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Today we’re taking a quick peek at the Amherst of 120 years ago. William J. Newlin was a student at Amherst College from 1895 to 1899, he later returned as a Mathematics and Philosophy professor and taught here for nearly fifty years. We have a handful of glass plate negatives that Newlin took as a student and that now reside in our photograph collection. Followed by the photographs of Allan W. Forbes a mere ten years later, these images tell an interesting story about life at Amherst College a little more than 100 years ago.

click on an image to see it larger

Following the lamentable events in the town of Amherst last night, and as the community awaits an estimate of the damages and the full list of casualties, we felt that it would be appropriate to take a look back at the history of Emily Dickinson related violence in Amherst.

The earliest destruction associated with Emily Dickinson is, alas, confined mainly to conjecture. Following a series of mysterious nocturnal fires in the town of Amherst in the late 1870s and early 1880s, rumors began spreading of sightings of a white clad figure in connection with the blazes. The complete destruction of the college’s Walker Hall on the night of March 29, 1882, one of this series of fires, was linked with Dickinson some decades later. In a deathbed confession, mathematics instructor Fred A. Gaylord revealed that he had been maintaining a passionate correspondence with a mysterious and poetical local lady with dreadful penmanship; days before the blaze he had threatened to publish her letters if she continued to refuse to meet him in person. Her letters were, of course, completely destroyed in the conflagration.

Walker Hall after fire

Burned out shell of Walker Hall, 1882

 


 

Some fifty years later, in 1925,  Amherst College students were holding their annual declamation contest in the College Grove. Unrest began during the event when factions supporting Arthur J. White, who recited Wordsworth, and Elmer P. Hurst, reading Emily Dickinson, began to deride one another’s literary discernment. Violence erupted after the judges unanimously chose White. The brawl quickly spread through the crowd leaving a large portion of the student body nursing injuries to body and dignity.

President Olds remonstrated the students the following day and officially banned both Dickinson and Wordsworth from campus.

President Olds addressing students

President Olds addressing students in front of College hall

 


 

In April of 1956, as news of Millicent Todd Bingham’s donation of her Emily Dickinson manuscripts to Amherst College spread throughout the town, a large group of passionate supporters of Amherst’s Jones Library gathered on the town common. Already nettled by the donation of Martha Dickinson Bianchi’s manuscripts to Harvard, this latest news was unbearable insult to the loyal library patrons who felt that Dickinson’s works belonged at the public library. Torches were lit and as the angry mob grew, groups of torch bearing citizens roamed the campus terrorizing undergraduates and professors alike. Late in the evening the mob reconvened in the town common and burned both institutions of higher learning in effigy while chanting, “Emily for the People! Emily for the People!”

 


 

In 1989, the renowned expert in early photographic portraiture, G. D. Anderson, offered a rare opportunity for the public to bring possible Emily Dickinson, ca. 1847daguerreotypes of Emily Dickinson to him for assessment. Much to his astonishment, 126 individuals attended the event, held in the Masonic Lodge in Amherst. In order to keep the crowd amused during the long wait for individual consultations, Anderson made the short-sighted suggestion that attendees form small groups to discuss the merit of the images they had brought. Tragically, all 126 daguerreotypes were destroyed in the resulting melee. Following the incident, Anderson removed himself entirely from public life and is rumored to now be a llama farmer in northern Vermont.

 


 

In 2008, in a carefully hushed incident, Amherst College Physics Professor Dr. Johanna Ehrikson pursued her Emily Dickinson research to the near annihilation of the planet. Dr. Ehrikson was exploring the hypothesis that Emily Dickinson had embedded the Theory Of Everything (TOE) in her written works (specifically the fascicle books). Intending to publish the TOE in a paper jointly authored by herself and Dickinson, Dr. Ehrikson fed Dickinson’s works into a secret algorithm to begin the process of decoding. To her astonishment, the overwhelming weight of the profundity of Dickinson’s poetry caused a very small black hole to form. It was only the quick action of student assistant Emma Rahlsten, who recognized the danger and quickly hit the kill switch, that stopped the black hole before it became large enough to be self-sustaining. The black hole evaporated, life on earth continued as we know it, and Professor Ehrikson decided to pursue other avenues to tenure.

