Albert Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts

 

When Albert Nels Jorgensen (1899-1978) came to the Connecticut State College as its seventh President in 1935, at the age of 36, enrollment numbered a mere 800 students and consisted of one campus, in Storrs. By the time he retired, 27 years later in 1962 at the age of 63, the school was known as the University of Connecticut, enrollment had grown to 13,000 students, and there were four regional campuses around the state plus plans to build a medical school in Farmington. Jorgensen led the university through trying times that included the Great Depression, the Hurricane of 1938, World War II, and the McCarthy era where academics were targeted as Communists.

On November 12, 1960, at the Silver Convocation honoring Dr. Jorgensen as President in his 25th year, he was heralded for his leadership in building the University of Connecticut from a small, rural college into a major university. Professor of Zoology Dr. Hugh Clark said that “from the beginning President Jorgensen’s tenure has been characterized by vision, by wisdom, by understanding and by courage….It is a result of recognition of the intellectual needs of Connecticut’s citizens; it is the realization of a further purpose of a University to expand the sum of knowledge and to extend its influence into the future.”

Upon notifying members of the University community of Jorgensen’s death in February 1978. then UConn President Glenn W. Ferguson wrote that “Dr. Jorgensen was a…champion of academic freedom…a person who recognized that excellence is the critical quest for a university, and who built an institution that cared about its future and cared about that quest for excellence.”

The Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts was established in 1955, named in honor of the university’s president. Its first performance was the Boston Symphony Orchestra on December 6, 1955.

 

 

Brien McMahon Hall

 

The Brien McMahon Residence Hall opened as a dormitory at the University of Connecticut in the fall of 1964. It was one of the first buildings constructed during the presidency of Homer D. Babbidge. From the outset, the building was named after Brien McMahon, the prominent lawyer and politician from Connecticut.

McMahon was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1903. He attended Fordham University and Yale Law School. He briefly became a judge for Norwalk’s City Court before serving as special assistant to the Attorney General of the United States. McMahon was elected as United States Senator for Connecticut in 1945 and served until his death in 1952. During his time in office, he became an expert in nuclear energy, authoring the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and promoting the civilian control of nuclear development.

In the Senate, McMahon served alongside William Benton, who later became a member of UConn’s Board of Trustees. In 1958, Senator Benton inaugurated a successful lecture series at UConn, the Brien McMahon Lecture Series, in honor of his late friend and fellow senator from Connecticut. The lecture series ran for a number of years, bringing prominent politicians and scholars to campus, such as Hans Morgenthau, J. William Fulbright, and Romulo Betancourt.

Today, the building is easily recognized by its recently renovated dining hall with a striking glass façade that faces onto Hillside Road.

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

Locked Down and Speaking Up: Prison Riots, Reform, and Writing from The Alternative Press Collection

Patrick Butler, Assistant Archivist for the Alternative Press Files Collection and Human Rights Collection, is a 2018 Ph.D. graduate of the UConn Medieval Studies Program.  During his time as a graduate student he worked in the UConn Archives to broaden his materials handling experience and develop skills as an archivist.  He has specialized training in medieval paleography and codicology.  

On August 21, 1971, African-American activist and author George Jackson took hostages in order to escape San Quentin State Prison.  Five of Jackson’s hostages: three prison guards and two inmates, died in the ensuing violence.  The attempted escape ended with a prison guard shooting and killing Jackson.

Two weeks later, on September 9th, 1971 approximately 1000 inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility rioted and ultimately took control of the prison facility.  The inmates took 42 staff members of the facility hostage in a bid to negotiate for prisoners’ rights.  During the four days of negation, prisoners made 27 demands among which included: better medical care, better sanitation, the end of racial discrimination, updated labor policies aligned with New York State law, and the end of the violent abuse of inmates by guards and prison administrators.

While negotiations with Corrections Services Commissioner Russel G. Oswald and the Attica inmates had initial success, the dialogue would ultimately breakdown when Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to appear at the prison in a bid to help quell the riot.  In the wake of the Governor’s refusal Oswald stated that they would retake the prison by force; Rockefeller agreed.

When the New York State Police had regained control of the prison 43 people were killed, 10 of which were hostages.

These two moments served as a flash point to bring prison conditions and prisoners’ rights into sharp focus during the seventies.  However, part of the danger that comes from thinking of prisons and prisoners exclusively in terms of the violence is that it risks reducing the bodies of prisoners as little more than sites for violence.  The aim of developing this exhibit has been to examine how materials within the Alternative Press Collections focus on the vulnerability of prisoners to the violence of the systems that shape their incarceration, how they respond to the systematic pressures that seek to justify subjecting their bodies to abuse and neglect, and the power that comes from forging communities in response to these pressures.  A quote from an Attica inmate Roger Champen distills the physical, social, and bureaucratic pressure of incarceration succinctly and eloquently, “Everything is done to you, not for you.”

