Rituals of Remembrance

Across time and cultures people have developed an astounding diversity of practices to remember the passing of others.  Nearly every cultural and religious tradition have their own practices of mourning and remembrance.  This is necessary as the death of a loved one creates the paradoxical impulses of both wanting to hold on to someone and the need to let them go. One common feature of many of these traditions is they are a public ceremonial method for processing private grief; the transferring of private grieving into a shared community activity.  The following post provides a very brief sampling of remembrance practices from a variety of cultures with links to resources in the UT Catalog electronic resources for further exploration.

Famously from antiquity, pharaoh rulers from ancient Egyptian cultures had enormous monuments built, including the pyramids that have withstood millennia, to house their remains as well as their earthly possessions, to ensure their legacy and a prosperous afterlife.

The tombs of early Chinese rulers also displayed immense funerary dedication for the dead. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang from the late 3rd century BCE contained the Terracotta Army of roughly 9,000 terracotta sculptures, buried to protect the first Emperor of China in the next life.

Ancient Roman mausoleums were monumental memorials intended as public records of a prosperous individual’s life.  Some funeral monuments were situated publicly, such as on a well-traveled road, with inscriptions admonishing those passing by to remember the deceased, allowing a manner of momentary survival as their name lived on.

In Judaism, the first stage of avelut is shiva (“sitting”), a seven-day period of mourning following burial. For this week, mourners remain at home, refraining from work and receiving visitors.  Visitors may offer prayers and condolences and bring food so mourners need not need cook during their time of grief.

The annual Chinese Qingming Festival is a traditional observance for paying respect to ancestors through visiting, sweeping, cleaning and repairing their gravesites.  Half cooked food is offered at the graves, firecrackers are used to chase off evil spirits, while incense is burned to entice the ancestor spirits to partake in the offerings.

Some African funeral traditions have a social and performative aspect to funerals, which are intended to provide a catharsis for grief over loss of a loved one.

In England in the mid-1800s, as photography became more affordable, and epidemics took their toll on the country, memento mori (“remember you must die”) photography of deceased family members became popular as a way of preserving their memory.

In contemporary North American Judeo-Christian traditions, we are most familiar with funerals with attendance by families and friends of the departed.  Contemporary practices such as including sentimental tokens to include in internment such as photographs or wedding rings can be seen to reflect ancient practices of including goods such as arrowheads, pottery and shell jewelry in ancient burials.

Another tradition found to be adopted contemporarily are funeral processions. Many may be familiar with processions of mourners or cars, even for heads of state, such as Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Procession in April 1865, or the funeral procession for President John F. Kennedy in 1963.  Funeral processions have remained a powerful metaphor for enabling the transport of the departed from one world to the next.

In the Remembrance Project members of UT Libraries staff have developed an interactive exhibit for the UT community to honor loved ones and colleagues, and to acknowledge the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UT community and worldwide.  We invite members of the UT Community to share remembrances of colleagues, friends and loved ones as a way to honor and share their memory.  Remembrance offerings are meant to be personal and individual, and may be inspired by your personal or cultural traditions or of those you are honoring.

https://scalar.usc.edu/works/the-remembrance-project/index

Through acknowledging our losses and sharing we hope to provide a communal space during this challenging time for working through the difficulty of grief and loss.  We invite you to explore further about various traditions of mourning and remembrance. We have collected some resources from the UT Library collection as a starting point.

SOURCES

Do funerals matter? the purposes and practices of death rituals in global perspective / William G. Hoy. https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991058080349106011

Ancient Egyptian tombs the culture of life and death / Steven Snape.

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991057957240006011

Roman Funerary Practices and Monuments

https://go.gale.com/ps/retrieve.do?tabID=T003&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&searchResultsType=SingleTab&hitCount=3&searchType=BasicSearchForm&currentPosition=1&docId=GALE%7CCX2458800905&docType=Topic+overview&sort=Relevance&contentSegment=&prodId=GVRL&pageNum=1&contentSet=GALE%7CCX2458800905&searchId=R1&userGroupName=txshracd2598&inPS=true

Challis, Debbie. “Memento Mori: Grief, Remembering, and Living.” Lancet Psychiatry, The 3.3 (2016): 210–212. Web.

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_crossref_primary_10_1016_S2215_0366_16_00060_2

Terracotta army : legacy of the first emperor of China / Li Jian and Hou-mei Sung ; with an essay by Zhang Weixing and contributions by William Neer.

DS 747.9 Q254 L5 2017 Fine Arts Library

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/be14ds/alma991046548279706011

Hindu Ancestor Rituals Knipe, David Encyclopedia of India, 2006, Vol.2, p.183-184

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_gale_vrl_3446500266

Qingming. Shu-min, Huang. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, 2002, Vol.5, p.34-34

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_gale_vrl_3403702442

Shiva. Encyclopedia of World Religions: Encyclopedia of Judaism, 2016

https://search.lib.utexas.edu/permalink/01UTAU_INST/1jebi5l/cdi_credo_entries_27433443

Ukaegbu, Victor. “African Funeral Rites: Sites for Performing, Participating and Witnessing of Trauma.” Performance research 16.1 (2011): 131–141. Web.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13528165.2011.562037

What is Indigenous Peoples Day and Why does it matter?

Depending on what calendar you’re using and what city you are living in, you may or may not see today marked as Indigenous Peoples Day. A few years ago, Austin City Council voted to honor Native and Indigenous People by replacing Columbus Day at City Hall with Indigenous People’s Day, a move that follows the example of changes made by 14 states and over 130 cities across the country dating back to the 1970s.

