The Archivist’s Nook: A Flapper, a Nurse, and a Nun Apply to Catholic University…

Women blast through the barriers to their admission at Catholic University. No prisoners were taken. Pictured: (L to R) Nursing students Kathleen Bowser and Lois Pecor visiting the Soldier’s Home, 1945-46. Karl M. Schmitt photograph collection. Special thanks to Robert Malesky for identifying the location.

I am not pleading for co-education or the admission of “flappers” into the University, but I am pleading for the cause of the women who mean more for the Church in America in one sense, than all its Hierarchy and all its Priests.

– Archbishop Michael Curley to Peter Guilday, October 10, 1924

Among the most frequently questions we receive at the Catholic University Archives are: Who was the first woman to graduate from Catholic University? When did the University first admit female students? Despite the simple questions, the answers are surprisingly complex! Beyond the opposition to coed institutions at the time of the University’s founding, the admission of women was complicated by the variety of degree programs, academic schools, and the status of lay and religious women on the campus.

During the 1895 inauguration of the newly constructed McMahon Hall, Rector John J. Keane stated to those assembled that, “Many women have applied for admission and the University would be glad if it were in her power to grant them the educational advantage which they desire.” Keane went on to state that such a change in the University’s admission policy would necessitate a decision by the Board of Trustees.¹

This issue was seemingly resolved with the founding of Trinity College (1897) and Catholic Sisters College (1911). Both institutions were founded to educate Catholic women, the former being for lay women and the latter for religious sisters. While certain exceptions were granted for some women to enroll as graduate students at the University – although without the full rights of an enrolled student – female students largely took courses at one of the two neighboring colleges. However, with the end of the First World War and passage of women’s suffrage, new opportunities appeared for American women.

New organizations, such as the National Council of Catholic Women, founded educational institutions such as the National Catholic School of Social Service, which became affiliated with Catholic University in 1923. However, despite being affiliated with Catholic University and often being taught by University faculty, none of the female students officially were enrolled or received degrees from the University.  That is until one sister from Minnesota came on the scene.

Sister Hilger with Mapuche women in Chile, ca. 1950s. Traveling the world, Hilger studied childhood experiences across cultures. (Courtesy: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History)

Wishing to pursue an advanced degree in sociology, Sister Marie Inez Hilger, OSB, was upset to find that major Catholic universities, such as Notre Dame and Catholic University, did not accept female applicants. Explaining her situation to the Bishop Joseph F. Busch of St. Paul, she found a sympathetic ear. Busch expressed concern about the lack of opportunities for religious sisters at Catholic universities and promised to raise the issue at the annual Bishop’s meeting in Washington. Shortly thereafter, a telegram arrived from Busch, informing Hilger that permission had been granted for her to enroll as a full student at Catholic University. Packing up from Minnesota, Hilger arrived on campus on October 1, 1924. Completing her Masters in sociology and social work in 1925, Hilger’s example helped renew the discussion among the Board of Trustees on the topic of female students.

With her admission, the deadlock that had existed since 1895 was broken. The first laywoman to be registered as a full student was Florence McGuire, who began in 1927 and earned a Masters in Greek and Latin. With these two women granted special permission to enroll, a debate developed amongst the University’s leadership. Paralyzed between pro and anti-admission factions, the Board deferred on making a decision and referred the matter to the Rector. In 1928, Rector John H. Ryan granted admission to all religious sisters.² With the stalemate seemingly broken, the Board of Trustees moved quickly to open the University’s graduate programs to all women, lay or religious. However, undergraduate admission was another matter.

In 1932, the School of Nursing began to operate on the campus, presenting a new challenge to the University. Suddenly, a large cohort of lay women required general course work outside the nursing program, necessitating that they be permitted into undergraduate classes. Despite some concern over infringing upon the two nearby colleges, pragmatism won out as sending professional students to other campuses was costly and inefficient.³ Thereafter, women were accepted into a variety of science and humanities courses in the 1930s. While these students were technically enrolled only in professional programs – and not strictly liberal undergraduate degrees – this did not stop female students from becoming engaged in undergraduate life.

(L to R) Kathleen Bowser, Annabelle Melville, Rita Bondi, and Joan Chapman, 1945-46. Melville was a PhD student in history, the other three were nursing students. Karl M. Schmitt photograph collection.

