From the University Archives | Negotiations over Columbia’s MLK Memorial

When Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated over 50 years ago this week, Columbia University responded as most other institutions did – with shock and grieving. Flags were set to fly at half-mast until after Dr. King’s funeral and President Kirk sent a telegram on April 5, 1968 to Dr. King’s widow expressing condolences on behalf of the university community.Kirk condolence telegram to coretta scott king

A decision was also made to hold a campus memorial service in St. Paul’s Chapel at 3pm on April 9 – the day of the King funeral. Initially it was stated that the University would close starting at 3pm so all could attend the service. Then the administration received a letter dated April 6, 1968 from a group calling themselves “Concerned Black Students”. They argued that the University should close for the entire day on April 9 out of respect to Dr. King and what he stood for.

Among their points: “We realize that closing a university is a drastic action. But we feel that the crisis in America is an imperative for such action. We are aware of your telegram to Mrs. King and of the memorial service planned by Columbia. However, we would consider anything less than a complete shutdown of the University as an obvious affront to the memory of Dr. King and the principles that he stood for.” letter from Columbia Concerned black students to kirk

The letter was hand-delivered to Columbia Security Desk in Low Library at 9:30pm on Saturday April 6 after they tried to give it to President Grayson Kirk at his residence. Their message was clearly received by administration the next morning.

By Monday April 8 notices were posted that “In respect for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the University will be closed on Tuesday, 9 April 1968.”

To see how this and the campus memorial service all played out, follow @1968CU on Twitter

 

 

New Year and New Records about a New President

Dr. M. Moran Weston and President Andrew W. Cordier

Trustee and Rector of St. Philip’s Church Dr. M. Moran Weston and Columbia University President Andrew W. Cordier at his investiture ceremony held on December 19, 1970 at Low Library. Scan 4707. Office of Public Affairs Photograph Collection – Series II. Negatives, Box 53, Roll 2, Frame 13. Columbia University Archives.

Every January, archival records that were previously restricted become “open” or available to researchers. At the University Archives, there is a standard restriction of 25 years from the date of creation for administrative records, a 50-year restriction for trustee records and a 75-year restriction for student records. This means, for example, that with the New Year 2020, administrative records up to 1994 are now open. Most of the newly accessible records can be found in many of our frequently consulted collections, such as the Office of the Provost records. However, there is one set of records that just opened that is particularly interesting: Presidential Search records (UA#0174), Series II. The 1968 Presidential Search records. Continue reading

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Our colleagues in Global Studies sat down with RBML archivists Chris Laico to discuss archives and his daily work with the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research.

I view my work as similar to an eternal graduate student, in a good way. I learn something every day. There is a fundamental need to understand the context of an archival collection in order to do it justice, and be able to process it as neutrally and as efficiently as possible.

judge with gavel that spews flowers

I focus on the power of archives to tell a story, to not allow someone in a power position to say: “this did not happen”.

Most archives, or I should say, most processing of archives, support a human right, a right of representation, of having, a voice, a perspective, a community inscribed in history. This is especially true for minorities, or under-represented groups. It is the politics of representation, of what and who creates a canon, a narrative, of who gets heard and who has a seat at the table. Now that’s an interesting question.

Read the entire interview here.

Collections News | January 2020

Here are some new and updated finding aids, reflecting work by archivists in archival processing, collections management, and university archives. – KWS

embroidered flowers and birds

Arthur Mitchell Papers

“Arthur Mitchell (1934-2018) was an American ballet dancer, choreographer, and founder and director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem. This collection contains materials related to his career as a dancer with the New York City Ballet, and his later professional work with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and others. The collection includes administrative records, appointment books, correspondence, invitations, notes, notebooks, photographs, programs, and audio and video recordings.”

Goodie Publications Archive, 1999-2009

“Goodie Publications played a major role in shaping NYC’s cultural underground from the 1960s and earlier through the 1990s to present day. From Judith Malina and Lionel Ziprin to Debbie Harry, Gregory Corso, Edgar Oliver and Penny Arcade to lesser known but equally important luminaries, these interviews and related materials are a treasure trove for students, historians, researchers and authors interested in the art, music, literature, politics and everyday life of the period.”

Gail Mary Killian and Stephen Desroches sound recordings, 1970-2003

“The majority of the collection’s interviews were taken by Gail Mary Killian and document her life in the 1970s-1980s as a woman living with Down syndrome in Eastern Massachusetts.”

