William Still and The Underground Railroad

In 1872 William Still published The Underground Railroad, a book describing the accounts of African Americans who had escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad.  Still, an influential leader in the abolitionist movement, provided first hand assistance to hundreds of people escaping slavery.  The Underground Railroad is notable because it is the only first person history of the Underground Railroad written and published by an African American.

Continue reading

New Exhibition Online: Get Out the Vote

We are thrilled to announce the launch of a new virtual exhibition, Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America.

Inspired by our collections of grassroots organizations, we used material from our collection to tell the story of voting rights in America, from the founding of this nation to our current electoral climate.

The ideal of universal suffrage, or “one person, one vote,” has compelled many to advocate for greater equity and inclusion in the electoral process. Over the years, voting rights have expanded and contracted for many marginalized communities. Election laws continue to evolve in America as citizens demand equitable representation in government and access to the ballot.

Despite the importance of suffrage in America, voting rights have not always been ensured for everyone. Barriers to voting have led many to advocate for a more representative electorate and to encourage greater participation in local, state, and national elections. Their efforts are crucial to ensure all ALL citizens have the opportunity to cast their ballot.

Visit the online exhibition, explore our collections, and contact us to learn more.

Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

U.S. Constitution. Amendment XV, Section 1. 1870

Last year marked the 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment. As one of the last amendments passed during the Reconstruction Era, some lawmakers intended for the 15th Amendment to guarantee voting rights for U.S. citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic identity or a “previous condition of servitude.” In the years immediately following the ratification of the 15th amendment, voter registration and political participation among black men increased dramatically. This trend lasted only a few years before politicians were able to enact laws that “legally” disenfranchised black men. Poll taxes, literacy tests and grandfather clauses limited the ability of many black men and poor people to continue to participate in elections. 

The artifacts gathered here reflect sentiments about the 15th Amendment throughout time.

Annual Report of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society (1870) 

In this final annual report, members of the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society reflect on the organization’s 36 years of work towards ending the system of slavery. In their report, they declare their success in their mission, discuss the decision to disband and acknowledge that the fight for sustained equal rights under the law was not over. On voting, they observed:

“Bravely, in the face of imminent peril have they addressed themselves to the performance of their duties. The record of the first election in Virginia where colored men used the ballot, tells the story of many such elections throughout the South. One who witnessed it, reports that on the evening previous to the election, “these loyal-hearted new citizens, devoted themselves in their place of worship, to the high duty before them, with prayer, and the grand old psalm, ‘Before Jehovah’s awful throne;’ then separated to meet at sunrise, and appear in body at the polls.” One hundred men, without a foot of land of their own, and with notices in their pockets, by the old slave-masters, threatening to turn them shelterless from the soils ; there they stook, in the face of the oppressor, and voted for Free Schools, Free Speech and Equal Taxation.” (6)

Continue reading

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s Radical Activism

In April of 1960, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) emerged as an organization for young Black activists, particularly those who were participating in student-led sit-ins at segregated lunch counters across the Southeast. 

Its founder Ella Baker, formerly employed with the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), believed that SCLC did not allow enough space for Black women and was out of touch with younger, more radical Black activists. Baker intended the Committee as a way to implement direct-action challenges to segregation and voter suppression in the U.S., and it eventually grew to be one of the most radical branches of the civil rights movement (its members were known within the civil rights movement as the “shock troops of the revolution”). Her work for the NAACP in the 1940s provided SNCC with a network of activists, including Bob Moses and Amzie Moore. With help from Moses and Moore, SNCC organized its first Voter Registration Project in the summer of 1960. 

Continue reading

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

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!