By the end of the 1930s, women would be seen attending and teaching classes in English, drama, anthropology, and even aeronautics. The January 1934 Alumnus even reports that there were already enough female graduates to form the Graduate Alumnae of the Catholic University of America, complete with officer elections and nationwide branches! In the 1940s, female students began to organize their own social clubs on campus, including the Association of Women Students (1943) and the Columbians (1945). Undergraduate actors and actresses graced Fr. Gilbert Hartke’s theatrical stage. By 1950, one of the final barriers to admission came down with the Board of Trustees officially allowing undergraduate women to enroll in bachelor’s degree programs on campus.

As for Sister Hilger? Well, she returned to the University in 1936, earning a doctorate in anthropology in 1939. Soon afterward, she met famed anthropologist, Margaret Mead, who inspired her to continue a lifelong career studying the child life of indigenous people worldwide. After decades of teaching at the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota and serving as a Smithsonian research associate, Hilger passed away in 1977.

A small collection detailing the graduate admission and anthropological work of Sister Hilger may be viewed here:

¹ The Catholic University Bulletin, Vol. 1 (1895), 540. 
² E. Catherine Dunn and Dorothy A., eds. Mohler. Pioneering Women at The Catholic University of America: Papers Presented at a Centennial Symposium, November 11, 1988 (Hyattsville, MD: International Graphics, 1990), 1-18.
³ Roy Deferrari, Memoirs of The Catholic University of America, 1918-1960  (Boston: The Daughters of St. Paul, 1962), 229-40.

Plan on Managing Your Data

A data management plan (DMP) is a document that outlines what you will do with your data during and after a research project. Having a DMP is essential for today’s researchers in managing their data, applying for grants, and preserving the data for subsequent use by other researchers.  One useful tool that has been around since 2011 and continues to expand and improve is the DMPTool. The DMPTool is a free, open source tool to help researchers create and management their data management plans.

“The tool has four main functions:

1. To help create and maintain different versions of Data Management Plans;
2. To provide useful guidance on data management issues and how to meet research funders’ requirements;
3. To export attractive and useful plans in a variety of formats;
4. To allow collaborative work when creating Data Management Plans.”

A revamped version of the DMPTool launched February 27th that brought together the US based DMPTool and the UK version DMPonline into one international platform.

DMPTool has a number of excellent features to simply the data management process:

Understanding the types of data, file formats, how to organize files, metadata documentation, persistent identifiers, security and storage, sharing and archiving, citing data, and copyright and privacy are all issues that the researcher needs to consider in devleoping a DMP.

For those of you who would like an overview of the new features, the following webinar will be held on Tuesday, March 13th at 12:00 pm ET: Data Management Plans 2.0: Helping You Manage Your Data presented by Stephanie Simms from the California Digital Library and DMPTool.

Can’t make it? This webinar will be recorded. Update (03/14/18): the recording can be found here:

If you have any questions about data management planning, please contact Kevin Gunn, Coordinator of Digital Scholarship at or 202-319-5504.

Fair Use Week 2018

This week is Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week (February 26th – March 2nd).  The organizers of the event state that “Fair Use Week is an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing.The week is designed to highlight and promote opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, to celebrate successful stories, and to explain these doctrines.”

Fair Use/Fair Dealing acknowledges the important doctrines of fair use in the United States that govern publication and scholarship.  While works of creation are copyrighted by their creators/owners, this right is not absolute. Fair use and fair dealing outline limitations and exceptions to copyright. Copyrighted material can be used without permission from the copyright holder assuming certain conditions are met. The flexibility in fair use doctrine allows for individuals/groups to exercise their freedom of speech and expression in creating and transforming works.  

Students, faculty, staff, and librarians should be aware of the concept of fair use and its many applications to creativity. The Office of General Counsel at CUA has a copyright page with FAQs, resources, forms, and checklists.


The Fair Use Fundamentals

Recognizing that copyright is not absolute, fair use constitutes balancing your proposed needs of someone else’s work with the copyright owner’s rights.