 


 

Most recently, as I’m sure we’re all aware, was the pub fight at the 2011 Emily Dickinson International Society conference. A heated debate between opposing camps of scholars on the meaning of Dickinson’s dash lengths escalated to nose tweaking and ear pulling and quickly developed into an all-out brawl that caused significant property damage to the now defunct Groan & Quail and changed the course of a number of scholarly inquiries.

 


 

All of us at the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections offer our sympathies to those affected by last night’s incident and our sincere hope that we can finally all come together and stop the violence.

Edit: Happy April Fools Day!

With gratitude for the research assistance of Dr. Theresa J. Brandt and Margaret Dakin.

Occasionally, a researcher’s inquiry will lead to a surprising find in our collections or turn up a previously unrealized cache of rare publications.  Last week, just such an inquiry led me to four rather rare publications by Josiah Warren, often called “The First American Anarchist.”

periodical

Born in Boston in 1798, Warren was a musician and inventor in Cincinnati, Ohio before crossing paths with Welsh industrialist and social reformer Robert Owen in 1824.  Warren and his family lived and participated in Owen’s experimental utopian socialist society of New Harmony, Indiana for two years before ultimately rejecting Owen’s cooperative social philosophy.

principle

Warren, concluding that society must preserve the autonomy of all individuals, founded his own social philosophy based on the “sovereignty of the individual.”  Warren’s theory called for self-government and individual responsibility as essential elements for an equitable society, as well as a system of “equitable commerce.”

Warren, Josiah.

note2

Warren defined equitable commerce as a barter system where the cost of goods should be equal to the labor exerted to produce those goods, rather than the subjective worth of goods.  Instead of using cash for the purchase of goods, Warren advocated for the exchange of equitable money or “labor for labor” notes.

proposedmoney

In 1833, Warren wrote and printed “The Peaceful Revolutionist,” asserted to be the first anarchist periodical.  Warren’s objective to have total control over the printing of his publications, led to his invention in the early 1830s of the first printing press to print onto a continuous roll of paper, known as the “speed press.”  Warren also cast his own type to use in the printing of his periodicals and pamphlets.

response

In the early 1850s, with his philosophy of individualist anarchism and in collaboration with fellow anarchist Stephen Pearl Andrews, Warren established a new society on Long Island, NY named Modern Times.  Although Warren’s Modern Times community quickly dissolved, Warren continued to publish numerous pamphlets espousing his philosophy.  Four of these pamphlets are held in the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College.

politicalplatform

All of these pamphlets can be found in our Library Catalog and are available for research in the Archives & Special Collections:

Warren, Josiah. Response to the Call of the National Labor Union for Essays on the following Subjects : 1. The Specie Basis Fallacy : 2. Strikes : 3. Co-operation : [etc.] / by the Author of “True Civilization”. Boston, 1871.   AC call number: File HD8072 .W31

Warren, Josiah. The Principle of Equivalents : A Subject of Immediate and Serious Interest to Both Sexes and All Classes of All Nations. Long Island, NY?, 1861.   AC call number: File HB201.P75

Warren, Josiah. Political Platform for the Coming Party. Boston, 1871.  AC call number: File E671.P65

Warren, Josiah. Periodical Letter on the Principles and Progress of the Equity Movement. v. 1, no. 8 (March 1855).   AC call number: File HN1.P47

 


Resources:

Bailie, William. Josiah Warren: The First American Anarchist, A Sociological Study. New York, Arno Press, 1972.

Butler, Ann. “Josiah Warren, Peaceful Revolutionist.” Thesis. Ball State University, 1978.

Warren, Josiah, and Crispin Sartwell. The Practical Anarchist: Writings of Josiah Warren. New York: Fordham UP, 2011.

Wikipedia: Josiah Warren. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Warren.

Daguerreotype of Charles Thompson by Chandler Seaver, Jr., of Boston, ca 1855

Daguerreotype of Charles Thompson by Chandler Seaver, Jr., of Boston, ca 1855

Charles Thompson, custodian at Amherst College for more than 40 years in the second half of the 19th century – do you know him?  Have you seen photographs of him before, perhaps in an old Olio yearbook?  For over 40 years Amherst students graduated and left town with a photograph of Charles Thompson in their copies of the yearbook.  Thompson was deeply connected with the College, and with the students’ experience of it, and there is no doubt that those who knew him remembered him fondly.