Likewise, land acknowledgments are becoming more common to promote inclusion in our work and spaces. Here is the ARL Land Acknowledgement that Dr. Haricombe used as the basis for the Land Acknowledgement at the beginning of last week’s All Staff Meeting.

For this blog post, we would like to acknowledge and honor the Carrizo & Comecrudo, Coahuiltecan, Caddo, Tonkawa, Comanche, Lipan Apache, Alabama-Coushatta, Kickapoo, Tigua Pueblo, and all the American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of the lands and territories in Texas.

This day and what it means for all Americans deserves and requires much more space and consideration than I (unfortunately) am able to give it in this blog post. So I encourage everyone to take some time today to use the resources below as a launching point for your own search into learning more about how to honor indigenous people and acknowledge the violent colonial history that continues to negatively impact Native American and Indigenous people.

Resource Highlights

Tribal Land Map – learn about the indigenous peoples of the land on which you live and work

Five Ideas for Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day 2020, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Eason, A., Pope, T., Becenti, K., & Fryberg, S. (2020). Sanitizing history: National identification, negative stereotypes, and support for eliminating Columbus Day and adopting Indigenous Peoples DayCultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology.

10 Ways to be a Genuine Ally to Indigenous Communities, Amnesty International

Consider supporting an Indigenous organization, like the local nonprofit Indigenous Cultures Institute.

Image of Indigenous Cultures Institute video
You can view this great video from Indigenous Cultures Institute

See other reading recommendations from last year’s Native American Heritage Month post by Andres Ramirez.

Let us know what you’re reading and learning in the comments!

Breonna Taylor and The Mistreatment of Black Women

Breonna Taylor was shot and killed on March 13th, 2020 when three police officers raided her home in the middle of the night in search of a man who was already in custody elsewhere. On September 23rd, one of the officers (who had been terminated earlier) was charged with “wanton endangerment” for firing into the apartment without having a clear line of sight on his target.  There were no other charges, and no one was charged with causing Taylor’s death.

The protests that have arisen in response to the (lack of) charges are not only about what is seen by many as a miscarriage of justice. They are also about the mistreatment of Black women throughout American history, beginning with the physical and sexual abuse of female slaves by white slaveowners and continuing to this day. Black women are more likely to be abused by their intimate partners than women in other racial groups. They are also at significantly higher risk of being raped or murdered. To that point, Taylor’s residence was targeted by police not because they believed she was involved in illegal activities but because her ex-boyfriend was suspected of selling drugs.

The societal mistreatment of Black women also exists in more subtle, pernicious ways. A 2019 research study conducted by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality explored how Black girls aged 5-19 experience “adultification bias”, i.e. the tendency to see them as more sexually experienced and less in need of nurturing than White girls. This bias was linked to harsher disciplinary methods taken against Black girls by schools. The perception of Black women as being more sexual than their white counterparts continues into adulthood, as the historical stereotype of the black Jezebel demonstrates.

Black women are also more likely be seen as loud and prone to emasculating anger—the Angry Black Woman stereotype. Both of these stereotypes are exemplified by the treatment of Meghan Markle, the mixed race American woman who married Prince Harry in 2018. Among other instances, Markle has been described by media outlets as having “exotic DNA” and “(almost) straight outta Compton”. This racially based mistreatment has continued since she and her husband exited the monarchy. After Markle and Prince Harry released a video earlier this week encouraging Americans to vote, President Trump said at a White House press briefing: “I’m not a fan of [Markle’s]. . . . I would say this – and she probably has heard that – I wish a lot of luck to Harry, because he’s going to need it.” This is a clear reference to the emasculating effect Black women supposedly have on the men in their lives.

Much of this can be tied to intersectionality, a term coined by lawyer (and creator of the #SayHerName online movement) Kimbelé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe how Black women experience both racial and gender-based inequality. In a 2017 interview, Crenshaw described intersectionality as “a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects.” Looking at how Black women are oppressed—through their intimate relationships, their sexuality, and the perception that they do not conform to the supposed norm of a quiet, calm woman—one can see how both their gender and their race play significant roles.

The following is a list of resources available through UT Libraries on the experiences of Black women, intersectionality, and the role of protests in advancing racial justice. The vast majority of these works were written by Black female authors.

Resources

Black Women Authors and Experiences

Cooper, B., Morris, S., & Boylorn, R. (2017). The Crunk Feminist Collection. The Feminist Press.

This is a collection of essays that appeared in The Crunk Feminist Collective, an online group that aims to create a “space of support and camaraderie for hip hop generation feminists of color, queer and straight, in the academy and without.”

Gay, R. (2014). Bad Feminist : Essays. Harper Perennial.

Gay’s 2014 widely praised collection of essays approaches pop culture through a Black feminist lens.

hooks, b. (1989). Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. Routledge.

In this seminal work, hooks explores what it means to “talk back” to oppressive authority as an equal.

Taylor, K., Smith, B., Smith, B., Frazier, D., Garza, A., & Ransby, B. (eds) (2017). How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. Haymarket Books.

The Combahee River Collective, which was active from 1974 to 1980, was a group of queer Black feminists who sought to empower Black feminism as something that was separate from the (often racist) mainstream feminist movement. Their 1977 statement of beliefs can be found here.

Tinsley, O. (2019). Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism. University of Texas Press.

In her memoir, UT Professor Omise’eke Tinsley traces her experiences as a Black woman in America through the lens of Beyonce’s 2016 album Lemonade.

Intersectionality

 Davis, A. (2017). Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Haymarket Books.

