by lopez on April 4, 2013
Today’s blog post was written by Dr. Lopez D. Matthews, Archives Technician in the Holdings Maintenance Staff at the National Archives and current Secretary of the Afro-American History Society at NARA. He is also currently the Vice-President/President Elect of the National Archives Assembly.
The idea for a monument to the “Faithful Mammies of the South” began with Senator Robert Love Taylor of Tennessee in 1907. When first proposed the monument did not receive much support and the idea died before any action was taken. Sixteen years later the idea was revived by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. This time, support for the monument was strong and even members of the United States Congress showed its support for the monument.
Senator Charles Stedman of South Carolina submitted Senate Bill S. 4119 “Monument to Faithful Colored Mammies of the South.” The bill would have granted permission to the Jefferson Davis Chapter No. 1650, United Daughters of the Confederacy to support the construction of the monument in Washington D.C. The only restrictions were that the monument could not be built on the Capitol, the Library of Congress, Potomac Park, and the White House.
The first page of the bill to sponsor the monument to colored “mammies.” (ARC ID: 4685889)
The best example of the idea behind the monument can be found in the Washington Star newspaper which featured an article titled “Old Mammies” Memorial it says the memorial will be well received:
“Affection and attachment between the white child and its colored nurse were the rule, and it was also the rule that when the child passed beyond the nurse age and ‘grew up’ the old nurse retained her special interest in that person until the end of life.” Further it said “The proposal…will be received with pleasure by a great number of men and women, a large proportion of whom are not old enough to have had a regular colored “mammy” before the civil war…there is a happy and tender sentiment behind the proposal…the colored mammy was an institution in the southern and border states worthy of being symbolized in stone and bronze.”
One of the most poignant letters in support of the monument came from Henry B. Field, a self-proclaimed “son of one of those ‘mammies.’” In his letter in the Washington Post, Field expressed the belief that through their recognition of mammy, the U.S. Government will begin to recognize the strides African Americans have made since the Civil War. He believed that by recognizing “mammy” it would make others reflect on the other good works done by African Americans in the South. Other defenders said it was the best way to remember someone pivotal to the raising of children in the South.
Designs for the monument reflect the image of an elderly black woman holding a white child. It can be compared to modern day images of “Aunt Jemima” brand products and the shape of the classic Aunt Jemima brand syrup bottle. Other designs submitted reflected a more somber image. These designs retained the same image with the mammy holding a white child while her own children stood off to the side begging her for attention.
Article about the rivalry over the mammy statue design (ARC ID: 4685889)
Interestingly, one of the biggest controversies surrounding the monument revolved around the development of the model for the monument. In June 1923, artist Ulric S. J. Dunbar, “one of the most widely known sculptors of the national capital” charged that his design for the mammy monument was stolen by another artist George Julian Zolnay. In his comment to the Post, Dunbar remarked “’Why, look how the mammy is holding the white baby in my statue, and doing the same in his. See the treatment of the pickaninnies [sic] trying to have their mother pay attention to them….it is the same idea.”
Titled “Mammy O’ Mine” this is the first model created for the mammy monument. (ARC ID: 4685889)
- Photograph of the updated Mammy monument by Ulric S. J. Dunbar (ARC ID: 4685889)
Protest from the African American community was fierce. Led by W.E.B. Dubois, African American Newspapers printed numerous articles and comments condemning the monument. In Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory by Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, the author discusses Dubois comment in the book The Gift of Black Folk published in 1927. In the book, Dubois refers to the “mammy” as “one of the most pitiful of the world’s Christs…an embodied sorrow.” He then went on to say that any dignity that she had was stripped away once the children she raised went on to lynch her sons. Dubois was a dedicated civil rights leader and outspoken critic of Jim Crow in America. His fiery writings and articles published during his time as editor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sponsored Crisis Magazine brought him praise from many and scorn from those targeted by his writings. Having such an outspoken critic placed the building of the monument into jeopardy.
