2019 Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prizes Awarded

Young Americans for Freedom brochure, 1969

Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) brochure, 1969. William F. Buckley, Jr. Papers (MS 576), Part I, Box 67, Folder: YAF, Oct-Dec 1969.

We are pleased to announce the two winners of the 2019 Manuscripts and Archives (MSSA) Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prize. The prize recognizes outstanding senior essays on any topic, including Yale, based substantially on research using Manuscripts and Archives collections. More information, including a list of prize winners since the prize’s inception in 2003, can be found on the MSSA Prize website. Up to two prizes are awarded each year based on essays self-submitted for prize consideration by Yale College seniors. One-semester and two-semester essays from any department are eligible for consideration. Faculty and others may encourage submissions, but students must submit the essays themselves for prize consideration. Prize winning essays are published in EliScholar.

Samuel Bennett, a senior History major from Ezra Stiles College advised by Professor Beverly Gage, was awarded one of this year’s prizes for his essay ‘A Critic Friendly to McCarthy’: How William F. Buckley, Jr. Brought Senator Joseph R. McCarthy into the American Conservative Movement between 1951 and 1959. Bennett’s essay explores the fluctuations in the embrace of McCarthy by Buckley, a leader of movement conservatism in the U.S. and after 1955 the founder and editor of the influential conservative journal National Review. The essay examines the turbulent 1950s, during McCarthy’s efforts to expose what he regarded as Communist influences in the administrations of U.S. presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

Telegram from William F. Buckley, Jr. to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, 20 December 1956

Telegram from William F. Buckley, Jr. to Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, 20 December 1956. William F. Buckley, Jr. Papers (MS 576), Part I, Box 3, Folder: McCarthy.

Bennett deftly uses correspondence, editorials, and speeches from the William F. Buckley, Jr. Papers (MS 576) in Manuscripts and Archives to show how Buckley de-emphasized his public embrace of McCarthy following the senator’s rebuke by the U.S. Senate in December 1954, a crucial time for the launch of the National Review. The essay also explores the period immediately following McCarthy’s death in May 1957, when Buckley became a forceful and vociferous champion, in print and in speaking engagements, of the late senator’s fight against Communism. Judges in this year’s senior essay competition found Bennett’s thesis to be quite clearly articulated, and the structure of the essay clear and easy to follow. He made effective use of the secondary literature on the topic of Buckley and McCarthy, and did an excellent job at weaving in extensive citations from primary sources in the Buckley papers to bolster his arguments.

Letter from Jean McCarthy to William F. Buckley, Jr., 11 July 1957

Letter from Jean McCarthy to William F. Buckley, Jr., 11 July 1957. William F. Buckley, Jr. Papers (MS 576), Part I, Box 3, Folder: McCarthy.

Ethan Swift, a senior History major from Pierson College, also advised by Professor Beverly Gage, was awarded the other of this year’s prizes for his essay Young Americans for Freedom and the Anti-War Movement: Pro-War Encounters with the New Left at the Height of the Vietnam War.  Swift’s essay also drew heavily on the Buckley papers, though focused on a later era during the anti-war protests of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Coincidentally, this is the first time since the inception of these prizes in 2003 that both prize-winning essays utilized the same archival collection, which serves as a great indicator to future Yale senior essayists that there are many successful angles from which to approach an archival collection. Swift seeks to fill a gap in the historiography of the time period, much of which focuses on the efforts and tactics of anti-war activists. He mines the Buckley papers, especially materials relating to Buckley’s support in the founding in 1960 of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), a conservative political group with chapters on U.S. college and university campuses. In addition, Swift explores the fascinating interplay between articles in the YAF monthly journal New Guard and correspondence over more than a decade with YAF leadership in the Buckley papers. He also makes and illustrates a novel and important point regarding the way that YAF members, in their brochures and advertising, co-opted for pro-war and recruitment purposes some of the tactics and graphical symbolism used by the New Left. Members of the judging committee were impressed by Swift’s sophisticated use of primary source materials, the logical and clear organization of his essay, and the new insights he contributes to the history of a very contentious time in American politics.

Advertisement for YAF paraphernalia, New Guard, Vol. IX, No. 1, p. 26, January 1969

Advertisement for YAF paraphernalia, New Guard, Vol. IX, No. 1, p. 26, January 1969. William F. Buckley, Jr. Papers (MS 576), Part I, Box 67, Folder: YAF, Jan-Feb 1969.

Members of the 2019 judging committee for the Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Senior Essay Prize were: Mary Caldera, Christine Connolly, James Kessenides, Bill Landis, Michelle Peralta, and Camila Tessler. The prize, a certificate and check for $500.00, is awarded to each winner at his or her residential college Commencement Day ceremonies.

New Collections and Additions, January-April 2019

The following information on recently acquired and processed collections was assembled by Alison Clemens, assistant head of arrangement and description.

Manuscripts and Archives has recently acquired and made available the following collections and additions to existing collections:

New collections

Edison Price Papers (MS 2015)

  • The collection is comprised of business and design records generated by the two lighting design, manufacturing, and consulting companies founded by Edison Price in New York, New York: Edison Price, Inc. (founded in 1952) and Nulux, Inc. (founded in 1990). Papers include both project and product records, as well as research files, patent documents, and general documentation about the firms. Project records consist of drawings, correspondence, and notes relating to lighting designs, including such projects as the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles. Product records consist of drawings, photometric reports, and other information for a range of fixtures designed and manufactured by Edison Price, Inc. and Nulux, Inc.

James F. Ahern Papers (MS 2086)

  • The collection (totaling 11.34 linear feet) consists of the personal papers of James F. Ahern, documenting his position as chief of police for New Haven, Connecticut. Included are materials related to student and police activities during May Day 1970 at Yale University, wiretapping by the New Haven police, and Ahern’s role as a member of the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest in 1970. Also included are photographs of Ahern, posters, magazine articles authored by and concerning Ahern, audio and visual recordings of Ahern’s media appearances, scrapbooks with speeches and news clippings, correspondence by Ahern and family, and Rolodex cards with names and contact information for Ahern’s colleagues in police administration.

