As a college librarian, I often hear stressed-out students searching for primary sources say, "I'll take anything." Don't settle for just anything. There is a treasury of primary source material available electronically. Peruse my selection of 200-plus primary source sites by conducting a keyword search, exploring the tag cloud at left, or browsing by historical era. You can also visit my Delicious and Diigo sites to review my bookmarks. Here's hoping you find what you're looking for.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Royal Society's historical journal archive provides access to scientific pioneers' early work

Last week, The Royal Society announced that it would provide permanent, free access to its historical journal archive.

The first edition of the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions appeared in 1665 and its publication continues today. According to information provided from the Society, items available in the historical archive include Isaac Newton’s first published scientific paper, writings by a young Charles Darwin and a letter from Benjamin Franklin detailing his experiments with electricity.

Users can browse through individual issues or search by date, author, or keyword. The image above, a Currier & Ives print of Franklin’s kite experiment, comes from the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Education Statistics Released: Who Will Be Left Behind in 2020

Late last week President Obama announced significant changes to No Child Left Behind – the federal education reform statute that requires all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. The changes will provide states with more autonomy to oversee their own educational improvement efforts. As the New York Times reported, those states that adopt higher educational standards, address problems at their lowest-performing schools and overhaul teacher evaluation procedures can apply for waivers of some key provisions of the law – including the 2014 proficiency deadline.

Will those changes have a significant impact on the performance of the nation’s schools and students? Time will tell. A recently released compilation of federal statistics does provide some insight into what changes the nation’s public education system might see over the course of the next decade.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released “Projections of Education Statistics to 2020”. That report includes state-by-state data on projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2020. Users can browse through the document or download it as a PDF. Among the information you will find are statistics relating to school enrollment, student-teacher ratios, per-pupil expenditures and number of high school graduates.

The No Child Left Behind logo that appears above left comes from the House Committee on Education in the Workforce.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

As the hour of Davis execution nears, calls for clemency grow louder.

The scheduled execution of Georgia death row inmate Troy Davis is just hours away as I write this. As the appointed time of 7 p.m. approaches, protests are mounting and calls for clemency are growing louder here in the United States and around the globe.

Davis, 42, was convicted of the 1989 killing of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. Representatives of the NAACP, Amnesty International, along with Pope Benedict XVI and former President Jimmy Carter are among those who have called for a halt to the execution of Davis. Davis has steadfastly maintained his innocence and his conviction came despite a lack of physical evidence and the failure to find the murder weapon. In addition, a key witness subsequently recanted his testimony. The murdered police officer's family members maintain that prosecutors had the right man and Davis is not innocent.

Is Georgia planning to execute an innocent man? I don’t know the answer to that question. I do know that there have been instances where inmates under the sentence of death have been exonerated due to DNA evidence. The Innocence Project maintains a searchable database of such individuals. Established in 1992at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, The Innocence Project lists its mission as “nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated.”

The National Criminal Justice Reference Service also provides some numbers that give one pause. In addition to statistics about the demographic characteristics of death row inmates, the average elapsed time between sentencing and execution and the method of execution in individual states the agency also provides data about the number of people who have been removed from the list. Why were they removed: Some were executed, some died of natural causes while on death row, some had their sentences commuted and still others were exonerated.

Perhaps the most chilling resource I discovered was a list maintained by the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization established in 1990 to provide the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. They maintain a list of the "Executed but Possibly Innocent" that details the case against the individuals, their conviction, and execution. It also provides links to court documents, journal articles and media reports related to those cases.

The above photo of Troy Davis comes from Amnesty International.

Monday, September 19, 2011

JSTOR's Early Journal Content: a rich source of historical material

When I introduce freshman history students to our electronic resources, I suggest they consider using the JSTOR database as both a primary and a secondary source finder. Now, everyone – even those without subscription access to JSTOR – can access a wealth of material dating back well before 1870.

