Author Archives: Pat Higo
It was fear mostly that kept free black men from being accepted for enlistment in the early days of the Civil War (1861-1865). Although they had fought in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the uprisings and revolts of later years encouraged government worry about arming black men. Yet while riots and desertion were plentiful when it came to drafting white men into the war, those black men who were committed to fighting for freedom were turned away … at first.
It didn’t take long before the fierce fighting took its toll on the number of troops on both sides, however. It may have been the Confederacy that first realized it was outnumbered and overwhelmed by the success of the North. It was the South that came up with the idea of arming slaves to fight for their cause, thus ensuring freedom for those who would fight (any attempt to return a black Confederate soldier to slavery would be useless after this). In the North, Congress approved the formation of black regiment of troops on July 17, 1862, but it would be January 1, 1863, before President Lincoln officially instituted this as a clause in the Emancipation Proclamation. (Blue, Gray, and Black: African Americans in the Civil War)
On August 1, 1863, a brief editorial was published in the Pacific Appeal newspaper. Reading this offers us insight into how the black population was understanding and communicating the events of the war. History records the high points, the top battles, the generals, the gains and losses. It’s only when we zero in on the individual lives of those who lived through these horrible years that we gain insight into history as it was experienced, the “enthusiasm and patriotism” (as the author tells us) go together like “fighting and freedom.” This was the first generation to really know the horrors of war and how costly the price of freedom could be. And the promises of “applause from a grateful country” would rouse the men of color to action, yet fall far short of expectation in the end. The steady march toward civil rights would begin in this generation, and this march continues today.
Quoting from an address delivered by the Executive Committee of Citizens in Pennsylvania, the writer of the article below adds:
“Take advantage of it; show yourselves to be men and patriots, and a grateful country, watching the flags of your regiments emerging triumphantly from the smoke of battle, cannot refuse the applause which is the due of valor contending for the right.”
Want more? Visit the Black Abolitionist Archive in our Digital Collections.
Seventy four years ago the country was poised for war. Europe was unsettled and those fresh faces graduating from the University of Detroit were well aware that they faced an uncertain future. In 1939, Britain and Italy had already declared war on Germany and in December, 1941, the U.S. entered the conflict by declaring war on Japan. By the beginning of 1943, heavy fighting was taking place in most of the eastern part of the world. It seemed the dreams of those graduating in 1943, held only images of joining the fight and defending the country.
The 1943 Tower Senior Yearbook reflects this atmosphere of tension and concern. This would be the last yearbook published until 1947, as the entire country tightened its economic belt and focused on the battle at hand. Paper rationing, as well as limitations of other materials meant that during the war years (1944 through 1946) publication of the yearbook would be closed to the Tower staff. It’s as if the war plunged the entire world into darkness for three years. Being without the yearbook during this time allows readers today to see the value of the historic record these books offer. And perusing the pages of the 1943 Tower, offers a way into the state of campus life just before the lights went out.
Even though the war officially ended in the summer of 1945, the University of Detroit took a bit longer to return to the annual Tower publication (in 1947). Comparing the “book end” issues for the war years (1943 and 1947) offers readers valuable insight into the way a great society recovers from war. It’s not a matter of returning to the way things were before the conflict. It’s a matter of building a future based on the recovery. We collectively brushed ourselves off and got back to the business of growing a nation, but we did it with a lot more insight and a lot less innocence. In 1943, we cheered our fighters and celebrated their commitment to the fight for justice and freedom. In 1947, we mourned our dead, and celebrated our hard won victory.
On the 50th Anniversary of the July 1967 Detroit Riots, there has been a lot of discussion in the media as to how it affected the people in the area during that time period. What started as a quiet Sunday morning of July 23rd turned into an unforgettable civil disturbance that lasted about a week.
During that period members of the National Guard were posted at the McNichols campus as well as additional private police were on patrol. No disorder or damage took place on the McNichols Campus.
Summer school sessions resumed normal class and staff operation on Wednesday morning at the request by government officials to restore normal routine to the city as soon as possible.
