Sojourner Truth

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One hundred fifty-three years ago in June, 1863, Sojourner Truth (a name chosen by Isabella Baumfree, former slave and abolitionist) attended a Sunday School Convention in Battle Creek, Michigan. On the last day of the convention, during a mass meeting of white children and their teachers at the local Methodist Church, she sat patiently in the back of the church listening to various speakers. When the last one finished his speech, she rose and spoke clearly and distinctly to the men at the podium, “Is there an opportunity that I may speak?”

By this point in her life, Sojourner Truth had already fought a long battle against slavery and gender inequality. Her devotion to her cause and the sheer inner strength of her character, were well known to most people in Michigan (both black and white). Anyone else asking to speak may have been brushed aside, but the respect she had earned by her persistence as a humble freedom fighter, allowed the crowd to part so that she could make her way to the front of the church to speak.

The National Anti-Slavery Standard newspaper reported on the events of this day and the wisdom she offered to such a young audience. In part of the article, the writer notes, “She said that the Spirit of the Lord had told her to avail herself of the opportunity of speaking to so many children assembled together of the great sin of prejudice against color.” She knew instinctively that the best way to slow the ugly spread of racial prejudice was to teach children to love one another, regardless of skin color or appearance. The children who sat in the church that day had the potential to grow to be the adults who would influence a social world toward the acceptance of all human beings as children of God. As she spoke to the white children gathered before her, she presented a rational approach to the idea of seeing all human beings as one in God’s eyes.

The Black Abolitionist digital collection is proud to offer not only a PDF version of this published article, but also an audio version of this inspiring speech read by a volunteer. Please visit the archive to read and listen to this moment in history.

Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

UDM President’s Convocation

Have you ever wondered about the history of UDM’s yearly Convocation?  Each year university faculty and employees gather together to kick off the new academic year.  Did you know that the Digital Archives offers a way to trace the history of this annual event through our Convocation Collection?  And not just the history of these important assemblies at UDM, but also those held when we were known as the University of Detroit and Mercy College.

What can you find there?  Well, you’ll find names (who’s who and who’s new!):

  • of those who were honored,
  • of the current university president,
  • of new colleagues,
  • of retiring colleagues,
  • of current university faculty

And you’ll sometimes find images:

  • of the campus,
  • of maps,
  • of new buildings

In this excerpt from the introduction to this collection, Margaret Auer,  Dean of University Libraries and Instructional Technology, describes the collection this way:

“The University of Detroit Mercy has primarily held two types of convocations. The first is the annual convocation called by the president of the university. The purpose of the convocations is for the President to provide a “state of the university” speech and the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs to provide a “state of academic affairs” overview. Over the years, convocations have also provided an opportunity to introduce new faculty, staff, and/or administrators and to honor those individuals who have retired from the university during the previous academic year. For many years, a booklet was distributed in which the Deans of the colleges/schools and the Deans of the academic support units provided annual reports on their respective unit’s successes and challenges. As time went on annual reports from major administrative offices, such as student life and admissions and enrollment management were added to the booklet.”

Entering this digitized aspect of the university’s story is only a matter of a few clicks.  Each booklet is like a small opening to a larger history of the university itself.

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Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Tamarack-First UD Student Newspaper

tamThis first publication of the Tamarack came after 20 years of discussion about whether or not to start a college newspaper, or so the editor tells his readers in his “Salutatory” introduction (shown below). The college itself had only been around that long. And during those first 20 years, Detroit College was alone the only Catholic college in Michigan. Having its own newspaper was important not only to ensure its place among institutions of higher learning, but as an expression of pride in its knowledgeable and talented student body. And now, at long last, here it was fresh and humble.

Within this issue we discover a page that offers the names of the Editorial Board, those first intrepid few who worked so hard to make this happen.  And on this page we find that for $1.00 a year (10 cents an issue), readers could subscribe to the monthly paper.  Sweet deal; although this amount may have been quite dear for that time. While this first edition encourages students and alumni to help by contributing money (through subscriptions) and/or writing, the quality is already first rate and foreshadows the excellent content of future volumes.

The Tamarack was a strong presence in the lives of Detroit College students between 1897 and most of 1901.  But then it grew silent.  In 1907 it rallied for the publication of an “Athletic Number,” but then returned to silence for another few years.  In December 1913, without much fanfare or explanation, the Tamarack reappeared.  Detroit College had become the University of Detroit by then and maybe this explains the Tamarack’s absence.

The next publication, in April 1914, let readers know that the long silence was over and the Tamarack was back.  From then on, it would be a quarterly publication.  And so it was, for a while.

In June 1918, we see the final Tamarack. The Varsity News had begun publication by this time, and it would soon assume prominence as the University of Detroit newspaper. (Be sure to also check out our Varsity News digital archive!)

Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Pokemon GO at the Library!