Soon after, other African American Activists and organizations began protesting loudly against the building of such a monument. One of the groups to stand in opposition to the monument was the Northeast Boundary Citizens’ Association. In a statement, the group said that the monument was “propaganda” to take attention away from the deplorable treatment of African American women in America. They also felt that if a memorial were to be built, it should be placed nearer to the homes of those “mammies” so that they could benefit from seeing it. A group of black female leaders also wrote letters of protest and presented them to Vice President Calvin Coolidge and speaker of the House Frederick H. Gillett.
In the end, the monument and the bill to support the monument fizzled under pressure brought by black activists and the black community against its construction.
by lopez on March 21, 2013
By Donald Roe, Associate Professor of History, Howard University, and former Archivist and Subject Area Expert in the Motion Picture Sound and Video Branch at NARA.
The film collection housed at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), consisting of both edited and unedited film footage, is among the largest in the world. Included are films that document the history and culture of African Africans. Over the years, historians, social scientists, other scholars, students, news media, and documentary and feature filmmakers have researched and used NARA’s film archive for motion picture projects relating to African Americans. For example, film footage relating to the service of the African American in the United States Military has been used in a number of documentary films to show the significance of the military in desegregating American society.
(Click to View Film)
Video Footage of the 173D Airborne Brigade Combat Operation from 1965 (Local Identifier: 111-LC-48914 )
African Americans have served in all of this Nation’s wars from the American Revolution to the present. Although they served in a segregated military until the late 1940s, by the end of the Korean War (1950-1953), many African Americans had come to believe, with some justification, that there was more equality in the military than there was in civilian life. Years before the birth of the modern civil rights movement, the United States Military had made significant progress in the African American’s march toward equality in the military. Over the years a number of documentary filmmakers have used motion picture footage housed at NARA to document this progress.
Photograph of The 93rd Infantry Division reactivated May 15, 1942, was the first all-Negro division to be formed during World War II. 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Bates waits for zero hour to give the command to attack. Fort Huachuca, AZ, 1942., ca. 1900 – 1982
(ARC ID: 531142)
Although the U. S. Military was segregated during World War I, it made a very important film, The Training of Colored Troops (111 H 1211), that foreshadowed the growing significance of the African American soldier. After all, African Americans had served with distinction in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and on the Western Frontier. In fact, elements of the all black 9th and 10th Cavalries (Buffalo Soldiers) were instrumental in bringing range wars in Wyoming and New Mexico to a conclusion and, thereby, helped to ensure peaceful settlement in the Western Territories. Also, the 9th and 10th Cavalries and the all black 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments provided support for Teddy Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” during the Spanish American War.
367th Regiment Infantry, The “Buffaloes”, presented with colors. The “Buffaloes” singing the National Anthem in front of the Union League Club, New York City.
(ARC ID: 533578)
During World War II, the Office of War Information (OWI), recognizing the significance of the African American soldier, authorized the making of a documentary film about African Americans in the military. Under the guidance of Frank Capra, the noted Hollywood film director, who OWI had selected to oversee its production of military films, OWI authorized the making of a documentary film on the African American soldier. Capra chose Carlton Moss, a noted Black filmmaker, to make the film The Negro Soldier (111 OF 51) which would document the service of the African American soldier to his country. However, Moss agreed to make the film only if OWI allowed him to make a second film that would specifically document the virtues of an integrated military. OWI, which had a number of social scientists in its employ who saw the benefit of an integrated military, agreed and allowed Moss to make Teamwork (111 OF 14), a film that advocated an integrated military. Other important films on the African American soldier made during World War II include The Negro Sailor (80 MN 4360) and Wings for This Man (342 SFP 141), a film, that a young and liberal Ronald Reagan narrates, documenting the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen.
