Category: Collections

New Acquisition: Slavery Documents

Photo of “Statement Attesting that a ‘Negro Woman’ is Free Born, Frederick County, MD, 1832,” acquired by University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives

The antebellum period of the United States was harsh and biting, clothed in darkness by the perpetuation of the institution of slavery.  The institution of slavery was nestled in the racial attitudes and political leanings of British colonists, attitudes and leanings that incubated a society prone to its development, where “slavery […] is a symptom of this political culture, rather than a cause” (Acharya et al., 2018, p. 106).  Hubris provided a justification for the perpetuation of slavery.  William Brownlow, a newspaper editor and post-Civil War governor of Tennessee, stated, “God always intended the relation of master and slave to exist,” and posited the church as an institution supportive of maintaining this arrangement (Acharya et al., 2018, p. 106).  The deeply-rooted prejudices and racism driving the growth of a system of slavery in the States, and the arrogance to believe oneself as above the life and humanity of another, provide little mystery as to how a piece of paper with calligraphic printing could have the power to provide freedom, granted through manumission or other statements and affidavits, or to bequeath, trade, or sell African American slaves through wills and testaments.

University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) recently acquired an antebellum-era document, “Statement Attesting that a ‘Negro Woman’ is Free Born, Frederick County, MD, 1832.”  The statement claims Charlotte Jaines of Frederick County, Maryland, is “free born.”  It is of a collection of documents known as freedom papers – manumissions, statements, affidavits, etc. – proclaiming freedom to whom the document refers.  The official declaration stated,

Maryland, Frederick County, to wit, on this 19th day of May 1832, before me the Subscriber and Justice of the Peace in and for said country, personally appeared David Harris and makes oath on the holy Evangely of Almighty God, that Charlotte Jaines the negro woman now in my presence is a free born, to the best of his knowledge. Sworn before George Rice.

Photo of “An Account of the Sales and the Real and Personal Estate of Henry Holeman Deceased,” acquired by University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives

Another recent acquisition of University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) from the antebellum period is “An Account of the Sales and the Real and Personal Estate of Henry Holeman Deceased.”  Henry Holeman was a resident of Shelby County, Tennessee.  Historically, the population of Shelby County had the one of the highest percentages of enslaved persons (35%) in the state of Tennessee, and heavily relied on slavery to support the economy (Acharya et al., 2018).  Upon Holeman’s death, Holeman’s account, dated February 18, 1853, stated the recipients of eight slaves owned by Holeman and their respective prices, and settled matters of personal property, including approximately 270 acres of land (James E. Arsenault & Company, 2020).

These documents are illustrative of the harsh, biting history of slavery.  To wade through the ugliness of history is as paramount of a task as the study of illuminating points of history.  Converse, examine, dissect.  Listen, carefully, and lead.

Special Collections and University Archives serves as a repository of historical materials, some of which may be considered prejudiced, stereotyped or offensive. Historical data is an important resource in the study of contemporary and past cultures. As such, we take seriously our responsibilities in preserving and cataloging such material and provide access for the purpose of scholarly research and study. See: SCUA Statement Regarding Objectionable Content

Sources

Acharya, A., Blackwell, M., & Sen, M. (2018).  Deep roots: How slavery still shapes Southern politics. Princeton University Press.

James E. Arsenault & Company. (2020). The sale of eight named slaves in Tennessee. James E. Arsenault & Company. https://jamesarsenault.com

Written by Alexandra Mueller (Special Projects Archivist)

New Acquisition: Anti-Slavery Literature

Photo of University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives acquisition, the Monthly Offering, Collins, John A., editor, Lydia Maria Child, William Lloyd Garrison, et al.

The Monthly Offering, edited by John A. Collins and alive with contributions by notable abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison and Maria Weston Chapman, is an historical abolitionist periodical published between July 1840 and December 1841.  The acquisition of the Monthly Offering by University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives contains a complete collection of the twelve-issue periodical.

The Monthly Offering falls in the era of the second phase of the Abolitionist Movement.  The advent of the cotton gin and the development of the cotton industry, as well as an evolving technological landscape of the American states, offered a keen opportunity to continue the exploitation and enslavement of African Americans to support a changing economy.  Key organizations and key initiatives emerged as the Abolitionist Movement grew, one of which was the American Anti-slavery Society (AAS) (McCartney, 1992).  The AAS stemmed from the abolitionist publication, the Liberator, edited by William Lloyd Garrison, a close cohort of John A. Collins and an active abolitionist who professed slavery should be embattled with only “the sword of the spirit” (McCartney, 1992, p. 37).  Garrison’s peaceful plea may be reflected in his attraction to the wielding of the written word in abolitionist literature.  The AAS, of which both Collins and Garrison were members, called for political action, although the manifestation of which was poorly or confusedly conceived (McCartney, 1992).  Collins held several leadership positions, most prominently Vice President, in the Boston branch of the AAS, the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society.  While in service to the AAS, Collins edited not only the Monthly Offering, but another abolitionist newspaper publication, the Monthly Garland (James E. Arsenault & Company, 2020).

