Author Archives: Pat Higo

The Construction of Lansing-Reilly

lari1 One of the first buildings erected on the McNichols campus was Lansing-Reilly Hall, but that was not the first name of the building. At first it was simply the “Faculty Building” since that was the residence for the Jesuit faculty on campus. It was later christen McNichols Hall in 1951, in honor of Fr. John P. McNichols, who was president of the University during the 1924-28 building program. The name “McNichols Hall” actually started much earlier. There are various stories on how that name came about. One is that students and faculty alike had formed the habit of calling it the McNichols Building because of its location on 6-Mile Road. In another story, the name McNichols Hall originated with the Army personnel. From 1943 to 1944 the Jesuits lived downtown rather than at the McNichols Hall, which was given over to 400 men of the Army’s Student Training Corp, and they did not wish to refer to their residence as the faculty building.  However, in 1955 during construction of a three-story elevator, a 1925 cornerstone proclaiming the building the Reilly-Lansing Memorial was uncovered. I still have not found the reason the name is “Lansing-Reilly” instead of “Reilly-Lansing”.

In the archive files are pictures taken during the construction of Lansing-Reilly in 1925. In 1962 an addition was added to provide additional housing for 50 faculty members. The newer section is now used to house part of the College of Health Professions.

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Lessons in Lovemaking

Got you attention? Would you believe this was the headline of some articles in the Varsity News in 1930 – actually it was a three part series! How about if I told you it also included pictures. Well be prepared to be disappointed.

The Varsity News from May 7 to May 21, 1930, ran a series of articles that had that title, but how to describe what it actually is about is a problem. It does not seem to be about much of anything. Read it here and see what you think.

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Education – 1851

History has a way of collapsing time.  It moves along a social timeline from major event to major event and the small steps that occurred to the human beings involved in the day to day struggle between those events are often overlooked.  We see for example the settling of Jamestown, Virginia in 1619 (and the African slaves who were included in this), the Civil War in 1861, and the emancipation of slaves in 1863. We’re told that slavery had a long history of cruelty and abuse, and we are hesitant to spend too much time exploring the detailed lives of those who survived this.

But the history of slavery is also the history of triumph, of survival, and of the joining together of an enslaved people toward a common goal of freedom. The tireless work of so many unsung heroes called the Black Abolitionists, along with their white counterparts, helped to realize something few would have thought possible during this time: emancipation. This is not to trivialize this milestone. The journey wasn’t smooth and neither were the years that followed, but the determination of those who would fight for freedom and continue this fight deserves recognition.

Before the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 finally put an end to nearly 250 years of slavery in this country, there were free people of color living in almost every state in the Union. While freedom for these people didn’t also include social acceptance (or even citizenship), it did offer a way of working toward freedom for many of those who became Black Abolitionists during the 1800s.  Education for these people was rare, however, except for those privileged few who were sent to schools in Scotland and other countries.

An education was therefore highly valued, since it offered a way for those who fought hard for freedom to enter into a reasoning debate with those who had the power to influence change.  An educated mind, for example, knew that slavery was an economic institution and cotton was its driving force.  Uncovering the commodities that encouraged the continuation of slavery, meant the chances were better for making a logical argument for its end.  Convincing those countries that bought our cotton that their dollars were better spent elsewhere, for example, was an educated way to disrupt the economic value of this horrible institution.

The brief editorial shown here is from The Voice of the Fugitive newspaper issue published in 1851, twelve years before Emancipation.  Discovering these nuggets of history offers readers a way of better understanding the actual line of events that weaved its way through the years prior to and including those dreadful years.

Spend some time in the Black Abolitionist Archive and read this and other treasures you can discover there.

baacollegeContributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

“Southside View of Slavery”

A documentary on Public Television (PBS) called The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross offers an excellent overview of slavery in the United States from its early beginnings in the 1500s to its final end in 1865.  This view aligns closely with the history recorded in the Black Abolitionist Archive’s editorials and speeches.  Slavery wasn’t anything new when this country was first established.  What WAS new, however, was the notion of “who” slaves were and how this tied in with racial discrimination. This didn’t start suddenly. When slavery was first introduced in this country, slaves (and indentured servants) were of many races, including Native Americans. This change was gradual, but at one point in the history of the United States, “slave” was equated with African captives.

