Special Collections and Archives is once again making news in the SAA College and University Archives Section Spring 2013 newsletter “The Academic Archivist.“ In this publication we announce the completion of Clarence Herbert New and Wayne Oates’ Papers. Stay tuned for Fall 2013!
Director, Special Collections & University Archivist
I am so pleased and proud to be joining the ZSR Library as Director of Special Collections & University Archivist! My professional career path has led me here to Winston-Salem after 17 years as Head of Special Collections at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. I look forward to sharing my experiences there with Special Collections here–and to focus on sharing our collections with members of the Wake Forest campus community and broader public. Special Collections collects the rare and unique, and it is important to recognize their importance and value, and to ensure their permanent preservation. At the same time, however, administering a Department like this requires a delicate balancing act between preservation and access. Access can mean many things, and can include a visit to see the original, or seeing a digital version of the original online. It is important for me as an archivist, for our audiences to realize that Special Collections has resources, not only collections but its expert staff, waiting and willing to assist with a myriad of projects! Special Collections means Sharing, in my rare book.
As an undergraduate History major, I struggled with what career I was going to pursue, until a professor referred me to the Public History program at Wright State University. At the time, WSU was the only university in the state of Ohio offering any kind of programming in this area, and I followed a dual archives/museum track. The moment I took my first class, I knew this was what I was meant to do with my life. Archives offers a unique opportunity to combine a number of elements–the study and comprehension of the complexity of history, the sharing of these unique resources with the public, and lastly, it requires the management of people, time, and other resources. The management component has allowed me to face the challenge of evaluating these available resources and match them with the needs to both preserve and access rare and unique materials. Plus, working with archives provides a physical challenge as well–there are always boxes to be moved and books to reshelved, and items to be shifted. Being an archivist for over 20 years has also helped me to see my professional career as part of a continuum, in what I can contribute to my institution–I am one of many, and my role is to ensure our collections are safe and secure for the next generation.
However, and this is the critical issue for special collections and archives, there is no point in preserving material if you do not make it available for someone to use.
For additional information in regards to previous publications and my vita, please see:
Special Collections and Archives is overjoyed to announce the completion of the Henlee Hulix Barnette Papers finding aid!!! This finding aid has been a long time coming and we are thrilled to have it finished.
Housed in 91 boxes and covering sixteen different series of categories, the Henlee Barnette papers cover many topics of great importance during the second half of the Twentieth Century. Barnette was a Wake Forest College alumnus, a professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Baptist Seminary, a civil rights activist, a prolific author and speaker, a loyal husband and father, a clinical psychologist, and a political enthusiast among many other things. These topics and many others are now available for researchers accessing his personal and professional papers.
Wake Forest Special Collections and Archives took ownership of the Henlee Barnette Papers between 1993-2000. It has long been a goal of the department to fully process and make available these important papers, and we couldn’t be more excited to have reached that goal! Many thanks to all who processed the collection: Audra Eagle Yun, Vicki Johnson, and most importantly Ashley Jefferson – our Special Collections intern who has worked very diligently over the past few months to complete the project.
I first found Charles Dickens while at the Worrell House in 1979. I have read many of his works over the years and have enjoyed them immensely. When I started working in Special Collections & Archives, I was very excited to find out that we have some of Dickens’ works in the original parts. One of my responsibilities here in the department is the make sure everything on the shelf is cataloged. There are many titles that have been on the shelf for many years, but for some reason, were never been put into the online catalog. While doing this, I realized that the British and American literature sections were cataloged using a hybrid Library of Congress classification system. Instead of grouping titles together, everything was done chronologically. This made titles hard to find. So, starting with the British literature, I started to re-catalog using the correct Library of Congress classification system. This led me to some surprising discoveries. By far the most exciting for me were two folios that were cataloged with Charles Dickens works. These two books were by James Peller Malcolm published in 1808 & 1811. Anecdotes of the manners and customs of London: during the eighteenth century, with a review of the state of society in 1807. published in 1808 and Anecdotes of the manners and customs of London from the Roman invasion to the year 1700… published in 1811. Now these two items, while rare, wouldn’t have gotten my attention normally except for two things, one they really should have been cataloged with history titles, and two, they had two bookplates on the front inside cover, one that said Charles Dickens, and another that stated “From the library of Charles Dickens, Gadshill Place June, 1870.” These particular bookplates stated that these items were in