“The 30th day of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. …”
What is now known as Memorial Day—a day to remember those U.S. military personnel who died while serving—was originally known as Decoration Day. Below are a selection of images from Harper’s Weekly published during the first decade after General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic first called for this official day of national mourning in 1868.
A happy Memorial Day to you and yours from all of us in Notre Dame’s Special Collections!
Rare Books and Special Collections is closed today (May 30th) for Memorial Day and will be closed on July 4th for Independence Day. Otherwise, RBSC will be open regular hours this summer — 9:30am to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.
During June and July the blog will shift to our summer posting schedule, with posts every other Monday rather than every week. We will resume weekly publication on August 1st.
As we approach the end of the term, when research projects materialize like spring flowers, Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) highlights some recent acquisitions that emerged from a student’s research interests.
Last fall a history major inquired about sources RBSC held about new thinking about food during the latter part of the twentieth century. We began talking about alternative cooking and restaurants and the vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York came up. RBSC didn’t hold any of the famous cookbooks (of the same name) that emerged from that 1970s collective, so we purchased three editions (1977, 1992, and 2000).
Mollie Katzen, one of the founders of the Moosewood collective, compiled, wrote, illustrated, and self-published the original book of recipes in 1974. That first edition (with several reissues) circulated in a spiral-bound notebook format and in limited numbers.
Three years later, in 1977, a small, independent publishing house in Berkeley, California, Ten Speed Press, published the cookbook. (The press also produced What Color Is Your Parachute? (1970).) In this first commercial publication, Katzen described herself as the volume’s compiler and editor and she listed all of “The Moosewood People” who contributed to the book’s content. The book’s multiple sources is one of its central themes. Recipes come from different cooks as well as a variety of food cultures.
Commitment to a plant-based diet is another main focus. In the 1977 edition Katzen included a quotation by William Blake that announces the book’s vegetarianism, and her illustrations reinforce the idea throughout (see the speaking duck above the recipe for Chinese duck sauce).
Katzen retained important visual aspects of the 1974 book in later editions. Her original drawings, page layouts and cartouches, as well as her hand lettering, were translated into the commercialized editions and provide some of the book’s most identifiable characteristics over its long publication history.
For all its warm, visual familiarity, The Moosewood Cookbook has also changed over time. Katzen has revised its content, layout, and format. In 1992 she added “A Personal History of This Book” section, which has appeared in all later editions, and photos of the Moosewood Restaurant were removed. The 2000 edition includes glossy, professionally staged photographs.
Each edition presents the reader with differences (in format, content, and flavor). Holding multiple editions, a researcher gains side-by-side access for comparative analysis. Libraries and special collections often acquire complete or near complete runs of editions to support research questions that such comparisons can spark.
We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history by celebrating Women’s History Month.
A lot of recent attention has been paid to the disparity between the numbers of men and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields. Concomitant differences in professional status, pay, and influence, from Silicon Valley companies, to academic departments, to classrooms, are also part of this discussion. It echoes debate by second-wave feminists more than 70 years ago.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Rare Books and Special Collections highlights a new acquisition about women and STEM: The Feminine “Math-tique” by mathematician and psychologist Lynn M. Osen (1920-2003). In this 1971 article, Osen applied Betty Friedan’s idea of the feminine mystique to ways in which women and girls’ potential as mathematicians and ambitions in math-related fields were suppressed and funneled away into the social sciences and humanities. In The Feminine Mystique (published in 1963) Friedan had shown how social expectations and structures established heterosexual domesticity as the singular ambition for post-war American women (particularly white women), to the exclusion of education or professional expertise. Osen finds similar gender-fueled pressures against women and girls in math. “The mathtique,” Osen observes, “perpetuated the idea that mathematics in its various guises is a male domain.” (p. 2)
Like Friedan, who had articulated an unnamed problem experienced by middle class housewives in the post-war period, Osen identifies a similarly unnamed problem in the field of mathematics: how it had become defined as masculine and inimical to women.
