It’s That Special Time of the Year! GiveNOLA Day!

The Amistad Research Center will be participating in GiveNOLA Day on May 5, 2015! Hosted by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, GiveNOLA Day is a one-day, online giving event to inspire people to give generously to the nonprofit organizations that make our region a stronger and more thriving community for all. It’s our day to come together as one! Every dollar donated from midnight to midnight on May 5th will be increased with additional “lagniappe” dollars provided by the Greater New Orleans Foundation and our generous GiveNOLA Day sponsors. Last year, GiveNOLA raised $2.25 million dollars from 19,000+ donors around the nation. This year, the Foundation’s goals are to raise $3 million from 25,000+ donors!

Donate to the Center at

Pictured below is little Miss Bernadine McGee presenting Dr. Joseph A. Hardin with a beautiful “loving cup” in recognition of the many services he rendered to the New Orleans community. Miss McGee represented the Children’s Civic League at an event held at the Phyllis Wheatley Home on Jackson Avenue, February 18, 1929. By receiving this award, Dr. Hardin was being honored for the work he did throughout the 1920s as an instrumental force behind the erection of the new Valena C. Jones Elementary School in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans and as president of the Seventh Ward Civic League. 


Bernadine McGee presenting an award to Dr. Joseph Hardin.

Image from the James Hardin papers. Not to reproduced without permission.


The Eyes of Ida Vera Simonton and Warren Boudreaux: Viewing Africa through the Prism of Postcards

The Amistad Research Center is host to two collections that offer visual representations of Africa through postcards. The first is the Ida Vera Simonton postcards and the second is the Warren Boudreaux collection. While the postcards of Simonton and Boudreaux depict scenes of continental Africa, this is where the similarities end and the images encapsulated in both begin to diverge. The backgrounds of Simonton and Boudreaux, including their relationship to continental Africa, may have influenced their choices in postcards.

According to Jeremy Rich’s article, “Ida Vera Simonton’s Imperial Masquerades: Intersections of Gender, Race and African Expertise in Progressive-Era America,” Simonton came from a wealthy Pittsburgh family and ascended into public infamy during the 1906 trial of her friend, Harry Thaw. Thaw murdered famed architect Stanford White due to jealousy over his relationship with Thaw’s wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Simonton was a potential witness due to her proximity to all three individuals. However, her family sent her to Gabon in Central Africa to dodge testifying in the case.

A post card from Ida Vera Simonton to George Siebel, circa 1906-1907.

A post card from Ida Vera Simonton to George Siebel, circa 1906-1907.

The postcards from Simonton’s time in Africa depict the continent in a manner that many white Americans, including Simonton, imagined it to be in the early 20th century – a desolate place full of primitive people with strange and uncivilized customs. These beliefs were evoked through the images on the postcards and within her messages, all addressed to a George Siebel at the Gazette Times in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On one card she wrote, “I arrived here [in Gabon] on the 10th after a most exciting camel voyage with a cannibal crew.” In a second postcard, Africans are displayed as appendages to Europeans who are either travelers or colonizers. Simonton’s cards to Siebel was an entry into having her experiences in Africa published. She eventually capitalized on her travels in a book entitled Hell’s Playground, a copy of which is also located at the Center. It was first published in 1912 after Simonton’s return to America. While Simonton criticized French colonialism in Africa in her novel, she still projected negative stereotypes of Africans to her readers.

Warren Boudreaux's postcard featuring two Somali girls from Eastern Africa, circa 1952-1955.

Warren Boudreaux’s postcard featuring two Somali girls from Eastern Africa, circa 1952-1955.

Warren Boudreaux’s reasons for visiting Africa were less sensational than Simonton’s. Boudreaux was an African American teacher born in Louisiana in 1926. He lived in Ethiopia from 1952-1955 and taught at the Haile Selassie Day School in Addis Ababa. Marvin and Darryl, Boudreaux’s brothers, joined him in Ethiopia where they also taught at Selassie. Boudreaux traveled throughout Eastern Africa during his stay. His postcards illustrated a more nuanced portrait of Africa as a continent of demographic diversity with images of the Masai, Gishu, and Somali ethnic groups. Africa is depicted as a modern urbanized center of culture and commerce. There is beautiful imagery of landscapes, buildings, and village life. Pictures of subservient Africans catering to the whims of European colonizers and barren environments are absent from Boudreaux’s postcards. Many of the stereotypes about Africa that existed in Simonton’s time were still circulating half a century later when Boudreaux arrived in Ethiopia. However, Boudreaux chose images of Africa that were largely positive.