Most of what we know about Thompson’s life comes from a volume written to raise money for Thompson’s old age by President William Augustus Stearns’ daughter Abigail Eloise LeeI’ve looked at the book many times over the years, both for the purpose of learning about Thompson’s life and to find details about the College and town during those days.  Recently I looked at it again and this time I happened to focus on a passage in which Lee mentions Thompson’s experiences as a sailor.  I’d never noticed this information enough to wonder about it, but this time I did.

People who spoke with or heard about Thompson might have known about his years at sea.  Apparently he told stories about his adventures, first to the Stearns children, and then to people in Amherst.  In the years since his death, though, we’ve probably associated Thompson primarily with his work for the Stearns family and later for the College, while those years on a ship have been unexplored and would probably have been lost to history if it weren’t for Lee’s book.

Lee quotes from a manuscript of her father’s to describe Thompson’s career as a sailor:

Stearns_re_Thompson-1

andStearns_re_Thompson-2

Pres. William A. Stearns (ca. 1858), Thompson's friend and employer.

Pres. William A. Stearns (ca. 1858), Thompson’s friend and employer.

 

In other words – and this is what interests me – by the time Charles Thompson followed the Stearns family to Amherst in the late 1850s he had seen far more of the world than had the great majority of the people who knew him, or thought they did.  It’s interesting to think about his experiences and what he learned as he traveled the seas in comparison to what the average citizen of Amherst – town or college – experienced or learned.  Were there times when someone said something to him that made him recall what he’d witnessed and done, and what they would never know?

I wanted to know more about Thompson’s history, so I turned to resources at my fingertips.

Lee had said that Stearns found a position for Thompson with a “Captain Charles Evans,” a mariner Stearns knew personally, and that his first trip was on a whaler, an experience he remembered vividly:

Thompson_re_whales-p13

Investigations in the newspaper database and at the National Maritime Digital Library‘s “American Offshore Whaling Voyages: a Database”  led me to conclude that Thompson sailed with Charles Thomas Evans on his ship the Warren.  It’s certain that Charles Thomas Evans (not Charles A. Evans, another mariner) was Thompson’s employer: the dates, the ship names, and the details of his death match the clues.  What’s more, genealogical websites showed Evans was the husband of Stearns’ sister-in-law Lucy Drew Frazar.  She was Evans’ second wife, and the fact that the Stearns family knew her well explains how Thompson came to sail with Evans.

Lee writes that Thompson served as the steward on the Warren, which means that he served Evans in particular, along with other duties:

“The steward was the captain’s personal servant. He kept the captain’s and mates’ cabins in order and waited on the captain and mates at mealtimes in the main cabin. He was in charge of the cook and responsible for keeping track of the stocks of food and other supplies aboard the ship. He was sometimes assisted by a cabin boy. He lived in steerage and his lay [his pay percentage]  ranged between 1/60 and 1/150.”  (From the site: Girl on a Whaleship)

From the ship’s deck, Thompson would have witnessed scenes like this one, later prompting memories like the one quoted above:

Currier and Ives, "Whale Fishery," via the Library of Congress.

Currier and Ives, “Whale Fishery,” via the Library of Congress.

Newspapers allow us to follow some of the Warren’s route between 1847 and 1851.  This evidence suggests that Thompson boarded the Warren in November 1847 while it was in Warren, Rhode Island, its home port.  From there, it went on a 41-month journey (click on first image to start slide show):

To make the point succinctly, Thompson’s voyages looked something like this:

When the Warren returned from its long voyage, Evans seems to have decided he’d had enough of wrangling angry 45-ton mammals.  After about 9 months at home, he turned to merchant shipping and became the master of the Kremlin, a boat designed by his brother-in-law Amherst Alden Frazar.  According to Lee, Charles Thompson went on two voyages with Evans on the Kremlin.  They left New York in late February, 1852 for San Francisco and were reported sighted along South America on March 31.

Kremlin at latitude 6.14 S, longitude 31.40 W on March 31. (Daily Atlas newspaper, May 20, 1852.)

Kremlin at latitude 6.14 S, longitude 31.40 W on March 31. (Daily Atlas newspaper, May 20, 1852.)

Meanwhile, the Warren was still sailing the seas.  Thompson was lucky not to be on it anymore: it burned on July 10, 1852.

On July 26, the Kremlin was nearing San Francisco when the crew sighted a ship in distress:

article_map

After providing assistance (no doubt with Thompson’s help as steward), the Kremlin sailed on toward San Francisco, arriving there on August 2.  The brig Rostrand limped in behind it.