World-renowned scholar Angela Davis traces the commonalities and differences in the experience of oppression throughout history across the world.

Eric-Udorie, J. (ed.) (2018). Can We All Be Feminists?: New Writing from Brit Bennett, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and 15 Others on Intersectionality, Identity, and the Way Forward for Feminism. Penguin Publishing Group.

This recent collection of essays by some of the top voices in feminist scholarship looks at the role of intersectionality in twenty-first century American culture.

Nash, J. (2020). Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality. Duke University Press.

Nash critiques how intersectionality has been coopted and altered by shifting norms in feminist scholarship.

Protests

 Cobbina, J. (2020). Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter, and How They Changed America. New York University Press.

Cobbina interviewed over two hundred residents in Ferguson and Baltimore in order to place their individual experiences of the protests (and of the events that led to the unrest) within the broader context of American culture.

Ward, J. (ed.) (2017). The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race. Scribner.

Jesmyn Ward edited this book of essays about how the themes and ideas in James Baldwin’s famous 1963 book apply to today’s world.

Color Blind Casting and Recognizing Race

title cover of Me and White Supremacy by Layla SaadIn today’s Me and White Supremacy challenge, Layla Saad explains how “color blindness” is a form of racism. Describing how white adults would tell their children not to call her Black when she was young, she says, “It often left me wondering, was Black synonymous with bad? Was my skin color a source of shame? And if so, was I expected to act as if I were not Black to make white people more comfortable around me?” (78)

The role race plays in identity has had an especially potent effect on recent movies, TV shows, and theatre as more productions attempt to cast people of diverse backgrounds in roles traditionally performed by white actors. This is often referred to as color blind casting, and it is fueled by the belief that simply replacing a white actor with a Black (or Asian or Latino, etc.) person can be done without any effect on the production itself. It is seen by some as progressive. However, while diversity onscreen is important, many artists have pointed out that pretending Blackness does not exist is not the way to ensure racial equity.

Black American playwright August Wilson pushed back strongly against colorblind casting in 1996 when he addressed the state of theater at the Theatre Communications Group national conference:

The idea of colorblind casting is the same idea of assimilation that black Americans have been rejecting for the past 380 years. . . . In an effort to spare us the burden of being “affected by an undesirable condition” and as a gesture of benevolence, many whites (like the proponents of colorblind casting) say, “Oh, I don’t see color.” We want you to see us.

Wilson argued that casting Black actors in canonical plays like Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman perpetuates the idea that only white voices and white stories matter. Instead, non-white artists need the spaces and budgets to tell their own stories.

Likewise, the Black Canadian playwright and actor Omari Newton described color blind casting as “an insidious and absurd form of racism” in an article discussing a 2019 production of All My Sons (coincidentally, also by Arthur Miller) in which two of the key roles were played by Black actors. This casting choice “pulled” Newton out of the story. He says:

Colour blind casting. . . is the theatrical equivalent of ignorantly telling your Black friend “I don’t see colour” when they try to engage you in a conversation about race. It is passively dehumanizing in the way that it dismisses the racism that is embedded in the very fabric of how colonized countries were founded.

Instead, Newton encourages casting directors to utilize “colour conscious casting.” This enables non-white actors to obtain roles in major productions while also ensuring thoughtful recognition of what it means for an actor of color to play certain roles.

Movie still of Ango-Indian actor Dev Patel as David Copperfield, wearing a tall hat standing in front of a Union Jack

One example of this was the casting of Anglo-Indian actor Dev Patel as the (canonically white) titular character in Armando Iannucci’s 2019 adaption of Charles Dickens’ The Personal History of David Copperfield. Iannucci chose Patel both because of Patel’s skill and because he wanted “the cast to be much more representative of what London looks like now.” Likewise, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway juggernaut Hamilton famously cast non-white actors as the (white) Founding Fathers and utilized music genres like hip-hop and jazz that were created by Black Americans.

Nevertheless, this approach is also controversial. While Miranda’s creative approach highlights the music, appearance, and dialect of non-white Americans, there is also a danger that it obscures the fact that America’s Founding Fathers were white men, many of whom owned slaves. In a 2020 interview with The Root, Leslie Odom Jr, the Black actor who played Aaron Burr in the original Broadway run, addressed this controversy by placing the musical in a historical context. He argued:

This isn’t the end of the conversation; it is the beginning. . . . Lin [Manuel-Miranda] ran his leg of the race. This was the story Lin wanted to tell. Now it’s up to you to tell the next story. There’s no doubt in my mind that someday someone is going to write the show that makes Hamilton look quaint.

Picture of Hamilton cast, featuring Leslie Odom Jr, Phillipa Soo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Christopher JacksonThe creative and entertainment industries are strengthened by the inclusion of non-white artists because they bring new stories to the screen and stage. Attempting to perform inclusivity by slotting non-white actors into traditionally white roles without any recognition of the changes this brings to a production is a way of silencing those stories and thus a form of racism.

For more information about researching film, check out the guides for Radio, Television, and Film and Film & Video Resources. The UT Libraries also subscribes to Kanopy, a streaming service featuring classic, independent, and world cinema as well as documentaries. For more information about researching race in America, check out the guides for African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Latin@ Studies, and Native American and Indigenous Studies. And make sure to follow along with the remaining twenty days of The 28 Day Challenge, sponsored by LSC and DAC!

The Complex Role of Protests in America

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed by three Minneapolis police officers. His death was the latest in a long line of black people dying at the hands of police, including the late-night shooting death of EMT Breonna Taylor by Louisville police in her own apartment and the death of Mike Ramos, an unarmed man of black and Latinx descent, by Austin police on April 24, 2020. For many, it was also reminiscent of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in February, who was chased and shot by two white men while jogging near his home. While Arbery was not killed by police officers, it was a harsh reminder that the possibility of racially motivated violence against people of color is always present in American society.