Dickens’ library at Gadshill when he died. Wanting to know more about these titles, I started to research more about them and found out that not only had they been in Dickens library, but the one published in 1808 had been used for his novel Barnaby Rudge. In J. H. Stonehouse’s Catalogue of the Library of Charles Dickens from Gadshill published in 1935, in the entry for these titles he states: “In Vol. 2 is the plate of a charming girl, in a picturesque costume, immortalized in Barnaby Rudge, and here named in Dickens’s handwriting — “Dolly Varden”. Needless to say I was very excited to learn about this important association with Dickens works. It isn’t very often that you can trace a book’s provenance other than bookplates or knowing who gave the book, but to realize that a important author actually used these books for his research makes this discovery all that more exciting. In this case the books were listed in the online catalog, but nothing had been added that stated this association with Dickens. I guess previous catalogers thought that if they were cataloged as Dickens’ works, the association would be self-explanatory. The books were bought in 1974 for $135.00 apiece for the rare books collection. There is a note handwritten in pencil on the front inside cover of the 1808 volume that indicates that the plate number #8 is the plate when Dickens made his notation. It is possible that this was written by the book dealer where we purchased the books. The books were in pretty bad shape when I cataloged them in 2011. The 1811 volume is in better shape than the 1808 volume. The 1811 volume has a back cover that is loose, and some pages at the front that have come unbound. The 1808 volume was in much worse shape with the spine completely split and many loose pages. I sent the 1808 volume down to Craig in preservation to do some repair work. It has now been beautifully repaired and is ready for scholars in English literature as well as English social customs and history to use. I will be sending the 1811 volume down shortly. If you would like to take a look, please come up to the special collections reading room and I will be glad to show you both volumes. It is times like this that I know that I am in the right profession. Not only was I able to provide better access to our collection by cataloging the volumes correctly, but I was able to work with something that belonged to and was used by my favorite author. Most days I love what I do, but on days like the day I found these volumes I can say with a huge smile on my face that I love my job!
Tom Hayes’s documentary film on the life of his father, Harold Hayes, is titled Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire in the Sixties. The film, which is currently showing at the River Run Film Festival, takes its name from a 1969 anthology of Esquire magazine pieces. Both works provide a view of the decade as chronicled by the iconic magazine and its remarkable editor.
In November of 1969 Esquire magazine subscribers received a special offer from publisher Arnold Gingrich. The enclosed letter began, “You are just now escaping, by the skin of your teeth, the most incredible decade in this country’s history: the 1960′s.” It continued,
From Jack Kennedy’s brave cry, “Let us begin,” to the mad smile of Sirhan Sirhan . . . from the first jarring beats of rock music through the frightening chants of “Up Against the Wall,” you have in fact lived through the most interesting of times: a time of generation gaps, sex explosions, peacock revolutions, drug fads, pop art, war, madness, and super-cockeyed wackiness.
And so, welcome to the end of it all. The “cursed” decade is over, and frankly we are in a mood for celebration. To this end we have prepared the most ambitious project in Esquire‘s 36-year history — a book of the decade, our own special version of the sixties. It is a big, handsome, oversize volume of more than a thousand pages called
“Smiling Through the Apocalypse: Esquire’s History of the Sixties”
The anthology gathered some of the most memorable articles from Esquire’s most memorable decade. Wake Forest alumnus Harold Hayes had become managing editor in 1961 and chief editor in 1963, and as Frank DiGiacomo observed in a 2007 Vanity Fair article
Hayes’s Esquire would identify, analyze, and define the new decade’s violent energies, ideas, morals, and conflicts—though always with an ironic and, occasionally, sardonic detachment that kept the magazine cool as the 60s grew increasingly hot. Esquire would become the magazine of the New: “The New Art of Success,” “The New Seven Deadly Sins,” “The New Sophistication,” and, ultimately, the New Journalism, the fancy term given to nonfiction that’s written like a novel.
The Harold Hayes Papers, housed in ZSR’s Special Collections and Archives, shed light on the creation and development of Smiling Through the Apocalypse. The project was important to Hayes, as it documented the eventful decade in the history of both the nation and the magazine. In a memo to Arnold Gingrich Hayes asked for complete editorial control of the project: “I hope you will not believe me to be challenging your authority or position with the magazine if I lean heavily on your forebearance [sic.] and request you to let me do this one alone.” (Gingrich’s response in a handwritten note: “I thought we had already reached that conclusion.”)
Materials in the Hayes Papers also show that the anthology’s (and the magazine’s) tone of casual irreverence was achieved through a great deal of creative brainstorming and meticulous planning by Hayes and his editorial staff. Below is one of Hayes’s many pages of notes on Smiling Through the Apocalypse. Here he listed possible titles for the book itself and for its sections.
Another page of notes listed categories with possible articles. A potential “section on Ladies” did not make it into the final book.
In order to have the anthology ready for sale by Christmas 1969, Esquire staffers had to meet some tight deadlines– as this memo to editor Byron Dobell made clear.
