Melissa Watterworth Batt

About Melissa Watterworth Batt

Archivist for Literary Manuscripts, Natural History Collections and Rare Books Collections, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries

Black Experience in the Arts: Poet and Activist Jayne Cortez

JayneCortez1Guest blog post by Marc Reyes, doctoral student at the University of Connecticut and 2016 Summer Graduate Intern in Archives and Special Collections.

If you think poetry recitals are dull, then you haven’t heard Jayne Cortez read her work.  Her poem, “Dinah’s Back in Town” (dedicated to blues singer Dinah Washington), begins:

“You know, I want to be bitchy.  I said I want to be a bitch.  Cause when you’re nice, true love don’t come into your life.  You get mistreated, mistreated and abused by some no good man who don’t care nothing about no blues.”

After declaring that “…true love don’t come into your life,” the audience laughed and hooted their approval of the sentiment.  The rest of Cortez’s tribute to Dinah Washington cautioned about the promises fast-talking men make to women.  And if women struggled to find the courage to stop shady men in their tracks, they only need to look to the titular heroine for inspiration.  Cortez described Washington as an assertive, tough-as-nails woman with no patience for schemers and scoundrels.  And when a bad man comes around, just tell him, “Dinah’s back in town.”

Cortez read this and several others poems on May 12, 1972.  This 1972 performance was the first of a dozen individual visits she made to the University of Connecticut.  Her twelve trips to Storrs were all for the same reason: she was invited to speak to the undergraduates enrolled in the School of Fine Arts course, Black Experience in the Arts.   The class, which operated under this title for over two decades, heard directly from a variety of talented musicians, actors, dancers, singers, artists, and writers.  Cortez was an ideal candidate to speak to UConn students.  Her acclaimed poetry and spoken word performances, often with musical accompaniment, made her a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.  Besides her considerable talents as a writer, Cortez was also a teacher, a publisher, founder of Los Angeles’ Watts Repertory Theater Company, and an activist who dedicated her adult life to ending racial and gender discrimination in American society.

CortezEverywhereDrumsWhen Cortez spoke in the spring of 1972, she read selections from her 1971 poetry collection, Festivals and Funerals.  The delivered poems touched on ideas about loneliness, anger, and love.  Others addressed how black Americans adjusted to living in northern cities compared to life in the rural South.  Another, “Watching a Parade in Harlem,” described the frenzy generated by a local Harlem parade and compared the appearance of many New York City policemen to a colonizing force.  Her tribute to Dinah Washington was not the only work that addressed struggles women encounter.  Her composition, “I Am a Worker,” was dedicated to “all my sisters in the garment industry.”  The women depicted in this poem are garment workers who toil under harsh conditions for low pay.  Her words make vivid the swollen legs, stiff hands, and back-breaking labor these women undertake in pursuit of “survival money.”  After listing the many bills and fees that make “survival money” less a reality and more a dream, the narrator asks, “Do you think a revolution is what I need?”

Cortez continued speaking to the Black Experience in the Arts course over the next twelve years, her visits becoming almost an annual occurrence.  Her lectures did not recycle content or repeat poems because she was producing so much new and original work. Between the years of 1972 to 1984, Cortez released four books of poetry, five spoken word recordings, and founded the publishing company, Bola Press.  But there was more to Jayne Cortez than her work and in a February 1984 lecture, she discussed more personal matters including her childhood, her first battles against racial injustice, and her decision to became a writer.

In this lecture, students learned about Cortez‘s birth in Arizona and growing up in postwar Los Angeles.  She recounted how she studied to be an actress and then a director, but found writing to be her true calling.  While studying art, music, and drama in high school and college, Cortez became involved in the civil rights movement.  In the early 1960s, she spent two summers working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), registering black voters in Mississippi.  She told students that this edifying work inspired her to produce art, infused with integrity, which mixed “political language with the poetic.”

JayneCortez2After explaining how her writing career started, Cortez informed students about the opportunities a writing career can produce.  Because of her success, she received invitations to speak at international poetry festivals throughout Europe and Africa.  She described the artistic affirmation experienced by performing at Carnegie Hall or having her books reviewed in The New York Times or The Washington Post.  Lastly, Cortez concluded her presentation by bringing to the stage her band, the Firespitters, who provided musical accompaniment to her poetry.  Cortez’s use of music to emphasize her work was not a gimmick; Cortez and the Firespitters played together for over three decades and released thirteen albums.  By incorporating music into the reading of her poetry, Cortez became a pioneer in the field of poetic performance art.

This summer, additional Jayne Cortez lectures debuted on the Archives and Special Collections digital repository.  Now, six of Cortez’s twelve Black Experience in the Arts lectures can be easily accessed online with plans to digitize the rest.  In addition, Archives and Special Collections possesses physical copies of Cortez’s work in book and audio form.  For scholars interested in poets like Jayne Cortez or the broader Black Arts movement, Archives and Special Collections has many resources available to researchers.  Stay tuned as we continue to make these valuable materials more widely known and available as well as additional blog posts highlighting other prominent lecturers who visited the university and spoke to Black Experience in the Arts students.

Marc Reyes is a doctoral student in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut.  He received his B.A. in History from the University of Missouri and his M.A., also in History, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His research investigates the United States and its interactions – diplomatically, economically, and culturally – with India.  As a 2016 graduate intern, Marc is excited to gain additional experience working in a university archive and will be exploring the history of the Black Experience in the Arts course here at UConn as well as the broader movement of 20th century black expression in the arts. 

Chasing History through Annotations

The following guest blog post is by Daniel Allie, a 2014 graduate of the University of Connecticut’s English Program. While a student, Mr. Allie worked in Archives and Special Collections for two years as a Student Library Assistant. Since graduation, he has turned to the field of History, and volunteers his time at the Mansfield Historical Society and the Connecticut Historical Society as well as researching and writing pieces like this one for Archives and Special Collections.

George L. Rosebrooks's signature as it appears on the side of Experimental Physics

George L. Rosebrooks’s signature as it appears on the side-edge        of the book Experimental Physics

What can a book tell you?

Quite a lot, though not necessarily in the way you would immediately suppose. You can read the text, certainly, but sometimes minor annotations to a volume tell a more compelling story than that.

This is the case for a collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century textbooks recently donated to Archives and Special Collections. By most estimations, this is dry stuff—titles include Milk and its Products; Elements of Chemistry; and The Beginner’s American History among others—but it was not this specific content that is what is most interesting. The true story lies with the annotations within these volumes, a story of the early University of Connecticut and the surrounding community of Mansfield.

The annotations within the books indicate two separate collections, those of George L. Rosebrooks and of Harold L. Storrs, respectively. It is clear from name alone that Harold L. Storrs is part of the family that founded the University, though this does not necessarily indicate a connection, and is unrelated to what we can learn from his books. We can immediately tell from the books that Harold L. Storrs was likely a generation younger than George L. Rosebrooks, as his books were later-published texts for younger students. While Rosebrooks owned Elements of Chemistry (1881), Storrs owned The Beginner’s American History (1902). I was able to confirm this in a genealogical record of the Storrs family, which indicated that Harold L. Storrs was born on October 2, 18951, while the Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties confirms that George L. Rosebrooks was born September 21, 18792. A document in Archives and Special Collections indicates that Storrs was an employee of the university in 19313.

