Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cataloging of Tom Dent Library completed

Poet and playwright
Tom Dent
When authors are asked "What makes a good writer?", a common answer is "A good writer starts as a good reader." This oft-quoted maxim is an excellent way to describe the relationship between poet and playwright Tom Dent and his personal library, which is housed at the Amistad Research Center along with Dent's personal papers. The cataloging of Dent's library, totaling over 1560 titles, was recently completed by cataloger Laura Chilton.

Rather than a collection consisting solely of "high spots" of African American literarture and history, Dent's collection is a working library that reflects his associations with a variety of fellow writers and publishers, his interests in music and modernist drama, and served as resource for Dent's research and writing. The collection is particularly strong in African American small press publishers, such as Dudley Randall's Broadside Press, Haki R. Madhubuti's Third World Press, and Naomi Long Madgett's Lotus Press, and greatly expands Amistad's holding by these seminal publishers of African American poetry and prose.

Inscription from artist Tom Feelings to
Tom Dent in Dent's copy of Feelings'
The Middle Passage.
A number of the books contain Dent's annotations, which provide insight into Dent's use and analysis of the books he owned, as well as inscriptions from friends and fellow authors, such as Felipe Smith, Andrew Young, Alvin Aubert, Tom Feelings, Kamau Brathwaite, Kalamu ya Salaam, Jerry Ward, Lorenzo Thomas, and others.

The Tom Dent Library is cataloged in Tulane University's library catalog and can be located by performing a keyword search using the term "Dent Thomas C former owner" in quotation marks.

Posted by Christopher Harter
(Top image from the Tom Dent Papers. Bottom image from the Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Amistad begins Comics and Graphic Novels Collection

Issue #1 of Barack the
Following his election as President in November 2008, one of Barack Obama’s advisors gave an interview to a reporter from a British newspaper in which it was revealed that President Obama collected Spiderman and Conan the Barbarian comic books. A few months later, the newly elected president appeared on the cover of The Amazing Spider-Man #583 for the story “Spidey Meets the President!” President Obama’s depiction within comic books actually dates to July 2007, when then Senator Obama appeared in an issue of LicensableBear TM, but since his inauguration, he has appeared in over eleven comic books, including Barack the Barbarian, which depicts the President as a Conan-style figure in adventures rife with political satire.

Depictions of African Americans and other underrepresented minorities within comic books and comic strips have typically been characterized by common racial stereotypes throughout the years. African American characters typically spoke in dialect, World War II-themed superhero comics (like Captain America) battled buck-toothed, slant-eyed Japanese villains, and Latinos were usually depicted with sombreros or as crazed Pancho Villa-like revolutionaries. The list goes on and on.

This situation was fueled in many respects by the fact that the comics industry had very few minority writers, artists, and publishers. There were, however, exceptions to the rule. Jackie Ormes’ 1950s-era Torchy Brown character has been cited as a progressive representation of African Americans and women. George Herriman’s Krazy Kat is considered by many to be one of the masterpieces of 20th century comic art. Artists such as Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez have worked within the mainstream superhero realm of DC and Marvel comics for many years, and the 1990s saw a rise in diversity of themes, artists, writers, and publishers within the comics industry. Today, publishers such as Blue Corn Comics and artists such as Kyle Baker, Gene Yang, and Keith Knight bring a wider voice to comics and graphic novels.

Recent publications about African
Americans, Native Americans, and
Latinos in comics are aiding
Amistad in its new collecting area.
In order to document the history of diversity within comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels (both the highs and the lows), the Amistad Research Center is embarking on a new area of collecting. Center staff are currently seeking donations of relevant materials in good condition to add to the Center's growing Comics and Graphic Novels Collection. Materials added into the collection will be listed in a planned online database that will make the collection information accessible to scholars young and old across the globe. If you are interested in donating materials or learning more about the collection, please contact Director of Library and Reference Services Christopher Harter at (504) 862-3222 or

Posted by Christopher Harter
(Images from the Amistad Research Center. May not be reproduced without permission.)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Richmond Barthé: Builder of Pictures" now on display

Barthé with his Mask of a
Boy, circa 1931.
The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce the opening of its latest exhibition, Richmond Barthé: Builder of Pictures, which is on display at the Center through July 8, 2011. This exhibition celebrates the life of Mississippi-born artist Richmond Barthé. The subject of a recent biography by art historian Margaret Rose Vendryes, Barthé is known for his eclectic and sensual visual language that allowed him to create an oeuvre that defied race and sexual orientation while, at the same time, elevating Black subjects above contemporary caricatures to render them timeless.