Arthur Bostwick Van Buskirk World War I Diaries (MS 2091)

  • Collection consists of two diaries by Arthur Botswick Van Buskirk documenting his military experience during World War I. Newspaper clippings, correspondence, tickets, and other ephemera were originally inserted between diary pages. Several pages in volume II detail the Armistice of November 11, 1918 in Paris, France.

John Lewis Gaddis Papers (MS 2092)

  • The collection contains the personal diaries of John Lewis Gaddis. Subjects include his academic and publishing activities, events in his personal life, his transition to Yale University from Ohio University in the late 1990s, and the founding of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale University. The majority of the diary entries are typed; some are handwritten.
  • Access to the collection is restricted until 1 January 2050 by donor request.

Felipe Lorenzo Famoso Diary (MS 2100)

  • Diary covering the career of Felipe Lorenzo Famoso, a Spanish soldier in Morocco and Spain, from 1923-1949.

Mas Yebra Family Correspondence (MS 2101)

  • Correspondence of the Mas Yerba family, a prominent political family in Barcelona. The correspondence includes one hundred thirty-three letters exchanged among the family members and their associates during the Spanish Civil War. Also includes a small amount of the family’s legal and financial papers.

Ramon Llado Correspondence (MS 2102)

  • Eleven letters between Ramon Llado, a Republican soldier in the Spanish Civil War, and his family. Seven letters are from Ramon to his wife, Concepcion. Three letters are from Concepcion to Ramon, and one letter is to Ramon from his sister, Dionisia, and his brother-in-law.

Additions to existing collections

Accession 2017-M-0002 addition to the David Brion Davis Papers (MS 1970)

  • This accession (totaling 42.58 linear feet) comprises teaching and research files, writings, correspondence, and program files documenting David Brion Davis’s work as a historian of slavery and abolition in the western world and professor of history at Yale University. The teaching files document Davis’s teaching activities and lectures at Yale University and other educational institutions. Writings document Davis’s monographs and short writings, particularly his essays and reviews for the New York Review of Books, as well as scholarly and popular writings of others that were sent to Davis for review or comment. Correspondence primarily documents Davis’s professional and research activities, and correspondence is also present throughout the research files, writings, and program files groupings. Program files include material documenting conferences Davis attended and contributed to and activities Davis undertook in the professional organizations to which he belonged. The program files also document Davis’s activities as founding director of Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition and as a Yale history professor working with researchers, undergraduate students, and graduate students at the university. The accession also contains Davis’s personal papers, which document his early academic work as a student at Dartmouth College and Harvard University, his written reflections on his life and work, and his professional activities and retirement.

Accession 2018-M-0051 addition to the Richard Benson Sewall Papers (MS 1413)

  • This accession (totaling 14.25 linear feet) comprises lecture notes and course materials documenting Sewall’s tenure as a Yale University professor of English; writings and research files on Emily Dickinson, the Strong family of Rochester, New York, and other areas relating to Sewall’s research interests; and correspondence regarding Sewall’s research and work at Yale. Also includes personal materials documenting Sewall’s professional life and family history.

Scrapbooks of William Bacon Bailey, Yale Class of 1894: Accession 2018-A-0063 of the Yale Student Scrapbook Collection (RU 138)

  • Three scrapbooks documenting reunion activity and related events of the Yale College Class of 1894, of which Bailey was a member, as well as Bailey’s professional life as an economist, professor, census worker, statistician, and employee at Travelers Insurance Companies.

Accession 2019-M-0007 addition to the Charles Hill Papers (MS 2070)

  • The accession (totaling 3.42 linear feet) consists of the personal papers of Charles Hill. Materials include Hill’s correspondence, including correspondence with former United States secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz. The accession also consists of writings, including book reviews and commentary articles on United States foreign policy, and course material from Hill’s class “Oratory in Statecraft” taught at Yale University, 2006-2018.

Accession 2019-M-0042 addition to the Spanish Civil War collection (MS 2058)

  • The accession (totaling .42 linear feet) includes children’s materials, publications, and postcards documenting the Spanish Civil War.

A Tale of Two Archives: Tracing the life of Thomas Lawrason Riggs ’10

This is a guest post by Sarah L. Woodford, director of the Vincent Library at Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University.

In his July 1983 article in The Catholic Historical Review Herbert Janick observes that Father Thomas Lawrason Riggs ’10, the first Catholic chaplain at Yale, was “both an intellectual respected for his secular accomplishments and a Catholic priest.” It then seems fitting that the two archives on campus that house his papers are Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University and Yale’s Manuscripts and Archives in Sterling Memorial Library. Riggs bequeathed most of his personal and professional papers to the Saint Thomas More Corporation; but those papers and personal items, particularly pertaining to his bright college years, the immediate years afterwards, and his contributions to academic scholarship were donated to Manuscripts and Archives.

Photograph of T. Lawrason Riggs from Scroll and Key senior album, 1910. Call number: Yeg2 K61x 1910.

Photograph of T. Lawrason Riggs from Scroll and Key senior album, 1910. Call number: Yeg2 K61x 1910.

Born in 1888 to the Riggs banking family of Washington, D.C., Riggs was a graduating member of Yale University’s Class of 1910. While at university, Riggs studied English literature and French, Italian, Latin, and Greek. He was both a member of Scroll and Key and the Pundit Society, as well as the president of the Yale Dramatic Society (where he met his future roommate and musical theater collaborator, Cole Porter ’13). A renowned poet on campus, first as a contributor to the Yale Literary Magazine and then as the publication’s editor during his senior year, he penned the official class song for the class of 1910.

After Yale, Riggs pursued graduate work at Harvard University under the direction of Barrett Wendell. There he roomed with Dean Acheson ’15 (a future secretary of state in the administration of President Harry S. Truman) and Cole Porter (a future popular composer and entertainer), who were both pursuing law degrees. Neither Riggs nor Porter finished their Harvard degrees, instead they focused on the writing of See America First, a Broadway show financed by Riggs and pronounced a flop by New York critics in March 1916.

World War I brought Riggs back to the Yale. In the summer of 1917, months after the United States declared war on Germany, the twenty-nine-year-old joined The Yale Mobile Hospital Unit as a translator. After leaving the Yale Unit and gaining a foreign-language specialist position assigned to military intelligence in Paris, were he also acquired the rank of first lieutenant, Riggs decided to enter into the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1922 and after a trip to Europe to consult with the Catholic chaplains at Cambridge and Oxford, took up residency at Yale.

