Northwestern University librarian Kathleen E. Bethel has written that the Readex collection of African American Periodicals provides “access to little-known treasures of the Black press.” Among its 170+ rare titles, many of which were not collected by most libraries, are several radical periodicals. Interest in radical American periodicals—especially in unfamiliar and transient titles published by African Americans and other minority groups—continues to grow among scholars and students in different disciplines.
Below is a sample of mastheads and front pages of publications in this genre, all of which are available in African American Periodicals,1825-1995, the essential companion to African American Newspapers, 1827-1998.
On February 3, 1920, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported on a surgeon who was “grafting the intestinal glands of a goat into human beings to cure those treated of sterility.” The report continues:
Within the past two years, by means of such operations, Dr. Brinkley has made it possible for three men and one woman to become parents. In all four cases the glands of a male goat were used. In each instance a baby boy was born.
In his most recent case Dr. Brinkley used the gland of a female goat.
“I do not say this woman will have a girl baby,” said Dr. Brinkley today, “but I am experimenting. It may be merely a coincidence that all the babies so far have been boys.”
The notorious career of medical mountebank John Brinkley—including years of goat-gland experiments—can be traced through hundreds of articles in Early American Newspapers. Three days after the Fort Worth Star-Telegram story appeared, Brinkley, who had no formal medical education, expanded his claims, as seen in The San Diego Union and Daily Bee:
On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on the German Empire. Although public opinion had been mixed, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson stood before a special joint session to make the case that “armed neutrality…is impracticable.” “The wrongs against which we now array ourselves,” he said, “are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.” The Senate passed Wilson’s war resolution 82 to 6; the House voted 373 to 50.
The following front pages—representing more than 20 states and 25 cities—capture the momentous American decision to join the Allies in a “war to end all wars.” Each was published a century ago today and can be found in Early American Newspapers, Series 1 to 13, 1690-1922.
Thomas Aiello, Associate Professor of History, Valdosta State University
There is little about the life of Jackie Robinson that historians do not know. Each part of his saga has been analyzed time and again. Among the periods sometimes given short shrift, however, is the time between the seminal event of his signing with the Montreal Royals, AAA farm team of Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers, in October 1945 and his arrival in Sanford, Florida, for his first spring training in an unapologetically racist South….Each of those accounts uses major black weeklies to create a picture of Robinson’s actions and the black response, but looking at smaller black weeklies, less trumpeted than the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender, a more nuanced picture of that response helps color the solid scholarship that already exists. > Full Story
“The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse
While on the walk immediately overhead pass the myriad feet of Broadway...”
—Walt Whitman (from an unpublished poem)
A century before gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and his antihero Raoul Duke there was Mortimer Thomson and his fictional persona Q.K. Philander Doesticks. One of the “bohemian” gang who gathered at Pfaff’s Beer Cellar in Manhattan, Thomson published jaunty anecdotes under his unusual penname in newspapers across America during the 19th century.
His own creation—full name Queer Kritter Philander Doesticks, P.B. (Perfect Brick)—quickly became a favorite reporter. In November 1854 a New York Evening Post article, likely written by Thomson himself, provides this biographical information on Thomson’s eccentric alter ego:
Readex recently sat down with David Goldfield, the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and author of America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation. In our short discussion, Goldfield described how his extensive study of U.S. religious and Southern history—including newspaper editorials, church sermons and other primary source documents—enabled him to identify a critically important aspect of the American Civil War not often discussed by other historians.
Professor Goldfield also explained why he uses digitized primary sources in his teaching to excite and engage students. Watch the interview to learn how online resources like The American Civil War Collection help students gain a wider view of history based on a variety of perspectives.
Contact us for more information about The American Civil War Collection or other primary source collections for classroom use.
“Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge”—a new book about the risks one young woman took for freedom—was published yesterday. Author Erica Armstrong Dunbar, Distinguished Blue and Gold Professor of Black Studies and History at the University of Delaware, explores not only the 22-year-old’s courageous escape from the Philadelphia home of the first First Family but also the subsequent efforts George Washington took over many years to have her recaptured.
Writing about Dunbar’s new work, Annette Gordon-Reed, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of “The Hemingses of Monticello,” says, “There is no way to really know the Washingtons without knowing this story.” In a discussion at a recent Readex-hosted American Library Association event, Prof. Dunbar shared the story of Ona Judge:
As explained above, Prof. Dunbar’s sources include historical newspaper coverage spanning Judge’s escape “from the household of the President of the United States,” as described in a 1796 runaway slave advertisement, to articles such as this 1845 item reprinted in the National Anti-Slavery Standard:
That’s the lesson David Goldfield, the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, taught at the Readex breakfast presentation at the 2017 American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Atlanta. Prof. Goldfield supported this short declaration with several poignant examples.
While our minds tend to enjoy simple, clear-cut, good-versus-evil narratives, the reality is much more complex, Goldfield argued. He used his research surrounding U.S. religious and Southern history to provide a new look at the causes and outcomes of the American Civil War, first explaining why he finds the often-told story of the war “woefully incomplete.” He asked his audience of academic librarians to entertain a very different perspective on the war.
Throughout his presentation, Goldfield challenged the usual chronicle surrounding the war—the familiar debate of states’ rights and slavery—and instead focused on the consequences of righteousness and the effects of removing the barrier between church and state. According to Goldfield, the Civil War represented the failure of our political system, caused by the injection of religion.
On January 12, 1888, an unexpected blizzard rushed across the American Northwest. The storm arrived on a relatively warm day and many people were unprepared when the temperature plunged that afternoon. Under the headline, “Midnight at Noon,” the Boston Daily Advertiser reported:
At Fargo…mercury 47’ below zero and a hurricane blowing….At Neche, Dak. the thermometer is 58’ below zero.
Reports in Early American Newspapers include many accounts of adults and children caught in the lethal blizzard. Although relatively few of its victims were schoolchildren, the historic event is now commonly referred to as the Schoolhouse or Schoolchildren’s Blizzard. The plight of schoolchildren was an immediate focus of the reporting. On Jan. 13, the Duluth Daily News wrote:
“The storm came up suddenly and it is feared that many school children who were out on the prairie are lost. Whistles were kept blowing all day as signals to the unfortunates.”
On the same day, the Boston Daily Journal added more details: