SAGE Video Collection: Trial through July 8, 2021

The University Libraries offers a trial of a rich and diverse collection of videos across the social, behavioral, and health sciences.  The SAGE Video Collection is designed to support instruction, learning, and research in colleges and universities.  The subject areas represented in this trial include business & management; counseling & psychotherapy; criminology & criminal justice; education; geography, earth & environmental science; health & social care; leadership; media & communication; nursing; politics & international relations; psychology, social work, and sociology. The videos range from documentaries to in-practice classes, interviews, tutorials, and raw observational footage.

Enjoy exploring and tell us what you think of this resource.  To get started, click here. To let us know what you liked or didn’t like, click here.

A Finding Aid for the Paulinus Bellet, OSB Papers

Fr. Paulinus Bellet, OSB (1913-1987)

A finding aid has been completed for the recently processed Papers of Fr. Paulinus Bellet, OSB, a distinguished Coptic scholar. These Papers are one of several important Coptic archival collections housed in the Semitics/ICOR Library.

Fr. Bellet (1913-1987) was born in the Catalonia region of northern Spain. He became a monk of the Abbey of Montserrat and obtained his degree in Oriental Languages from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. Beginning in 1957 he served as the editor of the Coptic texts included in the Biblia Polyglotta Matritensia, travelling extensively to consult manuscripts in various European libraries. This work informed his interest in the Coptic manuscript tradition. In 1962 the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures at The Catholic University of America was looking for a Coptic scholar to join the faculty. The Abbey of Montserrat and Catholic University arranged to bring Fr. Bellet to CUA, where he taught Coptic, Ethiopic, and Hebrew in the Semitics Department. He also taught his native Catalan language in the Department of Modern Languages. Following his retirement in 1977, Fr. Bellet continued to teach and work as a lecturer in the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures.

One of twelve mezzotint plates from the Bellet Collection.

The Bellet Papers include research and lecture notes; professional and personal correspondence; lexical and other card indexes; facsimiles of Coptic and Latin manuscripts in European libraries; and twelve copper mezzotint plates and a metal stamp of the Ancient Christian Writers series. The plates and stamp had belonged to his CUA colleague Rev. Johannes Quasten (1900-1987). The Bellet Papers consist of the following series: Correspondence, Research Materials, Notebooks, Professional Files, Student Materials, and Photographic Material. Notebooks are housed in a filing cabinet, and the lexical material has been kept as it was originally organized in twelve drawer boxes. The rest of the Papers are organized and housed in twenty-six archival boxes. An inventory of periodical materials in the Bellet Papers is being compiled.

Notebooks from the Bellet Collection.

Fr. Bellet died in 1987 before completing work on his edition of the Middle-Egyptian Coptic text of the  Acts of the Apostles in Glazier Codex (G67). His drafts and notes were sent to Dr. Hans-Martin Schenke who published the edition in 1991. Fr. Bellet’s Catalan library is now maintained by the Paulí Bellet Foundation in Kensington, MD. His personal diaries were returned to Montserrat in 1987.

The Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literatures  honors the work and memory of Fr. Bellet with the annual Bellet Lecture in his honor.

Please contact the Semitics/ICOR Library for more information.

The Archivist’s Nook: Rare Book Acquisitions, 2021

Special Collections, including the Rare Books Department, like the rest of the world, is emerging from the shadow of the COVID Pandemic. Fortunately, we were able to acquire new books and related materials during the vicissitudes of 2020, which we reported on in a November blog post, and are pleased to announce further significant purchases during 2021 from reputable dealers to grow our collections.

English Recusant Prayer Book with Book of Hours, 1630. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The first item is a work reflecting the response of English Catholics to persecution in their homeland. It is a English Recusant’s Prayer Book titled ‘Exercitium hebdomadarium, collectore Ioanne Wilsono sacerdote Anglo; in gratiam piorum Catholicorum’ from 1630 bound along with a Book of Hours titled ‘Officium passionis Iesu Christi ex oraculis prophetarum desumptum’ originally published in 1621. This pocket prayer book was compiled by Jesuit priest John Wilson, who managed the English College Press at St. Omer. The two books were edited by Wilson and printed in the same typographic format at Antwerp at the Plantin Press of Balthasar Moretus. Both parts include Flemish Baroque engravings in the style of Antoine Wierix, including the second part with a series of nearly a dozen scenes showing the Passion of the Christ. (1) Both editions are considered scares and this second edition was purchased from Samuel Gedge Books of England.

