“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – Pauli Murray

Now you are strong
And we are but grapes aching with ripeness.
Crush us!
Squeeze from us all the brave life Contained in these full skins.
But ours is a subtle strength
Potent with centuries of yearning,
Of being kegged and shut away In dark forgotten places.

We shall endure
To steal your senses In that lonely twilight
Of your winter’s grief.

To the Oppressors. Pauli Murray.

Pauli Murray was a co-founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW), as well as a poet, author, lawyer, and civil rights activist. Murray is well known for highlighting the experiences of African-American women in particular. Her work sheds light on “Jane Crow,” a term she coined to illustrate that southern Jim Crow laws impacted women, too. 

Some Jim Crow laws made voter registration and electoral processes more restrictive, so political participation among many southern black voters was suppressed. Such laws included poll taxes, literacy tests, and residency requirements. Voter turnout dropped drastically in the South as a result. 

Murray’s book States’ Law on Race and Color examined and critiqued Jim Crow and similar laws throughout the U.S. It drew on social and psychological theory as well as legal theory, which drew some criticism within the legal profession. However, States’ Laws on Race and Color was hugely influential to the Civil Rights movement. Thurgood Marshall, who was then the NAACP chief counsel and would eventually become a Supreme Court justice, called it the “bible” of the civil rights movement, and the NAACP mirrored Murray’s social-scientific approach in their arguments in Brown v. Board of Education

 

On display in the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America is Dark Testament and Other Poems. By Pauli Murray. Norwalk, Conn., Silvermine, 1970.

At the heart of the Special Collections & University Archives exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America are advocates and grassroots organizations who have fought for expanding the right to vote. Their individual and collective voices have driven major changes to American voting rights, moving the nation closer to the ideal of “one person, one vote.”

Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.

“Get out the Vote” Spotlight – Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, better-known as SNCC, was a student-led civil rights group active during the 1960s. They are best known for organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters across the South. SNCC focused mainly on direct action, and with help from early mentor Ella Baker, their activist vision prioritized grassroots organizing and equal participation for women. 

Registration and mobilization of black voters in the South were two of their biggest projects. In early 1962, the Kennedy Administration created the Voter Education Project (VEP) to fund voter drives in the South. Many members of SNCC believed that obtaining the right to vote was an important step toward political power for black Americans, and were excited by the new opportunities to register voters. Other members saw the VEP as the government’s attempt to co-opt the movement. Nevertheless, SNCC helped register many southern voters, despite facing extreme violence and opposition in doing so.

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“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass championed many causes surrounding social justice and equality, including the burgeoning women’s rights movement and universal suffrage.

Frederick Douglass was an influential abolitionist, author and social reformer. Douglass was born into slavery circa 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. He escaped to Philadelphia in 1838 with his partner Anna Murray, whom he had met in Baltimore the previous year. They eventually settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, an abolitionist center, and began their family. In New Bedford, Douglass regularly attended anti-slavery meetings and became a preacher. In turn, he developed impressive oratorical skills. 

For the rest of his life, Douglass was a champion of equal rights. In addition to his anti-slavery work, he fought for women’s rights and equal rights for Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. In 1848, Douglass attended the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women’s rights convention in the U.S. At Seneca Falls, Douglass spoke in favor of women voting before the suffrage movement had even truly begun. In his speech, he noted that he could not accept suffrage as a black man if women could not vote too. 

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“Get Out the Vote” Spotlight – Margaret Brent

Margaret Brent was an early advocate for expanding voting rights law, challenging the Maryland General Assembly to grant her voting rights in 1648. 

Margaret Brent, born circa 1600 in Gloucestershire, England, was a prominent attorney, “founding mother” of Maryland, and the first female in the colonies to demand the right to vote in court. She first arrived in St. Marys City, Maryland with three of her siblings in 1638. She subsequently became involved in various business ventures and became the first woman landowner in Maryland. She was renowned for her business savvy and knowledge of the law. In 1647, then-Governor of Maryland Leonard Calvert appointed her executor of his estate shortly before he died. As Calvert’s executor, she played an instrumental role in stabilizing Maryland at a time of political crisis for the colony. 

In 1648, Brent argued before the provincial assembly for a voice in the council and two votes, one as Lord Baltimore’s representative and one as a landowner in her own right. As an unmarried, property-owning gentlewoman, Brent’s argument was consistent with English law, but she was ultimately denied the vote. After falling out of favor with the Calvert family, Brent moved to Virginia, where she died circa 1671.

You can view the transcript of request for the right to vote to the Maryland General Assembly in 1648 in volume 1 of the Archives of Maryland, on page 215. The volume is available in Special Collections & University Archives and online through the Internet Archive:

At the heart of the Special Collections & University Archives exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America are advocates, like Brent, and grassroots organizations who have fought for expanding the right to vote. Their individual and collective voices have driven major changes to American voting rights, moving the nation closer to the ideal of “one person, one vote.”

