted African American students would be able to attend. The student-run Law Association put it to a vote, asking whether the dance should be open to all students. The vote was fairly close, passing 82-63. The Daily Tar Heel reported on the “possible bi-racial dance,” calling it “the first in the history of the University and perhaps in the South” (DTH 1/15/52).

But the possibility of an integrated dance was quickly vetoed by the campus administration. Citing a Board of Trustees ruling prohibiting unsegregated social gatherings, Chancellor House wrote that “no mixed social functions shall be held on the University campus.” (DTH 1/16/52)

The letter shown below is James Walker’s response to House’s ruling. It is from the Chancellor’s records in University Archives, included among clippings and correspondence documenting desegregation efforts at the university, including Walker’s push to end segregated seating in Kenan Stadium.

Walker writes of his frustration at House’s decision, noting that it was especially cruel for having been announced right before exams. But Walker remains undeterred, writing, “I will never accept the denial of a privilege. I have made footprints around the world defending a free society.”

Letter from James Walker Jr. (page one), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Letter from James Walker Jr. (page two), in the Office of Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Robert Burton House Records #40019, University Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Exam Spoilers…for Fall 1885

Could you pass finals in 1885?

While looking through the University Papers this week, I found these exams administered at the end of the fall semester in 1885. There is one for Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics and English. Some of the questions would be familiar to a student today, but others, not so much. Can you tell us “what are the defects of our Alphabet?”

Exams administered December 1885 (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

Update: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the Cuban Club, a short-lived club for Cuban students at UNC in the early 20th century. This week, I came across a letter written just months after the Spanish-American War in which Major General Joseph Wheeler, president of the Cuban Educational Association, tells UNC President Edwin Alderman that he “note[s] with pleasure that you state that the University of North Carolina would easily give scholarships, remitting all tuition to several [Cuban students].”

The Cuban Educational Association operated from 1898 to 1901 and partnered with colleges across the United States to send Cuban and Puerto Rican college-age students to school in the United States. Universities and colleges offered one to two students a full scholarship to cover books, tuition and fees. The students and their families had to cover the cost of living, usually $200 – $300 annually. Therefore, most of the students coming to the United States were from the middle and upper classes. The scholarship mandated that the students return home after graduation.

Over the four years it was in operation, the Cuban Educational Association and its over 50 partner institutions helped to send over 2,500 students to school in the United States. When these students returned home, most became teachers, doctors and lawyers in their communities.

This letter was written 10 years before the Cuban Club appeared in the Yackety Yack, but it suggests that the influx of students from Cuba in the early 20th century may have been related to work begun by the Cuban Educational Association.

Letter to Dr. Alderman from Joshua (from the University Papers, #40005, University Archives).

Original Post: The Curious Case of the Cuban Club