His postcards reflected a mid-20th century Africa that was poised to engage in self-governance, free from European intervention. Some of his postcards portrayed Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia, on a throne with his political supporters surrounding him. The images provided a powerful portrayal of African capability to self-rule. There were no writings on Boudreaux’s postcards but a typescript by Vladimir Soloduhin titled “Ethiopia’s Neighbors and Boundaries,” housed in the Boudreaux collection, signaled an interest in gaining an understanding of the economic, social, and political systems he was living in. Boudreaux did not seem to be interested in capitalizing on African stereotypes to sell sensational stories. His reasons for being in Ethiopia were far more benevolent than Simonton’s, which may have influenced the types of images he chose for his postcards. By viewing Simonton and Boudreaux’s postcards one can certainly gain insight into the visual representation of Africa and the types of images that were sold to and distributed by visitors to the continent.

Posted by Chianta Dorsey

Images from the Ida Vera Simonton postcards and the Warren Boudreaux collection. Not to be reproduced without permission.

From Selma to Montgomery: The Marches that Inspired the Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Amistad Research Center will host a private showing of the movie Selma tomorrow which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the famous Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches that took place in 1965 to publicize the disenfranchisement of African-Americans. The film depicts the individuals and organizations that made the march successful.

Many of the march’s leaders were previously involved in securing equal voting rights for Southern Blacks. The Dallas County Voter’s League (DCVL) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had organized voter registration campaigns in Alabama prior to the march but they were eventually joined by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1965. There were three marches that occurred during the Selma voting rights campaign of 1965. The first march, the one that would enter into history as Bloody Sunday, occurred on March 7, 1965 where protesters were brutally beat by Alabama state police. The incident outraged the nation and helped secure support of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which was later signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Protesters did not complete the full Selma to Montgomery journey until the third march which lasted from March 21st until March 25th.

The Center holds photographs from the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march in the Society of St. Edmund (Selma, Alabama) Records. Many of the photos feature Martin Luther King Jr. as well as Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis.

Left to right: John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy at Selma to Montgomery March, 1965.

Left to right: John Lewis, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ralph Abernathy at the Selma to Montgomery March, 1965.

Posted by Chianta Dorsey.

Image from the Society of St. Edmund (Selma, Alabama) Records. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Etheline Ross Cochran and Working Class Representations in the Archives

Title page of Cochran's memoir.

Title page of Cochran’s memoir.

Archives are viewed by the public as repositories reserved only for renowned historical figures or influential individuals. This is not surprising since, historically; the contents of archives have largely been reflective of the educated, upper and middle classes. Throughout history, the elite have possessed the resources to create, document, and preserve their histories for future generations. Their elite status also provided them with the opportunity to engage in actions that would place them at the nexus of history. The public has also been complicit in this selective archival vantage point because they decide whose legacy is considered “valuable” enough to preserve. The collecting policies of archives and archivists reflected this notion of importance. One may ask, what about those who fall outside of the upper and middle classes? Are their life experiences and contributions not important to archives? Are the poor and working class worthy of being included in the repositories that preserve America’s history? The answer is yes. The development of social history has led archivists and historians to collect and write about populations that have largely been marginalized in the archives. The memoir of Etheline Ross Cochran, at the Amistad Research Center, is reflective of the working class poor that deserve to have their voices sustained in the archives.

Cochran’s memoir, titled Brown Eyes, is a 44 page typescript and hand script document that details social life in New Orleans, racial stratifications within the city, and the lives of working class individuals, particularly Black women, in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Cochran was born in New Orleans during the Great Depression to an abusive father and a mother who died when Cochran was young. Cochran spoke of the lack of safety nets for abused women and children during the early 20th century. Cochran described her father’s work as that of an agricultural worker whose job meant that he was absent for long stretches during certain seasons of the year. Cochran attended Booker T. Washington High School and it was during her teen years that she began work as a domestic for an Italian American family involved in organized crime. Cochran’s family benefited from her working since her employers paid well and provided her with food and items that were being rationed, presumably during WWII. However, Cochran was raped by a family member of the household she worked for and her assault revealed the sexually vulnerability of Black women domestics. Cochran detailed that her employer intimidated and harassed her after she had decided to quit.


Photograph of Desire Housing Project, 1999.