Visit the Maryland Room Exhibit Gallery in Hornbake Library to view the exhibit Get Out the Vote: Suffrage and Disenfranchisement in America or explore the exhibit online.

Voter Suppression: Then and Now

Following the 2020 presidential election, the ensuing debates over the integrity of the election and the violence of early 2021, voting rights and efforts to ensure fair and safe elections seem as important as ever.

The Brennan Center for Justice’s State Voting Bill Tracker 2021 reports that in just over one month, hundreds of restrictive bills were introduced across the country, some of which have already passed and been signed into law. Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Florida and Michigan’s legislative battles have dominated headlines for many weeks.

As debates rage, many have invoked terminology we thought a distant part of our nation’s troubled history, calling these newly introduced voting bills Jim Crow laws. Looking into our past using resources in our collections can help us better understand the ways laws meant to protect marginalized citizens failed. Politicians cloaked systemic bias into law by utilizing coded language and proxies for race to deny people of color access to the ballot.

Literacy Tests and Poll Taxes

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The Unusual, the Unexpected, and the Downright Strange: Object from the Spiro T. Agnew Papers (A Blog Series: Part 2)

As stated in an earlier blog post, members of the Maryland and Historical Collections unit at the University of Maryland libraries have been creating an inventory of memorabilia within the Spiro T. Agnew papers.  In this blog post, we will be looking at some of the fascinating items in the collection related to space travel.

When Agnew entered office on January 20, 1969 the space race between the United States and the USSR was in full swing.  Just a month prior, the Apollo 8 mission had successfully become the first spacecraft with a human crew to leave the Earth’s orbit.  Six months into office, Agnew would be able to celebrate the first man to walk on the moon with the success of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.  The Nixon/Agnew administration would forever be associated with this success and the prevalence of space memorabilia in the collection shows that Vice President Agnew had quite an interest in the subject.

As Vice President of the United States, Agnew had access to a number of unique space memorabilia.  He had signed photographs from crew of the Apollo 7, 8, 9, and 12 missions.  The signed photograph from the Apollo 8 mission is a print copy of the famous photograph called “Earthrise” which astronaut Bill Anders took from lunar orbit.  The Agnew papers includes the commemorative certificate which indicates that Agnew watched the takeoff of Apollo 11 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he sat next to President Lyndon B. Johnson.  Agnew even received a model of a US space rocket ship.

Earthrise_Apollo8

“Earthrise” photograph by Bill Anders, signed by the three members of the Apollo 8 crew.

Agnew’s enjoyment of these accomplishments of space flight must have been well known by his supporters because they sent Agnew a number of items related to space exploration.  One of these items is a commemorative coin and stamp celebrating the Apollo 11 mission, which was sent by the company that manufactured them.  Another gift was a poster that featured the front page of a newspaper from every state on the day that the Apollo 11 mission landed on the moon.  Agnew also received drawings and paintings depicting astronauts on the moon from various citizens.

Crockett_cartoon

Political Cartoon by Gib Crockett of the Washington Star, 1969.  Gib Crockett’s drawings are protected by copyright.

Agnew’s interest in space was not just a hobby, but became part of his Vice Presidential duties.  In February 1969, Nixon created a Space Task Group to create an outline of a post-Apollo spaceflight strategy, with Agnew chairing the group.  This group drew up some rather ambitious plans, such as the establishment of a near-Earth space station, further explorations of the lunar surface, and a manned landing on Mars by 1986.  Not all of these plans came to fruition, mainly due to monetary concerns.  However, the group was partly responsible for the creation of the shuttle program which began on January 5, 1972 (1).  Some files relate to Agnew’s time on this group, including a press release on the report of the Space Task Group from September 17, 1969, and a transcript of a speech he gave to invited contributors to the Space Task Group from July 17, 1969.  Agnew was also head of the National Aeronautics and Space Council, for which the Agnew papers also provides an access point.

The reactions to Agnew’s rather wild Mars plans can be seen by two political cartoons that were sent to the Vice President.  In one, Agnew can be seen wearing a space suit and holding a briefcase which reads “Mars or Bust.”  The cartoon was drawn by Gib Crockett from the Washington Star, a newspaper in Washington D.C..  The other cartoon shows a Mars populated with aliens whose faces look like Agnew and at the bottom the cartoon reads “Our Earth Contact, Spiro, is pushing for a landing here by 1986.”  This cartoon was drawn by Pat Oliphant while he was at the Denver Post.

Oliphant_cartoon

Political Cartoon captioned “Our Earth Contact, Spiro, is Pushing for a Landing Here by 1986” by Pat Oliphant of the Denver Post, 1969.  Pat Oliphant’s drawings are protected by copyright.