“[Mathtique] encourages the socialization process which reinforces and promotes this assumption. It also serves to perpetuate the destructive and pervasive myths concerning women’s aptitudes, accomplishments and ambitions in mathematical endeavors. It breeds and institutionalizes graceless jokes and stereotypes about the helpless, checkbook-bumbling female, the mindless housewife, the empty-headed husband-chasing coed, the intuitive (but illogical) woman who ‘hates arithmetic.'” (p. 2)
To break down the feminine mathtique Osen analyzes the social science and education literature of the previous decade, whose authors had begun to notice that girls and young women were not equally represented with their male peers in math and science study. Answers to questions about the causes of this disparity became part of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1957 the USSR had launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. The Soviets’ bold breakthrough into space elevated anxiety in the US about Soviet military capabilities into a scientific and technological race as well. As American schools beefed up their math and science curricula to fight this new Cold War front, however, educators and scholars noticed that girls and young women were largely absent from the surge for math and science expertise. The disparity was alarming for the waste of brain power and potential competitive advantage against the USSR. It also became a political embarrassment, as comparative studies of the two nations uncovered no obviously similar gender differences in the USSR.
Osen uses the Soviet example to argue that cultural and social differences, not innate abilities, caused women and girls to lag behind men and boys in math. She cites a 1966 British study of women in the Soviet economy in which Russian educators reportedly expected girls and women to perform as well as their male counterparts in math and science. This confidence in female students, the report concluded, “appears to be borne out by the academic records of students . . . the performance of girls was comparable to that of boys in mathematics and physics.” (p. 7)
Osen also uses an historical argument to show that gender differences in mathematical abilities were not innate but contingent. She compares the number of women awarded doctorates in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley from 1920 to 1949, and from 1950 to 1968. In the post-war period (the “mathtique” era), the percentage of women awarded doctorates in mathematics decreased by nearly half (from 10-11% before 1950 to 5-6% after 1950). Likewise, the percentage of women on the faculty plunged from 20% in 1928-29 to zero in 1968-69. She notes dryly that women did not suddenly lose their abilities to study advanced mathematics after World War II; other factors—cultural expectations, psychological conditioning—were in play (pp. 6-7). Osen concludes that “there is no scientific evidence that any inherently female characteristic enfeebles one as far as intellectual activities are concerned. . . . In countries, cultures, times and intellectual climates in which women have been encouraged to develop their potential, they have obliged by doing so. They can do so again.” (p. 11)
Osen followed this article three years later with Women in Mathematics (1974), a history of “the impact women have had on the development of mathematical thought,” and further dispelling mathtique’s distorted narrative. She included an abridged version of The Feminine “Math-tique” as the book’s concluding chapter.
Reflecting on the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, one can find historical parallels. A recent addition to the Hesburgh Library, a collection of Harper’s Weekly magazines from the 1850s to the 1890s, reveals that late-nineteenth century Americans were also worried about how to stay safe during epidemics. The magazines document events during turbulent periods of American history: the Civil War, Reconstruction, and multiple epidemics. Numerous articles, cartoons, and advertisements reflect widespread concerns for how best to combat national health crises.
In 1858, a group of rioters attacked a hospital, known as “The Quarantine,” that held patients with smallpox, yellow fever, and cholera; at least two men died. The rioters feared that the quarantined patients represented a threat to the local community rather than necessary protection, as it was believed that disease spread through a miasma in the air.
Since bacteria had yet to be discovered and cures were not readily available, others looked to make a profit from those desperate to stay well. One 1864 advertisement for “Dr. T.B. Talbot’s Medicated Pineapple Cider” suggests that consumers snuff pineapple cider to cure the influenza. The fine print notes that customers might have to wait six months before being cured.
In 1879, America attempted to combat the rising cases of yellow fever by creating a National Board of Health, which ceased operations by 1884 due to various funding and operational issues.