Slavery offered the free labor that helped this country grow. It was good for the economy, it made many people wealthy, and there seemed to be an endless supply of slave labor just waiting for transport and sale. The presence of so many enslaved people in the U. S. offered a reminder of our collective wealth and also of our collective guilt. This was difficult to reconcile for many people.  Social divisions by class soon included a division based on color. This began so subtly that when someone finally started paying attention to what was happening, they also recognized the dramatic (and unpleasant) potential for social change that would be required to correct it.

This country was not only built on the backs of slave labor, but also on a strong religious foundation. Treating fellow human beings as property, as little more than beasts of burden, seemed to counter Biblical teachings that spoke of brotherhood and love. The institution of slavery not only contradicted these teachings, it also contradicted the Constitution itself (the “self evident” statement that “all men are created equal” was difficult to ignore).

In order to bridge this gap in reason, some sort of justification was necessary, and towards the end of its well-held place in the American economy, a justification of slavery was the subject of many papers, books, and speeches. The rationale for continuing slavery ranged from creative logic to junk science to religious benefit. Those defending the institution of slavery were nothing if not creative in their reasoning.

In the March 1, 1856 edition of the Anti-Slavery Advocate, William Wells Brown discusses a book by Dr. Nehemiah Adams that had recently hit the bookshop shelves.  This wasn’t the first publication to offer a justification of slavery based on Biblical teachings but it was one worthy of note.

William Wells Brown was an escaped slave who rose to prominence through his writings, lectures, and abolitionist work. It was during his attendance at the Cincinnati Anti-Slavery Convention in May, 1855, that he had occasion to offer commentary on Dr. Adams’ book that praised slavery for benefiting the “religious character” of the slave. The book described the author’s experience with “southern slavery” after a trip to the American south.  It seemed the religious conservatives of this time, like Dr. Adams, were the main people wrestling with this problem of justifying slavery. William Wells Brown compared Dr. Adams’ writing to his own experience with a white minister’s family shortly after he (Brown) had escaped from slavery.  During that visit, Brown had received such kindness from the minister’s wife and daughter (Harriet) that he was dizzy from it all.

The story may have ended there and the reader may have drawn the conclusion that Brown was rethinking his passionate resolve to speak against slavery from this minister’s pulpit. He liked the family and had no desire to upset them or make them regret their kind hospitality. He considered toning down his speech, and adjusting his remarks. The last paragraph, however, sums up his thoughts nicely:

“But I had a bond of sympathy with the slave that Dr. Adams had not.  The little girl Harriet reminded me that I once had a sister; that she was torn from me and sent south; that I had not dared remonstrate, or even call her sister. The kindness of the lady whose hospitality I was then enjoying brought to mind my mother, from whose caresses I had been torn, and how she had been sent I knew not whither, never to see her boy’s face again. I therefore resolved to do my duty, and I did it.”

We’re proud to include with this digitized speech an audio version recorded by a volunteer. Click this link to view the entire record.

abolContributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

 

Love and Freedom

Love and Freedom

This month we celebrate two of the most valued aspects of human existence: love and freedom.  Valentine’s Day (observed in remembrance of St. Valentine) focuses our collective attention on romantic love.  We traditionally celebrate this holiday on February 14, by offering those dearest to us acts of love and devotion usually in the form of something sweet and beautiful: candy, flowers, poetry, sentimental cards, etc.

February is also Black History Month.  This month is filled with events that recognize the contributions both powerful and inspirational of people of African descent.  From its humble beginnings in 1915 (50 years after the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment officially ended slavery in this country), this formal recognition has evolved to include a strong focus on historic people and events; lectures, group celebrations, and an increased awareness of the evolution of the American identity.

The following story from the Black Abolitionist Archive is our contribution to this celebration of love and freedom.

William and Ellen Craft were both born into slavery in the early-1800s.  When they were both in their early 20s, they were married.  It wasn’t long after this marriage that they began to plan their escape to freedom from their living situation on a plantation in Macon, Georgia to the freedom available in Philadelphia, a trip of over 1,000 miles.

Ellen Craft, being of mixed race, was fair skinned and could pass as someone of Caucasian ancestry.  They devised a plan that would use this fact to their benefit.  While it seemed likely that Ellen could travel among the white population without too much attention, they determined that dressed as a man, she would have a better chance of eluding all suspicion and the limitations that a woman traveling alone might encounter.  William, dressed as a slave valet to his traveling master, accompanied the disguised Ellen on their trip to Philadelphia.

