Welcoming UK Professor Reinette Jones for Black History Month – How Knowledge Inspires Progress

Every February, public libraries “celebrate” Black History Month, yet does it inspire positive outcomes in our communities year round? On February 2, at 1:30 p.m., SCPL has a chance to do just that by welcoming UK professor Reinette Jones, founder of the Notable Kentucky African Americans database. This award-winning research tool documents achievements and milestones that ultimately challenge us all to be our best.

Professor Jones’ own accomplishments honor the legacy of Carter G. Woodson, an African American who promoted “Negro Achievement Week” in 1924. Woodson dedicated his life and career to promoting these achievements, and it evolved from a single week to the modern-day Black History month.

In 1915, twelve thousand African Americans visited Chicago that summer for an exhibit highlighting racial and social progress since the Civil War. A University of Chicago alumnus, Woodson traveled from Washington D.C. to participate. Moved and inspired by the event, he organized a national movement. He founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which focused on outreach and materials teaching black history in schools, colleges, churches and communities. In 1924, the Association created Negro History and Literature Week, which they renamed Negro Achievement Week. A week in February was selected because it is the month Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass were born.

Woodson opposed the commercialization or “trivialization” of African American history in textbooks and materials sold for purchase, and published the Negro History Bulletin beginning in 1937 and a school textbook. In the 1960s, volunteers teaching in the Freedom Schools during the Civil Rights movement upheld those standards. During that decade, Frederick H. Hammaurabi, founder of the House of Knowledge, an educational and cultural center, promoted the permanent shift from a single achievement week to Black History Month.

In February, SCPL welcomes University of Kentucky librarian and professor Reinette Jones. Author of Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky, at UK libraries, Jones noticed “…we [had] been unable to fulfill requests for a current biographical reference on African American Kentuckians.” She created the NKAA database, “…a continuously updated online reference source that is tailored to the profiles of African Americans in and from Kentucky.”

Describing her February 2 program, Jones explains “There are always a few unknowns in history. Some can be found in the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA).” She will share the stories of some lesser-known persons from Scott County. They include Sgt. Harrison Bradford, who led the San Pedro Springs Mutiny in Texas in 1867, in the fight for fair treatment for his fellow African American soldiers. Lillian Nareen White was the first African American to play basketball at UK, and there are many more. Their stories inspire us to achieve our best, and to do good in our communities throughout the year.

Sources: NKAA database; BlackPast.org-blackpast.org/perspective/history-black-history-month

Archaeology Adventures @ Your Library

Adventure in Archaeology with Jonathan Keith

Jonathan Keith, a Scott County native who is now an archaeology grad student at Utah State University, explains how Cultural Resource Management protects archaeological sites at Scott County Public Library, December 19 at 6 p.m. Keith earned his anthropology degree from University of Louisville, and is completing his Master’s at Utah State.

A profession combining academic and research disciplines, it “…is a combination of white-collar and blue-collar work, with much of it performed according to “…Cultural Resource Management standards stemming from the Antiquities Act of 1906, and National Historic Preservation Act of 1966,” explains Keith.

The standards protect significant sites and prevent “…extensive damage in places like Danger Cave in Utah. Kentucky had an infamous looting incident at Slack Farm in the late 1980s that involved the looting of hundreds of Native American graves and burials; ultimately this incident led to more stringent laws and to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act,” said Jonathan.

During two digs at the prehistoric Florida Everglades site, he joined a team performing “faunal” analysis on over 100,000 bones. Species ranged from large-mouth bass and alligator to a Florida Water Rat, pig frog and white-tailed deer. Jonathan also worked at the Pepper House, the historic homestead of Elijah and Oscar Pepper, the founders of Woodford Reserve. One of his favorite projects was recording architectural features of the Central Pacific Railroad through Utah, from near the western boundary of the state all the way to Golden Spike at Promontory Point.

Although archaeology is often associated with the romance and swagger of the fictional Indiana Jones character, Jonathan admits it requires adapting to challenging working conditions, like those he endured at the Hill Utah Test and Training Range. “The survey was conducted over a very mountainous landscape highlighted by steep cliffs, scree and razor-sharp limestone rocks in the summer heat, and had very few trees for shade. However, at the top of the mountain we had a great view of the Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island.”

This free library program provides an up-close view of an unusual vocation that Jonathan finds very rewarding, as he documents artifacts that tell a story about the rich legacy of our nation’s history and culture.

Considering Veterans’ Day: When the Great War Moved from Memory to History by James Bartek, Ph.D, SCPL Information Staff

In the United States, Veterans Day is observed every November 11 and honors all veterans, past and present. It is distinct from Memorial Day, which traces its origins to the American Civil War and commemorates those killed in conflict.