During the three-day emergency, many of the campus posts were manned by students. More than 30 nuns attending summer school operated the kitchens and cafeteria of the Student Union Building for 2,000 resident students of the Summer Session. Other nuns manned the switchboards and reception desks in the residence halls.
Also on campus were high school journalism students attending a seminar on high school newspaper and yearbook publications.The high school girls were originally housed in Foley Hall, but at the beginning of the riot outbreak, they were moved to Shipley Hall for a couple of days.The girls were housed on the seventh floor and the nuns on the floor below them. When asked about any inconveniences the girls replied “showers”. There were five for the 120* girls in the building. (*The news article gave that number, but I think it should be less, boys were also attending the workshops. I think that number covers all the attendees.)
With more than 3,000 arrests during the riot, the University of Detroit Law School students helped prepare bail release questionnaires conceived by Detroit’s Neighborhood Legal Services Department for 961 prisoners confined at Southern Michigan Prison. Donald Murch, assistant law professor at the university and associate director of Detroit’s urban law program, appeared with 18 of his students to help with the process.
The aftermath? Have race relations improved? Have attitudes toward the police gotten better? Has the image of the city of Detroit changed for the better? Even after 50 years, those views are still evolving.
Colonization is the process by which one power dominates another. This can be the way a more powerful country takes control of another, but it’s also the way one culture seeks to control another by usurping the established cultural civilization of another. This has happened time and again since human beings migrated out of Africa — as they defeated tribes and gained territories, as they morphed languages and destroyed religions, they also changed their own culture. Societies have evolved by snuffing out the weaker cultures, and taking control of their languages, their rituals, the details of their social structures that made the conquered culture unique.
During the bleak early years of this country’s development, one race dominated a captured other (not just Africans but also the native peoples). To complete this domination meant removing all traces of the captured race’s culture: language, dress, rituals, religion, and social structure. With this, the dominate culture would guarantee that the children of these captured peoples would no longer pass along the heritage of their own culture. The power held in the unique expression of this dominated culture would be merged with the dominate race and thereby rendered powerless.
One problem of this form of domination was adjusting to the potential outcomes of change once the dominated culture had been absorbed. The question the dominant culture asked during slavery was, “What are we going to do with the free people of color? How do we absorb a race that looks so different from us without changing who we are?”
One answer to this problem was in colonizing the original country. The idea was to return the freed people of color to Africa as representatives of change, never mind that most of these people had been born into the dominant culture. Never mind that they had never known life in Africa before this time. For the dominant culture, this seemed like a good solution: remove those “others” who don’t look like us now that the culture has been conquered.
This line of thinking is similar to that of those in power today who believe deportation is the best cure for the problem of too many illegal immigrants in this country. Return them to their country of origin, no matter what their current experience is.
Colonization of Africa was supported by many black leaders during this time. It seemed like a good idea. The notion of spreading Christianity to the “heathens” and rescuing the Godless from themselves was seen by many as a worthy cause. Others found the idea of establishing a government similar to that of the U.S. would be beneficial to African tribal communities that were viewed as uncivilized and little more than bands of savages roaming a chaotic and dangerous continent. This idea was sold as a benefit for all concerned. And any natural resources we could glean from Africa in the process were justified by our assistance in saving them from the inherent evil of themselves.
A major proponent of Colonization was a black abolitionist named Alexander Crummell. Crummell was a prolific writer and dedicated abolitionist. He worked hard to promote his idea of a unified African racial presence in the U.S., as well as in Africa. He worked tirelessly to assist those who were so poorly treated in this country by moving as many people as he could to realize true freedom in the country of their ancestry. As this idea came together, Crummell was instrumental in the establishment of a government in Monrovia, Liberia, to bring about major social change for the free people of color.
Alexander Crummell’s wiki page tells us that he was born in New York City, and through the sponsorship of prominent abolitionists in England, attended Queens College at Cambridge. His parents instilled in him a strong affinity with all people of color, and a special connection with Africa. We also learn the following from his wiki page:
“During his time at Cambridge, Crummell continued to travel around Britain and speak out about slavery and the plight of black people. During this period, Crummmell formulated the concept of Pan-Africanism, which became his central belief for the advancement of the African race. Crummell believed that in order to achieve their potential, the African race as a whole, including those in the Americas, the West Indies, and Africa, needed to unify under the banner of race. To Crummell, racial solidarity could solve slavery, discrimination, and continued attacks on the African race. He decided to move to Africa to spread his message.”