Whether fair use is applicable in your case will depend on a number of questions, some of which are: what exactly are you using? Are you transforming the work? How widely are you sharing the materials? Will the work be just at the university or somewhere else?

Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act (Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use) provides four factors in determining fair use as you balance your needs with that of the copyright holder.

Factor 1: Purpose and Character of the Use

If you are part of a non-profit institution, you have greater leeway than a for-profit business. Taking into account the nature of the work–criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research and its transformative value will impact fair use applicability. For example, quotes put into a scholarly paper have a transformative quality and thus, constitute fair use.

Factor 2: Nature of Copyrighted Work

What is the nature or character of the work being used? Given the type of work, copyright holders have the right to ‘first publication’ and the courts would not side with fair use if, for example, a manuscript was unpublished. Courts distinguish between fiction and non-fiction works and they will generally side with fair use for non-fiction. That is, courts are more inclined to protect works of art, film, fiction, etc. from fair use provisions.

Factor 3: Amount and Substantiality of Portion Used

This important factor is usually what students and faculty have in mind when first considering fair use. For example, how much of a book can I copy and put in Blackboard, is a common question. Generally speaking, the more content of a work you use, the less fair use protection you have. The nautre and size of the work will also determine the plausibility of fair use.  Using an entire photograph for a project would be an infringement but using a thumbnail of the image would be fair use.

Factor 4: Effect on the Market for Original Work

The point of having copyright is to ensure that the creator is able to make a profit off of the work. How one determines the effect on market value is to ask whether one could realistically purchase or license the copyrighted work. If something is readily available, then this will go against fair use.  If your work is non-commercial, then the effect on the market would be difficult to prove. A work that is commercial in nature will have a more diffcult case in proving the fair use exemption.


The Process of Fair Use

If someone is sued over infringement of fair use, the judge(s) will go through these factors to determine if there is sufficient cause. The legal case of President Gerald Ford and his memoir is a classic example of copyright infringement. The Nation magazine copied a pivotal part of Ford’s memoir and published it, citing fair use. The case went to the Supreme Court which eventually ruled in President Ford’s favor. You can read the history of the case and the judges’ process of thinking through the four factors at the Trademark & Copyright Law blog.


Useful Resources

Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week as an infographic that explains what fair use is, why it is important, who uses fair use, and provides some examples of fair use.

The Library of Congress has a great post on knowing when to use a copyrighted work.

The U.S. Copyright Office has an index that follows judicial decisions on fair use.

Obtaining permission to use a copyrighted work can be a fraught affair. The Library of Congress has provided a handout to address some concerns.

The Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office at the Penn State Libraries has a checklist balancing the pros and cons of fair use.

The Copyright Advisory Services at the Columbia University Libraries has a roadmap for determining fair use of a work.



Take a Book for Spring Break!

Take a book with you for Spring Break. Check out some of our new additions to the popular reading book collection. You can find them on the first floor of Mullen Library in the Reference Reading Room.



Bye Bye (via Giphy)









Hold your cursor over the Title to see a short description of the book, or click to view the catalog record. The status of the book is shown beside the call number.

Title Author Status
Beautiful Days: Stories Joyce Carol Oates
The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World Bart Ehrman
The Bookworm Mitch Silver
Mrs.: a Novel Caitlin Macy
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book The Editors of Vogue Knitting Magazine
A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
Emily Chang
Brave Rose McGowan
High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing Ben Austen
How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars: The Snapchat Story
Billy Gallagher
Anatomy of a Scandal Sarah Vaughan
A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History Jeanne Theoharis
How Democracies Die Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

Looking for more options? You can always see a full list of our Popular Reading books in the catalog, by searching under keyword, “CUA Popular Reading.”
For more great information from CUA Libraries, follow us on Facebook and Twitter:

Mullen Library Facebook; @CUAlibraries
Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Canon Law Collections Facebook; @CUATheoPhilLib
CUA Sciences Facebook; @CUAScienceLib
CUA Architecture & Planning Librarian Facebook; @CUArchLib
CUA Music Collections Facebook; @CUAMusicLib

The Archivist’s Nook: Numismatic Teaching Tool – Catholic University’s Coin Collection

H197-1: Justin I – Gold – Tremissis; (Wt.) 1.21, (Mod.) 14; (Ob. Type) Bust, facing, wearing helmet with plume and diadem; (Ob. Legend) DNIVSTINVSPPAVC; (R. type) Victory walking, looking r.; (R. legend) VICTORIAAVCVSTORVM in ex. CONOB, 518-527 A.D. Byzantine. Research by CUA Greek and Latin Class in 2013.

