Tag Archives: Civil Rights

America’s First African American Woman Judge


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A long overdue biography of the nation’s first African American woman judge elevates Jane Matilda Bolin to her rightful place in American history as an activist, integrationist, jurist, and outspoken public figure in the political and professional milieu of New York City before the onset of the modern Civil Rights movement. Jacqueline A. McLeod’s, Daughter of the Empire State: The Life of Judge Jane Bolin is published by the University of Illinois Press (2011).

Bolin was appointed to New York City’s domestic relations court in 1939 for the first of four ten-year terms. When she retired in 1978, her career had extended well beyond the courtroom. Drawing on archival materials as well as a meeting with Bolin in 2002, historian Jacqueline A. McLeod reveals how Bolin parlayed her judicial position to impact significant reforms of the legal and social service system in New York.

Beginning with Bolin’s childhood and educational experiences at Wellesley and Yale, Daughter of the Empire State chronicles Bolin’s relatively quick rise through the ranks of a profession that routinely excluded both women and African Americans. Deftly situating Bolin’s experiences within the history of black women lawyers and the historical context of high-achieving black New Englanders, McLeod offers a multi-layered analysis of black women’s professionalization in a segregated America.

Linking Bolin’s activist leanings and integrationist zeal to her involvement in the NAACP, McLeod analyzes Bolin’s involvement at the local level as well as her tenure on the organization’s national board of directors. An outspoken critic of the discriminatory practices of New York City’s probation department and juvenile placement facilities, Bolin also co-founded, with Eleanor Roosevelt, the Wiltwyck School for boys in upstate New York and campaigned to transform the Domestic Relations Court with her judicial colleagues. McLeod’s careful and highly readable account of these accomplishments inscribes Bolin onto the roster of important social reformers and early civil rights trailblazers.

Author Jacqueline A. McLeod is an associate professor of history and African & African American studies at Metropolitan State College of Denver and co-editor of Crossing Boundaries: Comparative History of Blacks in Diaspora.

Note: Books noticed on this site have been provided by the publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

CCNY Early-Career Historians Win NEH Awards


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Dr. Gregory Downs, associate professor of history, and Dr. Emily Greble, assistant professor of history at The City College of New York are recipients of faculty research awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The grants, announced by NEH December 9, will support book projects currently in development.

“The NEH fellowships are extremely competitive; only eight percent of applicants are successful. To have two early-career faculty members in the same department come up winners is remarkable,” said Dr. Geraldine Murphy, acting dean of humanities and the arts at CCNY, in congratulating them.

“Our department has undergone significant growth because The City College administration made a commitment to bring in energetic scholars and teachers,” said Professor Downs, who serves as department chair. “We’ve hired eight new faculty members in nine years and we are seeing that faith pay off.”

“We seem to have become a hotbed of new and innovative scholarship,” added Professor Greble. “We see the product of this intellectually stimulating environment in so many areas of departmental life, from the number of students we have been placing in top doctoral programs to the rigorous publication record of our faculty, to the winning of top academic fellowships like the NEH and the Rome Prize.”

Four Class of 2011 history majors are now in PhD programs at Yale University, Princeton University and University of Michigan. Associate Professor of History Barbara Ann Naddeo received the Rome Prize in 2010 for her scholarship on the city of Naples, Italy. Assistant Professor of History Adrienne Petty is conducting an oral history project on African-American farm owners in the South in collaboration with Professor Mark Schultz of Lewis University supported by an NEH award.

Professor Downs’ project, “The Ends of War: American Reconstruction and the Problems of Occupation,” examines the transition from Civil War to Reconstruction and asks why former slaves, loyal whites, Freedmen’s Bureau agents and northern émigrés became disillusioned. The problems emanated not as much from free-labor ideology or racism as from a sharp reduction of military force in the region, which resulted in a power vacuum, he contends.

At the end of the Civil War, the U.S. government, fearing budget deficits, demobilized at such a rapid pace that within 18 months only 12,000 troops remained in the former Confederacy. As the military withdrew from different areas, hundreds of small wars broke out between former Confederates and organized freedmen.

Professor Downs attributes the situation to a naïve belief among elected officials in Washington that they could expand voting rights in the South at the same time that the federal government was reducing its presence there to cut the budget. “What was needed was not an expansion of democracy, but an expansion of enforcement,” he says. “Both sides figured out that violence was the logical conclusion. By the time they had mobilized it was too late for the government to act.”

