UCB Libraries

 

Past Exhibit

Other Lives Revealed:
Honoring the Achievements of Blacks and Women

Special Collections presents a few of the lives of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Blacks and women whose accomplishments paved the way toward greater opportunity. This display includes an authentic manumission paper, documenting the freeing of Michael Badeau in 1838, and the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, first published African American poet. Progressive social and political contributions are exhibited in a first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and an inscribed copy of Martin Luther King's Where Do We Go From Here?.

Literary achievements, seen in an autographed copy of Langston Hughes' The Big Sea, and a signed, limited edition of Maya Angelou's Our Grandmothers, are also on view. Photography books document the outstanding artistic endeavors of Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lange, Annie Leibovitz, Carrie Mae Weems, and others. The materials displayed underscore the transformation of these lives over the course of the modern era.

 

Anne Ellis (photographic portrait)
Anne Ellis as a young girl. Ellis wrote Life of an Ordinary Woman,describing
her experiences as a pioneer in Colorado and Nevada.

 

CASE I

Women's physical education classes at the University of Colorado in 1918, in William E. Davis' Glory Colorado: a History of the University of Colorado, 1858-1963. Binding by Laura Wait. 98-4-11.

CASE II

Many Blacks and women whose lives bridged the centuries were hopeful. Anne Ellis, resolute pioneer, survived the death of two husbands and one child. In turn of the century Colorado and Nevada, she cooked in camps for sheep-shearers and telephone gangs, ran a boarding house, took in sewing and laundry, and served as Treasurer of Saguache County. She documented her survival with her two remaining children in The Life of an Ordinary Women, Plain Anne Ellis, and Sunshine Preferred. In 1938, University of Colorado President George Norlin awarded Ellis an honorary Masters of Letters degree, remarking, "You have brought us courage, fortitude, and the determination never to lie down."

 

Even as progress for women and Blacks is undeniable however, twentieth-century artists challenge our understanding of that progress. Gordon Parks' biting commentary -- American Gothic -- taken while he worked for the FSA (Franklin D. Roosevelt's Farm Security Administration Historic Division) shows Ella Watson, a charwoman with mop and broom in hand before an American flag. Carrie Mae Weems' 2000 Hampton Project takes a critical look at turn of the century notions of assimilation of both African Americans and Native Americans. Weems' work responds to the original 1899 project, in which Frances Benjamin Johnson photographically documented the Hampton Institute' s efforts to aid children of slaves and dispossessed Native Americans. Weems' sometimes-controversial installation at the Williams College Museum of Art raises important questions of cultural integration and identity.

Carrie Mae Weems: The Hampton Project, 2000. Vivian Patterson. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 9102.

Anne Ellis scrapbook. Gift of John Carey, Anne Ellis Collection, MS 24.

 

Black Photographers Bear Witness: 100 Years of Social Protest, 1989. Deborah Willis and Howard Dodson. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 3898.

 

Photographs of Anne Ellis: Anne Ellis as a young girl, gift of Jose Cole and Henrietta Boyd; Anne Ellis "in her prime," gift of Henrietta Boyd; Ellis' family group, gift of John Carey. Anne Ellis Collection, MS 24.

 

The Hampton Album, [1966.] Frances B. Johnston. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 1745.

CASE III

Women have used the written word to convey both the need for progress and the debt we owe to our forebears for progress already achieved. Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman) and Phillis Wheatley (Memoir and Poems) inspired and showed the way with their visions of revolutions possible for women and African Americans.

 

Mary Wollstonecraft, British Dissenter and radical, condemned the slave trade as "inhuman" in A Vindication of the Rights of Men, 1790. She argued against Rousseau's limiting notions of women's roles and moved beyond the ideas of other liberal thinkers with her work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792, pointing out that "a woman of talent … will always obtain great power." Phillis Wheatley, kidnapped from the Senegal region as a young girl and purchased by John Wheatley of Boston, was educated with his children, learning to read the Bible, Milton, and Greek and Latin classics -- literary works that greatly influenced her writing. Her poetry, praised by George Washington and Voltaire, was published in London in 1773, making her the first published African American poet and an inspiration for nineteenth-century abolitionists.

 

The importance of literacy to giving voice to the Black experience may be seen today in Boulder's Janet Driskell Turner, a local great-grandmother who learned to read with the Boulder Public Library BoulderReads! program. Her 2001 memoir, Through the Back Door, shares her family's experiences as sharecroppers in the early decades of the twentieth century.

