LGBTQ+ Activism in Connecticut

For many, the gay liberation movement began on June 28, 1969. At the Stonewall Inn, a bar located in New York City’s Greenwich Village, patrons and neighborhood residents fought back against a violent police raid in the early morning hours. The crowd’s fierce resistance against law enforcement quickly grew into an uprising that lasted six days and signaled the arrival of a militant and confrontational movement for the liberation of LGBTQ+ people.

For students attending the University of Connecticut, something like their own Stonewall moment came a few years later, in the 1971-1972 academic year. By then, the UConn Gay Alliance, founded in 1967 by Peter Aubichon and Paul Harrison, had grown from a small private group to an officially recognized student organization. As part of its activities, the organization began to hold dances at the Inner College trailer on campus.

Around 2:00 am on the night of the first dance, some fraternity members “started screaming obscenities, yelling, and throwing bottles and rocks” at the trailer and those gathered outside. But similar to Stonewall, those attending the dance fought back. “Of course we started yelling back like maybe we could start something, like crack their heads,” one of dance attendees later recounted, “It was amazing!”

The meetings, dances, and other activities organized by the UConn Gay Alliance proved that by the early 1970s, the gay liberation movement had arrived on campus. Yet the State of Connecticut and its flagship university had long been home to various forms of LGBTQ+ activism and organizing.

In the 1950s, the homophile movement took shape as LGBTQ+ people began to organize and agitate for their rights. Groups like the Mattachine Society, ONE, Inc., and the Daughters of Bilitis sought to raise awareness, unify LGBTQ+ people, and challenge widespread social stigmas. Yet unlike later struggles for gay liberation, the homophile movement adopted a more cautious and gradual approach.

In the early 1960s, Foster Gunnison, Jr., who had arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, to pursue a master’s degree at Trinity College, began to immerse himself in the homophile movement. He offered his services as a secretary to the Eastern Conference of Homophile Organizations (ECHO), an early coalition of organizations working to create a national homophile organization. Then, in 1966, he was appointed Chair of the Credentials Committee for the North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO).

From 1965 to 1969, Gunnison collected the office and conference records of ECHO and NACHO, along with the records and periodicals of several LGBTQ+ organizations throughout the United States. During this period, Gunnison even founded his own organization, the Institute for Social Ethics (ISE) and in 1967 wrote the pamphlet, An Introduction to the Homophile Movement.

While Gunnison busied himself with preserving and documenting the homophile movement, students such as Daniel Campbell explored the spaces opened up by a burgeoning counterculture back on the University of Connecticut campus. Campbell attended UConn as a graduate student in 1967-68. In a poignant memoir, Campbell describes his pre-Stonewall experience on campus. “We may have been closeted to one degree or another,” he writes, “but we did not live in isolation.”

The rise of the counterculture and the hippie movement supplied a shared context. As young men faced the prospect of the military draft, and young women, the loss of their brothers and boyfriends, “they escaped into a separate reality and took liberties no generation had dared take before.” Campbell notes that LGBTQ+ people “shared in those liberties” in different ways. For Campbell and others, the popular slogan, “the personal is political,” became an everyday reality.

In the 1980s, The HIV/AIDS crisis that racked the LGBTQ+ community also generated notable forms of organizing and activism in Connecticut. The Connecticut Women’s Educational and Legal Fund (CWEALF), a non-profit public interest law firm founded in 1973, originally sought to help women gain equality under the law. But along with this mission, CWEALF began to hold conferences and other events in Hartford and around Connecticut to share information about HIV/AIDS and provide the LGBTQ+ community with resources to secure their legal rights.

Much of the LGBTQ+ activism, organizing, and educational work that continued in the 1990s and the first decades of the twenty-first century also made their mark on the University of Connecticut and around the state. After several years of organizing, planning, and lobbying by students and staff, UConn opened the Rainbow Center on campus in 1999. Still operating today, the center is dedicated to serving the needs of the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Throughout this period, LGBTQ+ activists and organizations across Connecticut also helped lead the movement for marriage equality, both in the state and the nation.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of LGBTQ+ activism and organizing at the University of Connecticut and across the state, Archives & Special Collections holds a wealth of material that may interest you. Among some of our relevant collections are:

University of Connecticut, President’s Office Records The collection comprises extensive material, especially administrative files and correspondence, from the offices of UConn’s various presidents. The records of presidents Homer D. Babbidge (1962–1972) and John A. DiBiaggio (1979-1985) are particularly useful. Both contain correspondence and other material relating to LGBTQ+ issues on campus, such as the emergence and activities of the gay liberation movement in the early 1970s. The finding aid for Homer Babbidge’s office records can be accessed here: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/789 and the finding aid for John A. DiBiaggio’s office records can be accessed here: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/603

Alternative Press Collection The Alternative Press Collection (APC) includes thousands of national and international newspapers, serials, books, pamphlets, ephemera and artifacts documenting activists and organizations from the 1800s to the present. Alongside the President’s Office Records, the APC files provide a bottom up look at LGBTQ+ organizing at UConn. Especially notable are materials from the Storrs Gay Coalition and the UConn Gay Alliance. The APC also contains voluminous materials from other LGBTQ+ organizations in Connecticut and throughout the United States. The APC can best be consulted using the card catalog available at Archives & Special Collections, though some digitized materials can be accessed here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19920001APCFiles

Daniel R. Campbell Papers The papers comprise a manuscript, a published article, and copies of photographs from Daniel R. Campbell, who attended UConn in 1967-1968 and was one of the first openly gay students on campus. The manuscript describes Campbell’s experiences at UConn and elsewhere, and offers insight and perspective on pre-Stonewall LGBTQ+ culture on campus. Campbell describes his life during this period, some discrimination he faced on campus, his interactions with students and professors, and comments on the wider culture of the late-1960s. In particular, Campbell highlights the hippie movement and the counterculture as helping to open space for living as an openly gay person during this period. The finding aid can be accessed here: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/284

