Friday, July 17, 2015

Where the Wild Things Really Are

A child's illustration depicting "My street on Friday," "My street yesterday," and "My street tomorrow."In response to Martin Luther King's assassination on April 4, 1968, riots broke out in Northwest Washington, DC's predominately black neighborhood around 14th and U streets. 2,500 law-enforcement officers were able to establish order in the early morning of Friday, April 5. By then 150 stores had been looted and 200 people had been arrested. On Friday, April 5, the riots spread to other parts of the city. They were still going strong on Saturday, April 6, despite the deployment of more than 13,600 federal troops and National Guardsman. The security forces were under strict orders from Mayor Washington not to shoot rioters. When the riots finally died down on Sunday twelve people had died and more than 1,000 had been injured.

In response to the riots and to help the children who attended the inner city schools in the riot areas cope with what was happening around them, Norman W. Nickens, the assistant superintendent, gave the following instruction to his teachers:
"Remember, classes simply cannot go on as usual. Unusual events have occurred and your children are preoccupied with these. In times of crisis, children learn rapidly. Therefore, make use of the events of the April 5 weekend to help them learn. Do not fail them by lecturing when they need to talk."
A child's illustration and writing recounting an incident with a man in a bloody shirt asking for directions.John Mathews, a reporter on education for The Evening Star in Washington, DC, who quoted the above passage in a 1968 article he wrote with Ernest Holsendolph for the New York Times Magazine had access to some of the material that had been created by the children. According to Mathews, "the discussions, compositions and pictures showed that fear and a feeling that the adult world was spinning out of control were prevalent emotions."

We recently received several drawings created by these kids who were then between the ages of 8 and 14. The feeling of devastation is prevalent in all of them, so is the fear. However, Mathews also noticed a certain "excitement and elation" related to the fact that "before the troops arrived in force, masses of black people controlled the streets and for once, it was truly safe to be black."

A child's illustration showing a crowd in front of a line of buildings on fire.
A child's illustration showing looters and a policeman.

A child's drawing showing a fire engine in front of a burning building.A child's drawing showing a limp person or mannequin in front of a destroyed shopfront.

A child's drawing of looters.

To view the collection, which contains 23 drawings, as well as a variety of posters, student newspapers and ephemera of that time ask for MS-1335.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Alpha Delta Phi Meeting Minutes

A handwritten list with the header "Class of '78."Dartmouth College fraternities have played a large role in college fraternity history and inspired the movie whose poster almost every Dartmouth student has in his or her dorm room: Animal House. It is no surprise that Dartmouth fraternities are still very much alive today, but walking into a basement on “Frat Row” tells only a limited story.

A handwritten page of text.At Rauner library, one can look into the fraternity life at Dartmouth as far back to the 1840s when the first ones opened on campus. Almost all of the fraternities have extensive records housed there with photographs of the fraternities’ drama troops, the Delta Kappa Epsilon initiation books with mysteriously burned edges, and what I found to be most interesting, the meeting minutes.

One fraternity that should definitely be checked out is the Alpha Delta Phi—today known as Alpha Delta or AD—meeting minutes. A fraternity that just recently got derecognized, it gives people the chance to see the mischief the fraternity got into, how the brothers’ values changed with time, and how some traditions stayed the same. For instance, in the early twentieth century, the brothers discussed the house parties they would hold for Winter Carnival. Then when the U.S. entered World War I, they rapidly turned their attention to Europe even discussing if polygamy will be necessary in Germany after the war. But all the while, they continued freshman recruiting rituals or what they called “chinning.”

A handwritten ledger including a sketch of three men and a flag.As a freshman girl, I may have no idea what goes on in the meetings Wednesday nights at fraternities, but now I can know what the brothers did, what they cared about, and what they thought about. It gives us an inside look not just into the minds of the people who lived through large events like World War I and World War II, but into what college boys thought at the time. In my opinion, it does not seem too different than how they think today. Don’t believe me? Have a look at the records then knock on a fraternity house door, a house that may have stood there since 1919.

To see the meeting minutes for Alpha Delta, ask at Rauner for the Alpha Delta Phi, Dartmouth College Records (DO-3).

Posted for Allison Gelman '18, HIST 62 class.