One of the “designs” Riggs bequeathed to Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University, circa 1938. The Fr. Riggs Papers, Saint Thomas More.

One of the “designs” Riggs bequeathed to Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University, circa 1938. The Fr. Riggs Papers, Saint Thomas More.

Riggs spent his tenure as Catholic chaplain entertaining young Catholic creatives at his lavish home on Whitney Avenue, building what is now Saint Thomas More Chapel, and pursuing a book project about Joan of Arc. His book Saving Angel: The Truth about Joan of Arc and the Church, was published posthumously in 1944 by The Bruce Publishing Company of Milwaukee. Riggs died unexpectedly of a heart attack on April 26, 1943. He was fifty-five. In his will, drawn up in November 1938, he bequeathed all his “papers, books, correspondence, records and designs” that concern or have to do with Saint Thomas More, to the Saint Thomas More Corporation. All other papers, books, and correspondence that did not interest the Corporation, were to go to Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.

Among the items Riggs bequeathed to Manuscripts and Archives were two Scroll and Key senior albums, from 1909 and 1910. The former from his brother, Francis, who graduated the year before him, and the latter from Riggs’s senior year. Both albums are leather-bound and contain black and white photos of the society’s senior members with their signatures underneath. Riggs’s 1910 album also contains a snapshot of the secret society’s ivy-covered tomb in the album’s last frame.

Recipes to prepare for injured soldiers, part of Riggs’s training for the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit, 1917. Thomas Lawrason Riggs Papers (MS 704), Box 1, Folder 9. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Recipes to prepare for injured soldiers, part of Riggs’s training for the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit, 1917. Thomas Lawrason Riggs Papers (MS 704), Box 1, Folder 9. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Riggs also donated a collection of his notes and papers that now make up the Riggs Papers. Items of note include his typed manuscript of Saving Angel and a notebook from 1917 that contains notes from his training for the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit. The notebook is blank in the middle and its back portion contains notes in pencil dated July 18-21. These notes instruct on how to identify contagious diseases, bandage various sprains, set broken bones, and prepare meals for the injured (poached eggs and cocoa are two items on the menu). There is also a particularly sobering section that describes the different sorts of poisonous gas a soldier could inhale, how to identify them, and which ones would prove fatal.

As Saint Thomas More, the Catholic Chapel & Center at Yale University celebrates eighty years in October 2018, the community once more considers its beginnings and the priest at the center of those beginnings. Riggs was a chaplain and a Yale man—how appropriate that like his life, the archives that continue to keep his memory reflect this as well.

The New Gates Classroom in Manuscripts and Archives

It has been seven months since our move back into our beautifully renovated public service spaces in the Wall Street wing of Sterling Memorial Library. We’ve had a semester and a summer of Yale students and other researchers back in full force, enjoying the modernized lighting, comfortable and functional furniture, state-of-the-art climate control, and the relative quiet that has resulted from relocating all staff not primarily responsible for public service operations out of the reading room area. The renovation has been deemed an unqualified success by both researchers and staff members!

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin's Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin’s Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

The most spectacular feature of the renovation, both visually and programmatically, is the conversion of the former Grand Exhibition Room at the back of the Manuscripts and Archives reading room into the Gates classroom. The new classroom is named for the late Stephen F. Gates (Class of 1968), whose generosity made the transformation possible. With a new entrance from the back of the Linonia and Brothers (L&B) reading room, the classroom space is separated from the reading room by Samuel Yellin’s dramatically ornate, wrought-iron gates, soundproofed by the insertion of glass in the arches. The Yellin gates bear the phrase There is no past so long as books shall live. This excerpt, from the poem “The Souls of Books” by the 19th century English poet Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Lord Lytton, is a fitting tribute to the room’s original purpose. From the opening of Sterling Memorial Library in 1931 until the move of Yale’s rare book collection to the newly constructed Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 1963, the Grand Exhibition Room, in what was then the Rare Book Room, showcased Yale’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, given to Yale by Mrs. Mary Harkness in 1926 shortly before Sterling Memorial Library opened.

Right-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives, looking from the reading room into the Gates classroom.

Right-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives, looking from the reading room into the Gates classroom.

The entire section of Bulwer-Lytton’s poem from which the inscription on the Yellin gates is taken reads (from Dramas and Poems of Edward Bulwer Lytton (Little Brown and Company, 1898), pages 321-325):

IV.

All books grow homilies by time; they are / Temples, at once, and Landmarks. In them, we / Who but for them, upon that inch of ground / We call “The Present,” from the cell could see / No daylight trembling on the dungeon bar; / Turn, as we list, the globe’s great axle round, / Traverse all space, and number every star, / And feel the Near less household than the Far! / There is no Past, so long as Books shall live!A disinterred Pompeii wakes again / For him who seeks yon well; lost cities give / Up their untarnished wonders, and the reign / Of Jove revives and Saturn : — At our will / Rise dome and tower on Delphi’s sacred hill; / Bloom Cimon’s trees in Academe; — along / Leucadia’s headland, sighs the Lesbian’s song; / With AEgypt’s Queen once more we sail the Nile, / And learn how worlds are bartered for a smile; — / Rise up, ye walls, with gardens blooming o’er, / Ope but that page — lo, Babylon once more!

Left-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives looking from the Gates classroom into the reading room.

Left-hand gate in Manuscripts and Archives looking from the Gates classroom into the reading room.

The Yellin gates and their classics-themed ode to the power of books now watch over Yale students and other researchers, in both the Manuscripts and Archives reading room and the Gates classroom. Researchers and students pour through archival records, primarily, rather than books. These records–documenting the endeavors of Yale, its alumni and faculty, and outside organizations that often have some link to Yale–transport their readers in ways similar to the books in Bulwer-Lytton’s ode. The gist of the poem remains as true as ever..

In the months since the classroom opened we’ve hosted dozens of sessions for Yale classes, visiting high school students from around the globe participating in the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, and students from New Haven schools participating in external and Yale-hosted programs.

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin's Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

Students in Prof. Jay Gitlin’s Yale and America class exploring Manuscripts and Archives collection materials in the Gates Classroom.

