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University Archives and Film & Media Archive material on exhibit at The Luminary

9 Sep

“The Marvelous is Free” is an exhibition of archival and historical ephemera that places St. Louis’ Black Artists’ Group, a collective of African American experimentalists working in theater, visual arts, dance, poetry, and jazz, within a network of like-minded artists and activists producing similar experiments in politics, form, and community between the late 60s and early 70s. Exhibit curators Anthony Romero and Matt Joynt bring together a range of rarely seen objects, films, and ephemera from personal and institutional collections and present a landscape of art and activism that includes the Black Arts Movement, Queer Liberation, the struggle for Latina/o civil rights, and more.

Washington University Photographic Services Collection, Events, 1968 student protest (protest-68-359E-9)

Washington University Photographic Services Collection, Events, 1968 student protest (protest-68-359E-9)

The exhibit features some material from University Archives including photographs from WU student protests in 1968, a peace arm band and photographs from a Vietnam Moratorium event in 1969, material from the 1969-1970 yearbook, fliers from events around Vietnam and race relations and publications from the Students for a Democratic Society Records, and 1970s women’s publications from the Women’s Resource Center Records.  The exhibit also includes clips of interviews with Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez recorded for Henry Hampton’s series I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African American Arts from the Film & Media Archive.

The opening reception is from 7:00pm to 10:00pm on Friday September 11 at The Luminary, 2701 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63118.  The exhibition will be on display Wednesdays – Saturdays from 12:00pm to 6:00pm each week until November 5, 2015.

–Information courtesy of The Luminary.  For more details, visit their website.

Image credit: Washington University  Photographic Services Collection, Events, 1968 student protest (protest-68-359E-9).

For more information on the Students for a Democratic Society Records, see the online finding aid.

For more information on the Women’s Resource Center Records, see the online finding aid.

For more information on the yearbooks, see the online finding aid.

For more information on the Washington University Photographic Services Collection, see the online finding aid.


Risking Everything Exhibition

18 Sep

Washington University Libraries Film & Media Archive presents a traveling exhibition from the Wisconsin Historical Society on Freedom Summer, Risking Everything. Through September 29, visitors can see the exhibit on Level One of Olin Library featuring materials selected from over 1,100 boxes of unpublished papers created by individual activists, community groups, and national organizations.

 Confluence Preparatory Academy students tour the "Risking Everything" exhibition in Olin Library.

Confluence Preparatory Academy students tour the “Risking Everything” exhibition in Olin Library.

The Wisconsin Historical Society also has a companion website for the exhibit that contains more detailed explanations and over 30,000 digitized primary documents and photos that can be viewed in their original context. All documents are from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s online archive of Freedom Summer records.

 Rudolph Clay, African & African American Studies Librarian, and Urban Studies Librarian speaks to students from the Confluence Preparatory Academy. — at Washington University Libraries - Olin Library.

Rudolph Clay, African & African American Studies Librarian, and Urban Studies Librarian speaks to students from the Confluence Preparatory Academy. — at Washington University Libraries – Olin Library.

Gathered during the mid-1960s, this collection is an incredible rich source of primary documents created by volunteers with the Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee (SNCC) and other activists who were engaged at the grass-roots level in the deep South during Freedom Summer. After Freedom Summer graduate students Bob and Vicki Gabriner, and Mimi Feingold Real who were studying at the University of Wisconsin saw an opportunity to create an archive that would document the extraordinary things they had seen and experienced working in the South. For more on the history of the collection, see this article.

 Confluence Preparatory Academy students tour the "Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer" exhibition in Olin Library. — at Washington University Libraries - Olin Library.

Confluence Preparatory Academy students tour the “Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer” exhibition in Olin Library. — at Washington University Libraries – Olin Library.

The Freedom Summer Records are a perfect companion to the Film Archive’s Henry Hampton Collection and the recently acquired Richard Beymer Collection both of which also have many primary source interviews, photographs, film, and documents relating to Freedom Summer.  An exhibit of material from these two collections, Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer can be viewed in the Grand Staircase Lobby & Gingko Room in Olin Library through October 25.

These three collections focus on activists and volunteers who may not have been famous but who were the backbone of the movement, including Amzie Moore, Unita Blackwell, Victoria Gray Adams, and the numerous students, volunteers, and courageous residents who dared to register to vote.


Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer

28 Aug
Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Group photo of students and volunteers with Richard Beymer at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer

An exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer is now on view in Olin Library, Gingko Room.

Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer highlights primary source materials from the Washington University Libraries Film & Media Archive’s newly acquired Richard Beymer Collection and inaugural Henry Hampton Collection.The exhibit also celebrates the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) grant awarded to the Film & Media Archive in 2014 to preserve Beymer’s documentary A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer.