L’Histoire de Jansenius et de Saint-Siran, ca. 1695. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The second item is a book related to the Jansenist Heresy, primarily active in France, which emphasized original sin, divine grace, and predestination.  It is titled ‘L’Histoire de Jansenius et de Saint-Siran’ and was published in Brussels, ca. 1695, anonymously, due to its scurrilous content regarding an imaginary dialogue between Cornelius Jansen and the Abbe de Saint-Cyran in a supposed conference about 1620 at the Bourgfontaine Monastery with a plot to overthrow the established church. The latter had introduced Jansen’s doctrine into France, in particular among the nuns of Port-Royal. This rare sole edition is 192 pages, bound in contemporary calf, with the joints and spine a little chipped. It also has a stamp on the blank flyleaf of an English boarding school of St. Edmund’s College, Ware, and was purchased by Catholic U. from Inlibris of Vienna (2).

Calendario Dispuesto por Don Mariano Joseph de Zuniga…1814, Special Collection, The Catholic University of America.

The third item is as much artifact as publication and a unique addition to our materials related to Latin America titled ‘Calendario Dispuesto por Don Mariano Joseph de Zuniga y Ontiveros Agrimensor por S. M. (Q. D. G.) Para el Ano del Senor de 1815 Los Seis Meses Primeros.’ It is the only edition of an 1815 colonial Mexican sheet almanac by Mariana Jose de Zuniga y Ontiveros, published in 1814 in Mexico City the last of the pre-Independence Zuniga dynasty of Mexican printers. The almanac records eclipses and other celestial events, lunar phases, meteorological predictions, astrological data, feast days, and key moments in the Catholic calendar. It is printed in seven columns within a typographic border on each side and includes small woodcuts of the Virgin of Guadeloupe and San Felipe de Jesús. Similar to European almanacs, Mexican almanacs were printed in the months preceding the forthcoming year. Zúñiga was a mathematician, land surveyor, and member of the Royal Board of Charity of Mexico. The only other year of this type of sheet or series is the 1805 edition held at the University of Texas at Sah Antonio. (3) The Catholic University almanac was purchased from William Cotter Books of Austin, Texas.

Manuscript Sermon by the Minister of Trinity Church, San Francisco, 1856. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The final item is a significant addition to our growing body of Anti-Catholic materials and is titled a ‘Manuscript Sermon Preached by the Minister of Trinity Church in San Francisco in 1856 on Hebrews XIII:  “We have an Altar whereof they have no right to eat those who serve the Tabernacle.”’ It is a firebrand sermon preached in 1856 in San Francisco at the Trinity Episcopal Church by the Reverend Stephen Chipman Thrall. He was the third rector of Trinity Church, 1856-1862, and the biblical text is the stimulus for his assault on what he considered the blasphemous dogma of the Roman Catholic Church (4).  It is a nineteen page, 8 ½ by 13 ½ inch, ink manuscript on blank versos of forms from the Custom House Collector’s Office, written in a contemporary hand and purchased from David Lessor Books of Connecticut.

These four new acquisitions, covering three continents and three centuries, are a further enhancement to the diverse Special Collections at Catholic University. We hope to post further updates regarding acquisitions as well as conservation work before the end of 2021. Please contact us with any questions.

(1) Samuel Gedge Ltd, Norwich, England, Catalog 30, 2020, p. 23.

(2) Thanks to David Rueger of Antiquariat Inlibris.

(3) William S. Cotter Rare Books at https://www.wscotterrarebooks.com/

(4) California Historical Society Quarterly, Sep., 1955, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Sep., 1955), pp. 231-237.

(5) Special thanks to STM and BM for their assistance.

Beginning May 24: Study Space Reservations Discontinued

Effective May 24, 2021, study space reservations will no longer be needed to enter Mullen Library.