We Are Attica, 1972.

While the killing of George Jackson and the Attica Prison Riot serve as a starting point for the exhibition’s historical and social context, the materials in this exhibit come from a broad historical range and include a focus on documents produced by and for Connecticut Prisons.  The Alternative Press Collection contains a wealth of material that document how prison communities develop and sustain themselves through creative writing, activism, correspondence, and even revolt.  In order to accomplish this, I looked at the materials prisoners created while in prison, or shortly after leaving prison: newsletters, protest writing, creative writing, and original artwork.  Even work published under the auspices of prison administrators allows for an avenue of expression and solidarity centered on vulnerability;

“To Be Black”

To be Black is to be seated

in Jim Crow vain

in the lonely south on a bus or

train

Because you’re Black and

your Blackness is symbolic of shame

To be Black is to hear a baby’s

screams in the rain

while be eaten by rats

in some dilapidated tenement

in Harlem

or some other place the same

To be Black is to see your mother’s

brow

after caring for another person’s home

somebody else’s child

the long lines of distress

strain

as they disfigure the make-up of her

frame

To be Black is to search in deep

despair

some other place

Freedom somewhere

Abdur Rahman (Clinton Fields) from Inside: Writings by Attica Inmates 1977-1978.

While the specific concerns of an individual piece of writing vary between violence against inmates, unjust imprisonment, political oppression, and basic human rights concerns, the language used throughout these writings, creative or otherwise is a desire for their concerns to be legible to others – to understand and to be understood.  Distinct from sympathy, the specific vulnerabilities that emerged among prison writers seems to stem from a lack of acknowledgement of their embodiment as genuinely human.  Almost reflexively, there is a recurrent theme to dismiss sympathy as a pressing desire among inmates.  Sympathy is antithetical to the goals of these writers, a source of dismissal that does not seek to understand a fundamental connection between the prison author and the audience of the text.

A Special Report from behind the walls of Massachusetts Prisons 1972.

The relentless desire for community, intelligibility – to not be forgotten or silenced by their isolation – makes the writings of prisoners within the Alternative Press Collection a powerful and humbling selection of materials.  It holds its audience accountable for the undeniable connections that are present between individuals despite legal and societal practices of separation.

You can do two things in prison. You can be a man or you can be a robot.  See, if you be a robot, you stand a very good chance of going home.  But notice this, all the papers record this is a fact, that those who stay in here become submissive.  When they get outside, all the things that they have inside, boil over onto society after they come back.

Roger Champen We are Attica, 1972.

The exhibition: “Locked Down and Speaking Up: Prison Riots, Reform, and Writing from The Alternative Press Collection” will be on view in the John P. MacDonald Reading Room of the Archives & Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center from June 15th – August 20th.

For more information on the Cal Robertson Papers please consult the Archives & Special Collections Finding Aid.

Augustus Storrs Hall

 

It will surprise no one with even a remote connection to the University of Connecticut that Augustus Storrs was an important person in the history of our state university. Born on June 4, 1817, in Mansfield, Connecticut, to a family that came to America six generations earlier, Augustus Storrs was the son of farmer Royal Storrs. Augustus started a store in the Gurleyville section of Mansfield when he was just 22 years old. He moved to Hartford in 1841 and by the time he moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1851 he was a well-established businessman.

In 1875 Augustus bought the family home in Mansfield and developed a stock farm of nearly 1000 acres where he raised thoroughbred cattle and horses. That same year an orphanage that had been established in 1866 for the children of Civil War soldiers was closed down, and Augustus brought that property, which had been situated next to the farm.

In December 1880 Augustus offered 170 acres of land — the former orphanage property — with buildings to establish an agricultural college in Mansfield. Augustus’s brother Charles made a generous offer of $5000, and with these two gifts the Connecticut General Assembly, under the authority of the federal Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, established the Storrs Agricultural School to train boys in farming. The school opened its doors to twelve students on September 28, 1881. In 1888 a post-office was placed near campus, thus establishing the section of town of and near the campus as Storrs.

Augustus Storrs died on March 3, 1892. He and many other members of the Storrs family are buried in the cemetery on campus off of North Eagleville Road.

