Black History Month 2022

by Greg Bond, Sports Archivist

For several years, I’ve been on the hunt for Claude Monroe Paris, a largely unheralded African American basketball pioneer from the early twentieth century whose name does not appear in the standard books about the history of African Americans in basketball. A native of Waupaca, Wisconsin, Paris excelled on the court and was one of the few African Americans to compete on high-level integrated basketball teams in the early 1900s. Usually playing at forward or center, he received wide praise for his abilities, and his teams competed in national amateur basketball tournaments in Chicago.

Basketball was in its infancy and—compared to sports like baseball or college football—often received less coverage. So, it has sometimes been difficult to uncover information about early basketball players like Claude Paris. Fortunately, in my new position as the Sports Archivist at Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Library, I can use the incomparable resources of the Joyce Sports Research Collection to better document Claude Paris’s trailblazing athletic career.

After starring at Waupaca High School, Paris joined the region’s top amateur team sponsored by the nearby Stevens Point Athletic Club in 1901. He quickly gained local fame, with one reporter describing him as “a well known colored basket ball player.” The state press routinely praised him as a “crack forward,” and one sportswriter said simply that Paris “is said by players of experience to have been the best forward in the state.”

The Stevens Point Athletics were one of the top teams in Wisconsin, and in 1901, they were invited to Chicago to compete in an eight-team basketball tournament billed as the “National Amateur Championship.” Other teams in the field included Kenton, Ohio; Chicago’s West Side YMCA; the University of Nebraska, and the Silent Five of Brooklyn, New York, a team composed of deaf players.

Before the tournament, the Chicago Chronicle, wrote that Stevens Point “has this year made a very enviable reputation and has an undisputed right to be classed among the best teams in the country.” The Chronicle singled out Paris for “the star playing of the team” and noted that “Paris, who is an unusually small man for the position he fills, is an excellent player and is looked upon as one of the strongest of the team.” 

Paris played well in Chicago, but the tournament ended without a clear champion as Stevens Point and Kenton, Ohio, both finished with records of 3-1.

Over the years, I have tracked Claude Paris and the Stevens Point Athletics “championship” team through newspaper stories, but the Joyce Sports Research Collection—namely, its nearly complete run of Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide—has now let me put a picture to these words. Spalding Guides routinely featured hundreds of team photographs from every level of competition, and these images are a fantastic resource for researchers to study and to document the development of sports.

The Joyce Collection’s 1901–02 Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide includes on page 60 a team photograph of the “Stevens Point A.C. Basket Ball Team.” Claude Paris (identified as number 7) sits on the left side of the first row, providing a visual record—seen around the country in the popular Spalding Guide—of this early integrated basketball team and graphically documenting Claude Paris’s participation at the highest levels of amateur basketball.

After Stevens Point, Paris attended and continued his basketball career at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, for two years. But his career after Lawrence is not well documented. Further investigation in the Joyce Collection, though, has led to more information. I discovered that the 1905­–06 Spalding’s Official Basket Ball Guide pictured Claude Paris (identified as number 6) with the 1905 Menasha (Wisconsin) Young Men’s Social Club Basketball team—providing additional evidence of Paris’s trailblazing career as an African American basketball player on predominantly white teams. 

Unfortunately, little information has survived about the specifics of Claude Paris’s experiences against white competitors, but visual evidence of his participation on integrated teams is an important addition to our knowledge about the history of African American athletes in this era.

Some contemporary observers also noticed the significance of Claude Paris. In April 1903, the Milwaukee Sentinel published a lengthy article about Paris, then a student at Lawrence. The Sentinel described him as “studious and industrious” and “of quiet manner and engaging personality.” 

The article also noted that “Paris finds time to devote considerable attention to athletics… [and] he has an excellent record. Before he came to Lawrence he played on the Stevens Point basket ball team which tied the team of Kenton, O., for the national championship in 1901.”

The Milwaukee Sentinel ultimately used Claude Paris to make an overtly political point. In an era that witnessed increasing legal segregation and racial violence and growing restrictions on African American rights, the Sentinel held up Paris’s example as a direct refutation of the racist philosophy of segregationists exemplified by notorious South Carolina Senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman:

“Claude M. Paris of Waupaca… in every detail of his personality and every incident of his career gives the lie to Senator Ben Tillman’s dictum that the negro is and must always remain… inferior.”