Despite these ups and downs it is also clear that in the midst of national anxieties, people found joy in life. For instance, each edition of Harper’s Weekly included a section of new chapters of ongoing novels. One of the most popular authors to publish a chapter-a-week was Charles Dickens, whose novels featured prominently in Harper’s Weekly.
The newspaper also frequently printed stories from far-off places; the images provided a taste of the world beyond America for those unable to travel.
Advertisements for the latest Parisian fashions, recipes for the at-home chef, and poetry accompanied news of politics and warfare. During the height of the Civil War, one cartoonist took a break from political imagery to joke about the ever-widening skirts of women’s’ fashion.
The Harper’s Weekly collection reminds us that while many things have changed and some haven’t, we have always found ways to endure.
COVID Policy Update: For fully vaccinated Notre Dame faculty, staff, students and visitors, masking is now optional indoors on campus. Those students, faculty, staff and visitors who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks inside campus buildings, including in Rare Books & Special Collections spaces. Anyone who would prefer to wear a mask in any setting is welcome to do so.
We join with The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.
Searching for Claude Monroe Paris, Unheralded African American Basketball Pioneer: Documenting Black History Using Notre Dame’s Joyce Sports Research Collection
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.
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.
Rare Books and Special Collections is open through this Wednesday (December 22, 2021). After that, we will be closed for the Christmas and New Year’s Break (December 23, 2021 through January 4, 2022). Special Collections will reopen on Tuesday, January 5, 2022.
This is the last blog post for 2021. Happy holidays to you and yours from Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections!
To celebrate Thanksgiving this year, Special Collections highlights Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook by Alice Brock (the Alice of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant” song) and the 1965 Thanksgiving that occasioned it. This is not a cookbook for Thanksgiving. It is a book that exists because of Thanksgiving. It is also a commercial, even nostalgic, artifact (produced by a mainstream publisher—Random House) about a countercultural moment already in the past when the book appeared in 1969.
Alice Brock had opened a restaurant—The Back Room—in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1965. That Thanksgiving she hosted a gathering of friends that included Arlo Guthrie, the son of folk singer Woody Guthrie. The day after the festivities, Guthrie and a friend helpfully removed a large load of garbage from Brock’s house. The city dump was closed so the young men threw the trash down a nearby ravine. The owner of the property had the two arrested and criminally charged with littering. Brock bailed them out of jail and Guthrie was inspired to write a song, which became “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” released in 1967.
In the song, Guthrie relates his Stockbridge Thanksgiving, detention, and subsequent conviction. Then the song changes and Guthrie describes how he used his criminal record to secure a rejection from the New York City Draft Board and avoid military service during the Vietnam War. The song, which is 18 and a half minutes long, unexpectedly became an anthem of anti-Vietnam protests and an expression of countercultural rebellion. Since the 1970s it has also become a cultural icon around Thanksgiving. Today, many radio stations around the country play the song on this holiday.
Guthrie’s story/song also caught the attention of film director Arthur Penn, who adapted it into a film, Alice’s Restaurant. It was released in 1969 with leading roles by Guthrie and a small cameo by Brock (Patricia Quinn played Alice Brock in the film).
Brock published Alice’s Restaurant Cookbook on the song and the film’s commercial coattails. It contains image stills from the movie as well as a small, vinyl record tucked into a pouch attached to the back inside cover. The recording doesn’t include “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” but the disk underscores the book’s connection with Guthrie’s famous song with a short introduction by Guthrie and Brock followed by two songs by Guthrie. In “Italian-Type Meatballs” and “My Granma’s Beet Jam,” he puts the words of two of Brock’s recipes to music.
Brock’s cookbook captures her playfulness and openness along with the countercultural ethos of both her Thanksgiving gathering and her cooking. In her introduction, Brock riffs on the chorus of Guthrie’s song (“you can get anything you want at Alice’s restaurant”). “There is no one way to get what you want unless it is to remain open,” she writes. “Keep guessing. . . . No one has ever fried an egg without turning on the gas, but maybe this time if you look that egg straight in the eye and say ‘FRY,’ it will.” (p. 3). And no Betty Crocker cookbook had index entries for “Blowing Your Own Horn” and “Doctor, Get the” as well as “Used Chicken.