Augustus Storrs Hall was built in 1906 and was the first brick building on campus. It was initially a men’s dormitory with 66 two-man rooms but within two years each room held three students. In 1952 it was renovated for offices and classrooms. It is now home to the School of Nursing.

A New Perspective on The U. Roberto Romano Papers

Marijane Ceruti, Assistant Archivist of the U. Roberto Romano Papers, is a 2014 BFA graduate of the UConn School of Fine Arts. Since graduation, she has worked as a freelance photographer and photography assistant in addition to exhibiting and gaining notoriety for her fine art photography work. She has an extensive technical background in addition to her knowledge of the history of photography.

My first day on the job as the Assistant Archivist of the U. Roberto Romano Papers was a good one. I was handed the torch by fellow UConn alumnus and friend Brooke Foti Gemmell who was taking a different position within the UConn library through her work here. “The first couple of weeks will be intimidating, but you’ll get the hang of it” were words that I heard come out of her mouth more than once. As I got settled in and took the time to dive into the collection I began to realize I shared a lot with the photographer whose work I would be getting to know. Robin and I were both Italian-American photographers who spoke French, liked crass humor and made a lot of the same choices in photography. Robin cited the greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank as some of his inspirations and I too could count them as some of my own.

 

 

As I sifted through memory card after memory card of born digital images in the first couple of days, I started to notice that Robin and I made the same aesthetic decisions in our work. Photographers holding their subjects hostage in front of the lens until finally giving into the moment, making corrections to posture and hair as shoots progressed and even down to equipment choices. Without being prompted I found myself collecting my favorite images of Robin’s in a  folder on my desktop titled “Notable Images”. Now the folder is 600 images strong and I’m sure it will continue to grow. As I look at them, I am reminded of how unique of a person Robin was as he exhibited  equal parts compassion and ruthlessness, humility and prestige, documentarian and artist. These traits are necessary and rare in someone that captures such emotionally charged scenes and shares them with the world. I look forward to sharing this information with the public so that they can see the truth behind child labor, the life of an artist and the complexities that come with processing such a large and vast collection that spans a revolution in photography.

Marijane sorting through prints from Robin’s early work in Pakistan

Now that I have been in this position for 6 months, I am starting to get comfortable curating and archiving with Robin’s voice in mind. I see the choices he made and feel confident that I can respect his vision as well as his compassionate and strong voice when representing the collection. I am so grateful that I was given this opportunity to take a peek inside the collection of such an empathetic and talented photographer. I feel blessed that I get to hold a position that is important and valued within the university and the world alike. I hope that I am able to share Robin’s work in the way in which he intended, care for it in the way that it deserves and bring my talents of exhibiting and marketing to the  collection for students and scholars to learn from and enjoy.

I’m proud to say I will bring pieces of Robin’s work into my own as an artist. In a world that is hurting, I am honored to be able to represent a body of work that was founded by the desire to end suffering.

Thank you to the University of Connecticut Library for this opportunity and to everyone that donated to the Robin Romano Foundation to make this position possible.

Wilfred B. Young Building

 

Since its founding in 1881, the University of Connecticut has undergone many changes, and the Wilfred B. Young Building perfectly embodies this dynamic history. In the years after World War II, a surging student population spurred a raft of new construction under the tenure of President Albert N. Jorgensen. The building that later became known as the Young Building appeared during this period, officially opening in the fall of 1953.

Along with the growing student population, the building also reflects the changing academic climate at UConn. When it first opened, the building housed the College of Agriculture. In the 1960s, it became home to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Now it holds the College of Agriculture, Medicine, and Natural Resources. The multiplying specialties illustrate how the university’s educational mission has developed over the years, shifting to meet the needs and interests of students and the wider society.

The building’s namesake, Wilfred B. Young, also played an important role in UConn’s history. Born in Indiana in 1903, Young spent his early life learning agriculture and animal husbandry, as well as working in the famed Chicago stockyards. He came to Connecticut in 1931, recruited by Professor Harry L. Garrigus to teach and conduct research through the Agricultural Experiment Station. He served as Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources from 1945 to 1966. Young retired in 1966 and died in 1978. The building was named in his honor the following year in recognition of his many contributions to the university.