I am grateful that the Joyce Sports Research Collection has helped me to further document and honor the life of Claude Monroe Paris, an unsung African American athletic pioneer.

Juneteenth, Black Lives Matter, and Archival Collections

by Rachel Bohlmann, American History Librarian and Curator

In honor of Juneteenth (the June 19th celebration of freedom from slavery) and Black Lives Matter (BLM), RBSC highlights several collections about African American life in the United States over the last century. We also reflect on how social and cultural changes—some of them the result of protest movements like BLM—have reformed and are reforming collecting and practices in special collections libraries and archives.

One important collection is the National Ideal Benefit Society records, an African American cooperative and fraternal organization that spanned more than 50 years during the early to mid-twentieth century. Another is a late 1920s ledger book for the Birmingham Black Barons, an elite Negro League professional baseball team, that recorded the team’s financial transactions with players. The collections provide sources about the economic and working lives of African Americans and the unequal labor and social contexts of twentieth-century America.

National Ideal Benefit Society advertisement, 1913.
National Ideal Benefit Society advertisement, 1913.

Advertisement for a concert by the National Ideal Benefit Society's choir, 1914.
Advertisement for a concert by the National Ideal Benefit Society’s choir, 1914.

The National Ideal Benefit Society was an African American insurance cooperative whose benefits supported people through illness, offered cultural events, and provided death benefits for survivors to assist with burial costs. The society was established in 1912 in Richmond, Virginia, by Alexander Watson Holmes (1861-1935). The collection holds correspondence from policy holders, official society publications and records, and letters to Holmes from individuals and institutions.

Convention program for the National Ideal Benefit Society, 1916, with portrait of A. W. Holmes.
Convention program for the National Ideal Benefit Society, 1916, with portrait of A. W. Holmes.

The Birmingham, Alabama, Black Barons were a professional baseball team during the sport’s long period of segregation. The ledger book records the club’s financial transactions with players over five seasons (1926-1930). The accounts include credits (monthly salaries) and debits (cash advances, equipment charges, fines, extra meals, taxi fare, phone calls, and so on). Satchel Paige was one of many notable players on the team.

These collections underscore the shift in collecting that has occurred over the last 40 years in special collections libraries.

Special collections such as ours, and archives also, collect unique and rare manuscripts and books to preserve our society’s cultural record. Until the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States that cultural record largely consisted of the records of elite, white men, mostly from the Northeast with ancestors who came from the British Isles. A number of changes in American society led to a major shift away from this cultural identity in archives and special collections libraries.

Social reform movements that culminated in the 1960s and 1970s—for the rights and full participation of African Americans, women, Native Americans, Latinx, LGBTQ, and others in American life—fueled demands for archival collections that more accurately reflected and included the diversity of American society.

At the same time the rise of social history demanded new sources. Focused on writing the history of ordinary people and changes that came from the many rather than the few (history from the bottom up), social historians relied on documents of everyday life as well as social movements—letters, diaries, ledger books, and scrapbooks of the non-famous, as well as ephemeral printed materials like posters, broadsides, menus, annual reports, and programs.

More recently, archivists and special collections librarians have, as a profession, begun seriously to grapple with questions of power in archives: who is represented and who is left out in our collections? Are collecting decisions made independently, or under institutional or donor guidelines? How are people of color and non-elites and their accomplishments described in catalogs and finding aids? Is the archive open to community members, or are there professional or membership requirements to use the collections? Do staff working in the archive represent the diversity of the collections and their users? As we honor Juneteenth and confront Black Lives Matter’s challenge to truly achieve the promises of American freedom and democracy, these questions become even more sharply relevant.

For reading on Black Lives Matter, see Lauren Michele Jackson’s “What is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?” and the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Black Liberation Reading List.

For archives and power, see the American Library Association’s Rare Books and Manuscripts Section’s Statement on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Randall C. Jimerson, “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice,” The American Archivist, Vol. 70 no. 2 (Fall – Winter 2007): 252-281.

Upcoming Events: December and early January

There are no events scheduled to be hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections in December 2019 or early January 2020.

Rare Books and Special Collections will remain open for our regular hours during Reading Days and Exams (Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm). We welcome those looking for a quiet place to study.


The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is open for just under three more weeks, closing December 19.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019), a display of selected materials from the University Archives, and Irish Art and Literature from Graphic Studio Dublin (December 2019 – January 2020) in conjunction with the Snite Museum’s exhibit “Looking at the Stars”: Irish Art at the University of Notre Dame.

RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Christmas & New Year’s Break (December 21, 2019 – January 1, 2020) and will resume regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm) on Thursday, January 2, 2020.

Upcoming Events: November and early December

Please join us for the following public events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm | Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America” by Scott Gwara (University of South Carolina).

This lecture is co-sponsored by Rare Books & Special Collections and the Medieval Institute

Monday, November 18 at 4:30pm | Finnegans Wake: On Infinite Translation’. The event will include a roundtable on the issues of translatability and reading as a modality of “infinite translation,” featuring Enrico Terrinoni (Professor at the Università per Stranieri di Perugia and Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies).

This event is sponsored by the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, November 21 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – ” ‘In arts it is repose to life: è filo teso per siti strani.’ The Role of Anglophone Culture in Primo Levi and His Times” by Valentina Geri (Ph.D. Candidate, Notre Dame).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019) and Knute Rockne All American (October – November 2019). Both spotlight exhibits feature materials from the University Archives.

RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break
(November 28 – December 1) and will resume regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm) on Monday, December 2, 2019.

Upcoming Events: October and early November

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, October 3 at 5:00pm | Italian Research Seminar – “Reading the Medieval Mediterranean: Navigation, Maps, and Literary Geographies. Questions, Approaches, and Methods” by Roberta Morosini (Wake Forest).

The Italian Research Seminar is sponsored by the Center for Italian Studies.

Thursday, November 7 at 5:00pm | Professor Ege. With the Knife. In the Library. Solving the Murder of 200 Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in Twentieth-Century America” by Scott Gwara (University of South Carolina).

This lecture is co-sponsored by Rare Books & Special Collections and the Medieval Institute

 

The fall exhibit Hellenistic Currents: Reading Greece, Byzantium, and the Renaissance is now open and will run through the end of the semester.

The current spotlight exhibits are Touchdowns & Technology: The Evolution of the Media and Notre Dame Football (September – December 2019) and Knute Rockne All American (October – November 2019). Both spotlight exhibits feature materials from the University Archives.

RBSC is open regular hours (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm)
during Notre Dame’s Fall Break (October 19 – 27)

Documenting Girls and Girlhood — Library Collections on Display

This week’s conference on Girls Studies, hosted by Notre Dame’s Gender Studies Program, prompted us to organize a related display of items from our collections.

Concentrating on particular strengths in our Irish and American collections, we decided to highlight fiction for and about girls, creative work by girls, books on girls in sport, advice literature, and works on girls’ culture.

On Thursday morning (February 28), visitors may tour this temporary exhibit and have an opportunity to examine, at close quarters, an album of art that belonged to the Edgeworth family of Ireland, a young girl’s sewing sampler from 1844, and the diary of a New England girl, describing her years as a mill-worker.

Selections from the Irish Fiction Collection will include examples of books from L. T. Meade and Rosa Mulholland, writers of the Victorian era, and contemporary fiction on girlhood.

L. T. Meade was one of the most prolific writer of stories for girls in her time, and she was also one of the first writers of girls’ school stories. In addition to her hundreds of books, she was for a time editor of Atalanta, a magazine for girls.

The display will feature at least one volume of the Atalanta magazine, which had a variety of serialized stories as well as articles on subjects such as careers for women, and also had a regular literary essay contest.

Also featured, from the Catholic Pamphlets collection, our display will include examples of the information and advice given to girls in the mid-twentieth century. This, and items from the American Sports Collection, will round out our display and provide a wide array of ideas for anyone considering research in this area.

The one-morning exhibit is curated by Rachel Bohlmann and Aedín Clements.

Upcoming Events: April and early May

Please join us for the following events being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, April 5 at 5:00pm | A talk on the reception of Medieval Catalan poet Ausiàs March in Early Modern Iberia, by Albert Lloret (UMass Amherst). Sponsored by Iberian and Latin American Studies, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

Wednesday, April 11 at 4:30pm | “Centering Black Catholics, Reimagining American Catholicism” by Matthew Cressler (College of Charleston). Sponsored by the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism.

Thursday, April 19 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “From Surface to Symptom and Back Again: Reading Isabella d’Este’s Correspondence” by Deanna Shemek (University of California, Santa Cruz). Co-sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame and the William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies.

Thursday, April 26 at 5:00pm | “Towards a New Biography of Dante Alighieri” by Paolo Pellegrini (Verona). Co-sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame and the William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies.