Earlier this month JSTOR officials announced that journal content in JSTOR published before 1923 in the United States and prior to 1870 outside the U.S. is available to all, for free.  The “Early Journal Content” accounts for about 6 percent of total JSTOR content and editorials, reviews and scholarly articles on the arts and humanities, economic s and politics, math and other sciences.
So why should primary source hunters care about this development? Such access can provide student researchers with insight into what scholars and scientists of the time were thinking and writing about particular topics.
One recent class of history students was studying 1893’s World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. That World’s Fair, held to commemorate the 400th anniversary or Columbus’s discovery of the New World brought more than 27 million people to the Windy City.  The toured the fair’s 600 cares, visited the 200 buildings erected for its six month run and marveled at the man- made lagoons and canals. Certainly, some practical preparations had to be made for such a mass influx of tourists
Browsing through JSTOR, I came across and 1893 article from Science magazine titled “Disposal of Waste at the World's Columbian Exposition”. The details in that piece provide an interesting historical take on wastewater treatment projects.
That might not be a project that interests you, but whatever your focus, browse through JSTOR’s Early Journal Content. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you’ll find.
The above photograph of the World’s Columbian Exposition comes from the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Visual Archives of the 9/11 Attacks

This weekend, the Associated Press published an interesting article about the Internet Archive’s September 11 video archive. That collection shows how the day’s horrific events unfolded from the perspective on international news broadcasters. Initial confusion over an “accident” at the World Trade Center evolves into fear as the scope of the attacks broadens. Horror and disbelief creep into the voice of news anchors as the magnitude of the losses becomes apparent.

The Internet Archive was founded in California in 1996. It aims to offer include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to digitized historical collections.

In addition to the September 11 video archive, it’s offerings include The Wayback Machine, an archive of web pages. By using the Wayback Machine to search different news sites for Sept. 11, 2001, users can get a glimpse of the hypertext archive of the attack on America.

The photo above, which depicts a memorial left at the Pentagon crash site, comes from the Library of Congress’s September 11, 2001 Documentary Project.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

National Jukebox: Early 20th-Century Recordings Streamed to your Computer

On May 18, 1921, the Steamship Wheaton arrived in Hoboken, N.J. with hallowed cargo in its hold – the bodies of 5212 American war dead, being returned to the United States from Cherbourg and Antwerp as part of a Congressional plan to bring the fallen home. Several days after the Wheaton’s arrival, President Warren G. Harding retired to the White House study and recorded remarks to the nation about the return of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

His words can be heard on the National Jukebox, a new initiative from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available in streaming format to the public free of charge.

The Collection, which continues to grow, currently contains more than 10,000 recordings made between 1901 and 1925. Those audio files include pop music, comedy skits, literary readings, political speeches and more. Visitors to the National Jukebox can search recordings by artist and genre or choose to browse through the collection.

The photo above of President Harding comes from the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

National Hurricane Center: A Rich Source of Historical Storm Data

My return to work for the 2011 – 2012 academic year was delayed for a day due to power outages caused by Tropical Storm Irene. While some neighbors remain without power and cleanup of downed trees continues, we didn’t see the type of devastation here in Southeastern Massachusetts that others did elsewhere.

While tracking the storm over the past week, I learned the National Hurricane Center’s website has a wealth of historical data related to past tropical storms and hurricanes. Visit the site’s history section and you can retrieve data about the deadliest and costliest Atlantic tropical storms. Additionally, you can find an archive of forecasts and advisories issued in past hurricane seasons.

The AP picture above left illustrates some of the damage inflicted on southern Vermont by Irene over the weekend. The image below left comes from the Providence Journal and shows the wind-driven surf of 1954’s Hurricane Carol into a Cranston, RI yacht club.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The (complete) Pentagon Papers Release Slated for Monday

An article in this morning’s New York Times details the government’s plans to declassify the entirety of the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. government’s secret study of the war in Vietnam. That release will come 40 years after the Times publication of much, but not all, of that study. Now, each page will be scanned and be made available electronically through the National Archives and Records Administration.

The article appearing in today’s paper puts the release in an interesting historical context, contrasting the Vietnam Era publication of the Pentagon Papers to today’s era of WikiLeaks. Daniel Ellsberg, the former Rand Corporation analyst who helped compile the report that would become known as the Pentagon papers, leaked it to the New York Times and subsequently faced 12 felony counts as a result of that release, it quoted at length.

The article reads, in part: “It seems to me that what the Pentagon Papers really demonstrated 40 years ago was the price of (the usurping of Congressional war-making powers by the executive branch),” Ellsberg said. “Which is that letting a small group of men in secret in the executive branch make these decisions — initiate them secretly, carry them out secretly and manipulate Congress, and lie to Congress and the public as to why they’re doing it and what they’re doing — is a recipe for, a guarantee of Vietnams and Iraqs and Libyas, and in general foolish, reckless, dangerous policies.”

