Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Ho Chi Minh, the Black Panther Party, and the Struggle for Self-Determination

January 15th, 2020

The temporary exhibit described in this post will be on display in Spencer’s North Gallery through the end of January.

Photograph of one of the title labels in the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit
One of the title labels in the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit. Click image to enlarge.

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.

Photograph of the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit under development
Developing my temporary exhibit. Shown here is the second exhibit case focusing on African American anti-war sentiment. Click image to enlarge.

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).

A poster of Ho Chi Minh, circa 1960s-1970s
A poster of Ho Chi Minh, circa 1960s-1970s. Counter Culture Posters Collection. Call Number: RH MS R23, Folder 3. Click image to enlarge.

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 “Lynching” include:

  • “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.

Photograph of the cover of Vietnam: An Anti-War Comic Book by Julian Bond
Vietnam: An Anti-War Comic Book by Julian Bond. Frederick Allan Whitehead Papers. Call Number: RH MS 162, Box 8, Folder 8. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph of the Ho Chi Minh temporary exhibit
The finished exhibit. Click images to enlarge.

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

30th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 6th, 2019

The Berlin Wall stood in the center of Berlin, Germany, from 1961 to 1989. It acted as a physical symbol of the divide between East and West, not just in Germany, but between Western European democracy and Eastern European communism after the end of World War II. It was a literal “Iron Curtain,” in Winston Churchill’s words, and its fall in the late 1980s coincided with the end of the Soviet Union and Eastern European communism.

Materials related to the Berlin Wall at Spencer Research Library focus on its meaning soon after it was built in the early 1960s and its obliteration in the late 1980s and early 1990s. To commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall thirty years ago this month (November 9, 1989), we thought we would share some of the more interesting pieces we have at Spencer Research Library related to this topic.

Holland Roberts, then director of the American Russian institute in San Francisco, wrote about the wall soon after it was built, in 1962. He argued that it was to protect East Berlin and East Germans from the militarism rising in West Germany, led by former Nazi officers. “The Wall will come down when the two Germanys disarm and form the core of a neutral peaceful zone in the heart of Europe,” Roberts wrote.

Image of “Behind the Berlin Wall” by Holland Roberts, 1962
The first page of “Behind the Berlin Wall” by Holland Roberts, 1962. Call Number: Josephson 2427. Click image to enlarge.

American journalists Margrit and John Pittman also wrote about the Berlin Wall soon after its construction. They too focused on West German propaganda against East Germany, as well as German perceptions of Americans visiting or stationed in their divided country.

Image of "Sense and Nonsense About Berlin” by Margrit and John Pittman, 1962
“Sense and Nonsense About Berlin” by Margrit and John Pittman, 1962. Call number: RH WL B1977. Click image to enlarge.

The items in Spencer’s collections from when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 seem more hopeful than these earlier written works. For example, Bob Swan’s Citizen Diplomacy Archives collection focuses mostly on the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union rather than the relationship between the German Democratic Republic (GDR or East Germany) and the U. S. However, Mr. Swan donated a chunk of the Berlin Wall as part of his collection. Throughout the 1980s, East Germans increasingly filed requests to immigrate to West Germany; with the (false) announcement of a new emigration policy on November 9, 1989, thousands rushed the Wall. Thereafter, individuals began picking off pieces such as this one to keep as souvenirs until the wall was finally dismantled systematically in the summer of 1990.

Photograph of a piece of the Berlin Wall
While it does not look like much, this piece of concrete from the Berlin Wall saw a lot of significant twentieth-century history. Call Number: RH MS Q426, Box 1. Click image to enlarge.

Professional photographer Gary Mark Smith spent some time in Europe in 1990 and took pictures of the streets in Berlin before the wall was entirely dismantled. He also took pictures of proud Germans waving a reunited German flag in Cologne.

Photograph entitled “Berlin Wall #1," 1990
An East German Trabant car is visible through the holes in the concrete in this photograph, entitled “Berlin Wall #1,” by Gary Mark Smith, 1990. Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 16. Click image to enlarge.
Photograph entitled “Berlin Wall Guard Tower,” 1990
Does the graffiti at the base of the guard tower diminish its forbidding height in any way? This photograph was taken by Gary Mark Smith in 1990 and entitled “Berlin Wall Guard Tower.” Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 15.
Photograph entitled “Flag Celebration #2," 1990
Germans parading with a German flag in honor of reunification on October 3, 1990. This photo by Gary Mark Smith is titled “Flag Celebration #2.” Call Number: RH MS-P 1380, Box 6, Folder 9. Click image to enlarge.