The contents of the Monthly Offering were varied and instrumental.  Included were pieces of abolitionist literature, the sharing of abolitionist events, and perhaps most interestingly, the inclusion of slave narratives.  Collins desired for the wealthy and plebeians alike to afford access to the publication.  The inaugural issue promised the periodical “could be afforded so low that every one might procure it, who had a desire to become acquainted with the nature and influence of slavery, and the means employed for its removal” (James E. Arsenault & Company, 2020). Narratives comprised of memoir, autobiography, and other forms of testimony by slaves speak personal truths of experiences of slavery.  Abolitionists published slave narratives in abolitionist literature to further fuel the fire of opposition to the institution of slavery (Trap, 2011).  The Monthly Offering, as conceived and implemented by Collins, Garrison, and others, perhaps contributed to the political action called for by the members of the AAS, for struggles may be muscled by words and action, a deftness of the tongue.

Photo of University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives acquisition, Bible Against Slavery, 1864, Vail, Stephen M., D. D.

The Bible Against Slavery by Stephen M. Vail also hailed from the era of the second phase of the Abolitionist Movement.  Stephen M. Vail served as Professor of Biblical and Oriental Literature in the Methodist General Biblical Institute of Concord, New Hampshire.  The Bible Against Slavery is an impassioned analysis of the Bible and slavery.  The title page has the statement, “Replies to the ‘Bible view of slavery.’ By John H. Hopkins, D. D., Diocese of Vermont; and to “A Northern Presbyter’s second letter to ministers of the Gospel,’ by Nathan Lord, D. D., late president of Dartmouth College; and to ‘X,’ of the New Hampshire Patriot.”  The seminal work by Vail has been reproduced from its antiquarian form to modern format in order to preserve the historical content of the document and to promote accessibility.  The following is an excerpt from the Bible Against Slavery written by Stephen M. Vail revealing of Vail’s conceptions of the relationship between the Bible and slavery:

As a christian [sic] nation receiving the Holy Scriptures as our guide, it becomes a grave inquiry what saith the Scriptures on this question? If the Bible is against slavery it is important to know it. If the Bible be found, after all the efforts of slavery, to be on the side of Freedom it will be a confirmation of its Divinity to the minds of millions, and the Bible will be dearer than ever to the hearts of all mankind. If as many have claimed, it be against human liberty and in favor of oppression, the inference will continue to be drawn by thousands that it is not from heaven. My own belief is that it has been greatly misunderstood, —and such has been the traditional power of slavery over us, that as yet we have only faintly apprehended the truth, —that the Bible is always and every where [sic] against slavery.  (Vail, 1864)

Special Collections and University Archives serves as a historical repository of materials, some of which may be considered prejudiced, stereotyped or offensive. Historical data is an important resource in the study of contemporary and past cultures. As such, we take our responsibilities in preserving and cataloging such material seriously and provide access for the purpose of scholarly research and study.

Sources

James E. Arsenault & Company. (2020). The organ of the Massachusetts Anti-slavery Society. James E. Arsenault & Company. https://jamesarsenaultcom

McCartney, J. T. (1992). Black power ideologies. Temple University Press.

Trap, D. (2011). Slave narratives. In J. C. Inscoe (Ed.), The Civil War in Georgia: A new Georgia encyclopedia companion (pp. 244-248). University of Georgia Press.

Vail, S. M., D. D. (1864). Bible Against Slavery. Fogg, Hadley & Co., Printers.

Written by Alexandra Mueller (Special Projects Archivist)

New Acquisition: The Golden Age of Professional Wrestling

Photo from the Golden Age of Professional Wrestling acquisition by University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives

The sport of wrestling has become ubiquitous in the United States.  Few are able to deny the popularity and fanaticism inherent to the sport, the way intense physical competition draws impassioned reactions from spectators.  The origins of contemporary American wrestling are rooted in the first half of the 20th century, then swiftly expanding into an age where the sport and its athletes flourish.  A new acquisition by Special Collections and University Archives, The Golden Age of Professional Wrestling, captures this flourish, the Golden Age of wrestling in the era of the mid-20th century, centered in the historic city of Portland, Oregon.  The collection captures a unique component of history in wrestling and the state of Oregon, boasting wrestlers from a plethora of ethnic and minority groups, including Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans, Samoans, Hawaiians, Little People, among others.  Historical exclusionary practices regarding people of color on behalf of the state of Oregon render this collection a gem and a rarity in the documentation of the history of people of color in Oregon.

While the popularity of wrestling incubated in the early 20th century, with regions of the United States organizing titles and weekly matches, post-World War II society further fueled the esteem and intensity of the sport.  This growth in intensity birthed the formation of independent wrestling companies.  In Oregon the Pacific Northwest Wrestling/Portland Wrestling Company spawned, with its formation ultimately leading to the development of the National Wrestling Association.  National television broadcasting beginning in the 1950’s served as a catalyst for the growth in ubiquity and popularity of wrestling.  The Don Owen Productions of Portland Wrestling debuted in Portland, Oregon, on KPTV in 1952.  The broadcast later transitioned to Big Time Wrestling, and the weekly program withstood the test of time, broadcasting until the year 1991.  Big Time Wrestling was the first wrestling program to be shown by television in the Pacific Northwest.

