Oral histories of the civil rights movement

Nearly 54 years ago, on September 2nd 1963, Alabama Governor George Wallace issued an executive order to forcibly halt federally-mandated public school integration. State troopers encircled Tuskegee High School, and the school was shut down completely for a week until five federal judges ordered the state to reopen it. Today, we look back at three stories that look at different aspects of race and civil rights in America.

Sit-ins: The new approach to desegregation — Illinois Public Media

During a speech on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Rev. Charles Jones spoke about the usefulness of sit-ins as a method of improving civil rights, including his own involvement with a sit-in started by Chapel Hill High School students. Even though this was a new approach for desegregation, it was not a new form of protest. Listen.

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Remembering authors in their own words

On this day in 1809, physician and author Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. was born in Cambridge MA. Famous for being a Fireside Poet and the author of “Old Ironsides” (and, later, the father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.), he was a huge influence on the 19th century literary world. Today, we commemorate three other influential authors by revisiting conversations with them about their work from the archives.

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A history of nuclear energy in the United States

In August 1939, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt with some observations and recommendations about atomic weapons, including this chilling line: “A single bomb of this type carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory.” Today, we share three pieces looking at the dangers, applications, and security questions surrounding this invention.

Image: Lennart Tange (Flickr)

The dangers of nuclear power Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Myron M. Cherry is a lawyer who argued against the licensing of several nuclear power plants. He successfully slowed their development in the 1970s by “waging a war of attrition on the nuclear industry,” turning the construction of a new reactor into a public and political liability. In 1975, he was interviewed by Studs Terkel. Listen.

President Harry S. Truman signs the Atomic Energy Act into law on August 1, 1946. Image: Wikimedia

Open secrets: National security and the first amendement
— Pacific Radio Archives

In 1983, as part of the  bill of rights education project producer John Reiger undertook an examination of the legal, historical, and practical contexts of technology for nationalistic purposes — including the Atomic Energy Act. Listen.

SS Kentuckian in the Panama Canal. Image: Wikimedia

The Nuclear Canal — KQED Science

“Geographical engineering” with atomic explosives almost became a reality more than half a century ago, when scientists and engineers at the Lawrence Livermore Lab wanted to expand the Panama Canal to allow larger ships through. “Project Ploughshare,” as this effort was known, never happened (and thank goodness). Listen.

See you in the archives,

The Pop Up Archive Team

What does “independence” really mean?

A “lost boy” votes for independence KALW Crosscurrents

In 2011, San Jose resident Bol Deng Bol, from southern Sudan, traveled 12 hours by car to cast his vote in the Sudan referendum in Arizona. Bol is one of the so-called “Sudan Lost Boys,” who fled the country and walked hundreds of miles through jungles to a refugee camp. Bol eventually became a program manager at Hope with Sudan, a San Jose non-profit, to help his country. Listen.

July 4th, 1970 Pacifica Radio Archives

The cultural revolutions of the 1960s changed the discourse surrounding freedom and independence. Archival audio from a July 4, 1970 celebration in Washington, D.C. captures differing views on patriotism and the American legacy following the Civil Rights movement, anti-war efforts, the Stonewall Riots, second-wave feminism, and the rise of Black Power. Listen.

Can a free people survive? Illinois Public Media

December 7, 1787 is a lesser known date than July 4, 1776, but it was a fateful month in our history as a nation. Delaware was the first state to ratify the charter of our liberties, the Constitution of the United States of America. 154 four years later, to a day, this nation was faced with the question of whether a free people living under the guarantees of that Constitution and protected by its Bill of Rights could survive. Listen.

Image: Joe PennistonCC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Experiences of World War II, 73 years later

This June marks the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, “the largest seaborne invasion in history,” that initiated the liberation of Europe from the Nazis and supported an Allied victory along the Western Front. Today, pieces from the archives that examine World War II through the experiences of three different groups of citizens.

Veterans remember  Illinois Public Media

University of Illinois professor Bob Espeseth undertook a huge project to gather oral histories from World War II veterans before they were lost. In this piece, he interviews an 87-year-old veteran named Ed Gordon about his experience as a soldier in the war. (You can find all of Espeseth’s recordings in the Early American Museum in Mahomet, IL.) Listen.

