Site menu:

Links:



In Celebration of LGBT Pride Month

The post was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

Bayard Rustin was a believer in non-violence, a socialist, a civil rights organizer, and an openly gay black man. He was born on March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania and raised by his maternal grandparents, who exposed him to the Quaker Religion and civil rights activities and organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rustin attended Wilberforce University in Ohio and Cheyney State Teachers College in Pennsylvania. He was involved with several student organizations, including the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

This portrait of Bayard Rustin was taken on April 5, 1968 during a meeting between civil rights leaders and President Lyndon B. Johnson after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Serial #: A6015-23)

This portrait of Bayard Rustin was taken on April 5, 1968 during a meeting between civil rights leaders and President Lyndon B. Johnson after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Serial #: A6015-23)

 

Rustin played a major role in the civil rights and equality movements of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He was active in the Young Communist League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Rustin was instrumental in organizing, coordinating, and marketing the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

 

In 1944, Rustin was sentenced to three years in federal prison for failing to report for the physical examination under the Selective Service Act during World War II. Rustin, who strongly believed in nonviolence, was a conscientious objector against the war. The Bureau of Federal Prisons, RG 129, Notorious Offenders Files, 1919-1975 (NAID 580698) contains records related to Rustin’s time in Ashland Federal Correctional Institute in Kentucky. The file unit Rustin, Bayard (NAID 18558235) relates to his various activities in federal prison. Included in the file unit are letters and telegrams sent by fellow activists and religious mentor A. J. Muste. The file unit also contains allegations of homosexual behavior, defiance, and attempts to organize other inmates around the issues of  racial discrimination and segregation, as seen in the many disciplinary reports filed by prison officials.

Bayard Rustin passed away on August 24, 1987. He received numerous awards and accolades for his work in the civil rights and gay communities. Some of these honors include several buildings and LGBT organizations named after him. Rustin was posthumously given honorary membership in Delta Phi Upsilon, a fraternity for gay and bisexual men of color and in 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Other file units and items at the National Archives and Presidential Libraries related to Bayard Rustin include:

  • Focus on Bayard Rustin (NAID 2812560) from the series Sound Recordings of Historical Radio Broadcasts, World War II Government Documentaries, and Popular Radio Shows, 1906-1993 (NAID 1487762)
  • Rustin, Bayard (NAID 6095297) from the series Janet McMahon’s Newspaper Columnist Files, 1977-1981 (NAID 6094325)
  • Black Photographs- Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King and Bayard Rustin (NAID 6119543) from the series Marc Henderson’s Subject Files, 1977-1981 (NAID 609638)
  • Chicago, [Illinois] – 157-717-Sub A-v.4 [Classification – Civil Unrest] — Bayard Rustin (NAID 5575056) from the series Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957-1978 (NAID 1487609)
  • Schoolhouse: Bayard Rustin (NAID 107741) from the series Audio Recordings of the “Forum” Radio Program, 1940-1982 (NAID 106531)

On Thursday, June 25, 2015, the Stonewall Employee Affinity Group and the Afro-American History Society at the National Archives will show the film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin at 11:30 am in Lecture Room D at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.



Today’s blog was written by genealogist Renée K. Carl

 

As a genealogist with a background in cultural anthropology, I relish the research project that allows me to put information about a family into the context of the times. When a genealogist in Canada put out a call for assistance on a project regarding his ancestor’s role in the War of 1812, I took up the challenge, as he wanted to know who his ancestor was with, what he was doing, where and when events happened, in other words, anything and everything I could find.

The War of 1812 was, in many ways, a naval war. Many ships were captured by both sides, and the United States and Great Britain both employed the use of privateers to expand the reach of their navies. The warring countries also had to create a system with which to hold and exchange the many prisoners that resulted from the capture of vessels. Men, known as agents, worked in various port cities to secure the release and exchange of prisoners. The system needed careful record-keeping to track prisoner exchange, which eventually resulted in a document that is located in the Registers of British Prisoners of War, 1812–1815 (NAID 1807650) series, from Record Group 45 Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library.

The researcher in Canada asked me to find the names of all the 25 men aboard a British-flagged merchant vessel captured by the US Navy. The prisoner registers are in two volumes, with the first volume much larger than the second. Entries are mostly in alphabetical order, but only by the first letter of the surname. The entries are not in date order, and there are entries also placed in an appendix, plus a continuation of the appendix as entries for some letters in volume two. Looking for a man’s name means checking through many handwritten lines, and to be thorough, reviewing nearly every page in both volumes. At the back of volume one, I came across a most curious, unbound, folded piece of a paper.