The project grows out of an earlier monograph, “Declarations of Independence: The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1860 – 1908,” published in 2011 by University of North Carolina Press. However, Professor Downs says his thinking has been influenced by recent U.S. experience with occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Seeing how difficult it is to change social power, create new lines of authority and disrupt societies makes me wonder why we were so confident we could do it in the post-war South. Rights need enforceability to make them real,” he adds, pointing to the intervention by federal troops in the Little Rock Central High School in 1957 as an example.

Professor Greble’s project, “Islam and the European Nation-State: Balkan Muslims between Mosque and State, 1908 – 1949,” examines how South Slavic Muslims adapted to six significant political shifts over a 41-year period. In each instance new governments sought – in their own way – to limit, secularize and shape Muslim institutions as the region went from Ottoman to Habsburg control, to liberal nation-states, to authoritarian monarchs, to fascist regimes and to socialist regimes.

Her initial research suggests Muslims proactively adapted the norms and customs of their faith to define Islam in their own terms. Additionally, they sought to become part of the international community of Muslims to confront being dispossessed of property, Sharia law, institutional autonomy and the right to define Islam.

To assert their influence, some Muslims formed political parties and cultural societies that promoted Muslim cultural agendas. More conservative members of the community sought to strengthen and protect local Muslim networks through codification of Sharia law and Islamic society. Others engaged in clandestine activities such as underground madrassas.

Much of Professor Greble’s research will examine the changing role of Sharia courts. Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, these were codified and given jurisdiction over Muslim socio-religious affairs, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Muslim parts of the Balkans, particularly Yugoslavia, retained this legal autonomy between the two world wars and during Nazi and fascist occupation, but lost it after communists came to power and shut down the Sharia courts in 1946.

New Yorkers and the Memory of the Civil War


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As New York’s State Historian, I often say that New Yorkers have long provided the country with some of its most informed leadership. Why? Because they understand and appreciate their state’s place in American history.

Take as a case in point the 100th anniversary of the American Civil War (1961-65). This was a time when some Americans were using their heritage to defy federal desegregation efforts. New York’s Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, however, used his state’s history for a far better purpose. He promoted civil rights and racial equality in America by joining with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others in celebration of the 100th birthday of a document owned by the New York State Library—Lincoln’s draft Emancipation Proclamation. Continue reading

Peterboro Programs to Observe Women’s Rights


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Equality Day has been observed on August 26 since 1971 when the efforts of Congresswoman Bella Abzug succeeded in commemorating the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the Woman Suffrage Amendment. The final programs of the 2011 Peterboro Heritage season recognize women of the 19th Century who laid the ground work for extending suffrage to disenfranchised groups.



Equality Day Weekend will be observed in Peterboro by two presentations on three women who led the women’s rights movement. On Saturday, August 27 at 2 p.m. author Penny Colman presents Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World, and signs her new book by the same name at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro. The next day Dr. Carol Faulkner presents her new biography Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s History in 19th Century America at the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro.

The Fourth Annual Elizabeth Smith Miller In the Kitchen Bloomer Tea will be held on Sunday, September 25 at 12:30 at the Smithfield Community Center with Dr. Judith Wellman speaking on Peterboro and the Road to Seneca Falls. Debra Kolstrud, the owner of the historical home at 9 S. William Street in Johnstown NY where Susan B. Anthony boarded in 1884 when she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the third volume of their History of Woman Suffrage, will update on activities in Johnstown, Stanton’s hometown. Selected letters between cousins Elizabeth Smith Miller and Elizabeth Cady Stanton will be read. (Reservations are required.: $35 by August 27. $40 by September 17.) Seating is limited. For more information and online reservations visit www.inthekitchentea.com.

On Saturday, October 22 the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will induct Abby Kelley Foster, the 19th Century Worcester abolitionist and women’s rights activist, into the Hall of Fame at ceremonies held at Colgate University. Stacey Robertson, Director of Women’s Studies program at Bradley University in Peoria IL, presents Abby Kelley Foster: A Radical Voice to the West at 12:30 pm in Golden Auditorium. That evening Lynne McKenney Lydick, Worcester Women’s History Project, will perform Yours for Humanity, a one woman play about Foster.

The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May 14 to October 23 in 2011. Admission to each site is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. For more information: Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134-0006. Call 315-684-3262 or visit online.