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This is not exactly something in the Archives or Special Collections, but it is a location where archival material is kept. Yes, the University of Detroit Mercy Library on the McNichols campus is now a Pokestop. I’ve already seen a couple of students check it out. I believe there are other locations on campus as well. So tell all your friends in search of some Pokemon characters that they can pick up a few on the University of Detroit Mercy campus.

(Just keeps your heads up so you don’t run into another student!)

Wearable Art from Maurice Greenia, Jr.

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“The job of art is to turn time into things.” (Robert Genn)

Summer is my favorite time of year!  I’m a “summer” person!  Oh, the other seasons are nice and all.  Each has its own unique expression.  But, for me, you can’t beat the full complement of experience packed into a perfect summer day.  For me, summer is a special type of color that seems to stretch from June to August.  And summer days are filled with a seemingly endless array of shapes that hold those colors.

Maurice Greenia, Jr. has found a way to capture those colorful shapes and fashion them into wearable art. And he does this a lot! His overall archive is a treasure house of images that offer a unique way to spend a summer day, and the Magnets and Pins collection is the perfect place to start.

Maurice’s Magnet and Pin Collection is especially intriguing. There are currently 294 images in this interesting collection waiting for your visit. Each one is a unique expression, each is titled, and each is signed.  I would challenge you to find two alike!

In the introduction to this collection, we discover that,

“Maurice Greenia, Jr. painted several hundred miniatures on magnets and pins. He’d take discarded political buttons or refrigerator magnets, and coat them with white gesso so the paint would stick better and not flake off.

Like his larger paintings, these would go in many directions, pictorially. Some depict people or animals; others are more abstract. Some have bright colors; others are muted or monochromatic.

Maurice views these as means of getting his work out to the audience in a more affordable format: People enjoy wearing the painted pins, including the artist himself.”

Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Defining American Slavery in 1861

Weekly Anglo-African, March 9, 1861

In an editorial published in the the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper on March 9, 1861, there’s a review of a recent book (titled, American slavery distinguished from the slavery of English theorists, and justified by the law of nature) on the defining of slavery and slaves as human beings.  The writer of this article compares this recent publication with another book published by John H. Van Evrie (another pro-slavery writer) about the same time. The focus is on the question of whether a slave owner has the right to take the life of a slave when he chooses. And this question comes down to the definition of slavery itself.

Dr. Seabury defines American slavery in this way:  “And if I am asked to state precisely what I mean by American slavery, I answer that a slave is a person who is related to society through another person called as master, to whom he owes due service, or labor for life, and from whom he is entitled to receive support and protection.”

It seems Dr. Seabury argues that slavery agrees with the “Law of Nature” and this is one reason he also agrees with it. The editor points out the flaws in Dr. Seabury’s definition and compares Dr. Seabury’s reasoning with his own experience of slavery. While Dr. Seabury’s definition seems lofty, wordy, and aloof, the editor offers examples from actual state laws that indicate the opposite of this interpretation.  The editor argues that the “…dollar value of the slave, and not the law, is the only protection to the slave’s life.”

But while the article begins with emotion, the argument ends with the logic of John Locke. The editor prefers the definition offered by Locke in his book, Two Treatises of Government: “To be a slave is to be subject to the absolute, arbitrary power of another; as men do not have this power even over themselves, they cannot sell or otherwise grant it to another. One that is deserving of death, i.e., who has violated the law of nature, may be enslaved. This is, however, ‘but the state of war continued’ (2nd Tr., §24), and even one justly a slave therefore has no obligation to obedience.”

The Weekly Anglo-African newspaper, in circulation in New York between 1859 and 1865, was among the first black newspapers.  It focused on communication within the black community, and helped weave together a people struggling to find a place in the predominately white America of this time.  It connected free people of color, encouraged the young, and offered a link with like minds.  These newspapers became a way out of despair, a safety net, and a forum for expression.

Use the magnifier tool to gain a closer look at this article in the Black Abolitionist Archive.  It offers a well written glimpse into the often irrational discussions on slavery taking place just before Emancipation.  (The “Dr. Seabury” the article refers to is Dr. Samuel Seabury, Protestant Episcopal minister known for his justification of slavery during this time.)

Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

A Summer Reading Sugggestion

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During those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer when the sun is high in the sky and the air feels warm and comforting, it’s nice to find a cozy spot and dive into some interesting reading.  If you’re like some people, you’re reading at least two books at once.  Others find happiness in the latest novel or a stack of magazine articles.  These days readers often prefer electronic reading sources, whether it’s a book in digital format or something interesting on the web.

We have a suggestion for those of you who are searching for something inspiring, creative, and delightful, as well as educational: the [SIC] Student Arts Journal archive. In the introduction to this collection, [SIC] is described in this way:

“UDM’s irreverent, profound, and visually innovative undergraduate arts journal. Established in 1992, [sic] is published annually by the English Department’s Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture. The journal is edited and designed by students and features photography, fine art, poetry, fiction, and prose. Its mission: giving voice and vision to UDM’s exceptionally creative student body.”

