A Local Field Trip: AC-BAW in Mount Vernon

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(a) An envelope directed to Miss Lynda M. Smith of the Peace Corps, with an Abraham Lincoln postage stamp (U.S. Government work).

I became a stamp collector when a friend of my mom introduced me to the hobby in third or fourth grade. I already loved history and the idea of finding stamps that had been used for mail decades ago and had come from far away places was especially exciting for me. The images on the stamps showed me beautiful art (introducing me to the many iterations of the Madonna and Child for instance), visages of the presidents and historical figures, various animals and plants, and of course, the American flag.  I never collected anything particularly valuable. My stamps were almost all postmarked, and the basis of my collection consisted of duplicates from hobby collectors who never would have been in the position to pay for something rare or expensive. But for me, that was all fine. Maybe I had a few fantasies of discovering something amongst the cast-offs, but there were no “inverted Jennys” to be found.

I can’t believe it’s been this long, but a few months ago, I visited an exhibit about African Americans on postage stamps at AC-BAW Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon. I found out about the exhibit from the community newspaper. As a women’s history student, I wanted to see how Black women figured on postage stamps and in the exhibit.

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(b) Shirley Chisholm (Wikimedia Commons)

On postage stamps, I had seen Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, aviator Bessie Coleman, singer Roberta Martin, and the illustration of the musical Porgy and Bess. I used sheets of stamps of jazz artist Sarah Vaughan and writer Maya Angelou for my own correspondence. However, I was surprised by the vast number of stamps in the exhibit and the number that I had never seen before! (Unfortunately, I am not finding any public domain images of the actual stamps to show within this post, so I will link to outside sources and show images of the individuals I mention…but you should go to the exhibit to see them all!)

Stamps depicting presidential cabinet secretary Patricia Roberts Harris, gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and actress Fredi Washington (in writing only) were among those I had never cast my eyes on before. There were several people of which I previously had no knowledge at all.

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(c) Fredi Washington from Imitation of Life (Wikimedia Commons)

While I was there, I scribbled the names and years of a number of cool stamps that caught my eye. Ethel Payne, a columnist for the Chicago Defender, and Secretary Harris (named above) figure in my research on historical Black newspapers. I wish I knew about these fascinating women earlier! Congresswoman Barbara Jordan‘s stamp had to be one of my favorites though. There are too few women elected officials who have made it onto the postage stamp (the reasons why are a whole other blog post). Congresswoman Jordan was an awesome person about whom I don’t think enough people know.

The exhibit at AC-BAW was originally supposed to close about a month ago, but when I visited, a board member told me that it was extended. So, you should still be able to go see it! If you need a break from your work or perhaps after you finish the semester, go check it out! If you have any particular favorite stamps, share with us!

 

 Image Credits blog post 4.26.17

*Please note that any links to outside sources are for educational purposes. I tried to avoid pages where the stamps were being sold, but some stamps were less visible online than others.

AM I WORTHY: A CHOREOPOEM

BY VAR

Am I worthy? That is the question that I have been asking myself all my life.

Little white girls are told they are from birth and at as if,

They are put on the self worth pedestal and carry it with them.

Black women question whatever good they get

Until a catastrophic or any life changing event

Occurs and they get that Oprah “Aha” moment,

We are told “Don’t be too proud”, “Stay humble”,

“Don’t put on airs”; “Don’t show your Black Girl Magic”.

But not feeling worthy enough has been a many a detriment to many a black girl,

We stay in relationships that aren’t worthy,

Hoping he would change, praying that someday the man you see in him would show up instead,

We stay in a job that isn’t worthy,

Making less than our worth, treated unworthy,

Breaking our backs working long hours,

Hoping someone would recognize our worth,

We hang around girlfriends that aren’t worthy of our time,

Friends that see our worth but are too jealous to tell us,

Or they don’t value their own self worth,

So we sit around and talking about how unworthy we all are, how unworthy we are to leave that man, that job or them girlfriends,

In Webster’s Dictionary unworthy has a black woman’s picture next to it.   