The Catholic University of America (CUA) coin collection, part of the museum administered by the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, contains nearly seventeen hundred numismatic pieces, primarily from ancient Greece, the Roman republic and empire, and Byzantium, as well as medieval and modern specimens, including coins from Western Europe, Persia, and China. A Roman poet once said: “Quidquid praecipies, esto brevis” (whatever you want to teach, be brief),¹ so let us begin.

From the late nineteenth century to as late as 1938, there were more than twenty donations, some 1682 coins. With the exception of the Nablus series, the collection was acquired entirely by gift. One of the earliest donations came from Claudio Jannet (1844-1894), a professor of Economics at Paris who also wrote about American political and economic institutions. He was known to be an admirer of the United States and probably interested in the establishment of CUA, hence the CUA Bulletin 1894 description of him as one of the University’s best friends who had donated a large collection of Greek and Roman coins. This donation of 806 coins represents the largest donation of the entire collection. Another early addition to the collection was 72 coins from Professor Henri Hyvernat and Msgr. Paul Muller-Simonis after their trip to India, 1888-1889. Hyvernat traveled extensively throughout the world and donated hundreds of eclectic items to the university museum from five continents.

1058-1: Caesar – silver – denarius; (Wt.) 3.91, (Mod.) 20, (Die axis) 12; (Ob. type) Pontifical emblems: culullus, aspergillum, axe, and apex; (Ob legend) BLANK (R. type) Elephant r., trampling dragon; (R. legend) CAESAR (in exergue); (Mint) Moving with Caesar, 49-48 B.C. Late Republic, military issue. Research by CUA Greek and Latin class, 2010.

The Nablus Collection, numbering 178 coins, came to the university in 1927 from the Samaritan Community of Nablus, Palestine, then under British administration. Due to its unique nature as a coin hoard discovered during an archaeological dig, Rev. Romain Butin, curator of the Museum and a professor of Semitics, had to obtain written permission from the Governor of Palestine, and the Department of Antiquities, Jerusalem, to export the collection to CUA. There were also several other donations between 1916 and 1938.  In 1975, CUA archivist George Hruneni created a preliminary inventory of the coins. In 1977, New York coin dealer Alex Malloy examined the collection, stating the overall quality was not superb, but with many good pieces it would be a valuable teaching aid.  In 1987 a numismatist named John D. Mac Isaac reported that the Roman Imperial material was the overall strength of the collection, illustrating Roman art, economics, and political propaganda for the period 100 B.C. to 450 A.D. He also noted several coins he believed to be Greek forgeries and the presence of over 300 virtually illegible coins. The following year, Stephen Koob, an art conservator at the Smithsonian Institution, recommended improving the storage conditions of the coins. He also believed the collection would be a useful educational tool, providing tangible artifacts for the classroom, and, for some of the more valuable coins in good condition, as items displayed in exhibitions.

1058-669: Ptolemy I – Bronze piece; Head of Alexander the Great with horn of Ammon, wearing diadem, elephant’s skin and aegis. (r) Eagle with wings closed stdg. On thunderbolt with head turned (left). Egypt, 305-285 B.C. George Hruneni. Preliminary Inventory to the Coin Collections of The Catholic University of America, 1975, p. 46. Also, special thanks to Douglas Mudd of the Money Museum.

