Welcome back, Jayhawks! Students will be returning to campus over the next few days to get ready for the start of the spring semester next week.
A KU History article about Corbin Hall – KU’s first residence hall, which opened in 1923 – noted that “originally there were no University-owned dormitories for students at the University of Kansas. During KU’s early years, housing was catch-as-catch-can, with many of the students in attendance usually hailing from the surrounding area. As such, many lived at home, or with faculty, or in other private residences.”
The temporary exhibit described in this post will be on display in Spencer’s North Gallery through the end of January.
As a student assistant for the African American
Experience Collections, I recently had an opportunity to produce a temporary
exhibit in Kenneth Spencer Research Library.
After reviewing the 1968-1970 issues of The Black Panther, which was published by the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California, I uncovered an astonishing connection linking African Americans and Asians: In 1969 and 1970, the Minister of Information of the Black Panther Party, Eldridge Cleaver, led delegations of African Americans to visit North Vietnam, North Korea, and China.
Although I would have loved exploring the connections between the Black Panther Party, North Korea, and China, as a Vietnamese-American, I found myself inextricably drawn to the history of Ho Chi Minh and the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. With the topic of my temporary exhibit decided, I scoured Kenneth Spencer’s collections in search of material relating to Ho Chi Minh and the Black Panther Party.
For my first exhibit case, I decided to focus solely upon Ho Chi Minh. (Notably, Ho Chi Minh is one of many pseudonyms he adopted.) I found two Black Panther Party newspapers in the African American Experience Collections but for the rest of my materials, I went digging around in the Wilcox Collection. I was fortunate enough to find a wonderful poster of Ho Chi Minh in the Counter Culture Posters Collection, along with two primary sources written by Ho, including Ho Chi Minh Answers President L.B. Johnson (Call Number: RH WL B3690) and Against U.S. Aggression for National Salvation (Call Number: RH WL B3593).
Around the same time I was creating my temporary exhibit, I was also participating in an independent study relating to eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century Vietnamese history. There I learned that in 1924 Ho Chi Minh had penned two essays titled “Lynching” and “the Ku Klux Klan.” In these essays, Ho Chi Minh wrote about the violence and racism African Americans faced in the United States, demonstrating his awareness of the oppressions endured by peoples outside Vietnam. It is highly probable that Ho read documents published from the NAACP’s anti-lynching campaign, which included information and statistics about African Americans lynched in the United States each year beginning in 1909. However, it is also worth noting that Ho worked aboard a steamship and traveled internationally to the United States, France, England, and other European countries.
Some of the most memorable quotes from his essay on
“After sixty-five years of so-called emancipation, American Negroes still endure atrocious moral and material sufferings, of which the most cruel and horrible is the custom of lynching.”
“From 1899 to 1919, 2,600 Blacks were lynched, including 51 women and girls and ten former Great War soldiers.”
“Among 78 Blacks lynched in 1919, 11 were burned alive, three burned after having been killed, 31 shot, three tortured to death, one cut into pieces, one drowned and 11 put to death by various means.”
“Georgia heads the list with 22 victims. Mississippi follows with 12. Both have also three lynched soldiers to their credit.”
Upon Ho Chi Minh’s death, The Black Panther’s newspaper issue printed on September 13, 1969, included these two essays, along with an essay commemorating Ho’s death. However, Ho wrote these essays almost four decades before the Black Panther Party newspaper issues were printed in 1968-1970, during the height of the Vietnam War (1955-1975).
In addition, I also wanted to showcase the Black Panther Party’s anti-Vietnam propaganda and demonstrations. Once again, I found myself digging around in the Wilcox Collection. Among the items I chose for the second exhibit case include A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story by Elaine Brown (Call Number: RH WL C2210). Brown acted as the Black Panther’s Southern California Chapter’s Deputy Minister of Information. Brown also accompanied Eldridge Cleaver on his visits to North Vietnam, North Korea, and China.
One of my favorite items in the exhibit is Vietnam: An Anti-War Comic Book by Julian Bond, a founder of the Atlanta sit-in movement and of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The comic book is a piece of anti-war propaganda that highlights the connections between the struggles of African Americans and the Vietnamese people during the 1970s.
