It’s that time of year! After spending 17 years underground, the Brood X cicadas will emerge around the third week of May. “For about four to six weeks after the cicadas emerge, woods and neighborhoods will ring with their buzzing mating calls” (Kelly Kizer Whitt, EARTH, April 1, 2021). Have no fear, though! The cicadas are harmless. They won’t eat crops, and they won’t bite you. They just come to do their business and leave. Once the eggs are laid, the adult cicadas will die; the baby cicadas will hatch and burrow back into the ground for 17 years; and the cycle will repeat.
Cicadas are already trending in the news in the Mid-Atlantic region. Perhaps you’re wondering what the community thought of Brood X’s arrival in the past. Chronicling America is a great resource to compare current news articles about the 17 year cicadas with historic news articles about the brood.
In a 1919 article of the Catoctin Clarion, published in Thurmont, Maryland, there is a quote from a 1669 book that details a cicada visit from years earlier: ““It is to be observed,” he says, “that the spring before there was a numerous company of flies, which were like for bigness unto wasps or bumble-bees, they came out of little holes in the ground, and did eat up the green things, and made such a constant yelling noise as made all the woods ring of them and ready to deaf the hearers” (Catoctin clarion. [volume] (Mechanicstown, Md.), 12 June 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026688/1919-06-12/ed-1/seq-4/>). Of course, they weren’t flies, and they didn’t “eat up the green things.” However, their mating rituals were the same. Hundreds of years later, the Brood X cicadas are likely to do so every 17 years for hundreds of years to come, despite what some 1919 headlines might have led people (who didn’t read the article) to believe.
Are you looking for a way to enjoy Literature and Rare Books’ digital holdings? Explore our updated virtual exhibit How We Might Live: The Vision of William Morris. This online exhibit offers insight into William Morris (1834-1896), who was an author, socialist, decorator, printer, calligrapher, and leader in the Arts and Crafts Movement. Morris was inspired by the Middle Ages to produce beautiful, high quality works. Morris’ creations include furnishings from Morris and Co. and books published by Kelmscott Press. Morris was also active in the English Socialist movement and founded the Socialist League in 1884.
Despite its fundamental political motive–to reshape voting districts in order to benefit the electoral chances of one political party–gerrymandering may be one of the few practices that Republicans and Democrats have in common these days. Although the effects of Republican-led gerrymandering has arguably received more national attention during recent years, both parties have used this practice to gain political advantages. Districts across Maryland, for example, have been redrawn by both major parties during the last several decades. Take Baltimore–a longtime resident in southern Baltimore may have lived in as many as three different electoral districts during the last 20 years.
While gerrymandering has been utilized to both maximize and minimize the electoral impact of different groups of voters, its geographic effect typically follows a certain pattern. The shapes of different districts change every few years as a result of gerrymandering. However, in 1957 in southeast Alabama, the practice of gerrymandering almost led to the complete elimination of one county entirely. The reason? To severely curtail the voting power of African-American residents.
Despite ever-present resistance from white, pro-segregation factions, including violent intimidation tactics used by white nationalist groups like the Ku Klux Klan, black voter registration in the South rose steadily during the 1950s. A corresponding trend was also occurring in Macon County, Alabama–located about 40 miles east of Montgomery and home to the historically-black Tuskegee University. Whereas only 30 African-American residents were registered to vote in 1930, over 1,000–or roughly three percent of the total county population–were registered by 1957.
Of course, this trend also created heightened concern among white southerners who feared that black voters would be able to curtail long-standing segregation laws across the region. In turn, they worked with state legislators like Alabama senator Sam Engelherdt to develop and implement strategies to stop the growth of black voters.
On February 3, 1870, the United States ratified the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The third and final amendment of the Reconstruction Amendments–enacted in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War to help rebuild the Union and establish a freer society unbound from slavery–prohibits states and the federal government from withholding a citizen’s right to vote based on that person’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” After Iowa ratified the amendment on February 3–becoming the 28th state to do so and fulfilling the three-fourths threshold for amendment ratification–celebrations sprung out across the country.