In 1991, volunteer students began transferring the coins from acidic envelopes and boxes to polyethylene sleeves housed in a series of binders to facilitate better storage and access. A student of Greek and Latin, Daniel Gordon, wrote a number of important notes on accompanying cards to individual coins in the collection. The coins are housed in the binders, usually ten (10) pages each in a covering box. Roman Empire coins dated 27 B.C. to 284 A.D., the accession of Diocletian, are listed as ‘early empire,’ those dated A.D. 284 to 476, the fall of the empire in the west, are designated ‘late empire.’ The first series contains the 806 coins donated by Jannet, collection number 1058, ca. 600 B.C.-1878 A.D., in binders 1-4. These are primarily Roman coins, but with a nice selection of Greek, Byzantine, Carthaginian as well as a few from Carolingian France. The second series has 31 coins donated by Grindell, collection number 2474, in binder 5. These are primarily Roman and Byzantine Coins, with one from Carthage. The third series has 115 coins donated by Pierre Court, collection number 2945, also in binder 5. These are primarily Roman coins. The fourth series, binder 6, has coins donated by Schrantz. The fifth series, binder 7, has coins donated by Ignatius Lissner. The sixth series, binder 8, has coins of poor quality from Luigi Gassi, designation no. 5281, consisting of 148 Roman, Greek, and Byzantine coins plus a no. 5282 Arabic coin. The seventh series, binder 9, has coins of the Nablus Collection. The eighth series, binder 10, has coins donated by Henri Hyvernat. The ninth and final series, binder 11, has miscellaneous coins donated by several sources.

1058-796: Louis the Pious – Christiana religio; Obverse Legend: +HLVDOVVICUS IMP, cross; Reverse Legend: +XPISTIANA RELIGIO, temple, 822/823-840 A.D. Carolingian France. Research in 2011 by CUA Professor Jennifer Davis, special thanks to Dr. Elina Screen, Fitzwilliam Museum, The University of Cambridge, and Dr. Simon Coupland, The University of Oxford.

In the past decade, Professor William Klingshirn of Greek and Latin has organized several classes of students for the purposes of examining specific categories of coins; learning how to properly weigh, identify and catalogue them; and consulting reference tools to compile new databases of portions of the coin collection for a more accurate inventory.² For more information on access, please contact

¹Horace (65-8 B.C.), Ars Poetica, 333.

²See the article by one of the CUA students: Lionel Yaceczko. “The Riddle of the Nablus Collection: An Unusual Hoard of Fourth-Century Roman Bronze Folles,” Studies in Late Antiquity 1.2 (2017), 173-203.

Resilience and Engagement in an Era of Uncertainty

The Coalition of Networked Information (CNI) held its biannual meeting in Washington, DC December 11-12, 2017. Clifford Lynch, Executive Director of CNI, gave his speech on the topic “Resilience and Engagement in an Era of Uncertainty.”  Lynch outlined a number of challenges that are facing digital scholarship.

  • The data refuge movement continues as librarians and scholars preserve data that is being pulled from web sites.
  • Some research funders are not supporting infrastructure to manage research data. Research funds and universities need to work together.
  • A very unstable world in politics and funding. Federal government is an unreliable steward (there are exceptions). Lynch states that “Memory and science are becoming increasing politicized in various ways.” The need to minimize single points of failure.
  • The end of network neutrality will happen (the speech was given before the decision was made by the FCC). What is our next step and will this make it harder for academic institutions?
  • An overall distrust of education, journalism, etc. makes it harder for us to do our work. It will get worse before it gets better. Also, how do we preserve this environment for later study?
  • Words are the dominate paradigm but this is rapidly being replaced with audio and video technological advancements. For example, machine learning algorithms can be used to compile audio and video of a celebrity to fabricate having him say things he never did. Authenticity becomes important.
  • Generative adversarial networks. Take two machine learning systems–one that recognizes fake images and the other that purposely create fake images–and have them talk to each other. Each system learns from the other and improves their own system. This appears to be a type of arms race.
  • Trails of provenance will become hugely important. Authenticity will be important and will have to founded on provenance and the infrastructure to capture it.
  • Open Access is not only important for scholarship but to society as well. Public libraries and other institutions are dependent on OA for maintaining a free society.
  • Replicable and reproducible research are important yet it does not make sense to expect that ALL research be reproducible. Some exploratory research is designed for experimentation and for uncover new ideas rather than for reproduction. Some research is based on interpretation and thus, cannot be reproduced.
  • We need outreach by scholars, scientists, and educators to defend scholarly communication on the public stage.