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

J. Louis von der Mehden Hall

 

J. Louis von der Mehden, Jr., was born July 20, 1873, in San Francisco, California. A musician and composer, von der Mehden held several positions in San Francisco before moving east to New York City after the 1906 earthquake. He was steadily employed as a cellist or conductor with theatrical or commercial bands and worked for a year as the musical director of Herald Square Theater before becoming involved full time in the recording industry, working at different times for five different phonograph studios: U.S. Phonograph, Pathé Frère, Columbia, Lyraphone and the Victor Talking Machine Company. On some recordings he played cello in the orchestra; more regularly he would conduct performances, often arranging the music the night before the recording sessions. In 1926, von der Mehden and his wife Susan moved to Old Saybrook, Connecticut, full-time, having purchased a house in 1911.

J. Louis von der Mehden, Jr. died on August 27, 1954, in Middlesex Memorial Hospital and was buried in Cypress Cemetery at Saybrook Point.

In 1956, UConn President Albert N. Jorgensen reported to the Board of Trustees that under the provisions of the will of the late Susan Evelyn von der Mehden, who died less than one year after her husband, the University was to receive a considerable sum from the estate. There were three provisions: first, the University was to receive all of the original compositions of the late J. Louis von der Mehden; second, the University was to erect a building to be used as a concert hall in which this music could be performed; and third, the University was to provide a vault for the safekeeping of the music. The von der Mehden’s had no obvious connection to the University of Connecticut so it is unknown why Mrs. von der Mehden chose to make such a large donation to the university.

The J. Louis von der Mehden Recital Hall was completed in 1961 and has been in regular use as a recital and performance hall.

Archives & Special Collections holds Mr. von der Mehden’s papers, which consist of diaries, newspaper clippings, correspondence, notes, financial records, photographs, musical manuscripts, scores, publications, and celluloid cylinders. The finding aid to the collection can be found here: http://archives.lib.uconn.edu/islandora/object/20002%3A860140533

 

Homer Babbidge Library

Homer Daniels Babbidge, Jr., was born in West Newton, Massachusetts, on May 18, 1925. His father was a captain of merchant ships and the family soon moved to New Haven, Connecticut; in 1935 the family moved again, this time to Amherst, Massachusetts. Babbidge graduated with his undergraduate and doctoral degrees from Yale University, and taught at Yale’s Department of American Studies before taking positions with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare and acting as the Vice-President of the American Council on Education.

In 1962, at the age of 37, Babbidge became the 8th President of the University of Connecticut. In his Inaugural Address on October 20, 1962, he said “The task of a public university is to wed the new spirit of democracy to the old values of learning.”

In 1962 total enrollment at the University of Connecticut was 12,000 at the main campus in Storrs and across the regional campuses; by 1971 enrollment had grown to over 23,500. During Babbidge’s tenure he oversaw the development of a Junior Year Abroad program, the elimination of the rule that women students be forbidden to wear slacks in the Student Union, and the formation of the Benton Museum of Art on the Storrs campus, the School of Social Work on the Torrington campus, and the UConn medical and dental schools, including the UConn Health Center in Farmington. While serving as President he also taught classes in the Department of History on the History of American Higher Education.

Babbidge led the university at a challenging time. As it was on almost every campus in the country, UConn students demonstrated against the war in Vietnam and on racial discrimination. On November 26, 1968, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) demonstrated against the recruitment on campus of students for the chemical company Olin-Mathieson. Sixty-seven students were arrested for demonstrating and Babbidge called it “the saddest day of my life.”

For what he stated was a promise he made to himself to not hold the job for more than ten years, in October 1971 Babbidge announced that he would resign from the Presidency of UConn on October 1, 1972. More than 7000 students, staff and faculty petitioned his resignation, asking him to reconsider, but to no avail.

After his time at UConn Babbidge returned to Yale as Master of the university’s Timothy Dwight College; in 1976 he became the Hartford Graduate School’s first president. He even briefly dabbled in politics, running for Governor in 1974. Babbidge died on March 27, 1984, from cancer.

During Babbidge’s tenure the UConn library gained its 1,000,000th book. Even before Babbidge left office plans were drawn up to build a new library, given that the space in the Wilbur Cross Library had exceeded the limits of the collection and library services. A study done after 1972 determined that the Wilbur Cross Library had space for just 753 students, less than 5% of the student population.

Groundbreaking for a new library costing $19 million was on July 10, 1975. The library had seven floors with a total 385,000 square feet and shelf space for 1.6 million volumes.

The building opened in 1978, known then as simply the University of Connecticut Library. After Babbidge’s death in 1984 the name was changed to honor the university’s 8th president.

The Search and Struggle for Intersectionality Part II: Other Minorites and the Feminist Movement

 

Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  As a student writing intern, Anna is studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is the final post in the series.