 

About our guest writer: Hailing from the Boogie Down Bronx, Velvet A. Ross is a graduate student in Women’s History and Writer, Filmmaker, Actress and Singer. She is dedicated to writing historically and producing creative pieces about black women who have been marginalized and hidden in the arts. 

The People Have A Lot of Fight Left in Them

by Emma Hochfelder — Emma is a first-year undergraduate student interested in public policy or pre-law.

When the results flooded in on the evening of November 8th I was surrounded by like-minded people who felt assured by the idea that that night, the first woman President of the United States of America would be elected into office. As polls began closing state-by-state and region-by-region, a shadow cast itself upon the nation. In a room filled with a diverse array of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, immigrant statuses, religious beliefs, and gender and sexual identities, I watched each person hit their breaking point. It wasn’t that our candidate lost but, instead, who prevailed. Donald J. Trump became President-Elect of the United States of America. In that moment, I was certain all of the good in humanity had died.

It has been a long, strenuous three months. At college I am surrounded virtually only by people who recognize and combat the hate-mongering tactics of Trump; however, in those three months I also returned home. I’m from a rural community in the heart of the Midwest, suffice it to say, filled with people who turned out in big numbers to vote for Trump. Finding out people that I knew and cared for so deeply could cast their ballot for someone like Trump, I felt betrayed. It isn’t that they all agreed with the then-candidate’s remarks about Muslims, immigrants, or women, but with their vote they condoned it. In those three months I felt a range of emotions and none more surreal than when I stepped foot into Washington, D.C., on January 21st.

On Saturday morning, I woke to headlines of women’s marches already taking place world-wide. I don’t know if anyone at that time could have predicted the magnitude of that day. I rode the school-sponsored bus from New York to Washington, and on our way there I started to pay attention to increasing levels of charter buses I saw whizzing by us. In a ten-minute span I saw at least twelve charter buses, filled to capacity, pass on the highway. I started to recognize it then: whatever was happening today was bigger than a normal rally or protest. The bus traveled the 4.5 hour drive. When we arrived the bus parked at the metro station. We had to take the train to actually get to the location of the march and then travel by foot. Once we arrived at the metro station the line of people to get aboard the train equaled an hour’s worth of waiting. It felt so comforting to know that I was surrounded by like-minded people in a country that felt so hopeless. The time went by quickly. Each train car was filled to the brim, zooming into the heart of the march. After an hour-and-a-half train ride, the doors opened to the metro station caddy corner from the Capitol Building.

My group rushed to street. We began walking over a hill. At that point I couldn’t quite see above the crowd, but I began hearing sounds of disbelief and amazement from those around me. When I got into the intersection, I looked to my left and saw the nation’s Capitol Building, and straight in front of me were hundreds of thousands of people. It was the first time in nearly three months that I could feel myself regain that hope in humanity that I lost in November. There was still something worth fighting for because everyone there and across the nation had a lot of fight left in them.

I didn’t arrive in time to partake in the rally, in fact, I arrived just as the march was officially canceled. That didn’t stop me or the nearly half a million other people who came. Participants seemed to come with different goals despite the fact that many marchers embraced and emphasized the rights a woman has over her own body. We were all unified in the fact that the tactics being used by the new administration were unacceptable and inexcusable. To march in the nation’s capital surrounded by people who seemed to care so deeply about the rights of themselves and other human beings was an experience I will always remember. The entire city was flooded with bodies who refused to accept the racist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, misogynistic, and bigoted dialogue of President Trump. The time for civil unrest concerning the election and the culture that surrounded it surmounted in that march. In a march filled with a diverse array of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, nationalities, immigrant statuses, religious affiliations, gender and sexual identities I saw each person gain back their strength. In those moments I again found my faith in humanity, because despite it all, I vehemently believe love will trump hate.