Mullen Library will be open to all who have a current CU ID.  In accordance with DC and campus guidelines to protect themselves and those in our community who are unable to receive the vaccine, those who have not been vaccinated should continue to wear a mask at all times.

Library Stacks Access: Update

Library in-person services and schedules will be increasing throughout the summer as we hire and train more student employees. At the beginning of the summer, reservations will still be required to enter Mullen. The Stacks will open for browsing on Monday, May 17. While our circulation staff is still focusing on remote delivery of materials and contactless book pickup, to borrow books from the Stacks you may either use the self-check machine located in the lobby or leave books in bags provided at the circulation desk to be charged out and picked up at a later scheduled time. The current status of all library services can be found in our Libraries COVID-19 Information Guide.

The Archivist’s Nook: Commencement Firsts

Last year marked the first time that The Catholic University of America celebrated commencement virtually; this year’s commencement, to take place in-person with social distancing at FedEx Field, will mark the first time the ceremony has ever been held away from campus. This blog post will run through some other notable firsts in the University’s commencement history.

The earliest commencement exercises on record took place in the Assembly Room of McMahon Hall, which was constructed between 1892 and 1895 (shortly after the University first opened in 1889 with the completion of Caldwell Hall). By the early 1920s the commencement ceremony was being held in the gymnasium (today’s Crough Center), a practice that would endure for decades.

Built in 1918, the gymnasium was one of many campus construction projects initiated by Rector Thomas Shahan. The lower image shows the interior decorated for a commencement ceremony, ca. 1950. Both from Photo Collection, Box 35, Folder 7.

In his excellent pictorial history of Catholic University (2010, Arcadia), Robert P. Malesky notes: “Many large-scale special events took place in the gym, from the 50th anniversary celebration in 1939 to rock concerts in the 1960s and an address from Pope John Paul II in 1979” (p. 67). Conspicuously absent from his list of “large-scale special events,” however, are the annual commencement exercises—an omission that would probably dishearten the 1923 Commencement Week Committee, which, on the front page of The Tower, pleaded with students and alumni to COMMENCE COMING TO COMMENCEMENT. The Committee felt that “a Commencement Week combining the dignity of academic exercises with the delight of social and of athletic events serves as a sort of epitome of University life,” and lamented that CatholicU, though “still pretty young,” had yet to sow the seeds of a “mighty tradition” like that of “the ‘Proms’ of American Universities, the ‘Commemoration’ of Oxford, [or] the ‘May Week’ of Cambridge” (see “Commencement Week,” The Tower, April 13, 1923). Hoping to rectify that and to entice more people to attend the end-of-year festivities, the Committee added a Senior Ball to the program.

1933 witnessed a “Historic Commencement” at which the sitting President of the United States, FDR, was a guest of honor. (Granted, CatholicU has an extensive history with our country’s chief executives.) According to the Catholic University Bulletin, “a new attendance record was set by the five thousand who attempted to secure admission to the University Gymnasium, [but] the audience that witnessed the affair was not to be compared with the vast radio audience of ten million people to whom the commencement exercises were brought” (July 1933, Vol. 1, No. 5, p. 1). Upon receiving his honorary Doctor of Laws, FDR offered the following unscripted remarks.

The 1962 commencement ceremony was “the first held outdoors.”

1962 marked the first time that commencement was held outdoors, against the backdrop of the recently-completed Pangborn Hall. In a Tower article hyperbolically titled From Hell to Heaven, one student celebrated the improvement in venue—ridiculing the idea of “columns of robed students receiving their diplomas here beneath the basketball nets.” Sadly for him, though, it would be a few more years before others came to feel as strongly as he did that the gym was appropriate (only) for “basketball, volleyball, crab soccer, effervescent cheerleaders, and 1-2-3-4 calisthenics.” The 1965 commencement exercises (at which then-President LBJ delivered the address!) were the last to be held in the gym. (Incidentally, two days earlier, he had also given the commencement address at Howard University.)

1966 marked the triumphant return to outdoor commencement exercises. This time, the ceremony took place in front of Mullen Library.

Graduates pictured in front of Mullen Library in 1967, the year after commencement was first held in this location. From Photo Collection, Box 61, Folder 4.