Crummell’s intentions were sincere and based on solid ideas he had formed while studying at Cambridge. These ideas looked great “on paper,” but the human element wasn’t considered carefully. Those who opposed Colonization fought just as hard to stop it. People of color born in this country had no desire to be uprooted and moved to a totally alien place. In addition to this, it wasn’t long before proponents discovered that the government structure that worked well here, unfortunately didn’t work as well in Liberia. And then there were the logistics: how do you move people in this fashion?
Opposition to Colonization was strong. And while it succeeded in establishing the city of Monrovia in Liberia (named after president James Monroe) and the university there, the dream didn’t manifest as it had been dreamed.
Alexander Crummell’s wiki page also offers the following:
“Crummell was an important voice within the abolition movement and a leader of the Pan-African ideology. Crummell’s legacy can be seen not in his personal achievements, but in the influence he exerted on other black nationalists and Pan-Africanists, such as Marcus Garvey, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois paid tribute to Crummell with a memorable essay entitled “Of Alexander Crummell”, collected in his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk.
The University of Detroit Mercy is proud to offer 28 of Crummell’s writings and speeches in our Black Abolitionist archive. This man’s legacy is an amazing testament to the work of so many abolitionists in their struggle for social freedom.
When the 1918 edition of the Tamarack was published in June of that year, the first few pages held more advertising than content. Slowly over time, ads had gone from simple product mentions at the end of each issue to full page graphics at the beginning. It was obvious the Tamarack’s days were numbered. Even the tone of the content had changed. The early literary volumes filled with poetry and prose were now offering a more somber tone, concentrating more on engineering, the military, and the future of warfare. This was the year the “Great War” would finally end, but at this point, the battles still raged. The sobering atmosphere had likely influenced the writers; the country itself was forever changed.
This volume speaks to those who are graduating into a world where “invention” is more about “protection” than the advancement of human knowledge. Engineering is recommended as the best major for incoming students who would realize success in this newly changed world. And Engineering is about the technology of war more than the technology of business as it had once been (and will be again).
On page 174 of this issue is a contribution titled “Warfare–Past, Present, and Future.” In it, the author imagines the future of warfare that now includes technology such as machine guns, submarines, airplanes, gas shells, and “deadly projectiles.” Designing for warfare was not just about inventing new ways to kill the enemy, but new ways to protect ourselves from the enemies attempts to kill us. He also talks about the “English tanks,” once thought of as novelties but now, thanks to German reverse engineering of stolen tanks, a threat to future soldiers in future wars (something the writer seems to believe is only a matter of time).
A degree in Engineering seems appealing based on the seemingly urgent need to build up our defenses. Ship building, the author notes, will require steel, and “steel magnate” Charles M. Swab (mentioned in the text) will make a fortune because of it.
On November 11, five months after this issue of the Tamarack first appeared in print, at 6 a.m., Germany signs the Armistice of Compiègne. Fighting stops at 11 a.m., ending the “war to end all wars.”
As it turns out, this essay written five months previously, offered an eerie foreshadowing of the bleak future engineers would indeed design in the years to come. As it turns out, warfare does have a future after all.
Contribution from Linda Papa, Digital Technician
On June 28, 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to Austria-Hungary’s throne, and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated while they were visiting Bosnia. By July of that year, Austria-Hungary and Serbia were at war; and by the end of August Germany, Russia, France, Great Britain, and Belgium were all involved in what would become the first World War. While President Woodrow Wilson worked to keep the U.S. out of the hostilities, the entire world shook with rage and horror over this bloody conflict. (In 1917, the U.S. entered the fighting when, on April 6, it declared war on Germany.)