The fall of the Berlin Wall is one of those globally historic moments, the kind that has people asking each other “Where were you when….?” Were you alive when the Berlin Wall fell? Do you remember what you were doing that day in November 1989 when you heard the news?

Marcella Huggard
Processing

The Hippie Cookbook

April 20th, 2018

Just when you might think you have a solid understanding of the range of materials in the holdings at Kenneth Spencer Research Library, they surprise you. A recent addition to the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, which brings together U.S. political literature and documents, is a terrific (and somewhat humorous) example: The Hippie Cookbook, or, Don’t Eat Your Food Stamps was authored by Gordon and Phyllis Grabe and published in 1970 by the Paisley Shawl Publishing Company of Forestville, California.

Image of the cover of The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

Cover of The Hippie Cookbook, or, Don’t Eat Your Food Stamps, 1970.
Call Number: RH WL AK105. Click image to enlarge.

Recipes in The Hippie Cookbook range from average fare such as cheesecake (page 25) and stuffed bell peppers (page 57) to hippie lifestyle-specific dishes such as “Paddy Wagon Rice Patties,” which are “good hot or cold and can be carried with you as quick snacks for emergency eating” (page 11). Other dishes are unremarkable in their ingredients but have intriguing titles such as “Peace Pancakes” (page 14) and “Good Karma Casserole” (page 67).

Image of a recipe for peace pancakes in The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

Recipe for peace pancakes in The Hippie Cookbook. Call Number: RH WL AK105.
Click image to enlarge.

Included in The Hippie Cookbook are sections offering advice on hippie food preparation, including “Brown Bagging for Peace Marches” (page 10), “Cooking in the Nude” (page 24), and “Presentation and Composition of Care Package Requests from the Folks” (page 2).

Image showing information about care packages in The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

Instructions for requesting and receiving care packages “from the folks”
in The Hippie Cookbook. Call Number: RH WL AK105. Click image to enlarge.

In addition, shorter “hippie hints” are included throughout the text. As an example, Hippie Hint No. 9 advises that “if you burn your dinner put butter on it” (page 90).

But perhaps my favorite feature is the book’s dedication, which reads: “TO PEACHES: A four ton African elephant at the San Diego Zoo who has so far eaten a pair of glasses, two sweaters and a raincoat and is still grooving.”

Image of the dedication in The Hippie Cookbook, 1970

The dedication to Peaches in The Hippie Cookbook. Call Number: RH WL AK105.
Click image to enlarge.

Sarah Polo
Public Services Student Assistant

October Exhibit: The Russian Revolution

October 6th, 2017

Spencer’s renovated North Gallery includes two new cases in which staff members can display materials on a short-term basis. During October, we’re exhibiting items in Spencer’s holdings that relate to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The exhibit is free and open to the public in the Spencer North Gallery during the library’s regular business hours.

The cover of the pamphlet entitled Eugene V. Deb’s Canton Speech, published after 1921

One of the most well-known and popular American socialists
during the early 20th century, Eugene V. Debs was the
Socialist Party’s candidate for U.S. President five times.
As a result of this speech, Debs was arrested and convicted
in federal court under wartime espionage law.
Call Number: Josephson 5687. Click image to enlarge.

“During a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a single week incomparably more than in a whole year of every-day sluggish life.”

Vladimir Lenin

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Spencer Research Library is currently displaying highlights from the Leon Josephson Collection on Modern Socialism. Extensively documenting the international socialist movement during the first half of the 20th century, the Josephson Collection contains over 8000 pamphlets, books, and ephemeral materials.

Examples of materials on display include Lessons of the Revolution and The Land Revolution in Russia by Vladimir Lenin, as well as a copy of the first constitution adopted by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1918.

Image of the cover of The Masses, September 1917

As a result of the magazine’s consistent denouncement of
World War I and American involvement, nearly all of the
editors and writers of The Masses were charged with violating
the Espionage Act of 1917. Call Number: D2009. Click image to enlarge.

Image of the cover of The Liberator, March 1918

John Reed later published his eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution
as a book, Ten Days that Shook the World (1919). Reed died in a Moscow hospital
in 1920; he is buried in the graveyard of revolutionary heroes near the
Kremlin Wall. Call Number: RH WL D1614. Click image to enlarge.

“The Russian Revolution is an incomparably mightier even than any previous revolution; larger in scope and deeper in ultimate meaning than the French Revolution.”