As the release date nears, and policies are debated, those preparing for that discussion will have the full text of the Pentagon Papers available for their perusal.

The photo of Ellsberg, above, comes from the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum The museum’s collections also include an oral history interview with Ellsberg and a variety of other interview and digitized documents pertaining to the Pentagon Papers.

Monday, June 6, 2011

D-Day Remembered

June 6 marks the 67th anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy.  More than 130,000 American, English and Canadian troops stormed the Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword Beaches on that day. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum has a compelling collection of digitized primary documents related to the invasion. Among those papers you’ll find General Eisenhower’s “Orders of the Day” for June 6, 1944 – the statement he issued to members of the expeditionary force as D-Day commenced. Also, you’ll find a digitized copy of a scrawled press release to be used, if necessary, titled “In Case of Failure Message.”
 The photo above shows American soldiers on Omaha Beach recovering the dead after the D Day invasion of France. It comes from the Library of Congress.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Royal Weddings: Past and Present

On July 29, 1981, I set my alarm clock for some crazy time so I could get up before the sun and watch hour upon hour of royal wedding coverage. I remember my high school friends being similarly fascinated by Charles and Di’s nuptials. Tomorrow, I have no intention of getting up before dawn to watch William and Kate get married, and while they’re exchanging vows at Westminster Abbey, I’ll be at the reference desk. However, I do admit to doing a fair amount of Royal Wedding web surfing over the past week or so. Whatever your opinions about the Monarchy and its surrounding pomp, the sites below might give you some appreciation for the rich history of royal weddings.

British History Online features the minutes of a December, 1891 meeting of the Council of Cardiff. During that session, members unanimously voted to heartily congratulate their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales upon the betrothal of their son and heir, His Royal Highness the Duke of Clarence and Avondale and Earl of Athlone, to Her Serene Highness Princess Victoria Mary of Teck.

Browse through earlier records and you’ll discover an entry from the Calendar of Treasury Books from 1734. It provides an overview of several bills and other expenses for the “Princess Royal's wearing apparel and other necessaries for Her Royal Highness's wedding, managed by the Right Honourable the Countess of Suffolk as Mistress of the Robes to Her Majesty. “ It goes on the list the price of goods imported from France as well as those purchased from England. It also details the costs of handkerchiefs, flowers and buckles. Those figures were certainly related to the March 25, 1734 wedding of Anne, Princess Royal, daughter of George II, to William IV of Orange at the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace

I also downloaded “Royal Weddings” The Royal Collection’s first official Royal App. I can’t say it provided $2.99 in entertainment value, but I considered it an investment in research. The narration and animation was a bit uninspired, but it did feature some amazing photographs from The Royal Collection that date from Victoria and Albert’s 1840 nuptials to William and Kate’s planned wedding. The Royal Collection includes paintings, drawings and watercolors, furniture, ceramics, clocks, silver, sculpture, jewelry, books, manuscripts, prints and maps, arms and armor, fans, and textiles and is held in trust by the Queen.

The picture above shows Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange (1709-59). It comes from The Royal Collection.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster

Today, the one yearanniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, relatives of the 11 men who perished in that blast will fly over the site of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. That disaster led to the worst oil spill in U.S. History and had devastating environmental effects in the water and along the shores of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida. A wealth of resources are available that detail the scope of the spill, the effectiveness of the cleanup effort and the ongoing impact. Some of that information can be found at , which is described as “official federal portal for the Deepwater BP oil spill response and recovery. This site provides the public with information on the response, current operations, news and updates, how to file a claim and obtain other assistance, and links to federal, state and local partners.” Additional information can be found at the Federal Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service.
The photo above of the Deepwater Horizon explosion comes from the National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration.

Monday, March 28, 2011

R.I.P. Geraldine Ferraro

Geraldine A. Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee died in Boston Saturday at the age of 75 due to complications from multiple myeloma.

As the first woman nominated for national office by a major political party, Ms. Ferraro was viewed as a pioneer. President Obama described her as such this weekend when he said, “Geraldine will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women and Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life.”