Cochran married as a young woman and started a family shortly afterwards. She eventually moved into the Desire Housing Projects in the Ninth Ward of the city and described the neighborhood as wonderful before its reputation as a haven for the illicit drug trade, crime, environmental desolation and poverty. Her working situation during this time revealed the federal government’s concerted effort to tackle poverty by providing work programs to mothers on government assistance. Cochran participated in the Title V program, a federal job training initiative. She was trained as a lab technician where she worked in the Veteran’s Hospital and at Charity Hospital. She discussed the Family Service Society, a case work agency that assisted her with domestic issues and provided counseling. Her social worker, Catharine Williams, acted as a continuing foundation of support for Cochran through her troubles and encouraged her to write her memoir.

Cochran discussed the thriving music scene in New Orleans and names the jazz and blues musicians that played in the city as well as the establishments that catered to an African American clientele during segregation. Cochran discussed the discriminating treatment of Black Americans which provides insight into how the multicultural milieu of New Orleans complicated its racial dynamics. Cochran’s memoir serves as an example of the historical information that can be gleaned from those who don’t occupy a high social status in society and proves that their voices are just as important to the archives.

Posted by Chianta Dorsey

Images from the Etheline Ross Cochran memoir and the Ronnie Moore papers. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the new blog of the Amistad Research Center! It is a new year and we continue to be committed to informing our patrons on the status of events and collections here at the Center. We hope you enjoy the updated look of the blog and the content in the upcoming year.


The staff of the Amistad Research Center

Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith: Jewish Allies in the Black Liberation Movement?

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of B’nai B’rith originated as a Jewish organization dedicated to combating anti-Semitism in America. It was founded in 1918 as a component of B’nai B’rith, the first Jewish fraternal society in the United States. The idea for the creation of the ADL stemmed from a B’nai B’rith committee created in 1908 whose purpose was to “see to it that the cause of the Jews shall be everywhere properly championed, and the name of the Jew shall everywhere be upheld as synonymous with a high sense of moral obligation.” The ADL expanded its agenda from anti-Semitism to upholding the civil rights of all during the 1940s and this largely included becoming associated with the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement that was gaining traction within African American communities across the U.S.

An ADL report on the  foundation of anti-Jewish  sentiments among Catholics.

An ADL report on the
foundation of anti-Jewish
sentiments among Catholics.

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith Race Relations Work records at the Amistad Research Center consists of correspondence, reports, pamphlets, publications of the ADL and reports collected from other institutions. Much of the correspondence is to Oscar Cohen, who served as the Program Director of the ADL from 1954 to 1975. Other prominent ADL correspondents include A.I. Botnick, Benjamin Epstein, Murray Friedman, Irwin Schulman, and Arthur Spiegel. Prominent non-ADL correspondents include Julian Bond, James Forman, Frank P. Graham, Floyd McKissick, Henry Lee Moon and Louis H. Pollack. The strengths of the ADL lies in its reports which cover a range of topics including anti-Semitism, the Black Power Movement, desegregation and the radical right in the United States.

Much of the early work of the ADL focused on fostering positive interfaith relationships between Christians and Jews. This was of primary interest because the ADL conducted a study which concluded that a large source of anti-Semitism stemmed from the Christian church. In 1960, a Chairman’s Report addressed the need for the ADL to increase the scope of its work, nationally and internationally, due to the 1960 outbreaks of vandalism to European synagogues, the bigotry that emerged in the 1960 U.S. presidential election, and the sit-ins that were intensifying the Civil Rights Movement in the South. It is apparent through correspondence and reports that ADL’s goal of decreasing anti-Semitism intersected with some of the major incidents, people and organizations of the Black Freedom Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

A list of school incidents  involving the Little Rock Nine from the ADL's Little Rock Desegregation study.

A list of school incidents
involving the Little Rock Nine from the ADL’s Little Rock Desegregation study.

An aspect of the Civil Rights Movement that the ADL was particularly interested in was its potential to provoke anti-Jewish sentiments towards Jewish merchants that owned businesses in Black communities in the North and South. Their report, The Sit-In Demonstrations and Negro Anti-Semitism, and a 1964 story in their publication “Facts” about the Harlem and Brooklyn riots, outline their concerns regarding anti-Jewish beliefs African-Americans harbored towards Jewish business owners because of their position within the white power structure. The ADL presented alternative ways in which they could become involved in the Civil Rights Movement as facilitators between African-American communities and Jewish entrepreneurs.