At the time, President Ulysses S. Grant claimed that the passage of the Fifthteenth Amendment “completes the greatest civil change and constitutes the most important event” in the nation’s history. Many other Republicans believed that the amendment would finally guarantee black Americans equal rights under the law. Future president James A. Garfield even declared that the amendment would ensure black Americans control over their collective well-being. Garfield proclaimed, “It places their fortunes in their own hands.”
Nevertheless, because the federal government failed to strongly enforce the Fifteenth Amendment at the state level after the Reconstruction Era, southern states used alternative methods to restrict the right to vote for black Americans. For many decades after the ratification of the amendment, the state of Mississippi became one of the more deliberate enablers of disenfranchisement methods. By 1875, only five years after the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment, members of the Democratic Party in the state developed what came to be known as the Mississippi Plan–a series of measures used to suppress the black vote and keep their party in power. Eventually, these measures culminated in the passage of a new state constitution in 1890, which explicitly disenfranchised black voters through the implementation of poll taxes and literacy tests.
Disenfranchisement in Mississippi and other Southern states–enforced using voter registration measures like poll taxes as well as violent intimidation tactics organized by racist vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan–persisted throughout the late 1800s and well into the 20th century. However, by the mid-1950s, events like the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the emergence of grassroot civil rights groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference helped spur rejuvenated calls for actions to protect the rights and well-being of African-Americans across the country.
Before women’s rights activists campaigned for suffrage, they called for prohibition. In 1852, four years after the Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony founded the New York State Women’s Temperance Society. They would not found the American Equal Rights Association until 1866.
Stanton and Anthony fought for statewide prohibition in New York alongside divorce and other Civil Reforms– like the amendment of the Married Woman’s Property Law, which allowed for property ownership, suits in court, shared child custody, and the rights to earnings and inheritance– before they ever explicitly fought for voting rights.
Beginning in 1866, they fought for Universal Suffrage with the American Equal Rights Association, but split from the organization in 1869 over its prioritization of suffrage for black men over women. From there, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association. That same year, the National Prohibition Party was organized.
One of the intriguing aspects of working with the Library of American Broadcasting (LAB) collections is discovering, through routine processing, people who developed interesting careers in early network radio and television but are not well-known among broadcast historians. In particular, information on women in broadcasting can be especially scarce, making it challenging to discover the full scope of their contributions to the industry. The relative lack of archival documentation compared to their male counterparts certainly reflects their historic marginalization in the industry.
Sometimes, we have only a few items from which to assemble personal histories, such as those I find while working with our photo archive. Take, for example, this press photo of a woman seated in front of an early NBC “box camera” microphone. An included caption describes her: “Continually on the trail of celebrities to present on the National Farm and Home Hour, Helen Stevens Fisher generally succeeds in presenting at least one nationally famous personality each week. Her early experience as a newspaper reporter serves her in good stead when it comes to getting her guests to tell some of their most interesting experiences.”
The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) records are a major archival labor collection in the University of Maryland’s Special Collections & University Archives. Our archives staff spent some time the last few years reviewing this collection to make it more accessible for both staff and the public. In about 1982 the first records from the union were processed. Over the course of the next three decades, another 40 accessions of records were given to the archives, but they remained unprocessed. The result of our recent review is an additional 490 linear feet of inventoried material dating from 1886 to 2016 that was previously difficult to navigate, search, and serve in the Maryland Room. This material is now minimally processed and boxes are available to request and view in the Maryland Room.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re going to take a look at suffrage pilgrimages that took place in Maryland in the summers of 1914 and 1915.
Back in August 2020, the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project and the Maryland State Archives co-hosted a social media campaign in honor of the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Many of the posts created for the campaign came from a newspaper digitized by HMNP in Chronicling America titled the Maryland Suffrage News.
One popular way that people observe Women’s History Month is by reading works written by women. If you’re looking for more ways to celebrate women in literature why not learn more about women in publishing?
One woman who took part in the publishing industry was Kathleen Tankersley Young. Young was an African-American poet and editor at the time of the Harlem Renaissance. In 1929 Young, in collaboration with Charles Henri Ford and Parker Tyler, published Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms. Blues was a literary magazine that contained contributions from noted modernists such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams. Blues can be found in the Serials series of the Authors and Poets collection.