Since late May, protests in response to police brutality against people of color and other acts of racist violence have spread across the country. Many of the protests have been guided by the principles of non-violence as set down by Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, and other civil rights leaders. At a virtual town hall organized by the organization My Brother’s Keeper, former President Barack Obama both decried the police violence that led to Floyd’s death and also called upon protesters to remain peaceful.

However, in some places there has also been violence, including rioting and looting either by protesters or by other parties. Determining where a protest ends and a riot begins (if there even is a clear distinction) is difficult. Some scholars even argue that a certain degree of violence is an inevitable part of American protesting. After all, one of the most famous protests in American history– the Boston Tea Party– was an act of material destruction.

Likewise, the act of rioting has been construed by some as a means of last resort when all other avenues of change, including voting and peaceful protests, have failed. In a recent interview, Rep. Maxine Waters described the riots in California in 1992 as “an explosion of a hopelessness being played out” and went on to compare the 1992 riots to the current situation. While she points out several similarities between the two periods of unrest, including the lack of trust in the police, she also sees an important difference between them—specifically that in the recent protests there have been many white people joining black people in calling out for racial equity. In her words: “That’s telling us something — that it’s not only black people fed up with the police Establishment.”

Using the resources listed here, we invite you to explore the complex role protests play in American politics with a special emphasis on the ongoing struggle for racial equality. In future blog posts, we will discuss less frequently recognized events of racial violence in American history and the tradition of LGBTQ+ activism (including the Stonewall Riots of 1969).

Please note: All annotations have been taken from the resource itself.

Books

Gottheimer, J., ed. (2003). Ripples of Hope: Great American Civil Rights Speeches. Link.

Including a never-before published speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., this is the first compilation of its kind, bringing together the most influential and important voices from two hundred years of America’s struggle for civil rights, including essential speeches from leaders, both famous and obscure. With voices as diverse as Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, Betty Friedan, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth, this anthology constitutes a unique chronicle of the nation’s civil rights movements and the critical issues they’ve tackled, from slavery and suffrage to immigration and affirmative action. This is an indispensable compilation of the words –the ripples of hope–that, collectively, have changed American history.

Cover of How To Read a Protest by L.A. Kauffman
Cover of How To Read a Protest by L.A. Kauffman

Kauffman, L. (2018). How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing and Resistance. https://doi.org/10.1525/9780520972209

In this original and richly illustrated account, organizer and journalist L.A. Kauffman delves into the history of America’s major demonstrations, beginning with the legendary 1963 March on Washington, to reveal the ways protests work and how their character has shifted over time. Using the signs that demonstrators carry as clues to how protests are organized, Kauffman explores the nuanced relationship between the way movements are made and the impact they have. How to Read a Protest sheds new light on the catalytic power of collective action and the decentralized, bottom-up, women-led model for organizing that has transformed what movements look like and what they can accomplish.
Streitmatter, R. (2001). Voices of Revolution: The Dissident Press in America. https://doi.org/10.7312/stre12248
Streitmatter tells the stories of dissident American publications and press movements of the last two centuries, and of the colorful individuals behind them. From publications that fought for the disenfranchised to those that promoted social reform, Voices of Revolution examines the abolitionist and labor press, black power publications of the 1960s, the crusade against the barbarism of lynching, the women’s movement, and antiwar journals. Streitmatter also discusses gay and lesbian publications, contemporary on-line journals, and counterculture papers like The Kudzu and The Berkeley Barb that flourished in the 1960s.
Tufekci, Z. (2017). Twitter and Tear Gas : The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Link.
An incisive observer, writer, and participant in today’s social movements, Zeynep Tufekci explains in this accessible and compelling book the nuanced trajectories of modern protests—how they form, how they operate differently from past protests, and why they have difficulty persisting in their long-term quests for change. Tufekci speaks from direct experience, combining on-the-ground interviews with insightful analysis. . . . These details from life inside social movements complete a moving investigation of authority, technology, and culture—and offer essential insights into the future of governance.

Films

Peck, R., & Brown, J. (2016). I Am Not Your Negro. Documentary available on Kanopy. E-book available through UT Libraries.

Cover of I Am Not Your Negro documentary
I Am Not Your Negro documentary, a continuation of a book envisioned by Civil Rights activist James Baldwin

An Oscar-nominated documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO explores the continued peril America faces from institutionalized racism. In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends–Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. Now, in his incendiary new documentary, master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material.

Speeches and Music

Seale, B., & Educational Video Group. (1973). Bobby Seale : Speech on Black Panthers Movement. Link.

This is a video of Bobby Seale giving a speech about the values of the Black Panther Party.
Duration: 3 min.
Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs, 1960-1966. (1997). Link.
These 43 tracks are a series of musical images, of a people in conversation about their determination to be free. Many of the songs were recorded live in mass meetings held in churches, where people from different life experiences, predominantly black, with a few white supporters, came together in a common struggle. These freedom songs draw from spirituals, gospel, rhythm and blues, football chants, blues and calypso forms.

Online Resources and Newspaper Articles

Jackson, K.C. (1 June 2020). “The Double Standard of the American Riot.” The Atlantic. Link.

“Today, peaceful demonstrations and violent riots alike have erupted across the country in response to police brutality and the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. Yet the language used to refer to protesters has included lootersthugs, and even claims that they are un-American. The philosophy of force and violence to obtain freedom has long been employed by white people and explicitly denied to black Americans.”