Although the University Mall has remained the traditional venue for the annual commencement exercises, in 1973 the ceremony did an about-face.

1973 marked the first time that commencement was held on the East Portico of the National Shrine. From Photo Collection, Box 61, Folder 5.
In 1977, rain drove the commencement celebrants into the Great Upper Church of the National Shrine.

Since then, except in extreme circumstances—such as those of 1977 (not to mention those of the past two years)—commencement has been held on the East Portico of the National Shrine. (In 1977, rain drove the commencement celebrants into the Great Upper Church of the National Shrine. A few days later, then-President of the University Clarence C. Walton, the first lay person to lead the University, wrote to the Assistant Director of the Shrine to thank him for “the thoughtfulness and the help [he] provided when, as escapees from rain clouds, the Shrine became our graduation home.” Walton was also sensitive to all the effort that went into setting up and breaking down the unused chairs.)

The Archivist’s Nook: Morris J. MacGregor – Historian of Racial Justice

Morris J. MacGregor (1931–2018), who died three years ago this month, was a native Washingtonian and an alumnus of The Catholic University of America. Over his lifetime he served both his country and his church; as a dedicated and fearless historian, he documented the tangled record of both the United States Army and the Roman Catholic Church on the tortured subject of race relations. I was acquainted with him first and foremost in my capacity as an archivist who provided him access to primary source materials for his research and writing. But he was also a friend who mentored me in my own historical writings and who gave me very sage advice at a crucial time on how best to face my wife’s terminal cancer prognosis.
Morris MacGregor. The Cardinal Yearbook, 1953. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

MacGregor was born on October 11, 1931 in Washington, D.C. to Morris J. MacGregor, Sr. (1903–1979), a paper salesman, and Lauretta Cleary MacGregor, a homemaker. He grew up in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland, and attended the now defunct Catholic boy’s school at Mackin, the old St. Paul’s Academy, in Northwest Washington.  He earned his bachelor’s in 1953 and his master’s in 1955, both in History, from Catholic University, and also studied at Johns Hopkins University, 1955–1959, and the University of Paris on a Fulbright Scholarship, 1960–1961. He was an affiliate of the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C., 1959–1960. He then served as an historian of the Historical Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, 1960–1966, then as Acting Chief Historian of the U.S. Army Center of Military History, 1966–1991.

Integration of Armed Forces 1981 by Morris J. MacGregor. Courtesy of Amazon.com.

One of his books, The Integration of the Armed Services, 1940–1965 (1981), received a commendation from then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberg and is still considered an authoritative account of this sensitive subject. In it, MacGregor addresses how the military moved from reluctant inclusion of a few African Americans to their routine acceptance in a racially integrated establishment. This process was, he argues, part of the larger response to the civil rights movement that challenged racial injustices deeply embedded in American society. MacGregor’s book also explores the practical dimensions of integration, showing how the equal treatment of all personnel served the need for military efficiency. His other military studies include two edited works with Bernard Nalty—the 13-volume Blacks in the Armed Forces (1977) and Blacks in the Military: Essential Documents (1981)—as well as Soldier Statemen of the Constitution (1987), co-authored with Robert K. Wright, and The United States Army in World War II: Reader’s Guide (1992), co-authored with Richard D. Adamczyk.

The Emergence of a Black Catholic Community, the second of three CUA Press books written by Morris J. MacGregor. Courtesy of Amazon.com

A practicing Catholic, MacGregor authored several books on American Catholic History, including The History of the John Carroll Society, 1951–2001 (2001), published by the John Carroll Society in Washington, D.C., and three published by Catholic University Press. The first was A Parish for the Federal City: St. Patrick’s in Washington, 1794–1994 (1994).  St. Patrick’s is the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Washington, D.C., witnessing the city’s evolution from a struggling community into a world capital.  As Washington’s mother church, MacGregor argues it transcended the usual responsibilities of an American parish; its diverse congregation has been pivotal in shaping both national policies and the history of the Catholic Church in the United States.  The second was The Emergence of a Black Catholic Community: St. Augustine’s in Washington (1999), which presented in detail the history of race relations in church and state since the founding of the Federal City. MacGregor relates St. Augustine’s from its beginning as a modest chapel and school to its development as one of the city’s most active churches. Its congregation has included many of the intellectual and social elite of African American society as well as poor immigrant newcomers contending with urban life.  The third was Steadfast in the Faith: The Life of Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle (2006), an account of the churchman responsible for the racial integration of D.C. Catholic Schools as well as a driving force in Catholic Charities.