The feminist movement has long struggled with incorporating different groups’ concerns and modes of oppression into the movement. This problem was exacerbated by the multifaceted, turbulent U.S. political atmosphere that characterized the 1960s and 1970s. The differences between black and white women’s views of the movement clashed on several essential dimensions. But the issues of other minority groups were given less attention by the feminist movement, and by society in general, due to the fact that their ethnic/racial factions were much smaller than African Americans’.

Another marginalized group that galvanized in the activist culture of the 1960s and 1970s in America were Native Americans. These men and women sought to have their tribal autonomy recognized. They were also fighting issues such as environmentally harmful mining practices on their resource-rich lands and high rates of substance abuse and poverty within their communities.

Native American women had a unique relationship with the feminist movement because the issues this minority group faced were different from those that white or black women faced, and the ethnic population of which they were a part was a severely marginalized minority. U.S. Census data from 1970 shows that a whopping 98.6 percent of the total population was either white or black/African American (87.5 percent and 11.1 percent respectively). Native Americans constituted less than .004 percent.

Native Americans were fighting for their unique political rights as well as larger environmental concerns during this period.

The March 1977 issue of “Off Our Backs” includes an article summarizing the findings of a report by the Association on American Indian Affairs (AAIA), a non-profit organization founded in 1922 to promote the well-being of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. The report found that Native American children are placed outside of their families at a rate 10 to 20 times higher than that for non-Native American children.

The AAIA argued that this practice deprives Native American children of the ability to be raised with a proper awareness of and appreciation for their culture. This concern emphasizes the fact that Native American women who were involved in the feminist movement during this time were simultaneously combatting the United States government’s systematic efforts to diminish their independence and culture as well as the wide-spread sexism that was the feminist movement’s main concern.

Native American culture celebrates its strong connection to and appreciation of nature. When Native American tribes were forced off their lands in the nineteenth century, they were put on reservations in states like Oklahoma and South Dakota. The U.S. government later came to realize these areas were rich with natural resources such as oil and uranium.

“In the days of diminishing U.S. energy resources, the push is on to take what’s left of Indian land,” according to an article in “Off Our Backs.”

The U.S. government used environmentally hazardous practices to extract these resources, exposing people living on the land to cancer-causing radioactive materials. It also paid the Native Americans working in these hazardous mines very low wages. These practices led to outcry by Native American men and women.

The Longest Walk was a major event in the Red Power movement.

In 1978, thousands of Native Americans participated in The Longest Walk, a protest organized to bring attention to threats to tribal lands pose by several pieces of proposed legislation.

“In effect, these bills could force Native Americans to complete assimilation into the U.S. mainstream and destroy all sovereignty of the Indian nations,” the article on the march said.

In the same August/September 1978 issue that covered the march, “Off Our Backs” included coverage of a conference in New Mexico that addressed the upsurge in domestic violence against Navajo women. This increase was attributed to a “pressure cooker syndrome” created by white culture: “women-battering and child abuse (were) once practically non-existent…and has now reached crises proportions.”

The attempted forced assimilation of native people into white culture created a class system that did not exist in Navajo tribal society. This led to high poverty and unemployment rates which in turn came to be correlated with high rates of substance abuse and domestic violence.

The writers draw attention to the fact that few of the speakers at the conference were from the Navajo or from any other Native American community. Calling attention to the lack of authentic representation at this conference may be an indication of the evolution of “Off Our Backs” in how it dealt with minority issues. When the paper first began in 1970, it struggled to expand their coverage to minority women’s issues, as evidenced by its problematic coverage of a black feminist group’s conference in 1974.

Similar to black women who were involved with groups like the Black Panthers, politically active Native American women were part of efforts led by men. Women of All Red Nations (WARN) was a Native American women’s group that brought attention to issues that affected their community including the displacement of their children, forced sterilization, tribal rights, resource exploitation and racism in the educational system. The group invited several Native American men to speak at a conference it held in South Dakota in 1978 as it did not “believe in the separation of men and women who were working for the same objective.” This serves as a perfect parallel to black women activists who wanted to be a part of the black and feminist movements.

Burning Cloud’s letter serves as a quintessential example of a woman’s struggle to find a way to be politically active as someone with a complex set of oppressed identities.

In the December 1978 issue of “Off Our Backs,” the editors printed a letter from Burning Cloud, a self-described “Filipina/Indian Dyke.” In the letter, Burning Cloud shared a sentiment common with those expressed by black women — that she was “Indian first and above all other matters.”

Burning Cloud felt she could not be both an Indian and a gay woman in society. She also expressed frustration with the fact that non-black minorities’ concerns are much more widely disregarded because there are comparatively few of them in number.