The volume led off with Norman Mailer’s famous article on John F. Kennedy, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” Its original publication in 1960 had sparked the first of many conflicts between Esquire and the contentious author, when Arnold Gingrich changed the title of the article without Mailer’s consent.
Although all of the articles in Smiling Through the Apocalypse had been published in Esquire, there were still issues of copyrights and royalties to be sorted out for the 50 authors collected in the anthology.
A typescript draft of another advertising flyer for the book is an artifact from a time when cutting and pasting involved actual scissors and tape. But the pasted-in quote from Harold Hayes provides his raison d’etre for the Esquire anthology:
The real history of the Sixties has already been written . . . by talented people who didn’t know (or care) they were writing history, because they were reporting what happened– as it happened. It’s all there — told like it was — in the pages of ten years of Esquire.
Harold Hayes’s introduction to Smiling Through the Apocalypse sums up Esquire‘s journey through the pivotal decade in American history. His take on Esquire began as a reaction against “the banality of the Fifties.” Hayes and his fellow editors and writers wanted to shake up the magazine world and bring a fresh perspective to American journalism:
[I]n words and/or pictures (curiously the pictures always provoked the greatest outrage, especially George Lois’s covers) and occasionally with some loss of dignity, the idea was to suggest alternate possibilities to a monolithic view. . . . At Esquire our attitude took shape as we went along, stumbling past our traditional boundaries of fashion, leisure, entertainment and literature onto the more forbidding ground of politics, sociology, science and even, occasionally, religion. Any point of view was welcome as long as the writer was sufficiently skillful to carry it off, but we tended to avoid committing ourselves to doctrinaire programs even though advised on occasion that we might thereby better serve the interests of mankind.
As the decade wore on, the writing in Esquire reflected the increasing upheaval in the society around it:
Against the aridity of the national landscape of the late Fifties we offered to our readers in our better moments the promise of outright laughter; by the end of the Sixties the best we could provide was a bleak grin.
Hayes concludes his introduction with a reference to the “collective confusion” of Americans in 1969.
Harold Hayes continued as editor of Esquire until 1973, when a dispute with the management led to his resignation. Hayes went on to other projects, and Esquire became a very different sort of magazine. Nearly 50 years after its publication, Smiling Through the Apocalypse is a fitting monument to the editor and the magazine that best captured the Zeitgeist of the 1960s.
ZSR Special Collections’s copy of Smiling Through the Apocalypse was owned by Harold Hayes himself. It was part of the large collection of books and manuscripts that Hayes bequeathed to his alma mater shortly before his death in 1989.
Editing Harold Hayes: The Making of a Documentary Filmmaker
A Discussion with Tom Hayes
Friday, April 19, 2013, 4:00PM
Special Collections Reading Room
Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Please join us in the Special Collections Reading Room on April 19 as Tom Hayes (WFU ’79) takes us behind the scenes of his documentary Smiling Through the Apocalypse, which is a featured film at the 2013 River Run Film Festival. The film explores the life and career of Tom’s father, Harold Hayes, with a focus on his years as editor of Esquire magazine in the 1960s.
In this informal presentation and Q&A session, Tom Hayes will discuss the making of Smiling Through the Apocalypse, a film described by one reviewer as “a 99 minute act of love, the story of a publishing icon through the eyes of his son.” Although he had worked as a television producer for over 20 years, Tom’s tribute to his father, who died in 1989, was his first foray into documentary filmmaking. As such it presented a host of new challenges– from fundraising, to navigating fair use law, to dealing with temperamental interviewees. Tom will discuss what he learned as a filmmaker during this process, and also what he discovered about his father’s profound influence on American journalism of the 1960s.
Harold Hayes, a Wake Forest alumnus and North Carolina native, was chief editor of Esquire from 1963 to 1974. During this time the magazine was on the forefront of the New Journalism. Contributors like Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Gore Vidal, Nora Ephron, Peter Bogdonavich, and many others captured the essence of the turbulent decade in Esquire’s pages. In making his documentary Tom Hayes interviewed many of these authors, as well as designers, photographers, and Esquire staffers. He also made extensive use of archival materials, in particular the Harold Hayes Papers at Wake Forest. Materials from the Hayes collection will be on exhibit in Special Collections.
This event is open to the public. For more information, contact Megan Mulder at 336-758-5091.
What’s the oldest book in your collection?
This is the question most frequently asked by visitors to ZSR’s Special Collections. Our oldest book is a manuscript codex dating from around 1240. Created two centuries before the invention of printing with moveable type, this book is a handwritten copy of a commentary on the Biblical gospel books of Matthew and John.