As interesting as it is to learn that Harold L. Storrs was a university employee, though, the books from the Rosebrooks family provide a more compelling story. At the beginning of the project, we knew from the donor of the collection that George L. Rosebrooks was an 1899 graduate of Storrs Agricultural College, and we knew that George L. Rosebrooks’s brother Fred Rosebrooks (also a Storrs Agricultural College graduate) ran the Mansfield, Connecticut poor house.

Fred Rosebrooks's report card, Spring 1889. (Ethel Larkin Papers, Mansfield Historical Society)

Fred Rosebrooks’s report card, Spring 1889. (Ethel Larkin Papers, Mansfield Historical Society)

Knowing that the Rosebrooks family was related both to the early university as well as the Mansfield Poor House raised questions worth investigating about the collection: Could any of these volumes be related to George L. Rosebrooks’s education at the Storrs Agricultural College? Are any of the other volumes in the collection from the the poor house, books meant for the education of resident children?

To answer the latter question, some of the books in the collection which are signed by neither George L. Rosebrooks nor Harold L. Storrs, are in fact didactic texts, earlier dated schoolroom readers such as An Introduction to the Study of English Grammar (1856) and Hillard’s The Sixth Reader (1866). Since these books were not directly connected to any Rosebrooks family member, it seemed possible that they had come from a potential Poor House library.

I was able to further confirm this as a possibility at the Mansfield Historical Society. The book The Mansfield Poor House: A Forgotten Institution includes a transcription of the House’s founding document, which reads, in part: “the said Barrows [founder of the Poor House] further agrees to send all children of a suitable age to school and to furnish them with suitable books”4, thus establishing Poor House provenance as possible, though I would caution that the fact that the books could possibly have been part of the Poor House’s collection is by no means a confirmation that this is true for these specific examples. Any schoolchild of the time could have possessed them.

Far more certain, though, is the books’ connection to the Storrs Agricultural College. Already well documented is the Rosebrooks family’s relation to the early university, a fact attested by an item from the Mansfield Historical Society, Fred Rosebrooks’s report cards. The Ethel Larkin Papers, comprising documents collected by a late Historical Society member, contains the student records of Fred Rosebrooks. Dated to 1888 (a decade earlier than his brother George’s textbooks), these records show Fred Rosebrooks taking such courses as Chemistry, Arithmetic, Physics, and English, out of a possible fifteen subjects offered on the report card at that time5.

With the Rosebrooks family’s connection to the early university already clearly established, it is unsurprising to find that the new collection’s copy of Elements of Chemistry by Elroy M. Avery includes an annotation inside the cover reading “G.L. Rosebrooks Jr., Storrs, Conn. SAC [Storrs Agricultural College]. 97.,” indicating that Rosebrooks had this book for one of his college courses. The Connecticut College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts Catalogue 1899-1900 partially confirms this, albeit with a different book of the same title. The description of their course in “General Chemistry” has as its text “Williams’ Elements of Chemistry”6.

George L. Rosebrooks's signature, accompanied by the annotations 'Storrs, Conn' and 'SAC. 97', in Elements of Chemistry.

George L. Rosebrooks’s signature, accompanied by the annotations ‘Storrs, Conn’ and ‘SAC. 97’, in Elements of Chemistry.

The coursebook connection is even clearer in the case of the book Milk and its Products. The description of the course “Dairying” in the Storrs Agricultural College Catalogue: 1898-1899, reads “A short winter course in dairying. . . including composition of milk, conditions of creaming, milking for market, butter making, washing, salting, packing, etc. Breeding, feeding, and diseases of dairy cattle are subjects also treated in this course, with such texts as ‘ Milk and its Products,’ ‘ Bacteriology,’ and ‘Feeds and Feeding’”7, thus confirming the actual use of one of the books owned by George L. Rosebrooks in a Storrs Agricultural College course.

So those are a few things a book can tell you. Individually, these texts would perhaps have said little beyond their original subjects. Together, they form a context with each other, through their original owners, illustrating a history, be it local, academic, or familial. What one will find when conducting historical research is never certain, but in searching through the collections of two institutions, the University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections as well as the Mansfield Historical Society in the search for this collection’s history and significance, I found far more significance to this collection than one would ever expect to find from a collection of century-old textbooks and readers.

-Daniel Allie

1    Durand, Robert. Storrs Family Pedigree Chart. Mansfield Historical Society digital record. Accessed 13 July 2016.

2    “George L. Rosebrooks.” In Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties. (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co, 1903), 420.

3    “Financial Summary: Farm Receipts: Poultry, 1931.” University of Connecticut Agricultural Economics Records, Series VII, Subseries B, Box 42. University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

4    “Contracts.” In The Mansfield Poor House: A Forgotten Institution. (Mansfield: History Workshop of The Mansfield Historical Society, 1985), 7.

5    “Storrs Agricultural School: Report of F. Rosebrooks, For the Term Ending Mar. 29, 1889.” Ethel Larkin Papers, Mansfield Historical Society, Mansfield, Connecticut.

6     Connecticut College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts Catalogue 1899-1900, 25. University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

7     Storrs Agricultural College Catalogue: 1898-1899, 13. University of Connecticut Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

The Fight for the Gun Control Act of 1968

This guest blog post is by Gabrielle Westcott, doctoral student in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut. Ms. Westcott received her B.A. in History from Whitman College and her M.A. in History from the University of Connecticut in 2015.  Her research examines the influence of emotions and personality on twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy.  As a 2016 graduate intern, she spent the summer learning about archival work and exploring the many political collections held at Archives and Special Collections.

In August 1963, after two years of investigation by the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency and three months before President Kennedy’s assassination, Senator Thomas J. Dodd introduced legislation to amend the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. The bill, S. 1975, addressed the ease with which juveniles and criminals could anonymously purchase mail-order guns and thus circumvent state laws regarding the sale of firearms. As it was first proposed, the bill sought to require individuals who wished to purchase a handgun to submit an affidavit, testifying to their eligibility to purchase a weapon in their home state. The seller would then send a copy of this affidavit to local law enforcement, who would have to authenticate the affidavit before the weapon could be sold. This was later amended so that the seller would simply provide notification of the intended delivery of the firearm to local law enforcement, without having to get police approval of the sale. After the death of President Kennedy, who was shot with a mail-order rifle purchased under a false name, Dodd amended the bill to require an affidavit for both handguns and long guns.

1994_0065_SeriesIII_AdminandLegislativeFiles_Box198_5002-1Yet, Kennedy’s assassination inspired criticism of Dodd’s bill on the grounds that it was nothing more than a hysterical reaction to the president’s death. Responding to these claims, Dodd emphasized in speech after speech that the provisions of the bill were the outcome of a two-year investigation, in which the Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency worked with arms manufacturers, arms dealers, law enforcement, sportsmen’s groups, the Department of Justice, and the Treasury Department. Furthermore, the bill had the support of each of these groups, and the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association testified to his organization’s support of the bill on multiple occasions.