Burning Cloud’s letter included a call to action for environmental activism which, from her perspective, was something of which native people were much more conscious due to their spiritual cultural connections to the earth.

“If Mother Earth is to die WE ALL DIE. Think about that one. What is the future of your children and sisters and mothers to be?” she wrote. “Are we not killing each other because we allow such things as racism, classism, separatism right here in the Lesbian community. How shall wimmin be totally free when three-quarters of the (Coloured Wimmin) are dying?”

(Feminists took to using alternative spellings of “women” and “woman” in order to avoid using the masculine root of those words.)

Native American women also faced the issue of forced or coerced sterilization. In “Off Our Backs” article from December 1978, WARN said that 25 percent of Native American Women were forcibly sterilized.

During this period, the United States government instituted polices of population control that targeted minority, underclass women. One third of Puerto Rican woman of reproductive age had been sterilized in 1976. This policy was veiled as a necessary method of population control that would help Puerto Rico develop economically. However, many argued that the problem was not overpopulation, rather that the available resources were concentrated in the upper echelons of society.

In her 1976 University of Connecticut Ph.D. thesis “Population Policy, Social Structure and the Health System in Puerto Rico: The Case of Female Sterilization,” Peta Henderson found that in addition to medical reasons, the law in Puerto Rico regarding female sterilization allowed for women to be sterilized or use other contraceptive methods in cases of poverty or already having multiple children. Henderson found that most sterile Puerto Rican women said they voluntarily chose to have the operation. However, she explores how this choice was corrupted by the fact that government actors worked to persuade these women that sterilization was in their best interest.

The U.S. Government put forth the idea that having fewer children was the surest path to wealth for minority women, ignoring institutional issues including racism and sexism that impeded their social mobility.

These kind of population control polices were also implemented elsewhere in Latin America.

The April 1970 issue of “Off Our Backs,” a female member of the Peace Corps who went to Ecuador said, “Providing safe contraceptives must be a part of a comprehensive health program,” Rachel Cawan said. “Most importantly, however, there must be available other emotionally satisfying alternatives to child raising.”

The prevailing feminist interpretation of these population control programs was that they masqueraded as liberating family planning alternatives when, in fact, many of these women were being coerced or forced to stop having children.

The Young Lords Party was founded in 1960. The men who founded the organization had a series of objectives including self-determination for Puerto Rico, liberation for third-world people and, problematically, “Machismo must be revolutionary and not oppressive.”

Early in the party’s history, the men in the movement did not listen to women’s ideas and concerns during meetings. These women were limited to essentially being glorified secretaries for the party according to a November 11, 1970 New York Times article.

The women in the movement soon tired of this dynamic and demanded to be taken seriously – and they succeeded. Several women were able to assume leadership positions in the party and the pillar relating to machismo was changed to one supporting equality for women. However, this victory did not mean women were automatically able to achieve true political and social equality within the party or on a larger scale.

In a subsequent issue of “Off Our Backs,” a black/Native American woman wrote a response to Burning Cloud’s letter, which had also said black people should support Native Americans’ issues, saying that: “There is a need for Dialogue, a conversation, between Indian people and Black people…We have been divided in order to be conquered, even though for many, our blood flows together.”

A theme that emerges again and again when studying the second-wave of the feminist movement is that by separating women into sects with seemingly irreconcilable differences, men have managed to prevent them from forming a powerful united front capable of combatting not only sexism, but racism and other social ills that afflict them.

 

-Anna Zarra Aldrich

 

 

d’Archive on Display!

Logo by Melica Bloom

This summer the Dodd Research Center Gallery exhibits Season 1 of d’Archive, the archives podcast hosted by WHUS campus radio.  After wrapping up a 15 episode season over the course of Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 semesters, which is available on itunes or wherever you catch podcasts, materials featured on the show are currently on display.

 This exhibition will run from May 14th – July 7th, 2018 in the Dodd Research Center Gallery, Monday – Friday 9-5pm   Continue reading

The Search and Struggle for Intersectionality Part I: Black Women and the Feminist Movement

 

Anna Zarra Aldrich is majoring in English, political science and journalism at the University of Connecticut.  As a student writing intern, Anna is studying historical feminist publications from the collections of Archives and Special Collections. The following guest post is one in a series to be published throughout Spring 2018.

The feminist movement has long struggled with incorporating different groups’ concerns and modes of oppression into the movement. This problem was exacerbated by the multifaceted, turbulent U.S. political atmosphere that characterized the 1960s and 1970s.