This volume has recently been the subject of study by medieval manuscript experts from some of our neighbor institutions, who have uncovered some interesting features.
Like the vast majority of medieval manuscripts, the text of this book is in Latin. However, physical features of the manuscript suggest that it was made in England. The text is a copy of a scholarly commentary on the gospels of Matthew and John, perhaps part of Hugh of St. Cher‘s Postillae in Universa Biblia juxta Quadruplicem Sensum.
The text has many features typical of manuscripts of this era. It is written on parchment (also called vellum), a specially prepared animal skin. The running heads in blue and red indicate the chapter title on facing pages. Here MA THS indicates that this part of the text is about the gospel of Matthew.
The commentaries on these two gospel books were bound together in their current form much later, probably in the 17th or 18th century. They appear to be pieces of a larger work, and some small notations in the manuscript suggest a reason for this.
This note at the bottom of one leaf includes the word “pecia” along with numbers (in Roman numeral form). The manuscript contains other such markings, which suggest that it might have been part of a 13th century system for copying books for Oxford University faculty and students. This pecia system was modeled after ones developed at Italian and Parisian universities.
Copying texts by hand was obviously a time-consuming process, and the rise of European universities in the 12th century created an increased demand for texts. The pecia system addressed this concern by lending out standard texts in parts (pecia is Latin for piece) to students or to the clergy who made up the university faculties. The borrower would copy the part of the text himself– or hire a professional scribe if he could afford it– and then return the piece to the university stationer (bookseller) for the next part. This system allowed for faster and more efficient production than the lending of lengthy texts in their entirety. Existence of a pecia system at Oxford is less well documented, but it is known that by the mid-13th century the local Dominican order had set up a proto-library of texts available for consultation and copying.
In the universities, the pecia system was also an attempt at quality control. Transmission of manuscript texts was a process prone to error: when texts circulated and copies were made from copies, the effect was like a game of telephone. Errors were transmitted and multiplied to the extent that it was sometimes impossible to determine the correct version of a text. In the Paris universities, the stationers were provided with exemplars– texts vetted by university officials for accuracy– which they lent to scholars for copying. With everyone copying from the same exemplar text, errors were at least reduced (though certainly not eliminated).
The page below shows one common form of correction in a manuscript text. The marginal notation on the left, outlined in red, is text that was accidentally omitted from the column next to it. A symbol in the main text indicates to the reader where the insertion should go.
The excerpt below shows the opposite type of error. In the last line of the left column, some words are crossed out in red and underlined with a series of dots. This indicates text inserted by mistake, which the reader should ignore.
ZSR’s manuscript appears to be an exemplar– a master copy that was lent out for reproduction. The handwriting is skilled enough that it was likely produced by a professional scribe, or at least a skilled copyist. But it is not a deluxe manuscript. Decoration is minimal, and the parchment on which it is written is not high quality. The image below shows one large tear that would have occurred as the skin was prepared. The tear was once sewn up with thread (now disintegrated), as indicated by the tiny holes along the sides.
Smaller tears, holes, and discolorations exist throughout the text. Clearly this was a working textbook, not a luxury item.
Later owners’ marks in the text support the theory that the manuscript has English origins. Both probably date from the 16th or 17th century. One is by a Robart Emy.
The other is one Thomas How[e], who asserts that he “own[es] this booke.” Thomas, who one suspects was a rather young student, has used the margins of several other pages for doodling and practicing his penmanship.
We have little information on the provenance of this manuscript. There is no record of how it came to reside in ZSR’s collection, although a newspaper clipping in our files indicates that it was stolen in the 1970s by a part-time library employee and eventually resurfaced in the library at the College of William and Mary.
So our oldest book has led an exciting life. And it has many mysteries yet to be solved.
This week I attended the third annual “Understanding the Medieval Book” symposium at the University of South Carolina. It was my first time attending this seminar, which is organized by Dr. Scott Gwara of the USC English department and held in USC Library’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. This year’s seminar was led by Dr. Eric Johnson, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts at Ohio State University. Participants included teaching faculty, librarians, and students from various academic institutions. During the two-day symposium Eric described in detail the physical and textual features of medieval manuscripts, with a focus on religious texts. We learned about how manuscript books were created– from the making of parchment, to the scriptorium, to the bindery– and how they were used by their original owners. We also talked a lot about ways to use medieval books and fragments in the college (and even K-12) classroom.
ZSR’s Rare Books Collection does not have an extensive collection of medieval manuscripts. We have five manuscript codices (bound volumes) which I believe date from the late 14th/early 15th centuries. All are religious works in Latin. We also have a few manuscript fragments taken from larger works.
