A. Philip Randolph and the Other March on Washington

For millions of Americans, the March on Washington conjures images of leaders and events that helped to advance the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  Between Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the images of hundreds of thousands of Americans packed in front of the Lincoln Memorial, the impact the March had the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts that shortly followed, and many other noteworthy moments that occurred on the day, the 1963 March on Washington remains one of the most prominent and well-known turning points of the Civil Rights Movement.

Twenty-two years prior, a different March on Washington was being organized in order to combat different discriminatory policies against African-Americans across the country.  As the national was preparing to formally enter World War II, African-Americans were still experiencing widespread racial discrimination in connection to work opportunities.  Even as industries such as manufacturing and defense started to hire record numbers of workers–a strategy used to continue the nation’s economic recovery from the Great Depression as well as to prepare for war–African-Americans were still systematically denied employment opportunities in regions across the country.

In response, A. Philip Randolph–who had established himself as a massively influential civil rights leader for African-Americans during the previous few decades–organized a series of plans and partnerships that became known as the March on Washington Movement.  After unsuccessfully petitioning President Roosevelt to desegregate the armed forces–an order that wouldn’t be made until the war ended–Randolph began to organize a mass march in downtown Washington to protest continued discrimination against African-Americans.  Working closely with leadership from the NAACP, the Women’s Auxiliary and other notable civil rights and media organizations, Randolph organized and threatened to hold a march of over 100,000 participants in Washington to raise awareness of racial discrimination in the American workforce.          

Historians today debate whether or not he actually planned to hold a march, which never transpired.  Regardless, Randolph’s grassroots efforts did result in significant change.  In June 1941, President Roosevelt passed Executive Order 8802 to formally ban racial and ethnic discrimination in the American defense industries.  The order also established the Fair Employment Practice Committee, an independent agency that operated throughout the war to “ban discriminatory employment practices by Federal agencies and all unions and companies engaged in war-related work.”

Although it took another seven years to formally end racial discrimination in the military, Randolph’s March on Washington Movement created significant civil rights advances and validated the capabilities of grassroots activism.  Decades later, King and other civil rights leaders would continue to utilize Randolph’s strategies and visions to further advance the movements to secure and protect equal rights for African-American citizens.

Explore more in our collections:

David Biel, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science

New Resource: STEM in Rare Books

When people come to Hornbake to explore our Literature and Rare Books collection they are often viewing our works from a historical or literary perspective.  While it’s true that students studying history and English can find a wealth of resources in our collections collection, the same is equally true for students in STEM.  Whether you study biology, astronomy, engineering, or math you can find early texts on those subjects in Rare Books.  And it’s now easier than ever with a new libguide on STEM in Rare Books!

Continue reading

The 1960 Protests Against Segregation at Glen Echo Park

Protesters picketing to desegregate Glenn Echo Park circa 1960. Find images in Digital Collections.

In 1960, if you were to drive by the Glen Echo Park in Glen Echo, Maryland–a small town just northwest of Washington D.C. that maintained a vastly white population–you might’ve witnessed an unusual sight.  Throughout the summer of 1960, Glen Echo residents joined alongside African-American students from nearby Howard University in picketing outside the Glen Echo Amusement Park, a local institution since 1899.  Like so many other protests and boycotts across the country during this time, the purpose of this student-led demonstration was to challenge the park’s long-standing policy of denying equal access to black residents.

Modeling themselves on previously impactful protest groups like the Greensboro Four, a group of students from Howard called the “Nonviolent Action Group” worked to peacefully combat segregation in their own community.  A group of about 20 N.A.G. members arrived at the Glen Echo Amusement Park on June 30, 1960 to try to gain entrance.  After being denied access to the carousel–one of the more prominent and popular attractions at the park–the NAG members announced a protest outside the park until it allowed entrance to all residents.     

The student-led boycott of Glen Echo Park gradually grew in size over the course of the summer and garnered both local and national media attention.  The protestors attracted a significant group of supporters–including many white local residents who picketed alongside the students.  They also attracted counterprotestors, including members of the American Nazi Party who wanted to preserve the segregated park and threatened violence against the protestors.

By the winter of 1961, the boycott of Glen Echo Park garnered enough coverage to catch the attention of US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who threatened to retract the park’s federal lease unless it became fully integrated.  The federal government’s threat proved to be a major turning point for the NAG-led boycott that was about to enter its ninth month.  On March 14, 1961, Glen Echo Park owners Abraham and Sam Baker announced that, for the first time in its 52-year history, the park would be open to people of all skin colors.

Like the Greensboro sit-ins just a few months earlier, the Glen Echo protests of 1960 served as a microcosm of the civil rights campaigns and achievements that would define the decade.  Peaceful protests and united local resistance helped spur social change that is still evident today, as Glen Echo Park remains a visible and prominent attraction for residents of Glen Echo and the greater Washington D.C. communities.   