Hannah-Jones, N., et al. The 1619 Project. The New York Times Magazine. Link.

The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.

Texas After Violence Project (part of the UT Libraries Human Rights Documentations Initiative) Link.

In 2009, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) partnered with the independent, Austin-based nonprofit organization, Texas After Violence Project (TAVP), a human rights and restorative justice project that studies the effects of interpersonal and state violence on individuals, families, and communities. Its mission is to build a digital archive that serves as a resource for community dialogue and public policy to promote alternative, nonviolent ways to prevent and respond to violence. The HRDI is working with TAVP to ensure the long-term preservation and access of its digital video testimonies, transcripts and organizational records.

Juneteenth: Celebrating Liberation

By Roxanne Bogucka

Juneteenth (variously called Emancipation Day, Jubilee Day, Freedom Day, or Cel-Liberation Day) is a holiday that commemorates the date when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached the enslaved black people in Texas. “Juneteenth” is a portmanteau word formed from “June” and “nineteenth.”

Image of printing of General Orders 3

Although the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on January 1, 1863, enslaved Texans were not apprised of this fact until Union Major General Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3 in Galveston, on June 19, 1865 (Acosta, 2020). While the text of General Order No. 3 announced that “all slaves are free,” it also stated that “Freedmen are advised to remain in their present homes, and work for wages.”

In Austin, freed persons organized the first Emancipation Day celebrations in what is now Eastwoods Park, just north of present-day Dean Keeton Boulevard (Hasan, 2017). Photographs of Austin’s Juneteenth observances in 1900, taken by a Mrs. Grace Stephenson, including this one of celebrants, are available in The Portal to Texas History. According to the Portal metadata, Mrs. Stephenson later sold her photos, along with a report of the day’s festivities, to the San Francisco Chronicle. A search for the article in America’s Historical Newspapers was unsuccessful. A reference staffer from the San Francisco Public Library replied that SFPL is unable to respond to these kinds of reference questions at the moment.

Image of a page of the Parsons Weekly Blade published on June 22, 1895
Click to enlarge

As freed persons dispersed from Texas, they carried with them the tradition of celebrating emancipation on June 19th. The database African American Newspapers, Series 1 has several articles about communities’ Juneteenth celebrations. The earliest reportage was published in the Parsons (KS) Weekly Blade, in 1895.

 

Enlarged images of Juneteenth coverage in the Parson’s Weekly Blade from June 22, 1895

Cropped and enlarged version of the Juneteenth coverage in the Parsons Weekly Blade from June 22, 1895

 

 

 

Cropped and enlarged version of the Juneteenth coverage in the Parsons Weekly Blade from June 22, 1895

In 1979, Texas State Representative Al Edwards (D-Houston) introduced House Bill 1016, legislation that led to Texas becoming the first of these United States to declare Juneteenth an official holiday. Today, Juneteenth is an official holiday or observance in 46 states and the District of Columbia (National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, n.d.). While not observed by the University of Texas, Juneteenth (Emancipation Day) is an official public holiday in the state of Texas. Do not get too excited by this, as the state of Texas also lists Confederate Heroes Day on its official calendar of holidays (Texas State Auditor’s Office).

The United Kingdom, which abolished the slave trade in 1807, and passed the Slavery Abolition Act nearly 30 years before the United States, has a related observance on 18 October—Anti-Slavery Day, whose unfortunate name raises inescapable questions about the other days of the year.

Image of Stay Black And Live promotional materialThis year, with parades and gatherings being deemed unwise, Austin celebrates Juneteenth virtually. Stay Black and Live will be held online from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, June 19, 2020. There will almost certainly be a performance of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” also called the Black National Anthem. Learn the words, learn the tune, raise your voices in song on Friday, and raise your voices in citizenship every day.

Selected Resources from the UT Libraries

Works Consulted / Additional Reading

Honoring Black Lives: Josephine Baker

In light of everything that is going on in our country right now, I briefly considered cancelling plans to publish this post, which has been on our planning calendar since last Fall. The DAC blog team is working on other posts related to protests and social movements around racial justice and the history of systemic and violent racist oppression in the United States. Those posts will go up as soon as we are able to get them finished.

While we all grieve the violent and needless deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN; Michael Ramos in Austin, TX; Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY; Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, GA; and Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL, it is my hope that remembering the incredible life of Josephine Baker on the 114th anniversary of her birth will provide another avenue today for honoring black lives and black legacies in the United States.

Black lives matter.

Early Life

Image of Josephine Baker
Van Vechten, C. (1949) Portrait of Josephine Baker, Paris, 1949. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress.
Josephine Baker was born Freda Josephine McDonald on June 3, 1906 in St. Louis. Her early life was hard. Her father abandoned Baker and her mother shortly after she was born, and she began work as a maid at the age of 8 for white families at whose hands she experience both neglect and physical and sexual abuse. At the age of 11, she survived the East St. Louis Race Riots.

At age 13, Baker ran away from home. She began working as a waitress in a club and married a man named Willie Wells, whom she separated from after only a few weeks, though technically the marriage was never legal due to Baker’s age. She performed in clubs and on the streets until she began touring the United States with an all-black theatre troupe based out of Philadelphia. At 15, she married Will Baker, and though this marriage lasted only a little longer than her first, she kept the name Baker for the rest of her life.

Fame

Baker’s comedy skills provided her with increasingly successful performance roles and an undeniable place in the Harlem Renaissance. In 1925, she was invited to join La Revue Nègre at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. She was 19 and already one of the highest paid performers in vaudeville. In Paris, her comedy and dance routines were celebrated, but it wasn’t until her performances turned to the more exotic that she truly achieved the international fame she is known for.