The image above is a page from one of ZSR’s manuscript codices. It is probably Italian (though the text is of course in Latin) and has many typical features of a manuscript from the 14th century. The red and blue ornamentation is not just decorative. Rubrication in medieval manuscripts served as a sort of punctuation, orienting the reader to line breaks and different sections in the text. Marginal notes and symbols, like the manicule (pointing finger), could be used to highlight important passages, add text or commentary, or correct errors in the text.
This very small New Testament manuscript from our collection is an example of the trend for “pocket Bibles” which began in the 12th century.
Most medieval manuscripts were written on parchment (also called vellum), which was specially prepared animal skin, usually goat, sheep or calf. Parchment was durable but very expensive, so bookmakers on a budget often made do with lower-quality skins. These might have uneven pigmentation, holes, or other flaws. The image above is a detail from another of ZSR’s manuscript books. The right margin shows a tear in the parchment, which was at one point repaired by sewing up the hole with thread.
Manuscript production in Europe fell off rapidly with the invention of printing from moveable type in the mid-1400s. Manuscript books were sometimes disbound and the parchment sheets put to other uses. One typical use was in the bindings of other books. Above is a manuscript page pasted inside the cover of a volume of the works of Horace, printed in Venice in 1490. Below, a page from a manuscript missal covers the outer binding of a 1532 Basel imprint.
Though the ZSR medieval manuscripts collection is not large, it gets a lot of use. I show the books to many medieval and Renaissance history and literature classes, and my History of the Book class uses the manuscripts extensively. And of course I pull them out every time someone asks the ever-popular “What’s your oldest book?” question. My goal in attending the USC symposium was to learn more about medieval manuscripts so that I could use them more effectively in teaching and so that I could create catalog records for our codices, which are currently undocumented. I definitely learned a lot, and I met some terrific medievalists. In fact, Dr. Gwara from USC and Dr. Jo Koster from Winthrop University have volunteered to make a site visit to ZSR next week, to look at our manuscripts and help me identify and describe them in detail. So check back for part 2 of this post, in which we’ll learn everything we ever wanted to know about medieval manuscripts at ZSR!
This post was written by Paige Horton, student assistant in Special Collections and Archives.
Women and Wake Forest have quite the colorful history. In honor of Women’s History Month we here at Special Collections dug around and found something very special for you: The Deans Record Group: Dean of Women (RG4.3), and Women’s Government Association (RG4.31) Collections.
The collection itself is made up of minutes, correspondence, and subject files that feature staff, student committees, and societies. The University Archives is home to the administrative paperwork available in the finding aid, and the Women’s Government Association handbooks can be found in the library catalog. Students can get a first-hand look at the Women’s Government Association (WGA) handbooks which details all the guidelines women had to live by at Wake Forest.
The History of Wake Forest provides an interesting look into the admission of women. Women of junior and senior status were officially admitted into Wake Forest College in 1942. The College came to this decision based on the amount of students they could potentially have:
From the Baptist junior colleges, young women were graduating and were going to other institutions to complete their college work. Among them were not a few who could not find the work desired in Meredith College or in any other Baptist college for women, and on that account they were going in increasing numbers to the University of North Carolina and other institutions, where they could get the instruction they desired. With them often went their brothers and friends, who normally would attend Wake Forest. If Wake Forest College would admit them they would go there, since they desired to be in a Baptist college. Another consideration was that for the duration of the war the income from students’ fees would be materially lessened by the drafting for the armed services of those who would be regularly among the students of the College, and that this loss might be reduced by the fees of the young women from the junior colleges who would not go to Meredith College in any event.
In 1943 a board member “presented a compromise which allowed women to enter Wake Forest in any class (previously they had been admitted only at the junior and senior levels); recognized university status for Wake Forest, giving it the right to develop as it thought best and committed the convention to greater support of Wake Forest through funding of development programs.”
The admission of women to Wake Forest College, along with the end of the war, had some unforeseen complications. In spring 1946 the campus total came to 1,000 students. There wasn’t enough space to house all the students but the college and the town worked together to “provide lodgings of some kind for everyone.” Women stayed in Bostwick and Hunter dormitories, “even in the basements and attics.”
The Women’s Government Association and the Dean of Women were created in response to the acceptance of women. According to the 1964 handbook, “The WGA is you. The officers are elected by you and will represent you in all matters pertaining to the life of the women of Wake Forest College. The WGA is not merely a law-making organization, but a group created to help give a sense of unity to all the women of Wake Forest College. The WGA desires to help you, and in turn, needs your support to make your years here a success.”
The WGA created a handbook instructing coeds on how they should conduct themselves while at Wake Forest. Some of the rules include:
Coeds could not ride in cars or airplanes without the written permission of their parents. They were forbidden to enter any man’s room or apartment, and fraternity houses were strictly off limits. Women could not smoke on the streets, and they were not allowed to possess or use alcoholic beverages. Only Seniors were permitted to date every night of the week and, in that activity, were forbidden to go to the stadium, the athletic field, and certain dark areas of the grounds.
The handbooks have a variety of codes of conduct but here are some of the more interesting ones!
1953-1954: Dating in parked cars during the evening is not permitted. A date is considered being in the company of a boy more than fifteen minutes.
Blue jeans are for picnics and hikes—not to be worn on campus or in the parlors except for unusual circumstances. Permission to wear jeans on the campus may be obtained from any member of the council.
Hose are worn when going to Raleigh.
1957-1958: Bermuda shorts may be worn to the phone booths, drive-in movies, miniature golf course, through the small parlor when leaving or entering the dorm to and form a car, on picnics, swimming, in the recreation room, and to the Farmer’s Dairy Bar. These rules apply except on Sundays. Bermudas may be worn on Sundays with raincoats or skirts.
1961-1962: A student may not go to the phone or be in the parlor without wearing shoes.
During serenades girls are asked to dress adequately and to be as courteous and considerate as possible. They are also asked to refrain from making excess noise whether they attend the serenade or not.
1962-1963: Second semester freshmen may go to the library any night, but must return to the dorm by 10:30. During this time she may go to the soda shop to get something, but may not sit down to eat it.
1965-1966: It’s a College rule that participation in or inciting a riot (and this includes panty raids) is subject to penalty.
You’ll be considered on a date if you leave the dormitory with a boy after 7:30pm. However, you are permitted to go to the library or to one of the science laboratories with a boy without being considered on a date.
1969-1970: You are asked to use good taste in what you wear both on and off campus. Sweat shirts and cut offs are discouraged! Slacks and shorts are not to be worn in administrative offices in Reynolda Hall, the Chapel, classes, or the Magnolia Room. Please do not wear slacks and shorts on the upper campus before two pm on Sundays.
1970-1971: Wake Forest students are expected to recognize that marijuana, LSD, and other psychedelic drugs are illegal…The University’s physicians, counselors, and chaplains are available to students who wish to discuss confidentially matters concerning drug use, subject to the legal limitations on confidential communication.
Naturally the inclusion of women on campus led to some unforeseen consequences. “Some of the campus hijinks over the years were coeducational in nature. The admission of women to Wake Forest had initiated an automatic rivalry which was sometimes friendly and on occasion somewhat sour.”
Some of these issues were explored publicly. One girl wrote into the OG&B saying: “It seems as if one must look like Liz Taylor to get a date. Have you boys ever realized that you don’t look like Clark Gable?…I believe that if given a chance the girls that aren’t so beautiful would prove cute enough for your adorable personalities…give the Wake Forest coeds a chance.” The newspaper received several responses from the male population in varying degrees of dissatisfaction. Winston-Salem also took notice to this ‘rivalry’. In 1966 a reporter for the Winston-Salem Journal surveyed the girls at 8 colleges and universities and reported that they found Wake Forest men to be “rude, crude, and unacceptable” and “retarded mashers.” “Since admissions standards for men were lower, women tended to be more ambitious and intelligent, and they found it difficult to locate a marriageable man on the campus,” (History of Wake Forest IV, p.307-308).
Another aspect the collection provides interesting insight into is the creation and upkeep of the societies. The societies the collection offers information on includes the Fideles, Rigels, Petales, Les Soeurs, S.O.P.H., Thymes, Laurels, and Strings. “The societies themselves are primarily social in their function. They hope to offer the coed a broader scope of social living and at the same time to make some contribution to the life of the College and the community as well as to the lives of the society members.”
The Student Affairs Committee held open-hearings in order to properly evaluate how the societies were functioning- around campus and this is what they found.
It appears that the societies are most important for the girls during their freshman and sophomore years: in other words, they apparently fill a need for entering girls as they orient themselves to ready-made identity groups and make minor loyalties and friendships within the larger loyalty to Wake Forest College. According to our findings, senior girls rank them at the lower side of the list of factors most important in their collegiate career. Apparently there is already operating an unconscious phasing-out of society-identity in the lives of some students who are most mature, more self-reliant, more scholarly. Therefore, we recognize the role of societies in this maturing process of the individual student and in their contribution to the loyalty to the academic community, but we think that for those girls who tend to outgrown them, we would encourage a procedure whereby their membership could relapse into an honorary status.