Japanese in California — Pacifica Radio Archives

Not all World War II atrocities took place overseas — in the United States, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered Japanese American to be forcibly relocated and incarcerated in camps. All told, between 110,000 and 120,000 were affected, 62 percent of whom were U.S. citizens. This audio piece documents the experience with personal interviews of those who were interned. Listen.

The attack on Pearl Harbor through the eyes of students — KALW Crosscurrents

The attack on Pearl Harbor represented a major turning point for college students. Worried about final exams one day, many were enlisting and joining the army just a few days later. Sam Redman, cultural historian with UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office spoke about the effect this had: “For these young men and woman, it really was a major turning point in their lives. Do they stay in school? Do they continue their studies?” Hear firsthand how they felt — and what they did. Listen.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Three stories of what it is to be a mother

Dorothy Canfield Fisher said, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” This Mother’s Day, listen to three stories from our archives about the rich, complicated, one-of-a-kind bond that exists between mothers and their children.

Wikimedia

Alfreda Duster, daughter of Ida B. Wells Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Ida B. Wells is a giant in American history. An African-American woman who was born a slave in Mississippi in 1862, she went on to become a journalist, editor, feminist and early leader in the civil rights movement. Her work has been honored in journalistic awards, a museum, a society for investigative reporting by journalists of color, and even a postage stamp. In 1971 her daughter, Alfreda Duster, spoke about the side of her only a daughter would know. Listen. Continue reading

Resurfacing treasures from California archives

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-7-28-39-pmCalisphere is a growing aggregation of digital collections from 180 institutions across California. It currently contains more than 670,000 images, texts, and audiovisual materials on a sweeping range of topics that reflect the collecting areas of its participating institutions.

Sherri Berger is a project manager at the California Digital Library who managed the re-release of the Calisphere collection in 2015. We talked to Sherri about this massive project, including goals for the redesign, the response they’ve had from the public, and some of her favorite audio available in the collection.

What was the goal of Calisphere? Who is its audience?

Calisphere was developed and is maintained by the California Digital Library, in partnership with the ten campus libraries of the University of California. One of the biggest and oldest regional digital library sites of its kind, Calisphere is more than ten years old and still going strong!

Calisphere was originally launched in 2006 with the goal of making academic research collections accessible to non-academic audiences, with a deliberate focus on K-12 teachers. Today, the site maintains this public mission, but we think of the audience as even broader, including K-12 students, undergraduates, scholars, family historians, creative professionals, and the “casually curious.”

You recently did a re-design. What challenges did you encounter?

I think one of the hardest things about a “reinvention” of an existing site is balancing the new vision with the needs of legacy objects and metadata. This issue comes up in any redesign, but the scale at which we work and the heterogeneous nature of the collections can make it all the more complex. At the same time, you don’t want to always do the safe thing — you want to take risks that will make at least a majority of the content more easily discoverable and interesting for users.

Between the project team at the California Digital Library, additional development staff at UC Berkeley, and librarians at all ten campuses, I’d estimate about 30-40 people played some role in the implementation. It was a true collaboration.

Sound is part of your collection. What types of audio are included?

Calisphere only recently has started to take in sound objects in a systematic way, which is exciting. The audio really runs the gamut.

There are a ton of oral histories, featuring all sorts of people, whether they have had a renowned career (for example, jazz composer Dave Brubeck from University of the Pacific) or have important personal or community stories to tell (for example, the Vietnamese Oral History Project from UC-Irvine).

The single largest collection of audio is UC-Santa Barbara’s Cylinder Audio Archive, which includes recordings made from the late 1800s to early 1900s, including popular songs, vaudeville acts, comedic monologues, and more. (I am particularly fond of this recording of the “Maple Leaf Rag” hand-played by Scott Joplin.)

And many of the sound objects on the site were identified as essential for the preservation of California’s historical record. These were digitized by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project from a variety of institutions.

How did you decide how to organize the audio to make it searchable?

Admittedly, Calisphere isn’t currently super optimized for searching audio for a couple reasons. For one, the model for Calisphere is that it is first and foremost an aggregator: for audio objects, it brings the metadata in, but it currently doesn’t stream the files right on the site (except in some special cases).

Meanwhile, from a user experience perspective, the fact is that Calisphere was traditionally mostly an image and text repository, so we leaned heavily on the visual component. But now that we are getting more audio, we are revisiting some of our design decisions to make sure that content is just as findable and accessible.

Why is Calisphere important?