(Click to View Film)
The film The Negro Soldier produced in 1944 from NARA’s Youtube page
(ARC ID: 35956)
I met Carlton Moss more than thirty-years after he made The Negro Soldier and Teamwork. At the time, I was a Motion Picture Archivist and Subject Area Expert in the Motion Picture Branch at NARA and he was working on a film project relating to the Harmon Foundation Film Collection, which is housed at NARA. We had several interesting conversations about The Negro Soldier and Teamwork. Moss seemed certain that copies of these films had been sent to President Truman for screening and that they were, at least, partially, responsible for his signing of an Executive Order in 1948 outlawing discrimination in the United States Military. In any event, Truman’s Executive Order outlawed discrimination in the military six years before the Supreme Court declared in Brown v. Board of Education and Bolling v. Sharpe that segregated education violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth and Five Amendments and, therefore, was unconstitutional.
Photograph of Capt. Della H. Raney, Army Nurse Corps, who now heads the nursing staff at the station hospital at Camp Beale, CA, has the distinction of being the first Negro nurse to report to duty in the present war…, 04/11/1945
(ARC ID: 535942)
Shortly after meeting Moss, I had the pleasure of assisting William Miles, another noted African American Documentary Filmmaker, who was familiar with the films that Moss had made. At the time, Miles was interested in researching NARA’s Motion Picture Holdings for appropriate military-related footage for documentary films that he was making on the African American soldier. Miles’ research, ultimately, led to the production of three more classic films documenting the history of the African American Soldier, Men of Bronze, A Different Drummer, and Liberators: Fighting a War on Two Fronts. The motion picture footage from NARA’s motion picture holdings which was used in these classic documentary films on the African American soldier is an example of the rich treasure chest of archival film footage housed among the motion picture holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration relating to the history and culture of African Americans.
by lopez on March 8, 2013
Today’s blog post is by Tina L. Ligon.
2013 marks the 50th anniversary of several significant events regarding the modern Civil Rights Movement. The year 1963 witnessed the murder of Mississippi activist Medgar Evers, the forced desegregation of the University of Alabama, the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs (MOW), the death of W. E. B. Du Bois, the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. These key events were investigated and documented by various agencies in the US federal government including the Department of Justice (DOJ), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the United States Commission on Civil Rights. The National Archives and the presidential libraries offer a wealth of textual documents, moving images, and still pictures illustrating these events.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, far left, with Secretary Gale Norton and Arthur Price, Jr., Pastor of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, at ceremonies designating the Church, key civil rights movement meeting place and site of 1963 bombing, as National Historic Landmark, 02/19/2006 (ARC ID: 5629491)
On the evening of June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave a nationally televised speech in support of Civil Rights to thousands around the country and the world. Within hours after the speech, Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers was gunned down in his own driveway. Evers, a World War II veteran, was the field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Mississippi, who organized boycotts, set up NAACP chapters, and assisted with the enrollment of James Meredith in to the University of Mississippi. Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He served in the United States Army during World War II and earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration from Alcorn College. Evers married Myrlie Beasley in 1951 and together they had three children.
A man wearing a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People hat. at the March on Washington, 08/28/1963
The National Archives holds several types of records relating to the life and legacy of Medgar Evers. Record Group 65 Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) consists of case files, affidavits, correspondences, maps, newspaper clippings, and photographs on the investigation of the assassination of Evers and the resulting trial of White Citizens’ Council member Byron de la Beckwith who was charged with his murder. Also, within this record group are records documenting the Memorial March for Medgar Evers that was sponsored by the NAACP in 1963 and in 1970. These records must be screened for personal privacy [FOIA (b)(6)] and law enforcement information [FOIA (b)(7)] prior to public release. Available through the online Archival Research Catalog (ARC) are scanned images of FBI investigations on the emerging Medgar Evers Rifle Clubs. These clubs started in Cleveland, Ohio after the brutal murder of a white clergyman who was involved in a civil rights protest. Led by Lewis Robinson, these rifle clubs spread across the country in order to protect civil rights protesters.