Through correspondence between administrators and reports performed by members, it is apparent that the ADL sought to keep abreast of the ideas, people, programs, and events that were pumping life into the Black Freedom Movement. An example of this was a report of the Black Panther Party (BPP) that included an appendix titled, The Black Panthers on Jews, Zionism, Israel, the Arabs, and Al Fatah. The study delved into the political rhetoric of the BPP regarding the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The ADL also performed studies on desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, which included a list of attacks suffered by the students that integrated Little Rock Central High and their perpetrators, and a 1963 riot that occurred in Birmingham, Alabama. Both studies included interviews with white segregationists, black activists, and white and black political leaders. The records of the ADL can provide insight into the status of Jewish citizens as an ethnic minority and illuminate how the Black Freedom Movement was covered by an ethnic organization outside of the traditional racial purview of black and white communities.

Post by Chianta Dorsey

Images from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith Race Relations Work Records. Not to be reproduced without permission.

NOLA Hiphop and Bounce Archive Now Open

goesliveThe Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce the opening of its latest digital collection — the NOLA Hiphop and Bounce Archive. The collection currently holds over 40 extended oral history interviews with New Orleans rap and bounce pioneers, including Mannie Fresh, Mystikal, KLC, DJ Jubilee, Ms. Tee, 5th Ward Weebie, Nicky da B (1990-2014) and many more, and will eventually include materials from Alison Fensterstock and Aubry Edwards’s Where They At exhibit, which was covered by The New York Times and includes 50 photographic portraits and audio interviews with New Orleans rappers, DJs, producers, photographers, label owners, promoters, record store personnel, journalists and other parties involved in the New Orleans hiphop and bounce scene from the late 1980s through Hurricane Katrina.

Mannie Fresh

Mannie Fresh

The NOLA Hiphop and Bounce Archive is the result of a collaboration between the Amistad Research Center, the Tulane University Digital Library, interviewers Holly Hobbs and Alison Fensterstock, archive community consultants Truth Universal and Nesby Phips, videographer/tech advisor Joe Slack, and production assistant Colin Meneghini. The NOLA Hiphop and Bounce Archive is the culmination of over two years of interview work focusing on telling the stories that haven’t yet been told and documenting the stories of the pioneers and legends who created New Orleans hiphop. In addition to the online collection, the Amistad Research Center is pleased to house the original interviews in the NOLA Hiphop Archive Project Collection and the Where They At Collection.

Nicky da B

Nicky da B

“Inside New Orleans” Offers a Small Glance into the City’s History

Amistad is in the process of cataloging its periodicals. As someone who is involved with pulling and organizing the papers for Laura Chilton, our cataloger, I am amazed at the little gems I discover while doing it. It gives me an opportunity to acquaint myself with Amistad’s holdings so I can better inform members of the Center’s community on what we have to offer. Amistad has a wonderful array of newspapers that highlight American minority run presses and international periodicals of countries in the African Diaspora. Among these are the Indian Trader, which details Native American communities and achievements across the country, Asian Weekly, which largely covers the Asian American community in San Francisco, and Inside New Orleans, a local New Orleans paper that has become my personal favorite.

Inside New Orleans covers the destruction of Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

Inside New Orleans covers the destruction of Hurricane Betsy in 1965.

Inside New Orleans is a content rich source regarding the social, educational, economic and political events in New Orleans. However, the paper does not fall short by only reporting all things New Orleans; it also recounts events that occurred throughout Louisiana’s African-American communities. The years we hold cover the period of 1965-1966 and the paper covers some of the most iconic civil rights moments in American and Louisiana history during this period. Some of the components included in the paper are an “Editorial” that offers a social critique on a particular topic; the “World Wide News” which gives tidbits of news on events occurring in the nation and the world; “Inside Society” targets New Orleans social affairs and “Scotty’s Whirl,” the column of a journalist named C. Scott, imparts the musical happenings within the city.

insideno0002One part of newspapers that I usually can’t ignore from this time period is the advertisements. They offer insight into products and services that have drastically changed or just aren’t available anymore. These advertisements also demonstrate African-American entrepreneurship and showcase businesses that operated within or served African-American communities in New Orleans and its outlying areas. Inside New Orleans is a great newspaper for researchers interested in the African-American press and how civil rights news events were covered at the time they occurred.

Post by Chianta Dorsey

Images from Inside New Orleans. Not to be reproduced without permission.

Amistad Adds to Hale Smith Papers

Notebook containing a list of phonograph records, presumably collected by Hale Smith.

Notebook containing a list of phonograph records, presumably collected by Hale Smith.