Despite widespread support, by the end of 1964 the bill was stalled in the Senate Commerce Committee. “What seems to be influencing some members of the Committee to withhold action on this bill,” Dodd noted, “are the protests of people who are either misinformed or bamboozled. In most cases these misinformed protesters have been misled by those who have financial interests in gun running, and by those who have suspect motives which are cloaked under the false cover of anti-Communism, or patriotism, or Constitutional liberties.”[1] Witnesses testifying before the Commerce Committee during the hearings on S.1975 expressed concern that the bill would lead to the registration of firearms. Because sellers would be required to send information about the purchaser’s identity and a description of the weapon to local law enforcement, one witness argued that “whatever regulatory body is chosen to interpret this requirement and draft the applications or forms involved will most assuredly ask for the serial number of the firearm involved. We submit that this is registration.”[2] The Washington Post reported that the National Wildlife Federation and the National Rifle Association opposed the bill’s requirement that the serial number of a gun be reported to law enforcement, while 1994_0065_SeriesIII_AdminandLegislativeFiles_Box201_5133-1constituents writing to Dodd and members of the committee expressed concern over the “gun registration provisions” of the bill. Yet there were not, and never had been, gun registration provisions in the bill. Dodd testified to this fact in front of the Committee, noting, “My bill is not aimed at the weapon, it is aimed at the unfit user. . . . There is no requirement that the serial number of a gun purchased by mail order be recorded at any time by any agency.”[3] In the face of such opposition, S. 1975 died in committee. Determined to press on, Dodd reintroduced the bill to the 89th Congress on January 6, 1965 under the title S. 14.

Two months later, on March 8, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke to Congress and proposed a program to wage a war on crime that included controls on mail-order weapons. Seizing the opportunity for a stronger gun control bill provided by the president’s speech, Dodd introduced two bills on behalf of the administration, which Dodd noted, “call[ed] for controls more comprehensive and stringent than I dared to hope for.”[4] The proposed legislation prohibited mail-order sales to individuals, such that persons wishing to purchase a mail-order firearm would have to place their order through a licensed dealer. Furthermore, federally licensed importers, manufacturers, and dealers were prohibited from selling firearms, with the exception of rifles and shotguns, to anyone who was not a resident or businessman of the state in which the seller was located. Finally, federally licensed importers, manufacturers, and dealers were prohibited from selling any type of firearm to an individual under 21 years of age, although rifles and shotguns could be sold to individuals over the age of 18.

It would be three years before Dodd’s legislation prohibiting the interstate mail-order sale of handguns would finally pass in the form of Title IV of President Johnson’s Omnibus Crime Bill. The intervening years would be marked by increasing racial tension, the outbreak of riots in cities across the country, mass shootings, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Dodd_1994_0065_SeriesIII_AdministrativeandLegislativeFiles_Box205_5425-1Kennedy.

On August 1, 1966, a student at the University of Texas in Austin climbed to the top of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, leaving 14 people dead and 31 people injured. It was the first mass campus shooting in the United States. The following day, Dodd urged Congress to take action on his firearms legislation, noting, “It is tragic indeed that those of us who call for stronger firearms control laws must rest our case on such headlines as these. How many times will we stand witness to such atrocities before we act? How many more people must die before the American public, the Federal Government and the Congress call in unison for effective firearms legislation?”[5] When two mass shootings occurred in New Haven in that same month, Dodd once again appealed to Congress. “It happened last week. It happened this week. It will happen next week. And it will continue to happen until there are stricter gun laws.”[6] 50 years later, in the wake of Aurora, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Orlando, and countless others, Dodd’s words should haunt us.

While much of the debate surrounding gun control focused on preventing “criminals, drug addicts, mental defectives, and irresponsible juveniles” from purchasing firearms, racial tension undoubtedly played a role in who was deemed fit to own a gun. In 1966, a group in California calling themselves the Black Panther Party for Self Defense began openly carrying firearms to protect African American communities against police brutality. At the time, there was no law prohibiting the open carry of a weapon in a public space. Responding to the actions of the Black Panthers, the California legislature proposed the Mulford Act, which would make it illegal to openly carry loaded weapons. The NRA, it should be noted, supported the legislation. On May 2, 1967, a group of armed Black Panthers entered the chamber of the California State Assembly and interrupted a legislative session to protest the Mulford Act. Speaking to the Senate, Dodd called the incident “a striking example of the need for effective gun control legislation. . . . These armed men serve as a chilling reminder that legislation should be passed swiftly to keep firearms out of such irresponsible hands.”[7] That same month, the NRA encouraged their members to arm themselves to act as “a potential community stabilizer” in the case of urban rioting.[8]

On June 6, 1968, the day after Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, Johnson signed into law the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. Title IV of the Act prohibited the interstate mail-order sale of handguns; however, the amendment to prohibit the mail-order sale of rifles and shotguns was defeated. In the wake of Kennedy’s death, and with the support of the Johnson administration, Dodd introduced four new firearms control bills, calling for the inclusion of rifles and shotguns in the Omnibus Crime Control Bill, strict control over the sale of ammunition, the registration of all firearms, and the licensing of all firearms owners. Despite widespread public support for licensing and registration, opponents of gun control managed to remove those provisions from the final legislation. Signed into law on October 22, the Gun Control Act of 1968 was the culmination of five years of legislative effort and seven years of investigation on the part of Senator Dodd and the Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency.

-Gabrielle Westcott, August 2016

[1] “Press Release Concerning Interstate Weapons Traffic,” August 6, 1964, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 200:5080, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[2] Interstate Shipment of Firearms: Hearings Before the Committee on Commerce, United States Senate, 88th Cong. 194 (1964), ProQuest Congressional Publications (Permalink: http://congressional.proquest.com:80/congressional/docview/t29.d30.hrg-1963-com-0043?accountid=14518) (accessed August 3, 2016).

[3] “Statement of Senator Thomas J. Dodd Before the Senate Committee on Commerce,” March 4, 1964, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 198:5002, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[4] “Press Release Concerning Amendments to Federal Firearms Act,” March 22, 1965, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 201:5180, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[5] “Press Release Concerning Need for Stronger Gun Control Legislation,” August 2, 1966, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 204:5363, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[6] “Press Release Concerning a Shooting in New Haven, CT,” August 26, 1966, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 204:5370, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[7] “Stronger Gun Laws Needed,” May 31, 1967, Congressional Record, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 207:5550, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

[8] “No Vigilantes, Please,” May 31, 1967, Congressional Record, Thomas J. Dodd Papers, Box 207:5501, Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut.

Charles Olson and Henry Murray: Projective Verse and the Projective Test

Lucy Burns is a PhD candidate in English and American Studies at the University of Manchester. Her thesis is on Black Mountain College and postwar American poetry, with a focus on the relationship between poetry and psychology, and the development of the creative writing program. She is an assistant editor at the Manchester Review, the online journal from the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester. Lucy was awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant to further her PhD research in the Charles Olson Research Collection in Archives and Special Collections.

 In May I was fortunate enough to spend a week with the Charles Olson Research Collection at Archives and Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Center, principally examining the unpublished correspondence between Charles Olson and Henry Murray. This seemingly unlikely link between Olson, the larger-than-life poet turned pedagogue and rector of experimental arts college at Black Mountain – and Murray, a personality psychologist and director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic – is the focus of my current research, through their concurrent work on projection and the projective: Olson’s “Projective Verse,” a poetics essay published in 1950, and Murray’s projective psychological test, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).