“Preserve these sheets they may be wanted” signed by J Beerce and then lower down on the page, and upside down, “List of Slaves not Entd in General List” (NAID 1807650)

“Preserve these sheets they may be wanted” signed by J Beerce and then lower down on the page, and upside down, “List of Slaves not Entd in General List” (NAID 1807650)

I unfolded the paper, and a list of 47 men appeared, some marked as slave, and some marked Negro. There are eight columns on the page, untitled, but they seem to follow the pattern elsewhere in the register: name, description of person, vessel on which they were captured, vessel by which they were captured, date of capture, where captured, where they were held, and finally, the date of what happened to them next, and what happened.

For example, James Baptiste, Seaman of the Sloop Searcher, captured by the Schooner Rapid in June 1813 off the coast of Belize. He was taken to New Orleans and on 29 July 1813, “Sold for the Benefit of the Captors.” Seven men were also sold on 29 July 1813 in New Orleans: James Baptiste, Thomas Clarke, Bristol Clarke, Sharper Forbes, Ranter Forbes, Thomas Forbes and Prince William Henry.

“Sold for the Benefit of the Captors”: that would be to benefit the war effort, to benefit the United States. The fate of others was “Sold by Order of the District Court.” Some died. And for some men, the information is blank, unknown. (NAID 1807650)

“Sold for the Benefit of the Captors”: that would be to benefit the war effort, to benefit the United States. The fate of others was “Sold by Order of the District Court.” Some died. And for some men, the information is blank, unknown. (NAID 1807650)

Upon careful examination, it seems that this sheet might have once been bound in the volume, but time had made the paper brittle and it was now loose. There were several other, similar sheets also in the back of volume one, but still bound. There remained one essential difference between the sheets: the slaves listed on the other sheets specifically mentioned that they had been delivered back to an agent.

Slaves to agent cropped (NAID 1807650)

Slaves to agent cropped (NAID 1807650)

So many questions. Who was J Beerce? What drove his decision to save this document? On that list of 47 men, why were some men marked Black, others Negro? How was it determined that some men were slaves? Were these men slaves from British colonies in the Caribbean? Were they escaped American slaves? How was it determined that certain men would be sold? And to whom were they sold and could their fate be traced?

As the list of questions in my mind grew, I took a deep breath at this research project that I didn’t know existed, but that I couldn’t pass up. I also realized that I needed to stop thinking like a genealogist and start think like an archivist, and think about the documents in the context of the Archives and the record group in which they were found.

End page prisoner tally detail (NAID 1807650)

End page prisoner tally detail (NAID 1807650)

The two volume register is almost certainly a copy of other lists. On the last page of volume one the same Mr. Beerce stated “This catelogue [sic] of British Prisoners of War has been completed as far as I could find materials in the office.” Signed, 9 May 1818. That would account for the semi-alphabetical order, and lack of date order. It might also explain why some letters of the alphabet ran over to the second volume. That the register is a copy quite likely explains the 47 men on a separate list at the end.

New questions arise: from what material did Mr. Beerce make the list? Who was Mr. Beerce? In what office did he work? Could any of those papers still exist? Would they have more information on these men? If so, where would I find the papers at the Archives?

 

[This blog is the first in a series as Renée Carl explores and shares her research on this document]



This post was written by Netisha Currie, Archives Specialist at the National Archives at College Park.

111-SC-121857-res

“Master Charles Michael Lee, A Patriot” August, 1941. Local ID: 111-SC-121857

 

Sometimes, instead of digging through boxes to find an interesting record, a record will find you. While walking through the offices of the Still Pictures branch in College Park, I saw an enlarged print on the wall of this little boy smiling at me.

This photo was taken in August of 1941 of Charles Michael Lee, aged 3, in the photographic laboratory at the Signal Corps office in Baltimore, Maryland. This is one of the many photos collected from official and unofficial sources for the Signal Corps in the series Photographs of American Military Activities, 1918-1981 (NAID 530707, Local Identifier: 111-SC). The caption for the photograph states: “Smart as a whip and neat as a pin, little Charlie’s personality should carry him far.”

What might have become of little Charlie’s life? Some of the landmark documents from the National Archives provide insight as to what he faced growing up in the 20th century United States:

  • He was born at a time when military segregation would soon come to an end under Executive Order 9981 in 1948
  • The Brown v. Board of Education decision would help to desegregate schools, probably while he was in high school
  • Well into being eligible to vote, the Voting Rights Act would pass in 1965 – outlawing discriminatory and unfair practices that inhibited many persons of color from voting
  • He would also be in the prime of his life during the most active years of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, and might have witnessed the Baltimore Riots in 1968.

Looking ahead, as the National Archives continues to preserve and protect the permanent records of the federal government, I wonder what documents and records will match up with the life of a 3 year old kid whose picture is taken in 2015.

