Wednesday, August 22, 2012

e-Amistad Reports August 2012 edition now online

The August 2012 edition of e-Amistad Reports is now online. Amistad's quarterly electronic newsletter features news about the Center, its staff and collections, as well as upcoming events.  This issue features articles on new acquisitions, the completion of the "Working for Freedom" Project, and upcoming events. And it answers the question of what was in those mystery boxes! Check it out!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mystery Boxes?...Read e-Amistad Reports to Find the Answer

The mission of the Amistad Research Center centers on three related principles: Acquisition, Preservation, and Access. A recent acquisition of organizational records and a proposed project to make those records available to the public soon has staff members excited. But which organization's records are pictured in the mystery boxes below?  To find out, sign up to receive Amistad's electronic newsletter, e-Amistad Reports. The August issue will be released next week and will feature an article about this wonderful new collection.

What are in these boxes?
In the meantime, here's a contest for our social media readers. With hints provided below, the first person to email the correct name of the organization whose records are pictured here, will receive a gift package of notecards and postcards featuring works from Amistad's celebrated fine arts collection. The cards make wonderful gifts or can be used to send a note to a long-lost friend. The deadline is Tuesday, August 21, at 5:00 pm CST and answers should be emailed to Amistad at "reference AT" with the subject line "Mystery Box Contest." The winner will be announced in a future blog post and details on the mystery boxes will included in the upcoming newsletter.

Hint 1: The organization was established in New Orleans in 1863.

Hint 2: The organization was headed by members of the same family from 1902-1978.

Hint 3: The organization provided funding to support a number of civil rights organizations including the NAACP during the 1950s and 1960s.

Think you know the answer? Let us know!

Posted by Christopher Harter

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Olympics at Amistad, Part II: John Carlos and Tommie Smith

1968 was a turbulent year in the United States, a year which saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the violent Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and the emergence of George Wallace as a viable presidential candidate. It is no surprise that the Olympic games that year were also highly politicized.

A global boycott of the 1968 Summer Olympics began to organize in response to the International Olympic Committee's vote to readmit South Africa into the Olympic games, although the country had been banned in 1964 for its unyielding commitment to apartheid. Further, the possibility of an Olympic boycott by African American athletes began to foment on the campus of San Jose State University, where sociologist Harry Edwards descried the accomplishments of Black athletes amidst wider social inequity: "What value is it to a black man to win a medal if he returns to a hell in Harlem?"  Lee Evans, John Carlos, and Tommie Smith - all members of the SJSU track team - were among the most vocal of the boycott's supporters.

John Carlos and Tommie Smith, the gold and bronze medalists in the 200m sprint at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, decided not to boycott the games, and instead used their opportunity atop the Olympic podium to make a poignant political statement. As the US national anthem played, both men averted their gaze from the rising American flag and raised their gloved fists in the air - a lasting protest against abysmal human rights conditions in the US and beyond.  Carlos and Smith were expelled from the Olympics and both men - in addition to Australian sprinter and silver medalist Peter Norman, who openly supported their cause - faced long ostracism from track and field (Carlos and Smith served as pallbearers at Norman's funeral in 2006).

(Here, Professor Harry Edwards, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, and much of the San Jose State University track team sign a petition initiated by the American Committee on Africa in banning South Africa from any participation in the Olympics as long as that nation remained committed to its apartheid policy.)

Posted by Andrew Salinas
Image from the American Committee on Africa records and may not be reproduced without permission

From the Stacks: American Slavery As It Is

Title page for Weld's
American Slavery As It Is
In rare books terminology, the term "association copy" is used to describe "a copy...which once belonged to someone connected with the author or someone of interest in his own right...or someone particularly associated with its contents." The copy of Theodore Dwight Weld's American Slavery As It Is housed at the Amistad Research Center fits this criteria as an association copy. Formerly owned by abolitionist Lewis Tappan and containing annotations in his hand, it is the association between Weld and Tappan that makes Amistad's copy all the more interesting.