Music-related holdings at the Amistad Research Center are as varied as music itself, ranging from jazz to classical and from spirituals to hip hop. Amistad is pleased to add to the papers of a musician whose own oeuvre has been described as “eclectic”. Since 2004, Amistad has housed the papers of jazz and classical composer, arranger, performer, and teacher Hale Smith. A new addition to the collection was recently received, which greatly expands the collection and documents further Smith’s career and collaborations.

Born on June 29, 1925, in Cleveland, Ohio, Smith began studying piano at the age of seven and played mellophone in high school. At the age of 16, he attracted the attention of Duke Ellington, who had been shown one of Smith’s compositions and offered advice to the young composer. Smith arranged music for shows touring Army camps in the U.S. South during World War II. Afterwards, he returned home and enrolled in the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied under Marcel Dick and Ward Lewis. In 1952, he won BMI’s first student composer award for his “Four Songs”. Smith moved to New York in 1958 and found work as an editor and consultant for music publishing houses while performing in New York City. In 1948, he married Juanita Hancock, with whom he raised four children: Robin, Michael, Eric, and Marcel.

Program for the first public performance and recording of Hale Smith's "Contours".

Program for the first public performance and recording of Hale Smith’s “Contours”.

The recent addition to the Smith papers includes correspondence (1958-2010) regarding projects, presentations and performances, greetings from fellow musicians, and correspondence amongst family members; photographs; programs, announcements, and invitations of performances by Smith, performances of his works, and tributes to him; and news clippings, press releases, publications, and writings by Smith (1953-2006). Also included are minutes for the New York State Council of the Arts, weekly planners and address books, copyright files, audio reels, music scores, books of poetry, and contracts. Correspondents include musician/poet/publisher Russell Atkins, musicians Dizzy Gillespie and Eric Dolphy, and poets Langston Hughes and Ted Joans.

he Center is currently organizing the Hale Smith papers and this important addition will be included in the final online finding aid, which will be available in the near future as part of a grant from the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation. A special thanks, as well, to Juanita Smith for her continued support of the Amistad Research Center and this most recent donation.

Undated photograph of Dizzy Gillespie, Hale Smith, and Benny Carter (l-r).

Undated photograph of Dizzy Gillespie, Hale Smith, and Benny Carter (l-r).

Detail of a flyer for the City College CUNY Department of Music with Hale Smith's annotation "My first 'lecture'!"

Detail of a flyer for the City College CUNY Department of Music with Hale Smith’s annotation “My first ‘lecture’!”

Amistad Acquires the Harold Sylvester Papers

The newly-arrived papers waiting to be inventoried and reboxed.

The newly-arrived papers waiting to be inventoried and reboxed.

From New Orleans to Hollywood and back to New Orleans, the Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce the acquisition of the personal papers of film and television actor, writer, and producer Harold Sylvester.

Spanning four decades, Harold Sylvester’s career has included film roles in Corrina, Corrina (1994), Innerspace (1987), Uncommon Valor (1983), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), and Sounder, Part 2 (1976); appearances on television shows ranging from Married…With Children to Hill Street Blues to A Different World; and the screenplay for the TV movie Passing Glory, a film that portrays the events leading up to the historic 1965 New Orleans high school basketball game between all-black St. Augustine High School and all-white Jesuit High School – a game in which Sylvester played, and a landmark moment in New Orleans Civil Rights history.
A New Orleans native, Sylvester attended Tulane University beginning in 1968 as a psychology and, later, theater major. He also parlayed his success as an athlete on the basketball court to become the university’s first African-American student to receive an athletic scholarship. He graduated from Tulane in 1972 and moved on to become active in the Free Southern Theater before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and television in the mid 1970s. Since then, he has taken part in 17 feature films and over 400 television shows. Sylvester won an Emmy as Writer/Executive Producer of the TNT documentary On Hallowed Ground and made his directorial debut in 2005 with the feature film NOLA.
The Harold Sylvester papers measure approximately 30 linear feet and include correspondence, film and television scripts, materials reflecting Sylvester’s involvement with the Free Southern Theater and his Blue Bayou Productions, photographs, news clippings, and more. Amistad is delighted to add Harold Sylvester’s papers to our collections, and pleased to bring the actor and writer’s materials home to New Orleans. 
The collection is currently being inventoried, and will be open for research in the near future. Inquiries regarding the collection can be sent to the
Production stills from Uncommon Valor.

Production stills from Uncommon Valor.

A copy of Harold Sylvester's script for Passing Glory.

A copy of Harold Sylvester’s script for Passing Glory.

Posted by Brenda Flora and Christopher Harter
(Images from the Harold Sylvester Papers. May not be reproduced without permission.)