The Mondale/Ferraro ticket was trounced in a Reagan/Bush landslide back in 1984. Subsequently, Ms. Ferraro would twice unsuccessfully run for a Senate seat. She later served as an ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission during the Clinton Administration. She also was as a television commentator, consultant and author.

However none of her later accomplishments could overshadow her appearance at the Democratic National Convention on July 19, 1984, when she stood before the delegates at San Francisco’s Moscone Center and accepted her party’s vice presidential nomination.

“A wise man once said, "Every one of us is given the gift of life, and what a strange gift it is. If it is preserved jealously and selfishly, it impoverishes and saddens. But if it is spent for others, it enriches and beautifies," she said in her acceptance speech. My fellow Americans: We can debate policies and programs. But in the end what separates the two parties in this election campaign is whether we use the gift of life - for others or only ourselves.”

The full text of her acceptance speech can be found at the Archive of Women’s Political Communication at Iowa State University. The photo above, of Ms. Ferraro and her running mate, Walter Mondale, comes from U.P.I.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Golden Era of Air Travel: The Days Before the TSA

This morning, USA Today blogger Ben Mutzabaugh warned that American Airlines' decision to hike domestic air fares by $10 per round trip might lead to another round of fare increases. He also noted that the fare hike marks the seventh time U.S. airlines have tried to raise fares in 2011. That averages out to about one new fare hike every 10 days so far this year.

The airlines say they need the increased revenue to offset the rising price of fuel. That certainly sounds reasonable; it just would be a whole lot more palatable if you received fantastic service for the cost of your ticket.

Take a look at the website for the National Air and Space Museum if you want to get a glimpse at the glamorous era of commercial aviation. The digital exhibit titled (appropriately enough) When the Going Was Good: The Golden Age of Commercial Air Travel will make you pine for days gone by, when you dressed up, not down, for you flight.

Visit that online exhibit you’ll find pictures of the early days of air travel as well as some printed ephemera advertising airlines. Other potential sources of primary source material on the history or aviation and air travel past and present are The National Archives and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The photo above comes from the National Air and Space Museum. The caption states - Breakfast in bed aboard a United Airlines Douglas DST (Douglas Sleeper Transport), circa 1936. The DST was soon modified to operate as a day plane and was renamed the DC-3.

Happy travels.

Monday, March 7, 2011

"Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you."

On this date in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for his revolutionary invention - the telephone. Just a few days later the 29-year-old inventor and his assistant exchanged the first intelligible telephone message.

The Library of Congress's American Memory Project is a rich source of digitized material pertaining to Bell. The Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers features well over 4,000 items including, scientific notebooks, journals, blueprints, articles, and photographs. Thanks to for fodder for today's post. The photo of Bell above comes from the Library of Congress.

Monday, February 28, 2011

RIP Frank Buckles

Today's New York Times features the obituary for 110-year-old Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving World War I Infantryman. A Missouri native, Buckles lied to a military recruiter about his age and enlisted in the Army in 1914. He was sent to France, where he guarded German soldiers during the occupation. The Library of Congress's Veterans History Project , features oral history interviews conducted with Frank. Those interviews are provided in both audio and video format and transcriptions are also available. Additionally, you'll find some photographs of the veteran, as well as biographical information. The picture at left comes from the Library of Congress and shows Frank as a young enlistee. The picture at right comes from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

On this day in 1929, the gang war between Al “Scarface” Capone and George Bugs” Moran culminated in the St. Valentine’s Massacre. Seven of Moran’s men were lined up against a garage wall and gunned down by hit men dressed as police officers. Although Capone’s gang was blamed for the slaughter, Capone himself was in Florida at the time of the slayings. You can read the New York Times account of that crime via Digital History.

That site, a collaborative effort between the University of Houston, the Chicago Historical Society, The national Park service and a host of other agencies, serves as gateway for students searching for primary source materials. Landmark documents, court testimony, material from historical newspapers and transcripts from oral history interviews are some to the items you’ll find on this site.