This link between Olson and Murray has previously been neglected: Tom Clark’s biography of Olson brackets Murray’s influence to his Harvard years when Olson was a PhD candidate on the new American Civilization program [1], while Olson scholarship tends to reference Murray in terms of their shared interest in Herman Melville (Olson’s study, Call Me Ishmael was published in 1947, while Murray’s introduction to Melville’s Pierre; or, The Ambiguities was published in 1949). Forrest G. Robinson’s excellent biography of Murray also gives very little space to Olson, and figures their relationship as a practical and limited one. [2] Even George F. Butterick, the first curator of the Charles Olson Research Collection, long-time editor of Olson’s work, and author of the definitive Guide to the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson, dismisses any significance in Murray and Olson’s concurrent uses of projection and the projective:

“Not insignificantly, it [the Thematic Apperception Test] is also known as a “projective” test although Olson experienced it after his well known “Projective Verse” essay was already in press, so there probably was no connection.” [3]

My research considers not only the extent to which the relationship between Olson and Murray’s work has been overlooked, but the ways in which a link between projective verse and the projective test may provide new ways to read both Olson’s writings and his interdisciplinary curriculum at Black Mountain College. This current work on the Olson-Murray correspondence thus forms part of my wider research into the shared networks of American poetry and psychology, and, building on Mark McGurl’s work on the postwar fiction program, how these networks may have informed or shaped the postwar poetry program. [4]

Sixty-eight letters survive from Murray and Olson’s near twenty-year correspondence; fifty-nine of these are held at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, while the Henry Murray Papers at Harvard University Archives holds nine. The correspondence spans several key events in both men’s lives: Olson’s departure from Cambridge and the PhD program, his Guggenheim Fellowship, and his move to Black Mountain College; the end of Murray’s directorship at the Harvard Psychological Clinic and the start of his work for the Office of Strategic Services, and the publication of his first study to make use of the TAT, Explorations in Personality. It appears that Murray financially supported Olson’s family during the late 1940s, until Olson was invited to teach literature and writing at Black Mountain College in 1948. Olson hurriedly wrote to Murray an hour before they were due to leave for North Carolina with news of the appointment, writing that Murray’s support was a “talisman” that had “enabled us to start back to life.” [5] In 1953 Olson accepted the rectorship of the college until its closure in 1956, and this time not only marks a period of manic productivity for Olson, but a new period in the life of Black Mountain College. [6] Olson and Murray’s most frequent exchanges are during the first two years of Olson’s appointment at the college: Olson often sent Murray poems and essays that he was working on, and they exchanged letters on a number of potential collaborations bringing together their experience. Though these projects were never fully realized or completed, they continued to occupy Olson well into the 1950s and after the college’s closure. I hope to continue working on these proposed collaborations and their link to Olson’s poetry and poetics in my thesis.

By the end of 1950 Olson had written the first two “letters” of his near three-hundred poems sequence, The Maximus Poems, and published his most influential work, “Projective Verse,” in Poetry New York magazine which he eagerly sent to Murray. [7] The essay called for a new, kinetic poetics modeled on “the breathing of the man who writes” in accordance with the three principles of composition by field: first, the “kinetics,” that “the poem must, at all points, be a high-energy construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge”; second, the “law,” that “FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT,” and third, the “process,” that “ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION.” [8]

BurnsBlogFigure1

FIGURE 1

Olson’s essay, and its deployment of projection and the projective appears at first to have little in common with Murray’s projective psychological test. The TAT was co-developed with Christiana D. Morgan in the 1930s and was founded on the psychoanalytic mechanism of projection, whereby a subject expels thoughts or wishes that are too unpleasant or uncomfortable to recognize in themself into or onto another object. The projective psychological test utilizes this movement from the unreadable, interior space of the unconscious to an exterior object, by asking the participant to interpret an unstructured stimulus, like a suggestive image or single word. The TAT was designed to “stimulate literary creativity” and “creative imagination” and asked participants to respond to a series of painted cards, usually depicting one or more persons in an ambiguous setting. [9] While I was in America I was also able to visit the Murray archive at Harvard University to examine the wide range of TAT images that were designed and used by Murray and his team. Here is a fairly typical card depicting a young couple [see Figure 1], which the participant would be asked to narrate with the following prompts: “What is the relation of the individuals in the picture? What happened to them? What are their present thoughts and feelings? What will be the outcome?” [10]

BurnsBlogFigure2

FIGURE 2

Olson participated in the test in 1950 along with twenty-eight other poets and writers, including William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. The test was administered by Murray’s student, Robert N. Wilson as part of his PhD thesis, “The American Poet: A Role Investigation,” and Wilson continued to work on the relationship between the poet and projection. Olson appears to have written about the test in an unpublished poem, “Gli Amanti,” which the Thomas J. Dodd Centre has in four annotated drafts. Here is the first draft [see Figure 2]:

The Olson-Murray correspondence in the Charles Olson Research Collection not only helps us to begin to understand the ways in which Olson and Murray’s concurrent uses of projection and the projective might be related. It also reveals the ways in which Olson extended this understanding to his own poetry, chiefly, The Maximus Poems 1-10 (published in 1953 while Olson was still at Black Mountain College), and Olson’s teaching practices at Black Mountain College, including his interdisciplinary writing courses, which ran sporadically from 1948 to 1956. Despite the correspondence beginning over their shared academic interests and Cambridge circles, it is clear that they developed a close friendship, and at times the exchanges are intensely personal. In this particular note from 1951, Olson announces the birth of his daughter [see Figure 3].

BurnsBlogFigure3

FIGURE 3

Alongside the correspondence I also had a chance to look at Olson’s journals and notebooks, in which he kept meticulous notes of his dreams and his own lay analysis to use in his poetry, Olson’s personal library, and most significantly his various materials related to Black Mountain College. These are especially useful to my thesis and, combined with research completed last year in the Black Mountain College archive at Western Regional, are slowly beginning to build a bigger picture of the life of the college. Though the Olson-Murray letters make up just a fraction of the research collection, these small discoveries are enormously rewarding, and I would highly recommend making use of this rich collection.

– Lucy Burns

References

[1] Tom Clark, Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2000), 44; 122; 135.

[2] Forrest G. Robinson, Love’s story told: a life of Henry A. Murray (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992) 315; 334.

[3] George F. Butterick, “Charles Olson and the Postmodern Advance,” The Iowa Review 11 (4) (1980): 4, http://ir.uiowa.edu/iowareview/vol11/iss4/3.

[4] Mark McGurl, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009).

[5] Charles Olson, letter to Henry A. Murray (October 10, 1948); Box 194, Folder 13 (Series II: Correspondence), Charles Olson Research Collection, Thomas J. Dodd Research Centre.

[6] This change in the life of the college is summarized by Martin Duberman: “Not until the fifties, with the advent of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan and the Black Mountain Review, was the emphasis to shift; then writing moved to the center and visual arts to the periphery.” Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1972), 228.