Friday, May 4 at 1:00pm | Awards ceremony for the annual Undergraduate Library Research Award (ULRA), followed by a reception in the Special Collections Seminar Room (103 Hesburgh Library).


The main exhibit this spring is In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru. This exhibit is curated by Erika Hosselkus and draws on strengths of Rare Books and Special Collections’ José E. Durand Peruvian History collection. Together these items offer diverse perspectives on Peruvian political events and cultural and religious practices and preferences from the colonial era, through the country’s birth in 1825, and beyond the turn of the twentieth century.

The spotlight exhibits during early April are From Distant Waters: Whaling Manuscripts in Special Collections and Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, both curated by George Rugg. The baseball exhibit will end mid-month, with the exhibit Chaste, Choice and Chatty: Irish-American Periodicals of the Nineteenth Century, curated by Aedín Ní Bhróithe Clements, opening for the second half of the month and continuing through the summer.

Upcoming Events: March and early April

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, March 1 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar:  MA Presentations — “Alessandro Blasetti’s Cinema and the Fantastic: A Closer Look at the Unmarried Woman” by Genevieve Lyons, and “Representations of Self: Dante’s Use of First Person in the Vita Nova” by Katie Sparrow. Co-sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame and the William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies.

Thursday, March 8 at 3:00pm-5:00pm | A Celebration of the Life of David Dressing (Latin American Studies Librarian). An opportunity to share memories will begin at 3:30pm. Friends, colleagues, and students of David’s from across campus are welcome.

Thursday, March 29 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Atlantic Libraries: Renaissance Italy and the American Colonies” by Diego Pirillo (University of California, Berkeley). Co-sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame and the William and Katherine Devers Program in Dante Studies.

Thursday, April 5 at 5:00pm | A talk on the reception of Medieval Catalan poet Ausiàs March in Early Modern Iberia by Albert Lloret (UMass Amherst). Sponsored by Iberian and Latin American Studies, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

 

The main exhibit this spring is In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru. This exhibit is curated by Erika Hosselkus and draws on strengths of Rare Books and Special Collections’ José E. Durand Peruvian History collection. Together these items offer diverse perspectives on Peruvian political events and cultural and religious practices and preferences from the colonial era, through the country’s birth in 1825, and beyond the turn of the twentieth century.

The spotlight exhibits during March are A Beneventan Fragment, curated by David Gura, and Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, curated by George Rugg.

Upcoming Events: February and early March

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, March 1 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar:  MA Presentations — “Alessandro Blasetti’s Cinema and the Fantastic: A Closer Look at the Unmarried Woman” by Genevieve Lyons, and “Representations of Self: Dante’s Use of First Person in the Vita Nova” by Katie Sparrow. Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

 

The spring exhibit, In a Civilized Nation: Newspapers, Magazines, and the Print Revolution in 19th-Century Peru, officially opens on February 9. The exhibit is curated by Erika Hosselkus and draws on strengths of Rare Books and Special Collections’ José E. Durand Peruvian History collection. Together these items offer diverse perspectives on Peruvian political events and cultural and religious practices and preferences from the colonial era, through the country’s birth in 1825, and beyond the turn of the twentieth century.

The spotlight exhibits during February are Reading the Emancipation Proclamation, curated by Rachel Bohlmann, and Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, curated by George Rugg.

Upcoming Events: January and early February

Please join us for the following event being hosted in Rare Books and Special Collections:

Thursday, January 25 at 5:00pm | The Italian Research Seminar: “Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Afterlife: the Two Picos and Later Transformations of Renaissance Humanism” by Denis Robichaud (University of Notre Dame). Sponsored by Italian Studies at Notre Dame.

 

The fall exhibit, Elements of Humanity: Primo Levi and the Evolution of Italian Postwar Culture, has been extended into January. If you are planning to bring a group to Special Collections or would like to schedule a special tour, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.

The monthly spotlight exhibit for November and December, Building A Colonial Mexican Tavern: Archive of the Pulquería El Tepozán, has also been extended through mid-January. Watch for a new exhibit to be installed later in January and continue through February.

The winter spotlight exhibit is Baseball and Tin Pan Alley: Sheet Music from the Joyce Sports Collection, curated by George Rugg. This exhibit features highlights from the department’s collection of approximately 400 pieces of baseball related sheet music.