Author James Baldwin with actors Marlon Brando and Charlton Heston at the March on Washington, 08/28/1963
As part of the continuing Civil Rights protest in the 1960s, A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), James Farmer (CORE), John Lewis (SNCC), Martin Luther King, Jr. (SCLC), Roy Wilkins (NAACP) and Whitney Young (National Urban League) organized a major march on the National Mall to raise national attention of and to support upcoming legislation concerning social and economic injustices found around the country. Bayard Rustin, a long-time activist, coordinated and implemented the logistics of the MOW. On August 28, 1963, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial to hear musical selections by Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, and the Eva Jessye Choir, as well as speeches by Walter Reuther, Floyd McKissick, and the famous “I Have a Dream” speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A group of young women at the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., 08/28/1963 (ARC ID: 542065)
The National Archives holds numerous photographs, moving images, and textual records showcasing the wide range of people interacting with each other, including video footage of the speakers at the MOW from Record Group 306 Records of the US Information Agency. People featured in the moving images and photographs include entertainers Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Marlon Brando, Joan Baez, Paul Newman, Sammy Davis, Jr., Charlton Heston, and Odetta. Many of these images can be accessed through ARC. RG 65 FBI has documentation and photographs relating to the MOW in the Civil Unrest (Class 157) Case Files. The FBI records must be screened for national security [FOIA (b)(1)], personal privacy [FOIA (b)(6)], and law enforcement information [FOIA (b)(7)] prior to public release.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd at the March on Washington, 08/28/1963 (ARC ID: 542015)
One of the more tragic events of 1963 was the murder of four young girls in Birmingham, Alabama. On the morning of September 15, 1963, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Denise McNair were preparing for the morning’s sermon at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church when the box of dynamite hidden in the church exploded. Twenty-two people were injured in the blast, including Sarah Collins, who is still suffering from injuries received in the explosion and the added mental anguish from the experience. The assailants in this case were Robert Chambliss, Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton, and Bobby Cherry, all members of the local Ku Klux Klan. This event shook the nation and set the stage for the needed change that eventually lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama, key meeting place during civil rights movement and site of 1963 bombing, designated as National Historic Landmark, 02/21/2006 (ARC ID: 5629789)
RG 60 General Records of the Department of Justice (DOJ) consists of correspondence, memorandums, newspaper clippings, personal notes, and reports detailing events surrounding the bombing in the Civil Rights (Class 144) Litigation Case Files and Enclosures series. RG 65 FBI holds documentation on the investigation of church bombing in its Civil Unrest (Class 157) Case Files. Series in both RG 60 and RG 65 must be screened for national security [FOIA (b)(1)], personal privacy [FOIA (b)(6)], and law enforcement information [FOIA (b)(7)] prior to public release. In Record Group 48 Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior are photographs on the designation of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church as a National Historic Landmark in 2006. Pictured in the photographs are US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton, and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Pastor Arthur Price. There are many digital images from the ceremony available in ARC.
*Access to classified records from RG 60 DOJ and RG 65 FBI requires a Freedom of Information ACT (FOIA) request. For more information on filing a FOIA request please visit: http://www.archives.gov/foia/
by lopez on March 1, 2013
Today’s Blog post is by Christina Violeta Jones, Ph.D. Dr. Jones is currently an Archivist in the Textual Records Reference Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD were she specializes in Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement Federal agency records.
There are several other printed findings aids and Reference Information Papers (RIP) published after Dr. Deborah Newman-Ham’s Black History Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that describe in detail civilian records that have been declassified and available to researchers relating to African American history and American history from the Civil Rights Period to Genealogical studies.
Beginning with the Civil Rights Era there are three specific finding aids that researchers should consult. The first is the Lynching and Race Riots Finding Aid [Record Group 60, General Records of the Department of Justice, Straight Numerical, 1904-1937, File Number 158260 (National Archives at College Park, MD, Textual Research Consultation Room). This comprehensive guide consists of correspondences from Record Group 60, Department of Justice’s Straight Numerical File. The file list identifies names of individuals and organizations that requested the United States government to support a federal anti-lynching bill in the United States Congress.