One Yale course, Professor Jay Gitlin’s history seminar Yale and America, is an extremely popular class whose students plumb the depths of the collections in Manuscripts and Archives to write substantive research papers on topics relating to Yale history. The class session held in the Gates classroom introduced Spring term 2018’s participants to the wide variety of potential sources for their research projects. The Fall 2016 issue of the student-edited, student-produced Yale Historical Review was dedicated to research produced in a class that has become a right of passage for many Yale students from across the disciplines. We’re happy, as we think Stephen F. Gates would be, that Manuscripts and Archives and Sterling Memorial Library now offers a soaring, inspiring space in which a part of that right of passage can occur.

An African American Woman in Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia

The following post was written by Camila Tessler, Archivist, Manuscripts and Archives.

Clippings relating to Dorothy Hadley's marriage Malaku Bayen, circa 1931. Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers (MS 1570), Box 1, Folder 3.

Clippings relating to Dorothy Hadley’s marriage Malaku Bayen, circa 1931. Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers (MS 1570), Box 1, Folder 3.

In 1931, Dorothy Hadley of Evanston, Illinois, married Prince Malaku Bayen of Ethiopia, Nephew of Haile Selassie I. Malaku Bayen was studying to be a doctor at Howard University, and upon the completion of his degree, he returned with Dorothy Hadley Bayen and their son Chip to Ethiopia.

Dorothy’s work was not just of a housewife and a mother, but also as an activist for the Ethiopian and black communities, both abroad and locally. During various times in her life she acted as a fundraiser for the Haile Selassie Fund, working in New York to raise money both from the black and white community. In one letter, she stated that she could easily raise funds in the black community, while the white community was never very generous, leading her to conclude that the natural home for black Americans would be Africa, and that Ethiopia held the future of the unity and the redemption of black people.

 

Letter from Dorothy Hadley Bayen to her sister, Leora Hadley, page 2, undated but circa 1935. Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers (MS 1570), Box 1, Folder 1.

Letter from Dorothy Hadley Bayen to her sister, Leora Hadley, page 2, undated but circa 1935. Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers (MS 1570), Box 1, Folder 1.

Dino Robinson has written an article about Bayen, summarizing her work for the Ethiopian community and the movement that became the Rastifarian religion here. The Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers at Manuscripts and Archives do cover this facet of her life, but they also demonstrate some of the culture shock and cover the adaptation of a woman who grew up in the Midwest to a life in Ethiopia. In several letters, she chronicles everything from the purchase of furniture (expensive in Ethiopia, but of good quality) and the personalities of her servants (from good to bad to drunkards) to life as a newly minted member of what was the oldest royal dynasty on the planet.

Her letters paint a very vivid and detailed picture of life in Ethiopia in the 30s, but the most refreshing part of her letters is her bubbling personality. She chides to Toots and Sam, in a letter dated December 27th 1935, “Why don’t you all write to me and let me know if you are living or dead?” In another letter, this one to her family, she admits that either she, or someone in their family, named her husband’s human skeleton (presumably for anatomy) Mussolini, and laments that her husband bought two rugs that they will be paying off “for twenty years hence!”

Letter from Dorothy Hadley Bayen to her family, page 1, 2 October 1935. Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers (MS 1570), Box 1, Folder 1.

Letter from Dorothy Hadley Bayen to her family, page 1, 2 October 1935. Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers (MS 1570), Box 1, Folder 1.

What her letters also give us is an outsider-insider view of the Ethiopian Empire. As a member of the royal family, Bayen had access into a place where most people did not, but as an American, she also had a perspective that allowed her to wonder, question, and describe customs and practices that she was not familiar with. She describes meeting the Emperor Haile Selassie:

There are two palaces, or as they are called “gibbee”, the upper, and the lower. The lower is the old palace that was Menelik’s and the new one is that built I think around 1930 when this present ruler was made emperor. It is in the new one that they receive all the important foreign visitors. It is a large two-story gray stone building inside a very huge compound, and there are soldiers and guards standing all around. Her Majesty and Sahai (her daughter) met us in a room furnished with gold and brocaded furniture, Louis XIV style (I think) […] I felt foolish bowing and backing out and so forth, seein’ as I have had so little practice in this sort of thing, and every minute I was afraid I would get my feet all tangled in my long skirt and go sprawling out on the floor. Wouldn’t that have been something? (Dorothy Hadley Bayen to her family, page 2, 2 October 1935. MS 1570, Box 1, Folder 1.)

Through her correspondence with her family in the Evanston, we get a good picture of a person in an extraordinary situation, and a witness to the beginnings of a movement that formed the basis of a new religion. But we also are given the perspective of an outsider to a new culture, a new life, and a new way of thinking.

See the online finding aid for the Dorothy Hadley Bayen Papers in Manuscripts and Archives for additional information about this collection.

Mary Johnson’s Legacy of New Haven Activism

The following post was written by Michael Brenes, Senior Archivist for American Diplomacy, Manuscripts and Archives.

The events at the end of the summer in Charlottesville, Virginia, brought into sharp focus the ongoing and painful legacy of racism in the United States. But the marches led by white supremacists, including members of the Ku Klux Klan—now collectively rebranded as the “Alt-Right”—also generated a resounding and determined resistance against the violence witnessed around the world, which echoed the vibrant history of social movements in the United States. Indeed, as much as the horror at Charlottesville revealed the conspicuous bigotry that remains prominent within sectors of the country, it also offered an opportunity for historical reflection—to assess the significant progress made on civil rights and race relations.

News clipping from an unknown paper documenting the Ku Klux Klan in New Haven for the taping of Sally Jesse Raphael Show, 1987 June 16. Mary Johnson Papers (MS 2050), Box 15, folder 12.

News clipping from an unknown paper documenting the Ku Klux Klan in New Haven for the taping of Sally Jesse Raphael Show, 1987 June 16. Mary Johnson Papers (MS 2050), Box 15, folder 12.

