Civil Rights Leader speaks at MTSU for Constitution Day

Written by Julie Maresco, Graduate Assistant

On September 14, 2016,  the Albert Gore Research Center closed in order for staff and students to hear Civil Rights leader Diane Nash speak. Ms. Nash was the primary speaker for Constitution Week at MTSU.  Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the Center for Historic Preservation, and Dr. Mary Evins, Coordinator of the American Democracy Project, introduced our special speaker and set the stage for Ms. Nash. They emphasized her leadership role in Nashville’s lunch counter sit-ins and the monumental effects the sit-ins had on both Nashville and the country, her involvement with the freedom bus rides, the march on Selma, her significance in the women’s rights movement, and her ongoing leadership in social justice causes.

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Four MTSU students (Torren Gatson, Marquita Reed, Jessica Shotwell, and Alvin Pike) joined Diane Nash on stage and conducted a Question & Answer session, covering topics such as voting, public education, and housing.

Ms. Nash focused on the movement of the 1960s and elaborated on the concept of non-violence by describing it in a new way. Although she was taught non-violent resistance practices utilized by Mahatma Gandhi as a college student at Fisk University, she believed “non-violence” was a negative term and what they were trying to accomplish was positive. Therefore, she coined the term “agapic energy” to describe the movement, which comes from the Greek word Agape (love for humankind). The main principle of this energy is that people are capable of waging warfare without weapons or physical force, but rather emotional force–particularly love. Agapic energy is active, making those resisting segregation and inequality not simply protesters but activists as a result.

According to agapic energy’s principle, people are never the enemy. Ms. Nash emphasized how the real enemies are unjust political and economic systems, attitudes, racism, and hate. Agapic energy requires a love and respect for the person and an intolerance of the system. She made it clear that killing individuals does not kill the system, so it is not the answer. It also emphasizes that oppression always requires the cooperation of the oppressed and the oppressed need to change first in order to alter the system of power.

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From left to right: Matthew Walker, Peggy Alexander, Diane Nash, and Stanley Hemphill. Nash participated in some of the first lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville in the 1960s. (Photo courtesy of Gerald Holly, The Tennessean)

Ms. Nash made clear that lessons learned in the Civil Rights Movement still apply to social justice movements today.  She emphatically stated several times that it is up to citizens to make social change and for them not to rely on a charismatic leader or an elected official to solve problems. She speculated that if they had waited for someone else to change things during the Civil Rights Movement, they might be facing the same struggles today. Although she recognized Martin Luther King Jr.’s contribution to the movement as spokesman and an organizer, she clarified that it was not solely his movement, but a people’s movement.  Further, she warned the audience about trusting the corporate media, calling for oppressed communities to create their own media outlets.

Ms. Nash concluded with a moderated question session by a MTSU student panel (see photograph above) as well as taking questions from the audience. In her answers to questions on Black Lives Matter, how to organize when there is a large measure of apathy, and fighting stereotypes in the media, Ms. Nash reiterated the necessity of organized groups and communities in achieving any success, continuing to exercise hard-won voting rights regardless of the political environment, and combating attitudes of white supremacy.

Diane Nash continues to be an inspiration and role model for all those seeking positive change in our society.

Further References:

Books referenced by Diane Nash:

The Power of Non-Violence by Richard Gregg

My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Ghandi

Conquest of Violence by Joan Bondurant

For information about the accuracy of headlines and current issues: informationclearinghouse.info

Documentaries on Diane Nash:

Freedom Riders

Eyes on the Prize

Diane Nash on Internet Movie Database

 

 

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2016 AGRC Graduate Assistants

 

 

A new academic year always means new graduate assistants. The Albert Gore Research Center typically employs four graduate assistants who learn how to process archival papers, build exhibits, and conduct reference work. The AGRC provides a space for these graduate students in public history to combine their classroom theory with real-world practice. Let’s get to know them a little better, shall we?

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Zachary Kautzman hails from Mandan, North Dakota and received his undergraduate degrees in Public History and History from North Dakota State University (NDSU).

Zach comes to us with previous archival experience as a volunteer at the Hjemkommst Center in Moorhead, Minnesota, and as a student working in the NDSU archives. Most recently he served as a reading room assistant at the North Dakota State Archives, where he cataloged photograph collections and assisted the reference desk.

His current research interests entail United States labor history, particularly focusing on unions. He also enjoys studying the German unification of the 19th century, and the social and economic history of alcohol. At the AGRC, he is particularly interested in learning more about our political collections, such as the Bart Gordon Papers. In tune with his research interests, Zach’s career goals involve working at a large archives doing collections management or teaching German history.

His favorite historical TV show is HBO’s Band of Brothers because it is a compelling example of effective popular history in the media. He thinks the show’s creators did a wonderful job integrating the true stories from World War II veterans into the drama.

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Kelsey Lamkin comes from Jackson, TN, and received her B.S. in Anthropology at MTSU this past May.