Another valuable guide regarding the Civil Rights era is the Federal Records Relating to Civil Rights in the Post World War II Era by Walter Hill and Lisha Penn (RIP 113, 2006). The records cover the span of time between civil rights initiatives undertaken by the Harry S. Truman administration, 1945–52, through the reorganization plan of civil rights programs directed by the Jimmy Carter administration, 1977–81. The focus herein is on the textual records in the Washington, DC, area, the regional archives, and the Presidential libraries of NARA.
The Federal Records Pertaining to Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) by Walter Hill and Trichita Chestnut (RIP 112, 2004) describes from the executive and judicial branches of the Federal Government and are listed chronologically in three distinct periods regarding the Brown case. First, are the pre-Brown period records, 1896-1953. Second is the 1954 benchmark Supreme Court case itself: Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, et al. And finally, are the records regarding the post-Brown period, 1955-1977, which constitute the legal application of the original 1954 Brown ruling, and the 1955 Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka et al. II (349 U.S. 294) ruling that desegregation occur with “all deliberate speed.”
For researchers who are interested in doing research relating to genealogy, The Black Family Research, Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives by Reginald Washington (RIP 108, 2010) and the Black Studies: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publication (2007) are two printed guides that are very useful to researchers. These aids guide researchers to records that contain information about family relations, marriages, births, deaths, occupations, places of residence, names of slave owners, information concerning black military service, plantation conditions, manumissions, property ownership, migration, and a host of other family-related matters.
In addition, the Black Studies guide includes a listing of over 200 microfilm publications, court records from field offices and the general public concerning election problems, race riots, violence against blacks, civil rights acts, arrests without due process, education, and other legal concerns.
Finally Prologue, the quarterly magazine published by NARA, is another valuable finding aid researchers should consult. Prologue’s goal is to inform readers on historical events based on the rich holdings and programs of the National Archives from Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to the regional archives, and the Presidential Libraries. Many of the articles that are published in Prologue feature topics that relate to African American history.
***See Prologue: Special Edition Federal Records and African Americans
(Summer 1997, Vol. 29, No. 2) http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/summer/index.html
The reference guides that are highlighted in this blog are only a select few that stress the history African Americans and their descendants made to the United States Federal Government. Along with Newman Ham’s Black Guide and the updated version currently being described, researchers at NARA will have a better understanding and access to records that relate to African Americans and the federal government. From films and documentaries to scholarly books and textbooks these publications have and will continue to assist researchers on African American history at the National Archives and Records Administration.
by lopez on February 20, 2013
This week’s blog post is by Dr. Debra Newman Ham, a former Archivist at NARA and the editor of the original Black History Guide. Ham is currently a professor of history at Morgan State University
After I graduated as a history major from Howard University in 1970, I spent the summer working as an intern in the special programs and exhibits division at the National Archives. When I left for graduate school at Boston University, NARA arranged from me to work part-time at the Kennedy Presidential Library which, at that time, was located in the Regional Record Center located outside of Boston in Waltham, MA.
I finished my master’s degree at Boston University in 1971 and NARA hired me to work fulltime in DC in 1972. I worked as the assistant to the Black History Specialist, Robert Clarke. By the time I arrived, the staff was already planning the National Archives Conference on Federal Archives as Sources for Research on Afro-Americans. Participants included scholars such as Mary Frances Berry, Alex Haley, Herbert Gutman and John Blassingame. The conference took place June 4-5, 1973. This predated Haley’s publication of Roots and Gutman’s study, The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom. The proceedings of this conference are available in a volume edited by Clarke, Afro-American History: Sources for Research (DC: Howard University Press, 1981).
NARA had promised the scholarly community that there would be a series of research guides made available to facilitate research and record accessibility. By the time of the conference, several interns and I had prepared a list of black servicemen in the American Revolution and a list of free black heads of family in the 1790 census. We distributed these lists as handouts to the conference participants.
