Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A New Captain America...

Last week, Marvel Comics announced that Steve Rogers will hang up the shield of comic book superhero Captain America in November. He will be replaced by Sam Wilson, the man who has been Captain America's longtime friend and fellow crime fighter, The Falcon. This change from a long-standing white comics character to a new, African American figure is reminiscent of the announcement that Miles Morales, who was of African American and Latino descent, would don the mask of Spider-Man back in 2011. However, while the new Spider-Man was met with a mixture of support and condemnation, the announcement of Wilson's assuming the mantle of Captain American seems to have been met with a more even-keeled response.

Issues of the forthcoming Captain America story line will join Amistad's Comics and Graphic Novels Collection, but they won't be the first instances of a Black "Captain America." In 2003, Marvel published a seven-issue series entitled Truth: Red, White & Black, which overlaid the origins of the Captain America character and the horrors of the real-life Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments. Written by Robert Morales with artwork by Kyle Baker, the series examined the U.S. government's experimentation on African American soldiers during World War II to perfect the super serum used to turn Steve Rogers into Captain America. Morales and Baker provided a powerful examination of American heroic iconography, and while Sam Wilson as Captain America may not take such a close look at issues of race, his assuming the red, white, and blue outfit reflects continuing positive changes in the comics industry with respect to diversity.

Amistad's comics collection contains both the original seven-issue run of Truth, as well as the collected edition.

Front cover of Truth: Red, White & Black, issue no. 1
Posted by Christopher Harter

Image from the Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.) 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

World War I Collections at the Amistad Research Center

This past week marked the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo, which led to the outbreak of the first World War. The Amistad Research Center houses a small, but interesting, set of collections that document the war and its participants. Two collections are processed and have online finding aids, while another is slated for full processing as part of our current K-12 outreach project funded by the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation.

The Seleste L.Chandler papers document Chandler's service as an African American medic serving in France during World War I. The collection includes Chandler's diary, photographs, correspondence, and an obituary notice. The highlight of the collection is a diary kept by Chandler from approximately June 1917, when he entered Jenner Medical College in Chicago, Illinois, to February 1919, when he returned to the United States from his tour of duty. Chandler briefly describes his training at Jenner and his assignment to Company A of the 350th New York Battalion and the medical detachment of that battalion. The battalion traveled from Camp Grant near Rockford, Illinois, to Camp Upton on Long Island, New York, before leaving the United States on June 10, 1918 and arriving in Brest, France, on June 19. During his time in France, Chandler described his training, as well as battles, providing first aid in the midst of warfare, the capture of German soldiers, and being gassed by the Germans. The diary also lists the sectors, cities, towns, and villages visited by Chandler; personnel in the medical detachment of the 350th New York Battalion; equipment lists; and addresses of individuals in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Chicago.

Other items include three postcards and a letter (1918-1919) from Chandler to his family while overseas and upon his return to Camp Upton. Two photographs - one of the medical detachment of the 350th New York Battalion and one of Seleste Chandler's brother, Charles, in Chicago - as well as an obituary notice for Chandler are present.

The Morris Reynaud oral history interview chronicles Reynaud's participation in the Bonus Expeditionary Force, more commonly known as the Bonus March on Washington or Bonus Army of 1932. The collection includes an audio recording of Reynaud's 1978 interview with Glenda B. Stevens, a typescript transcription of the interview, and a 1979 newspaper article on Reynaud's involvement in the Bonus March.

Reynaud briefly describes his upbringing, service in World War I, and work on railroads and in sawmills across southern Louisiana both before and after the war. The majority of the interview involves Reynaud recounting his experiences in the 1932 Bonus March on Washington, D. C., where he was one of over 40,000 World War I veterans who attempted to pressure Congress into immediate payment of a wartime-service bonus initially promised in 1945.

The Harry Francis Vincent Edward papers, which will be processed in the coming year, document the life and career of Edwards as a humanitarian, Olympic athlete, businessman, civil servant, and relief worker. Born in Germany in 1898 to a German mother and West Indian father, Edward was raised in Germany, but spent part of his youth as a British prisoner of war in the Ruhleban internment camp during World War I, which is detailed in the collection through correspondence, ration cards, programs for theatrical performances by detainees, and photographs.