Best known for his roles as “Tony” in the film adaption of West Side Story (1961) and “Ben Horne” in David Lynch’s series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), actor Richard Beymer’s documentary film, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer (1964) offers a rare portrait of segregated Mississippi during this historically significant time in American History. Beymer was one of the few filmmakers to spend significant time working with Freedom Summer volunteers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). As a result, other documentary filmmakers frequently seek his footage. Most recently, filmmaker Stanley Nelson relied heavily on A Regular Bouquet when completing his film, Freedom Summer, which premiered in June 2014 on PBS. Beymer’s footage was also included in Henry Hampton’s seminal documentary series, Eyes on the Prize (1987). Featured in episode five, Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) Hampton combined stock footage and first-hand accounts to retell the events of Freedom Summer.

Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Portrait of three boys during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964.  © The Richard Beymer Collection.


In 1964, civil rights activists launched Freedom Summer, a project in Mississippi to register black voters, provide educational opportunities, and build the movement for integration. The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella group of civil rights organizations that included SNCC working in Mississippi, issued a call for volunteers, and nearly 1,000 responded. After receiving training, the volunteers, mostly white, northern college students and recent graduates, joined the existing group of predominantly black activists.

Richard Beymer set out to film these activities in order to create a training tool for COFO’s future volunteers.  Comprised of testimonials from volunteers and Black Mississippi residents, A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer consists of rare and historically significant primary source depictions of segregated Mississippi against the backdrop of violent opposition. The film also includes footage of Freedom Schools, which provided instruction to over 3,000 black students. The schools directly challenged Mississippi’s segregated education system by offering instruction on black history and constitutional rights. Portraying the intimate relationship between teacher and student, the film includes interviews, class instruction, sing-alongs, and a discussion of the student-written Pleasant Green Magazine

Students at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

Students at a Freedom School during Freedom Summer, Mississippi, 1964. © The Richard Beymer Collection.

The threat of racist violence haunted Freedom Summer from the beginning. On June 21, one week after the first volunteers arrived for training, three activists, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, disappeared. The FBI conducted a massive search and found their corpses on August 4. Despite the threat of violence, Freedom Summer volunteers engaged in door-to-door voter-registration efforts. Beymer filmed the registration drive and interviewed participants. One resident discussed the economic tactics used by segregationists: “When you put ‘By whom are you employed’ [on the application form], you’re fired by the time you get back home.” Mississippi officials rejected the vast majority of voter-registration applications submitted by African-American residents that summer. But the events of Freedom Summer increased public support for new civil rights legislation, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When Henry Hampton made Eyes on the Prize one of his main goals was to include the voices of people who had not been recorded or widely recognized before. Many local activists in remote areas of Mississippi who had organized early on to gain voting rights, often at great risk, were featured in the episode Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964). Hampton interviewed Robert Moses and Amize Moore, two of the main architects and planners of Freedom Summer, Unita Blackwell, local activist who became one of the delegates in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Casey and Tom Hayen, Freedom Summer volunteers, and Myrlie Evers, civil rights activist and widow of slain Mississippi leader Medgar Evers. Hampton also interviewed segregations, including William Simmons, a member of the Citizens’ Council—a pro-segregation organization that operated in Mississippi—to show what the prevailing political climate was like in Mississippi in 1964 and what the Freedom Summer volunteers had to combat. By interviewing people from both sides of the issue, Hampton brought a multifaceted portrait of Mississippi to viewers.

Together A Regular Bouquet: Mississippi Summer and Mississippi: Is This America? (1962-1964) create a complex portrait of life in Mississippi during Freedom Summer and an understanding of the social and political pressures that existed during this volatile period in our nation’s history.



Vincent Harding: Historian, Activist, and Advisor

23 May

Vincent Harding

Vincent Harding passed away on May 19, 2014. He was 82 and was an advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr. for ten years, and later acted as an academic series advisor on Eyes on the Prize and The Great Depression. 

Harding helped King write his speech Beyond Vietnam-A Time to Break Silence, which took a bold anti-war stance and alienated many of King’s supporters, including President Johnson. Harding was among a core group of King supporters who carried on his programs after he was assassinated.

Harding was not only a historian, but as someone who had lived through many of the pivotal events of the civil rights movement, he was an ideal person for Henry Hampton to bring into his project, Eyes on the Prize. One unique primary resource at the Film and Media Archive are educational sessions that Henry Hampton organized called “school.” These were two-week sessions that Hampton organized for Blackside producers where he invited scholars, activists, historians, and others to come and talk about their experiences. These sessions were invaluable as they gave producers an in-depth immersion into the subject matter, and a chance to talk to people who had lived through many of the events that would make up the stories of Eyes on the Prize.