University of Connecticut, Rainbow Center Records The collection comprises administrative records, financial records, correspondence, publications, and other materials such as newspapers, brochures, pamphlets, and posters associated with the UConn Rainbow Center. The center was founded in 1999 after several years of organizing, planning, and lobbying by students and staff. The center is dedicated to supporting the needs of the LGBTQIA+ members of the campus community, and the collection documents the center’s history and activities up to the present day. The finding aid can be accessed here: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/962

Foster Gunnison, Jr. Papers The collection comprises personal correspondence, organizational records, conference proceedings, serial publications and periodicals, posters and fliers, buttons, newspaper clippings, and photographs relating to LGBTQ+ activism in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as other issues such as smoker’s rights and barbershop quartets. Foster Gunnison, Jr. collected a range of materials from the homophile movement in Connecticut and across the United States, and later founded his own organization, the Institute for Social Ethics (ISE). The collection provides materials on a wide range of LGTBQ+ organizations in Connecticut, many of which have been digitized. The finding aid can be accessed here: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/413 and digitized materials can be accessed here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19960009SIIISE

Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund Records The collection comprises administrative files, committee reports, legal testimony, workshop materials, lists of contacts and referrals, records on outreach and education, as well as related materials such as flyers, handouts, surveys, etc. The Connecticut Women’s Educational and Legal Fund (CWEALF), a non-profit public interest law firm, was founded in 1973. CWEALF helps women gain equality under the law and focuses on discrimination in such areas as education, employment, insurance, and health care. CWEALF is also concerned with reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ issues. In particular, relevant materials concern education and outreach on legal rights for gays and lesbians, as well as medical and legal information surrounding the HIV/AIDS crisis. The finding aid can be accessed here: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/334

Marriage Equality and LGBT Activism in Connecticut Oral History Collection The collection comprises eleven oral histories with leading activists in Connecticut who have been a part of the marriage equality movement and engaged in other forms of LGBTQ+ activism in the state and beyond. The interviews were conducted by Valerie Love, Curator for Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections, between July 2010 and April 2011. Six of the eleven interviews have been transcribed and are available. The finding aid can be accessed here: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/925 and digitized transcripts from the collection can be accessed here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A20110076

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Musicology in the Archives

The Spring 2020 semester is off to a roaring start with curricular engagement in the Archives & Special Collections. In addition to several classes visiting the archives for introductory sessions, return visits for collections use, and weekly sessions about memory and the recorded past, the UConn archives is taking part in teaching a School of Music seminar for the first time this semester. Currently, Archivist Graham Stinnett is co-teaching Music 3410W on Archives, Music, Memory and Culture with Prof. Jesús Ramos-Kittrell, Assistant Professor in Residence of Music History and Ethnomusicology in the UConn School of Fine Arts.

Students have engaged with assigned readings from popular culture scholars to critical theorists, amateur historians and archivists, as well as producers in the record business and public librarians. The course works with three major musical genres, the Country Blues, Psychedelic Rock, and Punk Rock drawing from the respective collecting areas at the UConn Archives: Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and African American Vernacular Musical Culture; Alternative Press Collection; Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection. Students are asked to engage with primary sources to investigate the production of a musical culture through its recorded past. As a writing class requirement the students will produce a research project and presentation drawing on topics found in the archives as well as their personal experiences with music in the digital age and notions of their own personal archives as far as the materialist commodity of music is concerned.

We look forward to working with students this semester to develop their critical learning skills through archives and producing unique and engaging projects that shed light on how young adults engage with music and make it their own.

The Love Game

Oliver O. Jensen was a writer, editor, self-taught historian, and railroad enthusiast born in 1914 who grew up in New London, Connecticut. He attended Philips Academy at Andover, Massachusetts, matriculated to Yale University and graduated a Phi Beta Kappa student in 1936. At that point Jensen became a free-lance writer for several advertising agencies.

On June 25, 1938, Jensen submitted a patent to the U.S. Patent Office for a board game he developed, which he called The Love Game. As part of the advertising for the game he hired models and actors to enact the game “in the flesh.” He designated one of the models as Dorothy Davis, President of “Love, Inc.,” the mock company that designed the game. One of the actors was real life puppeteer Bil Baird and the photographs were taken by the now famous photographer Fritz Henle. The outdoor scenes were taken in Darien, Connecticut.

All of the captions notes were on the back of each photograph and played along with the spoof of Dorothy Davis, her twin sister Dibbie, and various players of the game.

Love goes to a party at the country home of the Love Girls. While enacting a game in the flesh, Dibbie Davis starts to recover her heart from a player who has just nabbed it. What Pres. Lottie Davis of Love, Inc., and another player are doing in the background, God knows. (Meadow is in Darien, Connecticut). [The man in the background is Oliver Jensen]
A chorus of enthusiastic yesses for Love. Picture shows girl guests in specially designed costumes at a party given by Miss Dorothy Davis, President of Love, Inc., at which guests enacted scenes from the new board game in the flesh. Here they are lined up at the start in a Darien, Connecticut, meadow for the photographer.
The villain, Bil Baird, famous puppeteer, pursues lovely Jamie Jamieson in the game of Love. She’s got his heart, which is all right with him, but he wants to gain possession of hers — which is not all right, as far as she’s concerned.
Sent Home to Mother: President Dottie Davis giving a realistic twist to one of the plays in The Love Game, rushing to the matronly arms at her home in Darien, Conn., where Love, Inc., gives a party and plays the Love Game in real life.
[Oliver Jensen with Dottie and Dibbie Davis]
Love, Inc., President Dottie Davis talks about The Love Game. [Oliver Jensen is standing on the right].
In Love’s New York Office: Miss Dorothy Davis (left), President of Love, Inc., maker of the Love Game, talks about business to her sister, Miss Dibbie Davis. Pres. Davis, who originated the humorous game on the theory that America needs Love, is known as the “Most Beautiful Corporation President in the World.”
Page from the Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent Office noting that Oliver Jensen patented The Love Game on June 25, 1938