A Catholics in the Civil War themed issue of Potomac Catholic Heritage, Fall 2006. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

MacGregor was a member for many years of the Catholic Historical Society of Washington, D.C., serving as co-editor and contributor, along with friend and fellow Catholic University alum Rev. Paul Liston, of the Society’s quarterly glossy magazine, Potomac Catholic Heritage (previously the Society’s Newsletter), 2005–2015. Issues of the publication are archived in the Special Collections at Catholic University along with many records that were central to MacGregor’s research on the American Catholic Church, especially in relation to African Americans (see our research guide on African American History Resources).

OLL Blog – Engraved Illustrations of Jesuit Martyrdoms During the Persecution of Christianity in Early Modern Japan – Jan Levin Propach

Dr. Jan Levin Propach

Postdoctoral Researcher at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich – Department of Catholic Theology

 

The Oliveira Lima Library contains a collection of engraved illustrations showing Jesuit martyrdoms during the persecution of Christianity in 17th century Japan. Even though these illustrations were made in Europe in a propagandistic manner, they tell a story which is not well-known in the West: the rise and fall of Christianity in Early Modern Japan.

In 1549 Francis Xavier S.J. (1506–1552)—one of the first disciples of Ignatius of Loyola S.J. (1491–1556)—arrived at Japan’s southern Island Kyushu together with two other Jesuits and a former Samurai. What political context did the missionaries enter? Since the Ōnin War (1467–1477), Japan was no longer reigned by the emperor and a shogun (Muromachi Shogunate). Instead, dozens of small local rulers (daimyō and kunishū), different Buddhist monasteries fought for their supremacy. The three Great Unifiers Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582), Toyotomi Hideyashi (1537–1598) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) attempted to bring the Age of Warring States (sengoku) to an end and to unify the country under the reign of a shogun again.

Martyrdom of Augustinus Ota S.J. (1572-1622). IN: Cardim. Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650)

The destiny of Christianity in Japan is neatly wedded into this Age of Warring States. Many Japanese local lords allowed the Jesuits to proselytize their subjects, because they benefited from the Portuguese trade and weapon technologies. They also perceived in Christianity an instrument against the influence of different powerful Buddhist sects. On the other hand, Christian missionaries were seen as representatives of foreign powers trying to increase their influence in Japan.

Despite this, the early Japanese missions were highly successful: about 150.000 Japanese were converted in 1583; 75 Jesuits organized the Japanese mission; there was a novitiate in Usuki, seminaries in Arima and Azuchi and about ten Jesuit residences throughout Japan. However, missionaries would be increasingly perceived as antagonists to the efforts to reach the country’s unity, especially after the donation of Nagasaki to the Jesuits in 1580. Thus on July 24th, 1587 Hideyoshi issued an edict that expelled the Jesuit missionaries. This first edict had only a limited impact on the Japanese mission, although it caused the confiscation and demolition of Christian buildings, such as the college in Funai and the novitiate in Usuki. From this moment on, the Jesuit mission focused on Kyushu.

Martyrdom of Emmanuel Borges, S.J. IN: Cardim. Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650)

The pragmatic politician Hideyoshi only reluctantly tolerated the Jesuits’ bidding out of an interest in and dependence on trade with the Portuguese. These economic relations could only be achieved with the help of the Jesuits. Tokugawa Ieyasu, who followed Hideyoshi after his death in 1598, tolerated the Jesuits’ missionary activities for economic reasons too, but once he issued a trade permit for the Dutch (1609) and the English (1613), he limited the Portuguese ships to the port of Nagasaki. There was no further need of tolerance for Christianity to get involved in the profitable European trade. And when in 1612 a court intrigue—involving Okamoto Paulo Daihachi and Arima Harunobi who were both Christians—was disclosed, Ieyasu’s aversion against the Christian missionaries increased considerably.