Although she’s a new graduate assistant, Kelsey is far from an AGRC rookie. She volunteered, interned, and worked in the archive since the summer of 2015. She wrote a couple of great blog posts in the past, including this one on June Anderson.
Her research interests include women’s history, sexuality, and early 20th century history. She is currently working on master’s thesis involving women’s roles in the Middle Tennessee area during World War II. She is particularly intrigued by how the political and social changes affected women’s sexuality and gender roles.
Her ideal career would include researching and writing, preferably in an area with a good autumn climate. Of course, she also like to travel back in time to the 1940s–victory rolls and red lipstick please!
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Bradley Harjehausen is one of our returning graduate assistants. He is originally from Yucaipa, CA, and attended the University of Redlands, where he received a B.A. in History.

Bradley is a non-thesis archives student interested in university and institutional history as well as working with audio/visual materials. In fact, his career goals include working in an audio/visual archive that preserves and makes accessible recorded sound and film mediums. He has enjoyed working with one of the AGRC’s recent acquisitions–the Huell Howser WSMV-TV film reels.

If he could go back in time to have tea with any historical figure, Bradley would pick Benjamin Franklin. He’d like to get the dirt on all of Franklin’s accomplishments and wide-ranging interests. The one burning question he would have to ask Franklin: why the turkey?
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Julie Maresco is also a returning graduate assistant. She traveled to the south from New York, where she attended SUNY New Paltz and received a B.A. in Art History. She also attended CUNY City College for graduate school in museum studies, but transferred to MTSU in 2014 and is currently working on her master’s in public history.
After moving to Tennessee, she worked at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville and the Rutherford County Archives in Murfreesboro.
Her research interests include public art and monuments and their relationships with public memory and power structures. She also loves studying women’s history, gender studies, LGBT history, the Civil Rights Movement, and social justice activism. At the AGRC, she finds our oral history collection quite fascinating, and has been a major part of our podcast’s on veterans. You can listen to past podcasts on SoundCloud, and look for more in the future!
Julie hopes to one day the director of a museum, archive, or historic site. She plans to pursue a PhD in museum studies either in New York or the United Kingdom.
Her favorite historical movie is the Last King of Scotland for its compelling adaptation of a true story and its demonstration of the power dynamics between Africans and Europeans, men and women, and the complexity of dictatorship in Africa.
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Tennessee Responses to the Rosenbergs

Written by Sarah Calise, Project Archivist

On August 11, 1950, Ethel Rosenberg was arrested on the charge of conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States. Her husband, Julius, was arrested a month earlier. They were accused of passing along top-secret information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg separated by a wire fence after being found guilty of espionage. [Courtesy of Library of Congress]

The trial began in 1951 on March 6, and the jury convicted Ethel and Julius a few weeks later on March 29. Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced the two to death in the electric chair. The Rosenbergs’ attorney, Emanuel H. Bloch, fought for an appeal for two years. Ultimately, his appeal attempts failed.

During the two years of appeals, United States citizens and others across the globe were split on their feelings toward the couple. Some regarded them as traitors, while others saw them as victims of McCarthyism and the hysteria of anticommunism. For the latter, the death penalty seemed too cruel of a punishment.

On June 13, 1953, the Supreme Court denied the Rosenbergs a stay of execution. The couple’s punishment was to be administered on June 18, but Justice William O. Douglas granted them one last stay of execution after a Tennessee lawyer, Fyke Farmer, argued that the court tried the supposed spies under the wrong law. After years of delay, those Americans who saw the Rosenbergs as traitors thought the decision by Justice Douglas was also an act of treason.

Serving as a U.S. Senator at the time, Albert Gore Sr. received telegrams and letters from citizens of Tennessee demanding the impeachment of Justice Douglas. Here are a couple of samples (click each document to view larger):

Senator Gore responded to many of the letters on June 19, 1953–the same day the Supreme Court overturned Justice Douglas and ordered the execution of the Rosenbergs that evening. In his response, Gore stressed the seriousness of the death penalty and the responsibility of the justice system to ensure that “every accused is innocent until he is proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” He acknowledged that the two years of appeals following the Rosenbergs’ conviction and sentencing may have been “unusual,” but he reminded these constituents that “no time, effort, or patience is spared to see that defendants have every opportunity to take advantage of all reasonable efforts to establish” reasonable doubt. He also refused to speak lightly about whether or not Justice Douglas should be impeached.

Here is an example of Senator Gore’s response:

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Proclaiming their innocence right up to the time of their deaths, the Rosenbergs were the only American civilians to be executed for espionage activity during the Cold War. These documents demonstrate how some Tennesseans responded to the court’s actions, and how Senator Albert Gore Sr. emphasized the importance of due diligence in the criminal justice system.

Note: all documents came from the Albert Gore Sr. Senate Papers, Special Files Series.