After making Haley’s acquaintance, he invited me and several other researchers to help him with his Kinte Library Project, which was supposed to result in genealogical center for African American materials. The center never happened but several of the genealogists and historians who worked with Haley including myself founded the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society in 1977. That organization is still alive and well and has a national and several local chapters. For information about the society on the web, go to aahgs.org.
I subsequently left Clarke’s office to work in the NARA industrial and social branch. There I prepared finding aids for the Social Security Administration, the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Labor. The labor publication was a special list of documents relating to black workers.
In 1978, I was promoted to work exclusively on the preparation of a guide to civilian records for African American history. Clarke was assigned to the military records. I explored civilian records in DC and Suitland over five year period and then worked on the publication of the guide. I was assisted by dozens of patient and not-so-patient archivists and technicians.
Finally, the work, Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives, was published by the National Archives Trust Fund Board in 1984. The guide won awards from both the SAA and MARAC.
I am most pleased about two things. The guide is still in print and steps are now being taken to update it. I earnestly believe in the public’s right to know and I believe that one of NARA’s roles should always be to facilitate researcher access to the nation’s records.
by lopez on February 13, 2013
Today’s blog post is by Netisha Currie, Archives Specialist in the Textual Processing Division of the National Archives
A small portion of the millions of records at the National Archives are considered to be of such historic or intrinsic value that researchers are restricted from physical access to these materials. These materials are specially protected in the central and regional facilities of the National Archives and are kept in areas of restricted access which we refer to in College Park as the Vault. The Vault contains documents and artifacts from military and civil record groups (RGs), and donated collections. Some of these records pertain to African Americans in history and would be relevant to historical research.
One document in the Department of Justice records (RG 60) that has always struck me as particularly interesting is a letter from William Syphax to President Andrew Johnson written May 11, 1865 (ARC ID 6782945). Written shortly after the end of the Civil War, Syphax relates the case of his parent’s land at the Arlington Estate (later to become Arlington National Cemetery) to the President. He claims that the plot of land his family has lived on for more than forty years was left to his mother, Maria, by George Washington Parke Custis – the original owner of the Estate. During the Civil War, parts of the Arlington Estate were confiscated to be used as a cemetery, and thereafter the Government acquired the entire estate in a tax sale. Facing eviction from their home, William Syphax was forced into action and wrote his letter to President Johnson. In 1866, a year after this letter was written, Congress approved an Act for the Relief of Maria Syphax, corroborating the family’s claim to the land and saving the Syphax home. This letter serves as an important document in the history of freed African Americans and illustrates the bonds of the African American family.
Letter from William Syphax to President of the United States
In the records of the Department of the Treasury (RG 56), the Vault has two personnel files of notable African American employees. William Johnson (ARC ID 5751997), who came to Washington, DC with Abraham Lincoln, was appointed to the position of laborer in 1861; and Solomon Johnson (ARC ID 6705920) was appointed a position in 1864. Both men were recommended for their appointments personally by President Abraham Lincoln.
Letter from Lincoln to Secretary of Treasury on Behalf of William Johnson
Cover of Letter from Lincoln to Secretary of Treasury
As the child of a federal employee who ended up as a Government worker herself, these personnel files are familiar and fascinating to study. Included are generic form letters announcing promotions and pay increases, notices of death of the employees, but also letters written by Solomon Johnson asking to be recognized for his years of service to the Government. It is inspiring to see an African American man of those times represent himself with a strong voice and proudly list his accomplishments for the record. It sure makes performance appraisals easier for me.
Letter from Solomon Johnson to the Secretary of the Treasury.
These are a couple of the records relating to African American history that are kept in the Vault. Vault records receive more specific attention and are described down to the item level, but they remain part of the larger series of documents that are available to researchers to request and view in the research rooms. Although it is not in the Vault, there may be many other personnel files of African American Treasury employees in the unrestricted records and stacks that are just as informative and significant to the history.
by lopez on February 8, 2013
Today’s post comes from Stephanie Greenhut, Education Technology Specialist, in the Education and Public Programs division.