 In 1940 Jensen landed a permanent writing position on the staff of Life Magazine in 1940. After the outbreak of World War II, he took a duration-of-the-war leave from Life in 1942 to join the United States Navy with the rank of ensign. From 1942-1943 he served on the U.S.S. Babbitt, a First World War destroyer deployed on convoy duties in North Atlantic and Icelandic waters in addition to Carribean and North African runs. After transfering to naval aviation, Oliver spent time in England among search-plane squadrons and served in the Pacific aboard the U.S.S. Yorktown until the end of the war. Drawing on his experiences in the Navy, Oliver penned Carrier War in 1945 and returned to Life Magazine as a writer/editor until 1950.

Following his employment with Life, Jensen co-founded American Heritage Publishing Company along with James Parton and Joseph J. Thorndike, Jr. The non-advertising, hardcover, popular history magazine American Heritage was launched soon after in 1954. While serving as editor from 1959-1976, he also wrote numerous articles for American Heritage and its sister publication Horizon Magazine. From 1971-1974, he served as president of the Connecticut Valley Railroad Company and from 1976-1980 as chairman of the board of directors. In 1981, Jensen went on to become chief of the division of prints and photographs at the Library of Congress until 1983. He remained involved with American Heritage Magazine and a variety of clubs and organizations dealing closely with history, railroads and Connecticut, including Connecticut Historical Society, Acorn Club, Friends of the Alice Austen House, Society of American Historians, Eastern National Park and Monument Association, Century Association, Yale Club, and American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. After spending much of his life in Connecticut, Oliver died on June 30, 2005 and is buried near his home in Norwich.

Oliver Jensen donated his papers to the UConn Archives in 2003.

Pea Soup and Pink Loafers

The following guest post is by Elizabeth Barnett, recipient of the 2019 Billie M. Levy Travel and Research Grant. Ms. Barnett is an assistant professor of English at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, where she is the director of the Midwest Poets Series and editor of the Rockhurst Review. Her essays and poems have appeared in Modernism/modernity, Gulf Coast, and The Massachusetts Review. She is working, with great pleasure, on Marshall’s literary biography, tentatively titled Egads!

“But how then can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death? Why hurry them along? Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). I don’t give a damn whether they eat or not.”

—Frank O’Hara, “Personism”

James Marshall’s voice had two kinds of drawls, the homey “ahs” of his Texas childhood—“I was told y’all are shy. You can’t be any shyer than I am”—and the playful “ohs” of the queer, East Coast communities he moved to soon after—“I live in New York as well as Connecticut and I go to galleries all the time and everything I see in painting is soooooo dull, suuuuuuch crap.” Marshall’s voice maps his identity. It also conceals it. A voice, as opposed to the words it speaks, can’t be “on the record,” so can supplement, complicate, and contradict those words.

I knew Marshall’s authorial voice—witty, warm, and weird—from gentle hippo friends George and Martha; sweet teacher Miss Nelson and her witchy alter ego, Viola Swamp; and the tragiocomedic Stupid family.[1]

Cover of George and Martha by James Marshall

More than 25 years after his death, I came to know Marshall’s actual voice when University of Connecticut archivist Kristin Eshelman guided me to an amazing and extensive cache of recordings. From 1976 to 1990 Marshall visited his friend, one-time landlady, and devoted admirer, Francelia Butler’s “kiddie lit” class most semesters, reading his stories; chatting about the art world, publishing industry, and their intersection in picture books; and, most revealingly, participating in Q&As. Thanks to the generosity of Billie Levy and the University of Connecticut Libraries, I was able to listen to the run of these tapes, which begin at the peak of Marshall’s career and end two years before his death of complications from AIDS.

Marshall’s first visit, from the Fall 1976 class photo album. (The class made a photo album!). Francelia Butler Papers, Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library

A question I had for the tapes: how did Marshall navigate being a gay artist at a time when it was, full stop, impossible to be an openly gay man making books for children? Eavesdropping on those Regan-era, AIDS-blighted years, I never heard Marshall say he was gay.  He never spoke as though he weren’t. Marshall’s authorial persona, distilled in his voice, suggests a key insight about his books, which also had to straddle the line between authentic artistic creations and market-dictated norms. What he says and how he says it are analogous to the words and pictures in one of his books. The voice says what the words can’t, just as the pictures, at times, undercut the moralistic conventions of children’s literature.

In Butler’s classroom, for example, I heard Marshall gesture to the limits of what he was allowed to say in an October 10, 1979, interaction with a female student. The student asked if Marshall was married. Marshall answered first with several beats of silence, then with a single word, “no,” then another beat of silence, then “I’m not” followed by a dismissive “next question.” The question asker perhaps wanted to catch Marshall out or perhaps didn’t understand what Marshall’s voice had been telling her. She asks an “innocent,” superficially unobjectionable question. But that banal surface hides (or not) the power of the dominant culture that the question summons. It really asks: Are you one of us? The asker uses the language of power and Marshall subverts that language by making it superfluous, his answer conveyed through silence and tone, not the words themselves.

This brief interaction reminded me of “Split Pea Soup,” the first story in 1972’s George and Martha, Marshall’s first book as both author and illustrator. It begins, “Martha was very fond of making split pea soup. Sometimes she made it all day long. Pots and pots of split pea soup.” These three simple sentences amplify each other and give a sense of something a little off about Martha’s soup making, the repetition mirroring Martha’s repetitive actions, recasting conventional domesticity as a less-cozy compulsion. Why is she making soup all day long? Why is she making so much? What begins in a normal place ends in a slightly absurd one. Or perhaps it’s just that the absurdity of normality comes through in the repetition. In the illustration, the framed slogan “Soup’s On” underlines Martha’s extreme enthusiasm for soup.

