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

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.

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!

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.

Made possible by viewers like you: Maryland Public Television finding aid goes live!

black-and-white images of public broadcasting professionals in the background. white and yellow text in the foreground reads: Made Possible by Viewers Like You: Maryland Public Television Turns 50, September 2019-July 2020.
Special Collections and University Archives exhibition poster for Made Possible by Viewers Like You: Maryland Public Television Turns 50

The Mass Media and Culture unit in Special Collections and University Archives holds a wide range of collections documenting U.S. television and radio broadcasting history, including the Maryland Public Television (MPT) collection. In celebration of the University Libraries’ extended “Year of MPT” celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary, we just published our finding aid for the MPT records! This finding aid is an invaluable resource for our campus community and for the public to learn about this unique and vital collection documenting the history of Maryland’s only state-wide public television broadcaster.

While the library is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, explore the finding aid from home. There is something for everyone in the 3,920 itemized videos (including over 700 with links to digitized content) and the 47 boxes of print records and photographs:

Behind the scenes: What’s in the finding aid? 

The finding aid is a guide to the entire Maryland Public Television collection, including print records, photographs, and recordings on open-reel film, Betacam, U-Matic, and VHS tapes. The print records include administrative records, correspondence, memos, program guides, promotional materials, publications, marketing and development plans, newspaper clippings, budgets, and reports. The thousands of videos represented in the MPT finding aid document the breadth and depth of MPT’s broadcast programs, primarily from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s but dating as late as 2013. 


This most recent phase of documenting the MPT collection began in January 2019 in anticipation of last fall’s exhibit opening, Made Possible by Viewers Like You: Maryland Public Television Turns 50. Processing Archivist Jen Wachtel spearheaded the inventory and finding aid project. Although previous archivists documented portions of the collection, Jen started from scratch with the audiovisual inventory so that we would have an up-to-date and accurate record. An important milestone for Special Collections in working with large audiovisual collections, the publication of this finding aid also reflects an enormous effort on the part of many other people from MMC including graduate student assistant Emily Moore, past graduate assistant student Liz Holdzkom, and Curator Laura Schnikter.

Processing archivist Jen Wachtel barcoding MPT videotapes, many of which have been digitized and are linked to the new finding aid

Of course, documenting thousands of videotapes takes time, as does ensuring the accuracy of the metadata (the detailed information in a library catalog record). Proceeding shelf by shelf throughout 2019, the team updated and refined the inventory. Just as they neared the last few stacks of videotapes in early 2020, the University Libraries shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Working remotely with the pre-pandemic inventory, Jen Wachtel and Archival Metadata Librarian Liz Caringola experimented with workflows for reconciling large amounts of data across multiple inventory spreadsheets and linked digitized videos to the corresponding items on the inventory. In the meantime, Jen Wachtel created descriptions about the print and audiovisual series so that public viewers would be able to navigate all components of the collection. For example, although the physical videotapes and film reels are not necessarily shelved by program title, for the sake of discoverability, each item is arranged alphabetically by MPT program title in the finding aid. 

We are so excited to share this public broadcasting collection, made possible by viewers like you! 

___

Jen Wachtel is the Mass Media and Culture and Processing Archivist and Special Collections Engagement Specialist at the University of Maryland Special Collections and University Archives. She is also a graduate student in the History and Library Science (HiLS) dual master’s  program and Museum Scholarship and Material Culture graduate certificate program at the University of Maryland, concentrating in modern European history and archives and digital curation.

Wolf Trap: Performance, Up Close and Personal

St. Petersburg’s Kirov ballet performs Swan Lake

For the uninitiated, the term “Wolf Trap” likely inspires visions of fur trappers, wintery wilderness and small, cozy cabins. For anyone familiar with the Wolf Trap of Fairfax County, Virginia, however, the name evokes something quite different. The only national park for the performing arts in the United States, Wolf Trap is a “unique marriage of arts and nature” (https://www.wolftrap.org/about.aspx) that has played host to performers from Elvis Costello to the classic improv troupe Second City (https://www.wolftrap.org/calendar.aspx). A 117-acre campus, only 30 minutes from the University of Maryland College Park, Wolf Trap, like every other venue, has had to close due to covid, canceling all live performances until 2021. Luckily, Special Collections is home to recordings of “On Stage at Wolf Trap”, a behind-the-scenes show that features some of the park’s most famous musical and cabaret performances. Rather than underscoring the loss of live performances, these recordings, full of archival images and interviews with performers, offer a depth of access typically only available to ticket holders with the best seats. Combine that with the technical and contextual information provided and you’ve got yourself a real-deal cultural experience, pandemic-style. 

One of the best parts of seeing live performance is the sense of immediacy and intimacy – the feeling that anything can happen. Watching the National Symphony Orchestra perform Shostakovich on my screen at home takes that sensation of proximity to a new level – in On Stage at Wolf Trap: Rostropovich Conducts Shostakovich (episode 102), we see close-ups of the conductors face, zero in on the musician’s hands, see the wiggling eyebrows of the woodwinds section, and admire the lace edge on the sleeve of the harp player. After so many months without live music or the feeling of camaraderie that performances bring, this footage is balm for my music-starved self. The same goes for Great Performances at Wolf Trap, episode 139, which features a Dizzy Gillespie performance from 1987. We see Gillespie, dapper in a salmon jacket, sing and start a call and response with the audience during setup; it’s like being present for a studio recording session. 