Posted by Christopher Harter

Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Although the Civil Rights Movement and the efforts of those working to end discrimination did not end with the passage of this act, it provided a major step forward in outlawing segregation in public facilities, businesses, and schools, as well as promoting enforcement of the right to vote. It also extended the life of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, prohibited discrimination in federally assisted programs, and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to assist in the implementation of the right to equal opportunities in employment. 

Efforts to pass the act into law were hard fought, as were efforts to make the new law understandable to the general public in order to ensure its proper enforcement. To aid this effort the Commission on Civil Rights produced this six-page special bulletin in August 1964 to summarize the new act. Summaries were provided for each section of the new act in outline form. This document is part of the many sources documenting civil rights efforts at the Amistad Research Center.

The Center has previously highlighted its digital collection of civil rights ephemera in previous blog posts, and we will be celebrating 2014's many civil rights anniversaries with our last exhibition of the year, which will highlight the role of women in the Civil Rights Movement, beginning in September. Look for more information as we move closer to that exhibition. 

Posted by Christopher Harter

Image from the Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Children's Reading for the Freedom Summer Anniversary

Sanford Wexler's "The Civil
Rights Movement: An Eyewitness
History," 1993.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a campaign launched in June 1964 to increase voter registration throughout Mississippi, as well as establish Freedom Schools, Freedom Houses, and increase resources for the state's African American population and those who supported civil rights activities. Education was a key aspect to Freedom Summer efforts. But did you know that among the extensive library collection at the Amistad Research Center is a sizable collection of children's books and graphic novels on the topic of the civil rights movement? Below are some highlights, but you can search our collections cataloged in the Tulane University library catalog using the following steps:

1. At the catalog page, select the "catalog" tab
2. Enter "juvenile literature" as a keyword search
3. Limit the location to Amistad Research Center
4. Click the "magnifying glass" search button

This will produce a list of the children's books housed at the Center. To search our graphic novels, simply visit our online description of the Center's Comics and Graphic Novels Collection, and select the Books link on the left.

All of these items can be viewed in Amistad's Reading Room. Stop in and catch up on some summer time reading...

Carol Greene's "Martin Luther
King Jr: A Man Who Changed
Things," 1989.
Shyrlee Dallard's "Ella Baker:
A Leader Behind the Scenes," 1990.
John Lewis' "March: Book
One," 2013.
Laird and Bey's "Still I Rise: A Graphic
History of African Americans," 2009.

Posted by Christopher Harter

Digital Resource on the Civil Rights Movement

Flier for the 1963 Freedom
Vote campaign in Mississippi
sponsored by the Council
of Federated Organizations.
As commemorations of Freedom Summer and the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act take place, the Amistad Research Center reminds everyone of an excellent resource for primary source documents on the Civil Rights Movement -- the online digital collection "Print Culture and the Civil Rights Movement, 1950-1980." This digital collection is an expansion of the exhibition “The Revolution Will Not Be...: Print Culture of the Civil Rights Movement” held at the Amistad Research Center in 2011. As the nation’s oldest, largest, and arguably most comprehensive independent archives/library documenting the modern Civil Rights Movement, the Amistad Research Center has brought together digitized documents from a variety of archival collections, including the papers of activists such as John O’Neal, Fannie Lou Hamer, Clarie Collins Harvey, Connie Harse, John Lee Tilley, as well as the Eric Steele Wells collection, the Center’s own ephemera collection, and other sources. Access to the digital collection is free and can be found via the Louisiana Digital Library or through the portal of the Tulane University Digital Library.

Flier produced following the
assassination of civil
rights activist Medgar Evers.

This project highlights the newspapers, posters, broadsides, pamphlets, fliers, and other printed ephemera produced by student and community groups, leading civil rights organizations, and individuals, which documented a revolutionary era. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States coincided with rapid changes in a variety of news and communications media. The expansion of television and documentary film-making brought images of the struggles of African Americans and those who supported civil rights into the homes of the American populace. However, control of the tone and content of electronic media was not always in the hands of those who were being documented. It was the democratization of various printed media that allowed civil rights leaders, workers, and organizations to circulate their combined, and sometimes contradictory, voices. 