[7] Charles Olson, letter to Henry A. Murray (August 2, 1950); Box 194, Folder 14 (Series II: Correspondence), Charles Olson Research Collection, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

[8] Charles Olson, “Projective Verse,” in Selected Writings of Charles Olson, ed. Robert Creeley (New York: New Directions, 1967), 15; 16; 17.

[9] Henry A. Murray, Explorations in Personality: A Clinical and Experimental Study of Fifty Men of College Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1938), xii-xiv.

[10] Murray, Explorations in Personality, 532.

Figures

(1) TAT image; Box 4, Folder 0 (Series: Research), HUGFP 97.43.2: Thematic Apperception Test Pictures and Other Papers, 1940-1960, The Papers of Henry A. Murray, Harvard University Archives.

(2) Charles Olson, letter to Henry A. Murray (October 28, 1951); Box 194, Folder 15 (Series II: Correspondence), Charles Olson Research Collection, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

(3) “Gli Amanti” (ca. 1950); Box 21, Folder 929 (Series I: Works), Charles Olson Research Collection, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Bibliography

Butterick, George F. 1978. A Guide to the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Butterick, George F. 1980. “Charles Olson and the Postmodern Advance,” The Iowa Review 11 (4): 3-27. http://ir.uiowa.edu/iowareview/vol11/iss4/3.

Clark, Tom. 2000. Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.

Duberman, Martin. 1972. Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.

McGurl, Mark. 2009. The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Melville, Herman. 1949. Pierre; or, The Ambiguities. Edited by Henry A. Murray. New York: Hendricks House, Inc.

Murray, Henry A. 1938. Explorations in Personality: A Clinical and Experimental Study of Fifty Men of College Age. New York: Oxford University Press.

Olson, Charles. 1966. Call Me Ishmael. San Francisco, California: City Lights Books.

Olson, Charles. 1967. Selected Writings of Charles Olson. Edited Robert Creeley. New York: New Directions.

Olson, Charles. 1983. The Maximus Poems. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Robinson, Forrest G. 1992. Love’s story told: a life of Henry A. Murray. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wilson, Robert N. 1990. The American Poet: A Role Investigation. New York: Garland Publishing.

Black Experience in the Arts: Playwright Leslie Lee

 

-Guest blog post by Marc Reyes, doctoral student at the University of Connecticut and 2016 Summer Graduate Intern in Archives and Special Collections.

LeslieLee“Now, I am a black playwright; I am not a playwright who happens to be black…I am very happy writing about black people.  I do not have to write about anybody else.”

Those words were spoken by dramatist Leslie Lee, a renowned writer of stage and screen.  When Lee was not scripting Tony Award-nominated plays or acclaimed television programs, he spoke to students about his life, writing career, and creative process.  Lee visited the University of Connecticut on September 29, 1987 as a guest speaker for the university’s course, Black Experience in the Arts.  The class, offered through the School of Fine Arts, debuted in the Fall semester of 1970 and lasted under this name until the mid-1990s.  During the course’s lifetime, UConn undergraduates heard from hundreds of black artists, representing fields such as music, dance, poetry, sculpture, and architecture.  Many of the invited presenters were performers with a myriad of memories and achievements as well as thoughts about what it meant to be a black artist in America.  Course notes, typed lecture transcriptions, and over three hundred audio recordings are some of the materials found in Archives and Special Collections’ Black Experience in the Arts collection.  This collection offers researchers an exciting look into a course dedicated to highlighting the contributions of black artists and the power of art as a mechanism for social change and racial expression.  From this vantage point, scholars of the American experience gain a richer understanding of the black arts movement of the 1960s and 1970s and how black artistic expression was a crucial element of the civil rights and later black power movements.

When Lee spoke in the Fall of 1987, he was one of the few playwrights that addressed the class.  Most of the speakers who represented black theater were actors or directors, but Lee offered insights into how a writer expresses their creative vision through different mediums.  Of all the ways his writing was expressed – through films, television, and novels – his first love was theatre because it was the most verbal.  He explained, “But in the theater it is my play and it is my vision, and those persons who are directing, or the set designers, or the costume designers, the lighting designers, the actors are an extension of me…” FirstBreezeofSummer_

Besides discussing his career, Lee told students about his middle-class upbringing in Pennsylvania and how family members, like his grandmother, were inspirations for some of his play’s most memorable characters.  He also explained how his interest in writing and the arts was not predestined, in fact, Lee confided to his audience that his artistic journey started later in life.  Growing up he wanted to be a doctor and even spent years as a cancer researcher, but his passion for writing overwhelmed all else and he returned to school to study playwriting at Villanova University.  After graduating, Lee worked as a writing instructor at several colleges and adapted for television Richard Wright’s Almos’ a Man.  But his big break came with the staging of his 1975 play, “The First Breeze of Summer.”  The production won three Obie Awards (the top honor for Off-Broadway productions) including Best New American Play and then moved to Broadway where it was later nominated for a Tony Award in the Best Play category.

In his lecture, Lee stressed to the students that to be a successful writer, one must have something important to say.  Their voice must communicate a message that can even reach international audiences.  With his voice, Lee strove to produce works that celebrated blackness and displayed the beauty of black bodies.  He lamented seeing blacks thin their lips, alter their noses, and bleach or peel their skin to appear lighter.   He remembered marching in the 1960s to the chants of “Black is Beautiful” and how the collective faith in that message erased the doubts he had about the beauty of black bodies.   From that moment, he wanted his work to produce a similar feeling in black Americans.  As for the characters found in Lee’s works, his heroes are the everyday black man or woman “who struggle daily against racism and against other things that are constantly impinging upon their consciousness.”  Finding theatre to be the best avenue for exploring black consciousness, Lee developed an array of three-dimensional black characters that tackled issues such as systematic racism and the horrors of war.

LeslieLee2Beyond individual depictions, Lee was also concerned in the ways black families were depicted in the arts.  He believed black families, like the ones found on The Jeffersons and Good Times, were almost always portrayed in comic lights, making it easier to not take black people, and their concerns, seriously.  He recounted a story about a reviewer who saw his play “Hannah Davis,” which centered on the actions of an upper-class black family.  Although the work received many positive reviews, one critic panned the play.  The critic found the piece problematic because he could not envision that a well-to-do black family like this existed.  Lee rejected the shallow criticism and informed the reviewer that the family in the play was based on a real black family, but the experience reinforced in Lee the need to project stronger images of black people and their families than the depictions usually found on television or motion pictures.

Leslie Lee’s September 1987 visit to UConn’s Black Experience in the Arts class discussed the personal and artistic fulfillment that can be found in the performing arts and encouraged students to consider a career in drama and make a home in black theatre.  For interested students, he referred to the Negro Ensemble Company which produced many of Lee’s plays and has been a training ground for black actors such as Lawrence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, and Denzel Washington.  Lee asserted that more black writers and actors were needed to produce multi-dimensional and complex black characters.  He also wished black students would pursue theatre criticism because he believed black critics would bring greater insights when evaluating the works of black playwrights.

There are many more exciting ideas and profound lessons found in Lee’s lecture which can be explored in the Black Experience in the Arts collection at Archives and Special Collections. Stay tuned as we continue to make these valuable materials more widely known and available as well as additional blog posts highlighting other prominent lecturers who visited the university and spoke to students about the Black Experience in the Arts.