Lynch talked at length about open access. We need to recalibrate and reaffirm our commitments to open access. Decision points in the future: funding, policy matters, clarity by institutions about what they want, and storage of cultural evidence (from a non-academic environment) that is becoming the object of study by scholars. We will need to sort out how much we trust the cloud and cloud computing. Institutions need to re-examine our cloud strategy. We do not want all of our valuable material under one umbrella and this needs to be communicated to IT folks by librarians and archivists.

Last, Lynch talked about the technological uncertainties we face. Can we move from protoypes to social adoptions, specifically the issue of annotation? is an example of annotation.  Questions: Who gets to annotate, who gets to see them, where are they stored, who is going to run the annotation server, and are the authors comfortable with being annotated?

Another issue is the notion of containers for preserving and sharing software: standard configurations, versioning, and proliferations of software are concerns moving forward.

Three developments in media that are growing and influencing academia:

  • The lifecycle of the capture to reproduction of 3D objects has happened. This will impact hugely on education as students will prefer to touch something rather than look at an image in a book.
  • Libraries of 3D objects need to be created for storage and retrieval while standards for this lifecycle and documenting provenance for authenticity, will need to be established.
  • Augmented reality beyond the academy in annotating places and architecture and annotating expereinces WHILE you are having the experience will be a future challenge. How do you store, preserve, retrieve, etc. all of this?

Other issues that are unclear and are still forming. For example, while there are prototypes and projects for linked data and cultural data, there are still problems of scalablity that need to be addressed. Quantum computing (which will invalidate authentification systems) and block chaining (how does it apply to educational institutions?) were briefly mentioned as topics of emerging concern.

Lynch ended his talk by mentioning effective collaborations based on shared values as becoming increasingly important to maximizing resources.


Many of the presentations were recorded and they can be found on YouTube: .

Conference link:

The Archivist’s Nook: The Darkness is the Light – Father Cyprian Davis and the Black American Catholic Experience

Father Cyprian Davis. Photo Courtesy of St. Meinrad Archabbey

“Black Theology arises from the experience of being black and oppressed in the United States. It is a theology which seeks, first, to speak to Black people where they are now. It explains what it means to them to be black and Christian. Only then does it look beyond the Black community and present itself, without apology, to the white Christian world.

—Diana Hayes, 1985 Dissertation titled Historical Experience and Method in Black Theology: The Interpretation of Dr. James A. Cone, submitted to the Faculty of the School of Theology at the Catholic University of America.

The quoted text is from the dissertation of a previous Catholic University of America theology student and is representative of the many powerfully-written hermeneutical texts that were authored by students and collected by Father Davis in his exploration of the Black American Catholic experience.

Cyprian Davis was one of the great theologians, exegetes, liturgiologists, homeletes and (what the Swahili call a mwanafalsafa) to emerge from the African American Catholic tradition and the Catholic tradition as a whole. His work was focused on racial reconciliation, racial unity, the unity of the church, the evolution of the African American Catholic identity, and the healing of a people who carry the genetic scars of enslavement.

The History of Black Catholics by Cyprian Davis. Copy from The Catholic University of America Archives

The literatures of the Davis collection are emblematic of what any descendant of the Africans who were brutally snatched from their homelands and placed into a vile system of chattel enslavement in order to build The United States of America into the greatness that it is today, would intuitively know: that the historical and contemporaneous African American experience is one of dizzying permutation. It is a disparate amalgamation of social forces and perplexities that has been aptly characterized by the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III as a blue note existence—one in which the existential mood is premised upon the contrasting nature of all things bittersweet. This notion of contrasting forces as coessential to one another, is a conceptualization that is prevalent throughout the history of West African philosophical schools of thought and is critical to the African understanding of the world. The West African cerebration of metaphysic coessentiality and complimentary opposing forces within the natural world was exhaustively investigated and expertly exposited by Marimba Ani in her 1994 monograph called YuruguMetaphysical coessentiality is the ethereal, spiritual marrow that is responsible for the superhero endurance that African Americans have shown throughout the history of the Atlantic World and it is the foundation on which Davis’ epistemology rests.

The Black spiritual and religious tradition is often simply referred to as The Black Church; however, this phrase is indicative of an uninformed, undistinguished, monolithic view that belies the multifactorial nature of the African American spiritual tradition and how it was transmuted by White Christian violence that was enacted as a means of perpetuating African American enslavement and dehumanization, and as a means of destroying African American’s own centuries old West African spiritual traditions by having the church decree them as evil witchcraft that would need to be denounced or one would suffer grave tortures to ensure that this occurred.   