 

Dr. Maya Angelou, inaugural poet, civil rights activist, producer, and Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University, paid tribute to the tenacity of such women in her 1994 work, Our Grandmothers.

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792. First Edition. Mary Wollstonecraft. HQ 1596 W6 1792c.

Memoir and Poems, 1835. Phillis Wheatley. PS 866 W5 1835.

 

Through the Back Door, 2001. Janet Driskell Turner.

 

Our Grandmothers, 1994. Maya Angelou; lithography by John Biggers. Signed by the author. OS 2 PS 3551 N464 O97.

CASE IV

Women artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have negotiated gender stereotypes to create new roles for women, both in music (in the "All Girl" bands of the 1940's) and in the arts.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the earliest women photographers, participated in a community of writers and artists that included Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, for whom she illustrated The Idylls of the King (Special Collections, PR 5558 A2C3). Here her subject was Marie Spartalli, pre-Raphaelite artist and model for Rosetti and Burne-Jones; Cameron drew upon Spartalli's Greek heritage in her symbolic portrait of Hypatia, Alexandrian Neoplatonic philosopher. Margaret Bourke-White, photographed in 1934 before an experimental "television eye," broke new ground as first female photojournalist for Life Magazine and first female war correspondent; she was among the first journalists allowed to document the death camps at the close of World War II.

 

Building on the achievements of such women, Clarissa Sligh synthesizes the artistic process with the documentary, examining issues of gender and ethnicity, family and society through the juxtaposition of media. Sligh, one of the relatively few contemporary African American book artists, observes, "Using old family photographs, I reconstruct myself … as I construct the unsayable, the unspeakable, and the unrepresentable through this framing process, a healing occurs."

Swing Shift: "All Girl" Bands of the 1940's, 2000. Sherrie Tucker. ML 82.T83.

"What's Happening with Momma?" Clarissa Sligh. Oversize 2, 98-10-12.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron's Women, 1999. Julia Margaret Cameron. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 8645.

 

For the World To See: The Life of Margaret Bourke-White, 1983. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 408.

CASE V

The commitment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family to the cause of civil rights reflects half of a century of dedication. In 1957, King organized the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with other ministers, working for Black voting rights. In 1963, he organized mass demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama; these protests led to President Kennedy's call for civil rights legislation, passing as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. King, as pastor, activist, and advocate of non-violent social change, won the Nobel Peace Prize in December of 1964. He was assassinated April 4, 1968.

 

His 1967 work, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, is an autographed copy -- a gift to his parents. King's work continues through the commitment of his family. Coretta Scott King is shown here at her husband's funeral in a photograph by Flip Schulke, a photojournalist best known for his documentation of the civil rights movement.

Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community, 1967. Martin Luther King, Jr. Inscribed by King to his parents. Gift of John Sparti. 97-5-42.

"Coretta Scott King at The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968." Flip Schulke, 1968. Photography Collection.

 

"Portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." 1966. Robert A. Stengstacke, in A History of Black Photographers: Reflections in Black, 2000. Deborah Willis. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 8814.

 

"Mrs. Martin Luther King in Front of Her Atlanta Home." Diane Arbus, in Diane Arbus: Magazine Work, 1984. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 149.

CASE VI

The case for civil rights has been one made through both individual effort and public commitment. Manumission papers from St. Genevieve, Missouri, freeing the slave Michael Badeau in 1838, reflect one man's personal victory. More public acts were seen in the work of Frederick Douglass, freed slave and abolitionist orator who traveled the through the Northern states, Canada, and Britain for the cause of freedom and civil rights. He, like Mary Wollstonecraft, argued for a more inclusive interpretation of the rights of man. In a century that saw both the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies and in the French colonies, and the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, Douglass reminded humanity that the "energy" behind "Liberty -- Equality -- Fraternity," could "roll back the combined and encroaching powers of tyranny and injustice." (Speech of 1 August 1848.)

 

The vestiges of this period of injustice could be felt into the twentieth century in the memory of emancipated slaves, such as the woman below, photographed by Dorothea Lange in the 1930's. Rosa Park's seemingly personal act of defiance in her refusal to surrender her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955 resulted in her arrest, trial and the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott. A 1956 Supreme Court ruling declared the discrimination she had faced unconstitutional. Marion Palfi, who had fled the aggression of Hitler and devoted her life in the United States to the documentation of injustice here, captured the Chicago School Boycott of 1964 in her photograph, "That May Affect Their Hearts and Minds."