Illustration of Martha cooking pea soup

James Marshall, George and Martha

The illustration shows Martha, a hippo, in a massive checkered apron tied with an equally massive bow. She wears no other clothes. Her performance of femininity draws attention not to her femininity but its status as performance. (Here I echo and Marshall anticipates Judith Butler’s theorization of performativity). She is a topless large animal playing the part of a demure housewife. A drawn border surrounds the image, emphasizing that, like Martha in the kitchen, the book itself is performing. The redundant border puts “children’s story” in quotation marks by not allowing the page itself to function as the boundary, by insisting on something more artful, and by drawing attention to that artificiality. 

So Martha loves making soup. We then learn that George hates split pea soup but eats it anyway to make Martha happy. However, he’s only hippo and reaches a point where he can eat no more. How, though, can he tell Martha that this good, normal thing she’s doing makes him miserable? He can’t—he pours the soup into his loafers. His pink loafers. And Martha catches him.

James Marshall, George and Martha

“Light in his loafers” was a common euphemism for homosexuality in the mid-century heyday of loafers and sexual repression. Pink is coded as female or gay. Until a new, more economical method of full-color printing was pioneered in Japan in the mid-1980s,  most of Marshall’s illustrations were color overlays, which means that Marshall drew the picture then traced each thing that he wanted to be yellow, or blue, or red onto separate sheets of paper and colored those in with graphite, indicating if any colors were to be diluted by giving the percentage of that color to be applied. All to say, the pink was absolutely a deliberate choice.

Color overlay for George and Martha One Fine Day

Example of color overlay from George and Martha One Fine Day. de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, University of Southern Mississippi.

George’s disposal of the soup in his loafers might be read as a symbolic refusal of compulsory heterosexuality. It is also a refusal of language, suggesting the complicity between the two. George “says” he hates the soup through his actions because language would imbricate him in the very power structure he’s resisting. I see Martha as the question-asker here. She is playing the feminine role as she’s supposed to. She’s aligned with the dominant culture. George is Marshall; he can’t tell Martha he hates the soup because here she is doing exactly what she’s supposed to do (however inane), and he’s messing it up. George avoids the language trap just as author/illustrator Marshall does—they don’t put the subversive part into words. 

The too-pat ending of “Split Pea Soup,”—Martha tells George, “Friends should always tell each other the truth,” and they eat chocolate chip cookies—to me signals that Marshall wants his reader to feel the tension between what the story says and what it means. I probably think that because that’s what I hear happening in the classroom interactions on the archive’s audio tapes. Marshall’s language, punctuated with strategic silences and curtness, insists on its own inadequacy, drawing an arrow to what’s left out. The story’s sharp turn to the didactic reads to me like the drawn border around the illustrations. It signals its own performativity, here of the norms of the picture book, which are weakened, rather than reinforced, by their inclusion.

Frank O’Hara’s 1959 critique of poetry-as-moral-vitamin anticipates Marshall’s later refusal of children’s literature’s didactic imperative. In both cases, queer writers already existed outside of mainstream culture, their morality maligned by that culture. It follows they may have been especially wary of the inherent value of literature being used for ethical indoctrination. Both suggest the value of their art form is not the moments it teaches us something, but the moments it refuses to.

In 1979 Marshall “answered” the student question with words that would not endanger his art and livelihood.  Marshall’s delivery suggests he wants the audience to know that’s why he’s saying them. The performative conformity is one way to understand the more conventional moments in Marshall’s startlingly original body of work. He tells us when he’s playing by the rules to protect the magic of when he’s not.


[1] The latter credit Harry Allard with authorship but, as Jerrold Connors convincingly argues in his post on this site, and Marshall’s materials confirm, Allard often provided the creative spark for a piece, but Marshall shaped the narrative and the finished prose.

There & Back Again: A Hobo’s Tale

An exhibition is currently on display about Hobo culture, train hopping, and boxcar art over the last 150 years. The exhibit will run from January 9 – February 28, 2020 in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Gallery at the University of Connecticut. Drawing from the extensive railroad collections at the UConn Archives & Special Collections, this exhibit seeks to present the love of trains from an alternative approach through art, folklore, and travelogue.

The exhibition will feature an opening reception and film showing of Bill Daniel’s Who is Bozo Texino: the epic account of the improbable discovery of the true identity of the world’s greatest boxcar artist. (2005) on Thursday, February 6th, 2020 from 7-9pm.

Resources in the Archives on Storrs and Mansfield, Connecticut

As indicated in Wikipedia, Storrs, Connecticut, is a village and  census-designated place in the town of Mansfield, within eastern Tolland County, Connecticut, United States. The population was 15,344 at the  2010 census. It is dominated economically and demographically by the presence of the main campus of the University of Connecticut.

Yes.

But…

From the Pequot and Mohegan people who originally inhabited the region to the legal incorporation of the Town of Mansfield in 1702, the area around the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus has a long and eventful history.

The Storrs name first became associated with the area in the seventeenth century. In 1663, Samuel Storrs left Nottinghamshire, England, to begin a new life in North America. Landing first in Massachusetts, he moved to what is now Mansfield, Connecticut, in 1698, where he founded a family farm in the area around UConn’s present-day campus.

The more proximate connection between the Storrs family and the University of Connecticut centers on brothers Charles and Augustus Storrs. Descendants of Samuel Storrs, the Storrs brothers were born in the early nineteenth century and raised to work on the family farm just as members of the Storrs family had done for generations. As young men, though, Charles and Augustus left the farm for New York, where both became successful businessmen.