For the Yale and New Haven community, the moment recalls the 1980s, when members of the Ku Klux Klan held marches and rallies across Connecticut. In May 1980, Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan came to Hartford, Connecticut, in response to “an influx of applications” received by the hate group. Days after Wilkinson’s announcement, ten Klansmen burned a cross in Hartford near Bradley International Airport. By March 1981, the Klan arrived in Meriden looking for a confrontation. The hate group planned a march to recruit new members, creating a tense standoff between the Klan and counterprotestors. The march quickly turned violent, with demonstrators pelting Klansmen with bottles and bricks. The Klan was chased out of Meriden, but vowed to return. As recent Yale graduate Nelson Reed (’17) wrote in his senior essay , “[t]he Invisible Empire was like a parasite in Connecticut: small and persistent, the Klan wreaked havoc, threatening the state’s racial immune system,” much to the dismay of the state’s residents.

The Klan resurfaced in Connecticut again in 1987—this time, in New Haven. The talk-show host Sally Jesse Raphael invited members of the Aryan Youth Movement and James Farrands of the Shelton chapter of the Ku Klux Klan to a taping of her show in New Haven, ostensibly to discuss why they maintained such repugnant ideas. One of the leaders of the resistance against the Klan was Mary Johnson, a longtime activist in New Haven since the 1960s. Johnson argued that Raphael was sensationalizing white supremacy. Johnson told the New Haven Register, “The Klan has not made any attempt to come to New Haven in many years and [Raphael] has the gall to invite them, to give them a platform.” Johnson and fellow activists shouted down the Klan at the taping, forcing white supremacists in the audience to leave the stage.

"We Support the Unions at Yale," poster, circa 1980s. Mary Johnson Papers (MS 2050), Box 20.

“We Support the Unions at Yale,” poster, circa 1980s. Mary Johnson Papers (MS 2050), Box 20.

Mary Johnson’s run-in with the Klan represented only one moment in a lifetime of fighting against injustice. Her papers in Manuscripts and Archives—donated to Yale in 2016—demonstrate Johnson’s longstanding interest in a range of social issues, from dilapidated housing and poor public transportation in New Haven, to immigrant rights and union organizing. Johnson was also involved with the group Greater New Haven Coalition for People, whose records came to Manuscripts and Archives in 2014. Now processed and accessible to researchers, both collections offer multiple possibilities for researchers looking to discover more information about the history of social activism in New Haven and its connections to the Yale community.

Mary Johnson died on August 13th, 2017, but with her archival collection in Manuscripts and Archives, her storied and extensive legacy in New Haven activism and politics will endure.

"El Grupo Moncada" event poster, circa 1980s. Mary Johnson Papers (MS 2050), Box 20.

“El Grupo Moncada” event poster, circa 1980s. Mary Johnson Papers (MS 2050), Box 20.

Papers and Publications on Hawaiian Youth Henry Obookiah and Early Missionaries to Hawaii in the Yale University Library

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 1. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 1. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

The following post was written by Judith A. Schiff, Chief Research Archivist, Manuscripts and Archives.

In 2020, the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives (HMH) in Honolulu will celebrate the Bicentennial of its founding, by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), to bring “literacy, Christianity, constitutional government, polyphonic music, and Western medicine” to Hawaii.  The first anniversary program was held in Connecticut in June 2017, the Bicentennial of the founding of the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, CT.  Its establishment was inspired by the amazing life experiences of a young Hawaiian prince, Obookiah, who arrived in New Haven in 1809 and was educated by Yale alumni, students, and President Timothy Dwight, a co-founder of the ABCFM. After attending the program in Cornwall, Obookiah’s Hawaiian family descendants visited three Yale special libraries on June 20, to examine and discuss original manuscripts and publications by and relating to Obookiah and the early missionaries in Hawaii.  Christopher Cook of Kauai, author of The Life of Henry Obookiah, accompanied the family and is coordinating the bicentennial programs honoring the missionaries’ landing in Hawaii in 1820.

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 2. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 2. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

After a period marked by Hawaiian royal family power wars and island unification in the late 18th and early 19th century, a young prince, Opukahaia, in America Henry Obookiah, became the only survivor of his immediate family.  In 1808, he swam out in Kealakekua Bay of Hawaii Island, the Big Island, to greet a China Trade ship.  The captain of the brig Triumph was Caleb Brintnall from New Haven, Connecticut.  Brintnall liked the boy and brought him along, with the permission of Obookiah’s relatives, on his long sealing voyage.  Russell Hubbard (Yale BA 1806) was on board and tutored Obookiah.  After sailing east to Mexico to hunt seals, then west to China to trade skins for goods, they continued west around the world to New York to sell the full cargo of China goods.  Not long after the ship returned to New Haven in the late summer of 1809, Edwin Welles Dwight (Yale BA 1809) found Obookiah sitting on the steps of a Yale building and weeping “because nobody gives me learning.”  Edwin took him to President Timothy Dwight (the Elder), a distant relation, who took him into his home and educated him privately in secular and religious subjects.  In 1810, President Dwight became a founder of the ABCFM and a major force in the first American society to establish missions outside the United States.  A microfilm of the ABCFM records at Harvard is held by the Yale Divinity School Library.

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 3. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 3. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Obookiah moved on to other New England schools, studying to become a Christian missionary, and inspired the founding of the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut, known as the Cornwall Indian School, in 1817.  The most important Obookiah document at Yale is a long original personal letter describing the life and studies at the Indian School.  It is the only currently well-known original manuscript letter in his hand. A transcription and link to a PDF of the letter is available at the end of this article. The original is in the Gustav Reinhold Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Sadly, Obookiah died from typhus in 1818, not long after the school opened.  His memoirs, edited and published by Edwin Dwight continued to inspire college and theological students to become missionaries.  The school thrived until 1826, when it closed largely due to the concerns raised when the marriages of two Cornwall girls with Cherokee students became known.  In 1993, in connection with the commemoration of the 175th anniversary of his death, the remains of Obookiah were exhumed from his grave in Cornwall and returned to Hawaii.  The Records of Reuben A. Holden, Secretary of Yale University (RU 19) in Manuscripts and Archives include correspondence and printed matter relating to the 150th anniversary (see Series III, Box 275, folder 944).

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 4. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

Letter from Henry Obookiah, sent from Cornwall, Connecticut, to Samuel Wells, Jr. of Greenfield, Massachusetts, dated 16 June 1817, page 4. Gustave R. Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17. Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.