* This fascinating oral history collection will shortly be sent to our external vendor for digitization. Continue reading

As seen on TV: more on the Apollo Theater through oral history

Don’t be trying to half-step on us. If you half- step on us, we are going to let you know. You will not get any applause, we will boo you.

If you’ve watched the new HBO documentary about Harlem’s Apollo Theater and want to know more, the Oral History Archives at Columbia (OHAC) is home to the Apollo Theater Oral History Project.

Continue reading

In tribute | First African-American psychoanalyst, Margaret Lawrence dies at 105

National Institutes of Health (NIH) photo archives. – https://www.nlm.nih.gov/changingthefaceofmedicine/physicians/biography_195.html

The New York Times reports that Columbia alum Dr. Margaret Lawrence died on 4 December 2019. Though not defined by the discrimination she faced, the obituary notes that despite being a Cornell pre-med graduate, she was denied entrance to the Cornell’s medical school.

Dr. Lawrence, “absorbed the shock, then applied to Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She was accepted, on the condition that she would not protest if white patients refused to be seen by her. (None did.) She agreed, and became the only black student in her class of 104, graduating in 1940.

She would still face discrimination, often being mistaken for a cleaning lady. But she went on to be a renowned pediatrician and child psychiatrist and the first African-American woman to become a psychoanalyst in the United States…”

In this 1991 oral history clip, Dr. Lawrence discusses how racist discrimination amongst psychoanalytic practitioners failed to recognize that black children and families had “sufficient ego strength” to use and benefit from psychoanalytic tools.

Continue reading

In the Desert

Lou Little and CU Football Players at the El Conquistador Hotel in Tucson, Arizona.

On December 19, 1933, the Columbia Lion football players set out on a cross-country trip to Pasadena, California to play in the 1934 Rose Bowl against the heavily favored Stanford. Every player making the cross-country trip was insured for $5,000 to guard against possible injuries on the train ride to California and back. The Lions traveled by night and practiced by day with stops in St. Louis, Dallas and Tucson, Arizona, where they drilled for a full week in the desert sun.

Continue reading

Cliff Montgomery

Ticket for 1934 Rose Bowl game between Columbia and Stanford.

In preparing the “Roar, Lion, Roar” Columbia football exhibition (on view at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Chang Octagon through December 20), we found a great detail about the 1934 Rose Bowl game in the New York Times obituary for Cliff Montgomery, the quarterback and MVP of Columbia’s victory over Stanford. According to the Times, “Montgomery’s fake to Brominski was so good that Barabas, who was hiding the ball for what would be a naked reverse, added to the deception by standing for a few seconds and watching Brominski.” (23 April 2005) We had to use that in an exhibition label! However, what we found even more interesting is that back in December 1933, Columbia was considered such an underdog that the Times didn’t even send a reporter to cover the game. That’s how unlikely the upset seemed at the time.

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Marking World AIDS Day with oral histories from the collections

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

On December 1, health care practitioners, among others, are recognizing World AIDS Day. The goal is to bring awareness to the fact that AIDS and HIV remain a global pandemic. This year’s theme is “Know Your Status.”

World AIDS Day BadgeFor some historical perspective on the AIDS crisis, we had look at a few of the 74 interviews that make up the Physicians and AIDS oral history project housed in the RBML. About the project,

To construct a collective biography of the early AIDS doctors, Ronald Bayer, Columbia University professor of public health, and Gerald Oppenheimer, associate professor of clinical public health, turned to oral history. After extensive preparation, interviewing, and editing, they published AIDS Doctors: Voices from the Epidemic, an historical account of the epidemic through the eyes of the doctors who experienced it.

Continue reading

News from RBML’s Archivists | November 2019

vintage assorted books on shelf

Photo credit: Roman Craft

Head Archivist Kevin Schlottmann shares collections new from the RBML

Here are some new and updated finding aids, reflecting work by archivists in archival processing, collections management, and university archives, as well as by our graduate student internship program. – KWS

Updated links to following collections are now included in the finding aids:

Gregory Corso Papers

John Eugene Unterecker Papers

Judith Crist Papers

Lee Lockwood Papers

C.L.R. James Papers

Malcolm X Project records Continue reading