Image of Josephine Baker posing with her pet cheetah
Photo Card No.101, Dancer Josephine Baker posing with a cheetah wearing a collar, photograph by Piaz Studios of Paris, Early 1930’s. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Baker embraced the exotification at the time, regardless of how she may have felt personally about her “Africanized” burlesque performances. She became a larger than life persona, even adopting a pet cheetah, which she named Chiquita, and walked on a leash with a diamond collar.

In 1927, she became the first black woman to star in a movie, Siren of the Tropics, a silent French Film. This debut was followed with two “talkies,” Zouzou in 1934 and Princess Tam Tam in 1935.

Baker’s fame continued to skyrocket. She expanded her repertoire and her performances matured until she was one of the highest paid performers in the world.

Baker was an American expat in Paris at the same time as Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, all of whom, along with other Jazz Age artists including Picasso and Colette, considered Baker as a muse.

She returned to the U.S. a couple of times, but was frustrated and disgusted at the racism she experienced. In the time of McCarthyism, she was accused of communism, and hounded by both the FBI and the CIA.

Baker married her third husband, a Frenchman, in 1937. Like the other marriages, this one didn’t last long, but it did provide Baker with the opportunity to become a French citizen, after which she renounced her American citizenship.

Over the years, she had many lovers of all genders, including a nearly 10-year relationship with her manager and a Sicilian count, Pepito Abatino. While Baker never labeled her sexuality, she did have affairs with women throughout her life, including Ada Smith, Colette, and possibly Frida Kahlo.

Espionage

When World War II broke out, Baker remained in Paris, which by then, she considered her country. Baker worked as a nurse for the Red Cross. When France became occupied, Baker joined the French Resistance, smuggling information across enemy lines and hiding weapons and refugees at her chateau. Her international performances provided Baker with a unique opportunity. She would perform and attend parties at the Italian Embassy and then pass along any information she learned to the resistance, written in invisible ink on her music sheets.

For about a year and a half during the war, an illness kept Baker confined to a Casablanca clinic. However, even there, she joined the women’s auxiliary of the Free French forces as a sublieutenant and performed for the allied troops.

For her work during the war, Baker was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Légion d’Honneur with the Rosette of the Résistance.

Civil Rights

When the war was over, Baker returned to France and turned her considerable energy to the fight for civil rights. She married (self-identified homosexual) bandleader Jo Bouillon, and though they eventually separated, they remained married throughout Baker’s life. Together, they adopted 12 children of different races and religions from around the world. Baker called them her “Rainbow Tribe.”

After 9 years of “retirement,” Baker found herself facing serious debts that forced her to return to performing. She returned to the stage with a musical autobiography called Paris mes Amours at the Olympia Theatre in Paris in 1959.

She often returned to the US throughout the 50s and 60s to support the Civil Rights Movement. While in the U.S., she refused to perform for segregated audiences, and in 1963, she was the only woman asked to speak at the March on Washington.

In 1969, she and her children were evicted from the chateau in southern France where they had lived since the end of the war. However, Princess Grace of Monaco stepped in, offering Baker and her family a villa in Monaco and helping to fund a new show titled Joséphine to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her Paris debut.

After a few performances of the new show, Baker died peacefully in her sleep in her chosen country, France. Even in death, Baker accomplished another notable first. She was the first and only American woman to be buried with military honors and a 21-gun salute in France. Over 20,000 people lined the streets of Paris to mourn her passing and honor her life.

References

  1. Josephine Baker Biography. (2020). A&E Television Networks. Retrieved from https://www.biography.com/performer/josephine-baker
  2. Josephine Baker. (2004). In Encyclopedia of World Biography (2nd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 448-451). Detroit, MI: Gale. Retrieved from https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CX3404700392/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=c379cd99
  3. Norwood, A. R. (2017). “Josephine Baker.” National Women’s History Museum. Retrieved from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/josephine-baker
  4. Josephine Baker. (2003). Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved from http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/j/josephine-baker/
  5. Strong, L. Q. (2006). Baker, Josephine. Reprinted from http://www.glbtq.com. Retrieved from http://www.glbtqarchive.com/arts/baker_josephine_A.pdf
  6. CIA report on activities in Latin America of Negro singer Josephine Baker. (1953, February 10). United States: Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved from https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CK2349254187/GDCS?u=txshracd2598&sid=GDCS&xid=52ea60d3
  7. Josephine Baker in new challenge. (1969, March 11). Times, p. 5. Retrieved from https://link-gale-com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/doc/CS84504683/GDCS?u=txshracd2598&sid=GDCS&xid=8242988a

Resource Highlights

Videos

In her own words

Biographies

News & Magazine Articles

Books

Children’s Books

Audio

Link to YouTube video of Josephine Baker performing The Charleston on August 24th, 1928
Josephine Baker performing The Charleston on August 24th, 1928

 

Promo image for Arabs in Latin America display

Arabs in Latin America: Resources at UT Libraries

By Katie Coldiron

An Introduction

It is impossible to think about Latin America without considering the lasting impact and contributions by those of Arab descent living in the region. Beginning in the latter nineteenth century and peaking in the first 3 decades of the twentieth century, immigrants from Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and others were migrating to the Western Hemisphere for a mix of political, cultural, religious, and economic reasons. From there, many of these individuals and their descendants became leaders in business, politics, and Arab cultural organizations. Their presence varies within different Latin American countries. Notable contemporary Latin American figures of Arab descent include, but are not limited to, the following: Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, Colombian singer Shakira, Mexican actress Salma Hayek, former President of Brazil Michel Temer, and current President of El Salvador Nayib Bukele.