Marc Reyes is a doctoral student in the Department of History at the University of Connecticut.  He received his B.A. in History from the University of Missouri and his M.A., also in History, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His research investigates the United States and its interactions – diplomatically, economically, and culturally – with India.  As a 2016 graduate intern, Marc is excited to gain additional experience working in a university archive and will be exploring the history of the Black Experience in the Arts course here at UConn as well as the broader movement of 20th century black expression in the arts. 

Bill Berkson, Poet, Teacher, Art Critic, Archivist and Friend: 1939-2016

Bill Berkson 1985We are saddened to learn that Bill Berkson died last Thursday in San Francisco at the age of seventy-six.  Berkson, a prolific American poet, art critic, and teacher, was also a muse, a world traveler, a lifelong gatherer and archivist, and to many of us in Archives and Special Collections at UConn, home of the Bill Berkson Papers, a literary giant, a generous collaborator and donor, and a friend.

The Bill Berkson Papers comprise over one hundred linear feet of literary manuscripts, letters, drafts of poetry, notebooks, lecture notes, interviews, Big Sky Books and Press records, photographs, audio recordings, broadsides, rare publications, family papers, and personal ephemera.

Used by students and scholars alike, the archive spans from 1959 to 2016 and documents the poet’s extensive body of work, his collaborations in and among the realms of visual art, media, and literature, and his affinities with the poets and artists of the New York School.

berksonrootsBigSky5-1973

Mr. Berkson wrote more than twenty collections of poetry, beginning in 1961 with “Saturday Night: Poems 1960-61.” His most recent book, “Invisible Oligarchs: Russia Notebook, January-June 2006 & After,” a travel journal, was published this year.  He is survived by his wife, curator Constance Lewallen; son Moses Berkson and daughter Siobhan O’Hare Mora Lopez, from his first marriage, to Lynn O’Hare Berkson; stepchildren Jonathan Lewallen and Nina Lewallen Hufford; and six grandchildren.

According to San Francisco Chronicle, donations in Mr. Berkson’s name may be sent to Foundation for Contemporary Arts and Poets in Need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding the Artist in His Art: A Week with the James Marshall Papers

By Julie Danielson

James Marshall (called “Jim” by friends and family) created some of children’s literature’s most iconic and beloved characters, including but certainly not limited to the substitute teacher everyone loves to hate, Viola Swamp, and George and Martha, two hippos who showed readers what a real friendship looks like. Since I am researching Jim’s life and work for a biography, I knew that visiting the James Marshall Papers in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut’s Northeast Children’s Literature Collection would be tremendously beneficial. In fact, Jim’s works and papers are also held in two other collections in this country (one in Mississippi and one in Minnesota), which I hope to visit one day, but I knew that visiting UConn’s Archives and Special Collections 017revwould be especially insightful, since Jim made his home there in Mansfield Hollow, not far at all from the University. Indeed, I spent my evenings, as I wanted to maximize every possible moment during my days for exploring the collection, talking to people there in Connecticut who knew and loved Jim, including his partner William Gray, still living in the home they once shared.

The collection is vast and impressive, just what a biographer needs. I had five full days, thanks to the James Marshall Fellowship awarded to me, to explore the archives and see, up close, many pieces of original artwork, as well as a great deal of his sketchbooks. I saw manuscripts, sketches, storyboards, jacket studies, character studies, preliminary drawings, dummies, proofs, original art, and much more from many of Jim’s published works, including a handful of his early books — It’s So Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House, Bonzini! The Tattooed Man, Mary Alice, Operator Number 9, and more. To see sketches and art from his earlier books was thrilling, because I’m particularly fond of many of those titles. (Bonzini!, I learned in the sketchbooks, was originally titledCairo.) Also on hand in the collection are sketches and art from his more well-known books, as well as books published at the end of his career (he died in 1992), including the popular George and Martha books and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which received a 1989 Caldecott Honor.  Read more…

Finding the Artist in His Art: A Week with the James Marshall Papers

By Julie Danielson

James Marshall (called “Jim” by friends and family) created some of children’s literature’s most iconic and beloved characters, including but certainly not limited to the substitute teacher everyone loves to hate, Viola Swamp, and George and Martha, two hippos who showed readers what a real friendship looks like. Since I am researching Jim’s life and work for a biography, I knew that visiting the James Marshall Papers in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Connecticut’s Northeast Children’s Literature Collection would be tremendously beneficial. In fact, Jim’s works and papers are also held in two other collections in this country (one in Mississippi and one in Minnesota), which I hope to visit one day, but I knew that visiting UConn’s Archives and Special Collections would be especially insightful, since Jim made his home there in Mansfield Hollow, not far at all from the University. Indeed, I spent my evenings, as I wanted to maximize every possible moment during my days for exploring the collection, talking to people there in Connecticut who knew and loved Jim, including his partner William Gray, still living in the home they once shared.

The collection is vast and impressive, just what a biographer needs. I had five full days, 017revthanks to the James Marshall Fellowship awarded to me, to explore the archives and see, up close, many pieces of original artwork, as well as a great deal of his sketchbooks. I saw manuscripts, sketches, storyboards, jacket studies, character studies, preliminary drawings, dummies, proofs, original art, and much more from many of Jim’s published works, including a handful of his early books — It’s So Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House, Bonzini! The Tattooed Man, Mary Alice, Operator Number 9, and more. To see sketches and art from his earlier books was thrilling, because I’m particularly fond of many of those titles. (Bonzini!, I learned in the sketchbooks, was originally titled Cairo.) Also on hand in the collection are sketches and art from his more well-known books, as well as books published at the end of his career (he died in 1992), including the popular George and Martha books and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which received a 1989 Caldecott Honor.

To hold Jim’s original watercolors in hand is something I will never forget; as a fan of his books, I admit to getting a bit misty-eyed on more than one occasion (happy cries, to be sure). Seeing his artwork and sketches up close also afforded me rare insight into his unique talents as a children’s book illustrator, his process as an artist, his work ethic as a whole (he diligently worked and repeatedly re-worked the artwork that, in its final form, communicated an unfussy, uncluttered, and perfectly delightful simplicity) , and even his personality. This goes a long way in informing a biographer about her subject, and for that I am grateful.

The collection also includes many of Jim’s unpublished works, including story ideas for the George and Martha books. (Readers never got to read stories about a sack race, football, fishing, and more.) There are also incomplete short stories, art for greeting cards (how I wish the one pictured here were available today; inside, it was to say “let’s have a look at those grades”), 066revmany unidentified sketches, and much more. These unpublished works, as well as the series of sketchbooks available in the collection—there are a whole host of sketchbooks featuring both published and unpublished works—tell me a great deal about how Jim approached his work. For one, he always did so with a deep and abiding respect for children, which is my favorite aspect of his work. Never did he talk down to child readers. As Maurice Sendak wrote about Jim in an item in the collection, “never condescending to the child, allowing for freshness—sometimes rudeness—of the child’s genuine mind and heart.” In many of his sketchbooks, he also made detailed notes (illustrated, of course) about his days – what he did and whom he saw. These are intermingled with notes about book ideas. Needless to say, this is pure gold for a researcher/biographer, as are the personal papers in the collection. This includes some correspondence, an undated music book (Jim studied the viola before entering into the field of children’s books), his Caldecott Honor citation, and more.