(Emma’s response is the second of those we are posting about the Women’s March on Washington and Sister Marches. Each response should only be interpreted as the response of the writer and not necessarily that of the SLC Women’s History Program, all feminists, all women, all people, etc. Re/Visionist aims to be a forum for multiple feminisms and multiple perspectives on women’s history.)

The Invisible and the Women’s March

by Vanessa Osuna — Graduate Student of Women’s History

A few weeks ago, thousands of people journeyed to Washington, D.C., to march for unity and solidarity for women’s rights and the rights of the marginalized. Since the Women’s March, the media has highlighted the possibility that D.C.’s march and the other U.S. “Sister Marches” collectively were the most well-attended protest in this country’s history. Marches all around the world resulted in more than 5 million people demonstrating on January 21, 2017. On the morning of the march, as the Sarah Lawrence bus drove away from campus, I wondered how big the crowd would be and the kinds of signs people would take. I thought of the positive messages and the clever tag lines I would read on marchers’ signs, but I didn’t think about what people would do with them after the march. Would people just throw them away? The Women’s March website provided many logistical details, including information regarding bathroom stations and medical tents, but the website did not provide information on trash disposal. It quite honestly never crossed my mind, that is, until I got to the march and I needed to throw something away.

In the aftermath of the march, popular media sites, like conservative site The Daily Wire*, were quick to show the discarded hills of trash at the Women’s March. They were referring to signs that marchers left near the Trump Hotel, the White House, and Columbia Square, to name a few covered in the media below. Popular Twitter profile @TheGOPReport tweeted a picture of a street where signs covered the sidewalk with the caption, “The mess many women left after the #WomensMarch I guess the environment or personal responsibility isn’t something they’re concerned about.” Meanwhile other sites, like Popsugar for example, called it “a temporary museum exhibit.” New York Magazine called marchers’ signs “important works of protest art.” In fact, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History tweeted the day after the march that its “political history curatorial team was out on the National Mall on both Friday and Saturday,” gathering signs. The New York Historical Society, along with other libraries and museums across the U.S., also gathered items from the Women’s March. Media coverage focused on protester signs as trash, but what about other trash? What about the garbage and waste that consists of food wrappers, dirty diapers, and empty bottles?

The National Park Service (NPS) began clean up shortly after the march. A local news report captured what NPS spokesman Mike Litterest had to say, “Our crews reported that while the trash was overflowing, the trash was at the cans,” claiming that, “participants and visitors to the Mall had been very respectful of trying to keep it clean.” Additionally, according to another station, NPS spokeswoman Emily Linroth said, “Fortunately, a lot of people, even though, the trash cans were full, have stacked the trash neatly as close to the trash cans as they could get them, so that is making our job easier.” For the clean-up crew, it wasn’t a question of the type of trash that resulted from the Women’s March, rather a question of the quantity and location of the trash. How does this play into the question of “personal responsibility,” as @TheGOPReport called it?

This gnawed at my thoughts as I remembered seeing those mountains of garbage overflowing from their bins. According to NPS, the garbage wasn’t so bad because even though bins were overflowing, the garbage was still next to or near the bin. I certainly witnessed some marchers discarding their garbage randomly on the march route, but for the most part, I saw marchers throw their trash away onto the overflowing mountain of garbage at a bin. Putting aside the question of protecting the environment, what is the personal responsibility to which @TheGOPReport is referring? NPS indicates that the majority of marchers threw their garbage away, which they called “respectful.” Does that count as personal responsibility?

Anthropologist Robin Nagle wrote a book called Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City. Nagle dove into the world of society’s invisible workers in uniforms, whom she calls “garbage faeries.” Sanitation workers are the people who take your garbage away after you set it curbside the night before pick-up day. They are the people who make garbage disappear. Nagle didn’t just write about sanitation workers, she became one; hers is a particularly interesting perspective. In 2013, Nagle gave a TED Talk about her experience, and she encouraged us all to keep in mind that “in the flow of your days, in the flow of your lives, next time you see someone whose job is to clean up after you, take a moment to acknowledge them,” she says, “take a moment to say ‘thank you.’”