In the midst of the Civil War, on January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. This document, preserved here at the National Archives, formally proclaimed the freedom of all enslaved people held in areas still in revolt. After hosting a traditional New Year's Day reception at the White House, and shaking hands with several hundred people, President Lincoln signed the document with a shaky hand. He said, “I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper.”
This account – and many others surrounding Lincoln, emancipation, and United States military and government decisions during the Civil War – is included in our new eBook, created to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in 2013.
The National Archives presents The Meaning and Making of Emancipation. It places the Emancipation Proclamation in its social and political context by presenting related documents from the National Archives' holdings. They illustrate the efforts of the many Americans, enslaved and free, white and black, by whom slavery was abolished in the United States.
The Meaning and Making of Emancipation is available for free for multiple devices on our new eBooks page at http://www.archives.gov/publications/ebooks.
- For iPad, download the interactive Multi-Touch book with iBooks on your iPad, or on your computer with iTunes.
- For iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, download it with iBooks, or on your computer with iTunes.
- For Android phone, Android tablet, iPhone, iPad, Nook, SONY Reader, other mobile device or eReader, or PC or Mac, download the ePub file from http://www.archives.gov/publications/ebooks. Open it with an eReader app on your phone or tablet, your eReader device, or an online ePub reader for your Mac or PC.
- Read it online on Scribd or on your iPhone, iPad, Android phone, or Android tablet using the Scribd app.
The Meaning and Making of Emancipation is the second commemorative eBook created by the National Archives. Exploring the United States Constitution celebrated the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Each chapter connects one or more of the billions of records in the holdings of the National Archives to the principles found in the U.S. Constitution. This eBook is also available at http://www.archives.gov/publications/ebooks.
by lopez on January 30, 2013
Today’s blog post is by Dr. Trichita M. Chestnut, Deputy Director Indexing/Declassification Review Division at the National Declassification Center (NWD)
Ida B. Wells was among many individuals whose letters bombarded the Department of Justice demanding Federal help to fight racial violence. These letters are found among Year Files, 1884 1903, located in RG 60, General Records of the Department of Justice (DOJ). This file consists of many letters, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and telegrams pertaining to the lynching of Postmaster Frazier B. Baker with his two-year-old daughter, Julia, in Lake City, South Carolina, on February 22, 1898 (a date corroborated by various lynching lists and contemporary newspaper accounts, though Wells-Barnett remarks that the lynching occurred on February 24).
In the early hours of February 22, the Baker family awoke to discover that a fire had been deliberately set to the back of their home where the local
Letter from Republican Senator Shelby Moore Cullom introducing Ida Wells Barnett to President William McKinley. ARC Identifier 578368
post office was located. As the family tried to flee from their burning home, a white mob fired upon them with guns. Baker and his daughter Julia were shot to death, and their bodies were left to cremate in the burning home, while his wife Lavinia and three of their remaining five children were wounded. The lynchers had become enraged by Baker’s appointment as postmaster by President William McKinley three months earlier.
Wells, now Mrs. Ida B. Wells-Barnett upon her marriage to Chicago attorney Ferdinand Barnett in 1895, expressed her frustrations about these two senseless lynchings the best way she knew how—with pen and paper. She sent a typewritten, four-page letter to President William B. McKinley, under cover of a letter by Republican Senator Shelby Moore Cullom of Illinois, dated March 19, 1898, in which he introduces Wells-Barnett to President McKinley, urging him to give much consideration to what she has to say regarding the murder of the postmaster and his daughter and any “counsel and advice you think proper in the premises.” The President later forwarded the document and the cover letter to DOJ for further action.