In the year after Obookiah’s death the first missionary ship sailed for Hawaii, led by Asa Thurston (Yale BA 1816) and Hiram Bingham (Yale Hon. 1819).  A month before their embarkation from Boston on October 23, the missionary board decreed that no unmarried men could serve in Hawaii.  This proved no obstacle to Asa and Hiram, who within a few weeks met and married professional women teachers dedicated to their cause.  A Yale sophomore, Samuel Whitney, was so motivated that with the permission of the faculty he joined the mission.  The Hawaii venture thrived, and, with the blessing of Yale President Jeremiah Day, a second missionary ship sailed from New Haven in 1822, including Joseph Goodrich (Yale BA 1821).  The papers of Hiram Bingham I, in the Bingham Family Papers (MS 81) in Manuscripts and Archives, provide important documentation on the first settlements, their development, and their contributions to the religious, educational, and cultural life of the Hawaiian Islands.


Transcript of a letter from Henry Obookiah to Samuel Wells, from MS 1429, Box 1, folder 17:

Cornwall       June 16th, 1817

My dear sir,

Again, I take my pen at this moment as to embrace this opportunity in writing.  Indeed, on this very day I received a most affectionate letter, but when I came to unseal it, lo, it was from my dear beloved friend Mr. S. Wells!  How, or what answer can I give for it!  Though we were commanded to “give the glory to God in the highest, and on the Earth there is a peace and good will towards men.”  Yes, my dear friend, I received your letter with a thankful heart; I am rejoice[d] to hear that you have still, a lively thought, concerning the great things of Eternity.  O that may our thought sand hearts, be united together in the fear of God and in the love of the Lord Jesus; to whom you spoke well of.  Indeed my dearest friend, we are in a great debt, both to God and the Son Jesus Christ; we have owed them ten thousands of talens [talents?]; alas! How would we repay for all?  Notwithstanding: the greatness of our due to God and for all his goodness and kindness towards us, yet we could easily repay it by giving up ourselves to him; for he does it not wishes for ours but us: for thus as it is written, “my son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.”  Your observations which you observed in this your letter, are just as the thoughts of a true and humble believer in God and as one that fear God.  Surely, as you say that the supreme love and affection, must we give to him who is the lord over all and blessed forever.  Pray that may these thoughts be not mislaid in the heart, but beware of them all.  “Take heed,” says the Apostle Paul, “lest a being left us to enter into his nest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” – I have not heard any news since I wrote last, neither from broad nor yet at home.  There are no more scholars added to our school, but those whom I have already mentions in my last letter.  They make a great progress in their studies, at the least, they all seemed to be very anxious to get long as quick as possible.  Their principal studies are these, the English Grammar, Morse’s Geography, Daboll’s Arithmetic, and together with reading, writing, and spelling.  About four of them are just beginning to read in the spelling-books.  The study hours are beginning from nine to twelve, and from two to five, and from eight to nine in the evening.  The rules of the school are, that, the scholars should not go to any house, or to visit any family in town; neither shall go to a store – , (unless they have a liberty) no visitor or a friend should call to see any that is in the school, at a study hour, no student shall come into another’s room before the study hour is over.  Every student may take part in laboring each two ½ days in a week; two one at a time.  This seems to be very important to us all, as well as to learn to read and write; but some of these youths with me, are very little acquaintance with farmings business, and so that they are not delight in them.  The most part of them are understand about the sailing business.  Since I have received your letter, they had for curiosity of knowing it, or the person from whom the letter was sent, I told them from one of my friends at the place where I was kindly treated by them; they asked me further.  They were very much pleased with the letter, supposed that you as a friend of Christ, and as a true believer in God, by what you spoke well of; both of Christ, and as a true believer in God, by what you spoke well of; both of Christ and his character.  To whom I answered, that I had a strong for you, and that you may be as a fellow traveler through the journey of this wilderness World.  O that we both may meet at the presence unknown to each other in the Eternal world above; where sin never enters there!  Let us not neglect the principal duty, which we owe to the omnipotence God, that is to love him with our hearts, souls, and strength, or at least to pray without ceasing.  With this, I must leave you my dear friend, in hand of God, look to him to receive further instruction – and to know his holy character and perfection.

Remember me in your prayers.

With yours,

Henry Ob.

The following are written on the sheet that bears the address of the recipient:

Greenfield:  I shall always remember them.  Please to remember me particularly to Mr. & Mrs. Repley;    June 20th.  We had today a new scholar added to the school’s very pious character.  His name is James Elyes, formerly of this state.  He seems to have an anxiety of the souls of his fellow’s mortal. He had also a strong desire of being as a missionary as to do good in world.  Three of my friends here were thinking that they had joined the Lord Jesus in their hearts’ Those that lately came to this country.

When I wrote this letter, I had but a few moments at a time; for the want of an opportunity.  My time was taken in many others things to attend, and it is impossible for me to do anything else but what I was bound to, do.  But, be not fear my friend, that you should be, forgotten by me;  I prefer to write to you as often as I can have a time.  And you like wise must, write to me if I don’t.  If nothing happens I shall see you at next fall.  Do not forget to remember me to friends in …

George Sandweth?  He said he met you; one who used to live with Esqr. Field of Enfield.  He is one that seems to be very anxious for his poor soul. H.O.


 

Bibliography of materials in the Yale University Library relating to Henry Obookiah and early missionaries to Hawaii

In Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library:

  • Henry Obookiah.  Letter to Samuel Wells. 1817 Jun 16.  Gustav Reinhold Sattig Collection (MS 1429), Box 1, folder 17.
  • Bingham Family Papers (MS 81), Series I. Hiram Bingham I, 1811-1920. Boxes 1 – 2. Includes correspondence and writings by and about Hiram Bingham (1789-1869) and his wife Sybil Moseley Bingham (1792-1848).   Writings of Sybil M. Bingham consist of her journal, 1811-1847, including photostatic and typewritten copies of extracts, and her manuscript, “Select Hawaiian Phrases.”
  • Reuben A. Holden, Secretary of Yale University, Records (RU 19), Series III. University Secretary: Subject File Special Events. Box 275, folder 944.  Obookiah Ceremony, 1968, contains correspondence and printed matter relating to the exhumation of the remains of Obookiah from his grave in Cornwall, CT and return for burial in Hawaii.