A relatively recent addition to the collection is one that was added after the 2012 death of legendary author-illustrator Maurice Sendak. Jim and Maurice were close friends, and included in this series in the collection is a birthday book Jim once made for Maurice; books he gifted and autographed to Maurice; some of Jim’s original art, which Maurice had purchased; and more. This series told me a lot about the abiding friendship between the two, which is quite moving. It included a wooden box that contains some of Jim’s brushes and his glasses. (I find myself having to constantly remind my twelve-year-old daughter to clean her glasses, but I was able to tell her later that day, “you’re in good company. The brilliant James Marshall had smudges on his glasses as well.”) Also included is a letter from Maurice, noting the contents of the wooden box. In this letter he talks about being with Jim in July of 1992; this was about three months before Jim’s death from AIDS. Jim, unresponsive, was on his first day of morphine. “His last words … to me,” Maurice wrote, “on the telephone [had been] ‘Lovely, Loyal Maurice.’” Maurice, in fact, drew Jim as he was dying, though these drawings are not in the collection.

On my last day in Archives and Special Collections, I watched video footage of Jim speaking in one of Francelia Butler’s children’s literature courses at UConn. (Also included in the collection are Jim-related items in the Francelia Butler Collection, which were extremely helpful for my project.) It is a lecture that is, at turns, laugh-aloud funny, incisive, and smart. Jim was deliciously opinionated about others’ books. I now know first-hand how much biographers can learn from seeing video footage or hearing audio of their subjects. It was the first time I’d seen (or even heard) Jim speak.

111revI’ll close with this rare self-portrait (on canvas), which curator Kristin Eshelman thought I’d want to see. Kristin said that Jim had painted it for his mother, with whom, I have learned, he had an affectionate yet probably complicated relationship. (He adored her and remained close to her all his life, yet she refused to accept that he was gay. She was strong-willed, and I quickly discovered that one cannot hear stories about Jim without also often hearing about her.) I love this painting. It’s happy (the pink!), a bit unsettling (note the placement of his right eye), and gloriously weird, all at once. Jim stares at us, in between brush strokes. I like to imagine he’s still here, looking askance at us just like this. With the same “genuine mind and heart” he acknowledged in his child readers.

Julie Danielson holds an MS in Information Sciences and blogs about picture books at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. The co-author of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, she also writes a weekly column and conducts Q&As for Kirkus Reviews. She reviews picture books at BookPage and has written for the Horn Book and the Association for Library Services to Children. She has been a judge for the Bologna Ragazzi Awards in Italy, as well as the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Award, and she is a Lecturer for the University of Tennessee’s Information Sciences program.  Ms. Danielson was awarded a James Marshall Fellowship in 2015.  The James Marshall Fellowship is awarded biennially by Archives and Special Collections to a promising author and/or illustrator to assist with the creation of new children’s literature. Support is provided for research in the Northeast Children’s Literature Collection for the creation of new text or illustrations intended for a children’s book, magazine, or other publication. 

Unearthing and Preserving Elusive State Party Platforms

The following is a guest post by Matthew Carr, PhD candidate in the Political Science Department at Columbia University studying American politics, specifically institutions, political parties, and judicial politics.  In 2016 he was awarded a Strochlitz Travel Grant to further his research using the political papers in Archives and Special Collections. 

Carrphoto1rev I was able to spend a few days searching the rich collection of political papers in Archives and Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center for an often neglected document – state-level political party platforms. Every four years, the national Democratic and Republican parties issue lengthy platforms, explicating their policy goals and objectives. However, the Democratic and Republican parties of the 50 states issue their own, independent platforms. While the historical national platforms are well-preserved and somewhat well-known political documents, the state party platforms are almost ephemeral and have never been systematically preserved. Although the most recent state party platforms are readily available on the party websites, the goal of myself and my fellow researchers is to locate all state party platforms from 1960 until present.

Since most state parties issue a new platform every two years, the enterprise of collecting all of them entails finding hundreds of (usually elusive) documents. Locating them presents several challenges. Chief among these is that, unlike many other documents related to politics and the policy making process, state governments do not archive party platforms. Therefore, in order to find them we have turned to a variety of sources. We initially thought that the state parties themselves might be the best preservers of their own history, but we quickly found that the parties rarely maintain any significant archives. There are encouraging exceptions; a handful of party offices maintain an attic or storeroom that serves as an informal archive with decades’ old documents. On the other hand it is a distressing experience being just a few years too late, which must be all too familiar to archivists and others concerned with historic preservation. Some parties told us that they once had a large collection of old platforms, but that – during the latest office move or a spring cleaning a few years earlier – they were purged.  We have therefore turned to other sources to find the documents. A small percentage of the platforms are given a call number and placed on a library shelf, and we attained those through interlibrary loan. We have also directly reached out to those currently involved in politics and received some platforms from long-term activists Carrphoto2who happened to keep them.

Archives and manuscript collections, however, have been by far our most fruitful source of platforms. The hope is that a politician, political activist, or political observer attained a copy of the platform (e.g., through being directly involved in the platform drafting process at the state convention that produced the document or simply by being given one by the state party) and kept it in his or her records. Given that the Archives’ at the Dodd Research Center is the premier repository of the papers of Connecticut political figures, searching its collections was essential in our effort to attain Connecticut platforms. Thanks to the Strochlitz Travel Grant, I was able to take a few days searching through the papers of Connecticut’s political luminaries. The Center has a rich political collection, housing the papers of senators (Prescott Bush and Thomas Dodd) and members of the House (Robert Giaimo, Stewart McKinney, Sam Gejdenson, and Nancy Johnson, among others). Although I found platforms among those collections, the most valuable source for the purpose of locating the documents I am looking for was the collection of the lesser-known Herman Wolf. He ran a public relations firm and was heavily involved in politics. Fortunately, he saved several state platforms – and for both parties, which is rare as most collections heavily document only one party or the other. Another particularly valuable resource was the collection of Audrey Beck, a state legislator who had a penchant for holding onto the platforms.

Carrphoto3Searching the papers illustrated the array of record-keeping practices, even among similarly situated political figures. Some collections are vast with a wide variety of documents, and other collections are smaller, even though the donor had a lengthy career. In short, the individual discretion they each had was on full display, and it was, of course, nice to encounter large collections with donors who were inclined to keep a wide variety of documents (including platforms!). I found clear evidence that some documents survived only by the skin of their proverbial teeth. The picture of the 1974 Democratic platform showcases this, as the original post-it note, with discussion of whether to keep or discard the document, is still attached.

Culling through literally hundreds of feet of political documentation requires calculation in order to efficiently find what you’re looking for. Here, the collections’ finding aids, describing the contents of each box, are invaluable. But when a single collection contains thousands of documents, it is impossible for the finding aid to have extreme specificity. Therefore, to get a full sense of exactly what’s in the collection, one really needs to take some time to go through the boxes in person. Thankfully, my trip to Storrs was successful in that I found several platforms. However, we’re still searching for the Connecticut Democratic platforms for 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000, and looking to confirm that the Connecticut Republicans stopped making platforms in 1974. The collections at the Dodd Research Center provided us with a firm foundation to eventually acquire a complete set of Connecticut platforms.