In 1880, the Storrs brothers offered $5,000 and 170 acres of land and some buildings to found an agricultural school in Connecticut. After some investigation, the General Assembly accepted the offer and established the Storrs Agricultural School in 1881. In the following decades, the school continued to grow and change. During the 1930s, the agricultural school completed its transformation into a modern research university and after several name changes became known as the University of Connecticut in 1939. Since then, the University has continued to expand and adapt to the needs and interests of the state, the student population, and the wider landscape of higher education.

But some lineages of the late nineteenth century still remain. For example, the original Storrs post office, run by the Whitney family, still stands near Mirror Lake (though it’s not currently in use). The Storrs Brothers are still around too. Both are buried in the New Storrs Cemetery located along North Eagleville Road.

If you’d like to know more about the history of the Storrs area beyond the confines of the University, one place to look is Archives & Special Collections. Among some of our relevant collections are:

Women’s Club of Storrs Records. The Women’s Club of Storrs was founded in 1903. Originally called the College Club, the purpose of the organization was to promote literary and social culture. Membership consisted of women associated with the University of Connecticut, including some of the university’s female faculty and the wives of male faculty members. In 1917, the club changed its name to the Women’s Club of Storrs and opened membership to any women in the local community interested in joining. The collection comprises the organization’s working papers, including meeting minutes, reports, bulletins, yearbooks, as well as photographs and newspaper clippings concerning the Club’s activities. The yearbook (membership directory) of the organization is restricted for ten years from the date of publication. https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/755

Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station Records. The Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station is one of the first of its kind was established in 1888 with Wesleyan University Professor Wilbur Olin Atwater as its director. The station conducted research and experiments to further agricultural science in Connecticut. The station published its findings in bulletins that were made available to local residents. Field experiments were conducted at Storrs Agricultural School, while laboratory work was performed at Wesleyan. In 1903, Professor Atwater resigned and the station became associated solely with the University of Connecticut. The collection comprises substantial information on the early history of the station, especially correspondence between station staff and local farmers and businesses interested in their findings. https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/40

World Federalist Association, Mansfield (Connecticut) Chapter Records. The World Federalist Movement emerged in the 1930s and 1940s out of concerns about the perceived inadequacies of the League of Nations. Members hoped to create a world government that would abolish war and ensure peace by using international law to manage global problems. The Mansfield Chapter of the World Federalist Association, the oldest continually operating chapter in the United States, was founded in 1948. The collection comprises pamphlets and newsletters from both the national association and the local chapter; material on the arms race, nuclear winter, and other topics; as well as correspondence, membership lists, memos, and statements. The collection also includes the personal files of Lawrence Abbott, who ran the chapter for many years. https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/743

Storrs Congregational Church Records. The Second Ecclesiastical Society, creator of the Storrs Congregational Church, was authorized by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1737. Its parent church was the First Congregational Church of Mansfield Center. The first meeting house was built in 1745-1746 on the site of the current church, the present corner of North Eagleville Road and CT Route 195. Situated adjacent to the campus of the University of Connecticut, the church has served the town and the university jointly since the creation of the Storrs Agricultural School in 1881. The collection comprises administrative records and historical documents of the Storrs (Connecticut) Congregational Church. https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/684

Edwin O. Smith High School Records. In 1955, the Connecticut General Assembly authorized funding for the construction of a junior-senior high school in Mansfield, Connecticut, to be administered by the University of Connecticut. The purpose of the school was to provide secondary education in the Town of Mansfield, as well as to train teachers for schools throughout Connecticut. The school opened in the fall of 1958 as a division of the UConn School of Education. The University named the school after Edwin Oscar Smith, who served as acting-president of UConn in 1908. In 1987, the University formally transferred the property and buildings to the Town of Mansfield. The collection comprises administrative records and correspondence from the early years of the school, as well as blueprints from a building addition to the school in the mid-1960s. https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/361

Storrs Family Photograph Collection. The collections contains photographs of the property of Augustus Storrs in Mansfield, Connecticut, that is now part of the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut. Monographs associated with the photographs have been separated and catalogued. https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/683

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

Another relevant place for research on the town of Mansfield is the Mansfield Historical Society.

And lastly, let’s not forget that in 2005 Storrs was named by Slate as “America’s Best Place to Avoid Death Due to Natural Disaster.” You can bet the full-time residents of Storrs enjoy that one and throw it out as often as possible.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

Importance of Grassroots Activism in Crafting a Larger Movement: Student Exhibit

by Mackenzie Caron, Undergraduate Intern

Exhibition Currently on View

Environment of Change: The Importance of Grassroots Activism in Crafting a Larger Movement

December 2 to December 15, 2019, Reading Room

Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut

Historical archives provide students and researchers with a variety of source materials for investigating contemporary social issues and the development of social movements.  In my exhibit I explore environmental grassroots activism, utilizing archival materials including pamphlets, posters, zines, periodicals, underground press publications, artist’s books, and organizational records to highlight environmental issues of the 1970s and 1980s and illustrate how grass roots organizations responded to the political and social pressures of their time.  I also provide examples of how contemporary organizations and activists are responding to environmental changes and crises of the present day.

The 1970s and 80s saw the birth of the environmental movement we know today, as Deborah Lynn Guber explains in The Grassroots of a Green Revolution. That period represented a coalescence of various grassroots efforts throughout the United States. The sources in this exhibition demonstrate the different approaches and viewpoints taken during those decades on environmental protection. Many methods of environmental activism were employed, including conservation and regulation both by protest and by lobbying, education through protest and distribution of independent presses, and spreading awareness through artistic projects. These efforts were aided by an independent press that allowed for a free exchange of ideas outside of commercial news outlets. The viewpoints within the exhibit vary wildly, as does the expertise, but in all of these sources there is a commitment to preserving our natural resources and the tools of protest and free communication by which we protect them.  Together, these sources demonstrate the ways grassroots activism can work effectively to create change.