In the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library:

In the Yale Divinity Library:

 

An 1802 Petition on Dining at Yale College

Petition regarding Commons, page 1, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

Petition regarding Commons, page 1, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

In a December 1995 “Old Yale” column from the Yale Alumni Magazine, Chief Research Archivist Judy Schiff traces the history of dissatisfaction with dining facilities, service, and fare all the way back to the opening of the first Yale College building in New Haven in 1718. Sometime in 1800-1801, more than two and a half decades before the infamous Bread and Butter Rebellion of 1828, four members of the Class of 1802 sent a petition to Yale President Timothy Dwight protesting against the immoral and wicked behavior of the kitchen staff. The petition survives in Box 1, folder 5 of the Bates Family Papers (MS 65) in Manuscripts and Archives. Herewith the text of the petition:

To the President of Yale College.

Sir,

Sensible of the important purposes for which the Commons was originally designed, and convinced of the salutary consequences of which they might still be productive, we cannot but regret the unfortunate perversion of so valuable an institution.

With these impressions, and with the presumption that the President is ignorant of the conduct of those employed in the Hall, we beg leave respectfully to remonstrate, and submit to his consideration the following facts.

  • 1st. We have satisfactory proof that they have unwarrantably converted to their own use sundry articles belonging to the kitchen.
  • 2d .They have served up a part of our provision, in a more palatable manner, which, for a pecuniary reward, they have appropriated to the use of individuals.
  • 3d. They have continually harboured the low, riotous, and immoral inhabitants of this town.
  • 4th. They are destitute of cleanliness.
  • 5th. By deserting the hall, for the purpose of prosecuting their own private, they have shamefully neglected the duties of their occupation.
  • 6th. They have in the presence of the more young and inexperienced students, traduced the character of the Authority.
  • 7th. They admit into the hall, to the exclusion of others, those who will furnish them with spiritous liquors.
  • 8th. They have appropriated to their own use much more than an equitable portion of the better provisions provided by the steward.
  • 9th. They are notorious for excessive drinking.
  • 10th. They are openly profane.
  • 11th. They constantly violate the sabbath, by admitting into their company disreputable persons, and by diverting themselves with ludicrous and improper amusements.

It is therefore the unanimous request of the Junior Class that for these and many other improprieties, the President would take into consideration the conduct of the Cooks and make such regulations as he shall think proper.

Isaac C. Bates, Wm. F. Brainard, Jeremiah Evarts, Junius Smith, Committee in behalf of the Class

Petition regarding Commons, page 2, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

Petition regarding Commons, page 2, circa 1800-1801, Bates Family Papers (MS 65), Box 1, folder 5

The “Commons” in question in the petition was the first separately standing Commons building on Yale’s Old Campus. It was built in 1782 as a dining hall, or Commons, and designed by Jeremiah Atwater. It’s location was behind South Middle College (today’s Connecticut Hall) and behind the Chapel Street location where Street Hall was eventually constructed in 1864, approximately in the present location of the southern end of McClellan Hall. It served as the dining commons for Yale College students until 1820, when a larger Commons building was constructed nearby. From 1820-1888 the building was used as a chemical laboratory and known as the Old Laboratory, and from 1885-1887 also served as the first home for the Yale Cooperative Society (which after 1893 became the Yale Cooperative Corporation). The building was demolished in 1888, contemporaneously with the construction of the new Kent Chemical Laboratory building across High St. from the Old Library (now Dwight Hall) at the corner of Library St. (on a site now occupied by Jonathan Edwards College).

And what of the four members of the Class of 1802 selected by their classmates to petition the Yale College president seeking some kind of redress for the perceived abuses of the Commons staff?

  • Isaac Chapman Bates (January 23, 1779-March 16, 1845) practiced law in Northampton, Massachusetts, and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1827-1835) and the U.S. Senate (1841-1845) representing Massachusetts.
  • William F. Brainard practiced law in his hometown of New London, Connecticut.
  • Jeremiah F. Evarts (February 3, 1781-May 10, 1831) also was a lawyer, served for many years as treasurer then secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He was one of the leading opponents of Indian removal, and engaged in lobbying efforts attempting unsuccessfully to defeat the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
  • Junius Smith (1780-1853) also practiced law, and later in his life was a determined supporter of efforts to build a fleet of transatlantic steam ships.

 

 

 

Winners of the 2017 Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prizes

Poster for 2017 senior essay contest

Poster for 2017 senior essay contest

Manuscripts and Archives is pleased to announce the winners of the two 2017 Manuscripts and Archives Diane Kaplan Memorial Senior Essay Prizes. The winners each will receive a certificate and a check for $500.00 at their residential college ceremonies on Commencement Day, Monday, May 22, 2017. Prize-winning essays are also published in EliScholar, the Yale University Library’s digital platform for scholarly publishing. Additional information about the prizes is available on our MSSA Prizes website.

Title page of Sarah Pajka's senior essay, "Doctors, Death, and Denial," 3 April 2017

Title page of Sarah Pajka’s senior essay, “Doctors, Death, and Denial,” 3 April 2017

The prize for an outstanding senior essay on a topic relating to Yale is presented to Sarah E. Pajka (Morse College) for her essay Doctors, Death, and Denial: The Origins of Hospice Care in 20th Century America. Her senior essay project was advised by Professor Naomi Rogers of the Program in the History of Science and Medicine. Sarah’s essay explores the emergence of the need for hospice care in the United States in the rise of institutionalized medicine and the conundrum presented by “the patient who could not be healed.” Sarah used the Florence and Henry Wald Papers (MS 1659) in Manuscripts and Archives, among other sources, to explore the pivotal role of Yale School of Nursing Dean Florence Wald in the development of Connecticut Hospice, which was the first modern hospice facility in America when it opened in 1980.

Title page of Sarah Kim's senior essay, "Of a Healthy Constitution," 3 April 2017

Title page of Sarah Kim’s senior essay, “Of a Healthy Constitution,” 3 April 2017

The prize for an outstanding senior essay based significantly on research done in Manuscripts and Archives is presented to Sarah D. Kim (Jonathan Edwards College) for her essay Of a Healthy Constitution: Socialized Medicine Between the Triumphs of Social Security and Medicare. Her senior essay adviser was Profession Jennifer Klein of the Department of History. Sarah used, among other sources, the Isidore Sydney Falk Papers (MS 1039) in Manuscripts and Archives to explore the debates in the United States over the controversial issue of national health insurance between the late 1930s and the early 1960s. She uses Falk’s activism on national health care as a lens through which to explore the impact of Cold War politics on the debate.