This blog post seeks to highlight materials about the Arab diaspora in Latin America available digitally via UT Libraries and Open Access resources. These materials include ebooks and primary-source web resources from some of Latin America’s Arab-descent communities. The materials are organized into the following categories: economic and political influence of the Arab diaspora in Latin America, religion among the Arab diaspora in Latin America, migration of Arabs to Latin America, and Arab Latin American publications.

Economic and Political Influence of the Arab Diaspora in Latin America

  1. Another arabesque: Syrian-Lebanese ethnicity in neoliberal Brazil by John Tofik Karam
    • This book is an exploration of how Brazilians of Syrian-Lebanese heritage have gained a footing in Brazil’s increasingly globalized economy, particularly with regard to transactions with nations of the Arab Gulf.
    • Temporarily available for checkout via HathiTrust.
  2. Carlos Slim: retrato inédito by José Martínez
    • This is a biography of the world’s once-richest man, the Mexican telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim. The first chapter contextualizes Slim’s success within his family’s history in Mexico as immigrants from Lebanon.
    • Temporarily available for checkout via HathiTrust.
  3. El harén: Menem, Zulema, Seineldín: los árabes y el poder político en la Argentina by Norma Morandini
    • This book, written by an Argentine of Arab descent, paints a picture of three Peronist Argentine politicians fraught with controversy. It seeks to go beyond negative stereotypes of Arabs in Argentina and explore how these individual figures came to their positions of power and ideology.
    • Temporarily available for checkout via HathiTrust.

Religion Among the Arab Diaspora in Latin America

  1. The Jews of Latin America by Judith Laikin Elkin
    • This is a comprehensive history of the Jewish presence in Latin America from migration onwards. The establishments of synagogues in different areas throughout the region are featured.
    • Temporarily available for checkout via HathiTrust.

Migration of Arabs to Latin America

    1. Los libaneses en México: asimilación de un grupo étnico by Carmen Mercedes Paéz Oropeza
      • This book offers an extensive history of the Lebanese presence in Mexico, beginning from push factors for immigrants and expanding into which parts of Mexico received the most Lebanese immigrants.
      • Temporarily available for checkout via HathiTrust.
    2. Los “turcos” de Lorica : presencia de los árabes en el caribe colombiano 1880-1960 by Joaquín Viloria de la Hoz

 

  • This is a history of the arrival of Arabs to a colonial city in the Colombian Caribbean. While it is not as large as Cartagena or Barranquilla, this resource shows the importance that Lorica, a city once known for extensive trade and merchant activity, had for arriving Arabs to Colombia. Furthermore, it shows the lasting impacts that Arabs themselves had on the city, particularly in regard to architectural styles, social clubs, and commercial activity.Image of Syrians living in Brazil
  • Temporarily available for checkout via HathiTrust.
  1. Museu da Imigração do Estado de São Paulo: Acervo Digital
    • This is an online digital archive of materials from the Immigration Museum of the State of São Paulo in Brazil. Photos, immigration records, and other resources are freely available. The photo below comes from this collection, and is the storefront of an establishment in São Paulo owned by Brazilians of Syrian descent.

Arab Latin American Publications

  1. Diario Sirio Libanés
    • This is a magazine of the Syrian-Lebanese community in Argentina. It includes resources related to this community, as well as events and news of interest from other parts of the world.
  2. Diario Armenia
    • This resource is a publication of Argentina’s Armenian community. It includes news of interest to Armenians both inside and outside of Argentina.
  3. Revista Al Damir
    • This magazine is a publication of the Palestinian community in Chile. Its name comes from the Arabic word for “awareness.” It covers a variety of topics of interest to this community, such as interviews and regular columnists.

This post is based on an exhibit planned for the PCL third floor display shelf. Due to extenuating circumstances regarding the coronavirus, the exhibit will hopefully go up at a later date.

For more information on resources made available by UT Libraries, check out this research guide about Arabs in Latin America.

Written by Katie Coldiron, M.A. in Latin American Studies and MSIS candidate, UT Austin School of Information. She is the current GRA for Global Studies Digital Projects at UT Libraries.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

This month we recognize the cultures and histories of Asian and Pacific Americans, as well as the contributions they have made to American society. May was chosen as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in part because the Transcontinental Railroad, which was largely built by Asian immigrant laborers and had a huge impact on the American economy, was completed on May 10, 1869. While unfortunately most in-person events have been postponed to allow for safe social distancing practices, this year it is particularly important to recognize the importance of Asian, Pacific American, and Asian American communities to help combat the racist and xenophobic beliefs that have led to a rise in racist attacks on people of Asian descent since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some useful resources for celebrating these unique cultures.

 

  • The Library of Congress website also has a helpful explanation of the series of executive orders that led to the official designation of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in 1991.

 

Hakone Estate and Gardens (California) Photo by doopokko, CC BY-SA 2.0
Hakone Estate and Gardens (California)
Photo by doopokko, CC BY-SA 2.0
  •  APALA (the Asian Pacific American Library Association) does not have any events planned for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month this year but has been very active in addressing the rise in racist and xenophobic attacks on Asians and Asian Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Facebook page is regularly updated with information about how to get involved.

 

  • For those in the UT community interested in researching Asian American history and culture, the UT Libraries’ liaison librarian to Asian American Studies, PG Moreno, has created a research guide about access to relevant academic resources.