Image shows four men playing horn instruments. Gillespie is on the left, wearing a salmon blazer and playing his bent trumpet. The other men play a trumpet, a saxophone and a trombone.
Gillespie in pink, with his signature bent trumpet.

Beyond feeding our appetite for live performance, On Stage at Wolf Trap gives viewers a peek behind the scenes, rounding out the music with insider’s info on how the shows get made. In the Shostakovich episode, for example, we watch the assembly of the stage, a process that takes six people a full two hours. The ceiling, made from three massive pieces of douglas fir that each weigh 1,200lbs, sits on top of 24 sections of wall, each 30 feet tall and weighing 3,000lbs. The construction of the stage is a feat of engineering, and one that remains unseen to most attendants at a Wolf Trap performance. Another backstage look, this one of the legendary Soviet Kirov ballet company, is offered by Weeknight Alive!, a Maryland Public Television series focusing on the arts. Hosts Brian Whitley and Michael Joyce take viewers behind the scenes to show how the live performance, shown simultaneously on 273 public television stations, was successfully made. Seven camera operators choreograph their work alongside 100 dancers, and the episode offers some serious technological throwbacks, made all the more impressive when we realize that this 1987 performance was done decades before the era of the drone. The final product, the first time the Kirov ballet had performed in the United States in 25 years, is available in our digitized archival collections here

A female dancer in costume makes a series of small, short jumps backstage. She wears pink toe shoes and a dress with a white, romantic tutu skirt and a blue bodice.
A dancer warms up backstage

So while you’re transporting yourself to this beautiful Virginia site, imagining the fresh air and buzzing energy that accompanies live performance, be sure to check out a few more gems from the collection:

Next up, join us for a little virtual nature break with an episode of Nature’s Trail, another treat from MPT.


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.

A Bonanza of Baltimore Bounty on Chesapeake Bay Collectibles

For fans of libraries and archives who harbor a special place in their hearts for Maryland history, Maryland Public Television’s Chesapeake Bay Collectibles is a treasure trove! A Mid-Atlantic version of Antiques Roadshow, Chesapeake Bay Collectibles is a great starting point to explore the best of our region’s history. This 2011 episode features a couple of antiques specific to Baltimore, embodying some colorful parts of its fascinating past. 

First up is a relic from the infamous Great Baltimore Fire, which ripped through the city in February of 1904. A stack of melted eyeglasses, grabbed by the owner’s grandfather, bears witness to the destruction of the blaze.

A stack of melted metal-rimmed glasses sits on clear plastic display stand on a red background. In the bottom left corner of a screenshot, there is a picture of a ship with its sails unfurled on a blue background
Glasses melted in the Great Baltimore Fire, screenshot by the author.

Over the course of two days, the fire, which started in a dry goods store, decimated the downtown areas around Camden and the Inner Harbor. Baltimore’s narrow streets accelerated the spread, resulting in a towering blaze that could be seen as far away as Washington, D.C. Aid from the Capitol proved to be useless as the couplings for the fire trucks did not fit the hydrants in Baltimore. Eventually, firefighters from Philadelphia and Delaware would join the battle. A February 7, 1904 issue of the Sun Metrogravure, the Baltimore Sun’s weekly pictorial magazine, covered the destruction, and can be requested here in our special collections. 

Next we’ve got the Betsy Patterson music box, a beautiful piece named after a woman commonly referred to as “The Belle of Baltimore”. The daughter of an Irish immigrant who eventually became the second richest man in Baltimore, Elizabeth “Betsy” Patterson was beloved for her grit and risque fashion. Perhaps most famous for her short-lived marriage to the younger brother of Napoleon I, Patterson enjoyed a brief stint in Europe during which she was forbidden from touching French soil. A number of tomes celebrate Patterson as the heroine of Baltimore, including Glorious Betsy, being the romantic story of the Dixie belle who defied Napoleon, by Arline De Haas and Rida Johnson Young, currently available in UMD’s collection in the Maryland Room. 

The dust jacket of a book entitled Glorious Betsy by Arline De Haas features a woman in a Dixie dress, Betsy, holding her finger up against a man dressed in French imperial clothing, Napoleon. The scene is set on a dark orange background.
Dust jacket from Glorious Betsy, image retrieved from Amazon.

For more on Patterson, check out the Traveler’s Narratives series of the Maryland Manuscripts collection, which includes William Pickney’s account of her Atlantic journey in 1804. 

While we at Hornbake Library have finished celebrating MPT’s 50th anniversary, our digital archives of their offerings continue to entertain and educate viewers of all stripes. Chesapeake Bay Collectibles is a great jumping off point for exploring the rest of our digital collections – a treasure hunt that you can do from your couch! Matching items from the show with resources in our collections demonstrates the web-like nature of our holdings: each object speaks to another! From rare books to antique maps, UMD’s special collections build out the context around each object and provide the opportunity for creativity in search. It’s a great reminder that our holdings can be applied for learning in a ton of different ways. Be sure to check out our next installment on MPT, where we check out Wolf Trap, and the amazing cultural events that you can enjoy from home.


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.

Collection Highlights: Lester N. Trachtman Papers and the African American Labor Center Records

African Labor Union Records Now Available!

Two new labor collections are now available to the public: the Lester N. Trachtman Papers, and the African American Labor Center records.  Both of these collections are focused on African labor and trade unionism, and complement the existing public holdings of the AFL-CIO Archive’s International Department in the Special Collections and University Archives at University of Maryland.  

Continue reading