For more information on Al Capone, check out the FBI’s website. There you’ll find 107 pages of investigative files related to the St. Valentine’s Day assacre. You’ll also be able to see Capone’s mug shot from Alcatraz (pictured at left), his fingerprint card and criminal record. At right is a photo of bystanders gathered around the garage where Moran's men were gunned down. That image comes from The Chicago Daily News and is available from the Library of Congress's American Memory Project.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Remembering Columbia and her crew

On this day in 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. All seven astronauts on board perished in the tragedy, which was caused when a piece of foam insulation broke loose during takeoff, damaging the thermal protective material designed to protect the shuttle from the heat of re-entry.
NASA has a host of materials available pertaining to this disaster. A page devoted to Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew provides access to the report conducted by The Columbia Accident Investigation Board in the wake of the disaster. Additionally, you’ll find biographical information about the crew members and links to stories of memorials offered in recognition of individual crew members.  The photo on the bottom pictures the Columbia’s crew. The photo at top shows the main engine of Columbia, which was recovered in Louisiana. Both come from NASA.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Re-writing history: a criminal offense (too bad the statute of limitations is up)

This morning a co-worker pointed out this startling story about the Abraham Lincoln researcher who admitted to altering a document housed in The National Archives. Specifically, Thomas Lowry altered Abraham Lincoln's Presidential pardon for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army who was court-martialed for desertion. Using a fountain pen, Lowry changed the date of Murphy’s pardon from April 14, 1864, to April 14, 1865, the day Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lowry then claimed the pardon had historical significance, because it could be considered one of, if not the final official act by President Lincoln before his assassination.

According to a press release from The National Archives, the matter was referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution; however the Department of Justice informed the National Archives that the statute of limitations had expired, and therefore Lowry could not be prosecuted.  Lowry has been permanently banned  from all of  The National Archives' facilities and research rooms.

Besides just being a fascinating read, this story poses an interesting question. Those involved in the digital humanities strive to make resources more accessible to students, educators, researchers, and the general public. In doing so, will they also help safeguard those materials from theft, alteration or mis-use? We'll see.

The photo above is a close-up of the altered date on the Lincoln pardon. It comes from the National Archives.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Did 'No Child Left Behind' forsake elementary/secondary history education?

CNN today featured an interesting and troubling article about the state of history education in elementary and secondary schools. That piece raises the question of whether history education is suffering, in part, due to the fact that standardized testing in history is not required under the provisions of “No Child Left Behind". One of the primary goals of that legislation is to ensure that all children are proficient in reading and mathematics by 2014 and some claim that the focus on those subject areas is coming at the expense of others.

History educators quoted in the CNN piece discussed their frustration over teaching what one referred to as “trivia” and their inability to delve deeper into important subjects. I was struck by one particular quote from a Texas high school teacher. “I think they learn information by itself, in isolation," Jeff Frazer said of his students. "But putting the big picture together is not happening."

Primary sources are essential tools for putting together that big picture. Staff at the National Archives describe the value of such materials as learning tools on a page devoted to teachers' resources. “Teaching with primary documents encourages a varied learning environment for teachers and students alike. Lectures, demonstrations, analysis of documents, independent research, and group work become a gateway for research with historical records in ways that sharpen students' skills and enthusiasm for history, social studies, and the humanities,” it reads.

I get some of the greatest satisfaction from my job when I’m able to help a student find that primary source that helps them build that big picture. That’s why I created this blog. Here’s hope you find something that helps you better understand the past and how it might impact your future.

The photo above is a page from The Book of the General Laws of the Inhabitants of the Jurisdiction of New-Plimouth. Housed at the Library of Congress, it is one of the oldest items in the Library's collection of American law.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Digital Camelot: Access to a Legacy

I spent far too much time today browsing through the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s digital archive. I scanned digitized copies of Kennedy’s Harvard’s notebooks and perused family photos taken at Kennedy’s Hyannis compound. These, and much more, are part of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation’s digitization project – Access to a Legacy.

That project is massive in scope. According to the Kennedy Library website, in constructing Access to a Legacy, staff digitized, described, and made available three entire textual collections or subcollections. Those collections included photographic and audio components (the President's Office Files, the White House Central Chronological Files, and the John F. Kennedy Personal Papers); one collection of audio files (the White House Audio collection); one moving image collection (the White House Film collection); one collection of museum artifacts (the State Gifts); and a portion of the White House Photograph collection, which consists of over 35,000 photographs.

You can read more about the collection in this Washington Post article. The photo above comes from Access to a Legacy and shows a casually dressed Kennedy clan gathering in their Hyannis compound on Cape Cod in September, 1963 to celebrate the birthday of family patriarch Joe Kennedy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Twain was clear; don't mess with his dialects.