A huge thank you to Caitlin Donnelly Klepper, Angela Andres, and Letha Johnson for helping me at various stages of my exhibit, as well as to my supervisor, Deborah Dandridge, for supporting my interest in exploring a fascinating side of history that was unknown to me at the time that Kenneth Spencer Research Library provides in its variety of collections of resources. Another thank you to the staff and students at the Reading Room reference desk, who helped me with my requests.
Sophia Southard African American Experience Collections Student Assistant
Today’s profile features Shelby Schellenger, who joined Spencer Research Library in October as the Reference Coordinator.
Where are you from?
I was born and grew up in a little town southeast of Wichita called Rose Hill. I’ve visited a number of places throughout the U.S., but have always lived in Kansas. I spent about ten years in Manhattan and five years in Topeka; I’m now working on a couple of years here in Lawrence.
What does your job at Spencer entail?
My job at Spencer is the Reference Coordinator. In the main, this involves spending my day helping patrons at the reference desk or digitally to locate and use materials from Spencer. I need to develop a good overall knowledge of the collections (I can’t know everything in detail), use good research strategies, and communicate well with patrons and the staff and curators who have expert knowledge in the particular subjects they oversee.
How did you come to work in Public Services?
In kind of a strange and convoluted way. I started my undergraduate studies in Computer Science, switched to Business Administration, managed a comic book store, worked in retail, worked in customer service, got laid off, and realized that libraries are and have always been an important part of my life. I went on to get my Master of Library Science degree and worked my way up at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. When I saw this position at Kenneth Spencer Research Library I realized it would be focused on exactly the parts of librarianship I most enjoy and had to give it a shot.
What is one of the most interesting/strangest items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?
One of the most interesting things I’ve come across in Spencer’s collections are the various literary awards. I read primarily in science fiction and fantasy and it was exciting to find out we have Theodore Sturgeon’s Hugo Award, World Fantasy Award, International Fantasy Award, Nebula Award, Spectrum Award, and more! These awards mark stories I often add to my long, long to-be-read list. These are also the awards that inspire that “maybe one day” sort of feeling in me when I think about doing a little writing. It really brings home that Spencer’s collections contain more items and types of items than can be easily shared and explained. It is always worth checking if you think a little research is in order!
What part of your job do you like best?
I like being part of that moment when someone finds something that amazes them. Maybe it is a photograph from the 1800s that really connects someone to an unknown relative. Maybe it is a handwritten letter talking about not very much that brings home that people are much the same as they have always been. Maybe it is finding a copy of a student publication they helped with years ago and never expected to see again. That moment amazes me.
What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?
I am big into board games. I try and make it to a couple of events (or more) a month and have a collection that threatens my bookshelves and closet space. I tend to prefer strategy games at a medium to heavy complexity with some favorites ranging from space exploration to running a vineyard. I also have two dogs and am getting back into anime, something I have fallen a bit behind on.
What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
If at all possible, take it slowly. Give yourself the time to absorb things and explore related items. The stories you will find may be worth it!
This Rose-breasted Cockatoo or Cacatua Eos from John Gould’s Birds of Australia (1848) can be seen online as part of KU Libraries’ larger John Gould Ornithological Collection. The digital collection includes all of Gould’s large-format natural-history books and nearly 2000 preliminary drawings for his books. It is a natural temptation to focus on the beautiful hand-colored lithographs of birds illustrating these books and pay less attention to the text. However, John Gould was a keen observer of the birds of numerous countries, including Australia, and his first-hand descriptions of their behavior enliven the pictures:
The Rose-breasted Cockatoo possess considerable power of wing, and like the house-pigeon of this country [England], frequently passes in flocks over the plains with a long sweeping flight, the group at one minute displaying their beautiful silvery grey backs to the gaze of the spectator, and at the next by a simultaneous change of position bringing their rich rosy breasts into view, the effect of which is so beautiful to be hold, that it is a source of regret to me that my readers cannot participate in the pleasure I have derived from the sight.
–John Gould. Birds of Australia. London: Printed by R. and J.E. Taylor: Published by the author, 1848. (Text for plate IV, vol. 5). Call #: Ellis Aves H141