Explore more in our collections:

David Biel, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science, University of Maryland.

Updates to the William Addison Dwiggins collection Finding Aid

When you read something, whether it’s a blog post, a newspaper, or a novel the odds are that you are focused on the content of the text you are reading.  But have you ever paid attention to the appearance of words on a screen or a page? 

One artist whose work highlighted the art of book design, the arrangement of text, and lettering is William Addison Dwiggins, one of the most influential figures in typography. Dwiggins’ typefaces were stylized and geometric, breaking away from the more antiquarian inspired typefaces of his predecessors. In addition to his typography work, Dwiggins designed and illustrated books. If you would like to learn more about Dwiggins take a look at the William Addison Dwiggins collection finding aid which has been recently updated to allow requests for individual items!  The collection includes works by and about Dwiggins, as well as books he designed.

Continue reading

Finding Aid Update for the Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott

As we come back from winter break, you may be looking for something to keep you in the holiday spirit.  Well there’s no better place to look than the Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott!  You can now view and request individual items from this collection through the updated finding aid, making it easier than ever to access these timeless stories. 

The Carolyn Davis collection of Louisa May Alcott contains numerous editions of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, including everything from a first edition copy of the novel, a Danish translation, an edition from 1995, and more!  Seeing how Little Women has been interpreted throughout time and across countries can allow you to experience this classic story in new ways.  The Carolyn Davis collection also contains other works by Alcott such as Hospital Sketches and Rose in Bloom and works about Alcott and her family.

Continue reading

The Causes and Legacies of the UMD Black Student Protests of the 1960s-70s

Similar to the Black Lives Matters protests of today, the anti-war demonstrations of the 1960s and early-mid 1970s were frequently organized and led by young people.  Anti-war demonstrations and boycotts became commonplace on college campuses across the country throughout the Vietnam War.  And while protests weren’t necessarily restricted to students from specific backgrounds, black student activists maintained a unique perspective and set of objectives when it came to American involvement in Vietnam.

Following American military escalation in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, prominent civil rights organizations like SNCC and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X vehemently rejected the notion that Black Americans should be required to aid the war efforts.  In 1965, SNCC issued a statement that declared: “No Black Mississippian should be fighting in Vietnam for the white man’s freedom until all the Negro people are free in Mississippi.”  In other words, many African-Americans across the country contended that they should not be required to fight and support a foreign war for democracy when their own rights were still not fully secured at home.

Despite the growing numbers of black-led protests throughout the 1960s, African-American men continued to bear the brunt of American military hardships during the war.  African-American men were much more likely to be drafted into the military compared to white men.  In 1967, 64 percent of eligible black men were drafted into war–compared to only 31 percent of eligible white men.  The casualty rate of black soldiers was also disproportionately higher.  Black soldiers were twice as likely to die in combat compared to whites.

In spite of stern opposition from university leadership and deterrence from police and National Guard troops, African-American students at University of Maryland continued to organize and hold campus protests into the early 1970s.  In addition to protesting the military draft and American escalation in southeast Asia, student activists also used the protests as opportunities to advocate for racial equality on campus.  Student protestors, including those active with the Students for a Democratic Society, demanded for the university to enroll larger numbers of students of color and hire additional faculty of color.  As doctoral student Greg Dunkel later claimed, “the connection between the struggle against racism at UMD and the struggle against the war was very significant.”    

Explore more in our collections:

David Biel, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science

AFL-CIO Films on YouTube!

We now have 40 short films from our AFL-CIO film collection uploaded to George Meany Labor Archives playlist on the Hornbake Library YouTube channel! Many of these films were digitized as part of the “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History In America,” exhibit. This post intends to expand and explore upon a selection of films that we not only think are interesting, but also contextually relevant to the present day.

The first of these films is “CORE: Freedom Ride,” 1961, Presented by the Social Action Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

Narrated by James Farmer, National Director of CORE and founder of the Freedom Rides, this film recounts the experiences of Freedom Riders shortly after the rides ended in December 1961. This film includes footage from the Freedom Rides, and testimony from Freedom Riders Jim Peck, Albert Bigelow, and Genevieve Hughes.

You can view all the videos in the George Meany Labor Archives playlist and explore more from the Labor history collections online. Have a question? Contact us!

Holiday Festivities in the Newspapers

It’s the holiday season! Let’s take a look at all the ways people in Maryland have celebrated Chanukah and Christmas over the years found in historic Maryland newspapers from Chronicling America.

Frostburg mining journal. [volume] (Frostburg, Md.), 16 Dec. 1893. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85025350/1893-12-16/ed-1/seq-5/>
Continue reading

The Civil Rights Legacy of A. Philip Randolph

When the topic of the Civil Rights Era is brought up, who is the first person you think of?

Perhaps you think of Martin Luther King Jr., for his unwavering commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience.  Maybe you think of Malcolm X, for his advocacy of black empowerment and self-sufficiency.  Maybe it’s Rosa Parks, whose leadership during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 helped to raise awareness of the civil rights struggles to a wider national and international audience.

