Banned Books Week: Uncle Remus

Today we continue our celebration of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, a week dedicated to bringing forward challenged books, by looking at some of these books in our collection. This journey takes us to the post-reconstruction United States in the South, in the arms of the beloved Uncle Remus as he passes on traditional African folklore. The comical stories of the mischievous Brer Rabbit, Brer Bear, and Brer Fox entertained the children on Uncle Remus’s lap and readers alike.

Remus Cover

The character of Uncle Remus was brought to life by author Joel Chandler Harris. Harris was born in Eatonton, Georgia on his family’s slave plantation, and heard these dialect tales as a child from slaves. He later crafted these tales into a narrative and made them available to a large white audience. Other writers of his generation recorded these stories, but Harris’ creative use of African-American vernacular and ability to further universalize the conflicts between the weak and the powerful made his collection the only one that really caught on with readers.

Uncle Remus Title

Harris’ original collection of stories, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings (1880) has gained popularity across the globe, having been translated into over 40 languages, and it has never gone out of print. Special Collections holds an 1881 edition of this book, which is representative of the beginning of the folklore movement.

To get his works from the original storytellers to readers around the world, Harris was said to have found inspiration in a novel nearly equal in controversy: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. At Special Collections, we have several editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a variety of languages, with the 1852 first edition being shown here. Both novels deal with the spread of opinions of race, slavery, and discrimination through storytelling to young children. Even as a piece of anti-slavery groundwork for the Civil War, Harris felt Stowe’s novel remained sympathetic to the institution she wished to condemn by painting a too-generous picture of the slave master. Through the Uncle Remus stories, Harris attempted to set aside the southern defeat that had divided America, and instead create a romantic and endearing story to reconnect the two sides. This charges the main controversy, both at the time of publishing and still today.

Uncle Tom's Cabin Title

Many readers and scholars have noted the theme of race and presence of racial stereotypes would still be offensive to modern readers, earning the stories what seems to be a permanent seat on the banned books list. Further adding to the controversy of Uncle Remus, Disney produced a movie in 1946, Song of the South, as a visual interpretation of Harris’s work. The movie never was made available for public purchase because of the same racial themes, despite it’s famous song “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah” and legacy as Disney’s first film to feature “flesh-and-blood-players” (Song of the South’s 1946 Campaign Book). What scholars have called “the negro situation” has resulted in Disney Park’s Splash Mountain log flume as perhaps one of the only tangible memories of Song of the South.

Despite the challenged legacy of the stories, historical merit remains strong. President of the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials, Tyrone Brooks, believes:

“There should be an appreciation of all that history because it tells you where we were, and how far we’ve come. But it also tells you have far we have to go.”

Looking back on this piece of reconstruction history and analyzing sources like Harris’s works, although controversial, allows us to accomplish the very thing Brooks is describing. Controversy can breed change even in contemporary times.

Brown and White, First Week of Class 1966

Following the 100 year old Freshman Handbook, here is the front page of the Brown and White from the first week of class in 1966. This 50 year old newspaper provides a glimpse at what freshman orientation and the beginning of the semester were like. The newspaper is searchable and available in its entirety through The Brown and White Archive as part of Lehigh’s Digital Library. This archive contains every issue of the Brown and White from its founding in 1894 to 2015.

Front page of Brown and White, 9/14/1966
Front page of Brown and White, 9/14/1966

The top image is of a freshman cap or “dink,” which was a prominent part of the regulations highlighted in the recently digitized 1916 Freshman Handbook. According to the article, upperclassmen regularly attempted to steal freshmen’s dinks, which would greatly inconvenience the freshmen victims.

Also of note are the plans for the opening of Mart Library, which is now part of Fairchild Martindale Library. The Mart Library was dedicated to engineering and the sciences, was estimated to cost $1.5 million, and eventually opened in 1968. 50 years later, plans for a major transformation of Fairchild Martindale Library are in the works.

Sonnet SLAM! with Shakespeare’s Folios

 

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Literature aficionados around the world gathered on April 21 st to honor William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death. Events were hosted across the world, especially in the English speaking countries. At the Globe Theater, they had a 2.5 mile interactive course of short films called “The Complete Walk.”
Prince Charles attended a televised performance about the Shakespeare’s life at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.

While Lehigh is across the ocean from Shakespeare’s home turf of England, we still have enough reasons to celebrate his life and works. Here at Lehigh University, we honored William Shakespeare by hosting a Sonnet SLAM! in Linderman Library Bayer Galleria. Attendees could choose to listen to the sonnets, or read one aloud. The event was an open-mike, open to everyone to recite one of their favorite sonnets, or one they wrote themselves.

Special Collections displayed all four of the Shakespeare’s Folios owned by Lehigh. They were showcased only during the event. Since Shakespeare’s death (also thought to be around the time of his birth, as well) coincides with National Poetry Month, Lehigh was able to honor both occasions at the Sonnet SLAM!

The Sonnet SLAM! was sponsored by the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries and the LehighUniversity Creative Writing Program.

To learn more about the Lehigh’s Shakespeare Folios, read “The Shakespeare Folios and Forgeries of William Shakespeare’s Handwriting” or contact Special Collections.

LEPOCO 50th Anniversary

Congratulations to the LEPOCO (Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern), a now ingrained Lehigh Valley institution, for turning fifty this year. For the last fifty years, the Lehigh-Plepocoocono Committee of Concern has been the voice of peace and environmentalism in the Lehigh Valley. The committee began as a local group advocating for the end of the Vietnam war under the name of “The Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern to End War in Viet Nam”. The group, spearheaded by Peter Cohen, advocated for an end to the draft and the war. This was the focus of LEPOCO until the war officially ended in 1975.