Kremlin_arr_SF_1852-Aug-2

The Kremlin and the Rostrand arrive in San Francisco (Daily Alta California, Volume 3, Number 214, 3 August 1852.)

Less than two months later Captain Evans died of “ship fever,” a ghastly way to go that involves infectious body lice.  Lee’s book  says that Charles Thompson tended Evans in his last illness and brought a lock of his hair home to Lucy Evans.

1852-Sep-21-Evans-death

It took almost four months for the news to reach Evans’ family.

Stearns-1853-Jan-17-Bx1-F4-excerpt-re-Evans

“We are well. You have doubtless heard of Uncle Henry’s death. Capt. Charles Evans died at sea of ship fever, Sept. last. The news has just arrived. He was, you know, Lucy Frazar’s husband.” William A. Stearns to brother Jonathan Stearns, 1853 Jan 17.

The Kremlin went on to Shanghai under the first mate, according to Thompson, and departed for London on October 23, 1852.  A newspaper report in a column titled “Via Quarantine”(perhaps for more cases of ship fever) shows it in London in the spring of 1853; June newspaper accounts have it arriving in Boston on June 8 or 9, 1853.  This was the end of Thompson’s life as a sailor.

Charles Thompson at the College well, ca. 1860.

Charles Thompson at the College well, ca. 1860.

Altogether, then, Thompson was at sea for a total of about 4 ½ years, beginning with a whaling voyage of 41 months (late November 1847 to sometime in May, 1851) through two additional voyages from early 1852, through his return to New England in June, 1853.  He remained in the Boston area for a few years and then moved to Amherst to be with the Stearns family.  Amherst must’ve seemed very quiet after his life at sea, and perhaps he preferred it that way.

 

 

**********************************************

While researching Charles Thompson’s history, I came across many fascinating sites about the history of whaling. In addition to those mentioned in the text above, here is a selection of great resources:

The New Bedford Whaling Museum , including many additional links under the tab “Digital Scholarship.”

The Whaling Museum of the Nantucket Historical Association, including pages about the whaler Essex, and the 2015 movie about it, “In the Heart of the Sea

Mystic Seaport, with links to online materials.

The Smithsonian, with a page on whaling, including a section on African American sailors: “On the Water”

The Northeast Document Conservation Center’s project to conserve a logbook: “Starboard Boat Struck a Whale.”

Maritime Heritage Project, a “free research tool for those seeking history of passengers, ships, captains, merchants and merchandise sailing into California during the mid-to-late 1800s.”

Detailed article: Spatial and Seasonal Distribution of American Whaling and Whales in the Age of Sail. Smith TD, Reeves RR, Josephson EA, Lund JN (2012) PLoS ONE 7(4): e34905. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034905

A blog not to be missed: Data narratives and structural histories: Melville, Maury, and American whaling

Recently cataloged:

Valentine Vaux title page

The Adventures of Valentine Vaux, or, The Tricks of a Ventriloquist / by Timothy Portwine

Valentine Vaux woodcut on part no 3

This is another “penny dreadful” (you can read an earlier post about others in our collection). “Timothy Portwine” was actually the prolific Thomas Peckett Prest, who also wrote many parodies (or plagiarisms!) of Dickens’ works under the pseudonym “Bos.” Prest or his contemporary James Malcolm Rymer are usually credited with the authorship of The String of Pearls, or, The Barber of Fleet Street, in which the character Sweeney Todd had his first appearance. Valentine Vaux is a parody/plagiarism/lampoon of Henry Cockton’s The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, the Ventriloquist.

In my earlier post I referenced the Barry Ono Collection of Penny Dreadfuls held by the British Library. Since that time, a new resource has become available: researchers at Amherst, Mount Holyoke, Smith, or UMass Amherst now have access to a digitized version of that same collection via Nineteenth Century Collections Online (Amherst College log-in required).

Our copy of Valentine Vaux happens to have a great ownership inscription, in this case a kind of “borrower beware” statement:

ownership inscription of Frederick Smith 1840

This belongs to Frederick Smith, 1840

If thou art borrowed by a friend
Right welcome shall he be
To read to study not to Lend
But to return to me
Not that imparted Knowledge doth
Diminish learnings store
But books I find if often lent
Return to me no more

This same rhyme has been noted in many nineteenth century books, both inscribed and as printed bookplates. For those interested, there is a good overview of this practice in “Traditional Flyleaf Rhymes” (in Folklore and Book Culture by Kevin J. Hayes). Other examples have been blogged about by the Bodleian Libraries Department of Special Collections and the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. This is the first one I have encountered, and I’ll certainly keep an eye out for more.