The sources consulted in the creation of this exhibition are listed in an annotated bibliography.

Exhibition on Display From December 2 to December 15, 2019, Reading Room, Archives and Special Collections, Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut

Free and open to the public, Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm.

Resources in the Archives — Jewish Voices: Personal Accounts of the Holocaust

“I remember distinctly how it all began. The day when the gates of the Ghetto were closed and a watch was set at its entrances. It was 1939…and nobody realized that it [was] going to be an overture to what has been the most tragic opera ever played in the history of humanity.” – Irena Urdang de Tour

In her account of life in the Warsaw ghetto, Irena de Tour provides insight into the experience of Jews and other persecuted minorities during the Holocaust. The ghetto and the horrors suffered by its inhabitants would be repeated in other Jewish communities across Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. World War II allowed Hitler and Nazi officials to undertake the “Final Solution” to what they considered the “Jewish question.” Relying primarily on the use of extermination camps, Hitler’s “Final Solution” resulted in the murder of six million Jews (nearly two-thirds of European Jewry) by the end of the war in 1945. The destruction of entire Jewish communities meant that once liberation came, Holocaust survivors often had no homes to which they could return. As a result, displaced persons camps run by the Allied powers and the United Nations Refugee and Rehabilitation Administration took in more than 250,000 survivors. Many Jewish displaced persons left Europe for Israel, while others (including Irena and her family) immigrated to the United States.

Archives & Special Collections holds materials across multiple collections that tell the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of survivors. This includes records from the 1945-1946 Nuremberg Trials, which make up part of Senator Thomas J. Dodd’s papers. At the Nuremberg Trials, prosecutors collected evidence of the atrocities committed by the Nazis against Jews and other groups perceived to be biologically or racially inferior. Additionally, the archives holds collections containing personal stories of Holocaust survivors, some of whom settled in Connecticut after the war. Recorded at different times, these individual narratives give a human face to the events of the war, and offer details concerning life for Eastern European Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust. Also available are publications from a variety of Jewish and human rights organizations, which include accounts of survivors. These collections help to keep the experiences and voices of those who lived through the Holocaust present in the minds of people today and in the future.

Irena Urdang de Tour Collection of Holocaust Materials: The materials in this collection include de Tour’s account of her life and escape from the Warsaw ghetto, as well as stories from other Holocaust survivors. The collection is also comprised of a variety of newsletters, publications, letters, and other documents from Holocaust survivor and support organizations in the United States. Additionally, the collection contains periodicals from American Jewish organizations. The finding aid is available at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/846.

University of Connecticut, Center for Oral History Interviews Collection: Under the subgroup, “Holocaust Survivors in the Connecticut Region, 1980-1981,” this collection contains twenty-six oral histories from Holocaust survivors living in Connecticut. Conducted by UConn’s Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life, these oral histories include information about survivors’ lives before, during, and after the Holocaust. In some cases, the survivors discuss how they were able to maintain their faith while living through the horrors of the camps, including one memorable story from Isidore Greengrass about how he and his fellow prisoners celebrated Passover at Auschwitz. The finding aid is available at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/archival_objects/146101.

University of Connecticut Film Collection: This collection includes videos and films taken during conferences, presentations, and activities at the university. Two videos in particular contain stories from Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel. These were recorded in October of 1995 at the “Fifty Years after Nuremberg: Human Rights and the Rule of Law” event, which was held to dedicate the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The first video, “Fifty Years after Nuremberg: Nobel Laureate Address by Elie Wiesel” (1995), is available at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860073877. The second, “Fifty Years after Nuremberg: Nuremberg and the Legacy of the Survivors” (1995) is available at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860073866.

Thomas J. Dodd Papers: this collection consists of materials pertaining to Dodd’s career as an attorney and Connecticut senator. Significantly, the collection contains records of Dodd’s work as a member of the team of U.S. prosecutors at the Nuremberg war crimes trial before the International Military Tribunal from 1945-1946. Included is a section on human rights, specifically from the case for crimes against humanity. This consists of trial briefs and translated documents used as evidence, including materials dating back to 1936 detailing anti-Semitic measures taken by the German government. Also part of this collection are transcripts of presentations Dodd gave before the court about the concentration camps. Some of his evidence came from affidavits taken right after US troops liberated certain camps (such as Flossenburg and Mauthausen), as well as translated letters from survivors recounting their experiences. Dodd’s papers also include excerpts from the “Israelitisches Wochenblatt,” a Jewish newspaper that recorded atrocities against the Jews during the war. The finding aid is available at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/771 and digitized documents and photographs are at https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3AIMTNuremberg

Norman H Finkelstein Papers: An award-winning author of nonfiction for children and adults, Norman Finkelstein writes on the Holocaust, the Jewish-American experience, and other topics within Jewish history. This collection contains Finkelstein’s manuscripts, galleys, proofs, professional correspondence, as well as published and unpublished works. The finding aid is available at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/374.

Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection: Founded with the purpose to educate people on human rights issues, the Human Rights Internet Collection holds thousands of publications from around the world on human rights related topics. The materials in this collection date from 1977 to the present, and contain materials not available in other North American libraries. Most of the publications consist of non-professional reports and studies, newsletters, and other documents collected from non-government organizations. Also included in the collection are books, journals, magazines, and newspapers acquired from human rights groups such as the Human Rights Watch, the International Council on Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Anti-Slavery International. In particular, the collection holds publications concerning the Holocaust and information about Jewish survivors. The finding aid is available at https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/110.

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room in Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center if you need resources on Jewish accounts of the Holocaust. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives. Additional information on the Holocaust can be found at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at https://www.ushmm.org/, and Yad Vashem: the World Holocaust Remembrance Center at https://www.yadvashem.org/.

This post was written by Alexandra Borkowski, a UConn PhD student and student assistant in Archives & Special Collections.