They fought against the war for the first decade of their organization. Through marches, rallies, posters, and talks, the message of peace and understanding was spread through the Lehigh Valley. With events like the Harrisburg Seven and celebrities like Jane Fonda coming to speak in the area, the group was able to become known nationwide. While the war was still going on, LEPOCO set their sights on President Richard Nixon. They called for his impeachment beginning in 1972. The continuing political involvement of the group expedited the distrust and investigation into President Nixon’s hidden activities.

vietnamThe fact that they had accomplished the goal of ending the war did not stop the Committee, rather it opened up more opportunities to promote peace and wellness outside of Vietnam. After the Vietnam War, worked as activists to help those affected by the war in Vietnam and build relations with Japan through a sister-city project, which produced the Japanese Garden which now sits in Bethlehem. After the Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident, LEPOCO fought against the building and construction of nuclear energy facilities which coincided with their anti-nuclear weapon position. From the 1970s to the present, LEPOCO has also supported labor rights with assisting the farm workers movement and Cesar Chavez in the 1970s and continuing to work for civil rights throughout its history. LEPOCO has been one of the largest and most prominent activist groups in the Lehigh Valley and is continuing its work to bring peace to the world to this day.
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Today, the Lehigh University Special Collections houses Archives of LEPOCO which includes correspondence, posters, pamphlets, photographs, slides, business records, newsletters, and newspaper clippings all referencing the group’s activist activities. This collection is open to researchers learn more about LEPOCO and peace activities in Lehigh Valley.
For more information about the collection, please contact Special Collections.

 

Charter Day of Lehigh University

150 years ago, on the 9th day of February 1866, the charter of the Lehigh University was approved by Andrew Gregg Curtin, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
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Steve Kreider: The Game Changer

Lehigh University Photograph Collection
Steve Kreider with Outstanding Player Trophy in 1978.

The Lehigh-Lafayette Rivalry Week is upon us again. We were flipping through past issues of the Brown and White, and decided to spotlight a year where Lehigh was victorious over the Leopards (surprise, surprise.) In the 1978 rivalry game, the 113th to be played, Lehigh triumphed, 35-17.
Lehigh trailed Lafayette until the third quarter of the game, but then had a 21-point burst.  Who is especially interesting is the game-changer we found.  His name is Steve Kreider.  He’s cited as a major player in the game.  Upon further research, we discovered that Steve Kreider may just be one of the most well-rounded people alive.
Kreider had a stellar college football career.  He was named an All-American Wide Receiver by the Associated Press in 1977.  That year, he helped the Lehigh Engineers snatch the Division II national championship.  He had 72 catches, 1,567 yards, and 19 touchdowns (we don’t know much about football, but we assume this is all very good). His academics weren’t shabby either- he was a Rhodes Scholar candidate.
Kreider would go onto further success in the National Football League.  After his senior year of college, he was drafted to the Cincinnati Bengals. He served as a wide-receiver for the team for seven years.  He even played in the Super Bowl game against the 49er’s.
He dedicated himself to his studies in his spare time away from football. Though he was an exceptional electrical engineering student at Lehigh, he went on to graduate school for business (a bold jump from engineering).  He studied at the University of Cincinnati and received his MBA and doctorate in finance from there.
Now, what is Steve Kreider up to?  He’s was Chief Investment Officer of Legg Mason Inc.’s Western Asset Management and was hired in 2014 to be Chief Investment Officer of Western & Southern Financial Group Inc.
So, essentially, Steve Kreider may be one of the most impressive people you’ll ever hear about.

Brown and White Vol. 90 no. 23: Kreider eyes his football future: pro career beyond the horizon?
Brown and White Vol. 91 no. 17: Ex-QB Kreider makes it big
“Ex-Bengal Kreider to Run Western & Southern’s $46 Billion” on Bloomberg

Armistice Day

Now known as the Veterans Day, “Armistice Day” was declared as a national holiday by President Woodrow Wilson to celebrate the end of the Great War on November 11, 1918 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). Members of Lehigh University participated the World War I in many fronts, many lives were lost. To show the appreciation to their services and to honor their memory, Lehigh University dedicated the Alumni Memorial Building to “commemorate the services and sacrifices of Lehigh Alumni and undergraduates” in the World War I.

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Happy Halloween from the Hill!

fraternities-seal-skullHappy Halloween!

From the Epitome 1913, Fraternities greeting the readers with Lehigh Seal decorated with skulls, ghosts and tombstones!

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Lehigh Celebrates its Sesquicentennial

Lehigh University is celebrating its Sesquicentennial!  Founded in 1865 by Asa Packer, Lehigh University has been gracing South Mountain now for 150 years.  Asa Packer’s goal for the University was to aid the “intellectual and moral improvement” of the Lehigh Valley (see Sesquicentennial timeline here.)  Its graduates now reach far beyond the Lehigh Valley.  Ten-percent of its current student body is international while it also sends students abroad through the Lee Iacocca internship program and a large number of other global study opportunities.

Lehigh has been reigning in its sesquicentennial with concerts such as the Lehigh Block Party, surprise gourmet dinners for students ala Diner en Blanc, and preparing for the Lehigh-Lafayette rivalry game.  An online countdown was launched to spotlight 150 different important moments at Lehigh in preparation for the anniversary.

A number of academic projects were created, too. There is the digital project “Still Looking For You” where people can contribute photos with written memories that describe historical Bethlehem.  The Leadership Breakfast Program is an opportunity for executives and professionals to meet over breakfast once a month and learn new leadership skills.  Lehigh University is also bringing distinguished lecturers to campus, such as Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone, whom will be speak about school reform in the United States.

Students are reveling in the festivities on campus!  We have to say, for being 150 years old, Lehigh still looks good!