In 1614, the bakufu, or military government, announced the expulsion of all missionaries from Japan. This edict was renewed under Ieyasu’s successor Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632) in 1616. The great martyrdoms in Kyoto 1619 (88 martyrdoms), Nagasaki in 1622 (55 martyrdoms) and Edo, now Tokyo, in 1624 (50 martyrdoms) all attest to the serious commitment of the shogun’s government to this new policy. Between 1614 and 1650, 2,128 Christians died under the persecution, 71 of whom were European missionaries (1). The following illustrations from Antonio Francisco Cardim’s Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650) in the Oliveira Lima Library depict the martyrdoms of Emmanuel Borges S.J., Augustinus Ota S.J. (1572–1622) and Diego Yuki S.J. (1574–1636) by anatsurushi (2) and by smiting with a sword.

Martyrdom of Diego Yuki S.J. (1574-1636). IN: Cardim. Elogios e ramalhete de flores… (1650)

By 1643, after all of Japan’s missionaries were forced either to flee to China and the Philippines, were killed or apostatized, about one hundred missionaries had secretly entered Japan to maintain the religious, and especially the sacramental life of the Church. Between 1714, the year of the death in Edo of Giovanni Battista Sidotti (1668–1714), the last priest to enter Japan secretly, until the enactment of religious freedom in 1889, Christianity survived in the underground, disconnected from the Church hierarchy. Many of those Hidden Christians rejoined the Catholic Church in the late 19th century. However, down to the present day some Christian communities remain hidden in the underground, opting not to reenter the Catholic Church in order to keep their own religious identities in contact with the greater Japanese religious environment. (3)

 

(1) For a list of all Japanese martyrdoms see Boxer, Charles Ralph. The Christian Century in Japan (1549–1650). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951, 448.

(2) Anatsurushi was a method of torture by facing the victim upside down in an Excrement-filled hole in the ground; a lid closed on the neck. Slow death made it possible for those who were tortured to renounce their faith and thus save their lives.

(3) Cf. Turnbull, Stephen. The Kakure Kirishitan of Japan. A Study of Their Development, Beliefs and Rituals to the Present Day. Richmond: Japan Library Press, 1998; Harrington, Ann M. Japan’s Hidden Christians. Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1993 and Pella, Kristian. The Kakure Kirishitan of Ikitsuki Island. The End of a Tradition. Uppsala: Uppsala University, 2013.

The Archivist’s Nook: Telling Us Who They Are

The manuscript was originally submitted in April 1966 as a Ph.D. dissertation for Catholic University’s Department of Anthropology under the title “Behavior and Values of Streetcorner Negro Men.” Under the title “Tally’s Corner,” it doubled as Liebow’s Final Report for Project No. M-MHSC-59 in the Adolescent Process Section of the Mental Health Study Center at NIMH.

Elliot Liebow (January 4, 1925–September 4, 1994) was an anthropologist best known as the author of Tally’s Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men (1967, Little, Brown and Co.) and Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women (1993, Free Press).

The two books, written more than twenty-five years apart, rather neatly bookend Liebow’s career at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over the course of which he rose to become Chief of the Center for the Study of Work and Mental Health. While Tally’s Corner—originally submitted as a Ph.D. dissertation to Catholic University’s Department of Anthropology—had grown out of research that Liebow conducted through the Health and Welfare Council of the National Capital Area on a grant from NIMH, Tell Them Who I Am punctuated the end of his career with the federal government. Liebow wound up writing Tell Them Who I Am after abruptly retiring on disability in 1984, having been diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer and given six or eight months to live. (See Biographical Note and the preface to Tell Them Who I Am for further details.) Happily, he lived for another decade after his diagnosis.