If you hope to find special recipes for cooking a Thanksgiving feast in Brock’s book, however, you’ll be disappointed. The section on “Turkey” takes up just a part of one page and the only reference to Thanksgiving appears in a chapter on “Stuffings And Forcemeat.” But as Alice Brock wrote in her author’s bio, she “[c]ooked good good food with a smile and other expressions . . . Bought a crummy diner . . . Turned it into a crazy-yummy-cozy restaurant . . . Thru it all Alice is a real live human bean—Still foolin’ around and still cookin’ . . .”
RBSC will be closed during Notre Dame’s Thanksgiving Break (November 25-26, 2021). We wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving!
The program of the 1934 Pageant of the Celt is found in very few library collections. Printed programs tend to be quite ephemeral, but when they survive they give a great glimpse into an occasion. Visiting art historian Dr. William Shortall has provided an essay on the Pageant, contextualizing this interesting publication.
When the Irish government was invited to take part in the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, also known as the Century of Progress International Exposition, they were initially reticent. Tariffs and trade barriers meant there was little prospect of any financial gain. Eventually they decided to participate because ‘considerations such as those connected with national publicity and prestige might outweigh the more tangible considerations of trading advantage’. Essentially they sought a soft power and cultural diplomatic benefit from their presence at the event and sent a cultural and industrial display that was housed in the monumental Travel and Transport building. When the Fair organizers decided to run the event again in 1934, numerous countries—including the Irish Free State—did not participate and their places were taken by private concessions. However, there were a number of events that the Irish State did participate in during the second manifestation, the most prominent was an open air theatrical pageant representing Irish history, The Pageant of the Celt. Irish Consul General in Chicago, Daniel J. McGrath, was on the executive committee of the production.
The Pageant took place on the 28th and 29th August, 1934, at Chicago’s main sports stadium, Soldier’s Field, in front of large ‘marvellous’ crowds. Although the pageant is credited to Irish-American attorney John V. Ryan, it was most likely co-developed with its narrator Micheál MacLiammóir, to whose work it bears similarities. Some contemporary reports credit it solely to MacLiammóir. The Pageant was produced by Hilton Edwards and covered the period of Irish history from pre-Christian times to the Easter Rising of 1916 and it had almost two thousand participants. The imperfect resolution to the War of Independence with Britain in 1921 and the subsequent Civil War were still fresh in people’s memory and, as in the earlier MacLiammóir pageants, were avoided. Almost ninety years later, the upcoming centenary decade faces similar problems on how to commemorate these divisive events.
The Program describes the scenes of Irish history presented in pageant, starting from ancient mythical beginnings with the Battle of Tailté; to the emergence of a Catholic Nation and the ‘coming of [Saint] Patrick’; followed by ‘The Golden Age of Ireland’; a nation defended from Viking invaders by Brian Boru; followed by the country’s ultimate subjection by Britain, beginning with the marriage of ‘Eva and Strongbow’ followed by the ‘rise of republicanism’ and culminating in ‘Easter Week 1916 [when] Phoenix-like, the Irish nation rises from the fires of defeat to wage anew the centuried struggle for liberty’. The Pageant’s finale was a mass singing of ‘The Soldier’s Song, Irish National Anthem’. The elaborate Program published the anthem’s lyrics, it also featured 17 chapters relating to Irish cultural endeavours, including Irish music, the Harvard Irish Archaeological mission, and the Celtic Revival; and it contained messages of goodwill to Ireland from other Celtic peoples.