DAYGLO AND NAPALM – In Closing: The Making of a Dissident

Peace March, New York City, April 15,1967.
Howard S. Goldbaum Collection of Connecticut Daily Campus Negatives.

The following essay is an extended closing remark to the exhibition Day-Glo and Napalm: UConn from 1967-1971, by guest curator and contributor, George Jacobi (’71).The exhibition runs until Friday, October 25th, 2019.

Thanks to the GI Bill, the Fifties are a favorable time for most Americans home from the war to build a career and raise a family. Powered by Unions as well, the rise of the largest middle class in history finally includes some Black and Latino citizens. Suburbia is invented. The 1964 World’s Fair in New York promises we’ll all be working far fewer hours and getting there in a flying car, asserting that technology only benefits mankind. Robots will do the tough jobs. The future seems so far away that this is almost believable. Are white kids in New England spoiled? Compared with previous generations, sure we are, and so has each generation since. Growing up then is generally benign, and the result is a chance to examine ourselves and America with less national responsibility than our parents. Our patriotism thus leans toward social betterment, not defense or personal economic progress.                                                              

Under the veneer of white middle-class American life rumblings of unrest have begun. Academics are suggesting that modern society is unfulfilling. Rachel Carson has shown America that it is in the process of killing nature with chemicals. Kerouac has been “On the Road” and Jackson Pollock has blown up the art world. Jazz has turned from big band dance music into individual expression. Ginsburg writes “Howl” and thus comes out as a gay man; the book is immediately banned. Yet in Greenwich Village people are “suddenly free of the shackles, the baggage of tradition”: Liam Clancy. Nevertheless, beatniks are portrayed as a joke on TV.                                                                                                                                                  The political and cultural events that took place at UConn during the years 1967 to 1971 of course reflect wider American historical forces. For simplicity, label these Politics, Spirituality, Culture, and the Arts. In reality, they are jumbled together; breaking them down in order to clarify each is a rare side benefit of the passage of time.                                                                                                                                         

The following account lists this history, phenomena that took place or began prior to 1967. By that year, society is increasingly seen by an influential youth minority as hypocritical or empty of value. It has become apparent that the norms are mythological and serve only the powerful. Alienation results with what is initially a quiet insurrection against uncritical acceptance of the status quo. While most of the country isn’t paying attention, there is a cultural shift; all of a sudden something changes. Several small groups at first, an anti-establishment minority slowly appears. Most folks in America and at UConn in the mid-1960s go about their own lives whether they are sympathetic to this rebellion or not. A majority of UConn students, including us, will spend most of our hours being students.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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Resources in the Archives on Student Unrest at UConn

Beginning in the late 1960s, the University of Connecticut experienced a wave of unrest that rolled across the campus, leaving few areas of the university untouched. Sit-ins, demonstrations, racist incidents, canceled classes, experimental education—everything about university life in sleepy Storrs, Connecticut, seemed to be coming unmoored from its foundation.

Luckily for those who came after, UConn survived those turbulent years. Yet that intense period of upheaval, unrest, and experimentation left a lasting legacy on the Storrs campus. Much of that legacy has furnished material for the recent Archives & Special Collection exhibit, Day-Glo and Napalm: UConn from 1967 to 1971, guest curated by alumnus George Jacobi.

If the recent exhibit has piqued your interest in learning about how the 1960s shaped the University of Connecticut, Archives & Special Collections has a wealth of archival material that may interest you. Among the relevant collections are:

President’s Office Files. The collection comprises extensive material relating to each presidential administration at UConn. The records of President Homer D. Babbidge (1962–1972) are especially relevant. Many of the most significant events from this period occurred under his tenure, and his office files, as well as those from others in his administration, shed light on key events. Especially useful is the correspondence received by the president’s office, which provides insight into how community members viewed this period of campus unrest. The finding aid can be found at: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/789

Crisis at UConn. The confluence of events at UConn in the late 1960s and early 1970s turned out to be so unprecedented that the administration commissioned a report to study the situation. The report, titled Crisis at UConn, provides useful background and supporting material on the events of the period. The finding aid can be found at: https://rhel7-arcspc251.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/324

Student and Student Organization Newspapers, Publications and Periodicals:

Connecticut Daily Campus and the UConn Free Press.There are few better sources to study the daily activities on campus than student publications. Especially relevant, in this respect, are the digitized copies of the Connecticut Daily Campus, the name of the student newspaper at the time (now simply the Daily Campus). Along with the official student newspaper, archivist have also painstakingly digitized alternative publications like the UConn Free Press. Digitized versions of the periodicals are available here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/islandora%3Acampusnewspapers

Nutmeg. Along with student publications, the Nutmeg, the University of Connecticut’s student yearbook, provides another useful source of information on this period. In particular, it provides a rich visual source for events at the time, as well as yielding significant information about student clubs, organizations, events, and the student body more generally. Digitized versions of the yearbook are available found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A02653871

Inner College Collection. One product of the upheaval at Storrs during this period was the Inner College, an experiment in alternative education founded by students and faculty in 1969. This collection contains publications produced by the Inner College faculty and students documenting the radical experiment in democratic education at UConn. The finding aid can be found at: https://archivessearch.lib.uconn.edu/repositories/2/resources/971

Husky Handjob. Along with the official student newspaper, a number of alternative publications, such as the aforementioned UConn Free Press, appeared during these tumultuous years. The Husky Handjob provides an irreverent, radical alternative to the Daily Campus for researchers interested in a more direct line to the student movement at UConn. Digitized versions of the periodical are available here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860224315

African American Cultural Center. Periodicals produced by staff and students affiliated with the African American Cultural Center can also usefully supplement the official and alternative publications mentioned above. In particular, the student-produced journal Contact documents black student activism on campus, such as an occupation of the university library by black students in 1974. Digitized versions of the periodicals are available here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20004%3AAACC