 

As the curators of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s Care Package write In the introduction to the collection:

While this body of work may not hold the solutions for everything, we hope that it helps you find some calm amidst the chaos.

Celebrating César Chávez Day!

By Gilbert Borrego

photo portrait of Cesar ChavezCésar Chávez was a tireless activist whose devotion to the cause of farm workers contributed to the ongoing fight for workers’ rights today. As a first generation American who toiled as a migrant worker when he was young, he had specific insight into the racist and classist system that farm laborers were forced to endure in the mid-twentieth century. In order to escape this unjust system, he joined the United State Navy before eventually returning to his roots and beginning his journey as a labor organizer in order to address the poverty and inequalities he experienced and observed.

In 1962, he and the iconic Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). They partnered with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to organize what turned out to be a five-year strike against California grape growers. This strike led to many workers obtaining a contract from the grape producers which addressed wages and humane working conditions for the workers. When the NFWA and the AWOC joined together to form the United Farm Workers (UFW) in 1972, Chávez had a strong, organized platform to fight for the rights of farm workers everywhere, leading nonviolent strikes, marches, boycotts, and fasting until his death in 1993.

In 1994,  César Chávez posthumously received the country’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, and in 2014, President Barack Obama declared his birthday (March 31st) a federal holiday.

 

Books:

cover of the book The Crusades of Cesar Chavez by Miriam PawelThe Crusades of César Chávez: by Miriam Pawel

“A searching portrait of an iconic figure long shrouded in myth by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of an acclaimed history of Chávez’s movement. César Chávez founded a labor union, launched a movement, and inspired a generation. He rose from migrant worker to national icon, becoming one of the great charismatic leaders of the 20th century. Two decades after his death, Chávez remains the most significant Latino leader in US history. Yet his life story has been told only in hagiography―until now.”

Union of Their Dreams by Miriam Pawel

“A generation of Americans came of age boycotting grapes, swept up in a movement that vanquished California’s most powerful industry and won dignity and contracts for impoverished farm workers. Four decades later, United Farm Workers leader César Chávez’s likeness graces postage stamps, and schools and streets are renamed in his honor. But the real stories behind la causa–both its historic accomplishments and tragic disintegration–have remained buried. Pulitzer-winning journalist Miriam Pawel has changed our understanding of the UFW forever, crafting a powerful, poignant account of a movement and the people who made it. A tour de force of reporting and a spellbinding narrative, The Union of Their Dreams is a major contribution to the history of labor, civil rights, and immigration in modern America.”

An Organizer’s Tale: Speeches by César Chávez

“One of the most important civil rights leaders in American history, César Chávez was a firm believer in the principles of nonviolence, and he effectively employed peaceful tactics to further his cause. Through his efforts, he helped achieve dignity, fair wages, benefits, and humane working conditions for hundreds of thousands of farm workers. This extensive collection of Chávez’s speeches and writings chronicles his progression and development as a leader, and includes previously unpublished material. From speeches to spread the word of the Delano Grape Strike to testimony before the House of Representatives about the hazards of pesticides, Chávez communicated in clear, direct language and motivated people everywhere with an unflagging commitment to his ideals.”

The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworkers Movement by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval.

“A “vivid, well-documented account of the farm workers movement” (Philadelphia Inquirer) and its prime mover, César Chávez.”

compilation of images showing Cesar Chavez present and taking part in activist marchesEncyclopedia of César Chávez: The Farm Workers’ Fight for Rights and Justice by Roger Bruns

“This book is a unique, single-volume treatment offering original source material on the life, accomplishments, disappointments, and lasting legacy of one of American history’s most celebrated social reformers―César Chávez.”

Comics and Graphic Novels:

Harvesting Hope: The Story of César Chávez by Kathleen Krull and Yuyi Morales

“César Chávez is known as one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders. When he led a 340-mile peaceful protest march through California, he ignited a cause and improved the lives of thousands of migrant farmworkers. But César wasn’t always a leader. As a boy, he was shy and teased at school. His family slaved in the fields for barely enough money to survive. César knew things had to change, and he thought that–maybe–he could help change them. So he took charge. He spoke up. And an entire country listened.”

cover of the book Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

A Picture Book of César Chávez by David A. Adler, Michael S. Adler, and Marie Olofsdotter

“César Chávez dedicated his life to helping American farmworkers. As a child growing up in California during the Great Depression, he picked produce with his family. César saw firsthand how unfairly workers were treated. As an adult, he organized farmworkers into unions and argued for better pay and fair working conditions. He was jailed for his efforts, but he never stopped urging people to stand up for their rights. Young readers will be inspired by the fascinating life story of this champion of social justice.”

Who was César Chávez? by Dana Meachen Rau and Ted Hammond

“A biography telling the life of labor leader César Chávez and the boycotts that he led to gain fair working conditions for farmworkers. Written in graphic-novel format.”

Video:

The Fight in the Fields: César Chávez and the Farmworkers’ Struggle by Ray Telles and Rick Tejada-Flores

“The story of César Chávez, the charismatic founder of the United Farmworkers Union and the movement that he inspired – a movement that touched the hearts of millions of Americans with the grape and lettuce boycotts, a non-violent movement that confronted conservative politicians like Ronald Reagan and the powerful Teamsters Union.”

cover of film about Cesar ChavezCésar Chávez directed by Diego Luna

“The story of the famed civil rights leader and labor organizer torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to securing a living wage for farm workers. Chávez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in his struggle to bring dignity to people. He inspired millions of Americans who never worked on a farm to fight for social justice. His triumphant journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one individual’s ability to change the world.”