The program itself has a richly decorated cover and small illustrations and decorated capitals throughout by Irish-American artist Vincent Louis O’Connor (c.1884-1974). The cover contrasts Celtic Ireland with modern Chicago. Round towers are juxtapositioned with skyscrapers, separated by clouds, both icons of their time and the spirit of their respective ages. A man and a woman in distinctive ancient Irish dress festooned with a Tara brooch, stand on Ireland’s green shore facing the Atlantic. These and Saint Brendan’s ship anchored, trademarked with a Celtic cross, signifying the Irish-American connection. This was an Irish pageant suitable for diaspora consumption, with its mix of the mythical and ancient, cultured and catholic, distinctive and unique, oppressed but not beaten, leading to phoenix-like revolution and rebuilding.
The artist O’Connor was born in Kerry and immigrated to Chicago in 1914. An art teacher, he began teaching in Ireland in 1904. In America he taught in the University of Notre Dame from 1915 to 1922 and contributed sketches to the university yearbook as well as an architectural rendering of Notre Dame’s proposed 50-year building plan. O’Connor held several exhibitions of his work which frequently featured prominent Irish personalities or landscapes. This Program connects Ireland, America and Notre Dame University and speaks to ongoing difficulties in reconciling Ireland’s turbulent past and how the events of 1922 can be commemorated a hundred years later.
We join the Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.
In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we share this Migratory History of La Raza coloring book, printed in 1974 by El Renacimiento, a branch of the Lansing, Michigan publisher Renaissance Publications. Emerging from the city’s vibrant and active Chicano community, the coloring book narrates the history of the U.S. Chicano population in pictures and bilingual text, for Michigan’s Chicano youth. Michigan-based Chicano artist, David Torrez, produced both the history and the drawings included in the title, which is as much textbook and activist statement as coloring book.
The coloring book’s activist stance and message are evident even from its cover. Printed on glossy cardstock, it features a Chicano boy, dressed in Southwestern clothing, smiling and waving to a young girl who stands on the other side of a river – most certainly the Rio Grande. The young girl is dressed in the traditional clothing and head covering of the Tehuana, a female cultural type associated with the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of far southern Mexico. Through this image, Torrez links the U.S. Chicano population with residents of Mexico and extends Mexican cultural identity from the country’s border with Guatemala up into the United States – well beyond the country’s political boundaries. Two open and pleasant-looking bridges span the Rio Grand, connecting Mexican Americans and residents of Mexico and advocating friendship and camaraderie between them.
The Montcalm County Intermediate School District, located in Stanton, Michigan, an agricultural area located north of Lansing and home to significant populations of migrant workers in the 1970s, contributed to the development of the coloring book as part of a migrant education project. The border and two small birds on the title page might appear entirely decorative, but they are an appropriation of symbols of Mexican – even indigenous Mexican – identity. They are Aztec eagles and they frame publication details, including a statement that the book was “Printed in AZTLAN” – the birthplace of the Aztecs. Like many Chicano initiatives of this era, Michigan’s activists found resonance in these Native references that seemed devoid of European influence or content. Through the eagles and references to Aztlan, they harkened back to an idealized indigenous past.
Page 2 provides the children for whom this coloring book was created a brief, unbiased definition of “migrant child” in English and Spanish. It links the definition specifically to movement between school districts and to agricultural and food-processing industries, but not to race or ethnicity. The statement is a resource, or tool, to help migrant children consider and articulate identity as related to their mobile status.
The inside of the coloring book recounts Chicano history by dedicating pages to each of the major indigenous groups of Mexico, depicting the events of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs as well as highlights of modern Mexican history, and pointing to important issues of the day.
A page entitled “Contribution of the Migrant Workers” argues that, since 1900, migrant farm workers and their labor served as the basis of the U.S. economic structure. “Vida del Migratorio” observes that, despite this contribution, migrant housing is often substandard. This issue received attention from the federal government at the time that the coloring book was issued, though improvements for laborers were often slow and uneven.
Along with this source geared toward children, El Renacimiento produced a newspaper of the same name that focused on the Chicano Rights movement and was published in Lansing from the 1970s through 1990s. David Torrez and Edmundo Georgi, both contributors to this coloring book also work on the newspaper, El Renacimento, which can be consulted on microfilm here in the Hesburgh Libraries.