"That May Affect Their Hearts and Minds," Chicago School Boycott. Marion Palfi., 1964. Photography Collection.

Manumission Papers of Michael Badeau, 1838. St. Genevieve, Missouri.

Hidden Witness, 1999. Jackie Napolean Wilson. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 8931.

 

I Dream a World, 1989. Brian Lanker. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 1974.

 

Dorothea Lange: Photographs of a Lifetime, 1982. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 1971.

CASE VII

Early twentieth-century women emerged as a political force, both in grassroots, suffragist movements and on the larger political stage. Christina Broom (possibly the first woman "press photographer") photographed suffragist events in Britain between 1908 and the First World War, demonstrating the range of activities undertaken by the Women's Social and Political Union, the militant Women's Freedom League, and the non-militant National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. British photographer Jane Bown captured the spirit of Mary Leigh, one of these tireless activists, in later life.

 

In the larger political arena, Eleanor Roosevelt addressed the growing international crisis of the 1930's; she observed that, "Every nation is watching the others on its borders, analyzing its own needs and striving to attain its ends with little consideration of the needs of its neighbors." Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India from 1966 to 1977 and from 1980 to 1984, spoke before women meeting in Rae Bareli, just prior to the 1980 Lok Sabha elections.

Mrs. Broom's Suffragette Photographs: Photographs by Christina Broom, 1908 to 1913. Diane Atkinson. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 496.

This Troubled World, 1938. Eleanor Roosevelt. 97-5-24.

 

Women of Consequence, 1987. Jane Bown. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 428.

 

Portraits: Inge Morath, 1986. Inge Morath. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 2425.

 

Indira Gandhi, 1985. Raghu Rai and Pupul Jayakar. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 2725.

CASE VIII

The twentieth century brought opportunity for African American artists. Langston Hughes emerged as a prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance, whose award winning poetry, plays, and novels laid bare societal problems of racism and social injustice. He reflected on his writing, "Literature is a big sea full of many fish. I let down my nets and pulled. I'm still pulling." This first edition copy of The Big Sea: An Autobiography, and the Jerico-Jim Crow playbill, are both inscribed to Boulderites. Frances Wolle was a UCB Professor of English. Florence Becker Lennon was a New York activist, author, and radio host (WEVD New York City) who maintained contact with numerous writers, including Hughes, throughout her life. Lennon retired to Boulder.

 

Gordon Parks, award-winning photographer, writer and filmmaker, was the first African American staff photographer for Life magazine. It was through his work for Life that he documented the poverty of Latin America and Harlem and the struggle of the Civil Rights Movement, themes that appear in this retrospective of his work, Half Past Autumn.

Roy DeCarava, the first Black photographer to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship, teamed up with Langston Hughes in 1955 to document life in Harlem in The sweet flypaper of life. DeCarava's 1981 book shown here (Roy DeCarava: Photographs) illustrates city life, exemplified by saxophonist John Coltrane.

Half Past Autumn: A Retrospective, 1997. Gordon Parks. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 8465.

Roy DeCarava: Photographs, 1981. Roy DeCarava. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 884.

 

Jerico-Jim Crow [playbill]. Inscribed to Florence Becker Lennon. Florence Becker Lennon Collection. Gift of Florence Becker Lennon. MS 38. Correspondence files.

 

The Backlash Blues [broadside], 1966. Langston Hughes. PS 3515 U 274 B3.

 

The Big Sea: An Autobiography, 1940. Langston Hughes. Inscribed to UCB English Professor Frances Wolle. Gift of Frances Wolle. PS 3515 U 274 Z5 1940.

CASE IX

From the imagery of the controversial Leni Riefenstahl, whose work helped to define Germany of the 1930's, to the later work of Barbara Morgan, Lois Greenfield and Annie Leibovitz, twentieth-century women photographers have traced changing notions of athleticism and the body. Boundaries have been broken in all sports, including that of mountaineering, as seen in Birkett and Peascod's Women Climbing.

Schonheit im Olympischen Kampf, 1937. Leni Riefenstahl. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 2792.

Women Climbing: 200 Years of Achievement, 1989. Bill Birket and Bill Peacod. Mountaineering Collection.

 

Women, 1999. Annie Leibovitz and Susan Sontag. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 8839.

 

A History of Women Photographers, 1994. Naomi Rosenblum. David H. Tippit Collection. DHT 8389.

Captions by Susan Guinn-Chipman