Alternative Press Collection. The Alternative Press Collection (APC) includes thousands of national and international newspapers, serials, books, pamphlets, ephemera and artifacts documenting activist themes and organizations from the 1800s to the present. Among the APC files can be found archival materials related to activism and unrest on campus, such as files produced by the UConn-chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), files produced by the coalition of black students (The Coalition) who occupied the UConn library, and files related to the Inner College (IC). The best way to consult the APC files is to use the card catalog available at Archives & Special Collections, though digital lists of available materials can be found here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A19920001APCFiles

Howard Goldbaum Collection. The photographs contained in the newly-acquired Howard Goldbaum Collection provide a rich visual document of campus upheavals in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A student photographer who worked for the Connecticut Daily Campus, Goldbaum’s photographs provide a raw, intimate portrait of campus unrest and wider student activism during the period. Digitized items draw from the collection are available here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A201900750078

Diary of a Student Revolution. When it comes to visual material, few documents provide a more rewarding viewing experience than the documentary Diary of a Student Revolution. The film was made in 1969 for National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and its program “NET Journal,” the forerunner of today’s PBS shows “Frontline,” “POV,” and “Independent Lens.” It documents protests led by the UConn-chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) against on-campus recruitment by companies such as Dow Chemical. A digitized version of the film is available to watch here: https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860070394

We invite you to view these collections in the reading room at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Our staff is happy to assist you in accessing these and other collections in the archives.

This post was written by Shaine Scarminach, a UConn History Ph.D candidate who is a student assistant in Archives & Special Collections. 

DAYGLO AND NAPALM: Singular Sixties Stories

The following guest posts by alumni Ken Sachs (’71), Michael Pagliaro (’72), Lori Wallach (’70), and Janet Rogers (’72) are in conjunction with the current UConn Archives exhibition Day-Glo & Napalm: UConn 1967-1971 guest curated by George Jacobi (’71). The exhibition is on display until October 25th in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.

Guest Post by Anonymous:

In 1969 I had a IIs deferment at UCONN that would run out in January 1970 when I completed my B.A. My roommate had served in Vietnam where he survived the battle that has been called “Hamburger Hill.” When I received my physical notice, he informed me that I needn’t worry about the draft as he would “kill me” before I was drafted rather than let me participate in that ill-advised war. Fortunately, T_____had access to some black beauties (little black capsules containing an amphetamine commonly referred to in those days as “speed”).

On the morning of my physical in the fall of 1969, I popped one of the “beauties” into my mouth and headed off to our local draft board. At age 22, I was the oldest on the bus, surrounded by a lot of naïve 18-year-olds, many just out of high school. Before the bus left, the middle-aged clerk at the draft board got on the bus waving a little U.S. flag and telling us all “how proud” she was of us all. Frankly, I wanted to strangle her for her “patriotism.” Before the bus arrived in New Haven I popped my last black beauty.

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An Incident of Racism on the UConn Campus on October 9, 1969

The Fall semester of 1969 was a time of frequent protests on campuses across the country, and the students of the University of Connecticut were ready participants and initiators of protests expressing outrage at the Vietnam War, recruiting on campus by the U.S. military and by manufacturers of weapons of war, and of racism in society. A racial incident that occurred on October 9, 1969, brought violence to campus and a resulting protest by the students.

The incident was written about in Red Brick in the Land of Steady Habits: Creating the University of Connecticut, 1881-2006, by UConn History Professor Bruce Stave:

“On Thursday, October 9, an estimated fifty to sixty black students damaged lounges and rooms in the Delta Chi fraternity house and Lancaster House. They overturned couches, broke windows, and smashed mirrors. Paint was thrown into some of the rooms at Delta Chi. That incident, which lasted no more than five minutes, stemmed from a confrontation between blacks and whites from the previous night. Lew Curtiss, one of the black students, suggested that the disturbance represented an example of “collective defense” – blacks had to be concerned with the protection of black people. The fracas at Lancaster House resulted from insults leveled at a group of black women from the fourth floor. The protesters went directly there, smashing along the way the staircase, doorway, and lounge windows; upstairs windows were also broken, beds knocked down, and a bureau smashed. Three residents received minor cuts on their hands and faces when they met the protesters at the front door. After the incident, however, Lancaster residents issued a statement taking blame for initiating the confrontation and expressing the hope that others would learn from the situation and work to solve the racial problem rationally.

Front page of the Connecticut Daily Campus of October 10, 1969

The next morning three hundred white freshmen marched quietly in single file to Gulley Hall to “express…deep concern over the failure of the University of Connecticut community to take substantive steps toward ending the racial turmoil and injustice within our community and the desire that remedies be found. Provost Gant, who had been serving as acting president during Homer Babbidge’s sabbatical (during the 1969 Fall semester), called on all to embrace with conviction the spirit of the statement and promised to distribute it throughout campus. Babbidge returned to spend the day of October 10 in conferences with students and faculty to ascertain just what had happened – and to discuss its root cause. He said he could not and would not condone property damage but emphasized, “I must assert that we cannot and will not condone d damage to person by racial insult, for whatever reason.” The insult was the more truly violent act, the more threatening to public safety, the least comprehensible. The president then announced that he had asked the chairman of the board of trustees to call a special meeting for Sunday, October 12. After meeting in executive session, the board endorsed Babbidge’s statement and called on him to give highest priority to remedying the cause of racial tension on campus.”

Statement by the Lancaster House students on page 2, of the October 10, 1969, issue of the Connecticut Daily Campus

These photographs of the October 9, 1969, silent protest were taken by Connecticut Daily Campus photographer Howard Goldbaum and can be found in our digital repository beginning here:
https://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/search/%22north%20campus%20against%20racism%22?type=edismax&cp=20002%3AUniversityofConnecticut