Theodore Dwight Weld (1803-1895) came from a family of Congregationalist ministers and was one of the leading architects of the abolitionist movement in the United States. He was also responsible for converting Lewis Tappan and his brother, Arthur, into the abolitionist cause. Known as a magnificent orator, Weld lectured widely and often on the topic of slavery until, at the age of 33, his voice gave out. He married the abolitionist and women's rights activist Angelina Grimke in 1838.

Having lost his oratory skills, Weld turned to publishing as a way of spreading the abolitionist cause. He, along with his wife and her sister, Sarah, began work on a project that would result in the 1839 publication of the compendium work American Slavery As It Is. The trio combed through over twenty thousand copies of Southern newspapers to compile first hand accounts and narratives from slave-holders, freedmen, and others. The book described not only the conditions of slavery, but on the daily aspects of slaves' lives, such as diet, clothing, housing, work hours, etc. Accuracy was of the utmost importance to Weld and the Grimke sisters; so much so that a committee of prominent abolitionists was selected to verify their materials and work.

Priced at 37 and a half cents, the book sold a hundred thousand copies in its first year and became one of the most influential anti-slavery tracts. It also was used as a source by Harriet Beecher Stowe for the writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin (see our previous blog entry on Stowe's Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin). However, American Slavery was published anonymously, as were many of Weld's works.This anonymity is perhaps one of the reasons that Weld's name is less known than other abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison.

As mentioned above, Amistad's copy of American Slavery is an association copy that contains not only Lewis Tappan's ownership signature, but a small number of interesting annotations in his hand. Descriptions of Tappan's annotations follow below:

Page 4 annotation reads: "Nov 23/49 J. D. Weld stated to me that with the exception on p 174 he has never heard that any statement in this book has been brought in question."

On page 174, Weld wrote: "It is also well known that President [Andrew] Jackson was a 'soul driver,' and that even so late as the year before the commencement of the last war, he bought up a coffle of slaves and drove them down to Louisiana for sale."

Tappan wrote two separate annotations regarding Weld's statement, which read:

 "Mr. Weld informs me (Nov 23/49) that the above was stated to him by J. S. Birney who received it from Mr Kingsbury, missionary among the Choctaws; but he has since learned that Gen. Jackson went down the river after a number of slaves, whom he had sold to a person who had not paid for them & who were returned to him."

"Mr. Weld told me Nov 7/63 that this statement about gen. Jackson is the only one in the book that has ever been denied, to his knowledge."

Dated ten and twenty-four years after the publication of the book, Tappan's annotations provide evidence of his association with Weld long after their early communications and work together for the abolitionist cause. They also provide insight into a little know aspect of the public reception accorded to American Slavery following its publication.

Posted by: Christopher Harter

(Images may not be reproduced without permission.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

County Fair Time, circa 1940s

This time of year is what families in rural America refer to as “county fair time” – when the long tradition of exhibiting livestock at fairs is matched with carnival rides and delicious treats like lemon shake-ups, elephant ears, and tenderloin sandwiches. It is fitting therefore that while assisting a researcher, I came across these interesting photographs of what is noted as “the first dairy cattle show held for Negroes in the Tennessee Valley.”

The photographs were originally part of a mid-1940s scrapbook labeled “The Picture Story of Trinity School ,” which is located in the American Missionary Association Archives Addenda. Trinity was founded in Athens, Alabama, after the Civil War by the Western Freedman’s Aid Commission, but later gained sponsorship by the American Missionary Association (AMA).  Begun as a co-educational primary and normal school, Trinity dropped its first six grades when Athens opened a public elementary school for African Americans.  Later the AMA transferred the normal school to the state of Alabama. The photographs shown here were likely taken in the Athens area.

In honor of the accomplishments of these youth back in the 1940s, we highlight these photographs and are reminded that the struggle for equal opportunities occurred on many levels, from national politics to the local county fair.

The Trinity School delegation comprised more than half
of the youths attending the dairy competiton.
The Grand Champion of the show.
The Yearling Division Champion
One of the six girls who entered calves in the dairy show.
She was the only prize winner among the girls.

Posted by Christopher Harter

(Images from the American Missionary Association Archives Addenda. May not be reproduced without permission.)