1979 Series by The Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History, Inc. from Cyprian Davis’ personal library

While Christianity was largely unknown to African Americans, it was a faith that had noble roots in East African societies that are older than those in Rome. Despite the malefactions through which the African American religious tradition emerged, it was transformed by Africans’ creative nature through creolization and syncretism between traditional West African spirituality and the new religious tradition forced on African Americans.  

What is most interesting about Father Cyprian Davis is evident throughout his collection—his remarkable quest to reconcile the ways in which the word of God had been hijacked and weaponized against African Americans. But how did Davis forge a space for African Americans?

As an archivist, Davis was not afraid of facing the ugliness of the Church’s history head on and exploited this history to bolster the physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual resilience of the African American Catholic community. Davis understood that the darkness of the past was inextricable from the light of the future, so he sought to prepare African American Catholics for a church that was in many ways no different from the world around it because the church had been historically and contemporaneously a hostile space for African Americans that would require the acuity of self-knowledge to navigate and to repair the institution. It was an incredibly bold way to usher in the spirit of reparation, through directly living out the Church’s values of human dignity and the mandate to protect the sacred nature of life.

Father Cyprian Davis Photo Courtesy of St. Meinrad Archabbey

The Cyprian Davis collection consists of 32 boxes of materials from the estate of Benedictine Fr. Cyprian Davis of St. Meinrad Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. The collection reflects his research into and interest in the history of black Catholics in the United States, black spirituality, and the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, which he helped found in 1968. The collection includes a wide range of materials, mostly printed, and reflects Davis’ multifaceted interests. Among the items are the records, agendas, and minutes from various conference proceedings, especially the National Black Clergy Caucus, the National Black Catholic Congress, and joint conferences. Also included are the records pertaining to a range of projects in which Davis was heavily involved, including the Black Hymnal Project and the Historical Commission in the Cause of Father Augustus Tolton (1854-1897). Davis’ notes and assembled research material relating to his most famous book, The History of Black Catholics in the United States (publ. 1990), and other research projects are also included, along with the texts of his various public addresses. The bulk of the materials span the period from the late 1960s to the mid-2000s.



Lecture by ICOR Fellow Solange Ashby Bumbaugh Mon., 2/5 @ 5:30 pm

Magical Protection: Ethiopian Prayer Scrolls and Egyptian Oracular Amuletic Decrees

Presented by Solange Ashby Bumbaugh ICOR Fellow Monday,

February 5, 5:30-6:30 May Gallery, Mullen Library The Catholic University of America

Sponsored by the Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR) in conjunction with the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures Address inquiries to Dr. Aaron Butts (

Digital Arts Lab Open Hours

For the remainder of the Spring 2018 semester, the Salve Regina Digital Arts Lab on the second floor of Mullen Library will be open to the CUA community at the following times:

Monday and Wednesday:  6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Friday:  2:00 pm 7:00 pm

Sunday:  11:00 am – 4:00 pm

The 16 workstations in the lab provide access to several design programs, including the entire Adobe CC Creative Suite. To learn more about the lab and the software available, please visit


The Archivist’s Nook: Digital Rebirth – Labor Collections at Catholic University

Boxes, microfilm reels, and guide books for the Powderly, Hayes, and Mitchell Papers, 2018. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

The papers of Terence V. Powderly, John W. Hayes, and John Mitchell, three Gilded Age and Progressive Era labor leaders of national importance are now available online in digital format thanks to a partnership between The Catholic University of America (CUA) and ProQuest’s History Vault subscription service. Securing collections of notable Catholic labor leaders like Mitchell, Powderly, and Hayes was facilitated at CUA in the 1940s by labor priests, John A. Ryan, Francis J. Haas, and George G. Higgins, all of whose papers reside in the university’s archives. There were some advances in accessibility via microfilming in the 1970s and more recently with the creation of detailed finding aids and digital collections via the Washington Research Library Consortium (WRLC) of Powderly and Mitchell photographs since 2001. However, the current ProQuest digitization project, based on scanning the microfilm, culminates over seventy years of archival outreach.