The symmetry of Liebow’s two books is underlined by the fact that both are examples of participant observation—a traditional anthropological approach which until Tally’s Corner had rarely been applied in a Western, urban setting. “In participant observation,” Liebow explains in the preface to Tell Them Who I Am, “the researcher tries to participate as fully as possible in the life of the people being studied” (p. vii). He goes on to poke fun at himself “Doing Research (that is, hanging around)” (p. x). Despite his modesty, Liebow’s ability to get close to his subjects is the stuff of legend. In his foreword to the 2003 edition of Tally’s Corner, Charles Lemert marvels at Liebow’s informality with Sea Cat: “Liebow “flopped” on the bed. When the condoms fell out, he felt no shame either in putting them away for Sea Cat or in asking about his use of them” (p. xi). Similarly, in her review of Tell Them Who I Am—which she calls “a work full of pathos and insight”—Katherine S. Newman of Columbia University’s Department of Anthropology writes: “Virtually every social scientist in the United States was raised on a diet that included Tally’s Corner. Elliot Liebow is the exemplar of the engaged ethnographer” (see Box 49, Folder 33).

Beloved classic though it is, Tally’s Corner (1967) has regularly been critiqued for the inclusion of the word “Negro” in its subtitle. A notable example of this critique (among others) in the Liebow papers comes from letters written in 1974 by Black students, who, not even ten years after the book’s publication, largely find it dated and distasteful (see Box 11, Folder 5).

The Liebow papers provide strong evidence of his research methods in participant observer studies. That said, the overwhelming majority of his copious field notes and tape recordings must be kept closed for the time being out of consideration for the privacy of his informants. Per the terms of the gift agreement signed by Harriet Liebow (Liebow’s widow), “field notes and related material, marked ‘confidential,’ […] shall be subject to a sixty (60) year restriction from the date of creation of said notes.” The finding aid indicates which materials are open for research and which are closed (and until when).

The first time I heard Liebow’s voice, I was surprised by how deep it was. I was listening to some tape recorded life history interviews with informants for Tell Them Who I Am (see Box 50), and I couldn’t help but be charmed by his parting words to one especially deferential interviewee: “You don’t have to call anybody anything but their first names,” he assured her, “[no] Miss Anybody […] and it’s just plain Elliot.” Tape recordings like that one offer some of the most vivid pictures of Liebow to be found anywhere in the papers; unfortunately, the collection contains very few photographs of him (and what few there are are rather poor quality). Because his role as participant observer seems so unavoidably personal, I found the lack of photographs both frustrating and tantalizing. While it’s true that he gives physical descriptions of himself in both of his books—6’1” tall, 185 pounds at the time of Tally’s Corner (p. 164) and ten pounds lighter, with white hair, by the time of Tell Them Who I Am (p. x)—these cursory accounts fall far short of capturing his charisma. In an obituary that appeared in the November 1994 issue of Anthropology Newsletter, Kim Hopper, the one-time president of the National Coalition for the Homeless, recalls Liebow’s incredible capacity to disarm (see Box 49, Folder 47):

Liebow was a consummate (some would say relentless) ethnographer and teacher. Two cardinal virtues of that dual profession—an ability to listen closely and a gift for storytelling—he held in abundance. Legend (confirmed) has it he once interviewed two men he had interrupted in the process of stealing the alternator from his parked car. (They desisted; “Give the man back his bolts!,” one of them reminded the other as they took their leave.) “It’s amazing what you can learn if you just don’t get excited,” was Liebow’s comment on the episode.

Perhaps the most lingering and impressive aspect of the Liebow papers is the documentation of his so-called retirement, during which, faced with his own imminent death, he steadfastly went on telling us who they are—tossing out stereotypes of the underclasses, just as he had in Tally’s Corner.

On July 11, 1986, Liebow was appointed the first occupant of the Cardinal O’Boyle Chair at Catholic University’s National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS). In January 1990, he was presented with Catholic University’s President’s Medal.

To learn more about the Elliot Liebow Papers, please see the newly published finding aid.

Mullen Library Study Space Reservations: Update

Beginning Monday, April 5, reserving a study space in Mullen Library will be easier, and the library will no longer be closing during the day for cleaning. Frequent disinfecting of all common, high-contact surfaces will be on-going throughout the day.  Reservations will be available for all hours that Mullen Library is open. There will be no limitation to how many hours you may reserve, but please be courteous to other students and only schedule for times you realistically expect to use. Library users will be required to submit a reservation request at least 2 hours in advance of their selected time and reservations can be made 10 days in advance. For more information and to reserve a study space in Mullen Library, please click here.