At the time, slaves were sometimes allowed to earn extra money while working at jobs outside their owner’s land.  William earned overtime pay from a local cabinet maker over a fourteen year period for work arranged by his owner.  By December 1848, he had managed to save $220.00.  This money would be used to finance their escape.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia website Ellen, dressed as a southern slaveholder in trousers, top hat, and short hair, and William, playing his role of slave valet, boarded a train bound from Macon to Savannah, Georgia.  In Savannah, they boarded a steamship for Charleston, South Carolina, and from there boarded another steamship bound for Wilmington, North Carolina.

In Wilmington, they boarded a train and arrived just outside Fredricksburg, Virginia in time to catch another steamship bound for Washington, DC.  A train from Washington, DC, took them first to Baltimore, Maryland and finally over the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania.  Though the trip was fraught with the constant chance of capture, once they arrived in Boston, they finally felt as if their freedom was secure.

The Crafts journey to freedom came very shortly before Congress ratified the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

This romantic story doesn’t end in Boston, however.  The Crafts were soon pursued by bounty hunters who discovered them there.  Black as well as white Bostonians assisted the couple by hiding them until the danger had passed.  No longer feeling safe, however, the Crafts set sail for England where they continued their work for abolition.

“Romance” is defined in several ways.  Dictionary.com includes “… narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds [… ] usually in a historical […] setting.”  I think this story qualifies.  The story of William and Ellen Craft can arguably be told as one of the great romances of the 19th century in the United States.

The excerpt below is page 2 of a 3 page speech delivered in England in 1856, soon after the Crafts arrived there.  To read the entire speech, click here.

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Contribution by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

Black Abolitionist Archive – the Canadian connection

Communication holds together the people within a defined social structure.  Slavery as a social institution in the early years of this country, kept people isolated.  The practice of using human beings as chattel was brought to the Americas as a matter of course in the early years of its colonizing.  At that time, no one seemed to pay much attention to the idea that there was something very wrong with this practice.  Soon, however, communication in the form of abolitionist newspapers began to encourage the need for dramatic change.

Black Abolitionist newspapers published between approximately 1827 and the early 1900s, helped a disenfranchised people feel in touch with those who were working hard to win their freedom.  These newspapers were not just part of the American experience, however.  The struggle here soon spilled over into Canada, especially after Great Britain abolished slavery in 1834.  After August 1st of that year, any person setting foot on British soil was automatically free, and the Black Press in Canada soon began reporting about those who escaped to the freedom of Canadian territories.

Published by organized free men of color, these newspapers helped develop a new culture in the U.S. and Canada, one that continues today.  Like a tap-wired, underground connection, these publications offered hope, community, and structure in an otherwise confusing and chaotic time.

UDM is proud to offer a collection of digitized editorials and speeches from the Black Abolitionist movement that spans this tumultuous period in American history.  Through impassioned speeches, lectures, and editorials that spoke directly to a dominated segment of the population, we gain insight into an aspect of human experience before the recognition of civil and human rights for everyone contributing to a growing country.  From a newspaper published in Canada, for example, we get a personal view of those crossing the border to freedom through the Underground Railroad system.  Most of these escaping slaves would pass through Detroit on their way to Sandwich, Ontario.

In an editorial published in the Voice of the Fugitive (December 17, 1851), the writer discussed a movement that sought to solve the slavery issue by encouraging governments in other countries to go “… elsewhere for goods like cotton, sugar, coffee, indigo and rice — the mainstays of the southern economy under slave power. “

Canadian Abolitionist newspapers often published announcements that welcomed newly arrived escaped slaves, taunting named slave owners with regards from their slaves.

Included in these Canadian editorials were tips on healthy living, farming techniques, available educational opportunities, and announcements like this one, alerting an escaped slave to the presence of “kidnappers” who were notorious for capturing newly arrived escapees and returning them for a reward.

Colored American, May<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
              1, 1841
Colored American, May 1, 1841

Although teaching slaves to read and write was a punishable crime, the connection offered by these newspapers motivated slaves to teach themselves despite the threat, and to pass these learned skills on to their children when they could.  The hope gained from these seemingly small steps, helped slaves look to the possibility of freedom in the generations to come.