Knights of Labor Pamphlet, 1889. T.V. Powderly Papers via the ProQuest History Vault.

Powderly, subject of a previous blog post, was the son of Irish immigrants, born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, in 1849. He joined the International Union of Machinists and Blacksmiths in 1871 and the Scranton, Pennsylvania, Local Assembly of the Knights of Labor in 1876, where he rose to national leadership as Grand (later General) Master Workman, 1879-1893. He was also a progressive mayor of Scranton, 1878-1884. From 1897-1901, he was Commissioner General of Immigration, and thereafter held several other federal immigration or labor posts. After his death in 1924 Powderly’s papers were retained by various family members until his niece, Mary, donated them in 1941 to CUA through the influence of Msgr. Haas. They richly detail the organization of labor, immigration policy, and political patronage in late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. The correspondence and reports are treasure troves of primary source material while the photographs and lantern slides display a wealth of cultural imagery and geographical landmarks.  The microfilming project of 1974 (94 reels) was funded by the Microfilming Corporation of America and edited by John A. Turcheneske, Jr.

Parade in Honor of John Mitchell, Scranton, Pennsylvania, 1903. Mitchell Papers via the ProQuest History Vault.

John William Hayes was born in 1854 in Philadelphia to Irish immigrants. Working as a brakeman he lost his right arm in a railroad accident in 1878 and thereafter learned telegraphy. He joined the Knights in 1874, was elected to their General Executive Board in 1884, and became General Secretary Treasurer in 1888. He worked closely with Powderly until 1893 when Hayes joined with the socialists and populist agrarians to oust Powderly from leadership. Hayes remained in control of the fading Knights, who were losing out to the American Federation of Labor (AFL), first as General Secretary-Treasurer until 1902, then as General Master Workman until the closure of the Knights headquarters in Washington in 1916. The Hayes Papers (49 boxes; 24.5 linear feet) were donated to CUA by his family in 1943, the year after Hayes died, and are almost equally divided between official Knights of Labor correspondence and his personal affairs. They were microfilmed (15 reels) together with the Powderly Papers in 1974.

Mitchell, also subject of a previous blog post, was the legendary leader of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), born 1870 in Braidwood, Illinois. Orphaned at an early age, he worked as a coal miner. He was first a member of the Knights of Labor and then, successively, legislative agent, organizer, vice president and president of the fledgling UMWA.  His leadership in Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902 resulted in significant gains for coal miners and greater recognition for the UMWA. Mitchell was also vice president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and member of various national, state, and local civic organizations. He died in 1919 and is buried in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  In 1942, Msgr. Haas contacted the Mitchell children and arranged for their father’s papers to be donated to the university. They include correspondence and meeting minutes regarding such watershed issues as standardized wages, safe working conditions, and collective bargaining. The Mitchell Papers, sans most clippings and many photographs, was microfilmed (55 reels) and a printed guide prepared by editor, John A Turcheneske, Jr., in 1975.

The promotional brochure for the ProQuest History Vault, 2018

ProQuest is well known in educational circles for curating an archive of billions of vetted, indexed documents connected via a variety of research communities. The ProQuest History Vault debuted in 2011 and is constantly adding new documentation of widely studied topics in American history. A particular strength is social movements, especially racial justice, women’s rights, and organized labor. The collections, with enhanced search features, can be purchased as a perpetual archive or as a subscription, providing research access for students and faculty to materials held at geographically dispersed archives. The Powderly, Hayes, and Mitchell papers are part of the module, ‘Labor Unions in the U.S., 1862-1974: Knights of Labor, AFL, CIO, and AFL-CIO,’ which include collections from the University of Maryland and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Because the History Vault digitization project scanned the 1970s microfilm, portions of the Powderly and Mitchell papers are not represented. Files deemed duplicative or unprocessed, but also printed materials and photographs that did not show up well on microfilm, were omitted. The non-microfilmed portions are so noted on the Powderly and Mitchell finding aids and remain open to traditional archival research, as is also the case with all the original materials. Additionally, and as mentioned above, many Mitchell and Powderly photographs are freely available online via WRLC.

For more information on ProQuest History Vault, visit the ProQuest History Vault webpage.