Louis C. Fraina, a founding member of the American Communist Party

Socialist publications from America such as The Masses and its successor The Liberator are also on display. These magazines were illustrated with realist and modernist artwork, which they combined with poetry, short stories, and articles discussing and interpreting the Russian Revolution and its influence on the international socialist movement.

Statement from Public Services student Zachary Lassiter

I started KU in the fall of 2015 as a History major, and began working at Kenneth Spencer Research Library in August 2016. I’ve spent most of my time as an undergraduate studying the former Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and the Cold War. I had the desire to take part in researching and constructing one of the many exhibits that are showcased at Spencer throughout the year. With the recent renovation of Spencer’s North Gallery, and with the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it was a perfect opportunity. Going through countless pamphlets, magazines, and ephemeral materials, I have gained a better understanding of the Russian Revolution from the perspectives of the Bolsheviks and American socialists in their own words as it was happening. I also gained experience in the research and development process of constructing an exhibit, knowledge I hope to utilize in future work. Finally, I want to thank Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services, for helping me through this process and providing me with this opportunity.

Zachary Lassiter
Public Services Student Assistant

Button Collection Proves Hot Button Issues Can Be On the Button. Literally.

June 12th, 2017

One of the coolest collections in Spencer is the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements. Established in 1965, the collection features materials in line with US left- and right-wing political literature from about 1960 to the present. Over the years, around 400 pinback buttons have been accessioned to the Wilcox Collection. This spring, I was tasked with housing these buttons for reasons of accessibility and preservation.

Wilcox button. Call number RH WL BT 40. Spencer Research Library.

Figure 1. Many of the buttons concerned AIDS awareness. This button also shows how many of the buttons used multiple types of materials when constructed. “Every Penny Counts. AIDS Emergency Fund,” RH WL BT 40. Click image to enlarge.

Following a housing method for buttons used previously at Spencer, I divided the buttons into two different groups based on size: one for buttons under two inches in diameter and one for buttons 2 to <4 inches in diameter. This was to accommodate the two sizes of polyethylene bags the buttons would be housed in.

Wilcox button. Call number RH WL BT 73. Spencer Research Library.

Figure 2. While many of the buttons were standard sizes, others sat on the extremes. This one is half an inch in diameter; the largest was almost 5 inches. “Let’s End Discrimination,” RH WL BT 73.

With the buttons divided, I cut the appropriate number of backings for each group out of 20-point board using our guillotine and boardshear, so they could fit in the 2” x 3” and 4” x 6” polyethylene bags. These could have also been easily cut with a scalpel or scissors, but due to the volume needed, I opted for the more industrial equipment. The backings served two purposes: to give rigidity to each individual button’s housings and to provide a place to write the call number for each button.

Wilcox button. Call number RH WL BT 62. Spencer Research Library.

Figure 3. “Capitalism Fouls Things Up. Vote S.W.P. [Socialist Workers Party] 1970,” RH WL BT 62.

Once all of the materials were prepped, each button was assigned a call number that was placed on the 20-point board backing. For the sake of efficiency and clarity, I made a stamp with the common portions of the call number and then handwrote the unique portions. The backing was then placed in the appropriate size bag, followed by the corresponding button. Once housed, the smaller buttons were put in the lids and trays of slide boxes and the larger buttons were put in cassette tape boxes. The slide boxes were then placed in a large artifact box to keep them together.

Wilcox buttons in housing Call number RH WL BT. Spencer Research Library.

Figure 4. Smaller buttons were placed in slide boxes like this in call number order. Each box fit about 30-40 buttons.

While this is not a complicated treatment, it makes the buttons easier to access and keeps them from touching each other so they do not have any negative effects on each other.

Wilcox button. Call number RH WL BT 127. Spencer Research Library.

Figure 5. Some buttons were sillier than others. “Ban Buttons,” RH WL BT 127.

In addition to the physical housing, I created an extensive digital database noting information such as the call number, subject matter, date, and bibliographic record number for items already cataloged. This makes it easy for us to find individual buttons and compare buttons across the same subject matter.

Creating the digital database also required some research. Approximately a quarter of the buttons were not previously cataloged, so many of the pieces of information identified in the database were not known. While some gave more information than others, for many the context was not readily apparent. For several of these stumpers, I was able to use information published online from similar collections, like the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan. In several instances, I would not have been able to determine if a button belonged in the collection without the help of other institutions like Spencer.

Jocelyn Wilkinson
2017 KU Graduate in Museum Studies
Museum Studies Conservation Intern, Conservation Services