The first Veterans Day was observed in 1954, and came about after extensive lobbying on the part of World War II veterans for a more inclusive commemoration. Before then, Veterans Dayhowever, the United States, along with other Allied nations reserved November 11 for “Armistice Day.” Armistice Day, which would later overlap with Remembrance Day in Europe, was first observed in the US on November 11, 1919. Promulgated by President Woodrow Wilson, it marked the anniversary of the armistice that concluded the World War a year earlier. America’s involvement in the conflict was brief, but transformational and traumatic. Over the course of eighteen months between April 1917 and November 1918, American society mobilized on an unprecedented scale, heralding the age of “total war.” Four million men would be conscripted into the military. Two million would eventually serve overseas in France. World-wide, some eighteen million people were killed during the four and half year conflict, a number that included 117,000 US servicemen. Roughly half of the Americans who died perished from disease, especially the dreaded Spanish Influenza. The remaining, some 53,000, were killed on the battlefield. Of those, nearly 26,000 died during the six-week Meuse-Argonne Campaign, alone. Part of the final offensive against the Germans that commenced in September of 1918, the operation encompassed more than 1 million American soldiers and to this day remains the largest and bloodiest military undertaking in American history. While the number of total American dead is dwarfed by the casualties of other conflicts such as the Civil War (750,000) or WWII (417,000), the vast majority of all losses suffered in WWI occurred within a six-month period. In twenty-four weeks of combat, the United States lost nearly as many killed as it did during the entire eight years of the war in Vietnam.

The common poppy has become synonymous with remembering the dead of WWI in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. In America, however, the red flower largely lost its meaning in this regard after the adoption of the more general Veterans Day. Its origins as a symbol of remembrance of the dead stem not from its color – which is sometimes mistaken as representative of blood – but from its ubiquity on the Western Front. Massive and sustained artillery bombardments turned the area into a lunar landscape devoid of vegetation, and the perpetual churning of the land increased the lime content of the topsoil to the point that little would grow in the short term. The exception was the field poppy, its vivid orange-red a stark contrast to the brown and lifeless cratered mudscape, and its presence was particularly noted on freshly dug graves. It was this sight that inspired the Canadian soldier John McCrae to write his famous poem “In Flanders Fields” in 1915 after visiting the grave of his friend who had been killed during the Second Battle of Ypres:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

McCrae – who died in 1918 from pneumonia – received widespread praise for his poem. It was an American, however, who ensured that the poppy would forever be tied with the dead of WWI, at least in France, Britain and the Commonwealth nations and, for a time, the United States. Moina BelleMichael was a professor at the University of Georgia when American entered the war in 1917. Taking a leave of absence, she volunteered with the YMCA in New York, training volunteers for overseas work. Inspired by McCrae’s “In Flanders Field,” she penned “We Shall Keep the Faith” in 1918:
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.

Michael afterwards vowed to always wear a silk poppy in remembrance of those lost. Shortly thereafter, she struck upon the idea of selling them to the public in order raise money for disabled veterans. The idea was popular, and the “remembrance poppy” took hold in both America and Europe. In 2011, Corporal Frank Buckles, the last American WWI veteran, died at the age age of 110. With his passing the Great War moved from memory to history. We can longer directly ask the doughboys questions we might want to know: what motivated you to serve? How do you feel about your experience? How did it affect you, personally? What we are left with are veterans’ oral histories, memoirs, diaries, and letters as indirect links to that bygone era. Though Armistice Day is no longer commemorated as a separate holiday in America, as we near the centennial of the end of a conflict that saw American forces mobilized and killed on levels not seen before, it is perhaps fitting to reflect on the war one more time – about those who fought it, what they believed they were fighting for, and how it transformed the country – before it, too, like the last veteran, permanently fades from American historical consciousness.

More Than Books – How Libraries Inspire Connections

More Than Books – How Libraries Inspire Connections

Adams Memorial- By Sharon Roggenkamp

A new program on Cemetery Symbolism, set for Monday, October 8 at 6:30 p.m. features Johnna Waldon from Lexington Public Library. Walden, the president of the Kentucky Genealogy Society, considers genealogy a professional specialty and personal hobby. Listening to stories passed along to her by her grandmother, today she studies headstones and their inscriptions. Whether they appear on “big grand monuments or the small simple field stones” said Waldon, they reveal social, economic and historical context.

Two historical footnotes confirm they also inspire moments of shared experience in that setting, and the lives of writer Henry Adams and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt intersected at a famous gravesite in Rock Creek Cemetery in Maryland.

Called the “Adams Memorial”, it was sculpted by Augustus Gaudens (1848-1907), in 1891. Gaudens is most famous for his bronze monument depicting Union Lieutenant Robert Gould Shaw, a privileged son of white, wealthy abolitionists, and the soldiers of the unit he led, one of the first African American regiments in the Civil War, who died together in battle.

Henry Adams commissioned him to create a monument to his wife, Marian, said to be the inspiration for his novels, Daisy Miller and The Portrait of a Lady. A lively, vivacious and popular hostess and photographer, she committed suicide in 1885, after battling depression following the death of her father.

The monument is a stark, powerfully moving life-size statue of a woman shrouded in the graceful folds of a dark black granite cloak, her eyes closed. Soon it attracted ordinary visitors and prominent Americans, including Mark Twain.

In 1918, Eleanor Roosevelt discovered a packet of love letters exchanged by her husband Franklin and her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Devastated, she offered him his freedom, but a bargain was struck between them, at the urging of his mother, Sara, and for the sake of their children. Deeply troubled and grieving, Eleanor drove herself out to the cemetery to visit the Adams memorial, and reflect on its meaning. It is not surprising she later explained she found it comforting because it depicted someone who "transcended pain and hurt to achieve serenity."

A library program begins as a simple entry on a calendar, followed by a phone call, e-mail or conversation with the person who will present the program. Yet the unique thing about a library, is how these conversations branch off in new directions, as in the story of the “mysterious memorial” to Marian Adams.   Best of all, as Ms. Waldon shares her knowledge and experience, the visitors who give up their time to listen and participate will share theirs, just one more example of the way libraries enrich communities.