 

The Women’s March highlighted the issues about which people care and for which they are willing to advocate. Since then, the passion to fight for our rights has been ever heightened. The question of personal responsibility cannot be easily answered, but perhaps next time, the march/protest leaders can suggest we bring our own trash bags? Critics will call out the hypocrisy of fighting to make the invisible visible without thinking of those that clean up after us. This is why I urge us to see them right now. I invite you to think about what personal responsibility means to you in the context of waste and in the context of advocacy. I invite you to critique the critic and challenge their claims respectfully. Most importantly, I invite you to do your research to think beyond what we see so that we may engage the invisible.

 

*The Daily Wire is listed among other sources with “bias” in Professor Melissa Zimdars’ index on questionable news sources. We came across this index via the Los Angeles Times.

Quotes found within outside sources (here, local news stations WUSA and WTOP) are written in double quotes for readability.

(Vanessa’s response is the first of those we are posting about the Women’s March on Washington and Sister Marches. Each response should only be interpreted as the response of the writer and not necessarily that of the SLC Women’s History Program, all feminists, all women, all people, etc. Re/Visionist aims to be a forum for multiple feminisms and multiple perspectives on women’s history.)

Recent Events

This past week has been a tumultuous one for many. The new President signed an executive order blocking travel into the U.S. by refugees and many immigrants, and people came out to protest this action over the weekend. The executive order has even led our own college president, Karen Lawrence, to send out a message emphasizing support for the impacted people in our college community.

Each day seems to bring a list of new issues to which to respond, so it’s hard to keep up and feel like you’re staying up to date and responding in a timely manner. In light of that, please forgive us for the delay in responding to the Women’s March.

In the coming days, Re/Visionist will post a few responses from our students to the Women’s March on Washington or its “Sister Marches,” which occurred on January 21, 2017. Since the Saturday before last, there have been a variety of responses to this activism across the country, and I’m sure that you’ve been reading about it or watching it on TV.

The responses that we share cannot purport to be representative of all feminists, all women, or all people. We can only attribute the opinion of each writer to that individual writer. However, as we note in the Re/Visionist Mission Statement, this blog is meant to speak to multiple feminisms, and it is important to record the history of the people at our school. So, we will try to share the range of responses as we receive submissions. We encourage other members of the SLC community to share their thoughts by contacting us at revisionist [at] gm [dot] slc [dot] edu.

Thank you!

Write for Re/Visionist!

It’s the spring semester, and it’s time to get out your calendar again to set your second semester agenda! Re/Visionist is calling for students to get involved in the production of the Women’s History Program’s blog.

Both graduate and undergraduate students of all disciplines are encouraged to participate. As our mission statement says, the blog “aims to promote a critical analysis of history and contemporary issues through the lens of multiple feminisms.” We need your voices to bring a variety of perspectives to the publication!

Please join us to share your ideas and declare your interest in Re/Visionist by attending our upcoming meeting:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

5:30PM – 6:30PM

Slonim House – Stone Room

If you have questions, please email revisionist [at] gm [dot] slc [dot] edu. Thanks!

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

By Amanda Kozar

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in observance of the American civil rights leader’s birthday (January 15, 1929). Some celebrate Dr. King’s legacy through volunteering. Others take the opportunity to learn or teach about the civil rights movement and this particular leader’s efforts and philosophy.

As a historian, I would be remiss if I did not mention the resources available on the King Center’s website. Whether you are researching Dr. King specifically, the civil rights movement more generally, or specific people in Dr. King’s life (such as Mahalia Jackson or Dora McDonald [1]), you might check out the “Digital Archive” from the King Center. You’ll find digitized documents that give you a taste for what is available in the physical King Library and Archives in Atlanta, GA.

Check it out! Have you been to the King Center or the King Library and Archives? Have you researched the U.S. civil rights movement? Let us know if you have any insights to share!

 

[1] Use the search tool on the Archives webpage, as there are multiple documents available.