In the typewritten, four page letter addressed to “His Excellency, William B. McKinley, President of the United States,” Wells-Barnett appeals on behalf of the Ida B. Well’s Women’s Club of Chicago, Illinois, for the President to apprehend and punish those responsible for the shooting. They seek support for the widow and children stating that “the nation owes that family the support and maintenance of which they were deprived by that brutal mob, in so far as money can requite their loss, these helpless ones should be indemnified.” She believes that their request for the family’s compensation will “not be in vain.” She notes that President McKinley had already set a precedent whereby the U.S. paid a considerable amount of money to countries from which lynched aliens had come. She cites two examples of recommendations by President McKinley that Italy and Mexico receive appropriations from Congress for the lynchings of three Italians and one Mexican citizen in the United States. Furthermore, the heirs of three lynched Italians in New Orleans were paid $25,000. In closing, she writes that we “come under the Stars and Stripes, believing that the plea of an outraged American citizen should be as potent for protection and justice as the demand of a frowning Power.”
In a second handwritten, two page letter addressing “Mr. Dawes,” referring to Republican Senator Henry Dawes of Massachusetts, she expresses urgency for President McKinley to make a recommendation to Congress regarding the manuscript (most likely referencing the lynching of the postmaster and his daughter) that she left in the possession of Senator Dawes. She speaks directly to the injured widow and her children, who are in need of medical and financial support as well as food, shelter, and raiment.
Letter from Ida B. Wells to “Mrs. Dawes” ARC Identifier 578368
No documents were found in the files to indicate a response to Wells-Barnett’s two letters appealing for assistance to the remaining survivors of the Baker family. But after 14 months of extensive investigation by the DOJ, a Federal grand jury found that there was sufficient evidence to charge 13 white men with conspiracy to deprive Frazier and Julia Baker of their civil rights. Still, after deliberations at the trial, a divided all-white male jury produced a mistrial. The DOJ did not prosecute the case further.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett—journalist, leader, and crusader—received national attention for her efforts in the anti-lynching movement. She will be remembered always as an African American woman of courage and conviction.
Other records related to this topic can be found in RG 60 Year File #1898–3463; Year Files, 1884–1903; General Records of the Department of Justice, Record Group 60; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
by lopez on January 10, 2013
This post is written by Tina L. Ligon, an Archivist in the Textual Processing Division of the National Archives and Project Lead for the Updated Black History Guide.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is dedicated to preserving the history of the Federal Government and the American people. In 1984, Dr. Debra Newman Ham published Black History: A Guide to Civilian Records in the National Archives to showcase textual documents, special media, and photographs that are related to the black experience held by the National Archives. This award winning guide has assisted numerous graduate students, researchers, and family genealogists in identifying records for various scholarly and genealogical projects within the field of black history.
The cover of the original Black History Guide.
In 2011, a committee of NARA Employees agreed to update Dr. Ham’s black history guide. Each of the committee members is dedicated to providing new and exciting information on selected series, artifacts, and special media at the National Archives. This group of employees consists of Archivists, Archives Specialists and Technicians, and graduate students who have an interest in learning more about black history and sharing this knowledge with the general public.
The plan is to have portions of the guide available electronically to the public by late 2013 or early 2014. The guide will incorporate updates to the original entries in Dr. Ham’s guide, as well as include new information on records that have been accessioned since the first publication and include records from newly created record groups. The updated guide will also consist of Archival Research Catalog (ARC) identifiers, Holding Maintenance System (HMS) identifier, user and access restrictions, and type and extent of the archival material at most NARA locations, including the regional archives and the presidential libraries.
The goal of the updated black history guide is to be more user friendly and to introduce non-traditional researchers to the valuable resources that NARA has to offer regarding the black experience. Various forms of social media will also be used to chronicle the progress of the black history guide. The Rediscovering Black History: Updates at the National Archives blog is now available to notify researchers on new series descriptions, intriguing collections, and the status of the overall project. In additional, we are considering using Flickr, tumblr, webinars, videos, and other forms of medium or social media to reach out to and to educate the general public.