Taken mostly from the Richmond Barthé Papers at the Amistad Research Center, the materials on display include letters, photographs, sketches, writings, and sculptures related to his artistic journey from a student in Chicago to Harlem Renaissance star to expatriate in Jamaica.  The exhibition checklist is available on Amistad's website. The display is open during the Center's hours of M-F, 8:30-4:30.

Individuals interested in Barthé's life and works should also make plans to visit the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art, which is currently showing the exhibition Richmond Barthé: The Seeker, curated by Margaret Rose Vendryes.

Posted by Christopher Harter
(Image from the Richmond Barthé Papers. May not be reproduced without permission.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Orleans Public School Desegregation Panel Now on YouTube

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of public school desegregation in New Orleans, the Amistad Research Center, the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the Louisiana Center for Civil Rights and Social Justice and the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas, presented a series of panels by participants in the school integrations, as well as scholars of the topic.  

The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce that the reunion discussion with Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost Williams, Gail Etienne Stripling, who integrated McDonogh No. 19 Elementary School, and retired Deputy U.S. Marshals Herschel Garner, Al Butler, and Charlie Burks, who assisted with the integration efforts at McDonogh No. 19 and William Frantz, is now available online via YouTube. Part I includes introductions and information about the panelists, while Part II includes the panel discussion.

The Amistad Research Center would like to thank the panel participants and the audience for an outstanding and informative evening. The Center also thanks Tulane University's Instructional Media Services for preparing and hosting the videos.

James H. Hargett: Honolulu (Hawaii) Ministry files, 1955-1958

Rev. James H. Hargett
The Amistad Research Center received funding from The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Cataloging Hidden and Special Collections Program to process nine manuscript collections documenting Civil Rights era organizational history.  The James H. Hargett papers were processed under the CLIR grant.

Reverend Dr. James Hester Hargett, community advocate and civil rights activist, spent over forty years as a United Church of Christ pastor in churches located in the states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York.  His ministry focused on the recruitment of African Americans in Christian service and activities in the areas of community advocacy, education, human relations, mental health, and social justice.

Hargett was born on July 24, 1930, in Greensboro, North Carolina, the son of Afro-Christian pastor Reverend Frederick A. Hargett and Florence A. Hargett.  He received a bachelor's degree from Johnson C. Smith University (1952), a master's degree from Yale Divinity School (1955), and a Doctor of Ministry (1975) from Colgate-Rochester Seminary.  His studies at Colgate-Rochester Seminary involved work with the peoples of Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Haiti, and the sea islands of South Carolina.  He was ordained to ministry of the Congregational Church in 1955, and served as an associate minister of the predominately Japanese American Church of the Crossroads United Church of Christ (UCC) in Honolulu from 1955 to 1958.  He was the first African American minister called to serve a Protestant-established church in Hawaii.

The Honolulu (Hawaii) files consist of Hargett's personal minister's record book (1955-1957) which includes information about marriages he performed, as well as sermons he preached while in Hawaii.   

Rev. Hargett's Personal Minister's Record Book, 1955-1957
A scrapbook containing correspondence, greeting cards, essays, ephemera, photographs, news clippings, and newsletters is also included.  Of particular note in the scrapbook are Hargett's notes to his congregants published in The Crossroads News (September 1955), which detail his first airplane trip to Hawaii with his wife, Louilyn and infant daughter, Meloni; thank you notes from Roosevelt high school students after his speech on segregation (November 1955); programs for his installation service (December 11, 1955); a birth announcement for his son Darryl published in The Crossword Chimes (May 1957); and a handmade Christmas card and photograph (December 1957) sent to the Hargett family from the Andrew Young family.

The Crossroads News (September 1955)
Thank you notes from Roosevelt High school students, 1955
Rev. and Mrs. Hargett with daughter Meloni and newborn son Darryl
Christmas card from Rev. and Mrs. Andrew Young and family

Posted by Amber L. Moore 
(Images from the James H. Hargett Papers.  May not be reproduced without permission.)