Brotherhood and strong Christian focus offered people support, information, and access to the unexplored world that awaited them after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865.   While the slave owners feared reprisal and revenge, the enslaved population craved only the natural freedom available to all men and promised to those living in this country through its Declaration of Independence.

The stories of African slavery that remain part of the history of the western world during the 300 years of its existence focus on the misery, the injustice, and the abuse of human beings.  And while this aspect of events should never be ignored or trivialized, the triumph of the enslaved people offers a view of not just survival but endurance, creative solutions to seemingly insurmountable circumstances, and the part the people themselves played in that final and dramatic end of slavery in the U.S.

History is often told from the standpoint of those in power.  We learn the basics of these events, the men who made dramatic and overarching changes to western economics and agriculture.  The archive of speeches and editorials published during this time offers a human perspective on a sad chapter in this country’s existence.  It also introduces the reader to men and women they may not have heard of before, but who worked tirelessly to bring about the end of a destructive practice that had become an unquestioned part of the workings of western societies.

The Black Abolitionist Archive offers viewers an in-depth, inspiring and very personal look at the struggle of a people who triumphed in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.  And while the struggle for equality continues, looking at how far we’ve come as Americans over the past 154 years since the end of slavery would likely make those early Abolitionists quite proud.

Contributed by Linda Papa, Digital Technician

 

1908 Construction of the Old Gym

Every once in a while, I come across things that have not seen the light of day in probably a hundred years. Nobody here  knows about it and maybe nobody cares. But back in 1908, somebody cared enough to take a picture and that should count for something. It’s not like today when just about anyone with a cell phone will take a picture of anything and probably should NOT take a picture at all of somethings!

The following pictures are about the old gymnasium on the downtown campus at the rear of 651 East Jefferson. The pictures are of the excavation site for the gymnasium that was to be built (from the notes on back of the pictures, the old “ambulatorium” was being torn down), during the summer of 1908. On back of the picture with the trees notes that the “Trees in rear are sidewalk trees on Larned St.”

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The Student Fitness Center that opened on the McNichols campus in 2012 is a far cry from the old gym.

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University of Detroit Gun Club

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Back in the late 1940′s, the University of Detroit had a Gun Club. It was originally founded in 1937, but it was discontinued until after the war in 1948. Understanding the fine points of marksmanship and the mechanics of a wide variety of firearms was the primary aim of the club.

The 1949 Titan rifle team would participate in competition with other schools. ” In these matches the teams fire from four positions: prone, sitting, kneeling and offhand.

Five men fire 10 shots at each target. A bullseye gets 10 points, while the rest of the scoring ranges downward to nine, eight, seven and six points. Riflemen use .22 rifles which are single shot, semi-automatic with rear and front sights and no scopes.

Firing is done 50 feet from the target with 10 minutes allowed for each position.”

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It was not just men who were members of the club, there is a 1948 news article in the file about a woman in the Gun Club. The “best student on the University club is a modern Annie Oakley, Jean MacDonald. She fired a 99.5 average in last year’s Hearst Rifle Meet.” In fact the 1953 the Tower Yearbook has the first listing for the Girls’ Gun Club! Don’t know what happened to the men in the regular “Gun Club”, but in the 1954 Tower Yearbook the women in the group renamed it “Coed Rifle Club”. My guess is that all the men that would have been in a Gun Club were involved with the ROTC that was now on campus. Any mention of a Coed Rifle Club disappeared and in its place the 1956 Tower Yearbook now has”U of D Rifles”, purpose: Army drill team.

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The Inauguration of a University President

inag1While the world will be watching as the United States inaugurates Donald Trump as the President of the United States, I thought I would take a moment to review what went on when the University of Detroit Mercy inaugurated its most recent president, Antoine Garibaldi in 2012.

Family, friends, faculty, board of trustees, alumni and all the local dignitaries came together to celebrate the university’s heritage and reaffirm its mission to the community.

It turned out to be a very nice day for the event-even if it was Friday the 13th! There was a procession from each of the schools into Calihan Hall where the formal ceremony was held. Gifts were presented and speeches were made and everything went as planned. It will be interesting to see if everything will go as smoothly when Mr. Trump is inaugurated as the new President of the United States. Wonder what his first tweet will be!

All the activities, photos, media coverage and a copy of the program can be found here on the university’s page on the inauguration.

 

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