Harding was a key participant in the Hampton’s “school” and  conducted sessions for Eyes on the Prize I, and II, and The Great DepressionBlackside also conducted pre-interviews with Harding for Eyes on the Prize II, and This Far by Faith, and the Film Archive holds a filmed interview Harding conducted for This Far By Faith. Some of the material only exists in audio format, but there are video sessions as well. These are unique materials that have been digitized and are available to view in the Film and Media Archive. Please contact the Film Archive for more information.



Library unveils Great Depression conversations

31 Jan

Fully searchable resource brings invaluable, previously inaccessible oral history within reach. 

In March of 1992, many years after photographer Dorothea Lange’s 1936 image of a migrant mother in California became one of the most iconic images from the Great Depression, a camera crew sat down with two daughters of the subject of Lange’s photo.

“We’re talking to Norma Rydlewski and Katherine McIntosh about their mother and their experiences,” the interviewer explained. “I guess what I’d like to get first of all is [a] sense of what kind of woman your mother was. What does it take to live through that?”

Portrait shows Florence Owens Thompson with several of her children in a photograph known as “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange.

For about 40 minutes, Rydlewski and McIntosh shared their stories with Blackside, Inc., a film company founded by 1961 Washington University graduate Henry Hampton. In the footage and transcript of that conversation, now accessible for the first time along with many more such interviews through WU Libraries, the family’s daily challenges come to life. The sisters describe not only their strong, beautiful mother but everything from field work and playing with dirt clods as children to early union meetings and the economical “saving grace” that was World War II.

When The Great Depression, Blackside’s seven-part documentary series, debuted on PBS in October of 1993, the program wove together short segments from extensive interviews with 148 people who experienced the Great Depression, including Rydlewski and McIntosh. As illuminating as the documentary is in its own right, the many additional hours of oral history that Blackside recorded in the process of creating it are a treasure trove of primary source material—all of it newly viewable, browsable, and searchable online.

“Hampton’s film crews conducted hundreds of hours of interviews for their documentary series, but in most cases only a small portion of those interviews made it to the final program, leaving the complete interviews virtually unseen and inaccessible,” says Nadia Ghasedi, head of the library’s Visual Media Research Lab, where the Henry Hampton Collection resides. “This new resource of both the complete interview transcripts and video from The Great Depression enables anyone to search and view invaluable primary source material related to a pivotal time in 20th-century American history. It also allows researchers to see which portions of the interviews appeared in the final program, giving insights into the documentary storytelling process.”

Digital Archivist Jim Hone, who digitized more than 110 hours of interview material for this project, notes that the Blackside team produced a body of work that is “the gold standard of documentary form.”

“They sweated the details on every photograph, sound, and moving image in their programs,” Hone says. “Better still, they left us a meticulous record of their preparations, meetings, screenings, and self-critique. You can learn a lot by studying them.”

The diverse range of individuals whose reflections on the 1930s are now easily accessible include a grandson of Franklin D. and Eleanor Rooselvelt, celebrated authors Maya Angelou and Gore Vidal, longtime New York Times political reporter Warren Moscow, actors Karen Morley and Ossie Davis, Morton Newman, who worked on the Upton Sinclair campaign for governor in California, and many more from all walks of life. The multicultural, multiregional approach brings needed depth and color to an era that is often remembered and depicted as a monolithic event dragging the nation down for a decade, says Film & Media Archive assistant Alison Carrick, who managed the workflow of the digitization project.

“When we think about the Great Depression, images of the dust bowl and breadlines immediately come to mind,” Carrick says. “And that is part of the history Blackside covered with this series, but they also revealed complex and lively stories that are often overlooked—from union struggles, to heated political campaigns, Works Progress Administration projects, the New Deal, and more. What Blackside managed to do with this series and these interviews was to bring that period of history back to life in a vivid, engaging way.”

Hone adds that in working through every minute of the interviews and taking notes in the process, he’s been struck by the stories of human survival, persistence, and endurance.

“I recently started working on another Blackside series digitization project—this time America’s War on Poverty,” says Hone. “It’s like working on a jigsaw puzzle of history. I look forward to it every day.”

The Great Depression Interviews project illustrates the rich collections that WU Libraries staff members are bringing within easy reach of students, faculty, and the wider world. It’s also one example of the collaborative, complex nature of the work required to do so. From early steps like identifying the types of media on which each interview exists and cataloging the camera rolls, sound rolls, and video items, to transcribing and encoding the content in text files according to best practices, to the digitization of more than 300 videocassettes and final design of the online, user-friendly interface, efforts to make such collections as freely accessible and usable as possible are far from simple. Archive staff work closely with the Digital Library Services unit to bring such projects to fruition.

The result is a seamless, powerful tool with much potential for interdisciplinary research.

“One of the best features of the site, thanks to DLS, is that it is text/keyword searchable,” Carrick says. “This creates a way for users to pinpoint a subject, name, or event and quickly look to see where it occurs in each transcript. Our hope is that this feature will lead users to other transcripts they might not have thought contained similar subject matter.”