California contains such an incredible group of collecting institutions, from public libraries to universities to community historical societies. But many of those institutions lack the technical resources to really get their collections out there and visible to their users. For instance, maybe they’ve got some digital objects in a library catalog, but they are hard to find on the open web and not presented in a modern design.

In Calisphere, those collections really shine: they get the full user experience, they get indexed in Google, they get put in exhibitions, they get sent to the Digital Public Library of America. In short: they get discovered and used!

Thanks, Sherri!

See you in the archive,
The Pop Up Archive team

Archiving the pioneering voices of punk

Ramones_Toronto_1976

Punk broke in the summer of 1976 and spread like a heatwave as the Ramones made their eponymous debut and invaded England with their tough, no-frills rock. Long incubating in the post-hippie era, punk was named for the sonic deviance of bands like the Sex Pistols — who debuted Anarchy in the U.K. that same year — the Buzzcocks, Patti Smith, Television, the Clash, and countless others armed with noise-bearing instruments.

More an attitude than a sound, punk began as a youthful distillation of anti-establishment politics, street grit, and even a dose of French surrealism (Richard Hell famously claims to have stolen his enfant terrible act from Arthur Rimbaud). It spawned various sub-genres, many still heard today, and contributed DIY (do it yourself) to the cultural lexicon, championing hyper-localism when it was still as alien as mohawks and fashionably ripped clothes. Today we celebrate 40 years of punk with audio artifacts of the shock heard around the world.

1. Interview with Penelope Spheeris (Bullseye)

Jesse Thorn interviews director Penelope Spheeris about Decline of Western Civilization, her 1979 documentary on the LA punk scene featuring candid interviews with teen punkers and live performances by the Germs, X, Black Flag, and others. The documentary captures the youthful exuberance of the scene as well as the nihilism and addiction problems that befell many.

2. Just Girls: The Hidden World of Patti Smith and Judy Linn (Kitchen Sisters)

The Kitchen Sisters share audio snapshots of punk icon Patti Smith, intimate and quotidian, as recorded by her friend Judy Linn in the ’70s. The vignettes capture the interior life and voice of the quirky and dreamy youth Patti writes about in her seminal biography Just Kids.

Patti_Smith_in_Rosengrten_1978

 

“To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.” —Patti Smith

3. Maximum Rocknroll: Punk magazine, radio show, record label, and vinyl archive since 1977 (KALW)

KALW gives a tour of the Maximum Rocknroll house, ground zero of West Coast punk, headquarters of the fanzine, and home to the world’s largest archive of punk records. As punk arose in reaction to the excesses of ’70s rock and hippie idealism, fanzines were used to get the word out about underground shows and albums. In 1982, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and Maximum Rocknroll founder Tim Yohannan released a compilation of Northern California and Nevada punk rock; the album’s liner notes would be published as the first issue of MRR, which has stayed true to its austere form — black-and-white newsprint — well into the digital age.

4. The Stranger (Snap Judgement)

Musician Damien Jurado tells about his adolescent retreat into the cabalistic world of punk zines and records, and the shabby janitor who got him hooked (no spoilers, but Damien’s punk pusher would go on to revolutionize the genre).

5. Rocket To Russia (Sound Opinions)

Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot talk to drummer Tommy Ramone, who lays down the origin story of punk and details from recording the Ramones’ first three records, including Rocket to Russia. Jim and Greg dissect the 1977 classic record and its punchy, two-minute anthems including “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” — the epitome of the genre, according to the rock doctors.

6. Carrie Brownstein on Punk Rock and ‘Portlandia’ (Forum)

Sleater Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein discusses her coming up through the Olympia punk and riot grrrl scenes, feminism, and her new memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl.

Turning to the past to understand race in America today

“If we talk about the past decade, if we talk about the past century, if we talk about the past two centuries… what we ought to seek in discussing black history are lessons on how to struggle today,” said Dr. Angela Davis during a lecture at Occidental College.

The frequency and impunity with which police use deadly force against people of color shatter any notion that racial inequity ended in the ’60s.

#BlackLivesMatter has sparked a national dialogue similar to that of the Civil Rights era, when Angela Davis, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, and countless others combined grassroots activism with the media pulpit to speak out against racial injustice. Their words, despite the intervening decades, describe our own times to eerie effect.

Archival recordings from Pop Up Archive’s public collections speak volumes on race and racism in America and the legacy of black activism:

 The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee talks and sings with Studs Terkel (1961)—WFMT

Students describe how the violence they incur during sit-ins and freedom rides strengthens their resolve in the fight against segregation and voter suppression.