“Chrysalis,” a quarterly women’s periodical that was self-published in Los Angeles from 1976-1980, struggled to incorporate African American women’s issues into its editors’ ideals for the movement. In an issue of the magazine that came out in spring of 1979, poet Adrienne Rich wrote an article called “Disloyal to Civilization: Feminism, Racism and Gynophobia.”

“Chrysalis’s” article sharing the story of Annie Mae was a clear attempt to give a black woman a voice in the publication.

Rich’s article emphasized some of the inherent similarities between the struggles of black people and women in America. She wrote that all women and all black people in this country live in fear of violence being committed against them solely due to their gender or race without the hope of justice being served.

Her article went on to explain that dividing women against each other has historically been a means by which men have maintained their oppression: “The polarization of black women in American life is clearly reflected in a historical method which, if it does not dismiss all of us altogether or subsume us vaguely under ‘mankind,’ has kept us in separate volumes or separate essays in the same volume.”

Rich urged women that they “can’t keep skimming the surface” of the women’s movement by refusing to engage with black women’s issues.

“Chrysalis’s” winter 1980 issue featured a story called “I am Annie Mae” which was the story of Annie Mae Hunt, a 70-year old black woman from Texas. Annie Mae’s story was told through a transcript of hours of interviews.

Annie Mae’s story shared the hardships of her life, including her dropping out of school after fifth grade, getting married and having her first child when she was only 15. Annie Mae was pregnant a total of 13 times in her life and had six living children at the time of the article’s publication. Annie Mae said she was never educated about birth control and was told having more children was better for her.

“Birth control – that wasn’t in the makings then. I mean the black people didn’t know it. Poor people like me. There may have been some well-to-do people that knew about it,” Hunt said.

While this article was an earnest effort by “Chrysalis” to tell the story and plights of a woman of color, it was only through a white mouthpiece that Annie Mae was able to share her story; the reporter who conducted and organized the interviews was white as was the staff and, presumably, much of the magazine’s readership. Furthermore, aside from Rich’s essay and this article, examples of “Chrysalis” covering women of color’s issues are sparse.

“Off Our Backs,” a bi-weekly newspaper printed in Washington D.C. (1970-2008) did put forth a more valiant effort to communicate the struggles of black women in America through their own voices even if they often fell short of true intersectional understanding.

In the April 15, 1971 issue of “Off Our Backs” an unnamed black woman, identified as someone who held a “high position in the Health, Education and Welfare Department,” was interviewed about her response to the women’s liberation. She pointed out at that at time the women’s movement was predominantly led by and composed of white, middle class women. She said that black women do not want to be a part of what they considered to be a, frankly, racist movement.

In their article on the Kitty Genovese Women’s Project, “Off Our Backs,” asks directly about this criticism of racial bias.

The 1960s and 70s were a period rife with tension in multiple dimensions, only one of which was the women’s lib movement. This period saw the continuing struggle by African Americans for equality and civil rights. The woman interviewed for the April 15 article emphasized that she, and many other black women, identified as black first and a woman second in terms of their identity and sources of oppression.

In 1977, the Kitty Genovese Women’s Project, named for the woman who was murdered while numerous people who were aware of what was happening did nothing, posted a list of 2,1000 male sex offenders in Dallas County. A group of 30 women handed out over 20,000 copies of the list. Many black feminists took issue with the list as black men were disproportionately represented due to a higher conviction rate among blacks for all crimes due to the racial bias of the criminal justice system.

In 1966, the militant civil rights activist group the Black Panthers formed in in Oakland California. Many black women were involved in the black movement and wanted to work with the men in that movement to achieve their collective goals. Many white feminists, however, argued for a complete break with men.

This argument originated during the first wave of feminism in the United States. Some male abolitionists argued that it was the “Negro’s Hour,” during the last ninetieth century, to quote Wendell Phillips. Men such as Phillips, and Frederick Douglass believed the main focus of the period had to be black men’s rights and that women’s suffrage would have to be pushed to the back burner.

This led women’s suffrage leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to found the women’s-only National Woman Suffrage Association. This break from the abolition movement may be viewed as a break from black issues in general, which sowed the seeds for the division that reemerged in the next phase of the movement.

In June 1979, “Off Our Backs” published a special “Ain’t I a Woman” issue, named for a famous speech given by Sojourner Truth at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. Truth’s speech confronted the stark differences between the treatment of white and black women: “Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?”

The special issue included a statement from the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist group from Roxbury, Massachusetts. The statement said: “As black women, we see black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppression that all women of color face.” They emphasized that, “Black women’s development must be tied to race and class progression for all blacks.”