The items discussed here represent just a small portion of the hundreds of linear feet of materials in the Spiro T. Agnew papers.  Interested researchers may visit the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to view the memorabilia collection in person, and a preliminary inventory of the Agnew memorabilia is available upon request.  Please be sure to contact the Maryland Room at least 3 days in advance of your visit so that we can accommodate memorabilia requests in a timely manner.  If you want to learn more about the Spiro T. Agnew papers, please consult the finding aid for the collection.

  1. Kluger, Jeffrey. “NASA’s Final Shuttle: The End of an Error?” Time, 5 July 2011.

Harrison Gage is a second year MLIS student in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland.  She works in the State of Maryland and Historical Collections at UMD’s Special Collections and University Archives.

Nancy Wohlforth: Uniting the Labor and LGBT Movements

“Since 1979, when the Gay and Lesbian Labor Alliance was formed, Nancy Wohlforth has been working to bring gay issues into the labor movement. Now the organization is called Pride At Work and is a full-fledged constituency group in the AFL-CIO. National cochair Wohlforth and the newly hired executive director, Kipukai Kuali’i, will fight for domestic-partner pension benefits, greater employment protection, and transgender inclusion. They also want gays and lesbians to understand the power and benefit of unions. ‘Frankly, a lot of people still see the union as a bunch of old white boys who want nothing to do with their interests,’ Wohlforth says, ‘clearly that’s not the case.’

-The Advocate on Nancy Wohlforth in the Best and Brightest Activists collection, August 17, 1999. Continue reading

Pride in the Labor Movement

Labor_Module10_LGBTQ_PrideAtWork_Poster

Pride at Work national convention poster by Ricardo Lewis Morales, Northland Poster Collective, San Diego, 2006. Pride at Work Records.

In honor of Pride Month, we are featuring items from the Labor Collections at Special Collections and University Archives that highlight the role of the LGBTQ+ community in the labor movement. This particular item will be on display in the upcoming exhibit, “For Liberty, Justice, and Equality: Unions Making History in America” opening October 2017.  LGBTQ+ people of all types are involved in every aspect of labor, although labor unions ignored or excluded them until recent decades. The Pride at Work poster calls attention to the role the diverse LGBTQ+ community played in American history and American labor history and demonstrates a reversal of labor union policy towards LGBTQ+ people.

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Two Exhibitions on Women’s Suffrage in the Maryland Room

In celebration of Women’s History Month, two new exhibitions are available for viewing in the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library related to the history of women’s suffrage in the local area.

The Washington Home of the Philippine Suffrage Movement exhibit is presented in collaboration with Philippines on the Potomac (POPDC) and with the Rita M. Cacas Filipino Community Archives at the UMD Libraries.  The exhibit tells the stories of several extraordinary Philippine women who would go on to change Philippine history and rewrite the nation’s suffrage law. The exhibit features extensive research in local, national, and international libraries and research institutions.  In addition, original materials are on display relating to the Filipina suffragist, writer, teacher, and feminist Sofia de Veyra who lived in the United States between 1917 and 1925.

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Titchie Carandang-Tiongson and Ewrin Tiongson, the creators of the exhibit, also recently presented their research process and methodology to English Professor Jess Enoch’s undergraduate class ENGL379Z/WMST 498V Special Topics in Literature; Women and Memory in Material and Digital Worlds.  The students in the class viewed the exhibit, asked great questions after the presentation, and were able to see how this research process related to their own work at recovering women’s suffrage history in the class.

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Materials related to Filipino American history and culture in the UMD Libraies can be found in the Rita M. Cacas Community Archives is available for research consultation in the Maryland Room of Hornbake Library.  Numerous images in this community archives collection are also available for viewing in the UMD Libraries Digital Collections.  For those interested in pursuing additional research there is also a research guide on Philippine and Filipino American History and Culture available.

A second mini-exhibit on Women’s Suffrage in Maryland is also on display in the Maryland Room. This exhibit showcases materials from Special Collections related to the woman’s suffrage movement and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) during the twentieth century.  Items of interest include a letter signed by Edith Houghton Hooker, noted suffrage leader and editor of the Maryland Suffrage News; a letter from a member of the Maryland Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage; and a sash worn for a 1978 march in support of the ERA.  The materials featured come from a variety of special collections including the League of Women Voters of Maryland archives, the National Organization for Women Maryland Chapter archives, and the Marylandia collection.

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The Washington Home of the Philippine Suffrage Movement will be on display through April 29th, 2017.  (Exception: the exhibit will be traveling between April 7th and April 16th and unavailable for viewing at that time.)

The Women’s Suffrage in Maryland exhibit will be on display through the end of March.

Be sure to check the Maryland Room hours before planning your visit!

Questions? Contact Liz Novara, Curator, Historical Manuscripts, enovara@umd.edu