National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13134-0055. Call 315-684-3262 or visit online.

For more information and updates, follow www.sca-peterboro.org and www.AbolitionHoF.org

Event highlights Lucretia Mott, 19th Century Activist


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Lucretia Coffin Mott was one of the most famous and controversial women in nineteenth-century America. Mott was viewed in her time as a dominant figure in the dual struggles for racial and sexual equality. In the first biography of Mott in thirty years, historian Carol Faulkner reveals the motivations of Mott’s activism and interest in peace, temperance, prison reform, religious freedom, and Native American rights. Mott was among the first white Americans to call for an immediate end to slavery. Her long-term collaboration with white and black women in the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society was remarkable. Mott was known as the “moving spirit” of the first women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls in 1848. She envisioned women’s rights not as a new and separate movement, but rather as an extension of the universal principles of liberty and equality.



At 2 p.m. Sunday, August 28, Carol Faulkner Ph.D. will discuss her new biography Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America and sign books at the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY. Mott was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005 in the first group to be honored.

Dr. Faulkner is Associate Professor of History at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University, and author of Women’s Radical Reconstruction: The Freedmen’s Aid Movement. Attention to Mott grew out of Faulkner’s interest in the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements and she became even more interested in Mott when she won a National Historical Publications and Records Commission fellowship to work on Mott’s letters. Faulkner is also a member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Mott program is the second of two Peterboro programs observing Equality Day. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 27 Penny Colman will discuss her new book Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship that Changed the World at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro.

Admission to both programs is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May 14 to October 23 in 2011.

A Teacher Open House at the Gage Center


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The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, NY would like to share with teachers the opportunity to learn more about Matilda Joslyn Gage, an important local historical figure on Thursday, September 22, 3:30-5:30 pm.

Matilda Joslyn Gage (1824-1898) was involved in the Abolitionist Movement and the Underground Railroad. Along with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Gage was a major figure in the Women’s Rights Movement. With them, she co-authored The History of Woman Suffrage.

She was a supporter of Native American sovereignty and a proponent of the total separation of Church and State, she was the author of Woman, Church and State.

Because of her strong, liberal position on religious freedom, she was written out of history books until recently.

Gage’s ideas are as relevant today as they were in the 19th century and this is a great way to bring Central New York history into your classroom and promote discussion of the past and contemporary issues.

Materials for lessons, activities, and curriculum packets available.

For more information, call 637-9511.

Women’s Rights: Race, Class and Ethnicity


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This Saturday, April 9th, at 7:00 pm, Historic Huguenot Street will host another in its Second Saturdays Lecture Series. The featured speaker will be Harriet Davis-Kram, Professor of American History at Queens College in New York City. The title of her talk is “Women’s Rights: A Struggle of Race, Class and Ethnicity.”

The quest of American women for equal rights dates back to the 18th century. One need only read the letters Abigail Adams sent to her husband John at the Constitutional Convention, warning him, “You’d better not forget the ladies.”

By the early 19th century, women’s voices were often heard in the debate over the abolition of slavery, and a number of educated women began to see similarities between their own social, economic, and political status, and that of the slaves they were fighting to emancipate. A small group of abolitionists would go on to found the movement for women’s equality. Davis-Kram will explore this history and the internal tensions that were part of the fight for women’s equality.

New York women were very much a part of this movement. Sojourner Truth is well known for her leading role in advocating for the end of slavery. Less well known is the key role she played as an African-American woman in the later struggle for women’s rights. She was a contemporary of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among others. So too was Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck, the Middletown woman who made her mark as a dress reformer and as the publisher of “The Sybil,” a 19th century women’s rights periodical. Saturday’s talk is a prelude to the reinterpretation of the Abraham Hasbrouck House at Historic Huguenot Street. When this house reopens in 2012, the story told will focus on the lives on women in early New Paltz.

Davis-Kram, who has been teaching for over 30 years, specializes in the areas of American Women’s History, American Labor History, Immigration, and New York City History. Dr. Davis-Kram also guides walking tours in New York City focusing mostly on the 19th-century up through 1920. Her talk is made possible through Speakers in the Humanities, a program of the New York Council for the Humanities. Speakers in the Humanities lectures are made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Legislature, and through funds from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

The talk will be held in the LeFevre House, located at 54 Huguenot Street in downtown New Paltz. There is a suggested donation of $5. For more information, call 845.255.1660 or visit www.huguenotstreet.org.

