African American studies


Signing Jackie Robinson, Malpractice in South Africa, An American Bohemian: The Readex Report (March 2017)

In this issue: the seminal inking of an African American baseball legend, Apartheid-era doctors under fire for neglect, and the unexplained loss of a literary luminary.


The Robinson Interregnum: The Black Press Responds to the Signing of Jackie Robinson, October 23, 1945-March 1, 1946

Thomas Aiello, Associate Professor of History, Valdosta State University

jackie 2.jpgThere is little about the life of Jackie Robinson that historians do not know. Each part of his saga has been analyzed time and again. Among the periods sometimes given short shrift, however, is the time between the seminal event of his signing with the Montreal Royals, AAA farm team of Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers, in October 1945 and his arrival in Sanford, Florida, for his first spring training in an unapologetically racist South….Each of those accounts uses major black weeklies to create a picture of Robinson’s actions and the black response, but looking at smaller black weeklies, less trumpeted than the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender, a more nuanced picture of that response helps color the solid scholarship that already exists. > Full Story

Signing Jackie Robinson, Malpractice in South Africa, An American Bohemian: The Readex Report (March 2017)

Beer and Loafing in Niagara Falls: Sarcastic Shenanigans from Q.K. Philander Doesticks

“The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse

While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway...”

—Walt Whitman (from an unpublished poem)

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A century before gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and his antihero Raoul Duke there was Mortimer Thomson and his fictional persona Q.K. Philander Doesticks. One of the “bohemian” gang who gathered at Pfaff’s Beer Cellar in Manhattan, Thomson published jaunty anecdotes under his unusual penname in newspapers across America during the 19th century.

His own creation—full name Queer Kritter Philander Doesticks, P.B. (Perfect Brick)—quickly became a favorite reporter. In November 1854 a New York Evening Post article, likely written by Thomson himself, provides this biographical information on Thomson’s eccentric alter ego:

Beer and Loafing in Niagara Falls: Sarcastic Shenanigans from Q.K. Philander Doesticks

‘The Most Excitable Senator’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The February release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes examples of the use of pseudoscience to justify racism, a defense of Senator Sumner’s anti-slavery “Crime Against Kansas” speech, and more.


 

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Negroes and Negro Slavery (1853)

By John H. Van Evrie, M.D.

John H. Van Evrie (1814-1896) authored several books defending slavery and racism, edited the white supremacist newspaper Weekly Day Book, and owned a publishing company. He was referred to as the first professional racist in American history. Van Evrie often employed the pseudoscience of race biology to defend his beliefs, in this case his opposition to miscegenation.

‘The Most Excitable Senator’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

Arch_Street_Ferry 2.jpgThe January release of Black Authors, 1556-1922: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes:

♦ a description of the first major yellow fever epidemic in the United States

♦ a collection of verse by an African slave who became a leading American poet 

♦ and W.E.B. Du Bois' first scholarly book—a history of the slave trade based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation.


Jones Title Page.jpgA Narrative of the Proceedings of the Black People, During the Late Awful Calamity in Philadelphia, in the Year 1793 (1794)

By Absalom Jones and Richard Allen

Absalom Jones (1746-1818) and Richard Allen (1760-1831) were both born into slavery and through various transactions were subsequently separated from their families. They were also both clergymen; Jones, in 1804, became the first African American ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church of the United States, and Allen, in 1794, founded the first independent black denomination in the United States, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In this jointly-written narrative they describe the 1793 Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic and respond to criticisms of African Americans who assisted in caring for the sick.

They write:

‘Imagination! Who can sing thy force?’—Highlights from Black Authors, 1556-1922

‘Catch the Itch’: Three Newly Digitized Works from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The January release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a 17th-century report on the British territories across the Atlantic, an 18th-century essay on diseases of the West Indies and their remedies, and a 19th-century collection of casually racist drawings.


 

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The Present State of His Majesties Isles and Territories in America (1687)

By Richard Blome

Richard Blome (1635-1705) was an English author and cartographer. His report on the American Territories is accompanied by maps, astronomical charts, and “a table by which, at any time of the day or night here in England, you may know what hour it is in any of those parts.”

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In addition to charts and tables, Blome’s book contains thrilling descriptions of the natural world of the Caribbean. Here’s his account of dangers beneath the surface of the seas around Antigua.

‘Catch the Itch’: Three Newly Digitized Works from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Included in the January 2017 release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia are several works that provide insight into the conditions under which many African Americans lived in Antebellum America.


