Light in the Darkness

“Every book is a little light in that darkness”- Scott Landon

My job at the library resembles the craft of archaeology. On any day, I may come home from work with several centuries of dirt on my hands.

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This can be from crosschecking in world cat whether we have Der Kleine Katechismus Dr. Martin Luthers mit Erklarung Fragen und Antworten, or finding a 1921 map of Congo Belge in a box of uncatalogued materials.

Sometimes it’s a bit more like Octavtio_cart2P.I. business where I have to figure out if this anti- catholic tinged flyer suggesting doom for protestant America should JFK be elected president was written by the same group as that pamphlet suggesting the public school system is a “captive” of Popish control.

But sometimes my job is like a gardener, what with all the dirt.  I uncovered the bulletin for Booker T. Washington’s Memorial service, which took place 100 years ago. The effects of time on these documents end up on my hands.

Closer to my own research interests are reprints of executive order 9066 from FDR ordering the Relocation of Japanese Americans along the west coast during World War II. There was also a photo bulletin showing the lives of Japanese Americans in the Internment camps, and another entitled “70,000 American Refugees made in America.” Perhaps most important about the experience for me is the chance to be reminded of what has happened to bring us to where we are. Pieces of history are in these stacks and archives, and every day I find out something I hadn’t known before.

The thing I would most like to share is an interview I found with Dr. Vincent Harding in SGI Quarterly. Among the other quiet gems of Harding’s spirit and words, are his cautious approach to memorializing the phrase civil rights movement, which he thinks can be seen by our generation in terms of “success,” and therefore conclude that the struggle is “finished.” Harding would encourage us to speak instead of “the expansion of democracy,” reminding us of our responsibility to our ongoing task.

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I perform a very small role in the vast process of memory and integration that is ongoing here at the Burke.  While it’s not often pretty, it helps us remember, and understand, and hopefully participate in taking responsibility, together.

 

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