Monday, January 31, 2011

My Internship Experience: Processing the Jason Berry Papers

My name is Beryl and I’m a graduate student in Museum Studies at Southern University at New Orleans.  For the past few months, I have been interning in the processing department at the Amistad Research Center.  The initial reaction when entering the reading room is one of respect as historical facts surround you. Every person in the Center from the director to the permanent employees, interns and volunteers, plays a vital part in the Center. I have found working in an environment focused on cultural preservation and learning the archival method to be of value.  I am currently processing the Jason Berry papers (1966-1987), which are an important contribution to researchers of the civil rights movement. The Berry papers document the development of a writing career during a period when the landscape of American society was rapidly changing.

Berry, a New Orleans native, is an acclaimed author, prolific journalist, and film director who has written extensively on Southern politics, culture and religion.  The documentation of Berry’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement provides interesting insight from the perspective of a young career-minded college graduate who landed a job as press secretary for Charles Evers during his bid for governor of Mississippi in 1971. Charles Evers, mayor of Fayette, Mississippi, was the brother of slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers.  Berry published his first book, Amazing Grace: With Charles Evers in Mississippi (1973), which provided insight into Southern election practices, voter fraud, and violence at the polls.

The Berry papers focus primarily on race relations, politics, and voting practices in Mississippi during the 1970s.  Articles, audio-taped speeches, correspondence, and video productions related to Evers’ gubernatorial campaign make up the bulk of this collection.  Also included is correspondence from Berry’s mentors: David Chandler, of Life Magazine; Hodding Carter III, of the Delta Democratic Times; and Berry Morgan and Walker Percy, both southern writers who Berry consulted for advice.

I believe that Berry’s perseverance is impressive and inspiring.  He never gave up his love for investigative reporting despite whether the subject matter was controversial or un-popular.  Processing the Jason Berry papers has been a very rewarding experience for me.

Posted by Beryl Hunter

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Keeping the Music Alive

“Playing in that band would mold my life. I had no idea back then that I would actually become a musician.” – Harold Battiste, Unfinished Blues: Memoirs of a New Orleans Music Man

Harold Battiste
When Harold Battiste began playing clarinet in the school band at New Orleans’ Gilbert Academy, he initiated a lifetime of musical innovation and accomplishments. As the founder of All for One (AFO) Records, the first African American musician-owned record label, Battiste has documented the second fifty years of New Orleans jazz by recording some of the top musical talent in the Crescent City. Apart from his AFO work, Mr. Battiste has played with and arranged or produced works from such artists as Sam Cooke, Dr. John, Tom Waits, Sonny and Cher, and others.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of AFO Records, as well as completion of the processing of the Harold R. Battiste Papers at the Amistad Research Center. In celebration of both events, Amistad is presenting the exhibition Harold Battiste: Keeping the Music Alive from January 18 through March 31, 2011 in the Center’s Exhibition Gallery. Highlighting Mr. Battiste’s career and his many musical associations, the exhibition includes letters, photographs, musical scores, AFO business records, phonograph records, and other highlights drawn mainly from his papers.

The Harold R. Battiste Papers measure 39 linear feet and include correspondence, personal and family records, photographs, collected publications and news clippings, records related to Mr. Battiste's teaching career at the University of New Orleans, and audiovisual materials. Also included are business records related to AFO Records and other music-related relationships led by Battiste, as well as an extensive collection of scores, copyright notices, and other records of works authored, arranged, or produced by Mr. Battiste.

Please join us in celebrating Mr. Battiste’s and AFO’s efforts to “keep the music alive.”

R. Sargent Shriver, 1915-2011

Letter to James Herman Robinson from Shriver.
The Amistad Research Center mourns the recent passing of R. Sargent Shriver, pioneer for social change, founding director of the Peace Corps, and quiet champion of civil rights.  Shriver and his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics among many other accomplishments in a life devoted to social change, are the only husband-wife team to have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Executive Order 10924, issued by President Kennedy on March 1, 1961, established the Peace Corps, with Sargent Shriver serving as its founding director for five years.  As its first director, Shriver laid the foundation for the Peace Corps, often noted as the most lasting contribution of the presidency of John F. Kennedy, Shriver’s brother-in-law.  The Peace Corps was modeled after Operation Crossroads Africa (OCA), a volunteer organization which has sent hundreds of North American volunteers annually to Africa since its founding in the late 1950s.  OCA founder, James Herman Robinson, served as an intimate advisor to Shriver and other key Peace Corps personnel in its earliest years, and Robinson was acknowledged by President Kennedy himself as the “progenitor of the Peace Corps.” 

Later this year, the Amistad Research Center will host an exhibition and related programming to mark the relationship between Operation Crossroads Africa and the Peace Corps.  Please stay tuned for further details. 

The Amistad Research Center holds over fifty letters between James Herman Robinson and Sargent Shriver, delineating Operation Crossroads Africa’s influence over the design and ethos of the Peace Corps.  These, as with the above letter, are found in the James Herman Robinson papers.

Posted by Andrew Salinas

(Image from the James Herman Robinson Papers.  May not be reproduced without permission.)