For more records and photographic series relating to African Americans in the military, please check out the following resources:



Written by Patrice Brown, Archivist (Special Assistant) in the Evaluation and Special Projects Division, National Declassification Center at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland

 

This is the second in a series of blogs that relates to Panama Canal records. This blog focuses on death records and how the records can be used to perform genealogical or labor history research concerning living and working conditions in the Canal Zone. The records date from 1884–1999 and relate to accidents, injuries and deaths that occurred in the Canal Zone. The records can assist in documenting a variety of events such as whether a relative worked for the Panama Canal. Genealogical information can be obtained from the records relating to an individual’s name, age, marital status, and country of origin. In addition, illnesses and causes of injuries listed in the records can indicate the living and working conditions in the Canal Zone.

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-1198

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-1198

The earliest death records in our custody are the Certificates of Death [French], 1884–1894 (NAID 7387390), which contains information relating to deaths that occurred during French construction in the Canal Zone. In addition to this series, researchers might want to also consult the General Records of the French Canal Companies, 1904–1914 (NAID 1012543), particularly File # 14-C-X1, which relates to construction work, acquisition of land, and labor and personnel problems. The majority of the workers were French, but there were several employees from other countries, including Haiti, Martinique, Colombia, and England.

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-131

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-131

In several instances the death records document the deaths of Canal employees as well as members of their families, sailors docking at Zone ports, passengers on steamships, and residents of the Canal Zone. Record of Deaths, 1905–1949 (NAID 7387658) and Death Certificate Cards, 1907–1915 (NAID 7408557) capture this type of information. These series include information on males, females, and children from various countries including Jamaica, Panama, the United States, England, and Spain.

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-1197

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-1197

Another substantive series that is similar to the previously records is the Gorgas Hospital Mortuary Records, 1906–1999 (NAID 7694678). The records relate to individuals who died in the Gorgas Hospital, which was used to treat patents for malaria and yellow fever. These records cover the largest time span and relate to a specific hospital in the Canal Zone. These records can be searched in the Access to Archival Databases (AAD).

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-1194

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-1194

In addition to records in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) concerning accidents and deaths in the Canal Zone, we also have records relating to accidents and deaths that occurred on Steamships. The Panama Canal Company was an adjunct to the Canal Zone operation. The Company owned a steamship line that was responsible for transporting provisions and passengers between New York, the Canal Zone and South American ports of call. Most of these records have information on the deceased, such as their name, age, nationality, and cause of death.

These steamship records cover employees and to a small extent non-employees. The employees include workers such as seamen, waiters, and cooks. The passengers included Canal employees returning to the Canal Zone from vacation to the United States and families or individuals traveling to Panama or the Canal Zone.

Please note that most of these records concerning accidents, injuries or deaths in the Canal Zone or on steamships are fragmentary and does not cover all deaths. The Department of State, Consular Section has a more complete set of records for deaths occurring in the Canal Zone.

The series related to steamships include Personal Injury Registry Books, 1906–1914 (NAID 7542695), Index to Panama Railroad Relocation Injury Claims, 1914–1951 (NAID 7542845), Personal Payroll Injuries Index Book, 1911–1912 (NAID 7542768), Records Relating to Employee’s Accidents, Sickness or Disability, 1919–1951 (NAID 7822663), Employee’s Accidents, Sickness or Disability, 1951–1960 (NAID 7822689), Injury Report Files, 1952–1960 (NAID 7822682), Reports Relating to Deaths on Steamers, 1949–1960 (NAID 7822683). These series add insight into life on board ships for workers and travelers, as well as document a relative’s service for the Panama Canal.

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-136

From the series Photographs of the Construction of the Panama Canal (NAID 535444), photo number 185-G-136

All of the records discussed in this blog can provide useful information concerning the lives of those living on the Canal Zone. The information provided ranges from genealogical to social and labor topics. These topics are of interest to many researchers and these records may prove valuable to their hunt for historical information.



This post was submitted by Ray Bottorff, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park. Ray is also a comic books enthusiast, so we present this record of the week in celebration of Awesome Con, happening this weekend in Washington, DC.

From the series General Records, 1942–July 1943 (NAID 12126610) in RG 44

George J. Hecht, President of the Parents’ Institute, a publishing company, contacted the Division of Education Services of the Office of War Information (OWI) about printing comic books aimed at African Americans in order to include and encourage their participation in the war efforts.

Along with the letters, Hecht sent in examples of his work, including tear sheets from a biographical story of  Marian Anderson, which highlighted Anderson’s rising fame and generosity towards American servicemen.

Another set of tear sheets includes a biographical story on Joe Louis.

Archives

Categories

Subscribe to email updates