As events unfolded in Europe, the atmosphere around the U. of D. campus seemed unaffected by it all. Reading through the Tamarack publication from October 1914 (four months after the world began its steady march towards “The Great War”), I could find only a tongue-in-cheek mention of the conflict (shown in the image here).
Some of the humor in this page needs a bit of explanation. Earl Kitchener, a newly created peerage in the British ranks (dukes, marquess, earl, viscount, baron) had just been created in 1914 for famous soldier, Herbert Kitchener. Stroh and Goebel were brewers in Michigan (doing quite well at the time). The other puns seem obvious. And it’s likely that the rest of the names mentioned here were students (Edward D. Devine, Charles L. Bruce, and Henry N. Gaspard were all listed as officers in the Alumni Association in the 1915 bulletin).
Earlier Tamaracks expressed the light-hearted school boy air of those carefree days before the first world war. After that, it seemed the tone changed to a more somber one. The students of U. of D. seemed to view a very different world after this point.
Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician
One of the best resources for information about the history of this university lies in the yellowing pages of the Tamarack. Through the words of the students then, it’s easy for readers to put themselves into that year and that space, and feel the slow pace of that time. The academic atmosphere of those hallowed university halls comes into sharper focus as visitors to the Tamarack archive linger with each issue.
Within most of the Tamarack publications is a section called, Items of College History. It might be surprising to come across a column like this in the first few issues since, in 2015, the year 1898 is already historical. To the writers then, however, “history” began with the first month of the term, and the “items” were the events of note that occurred from then until the end of the semester. This offers readers a “snapshot” of this period in diary form.
In 1898, we can pick up events from the previous issue and learn that the semester began on September 3rd that year. The author gives us statistical information regarding enrollments, and a nice breakdown of their discipline preferences.
Commencement was held on June 25th that year at the Whitney Opera House. Like the year before, seven graduates received their degrees before a “large audience.”
Shown here is page one of this section of the April, 1898, Tamarack. The following two pages tell readers that Father M. P. Dowling, S. J. became a member of the faculty that year, beginning his teaching career as a professor of Humanities with the fall semester. It goes on to describe the “Lake St. Claire region” before “…the advent of the electrician and the bicycle.”
We also learn about the death of Father John Baptist Miege, founding father of Detroit College. The Tamarack notes that word of Father Miege’s death came during this year (1898) and that his death was a direct result of a “burn” he received. Several sites throughout the Internet give conflicting information about this, and even Wikipedia says he died in 1883 of “paralysis.”
Want to learn more about this? Why not visit the Tamarack archive? Whether you are searching for poetry, prose, or history, some of the best places to find interesting reading are among the digitized volumes of the University of Detroit’s Tamarack.
Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician
The current political climate has made sanctuary cities in the United States a hot topic for discussion. Besides the many resources of books and journal articles that can be accessed through the library site, the library archives also contains the CLASA Collection.
CLASA stands for Carney Latin American Solidarity Archives. The collection consists of books, reports, bulletins, newsletters, articles, correspondence, media, etc. from 1975-2001 (predominantly, 1980′s). The documents come from Detroit’s merged Latin American solidarity groups, including Michigan Inter-faith Committee for Central American Human Rights (MICAH), the Centaral American Solidarity (CASC) and the Organization in Solidarity with Central America (OSCA)
Also as part of the collection are Freedom-of Information Act (FOIA) documentation and correspondence with the Federal Government surrounding the family’s efforts to locate the remains of Fr. James Guadalupe Carney. Fr. Carney attended the University of Detroit before deciding to become a Jesuit priest. After ordination he worked among the poor campesinos in Honduras until he was expelled in 1979 for his activities at organizing cooperatives. In 1983 he “disappeared”, presumably by the Honduran military, while serving as chaplain to a revolutionary army which had just crossed the border from Nicaragua into Honduras.
OK- well not exactly ON campus, but you can’t miss it. McDonald’s set up shop at the corner of McNichols and Livernois in 1989. Originally on that corner was Gregg’s Pizza, which just moved to another building nearby on Livernois. When it opened in January 1989, it became the 35th McDonald’s franchise to open in the city of Detroit.