Sometimes when the person next to us was being pulled off the line and being beaten and knocked to the ground, we’d still sing and hold our heads high and walk in unity and strength.” —SNCC member Bernard Lafayette, 1961

 Martin Luther King speaks (1968)—Ethnic Studies Library

This audio recording is a dense archaeological treasure. In addition to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rousing speech to a union calling for racial equity in the labor movement and a jail cell news interview with Black Panther leader Huey Newton, this recording contains a KPFA reporter’s interview with Mr. and Mrs. Smith about the “common experience of many families in the black ghetto.” The Oakland couple describes police hostility aimed at their family and community and how officers’ racially motivated violence is inspiring the rise of armed self-defense groups, like the Black Panthers, in their neighborhood.

After they let me up, they were still beating my son and blood was running every which way and I asked the police department, ‘Please don’t kill him.’
—Oakland resident Luther Smith, 1968


Alabama State troopers attack demonstrators outside Selma, Alabama,
on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.

 Dick Gregory talks with Studs Terkel (1961)—WMFT

Comedian and social critic Dick Gregory describes the historical connections between American foreign conflict and racial turmoil, describing how wars exacerbate the “us” vs “them” mentality. After fighting to “liberate” Vietnam, black soldiers returned home to find their own freedoms restricted by increasingly militarized racial boundaries, he explains.

The speeches that black folks are making today are straight out of the pages of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.” —Dick Gregory, 1964

 H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael address the Black Panthers (1968)—Pacifica Archives

Hearing this clip of H. Rap Brown speak at a “Free Huey” Black Panthers rally in Cleveland, there is no question where he got his name. The crowd roars as Rap waxes political with equal parts fire and wit. He and Stokely speak to the rise of black militarism, saying Vietnam has taught black soldiers how to go to war. It’s time, they rally, to fight for their own freedom.

We are the vanguard of the revolution because we are the most dispossessed.”—Black Panther H. Rap Brown, 1968

 Angela Davis at Occidental College (1985)—Pacifica Archives

Speaking at a Black History Month event at Occidental College, Angela Davis describes the prison system as a tool of enslavement, recounting her own imprisonment (on charges of kidnapping and murder, for which she was later acquitted) as an attempt to suppress her political outspokenness.

Each time black people have won victories, this has meant the extension of rights and liberties for the vast majority of the population in America.”
—activist/scholar Angela Davis, 1985

Explore more archival audio

Four picks to get you fired up for the Fourth!

We’ve cued up an Independence Day playlist for you to savor while you prep for your backyard BBQ.

 America Eats: A Hidden Archive—The Kitchen Sisters
It’s hard to imagine July Fourth without barbecue, burgers, brats, potato salad, slaw, and watermelon. The Kitchen Sisters explore how food gives flavor to our most time-honored traditions and how it is tied to our very notions of place and personhood. In this episode, the Kitchen Sisters continue the legacy of America Eats—a WPA program started in the 1930s to document American foodways—and explore how blue-plate specials and down-home cooking reflect our national fabric.

Mapping America, one dish at a time. share on Twitter

 The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence—Focus 580 (Illinois Public Media)
Red, white, and blue are synonymous with July Fourth, but the color of money was an early motif in the American Revolution. The desire for imported goods, notably teapots, created the tempest that would eventually rally patriots’ cries for independence.

How free-market capitalism motivated colonists’ cries for freedom. share on Twitter

 July 04,1970—From the Vault (Pacifica)
The cultural revolutions of the 1960s changed the discourse surrounding freedom and independence. Archival audio from a July 4, 1970 celebration in Washington, D.C. captures differing views on patriotism and the American legacy following the Civil Rights movement, anti-war efforts, the Stonewall Riots, second-wave feminism, and the rise of Black Power.

What the American Revolution meant in the wake of sixties’ revolutionary movements. share on Twitter

 Tips for a Successful Summer Barbecue—Forum (KQED)
Chefs and food writers share their favorite recipes and pro-tips for delicious July Fourth fare, for meaty grillmasters and vegetarian celebrants alike. This episode is chock full of fresh ideas (smoked fish, Mexican elote and bitter-green salad, to name a few) for those looking to mix up their holiday menu.

Recipes and tips on how to lock down your July 4th spread. share on Twitter