This special issue was produced by the Ain’t I a Woman Collective, a black feminist organization based in D.C.

The black women and feminists of the period did not believe their plights as black people living in America and as women living in America could be separated. They believed they could not progress as whole humans without both issues, in addition to class, which was often correlated with race, being addressed.

One of the important issues that black women said white feminists did not grasp was welfare. A much larger proportion of black women were in poverty than white women during this period. The U. S. Census (Current Population Survey and Annual Social and Economic Supplements data) from 1975 shows that 27.1 percent of black families were in poverty compared to 9.7 percent of all families. Those statistics become even more staggering when we look at poverty rates for single-female households. 50.1 percent of black families with a single mother were in poverty compared to 32.3 percent of all other single-female households.

Intersectionality hinges on the idea that people have a complex identity that is shaped by a variety of demographic and experiential factors such as race, class and education. Black women were dealing with a variety of issues and sources of oppression during this period that, evidently, many of the white leaders of the feminist movement did not see as falling in line with their goals.

In the winter of 1974, some of the “Off Our Backs” staff attended the first meeting of the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO). The group’s mission was to “fight racism and sexism jointly.” “Off Our Backs'” coverage of the event acknowledged that black women have an ethos to speak about issues that white women are unable to assume: “While ‘Off Our Backs’ has never been vague about its commitment to cover the issues and to carry messages about them to feminists, only a group like NBFO deeply immersed in the survival struggles of low-income black sisters and their own experiences, can be a valid messenger and a forceful mover of these issues.”

The coverage of the event emphasized that racism has kept women systemically divided by making minority women feel they could either be black or a feminist. Unfortunately, the article is critical of the fact that that many speakers ranked racism over sexism in terms of which was a more pressing issue. This clearly displays that many white feminists could not grasp the fact that these women felt they needed to confront the systemic racism in the country in tandem with, and perhaps, some would argue, before, sexism.

The “Off Our Backs” article said that black men did not want black women to join the feminist movement and point out that male-dominated black media outlets like “Jet” or “Ebony” did not attend the meeting when many white feminist presses did. The writers also criticized black feminists for not utilizing these feminist outlets. This provides an interesting area to use to examine the underlying issues here – black women’s issues were not covered well by most white-dominated feminist media outlets, yet the writers of “Off Our Backs” suggest that these women were not reaching out to allow their stories to be told by these papers.

It is necessary to mention that there is a conspicuous lack of exclusively black feminist publications in Archives and Special Collections’ holdings at the Dodd Center. This may be attributable to gaps in the collection or there may have been few publications that served this specific interest group. It seems that black women’s issues were split between the feminist and black movements with some overlap in the media for each.

 

-Anna Zarra Aldrich

 

Charles Lewis Beach’s Legacy at UConn

Charles Lewis Beach (1866-1933), 4th President of the Connecticut Agricultural College.

Charles Lewis Beach was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin in 1866, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1886, and came to the Connecticut Agricultural College as an instructor in Dairy Husbandry in 1896. He stayed with the college until 1904 when he then went to the University of Vermont, but returned to Storrs in 1908 to take the position of the CAC’s 4th President, a role in which he served until 1928.

Under Beach’s leadership the CAC grew and prospered. In 1908 the college had just 165 students enrolled; by 1928 there were 518 student enrolled. Beach sought to increase the number of women enrolled so in the same approximate time period the number of women students grew to 133 from 22. In 1908 there were 18 bachelor degrees granted; by 1924 that number increased to 78. Beach recognized that the growth of the college depended upon increased funding from the state, and, as Walter Stemmons wrote in his book Connecticut Agricultural College – A History, “Beach compelled a reluctant State to take pride in its college.”

Other initiatives under President Beach included an expanded curriculum that included courses in the liberal arts, a fairly radical idea for a college with such deep roots in the study of agriculture. He believed that “students graduating from the college [go] into the world equipped not only to be efficient farmers but also to be understanding individuals” as is written in his obituary.

Charles Lewis Beach Hall under construction at the Connecticut Agricultural College in Storrs, ca. 1927

Charles Lewis Beach retired from the presidency on July 31, 1928. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on September 1, 1933, and died on September 15, 1933.

Beach Hall is, of course, named in his honor. Built in 1927 for $343,000, it was originally used as an administrative building and held the library and science classrooms. An extensive renovation of the building was done in the 1970s.

You can find more information about the life of Charles Lewis Beach in this profile of him in our digital repository at Conecticut Digital Archive.

-Laura Smith