Friday, February 15, 2019

Tough Love

Poster reading "The fact that yours is better than anyone else's is not a guarantee that it's any good. The Book Arts Press Valentine's Day Thought for 1998."
Poster reading "You never stop learning what you can give up. The Book Arts Press Valentine's Day Thought for 1991"The Book Arts Press is a small operation now run by the Rare Book School out of Charlottesville, Virginia. Originally founded by Terry Belanger at Columbia University, the BAP was the precursor to Rare Book School itself and provided a space in which to experiment with the history of printing and the book. Nowadays, The Book Arts Press only appears on publications that are generated by the school.

A longstanding tradition of the Press is to issue a keepsake poster on Valentine's Day that challenges its viewers with a sometimes hard-to-swallow adage. Here in Special Collections, for some reason, we have a number of these posters from the 1990s. Our personal favorite is, "The fact that yours is better than anyone else's is not a guarantee that it's any good." If you're not really one for Valentine's Day and prefer harsh truths to sweet nothings, then come to Special Collections and ask to see Presses B642fac (the posters are all housed together in the same portfolio).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Shutting Down Shockley

Page from the 27 Oct 1969 issue of "The Science World", showing a photo of Shockely being confronted by applauding Black students on campus.
"Black students at Dartmouth acted with courage, restraint and astuteness to prevent Shockley from mouthing slanders against them and their race..." - Errol Hill, 1969

Being a Black student at Dartmouth is hard enough in 2019, but what was it like being a Black student here ~50 years ago? This is the question I sought to answer as a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellow. To examine the Black student experience at Dartmouth in the 1960s and 1970s, I relied largely on the Papers of Errol G. Hill - Dartmouth’s first tenured Black professor.

Errol Hill was born in Trinidad in 1921. He came to America in 1960 after receiving fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Theatre Guild of America to attend Yale University, where he earned his Bachelor's degree, his Masters of Fine Arts and his Doctorate of Fine Arts, all in 6 years. In 1968, he came to Dartmouth as an Associate Professor of Drama, was promoted to a full professor the following year and eventually was appointed the John D. Willard Professor of Drama and Oratory. Aside from his role teaching at Dartmouth, Hill played an active role in Black student life by serving as an advisor to the Afro-American Society, being involved in the introduction of the Black Studies program, and acting as the college’s first affirmative action officer.

Hill’s collection at Rauner is extensive, documenting his personal and professional life, and it really helped me garner a view of campus life during the time he taught here.

One of the major events chronicled in Hill's collection is Dr. William Shockley's visit to Dartmouth's campus in 1969. Dr. Shockley, a nobel prize winner and professor at Stanford University, was invited to Dartmouth as part of the fall term meeting of the National Academy of Science, which was being held at Dartmouth. Shockley had requested the opportunity to deliver his contributed paper on psychometrics, in which he suggested that there might be genetic differences in intelligence among races. Under the constitution of the Academy, any member is entitled to deliver a paper at a regular meeting on his own request, and thus Shockley was scheduled to give a controversial lecture, titled "The Offset Analysis of Racial Differences."

On October 15, 1969, as Shockley began his speech, twenty-five to thirty Black students stood up and applauded for him, along with the rest of the audience. However, seventeen of those Black students refused to sit down and did not stop applauding, preventing Shockley from giving his speech. All
carbon copy of Errol Hill's "The Shockley Incident: a considered viewpoint."
seventeen students were suspended for one term, without restrictions. In protest, every member of the Judicial Advisory Committee for Black Students (JAC), which included Errol Hill, resigned. The JAC had released a 29-page report after the incident concluding that no college penalty should be assessed and that charges against students should be dismissed, as Shockley’s speech was 'group libel' and therefore not protected under the constitution. The report is available in Rauner, as well as a statement about the incident written by Hill himself.

In that statement, titled "The Shockley Incident: a considered viewpoint," Hill asks important questions about to what end free speech should be restricted to protect minority students. Hill's viewpoint is unique and significant, and he establishes his status as an ally to the students by taking a definitive stance against Shockley, saying "there is apparently no law against the slander of the black race by a white scientist." As he would mention years later in his oral history conducted by the college, Hill was often seen as by the Black students on campus as a liaison between themselves and the administration: "I was the only person that they would allow to come in and talk with them about the problems they were having." This statement exemplifies why Black students felt comfortable speaking with Hill, who unlike the majority of the college, sided with them and understood that responsibility for the incident lay "with those who aided and abetted the expression of these slanders by giving Shockley permission to speak and providing him a platform to do so."

So much has changed for Black students at Dartmouth but, at times like this, I realize that there is still so much more to be done. It is almost impossible to read about the Shockley event and not draw parallels with David Horowitz's talk on campus earlier this year. Dartmouth is still inviting bigoted speakers to campus that threaten the safety of minority students who are still having to protest and stand up for themselves. As we celebrate Dartmouth's 250th anniversary, I urge us all to reflect on those years, what Dartmouth did wrong during them, and what Dartmouth can do better. And to continue to act with the courage of the Black students who protested Shockley’s appearance in order to make campus a better and more inclusive place.

The Papers of Errol G. Hill (ML-77) are available in Rauner Library, as is his oral history (DOH-12). One can also learn more about the Shockley incident by viewing the Shockley Incident records (DA-23).

Posted for Anneliese Thomas '19, recipient of a Historical Accountability Student Research Fellowship for the 2019 Winter term. The Historical Accountability Student Research Program provides funding for Dartmouth students to conduct research with primary sources on a topic related to issues of inclusivity and diversity in the college's past. For more information, visit the program's website.