The homepage URL for The Great Depression Interviews is

Photo information for image above: Among the scores of interviewees whose reflections on the Great Depression comprise a newly accessible WU Libraries resource are two daughters of Florence Owens Thompson, the subject of Dorothea Lange’s iconic photograph.

Article by Evie Hemphill (@evhemphill), a writer and photographer for Washington University Libraries in St. Louis.

Out of the Vault

24 Jan

The Visual Media Resource Laboratory (VMRL) and Department of Special Collections hosted an open house Thursday, January 16 in Olin Library. A wide array of print resources and digital collections—many of them new—were on display in various public areas of Level 1. Curators, archivists, and other staff were on hand to discuss the resources, answer questions, or lead activities.

Out of the Vault Event Out of the Vault Event

Some highlights from the event were a photo booth with a green screen where participants could create photos of themselves using images from the Sharepoint database with images from the collections.

Visitors had a chance to access newly digitized resources, now available online, including:

  • Full transcripts and video footage of nearly 150 interviews conducted for The Great Depression, a documentary by the same filmmakers who produced Eyes on the Prize. The documentary featured a tiny fraction of these fascinating interviews with people from all walks of life. This new resource, never before available, offers much more.
  • An extensive digital exhibition about William Gass,celebrated author of fiction and literary criticism and WU professor emeritus of philosophy. The exhibition focuses on his education, military service, teaching career, and literary achievements.
  • A digital exhibition about James Merrill, an influential, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who left his manuscripts and many other personal items to WU.
  • A photo booth, where participants learn about the library’s image database and have a photo taken of themselves in a historic image from our collections.

Displays in the flat cases at the entrance to Olin Library, including:

  • Fashion Design Program Records of WU fashion shows and student designs, now held in University Archives.
  • A sampling of materials from Rare Books and Manuscripts, with more on display in the Department of Special Collections.
  • Samplings of materials from the collections of the Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL), an archive of 19th- and 20th-century illustrations.
  • Giveaways of buttons featuring images from WU’s special collections.
  • World War I posters from the newly acquired Louis and Jodi Atkin collection. Vote to determine which poster will be the first to be displayed for an extended period of time.
  • An exhibition—In Character: The Life and Legacy of Mary Wickes—continues in the Grand Staircase Lobby and Ginkgo Room. Wickes, a famous character actress, was a WU alumna whose scripts, correspondence, photos, and other memorabilia are in University Archives.
  • A continuing exhibit of miniature books from the Julian Edison Collection.
  • The opportunity to visit the Department of Special Collections to view materials on display there.

Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement

25 Jan

Shiloh Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Danny Lyon.

Shiloh Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia. Photo by Danny Lyon.

Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement: An Exhibit at the Film & Media Archive

January – May, 2013

The Film & Media Archive presents an exhibition on photography and the civil rights movement. Featuring images and books from photographers who helped document the dramatic moments in the movement including Danny LyonJames KaralesCharles Moore, Leonard Freed, and Bruce Davidson.

The media coverage both in photographs and television news footage of the resistance and brutality against activists had an undeniable impact on the general public and helped turn the tide in favor of the civil rights movement. As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his book Why We Can’t Wait, “The brutality with which officials would have quelled the black individual became impotent when it could not be pursued with stealth and remain unobserved. It was caught—as a fugitive from a penitentiary is often caught—in gigantic circling spotlights. It was imprisoned in a luminous glare revealing the naked truth to the whole world.”

Henry Hampton’s documentary series Eyes on the Prize began with the story of Emmett Till’s murder. Up until Till’s murder, every year there were disappearances and unprosecuted murders and lynchings of African-Americans. The shock of the Till case was amplified by his mother’s decision to allow a photograph of his battered and mutilated body be published in Jet magazine. Of course, violent acts had occurred for many years before the 1950s, what was different was the revealing of these images in the mainstream media.

Protesters attacked with fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Photo by Charles Moore.

Protesters attacked with fire hoses in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Photo by Charles Moore.

During the Birmingham campaign the violent response to citizens’ right to protest was documented by photographer Charles Moore, Bruce Davidson, and many other major news networks. The startling images of ordinary citizens, men, women, and children being attacked with dogs and water cannons made the front page in many newspapers around the world. Charles Moore later said, “Pictures can and do make a difference. Strong images of historical events do have an impact on society.”

Untitled, Time of Change (Damn the Defiant), 1963. Photography: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.

Untitled, Time of Change (Damn the Defiant), 1963. Photography: Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.

Another moment which was captured on film and photograph was the Selma to Montgomery March. The iconic image of the march captured by James Karales was used in the promotional and cover art of Eyes on the Prize.

The exhibit will run from January – May, 2013, and can be viewed at the at the Film & Media Archive, Monday – Friday – 8:30-5:00 p.m.