Valentine Vaux woodcut with elephant

college_seal_1825aWhen Amherst College was founded in the early 19th century, part of its raison d’être (aside from being a protest against Harvard’s Unitarianism) was to educate young men to go out into the world and preach the gospel.  The College seal illustrates this philosophy: “Terras Irradient” – “let them enlighten the lands.” However, by the end of the century graduates’ interests had evolved to something in addition to religious instruction, or something entirely different.  Graduates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were still going into the world as missionaries, but by then the work often meant starting schools or becoming medical missionaries.  Other alumni were writers, doctors, teachers, publishers, ambassadors, “industrial barons,” and in many other professions far removed from those of the first Amherst graduates.

From left, Laurens, Dorothea, Kate, and Mary Averett Seelye, ca. December, 1919.

From left, Laurens, Dorothea, Kate, and Mary Averett Seelye, ca. December, 1919.

For Laurens Hickok Seelye, Class of 1911, “Terras Irradient” meant that he would teach philosophy at the American University of Beirut (AUB, known at the time as the Syrian Protestant College), where he moved in 1919 with his indefatigable wife Kate Chambers Seelye, daughter of missionaries William and Cornelia Chambers.  For Kate the move was a return home after her college years in the U.S. (Kate was born and raised in Turkey but left to attend Bryn Mawr and Columbia).  For Laurens the Middle East was something entirely new, and he threw himself into its culture unreservedly.  Professor Seelye probably stood out everywhere he went for his height, his humor, and his intense intellect.  And he loved AUB.  He loved it for its diversity, tolerance, and collegiality.  In a memorable letter to an old friend, he described both himself and the college:

WCSB-LHS-to-Dorry[Robbins]-1928-Aug-excerptIn addition to testing boundaries and teaching philosophy, Laurens acted as the director of West Hall, which was and still is the student campus center.  In that position, he came to know more students than he would otherwise have known.  After he had settled in at AUB, Laurens noticed a need for something else – financial assistance for ambitious young Armenian refugees to continue their education beyond what the Near East Relief provided.  This organization had established orphanages to help with Armenian refugees who had flooded into the area during and after World War I.  They provided a basic education to about age 16, at which time the boys left the orphanages to fend for themselves.  Because of Kate’s personal connection with the Armenian community and Laurens’ work at the college, several of these boys came to the Seelyes to ask for help.  Laurens decided to do what he could as a personal project, outside of his work at AUB.

In a letter to Clarence Young, an uncle, Laurens described the situation and his plan to help.  He said that there was no provision to train the Armenian refugees beyond a trade-school education, no resources to train teachers, doctors, dentists, pastors, and other professionals.  “I am right up against young life determined to win out and get an education if given half a chance,” Laurens wrote to Clarence.  The world “can do nothing in the future without an educated and large-minded minority scattered through the races and nations who are willing to stake their lives and reputations on the practice of Good Will.”  Would his uncle share his plea with churches and schools and clubs at home and ask if they might raise funds to support some of these boys?

WCSB-LHS-to-Clarence-Young-1923-Aug-6-p1WCSB-LHS-to-Clarence-Young-1923-Aug-6-p2

 

 

 

 

The plan worked.  Laurens and his donors were able to provide funds for a long list of boys to continue their educations.  The boys were mostly Armenians, but there were also boys of other backgrounds.

In 1923 a few of these boys met with Laurens and came away with the idea  of forming an Armenian Students Cooperative Association.  The club started with the goal of finding an affordable living space that a handful of students could share, splitting the cost of food, rent, and a cook (the latter after one of the boys inadvertently fried up his tie with some eggplants).  The club was sufficiently popular that it had to expand to two clubs and two houses.  A few of its members weren’t even Armenians, which pleased Laurens because it realized his goal of having the students regard themselves as “humans first, Armenians second,” by which he meant that he wanted his students to recognize their common humanity, and to work to improve conditions for all.

Club members lived, worked, and played together. Click below to enlarge the photographs and view them as a gallery.