Students, teachers, researchers, and others are encouraged to contact the Center’s Reference Department regarding this digital collection and related materials on the Civil Rights Movement held at Amistad. For more information, please visit the Center’s website

Posted by Christopher Harter

(Photos from the Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grant to Preserve Mardi Gras Films from Robert S. and Lillie Mae Green Collection

The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a Basic Preservation Grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation.  This grant will assure the preservation of two 8mm films from the Robert S. and Lillie Mae Green collection depicting African American Carnival Balls from 1955 and 1956.

Robert Green was a photographer in New Orleans, and the film collection is comprised of his home movies depicting African American life in the city from the 1950s-1970s.  They are among some of the most requested audiovisual items in our collections, and have until now been largely inaccessible to researchers.

The films selected for preservation record the rich tradition of Carnival costuming and performance integral to the fabric of New Orleans life. They show members of Mardi Gras clubs or “krewes” entering a decorated venue and displaying their themed costumes. In one instance, the theme is “Symphony Variations,” and the women wear white gowns. In another, it is “Satan’s Inferno,” and participants wear devil costumes. There are shots of dancing, and a live (silent) performance from Louis Jordan and his band. There are also images of a parade, including marching bands and several floats, one carrying a banner which reads “Krewe of Klaver,” an ostensible reference to the African American Catholic lay organization Knights of Peter Claver.  Other krewes depicted have been tentatively identified as the Jolly Bunch and Young Men’s Illinois Club.

Carnival krewe balls have traditionally been private affairs, closed to outsiders. Film of an African American krewe in particular is an even rarer visual record, and many krewes are no longer in existence.  Hurricanes Betsy (1965) and Katrina (2005) flooded neighborhoods where African American Carnival traditions were most concentrated, rendering footage such as that depicted in these films truly rare. This grant will allow us to create new preservation masters of the films, safeguarding them for generations to come.  In addition, new viewing copies will also be created to be made available to researchers.

Read the full list of grant winners here

Posted by Brenda Flora.

Photograph from the Amistad Research Center.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Prince Hall Masons of Louisiana Records Open for Research

Members of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Louisiana,
The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce the opening of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Louisiana Records (1857-2002). It is always an exciting time at the Center when the processing department finishes a large preservation and access project since the work can take months, if not years, to complete. Amistad received the initial deposit of the Grand Lodge’s records in 2008 with additional materials retrieved from the temple building in Baton Rouge in 2012 and 2013. The project got underway in November 2012 and the Center was pleased to assist the Grand Lodge to celebrate its 150th anniversary highlighting the accomplishments of the organization and its members through selections from the collection compiled for exhibition in January 2013. The exhibition, “Unity and Brotherly Love: 150 Years of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free & Accepted Masons of Louisiana,” showcased the work of the fraternal organization’s membership for the betterment of African Americans in Louisiana and beyond.

First Grand Master John Parsons, undated
During the 1840s, members of St. James A.M.E. Church in New Orleans petitioned to organize a Masonic lodge. This request was approved and, in 1849, the Richmond Lodge No. 4 in New Orleans was established, first under the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania and then later under Ohio. By 1863, New Orleans established an additional two lodges (Stringer No. 11 and Parsons No. 18), enabling the trio to form a Grand Lodge. This Grand Lodge of Louisiana, named Eureka in order to differentiate itself from white membership lodges, was established on January 5, 1863, at the hall of Richmond Lodge No. 4 between Customhouse and Bienville streets. The first Grand Master was John Parsons, a leading political figure in New Orleans. In 1944, the act of incorporation for the Eureka Grand Lodge was amended and the organization was renamed—the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Louisiana.

The records of the Louisiana Grand Lodge are a rich source of primary documentation about the history of African American freemasonry in Louisiana and throughout the United States, the period of post-Civil War Reconstruction, the long civil rights movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the modern civil rights movement. The records encompass 68 linear feet of materials that illuminate the internal workings of the Grand Lodge and the extent of the local and national Masonic network, including African American businesses and philanthropy; community, economic and educational activism; partnerships with civil rights organizations; and experiences with discrimination and segregation.

The finding aid to the collection can be found in Amistad's online finding aid database. Researchers interested in viewing the collection are encouraged to contact the Center's Reference Services at via phone at 504.862.3222 or via email at reference@amistadresearchcenter.org.

Posted by Laura Thomson.

(Images from the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Louisiana Records. May not be reproduced without permission.)