Commentators from The Atlantic, the National Review and the Colbert Report are just a few of those who have weighed in about the publication of altered versions of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The single-volume, NewSouth edition of those works was edited by Professor Alan Gribben of Auburn University and will be available next month. In that monograph, the editor changed the word “nigger” to “slave”. The word “injun” was changed to “indian”.

The intent, according to the editor, was to produce versions of the classics for young readers and others offended by the originals’ language. He acknowledged some “textual purists” would not view his changes as benign. And indeed, some argue the new versions of Twain’s works could cause serious damage to the collective memory. That belief was summed up well on the editorial page of yesterday’s New York Times. That piece reads in part:

We are horrified, and we think most readers, textual purists or not, will be horrified too. The trouble isn’t merely adulterating Twain’s text. It’s also adulterating social, economic and linguistic history. Substituting the word “slave” makes it sound as though all the offense lies in the “n-word” and has nothing to do with the institution of slavery. Worse, it suggests that understanding the truth of the past corrupts modern readers, when, in fact, this new edition is busy corrupting the past.
I'll leave the debate to others, but I will point readers to two particularly rich Twain resources. The ultimate aim of the Mark Twain Project, according to the website, is produce a digital critical edition -  fully annotated -  of everything Mark Twain wrote. That site, which is part of the California Digital Library, features more than 2300 letters writing by Twain. Additionally you’ll find access the full text of Twain’s autobiography as well as the full Text of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. More digitized texts will be added in the future.

Mark Twain in His Times is a collection compiled by the English department at the University of Virginia. That collection features dozens of texts and manuscripts, scores of contemporary reviews and articles, hundreds of images, and many different kinds of interactive exhibits.

The picture of Twain above right comes from the Library of Congress. The image at left is the explanatory note Twain provided for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It appears in a digitzed volume made available by the Internet Archive. In light of this ongoing debate, that note is definitley worth a read.
In this book a number of dialects are used, to wit: the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary “Pike County” dialect; and four modified varieties of this last.

The shadings have not been done in a hap-hazard fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly, and with the trustworthy guidance and support of personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.

I make this explanation for the reason that without it many readers would suppose that all these characters were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.
Just some food for thought.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Piecing together the stories of Afro-Louisisan slaves, 1718-1820

CNN this morning featured an article on the African slave trade by David Eltis and David Richardson. The two are co-authors of the "Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade" and their article highlights a number of finding and features of the Atlas. For example:

• From 1492 to 1820, four enslaved Africans for every European left the Old World

• The authors contend little was known of the largest forced oceanic migration in world history

• Their research draws on five decades of record keeping and describes a number of slaves' stories

• Their research did not reveal any moral outrage. It did reveal that half of the ships set out from the Americas

This piece jogged my memory and reminded me of a fascinating site I had stumbled across and filed away, waiting for a chance to add it to my bookmarks related to the African slave trade. The Afro-Louisiana History and Genealogy: 1718-1820 provides users with a look at the background of more than 100,000 slaves who were brought to Louisiana during the 18th and 19th centuries.

The site is the work of Dr. Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, a New Orleans writer and historian who used historic data to create a database containing information about African slave names, genders, ages, occupations, illnesses, family relationships, ethnicity, places of origin, prices paid by slave owners and emancipation.

Users can search the database by slave name, master’s name, gender, time period brought to the United States, racial designation and plantation location.

The photo at left and depicts a cluster of slave quarters near Bunkie, Louisiana. The one at right shows a slave collar. Both come from the Louisiana State Museum.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Johnson's vision of a Great Society

Forty-five years ago President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the State of the Union address in which he described the legislative action needed to make turn his vision of a “Great Society” into a reality. While world events created diversions from those efforts, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum features a host of digital resources that speak to Johnson’s efforts in the fight for Civil Rights and the War of Poverty.

In this collection you will find the text of Johnson’s Dec. 4, 1965 State of the Union address as well as remarks made upon the signing of the Voting Rights Act, the Medicare Bill and the Elementary and Secondary Education Bill, successes of his administration that were overshadowed by the escalating war in Vietnam.

In addition to the texts of selected speeches and addresses, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum also provides access to the President's daily diary and a photo archive.

The image at right is of a portrait of President Johnson painted in 1967 by artist Peter Hurd. It comes from the National Portrait Gallery.