Matilda Joslyn Gage Celebration at Gage Center


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The Gage Foundation will celebrate the 185th birthday of Fayetteville, New York’s most famous women’s rights activist Matilda Joslyn Gage on Thurs., March 24, from 4-7 p.m. with an open house at the newly restored Gage Center, 210 E. Genesee Street, Fayetteville.

The event is free and open to the public. It will feature music and poetry written in honor of Gage. Winners of the annual Matilda Joslyn Gage essay contest will be announced at 4:15. Musical entertainment will follow, with local activist-artist Colleen Kattau performing a song she composed about Gage. The Eagle Hill Middle School girls’ chorus will perform music from Gage’s time, and Ed Nizalowski will play period flute music. Martin Willitts will read from his new poetry chapbook, “Protest, Petition, Write, Speak: Matilda Joslyn Gage Poems” and sign copies of the book at 6 p.m.

Visitors will be invited to “Write on Our Walls”: to share their ideas for programs and exhibits by writing on whiteboard walls in each room. All will be treated to birthday cake provided by Connie Decker of the Chocolate Truffle.

A place of ideas, the Gage Center relies on dialogue to explore the social justice issues that Gage found most important and that still challenge us today.

Beginning March 26, the Gage Center will be open to the public Saturdays and Mondays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at other times by appointment. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. Group rates are available. Watch their website to learn about upcoming events at the Gage Center. For more information contact (315) 637-9511 or foundation@MatildaJoslynGage.org.

FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt Discussion Event


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The New-York Historical Society will host a discussion on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Thursday, March 31, 2011, 6:30 p.m, at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th St. at Central Park West, to be presented in conjunction with the building of the FDR Four Freedoms Park. The program features historian Douglas Brinkley, Ambassador William J. vanden Heuvel, Roosevelt scholar William E. Leuchtenburg, and author Hazel Rowley.

In his State of the Union Address on January 6, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt looked forward to a world in which everyone enjoyed four essential freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These values were central to both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, who made it her personal mission to codify those rights in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Experts discuss the speech and its far-reaching influence, and also delve into this extraordinary couple’s influence on one another.

William E. Leuchtenburg is a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a former Bancroft Prize winner, and the author of six books on FDR. Hazel Rowley is the author of several books, including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: An Extraordinary Marriage. William J. vanden Heuvel is Chairman of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, LLC, as well as Founder and Chair Emeritus of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute. Douglas Brinkley (moderator) is a professor of history at Rice University and a fellow in history at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. He is a member of the board of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute.

The cost is $20 for non-members; $10 for members. Call SmartTix at 212 868-4444 or visit SmartTix.com to purchase tickets.

Photo: The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms, located at the southernmost point of Roosevelt Island, in the East River between Manhattan Island and Queens in New York City. It was designed by the architect Louis Kahn.

Anniversary of John Brown’s Execution


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151 years ago this week, John Brown was executed and his body was returned to the Adirondacks. Had Brown escaped from Harpers Ferry rather than been captured he might well today be just a footnote, one of the tens of thousands that struggled to undermine the institution of slavery in America before the Civil War.

It’s often said that just one thing secured Brown’s place in the hearts of millions of Americans that came after him – his execution and martyrdom. There is another equally important reason Americans will celebrate the life of John Brown this week however – he was right slavery would end at a heavy price.

Last year, I wrote a series of posts following the last days of John Brown’s fight to end slavery. You can read the entire series here (start at the bottom).

Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition Post-Doc Fellowship


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The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University invites applications for its 2010-2011 Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. The Center seeks to promote a better understanding of all aspects of the institution of slavery from the earliest times to the present. The Center especially welcomes proposals that will utilize the special collections of the Yale University Libraries or other research collections of the New England area, and explicitly engage issues of slavery, resistance, abolition, and their legacies.

Scholars from all disciplines are encouraged to apply. The GLC offers one-month and four-month residential fellowships to support both established and younger scholars in researching projects that can be linked to the aims of the Center.

For more information visit http://www.yale.edu/glc/info/fellowship.htm.

The application deadline is April 2, 2010.

The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition
Yale University
PO Box 208206
New Haven, CT 06520-8206
www.yale.edu/glc
gilder.lehrman.center@yale.edu
Phone: 203-432-3339 ~ Fax: 203-432-6943