A lone state platform might be mildly interesting to those deeply invested in political history, but, frankly, the historical appeal and value of a single state party platform is limited. However, the entire corpus of state-level political platforms offers a rich documentation of political history and partisan belief which can help us better understand several phenomena highly relevant to the field of political science: the emergence and dispersion of political issues, the extent to which Carrphoto4the state parties differ from each other and their national counterparts, and the polarization and nationalization of the two parties. Some might expect these documents – crafted by politicians and political activists – to be stereotypically sparse and platitudinous. However, they tend to run several pages and offer highly specific policy recommendations on a diverse set of issues, including agriculture, criminal law, constitutional rights, transportation, education, and immigration, among many other topics. Therefore, we are hopeful that a systematic hand coding of these documents will allow for a better understanding of America’s two party system and the evolution of policy goals.

– Matthew Carr

 

John Temple Papers Project Now Open

0a831b0c3d2aeb112f08aeb7a5084fcdAs the spring semester ends and students turn their collective gaze and energies happily elsewhere, those of us that remain on campus pause to catch our collective breath.  Today I ponder and feel a heady lightness of gratitude as I reflect on the amazing exhibitions (such as Archives Reveal and Cuban Bricolage), student projects (such as Children of the Soil), and partnerships (including Celebrate People’s History and Interference Archives) of this past semester.  Wow!  Each incorporated and illuminated archival materials from collections here in Archives and Special Collections and in very different ways. It brings to mind that other activity of spring time in Storrs, the engine-like turning and tilling of the soil, the annual aeration and tending of ground that make deep roots and plentiful, fertile, bee-worthy blossoms possible.

It was a special pleasure on April 21 to attend the launch of the John Temple Papers Project and to hear the clever, funny and wise words of Eleanor Reeds, PhD candidate in UConn’s Department of English, teacher, blogger, and now publisher and creator of the John Temple Papers digital exhibition and digital humanities project. The celebration featured poetry readings, a demonstration of features of the web site,  and a presentation by Reeds who emphasized the theoretical foundation and origins of the project.  After two years of work, close-reading, experimentation, textual analysis and transcription, and decision-making, the John Temple Papers Project – a work of scholarship and an inventive peeling back and applying of layers of 31b3c55a8b8d126f2491e0c560aa80c3b92f03029026e90c67d51c46269ab47ctechnological onion skin – makes available digitally for the first time a selection of the poet’s literary manuscripts, typescripts, letters and production galley proofs.  Readers are invited to “Experience the Archive” and to explore Temple’s revisions of individual poems via a digital interface.  The materiality and arrangement of the manuscripts, and the play and presence of the author’s hand, are emphasized.  With permission of the poet himself, Reeds presents the manuscripts as high-resolution images derived from the original documents in the John Temple Papers preserved in Archives and Special Collections.

Reeds explains,

As a scholar of predominantly nineteenth-century poetry and print culture, I had always been interested in the process of editing poems and the assumptions underlying any approach to the reality that almost every poet significantly revises their work, before and even after publication. By making available all the possible versions of a poem—including those represented within a single document through annotation—I hope to prompt further interest in how we can allow readers to appreciate poems as far from fixed entities that should not be regarded through a narrative timeline that privileges either original inspiration or teleological perfection.

 

With this end in mind, the Omeka platform has been utilized to enable users of this website to browse multiple instantiations of three poems written by John Temple as his 1973 collection, The Ridge (originally titled The War Changed Me), was developed for publication under the editorship of Andrew Crozier. Temple is a British revival poet whose connection with Charles Olson is what likely led to some of his papers coming to the University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections.

 

Writing in 1970, Jim Burns described Temple as “too little known or published,” noting how he had “absorbed American technical innovations and applied them to his own experiences in the North-East of England.” Burns’s essay—now collected in Brits, Beats, and Outsiders (Penniless Press, 2012)—is entitled “English-English Poetry.” It surveys a contemporary group of “non-Establishment” poets with “small, quiet voices,” poets characterized by their “long-lined dense texture in which they seem to write around the subject rather than about it.” The three poems by Temple I have chosen to feature in this exhibition tend toward a shorter line length. However, in their evocation of complex emotions through the anecdotal details of otherwise quotidien experiences, they can certainly be regarded as exemplifying Burns’s judgment.

 

Congratulations Eleanor Reeds!  Thank you John Temple, and thank you to staff of the University of Connecticut Libraries’ Scholars Collaborative, and UConn faculty.  I am delighted that John Temple’s poetry and his archives are available and presented anew, from the page to new fertile ground, to another generation of readers.  Read on!

 

Children of the Soil: Generations of South Africans under Apartheid – Exhibition Opening and Keynote

IMG_20160425_Children1revChildren of the Soil is a new and fascinating exhibition that explores the human and cultural impact of Apartheid on generations of South Africans from the 1940s to the 1990s. Featuring archival photographs, oral histories, illustrations, maps, newsprint, and data derived from archival sources including the African National Congress Oral History Transcripts Collection, The Impact Visuals Photograph Collection, and
Aluka, a database of materials on liberation movements, the exhibition is the culmination of months of research, design, and analysis by UConn undergraduates, graduates students, faculty and independent researchers under the direction of Project Director Fiona Vernal, Assistant Professor, Department of History, The Human Rights and Africana Studies Institutes, and staff in the Digital Media and Design Department.  The exhibition is now on view in the west hallway gallery of UConn’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

IMG_20160425_children2rev

From the 1940s to the 1990s, Africans debated the best strategies for defeating the apartheid regime that came to power in South Africa in 1948.  After three centuries of Dutch and British colonialism, apartheid introduced Africans to an unprecedented scale of state-sponsored violence, land dispossession, and segregation.  Successive generations of youth pursued vastly different visions of the role of mass demonstrations, armed revolt, non-racialism, and cultural nationalism in achieving freedom, equality, and human rights.  In the 1990s, the African National Congress revisited the strategy of negotiation and compromise from a non-racial platform that viewed all South Africans as children of the soil, proclaiming: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.”

Join us for the Exhibition Opening and Reception tomorrow, Wednesday, April 27 at 4:00pm in Konover Auditorium at the Dodd Research Center.  Dr. Angel Nieves, Associate Professor of African Studies and Digital Humanities at Hamilton College, is the Keynote Speaker for this special event.  The event is free and open to the public.

In a related event, Dr. Nieves is also scheduled to speak at the UConn Humanities Institute on Thursday, April 28, 12:30-2:30pm (Austin Building Room 301).  His talk Building a 3D Human Rights Platform: Witness Testimony and Spatial History in South Africa will engage the question  “How do we map violence, resistance, and freedom across space and time?”  Dr. Nieves will discuss considerations and challenges in the design and development of a digital platform for human rights and historical recovery work for use in communities not only in South Africa but across the African Diaspora.  Dr. Nieves is Co-Director of Hamilton College’s Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi).

Supported by funding from the Department of History; Humanities Institute; The Africana Studies Institute; UNESCO Chair in Comparative Human Rights; Digital Media & Design Department; UCHI; UConn Global Affairs; Archives & Special Collections; and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.