The Farmer’s Accountant and Instructions for Overseers (1828)

By Pleasant Suit

Pleasant Suit, the author of this bookkeeping guide for farmers, notes that he has “been in the habit of keeping Books upwards of thirty years, part of the time in the largest importing and exporting Mercantile house in Virginia.”  He illustrates his method of accounting for African Americans among other “stock accounts” with charts like this:

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Entries in the book’s “F.A.Q.” section include:

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Q. Why do you debit Negro account to Stock account?

A. Because it is a component part of it, and it enables you at all times to know how many you have, by comparing the debtor’s side with the credit: If any are sold you credit the account by what you receive, and if one or more dies you credit the account by Profit and Loss for the valuation; and if your women should have children, you debit this amount to Profit and Loss for the number and value of them.

‘Frowning upon every privilege of birth’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

History Professor David Goldfield Offers New Perspective on Civil War at American Library Association Meeting [VIDEO]

"History is messy."

That’s the lesson David Goldfield, the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, taught at the Readex breakfast presentation at the 2017 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta. Prof. Goldfield supported this short declaration with several poignant examples.

While our minds tend to enjoy simple, clear-cut, good-versus-evil narratives, the reality is much more complex, Goldfield argued.  He used his research surrounding U.S. religious and Southern history to provide a new look at the causes and outcomes of the American Civil War, first explaining why he finds the often-told story of the war “woefully incomplete.” He asked his audience of academic librarians to entertain a very different perspective on the war.

Throughout his presentation, Goldfield challenged the usual chronicle surrounding the war—the familiar debate of states’ rights and slavery—and instead focused on the consequences of righteousness and the effects of removing the barrier between church and state. According to Goldfield, the Civil War represented the failure of our political system, caused by the injection of religion.

History Professor David Goldfield Offers New Perspective on Civil War at American Library Association Meeting [VIDEO]

‘A Weapon of the Deadliest Kind’: Selections from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The December release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a patently racist collection “of laughable caricatures on the march of manners amongst the blacks,” a fictional memoir of questionable morality, and a proposed solution to “a menace to American civilization” by a white supremacist.


 

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Tregear's Black Jokes (1834)

London-based publisher Gabriel Shear Tregear (1802-1841) managed his Humorous and Sporting Print Shop from the late 1820s to his death. His shop was renowned, and later infamous, for the multitude of caricatures and prints filling its windows. He was forced to reduce the number of displayed items after a child was struck accidently by a passing wagon due to the size of the gathered crowd near the shop. This hard-to-find collection of drawings by little-known artist W. Summers illustrates the societal racism of the period. It also includes the scarce plates numbered 1, 2, 5, 13, 14, 17, and 20.

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The Memoirs of Dolly Morton (1904)

By Hugues Rebell

‘A Weapon of the Deadliest Kind’: Selections from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

Top Ten: The Most Popular Readex Blog Posts Published in 2016

Here are the most-read posts published on the Readex Blog during 2016:

180px-Hubbardton-Battlefield-Monument sm.jpg1. “My knees then smote one against the other”: Highlights from Supplement to Early American Imprints, Shaw-Shoemaker

This month’s release of new material in the Early American Imprints Supplement from the American Antiquarian Society includes a biographical account of a young American rebel who was wounded... More

Elmira%20barrel sm c2.jpg2. Captured! Firsthand Accounts of Prisoners of War from The American Civil War Collection

Opinions on prisoners of war and prisoner exchanges have dominated recent news cycles. The June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian... More

Top Ten: The Most Popular Readex Blog Posts Published in 2016

‘Progressive and Arrogant Pretensions’: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

The November release of The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes responses by three Southern senators to anti-slavery resolutions enacted in Vermont, a call for placing temperance and abolitionism above political party, and a speech by Charles Sumner on the “origin, necessity and permanence” of the Republican Party.


Remarks of Messrs. Clemens, Butler, and Jefferson Davis, on the Vermont Resolutions Relating to Slavery (1850)

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On January 10, 1850, Senators Jeremiah Clemens, Andrew Butler, and Jefferson Davis delivered speeches before the U.S. Senate responding to several anti-slavery resolutions passed by the Vermont General Assembly and presented to the U.S. Senate. The first resolution found:

That slavery is a crime against humanity, and a sore evil in the body politic, that was excused in the framers of the Federal Constitution as a crime entailed upon the country by their predecessors and tolerated solely as a thing of inexorable necessity.

The General Assembly further resolved to petition Vermont’s U.S. Senators to resist the extension of slavery to the territories. Senator Clemens began his remarks by explaining why he had not attempted to block a motion to print the resolutions:

‘Progressive and Arrogant Pretensions’: Highlights from The American Slavery Collection, 1820-1922

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