In honor of Juneteenth, the annual celebration of emancipation by African Americans following the Civil War, RBSC offers this new acquisition, a pamphlet by an African American minister who argued fervently during the late 1940s against states that restricted African Americans’ access to the polls. His message resonates today, as currently bills are rolling through state legislatures across the nation to regulate voting and reshape the franchise.
The Reverend Doctor Willis J. Winston (1877-1949) published this pamphlet, Disfranchisement Makes Subject Citizens Targets for the Mob and Disarms them in the Courts of Justice, sometime between 1947 and 1949. (The dates are inferred from references to aspects of the Truman Doctrine, introduced by the president in March 1947.) Winston was minister at the New Metropolitan Baptist Church in Baltimore, a position he had held since 1940 when the congregation formed. Before that he held a pulpit at the Wayland Baptist Church, also in Baltimore, from 1909. In the 1920s and 1930s Winston also served as president of two universities—Clayton-Williams University in Baltimore and Northern University in Long Branch, New Jersey.
Details earlier in his career as an outspoken leader for civil rights are scant but illuminating. In August 1932, a few months before the presidential election in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover in the depths of the Great Depression, Winston gave the nominating speech for a fellow minister, Rev. Thomas S. Harten, at a mass meeting in Brooklyn sponsored by the Roosevelt for President Club. Harten ran as a Democrat for nomination as Congressman-at-Large for New York. (He did not gain the nomination.) By the time Winston denounced racial injustice in the late 1940s, however, he had become disillusioned with the Democratic party and urged his audience to remain within the “temple of Colored Republicanism” (p. 12) built by generations of African Americans.
By the late 1940s Winston’s disillusionment with FDR, Harry Truman, and the Democratic party was grounded in his experience with these administrations’ unfair racial policies. During the 1930s Roosevelt’s New Deal programs excluded most African Americans. After World War II, Truman was largely ineffectual in stemming a surge of violence targeted toward returning African American veterans, and he was indifferent to more general problems of segregation and disfranchisement. This pamphlet, which Winston probably developed out of a speech or sermon, was part of a rising tide of African American activism against racist attacks in the years immediately following the war that called on Truman to act.
Winston placed the responsibility to stop white violence against African Americans, specifically African American veterans, squarely on the federal government. “O, Federal Government, the Negro’s blood shall be required at your hand and shall be upon your head. This is the only country where men are tied to the stake and burned. . . . How long will this country’s flag fail to defend its defenders?” (p. 9)
Winston focused on African Americans’ persistent lack of rights—their disfranchisement, exclusion from jury service, and prejudice from the bench—which he connected to economic and class prejudice, and to physical attacks against African Americans. “Disfranchisement,” Winston declared, “makes subject-citizens objects of scorn.” (p. 6) For example, “[w]e are denied the rights to sit as jury in the courts of nearly every State, enconsequence of which our person and property are subject, the former to every species of violence and insult, and the latter to fraud and spoilation without any redress.” (p. 8) The right to vote, he argued, must be restored to African Americans for their rights to be respected. “We are living in a country almost half slave and half free, and these barriers which have humiliated the race, and built walls of caste and class must be torn down, and the best way to tear them down, is with the ballot.” (p. 14)
By February 1948 Truman sent a list of civil rights recommendations to Congress— for strengthening the protection of civil rights, a congressional anti-lynching bill, an end to poll taxes, federal protection for voting in national elections, and an end to segregation—nearly all of the points Winston raised. Congress, however, took no action on these reforms. In response, Truman focused on a smaller, but significant goal to desegregate the military, which he successfully began later in 1948 by executive order. Winston dedicated his publication to his father, Philip Winston, a Virginian and a farm worker who probably never learned to read or write. The minister honored the sacrifices his father had made that allowed his son, as well as his other children, to become educated. Winston’s burial stone, raised by his congregation, students, and widow, likewise memorialized Winston for his character, kindness, and self-sacrifice.