The best way to really know this journal, however, is to spend some time with it.  It’s easy to get to and fun to read. Whether you’re skimming though the pages, reading one article at a time, or reading from cover to cover, you’ll have plenty of material to choose from and lots of visual variety to play with.

Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Celebrating Independence

 

All Americans celebrate Independence Day (July 4th) as a federal holiday commemorating the Declaration of Independence signed on July 4, 1776. This event marked this country’s freedom from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

But did you know that August 1 (Emancipation Day) was celebrated as a day of independence and liberation for thousands of enslaved and formerly enslaved people in this country and others for years after slavery was abolished in the West Indies on this day in 1833?  This one act (the British Slavery Abolition Act) freed 700,000 in West Indies, 20,000 in Mauritius, 40,000 in South Africa.  (See Abolition of Slavery timeline here).  And while it would be another 30 years before the Emancipation Proclamation officially ended slavery in this country, this major legal action in the British West Indies offered hope for further reasoned laws abolishing slavery in all other countries forever.  Quite a reason to celebrate.

And while Emancipation Day (August 1) is today overshadowed by Independence Day (July 4) in this country, August 1 is still celebrated in Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, and Bermuda.

*** Side note of interest here:  Within the U.S., there are several states that celebrate their own Emancipation Day on dates associated with the end of slavery for their state.  So, for example, Texas celebrates Juneteenth on June 19th.  In Mississippi, the date is May 8 (the celebration there is called Eight o’ May). ***

Below is a page from an Emancipation Day speech delivered in 1849 by little known black abolitionist Abner H. Francis.  This 17 page speech was published in a black newspaper called the North Star on August 17 of that year and can be found in the Black Abolitionist Archive among our digital collections.  In this speech, Francis spoke eloquently and passionately for the cause of freedom, and for a reasoned approach to ending slavery.

On page 6 of this speech, Francis says,

“When the shackles are falling from hundreds of thousands of our race, when the great principles of human liberty and equality are reanimating the nations of the earth, shall we remain satisfied, in the valley of poverty and ignorance, or shall we avail ourselves of every means within our reach that may render us worthy of those principles and the age in which we live?”

Sometimes when reading these speeches, I hear the voices of these great men and women pleading with those living in my own time.  They seem to say, “Don’t forget us!  Don’t forget what we have fought so hard to overcome.  Honor us by living the best life you can live. Learn from the past, and create a valued place for yourselves in the future.”

Visit the Black Abolitionist Archive to learn more about this speech and others.

independContributed by Linda Papa

The Poetic Express

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Creativity is an urge, I believe, and one we’re all born with. This urge can get directed in different ways, from cooking to construction to creating a business. In some people, this urge is expressed through art. Regardless of the way it’s expressed, however, what can’t be denied is its need for expression. Often the form of expression is part of the creativity itself.

Maurice Greenia, Jr. responds to this creative urge in various ways: from writing, to drawing, to music, to performance. Introduce an idea and he’ll give it a try. The urge encourages him to do something different, to change the world in a noticeable way, and to make a positive impact on society as a whole.

In the 1970s, Maurice decided to share his work in a unique way. Although he’d already been creating art for years prior to this, it was at this point that he started typing poetry, manifestos, drawings, and collections of old quotations (usually filling both sides of an 8” x 11” page). He’d make copies of these pages, and hand them out to people he’d run into around town. Sometimes, he’d mail these to various friends throughout the country to be distributed there. This was all done free of charge and in response to an urge to share his work.

In 1985, Maurice decided it was time to do a regular monthly publication. It was at this point that he came up with the name “Poetic Express” for this work. Since the publication would go out on a regular basis, he offered himself incentive with a deadline, thus forcing him to write poetry, draw, and create comic strips for each month. The Poetic Express is a way to connect on a very personal level to people he would never know or even meet. It’s a raw communication that offers his readers a recognition of the creative urge within their own lives.

When asked about his inspiration for this publication, Maurice says, “It’s always been about getting my work out to the people. I’ve had a lot of feedback over the years and the Express does have some sort of ‘underground cult following.’”

The recent Poetic Express is one of Maurice’s favorites since it includes tributes to family and friends, both living and deceased. I hope you’ll spend some time with this section of the Maurice Greenia, Jr. collection. I think you’ll find it inspiring.

Contribution from Linda Papa

Moving the Dowling Marine Historical Collection

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The university is expanding the services of the Student Success Center on the third floor of the library. As part of the expansion, the Dowling Marine Historical Collection will temporarily be put into storage until new space can be made available in the Archives on level 2A. Some of the material will be in storage, but the model ships that are in the collection will still be available to view. You will still have access to the online material on the libraries Special Collections page.

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