 

The club also issued annual reports, three of which (1923-24; 1924-25; and 1926-27) are in the collection.  The reports demonstrate the democratic philosophy they practiced:

First page of 1924-25 report. Click on pdf below for full report.

First page of 1924-25 report. Click on pdf below for full report.

Armenian-Stu-Coop-Club-report-1924-25

The Seelyes were friends with several of these students for decades; in fact, there are letters in the collection from the club’s founder, Dicran Berberian, that date from the 1960s.  The existence of the club is a testament to the industry of the students, but also to Laurens’ teaching.  In his own way, he had realized Amherst’s motto, “Terras Irradiant.”

 

The material illustrated here is from the Williams-Chambers-Seelye-Blaisdell Family Papers in the Archives and Special Collections.  Contact the department for more details.

One of the best parts about working in archives is getting to “discover” things – maybe a first edition in a box of uncataloged books, or fascinating images in a box only labeled “negatives” – things that weren’t lost, exactly, but whose awesomeness went previously unrecognized.

A few months ago, I was gathering together all of our material on the Amherst College student radio station, WAMH (previously WAMF). They had recently donated a couple boxes of records and I wanted to integrateWAMH audio reels and make a finding aid for all the material they have given us over the years (WAMH/WAMF Records). I found three boxes of reel to reel audio tapes of shows that had been broadcast in the 1950s-70s and given to us in 1989. The tapes included all kinds of intriguing topics from Neils Bohr lecturing on Atomic Theory in 1957 to students protesting the Vietnam War. Most interesting was one reel reading: Martin Luther King, Pres. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaking at the New School for Social Research on “The Summer of Our Discontent” from February 1964. An internet search quickly revealed that the New School Archives holds a recording of the question and answer session from this lecture, but not a recording of the lecture itself, and that this is most likely a unique recording of the speech. We had the tape digitized and got in touch with our colleagues at The New School Archives, who were pleased to learn that we had found this additional documentation from an important event in their history.

LISTEN TO THE SPEECH HERE

Dr. King speaking at The New School

Dr. King speaking at The New School

In the Spring of 1964, The New School hosted a 15 lecture series, The American Race Crisis Lecture Series, featuring 15 civil rights leaders in the United States and attended by hundreds of students. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. opened the series on February 6 with a lecture on the tumultuous summer of 1963. King began by asking the question, why 1963? The answers included disillusionment with progress in desegregation, the failure of political parties to live up to their promises, administrative action focused solely on voting rights and the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation highlighting the paucity of progress since 1863. After a review of the history of African American political action since the Emancipation Proclamation, finishing with the events of 1963 in Birmingham, King brought to the fore the value of nonviolent tactics to the movement. In closing, King called for continued action in 1964, including the passage of the Civil Rights Bill (which happened four days after the speech). The bulk of the speech was published, revised and much expanded, in the first two chapters of King’s 1964 book, Why We Can’t Wait.

The question and answer period following the speech (available in The New School Digital Collections) is just as fascinating as the speech itself. King responds to questions about the Black Muslim movement, a perceived “bog down” in civil rights activity following the March on Washington, and affirmative action (although not by that name). The story of the initial discovery of The New School’s recording and their subsequent exhibition on the American Race Crisis Lecture Series can be found in the following articles:

MLK_04

On December 8th, 1964, at 6pm, Amherst College students could have tuned in to WAMF and heard Dr. King’s speech rebroadcast on the Lecture Hall program. The Lecture Hall was a twice weekly program of pre-recorded lectures, some given at Amherst College and some obtained through agreements with other institutions. Les Black, class of 1966, was the program manager of WAMF in 1964 and hosted the Lecture Hall program. It is his voice that you hear at the beginning and end of the recording linked above. He recalls that at the time, “a lot was going on and there was no Facebook, no YouTube, not much alternative media yet. College radio stations like WAMF played a key role by giving students a way to hear about it.”

While it is very exciting to be able to add this small piece to the documentation of the rich and important life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this recording can be heard not just as an historical artifact, but as a call to reflect on current events. 2014 and 2015 have also been years of turmoil, protest and nonviolent action against racism. And while the terrain has shifted, many of King’s analyses and calls to action are still relevant today.

Many thanks to Wendy Scheir of The New School Archives for generously sharing her experience and background materials, Les Black for his recollections of WAMF and the Lecture Hall program, SceneSavers in Covington, KY for digitizing the audio reel, and WAMH for starting this whole thing off! 

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