One name that may not be immediately conjured up is Asa Philip Randolph–better known as A. Philip Randolph.  While Randolph made critical contributions to the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and ‘60s–including co-organizing the March on Washington in 1963–his impact on the fight for civil rights for marginalized populations spanned across many decades between the early and mid-20th century.

Born in 1889 in Northern Florida, Randolph committed his early years to excelling in academics and learning about the intersectionalities between social and economic injustices that defined the black experience throughout the country.  After moving to New York City in his early twenties, Randolph became more actively involved in the growing labor movements of the 1910s and ‘20s and utilized his positions to advocate for greater economic justice for African-Americans.  During this period, Randolph helped to open an employment office in Harlem to provide job training for black residents, including those who had recently migrated from agricultural regions of the Deep South.

Randolph continued to advocate for black labor rights through the 1930s, when he organized black-led labor unions designed to protect the rights of African-American laborers in multiple different industries, including the railway and shipping industries.  As Randolph’s stature and influence grew during this period, he solicited support for black economic and labor rights at the highest levels of power.  Just as the United States was preparing to formally enter World War II, Randolph met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 and successfully lobbied for the passage of an executive order that banned discrimination in the defense industries.  Seven years later, after the war had ended, Randolph worked with President Harry S. Truman to formally ban racial segregation in the U.S. armed forces.

While Randolph did expand his areas and methods of activism as the Civil Rights Movement came into full force, including building a close alliance with Martin Luther King, Jr. and helping to organize local civil rights marches in Washington D.C. and the South, he remained committed to his long-term mission of securing labor and economic justice for African-Americans.  In the aftermath of the March on Washington (formally titled “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”), Randolph helped to co-publish “A Freedom Budget for All Americans,” a civil rights manifesto that outlined broad, ambitious societal goals including the abolition of poverty, living wages for all workers and guaranteed housing and healthcare for all Americans.    

Explore more in our collections:

David Biel, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science

On the Trail, at Home with Maryland Public Television

Autumn is quickly sliding into winter, and we at Special Collections and University Archives are hunkering down, already reminiscing about summer days spent in the sunshine. For coping with quarantine, Maryland Public Televison’s (MPT) program On Nature’s Trail is a true delight. University of Maryland (UMD)  alumni Jean and Elmer Worthley take viewers on an exploratory trip into the woods. Jean, the author of The Complete Family Nature Guide,  studied human development and childhood studies at UMD, and was the host of the beloved MPT children’s show Hodgepodge Lodge. A noted botanist who received his PhD from UMD, Elmer grew plant specimens under the sponsorship of the UMD School of Pharmacy. These two approach nature with a conversational tone reminiscent of a science class field trip. Each one of On Nature’s Trail’s 26 episodes focuses on a specific environment or landscape, from summertime woods to railroad tracks and hedgerows. 

gif of a spiny-bellied spider crawling over a woman's left hand
Jean Worthley wrangles a spiny-bellied spider on MPT’s On Nature’s Trail

The real joy of this show, besides how adorable and informative Jean and Elmer are, is their close examination of Maryland’s natural environment. The Worthleys passion for science is evident, both in their precise observations and meandering conversations. In episode 15, “ Woods of the Summer,” the Worthleys teach viewers to approach the woods methodically, encouraging close examination at all levels and through the engagement of multiple senses. Through looking, touching and even smelling, Jean and Elmer illuminate the finer points of woodland life, inspecting azaleas, ferns, insects and birds. Common and Latin names spill from their tongues, as do facts, background information and fun tidbits. Did you know, for example, that the Acadaian flycatcher likes to nest in beech trees along streams, and builds its nests of spent oak and beech flowers? Have you heard of ticklegrass, rattlesnake orchids, or a spiny-bellied spider? Jean and Elmer are here to tell you about all that and more. In just 30 minutes, viewers get the full flora and fauna experience  without even needing to put on their boots — a welcome diversion if you’re feeling chilly and already missing summer!

Color photographic postcard of a horticultural hall filled with ferns. A curved, glass roof covers an interior packed with green and brown ferns that line a boardwalk.
The Fern House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, circa 1907-1914. National Trust Library Historic Postcard Collection, University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/1903.1/11404.

Be sure to check out more On Nature’s Trail here to get through those winter and pandemic blues. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the show, check out The Geometry of Trees, a text praised by Elmer and available at UMD. Whatever your covid-coping looks like, we’re sure to have a MPT show to fit the bill

This post is the last installment of a series promoting the Maryland Public Television collection in celebration of MPT’s 50th anniversary. Please check the #MPTatHome and #MPTturns50 tags on the Special Collections and University Archives blog for more MPT content!

Emily Moore is a second year MLIS student with a background in art and theory. In addition to her role as a student assistant at Special Collections and University Archives, she works as the Archival Assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.