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Forrest Hall Digital Collection Update

Written by Sarah Calise, graduate assistant

Today is my final day as a graduate assistant at the Albert Gore Research Center, and I would like to dedicate this blog to the project I’ve been pushing for since September 2015.

Quickly following the Charleston shooting on June 17, 2015, black students at Middle Tennessee State University called for an end to the Confederate symbols that still plagued the campus. The protests mainly surrounded the ROTC building honored after Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This was the fourth major protest against Forrest at the university. The first demonstrations, led by student Sylvester Brooks, occurred in the 1960s after integration. Two other movements happened in the late 1980s and in 2006. Finally, the fourth protests began last summer. Although, an examination of Sidelines articles shows that debates about Confederate symbols and racism on campus have appeared intermittently since the 1960s.

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Graduate student Josh Crutchfield leads students in a chant following a protest in front of Forrest Hall on November 23, 2015. (Photo credit: Daily News Journal)

 

With the support of the university archivist, Donna Baker, I began the development of a digital collection that would capture this fourth major protest as the history unfolded. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, many archivists around the country realized that waiting to receive personal papers related to these demonstrations years from now may be too late. History is happening now and, in the digital age, sources can disappear faster than it takes to tweet 140 characters.

 

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Screenshot of the current holdings in the Walker Library Digital Collections related to the search term “Forrest Hall.” Accessed May 5, 2015.

The development of this digital collection was a slow process that involved a lot of convincing, relationship-building, and learning-as-we-go strategies. As a graduate student, there were many times I felt overwhelmed. As an emerging archivist, there were many times I made mistakes. As a human being, there were days of frustration and much needed self-care.

The digital collection is not perfect but it exists, and sometimes that is half the battle when a university neglected to document the voices of students of color for decades. Right now, the Forrest Collection contains mostly photographs from protests and public forums during the 2015-2016 academic year. Overall, there will be more than 200 items–documents, newspapers, yearbook pages, photographs, videos, and social media posts–housed in the digital collection that covers the relationship between Forrest, Confederate symbols, and MTSU dating back to the 1930s.

After today, I pass on the future duties of the digital collection to Donna Baker, and I know it is in trusted hands. I want to thank her for her unwavering support throughout this entire project. She was the first person I pitched the idea to the day after the protest in August.

Finally, I want to thank the courageous students (both past and present) who fought long and hard against the white supremacy and Confederate symbols at our university. We will win.

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Z is for Zadie Key

Zadie Key was active in Rutherford County political and community organizations from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. A student and later employee of MTSU, her organizational ties include the United Way, Rutherford County Historical Society and Rutherford County Democratic Women’s Club, in which she served as president. The Zadie Key Papers include the following photographs, the first being Key, Albert Gore, Jr. and two unidentified people at an event supporting Jimmy Carter for president. The second photograph depicts Key (far right) with her fellow officers of the Rutherford County Democratic Women’s Club.

From everyone at the Albert Gore Research Center, we hope you have enjoyed our AGRCAtoZ blog series this semester. If you have any feedback on how we can improve it next semester, please let us know.

Written by Bradley Harjehausen, graduate assistant

 

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Y is for Yummy

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Nothing says summer like a fresh salad–check out some of these recipes! This 1914 cookbook comes from the Records of the Charity Circle of Murfreesboro. Founded in 1910, the Charity Circle is a women’s charity organization that assists Rutherford Country residents with basic needs and services that improve the quality of life. In the earlier years of the organization, these women focused on assisting the poor and advocating for education, temperance, and, later, suffrage. They are still an active group, visit their website here: http://www.charitycirclemboro.com/index.html.

Written by Sarah Calise, graduate assistant

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The AGRC Celebrates Earth Day 2016

 

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Larry Sizemore inside the greenhouse for the MTSU Magazine.

In honor of Earth Day 2016, the Albert Gore Research Center proudly presents our newest collection: The Larry Sizemore Horticulture Collection processed by graduate assistant Julie Maresco and University archivist Donna Baker.

Larry Sizemore served as the Grounds Services supervisor of Middle Tennessee State University. The Larry Sizemore Horticulture Collection includes maps and keys, letters, notes, photographs, slides, pamphlets, booklets, magazines, and teaching guides. It surveys and documents Sizemore’s contributions to horticulture development at MTSU and the Homer Pittard Campus School. It also contains educational materials to teach students about horticulture.

A 1971 MTSU Alumnus, Larry Sizemore grew and supervised the planting of over 10,000 flowers and plants on MTSU’s 500 acre campus. He was originally MTSU’s Greenhouse supervisor and later became the Ground Services supervisor. Larry Sizemore retired on December 23, 2015. Below are some images from this collection.

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In 1970, the year of our first Earth Day, the movement gave voice to an emerging consciousness, channeling human energy toward environmental issues. Celebrate Earth Day and find out how you can help protect our planet by attending Murfreesboro’s event on April 23, 2016. (See link below)

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Murfreesboro Earth Day Celebration-Saturday April 23, 2016

Written by Julie Maresco, graduate assistant

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