The acquisition is comprised of original photographs, match reports, columnal clippings, documents, and magazines compiled by Portland, Oregon, sports columnist Frank Barst (1902-1974).  Barst wrote frequently and prolifically on the intricacies of the sporting world, demonstrating a keen interest in wrestling.  There are over 300 photographs of wrestlers and promoters, many of whom inscribed photographs with original signatures.  Prominent wrestlers featured in these photos include Lord Littlebrook, Haystacks Calhoun, Bull Montana, Prince Kuhio, Bing Ki Lee, Frenchy Robbierre, and Mad Dog Vachon.  Wrestlers Moose Norbeck and Farmer Vance are pictured in opposition on a notable poster contained in the collection.

The media collected in this acquisition document the careers of wrestlers who blossomed in the Golden Age of professional wrestling, whose careers often transcended decades.  Some include George “Catalina” Drake (d. 1972), whose namesake stems from his birthplace of Catalina Island, California, and who served in the 511th Airborne in World War II; Eric Tovey (b. 1929), alias Lord Littlebrook, who was 4 feet 4 inches tall, 108 pounds, and considered one of the greatest Midget wrestlers, his career spanning from 1949-1997; William Dee Calhoun (1934-1989), alias Haystacks Calhoun, who was the first super-heavyweight wrestler with a stature of 6 feet 4 inches and 665 pounds; Lenny Passaforo (1926-1992), alias Bull Montana, who fought an impressive 1158 matches in his career; Curtis Piehau Iaukea III (1937-2010), alias Hawaiian Prince Kuhio, famous for fighting 1307 matches; Philip Lee Hahn (1932-2011), known under the multiple aliases of Mexican Bing Ki Lee, White Avenger, El Santo, and El Principe Chino, packing 480 matches under his belt; and Maurice Vachon (1931-2013), alias French Canadian Mad Dog Vachon, who impressed with over 2100 matches fought in the decades of the 50’s and 60’s.

The breadth of the collection on the Golden Age of Professional Wrestling is stunning, and the history it preserves, invaluable.

Written by Alexandra Mueller (Special Projects Archivist)

Eugene Lesbian Oral History Project

Available now in Oregon Digital, the UO Libraries’ shared digital depository with Oregon State University Libraries, are video oral history interviews of members of the longtime Eugene lesbian community. The Eugene Lesbian Oral History Project is an ongoing community-engaged oral history project. Linda J. Long, Curator of Manuscripts, and Professor Judith Raiskin of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Oregon, conducted video interviews with eighty-three narrators in the summers of 2018 and 2019. This collection currently includes the video interviews and first-draft transcripts.

In the 1960s-1990s hundreds of lesbian-identified women came to Eugene, Oregon from across the United States and created one of the largest lesbian communities in the United States. This oral history project seeks to preserve that specific and vibrant history that otherwise would be lost. The interviews capture a range of engaging and important stories that reveal new angles on lesbian history, women’s history, the counterculture movement in the 1960s-1980s, Oregon history, feminism, sexuality, intentional communities, and women working in jobs traditionally reserved for men. Looking back over 25-50 years, the narrators reflect on the complex relationship of individual aspirations and larger social movements in times of dramatic historical change. A number of narrators were instrumental in leading important legal challenges of discriminatory policies at the county and state levels regarding employment and housing protections, benefits, lesbian and gay adoption, and marriage equality. Those who came to study or teach at the University of Oregon were influential in making institutional change protecting the rights of lesbians and gay men. Many of the narrators have retired and continue to be involved in vibrant artistic, scientific and political work.

As time permits, Long and Raiskin plan to conduct more interviews, which will be added to the collection.

NHPRC Grant | Twentieth Century Children’s Literature

In September 2019, SCUA began working on a new project: Twentieth Century Children’s Literature: Exploring the Past, Understanding the Present. This project is generously supported by a two-year grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), a division of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Detail of dust jacket illustration for The Newcomers.
Detail of dust jacket illustration for The Newcomers, circa 1974. Left: Ink on acetate overlays, Right: Color proof. Kurt Werth papers, Coll 100, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.

This project will greatly improve access to the collections of three prominent children’s literature authors: Kurt Wiese, Edwin Tunis, and Kurt Werth. The goals of this project are to:

  • rehouse manuscript material and original illustrations
  • update associated finding aids to current standards
  • mount online and local exhibitions promoting the historical significance of the material

The collections identified for this grant represent a core strength in the University of Oregon’s holdings, with broad appeal that reflects upon the American experience during and after the two World Wars. Children’s literature, which often flies under the cultural radar, is a fascinating rubric through which one can understand the ideological tenor of a society. Our collective values, for better or worse, are mirrored back to us in the stories and lessons of our children. Twentieth century children’s literature echoes the radical changes that occurred in American society: at times celebratory, optimistic, and inclusive; and alternately vexing and racist, presenting a white-washed and Eurocentric account of American history.

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