Congratulations to both Sarahs for their outstanding senior essay accomplishments! Thanks as well to the 15 other members of the Yale College Class of 2017 who submitted senior essays for consideration in this competition. The 2017 MSSA senior essay judging panel consisted of 11 Yale alumni and Yale University Library staff members.

Waging War(s): Formation of the AIDS Committee of Toronto

Doctors in New York and California have diagnosed among homosexual men 41 cases of a rare and often rapidly fatal form of cancer. Eight of the victims died less than 24 months after the diagnosis was made

 

LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN, “RARE CANCER SEEN IN 41 HOMOSEXUALS.” New York Times, Jul 03, 1981.

By July 1981, 41 men received diagnoses of Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer that was endemic to parts of Africa and the Mediterranean region and rarely seen elsewhere. When it did occur in the United States, it was generally seen in men of Mediterranean, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern descent above the age of 50 and often took ten years for it to result in death if left untreated. However, the Kaposi sarcoma cases first seen in 1981 struck men in their 30s and they died within three years in many cases.

Further testing of the men showed that something had gone horribly wrong with their immune system. Their T-cells were nearly or outright non-existent. Other diseases were also showing up that most adults with a healthy immune system would never develop, such as thrush and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. These men died of the latter as well. The only real link that was found was that the majority of the infected were homosexual men and had many sexual partners. A few men were also intravenous drug users. Hemophiliacs also suffered these problems on occasion. After years of confusion and research performed by scientists in countries such as the United States and France, this destruction of the immune system was named Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and its vector was determined to be a virus, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Scientists discovered that HIV was passed through contact with certain infected body fluids, such as blood and semen, while saliva and sweat carried so little viral load and would not transmit the virus. Eventually, antiretroviral treatments were developed to slow the loss of T-cells and decrease the patient’s viral load, allowing them to live longer lives.

At the very beginning of the epidemic, there was a lot of fear and confusion across the United States. Gay people were blamed for infecting others and press coverage was homophobic in tone. Those with AIDS and their advocates fought back against government inattention to the crisis. Homosexuals and drug users were perceived as immoral by many, responsible for their own suffering and unworthy of assistance. Much has been written on this time period, including the nonfiction works And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts and Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz (whose papers are part of New York University’s Downtown Collection) as well as the plays Angels in America by Tony Kushner and The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer.

An example of the atmosphere of discrimination against the gay men and lesbian communities. From the <title>Gay Community News</title>, June 26, 1982.

An example of the atmosphere of discrimination against the gay men and lesbian communities. From the Gay Community News, June 26, 1982. (Box 6, folder 2)

 

While many of the first reports of AIDS were coming out of the United States, Canada also began recording statistics of people falling ill with the syndrome. Bert Hansen, an American professor of the history of science and medicine then teaching at the University of Toronto, was among those concerned about the growing epidemic in 1982. His and others efforts to help AIDS patients through the founding of the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) is documented in the Bert Hansen Papers (MS 2042).

A newspaper article announcing the start of the AIDS Committee of Toronto.

A newspaper article announcing the start of the AIDS Committee of Toronto. (Box 2, folder 6)

ACT had its roots in an April 5, 1983 meeting held at the Church Street Community Center, run by Gays in Health Care and the Hassle Free Clinic in Toronto. On April 26, 1983, volunteers formed five different groups to begin work on several fronts: the Medical Liaison Committee, the Media Relations Committee, Fundraising and Special Events Committee, AIDSupport, and the Community Education Committee.

Hansen chaired ACT from 1983 to 1984. During his time, the five working group began projects that set the course for ACT. The Medical Liaison Committee contacted medical professionals for more information about patients with AIDS and to give them information as well. They also worked with the medical profession towards inclusive policies and support for people with AIDS. The Media Relations Committee spoke to reporters on behalf of ACT, held press conferences, and produced press releases. They also monitored the media for coverage of the epidemic, especially of the gay community; circulated articles that were positive and informative to others; and responded to press that was discriminating and bigoted in nature. Their intent was to make sure people were properly informed about AIDS rather than solely receiving news reports that were panicked, sensationalist, and exploitative of patients with AIDS and their loved ones.

The gay men community, especially AIDS activists, often faced insults, poor reporting, and exploitation, as described in the opinion section of the September 3, 1983 issue of Gay Community News.

The gay men community, especially AIDS activists, often faced insults, poor reporting, and exploitation, as described in the opinion section of the September 3, 1983 issue of Gay Community News. (Box 2, Folder 5)

The Fundraising and Special Events Committee held events to raise funds for research into the disease and for day to day office costs of the committee. Most of ACT’s fundraising for research was in conjunction with other organizations, but they did organize smaller events in the Toronto area for ACT. AIDSupport sought to set up counseling and advising for AIDS patients as well as helping with practical needs, such as providing meals, transporting those who were unable to do so themselves, and running social activities for people with HIV and AIDS. The Community Education Committee was responsible for producing pamphlets and holding talks and workshops about how AIDS affected the body and how it may be spread. (During Hansen’s time with ACT, it was still not known what the exact vector was for AIDS, or even certain what bodily fluids transmitted the syndrome.) They modeled their services after the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) located in the United States, after hearing about their work. To get a clearer sense of GMHC’s work, a committee member visited their offices to observe and make a report of their operations.

The report on the activities of the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) offices and operations.

The report on the activities of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) offices and operations. (Box 1, Folder 5)

A volunteer survey sheet distributed by ACT.

A volunteer survey sheet distributed by ACT. (Box 1, folder 11)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bert Hansen stepped down from ACT in 1984 and returned to the United States in 1985. He continued to keep track of the media response to HIV/AIDS, which is also documented in the collection’s subject files. ACT continues to serve the Toronto community of those who are HIV positive, and providing community education on the disease itself and the stigma around those who have it.

Researchers wishing to work with the Bert Hansen Papers can view the finding aid here. Researchers can also visit our website for more information on visiting Manuscripts and Archives and using our collections.