February is Black History Month, and while we all take time to recognize and reflect upon our nation’s history, present, and future, we can also make Black History Month come alive thanks to the Library of Congress. Today (February 4) would have been Rosa Parks’ 102nd birthday, and surely not by coincidence, an exhibit of her letters and photographs opens at the Library of Congress.
Selections from the 10,000 item collection will be available for public viewing on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building from March 2 – 30, and then will be included in the current exhibition The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle For Freedom, which is open through September 12, 2015 on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Both exhibits are open Monday – Saturday from 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM.
Pictures of some of the items are available here from The Guardian (full article here) and just from these few pictures, the breadth of the collection is astonishing: there are images of poll tax receipts, a Presidential Medal of Honor, a pancake recipe, and even a letter complaining about not being allowed in the library. Rosa Parks’ act of refusing to give up her seat on the bus is well-known throughout our country – it is rightfully regarded as a seminal moment in not only the civil rights movement, but the whole of U.S. history. To be able to see her thoughts and words in her own handwriting provides a stark perspective of what led her to strike one of the first blows against Jim Crow. Looking at and reading these documents allows us to appreciate the immense significance and courage of her actions – not just on that day in December 1955, but in the ensuing decades until her passing in 2005.
If you can’t make it up to D.C. to view the exhibit, fear not – the Library of Congress will be posting some of the collection online later this year. And you can always check out some of the SMCM Library’s materials about Rosa Parks and the larger U.S. civil rights movement.
March Madness gets us all in the end. For the last three years, the library has been following The Morning News Tournament of Books. Yes, we are fans and the brackets are displayed in an exhibit case in the library.
This year’s winner is The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. Although the tournament started with a play-in round of Iraq war themed novels won by Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk, the official opening round started with The Round House by Louise Erdrich versus The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The Fault in Our Stars was the staff book club’s March pick so we have a soft spot for it (along with most of the US.) Green’s win over Erdrich set up the first of two match-ups between The Fault of Our Stars and The Orphan Master’s Son, the quarterfinals.
After The Orphan Master’s Son eliminated The Fault in Our Stars in the QF it moved on to semifinals against Chris Ware’s comic box, Building Stories –
and was defeated! Goodbye Orphan Master’s Son. So how do two titles knocked out of the tournament end up in championship final? They come back as zombies. In the TOB books rise from the dead. Zombie #1, The Fault in Our Stars earns its spot in the final with a controversial win over Building Stories and Zombie #2, The Orphan Master’s Son takes down Gone Girl.
— Pamela Mann
I’m following up on my last post about the Haiku Cubes and the Japanese American Experience exhibit with an interview with Tiko Mason. The concept and the content of the exhibit was her idea I thought I’d let her explain it to you.
Pamela: Can you share with our readers where the idea for the library exhibit came from?
Tiko: This past summer I participated in the St. Mary’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SMURF) program. I had intended to research the Japanese-American experience from the arrival of the issei (first generation Japanese to come to America) to the yonsei (my generation) using my family’s personal experience as text. Prior to the project I knew my great-grandfather Seizaburo’s name, that he had lived in Seattle, and that something bad had happened to him during the war. I had no idea that on my first visit to the National Archives and Records Administration I would happen upon a gigantic file, replete with over a hundred documents, handwritten letters, memorandums from the Department of Justice and the FBI, all topped with Seizaburo’s mug shot and fingerprints. My project morphed into a creative engagement with this file, supported by other historical research, that grappled with my personal questions of identity in relation to this not-so-distant family member from the not-so-distant past. The documents in this exhibit come from that research.
Pamela: Had you read When the Emperor was Divine before you started your project?
Tiko: I did read When the Emperor was Divine prior to beginning the project (at the suggestion of my excellent adviser Professor Beth Charlebois). I also re-read it 3 or 4 times during the course of the summer (while doing my research). Julie Otsuka’s language and description of these events sparked my own creativity. I came to see so much of my great-grandfather Seizaburo in the father from the story, and there are points where the narrative eerily describes my own family’s experience.
If you’ve been in the library you may have noticed these cubes around the building. The text on the cubes are haikus written by St. Mary’s students in response to this year’s FYE summer reading book, Julie Otsuka’s When the Emperor Was Divine. They serve as companion pieces to an exhibit co-curated by Tiko Mason on the Japanese-American experience during World War II.
You may view the exhibit on the 2nd floor of the library in the exhibit case by the elevators. For off-campus viewing, check out the exhibit photos on our Facebook page. For more information about the topic see the “Japanese-American Internment 1942-1945″ Research Guide.