Overall The Deans Record Group, Dean of Women, and Women’s Government Association Collections offer an exemplary and unique inside look at the social lives of women at Wake Forest College. To access the collection students can view the finding aid to get a brief overview or make an appointment with Special Collection to view the collections.
Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is the first published volume of poetry by an African-American author. This fact in itself would make the book significant, but Phillis Wheatley’s Poems has a complicated and fascinating history of its own.
Readers of the 1773 first edition would have been familiar with biographical details of Wheatley’s life. Born around 1754, the future poet was kidnapped from some part of Africa and transported to Boston aboard the slave ship Phillis in 1761. A frail child of not more than seven, she miraculously survived a transatlantic journey that killed nearly a quarter of her fellow-passengers (a figure slightly higher than average for slave ships of that time).
Most of the Phillis’s human cargo was sold in the Caribbean. Only those unfit for work on the plantations—women, children, the elderly, sick, or disabled—continued on to Boston to be sold as domestic servants. Slavery was legal in all of the British colonies in the mid-18th century, but African slaves were fairly uncommon in New England.
John Wheatley, a prosperous Boston merchant and devout Congregationalist, purchased the little girl as a companion for his wife, Susanna. She was named after the ship that brought her from Africa. Once in the Wheatley home, Phillis quickly displayed an aptitude for learning. Her education, likely undertaken by Susanna Wheatley and her 18-year-old daughter, Mary, was equivalent to that of the daughters of any well-off New England family of the time. A prefatory note to the Poems describes Phillis’s early life and education:
Phillis Wheatley’s experience as a slave in 18th century Boston was highly unusual, in that she does appear to have been treated by Susanna Wheatley as a member of the family, or something close to it. Phillis herself wrote after Susanna’s death that “I was treated by her more like her child than her Servant; no opportunity was left unimprov’d, of giving me the best of advice…”.
Phillis Wheatley became a published author at the age of about 13, when her poem “On Messrs. Hussey and Coffin” was printed in the Newport Mercury newspaper. In 1770 her elegy for the charismatic Rev. George Whitefield was widely printed as a broadside.
By 1772 Phillis had apparently amassed a considerable number of poems in manuscript, which had been widely circulated among the Wheatleys’ circle. Susanna (presumably with Phillis’s approval) decided to seek a wider audience by having a collection of 28 poems published. She advertised the Boston Censor magazine for subscribers for “A Collection of Poems, wrote at several times, and upon various occasions, by PHILLIS, a Negro Girl, from the strength of her own Genius.” The volume was to be an octavo of approximately 200 pages “handsomely bound and lettered.” The publisher, Ezekiel Russell, would begin printing copies as soon as 300 subscribers were committed to purchasing the book.
Publishing by subscription was a standard practice for an unknown author in the 18th century, especially in the colonies. Boston printers made their living from steady sellers like primers, almanacs, newspapers, and pamphlets. Then as now, a book of poetry was unlikely to turn much of a profit, so an aspiring author would be required to finance the publication herself.
Colonial printing in general was a very small enterprise compared to the large and established publishing industry in London. So it is not surprising that the majority of books for sale in the North American colonies were imported from England, nor that many American authors sought London publishers for their works. Even as Phillis waited for subscribers to sign up for her proposed Boston publication, she and the rest of the Wheatleys were using their connections to make inquiries in England.
Phillis had sent a copy of her elegy for George Whitefield to Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, whom Whitefield had served as personal chaplain. The Countess was involved in many of the same evangelical causes as were the Wheatleys, and in 1772 she agreed to finance the publication of Phillis’s poems by London printer Archibald Bell. Since subscribers for the Boston venture were not very forthcoming, and since publication in London was far more prestigious anyway, the Wheatleys quickly agreed.
At the suggestion of the Countess of Huntingdon, the Wheatleys provided an engraved portrait of Phillis for the book’s frontispiece. The portrait may have been done by another African slave living in Boston, the artist Scipio Moorhead. Phillis included a poem to him in the published collection.
The portrait was a somewhat surprising addition to the volume, such frontispieces being common only in substantial tomes by famous (and often long-dead) authors. But the Countess told the Wheatleys’ agent that it would “contribute greatly to the Sale of the Book”. She likely assumed that the portrait would reinforce the novelty of a young, enslaved, African woman writing a book of poetry.
The marketing of the London volume focused almost entirely on this seeming incongruity. Anticipating that there might be skepticism about whether Phillis was actually the author of the poems, she and the Wheatleys recruited eighteen of New England’s most prominent religious and political leaders to sign a document attesting to the veracity of her authorship.
Phillis herself was well aware that her published volume of poetry was not just a reflection of her personal abilities. For Phillis, the rest of the Wheatleys, and their like-minded supporters, Poems on Various Subjects was a political and moral statement intended to incite controversy.
Debate about the moral and intellectual capacities of people of African descent was raging in the 18th century public sphere, and the abolitionist movement was beginning to organize itself in England. The nation had invented, and was still the major participant in, the trans-Atlantic slave trade. But the horrors of the slave trade and the appalling conditions on Caribbean plantations in particular had begun to turn English public opinion against the institution of slavery.
Supporters of the system of chattel slavery argued that these early abolitionists were naïve about the nature of enslaved Africans. Branches of 18th century science put forth the idea that the African races had evolved separately from the European and were essentially subhuman, incapable of true moral sensibility or artistic creativity. Therefore their use as slave labor was no more immoral than the keeping of domesticated animals. Opponents of this view put forth both religious and scientific arguments to counter it. Of course, there were many gradations on this spectrum of belief. Many people who were convinced of the overall inferiority of Africans (Thomas Jefferson, for example) still strongly objected to the inhumane treatment of slaves. And some, like John and Susanna Wheatley, who argued for the inherent equality of the races, nonetheless owned slaves themselves. But the argument itself was basic to the debate over whether slavery could exist in a civilized society.
As the publication of Phillis’s poems was being arranged, it was decided that she should make what was essentially a publicity tour to England. John and Susanna Wheatley’s son Nathaniel had planned a business trip to London in the spring of 1773, and Phillis accompanied him. Publicity for the book was meticulously planned by Susanna, Phillis, and their friends. Phillis’s poem “A Farewel to America” was published in New England papers upon her departure and was also sent ahead to London for publication there.
In the poem Phillis expresses regret at parting with Susanna (who was quite ill), but also eagerly anticipates her visit to the intellectual and cultural center of British society. The visit of an enslaved person to England at this point in time had other implications, which would have been well known to readers on both sides of the Atlantic. The Somerset Decision had recently ruled that enslaved Africans visiting England could not be forced by their purported masters to return to the Americas. If Phillis had chosen to stay in England in the summer of 1773, Nathaniel could not have compelled her return to Boston.
And it appears that Phillis thoroughly enjoyed her time in London. Although she did not meet her patron the Countess of Huntingdon (who was in Wales at the time), she visited many well-known figures and was toured around the cultural high points of London. Her visit was cut short, however, by news of Susanna Wheatley’s rapidly failing health. Phillis chose to return to Boston to be with Susanna during her last days, leaving London a month before her volume of poetry was published.
When Poems on Various Subjects appeared in September 1773, it was reviewed in at least eight London magazines. Reviewers invariably remarked on the unusual circumstance of an African slave writing serious literature, and several specifically pointed out the implications for the slavery debate. The Critical Review (September 1773) remarked that
The Negroes of Africa are generally treated as a dull, ignorant, and ignoble race of men, fit only to be slaves, and incapable of any considerable attainments in the liberal arts and sciences. A poet or a poetess amongst them, of any tolerable genius, would be a prodigy in literature.–Phillis Wheatley, the author of these poems, is that literary phaenomenon…. The author appears to be of a serious, and religious turn of mind.
Copies were sold in Boston too, and the book garnered as much attention and fueled as much debate in America as in England.
This historical context is important to an understanding of Wheatley’s poetry. In the 18th century, the highest form of artistic expression was poetry in the classical mode. Phillis’s formal language and classical allusions may sound stilted to modern readers, but it was vital that she prove her ability to write in this style. No one could argue that an author who could approximate the poetry of Homer and Ovid (or at least Milton and Pope) was possessed of a subhuman intellect.
Phillis’s religious sensibility is also an important aspect of the Poems. She was by all appearances genuinely devout in the Calvinist, evangelical Christianity of her Boston community. This too gave the lie to assertions that Africans lacked moral sensibility, and it lent support to evangelicals’ arguments that slaves should be taught to read the Bible and participate fully in religious life.
Most of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry cannot really be understood outside of its religious context. Particularly important is the Calvinist idea of Providence, and especially God’s ability to use even sinful acts of humans to achieve his purposes. The brief verse that Henry Louis Gates called “the most reviled poem in African-American literature” depends entirely on this idea.
For the poet, an act of profound evil—her kidnapping from Africa—was used by God for a good end—her introduction to Christianity. An 18th century Congregationalist would understand that this in no way excuses the sinful act itself (although some proponents of slavery in the 19th century would use religious ends-justify-means arguments for continuing the slave system). And no one who has read Phillis Wheatley’s poetry and letters would believe that this is her intent, in this poem or in others on the subject.
The publication of Poems on Various Subjects may have been politically motivated, but the voice of the young poet also comes through strongly, despite what may seem to us an antiquated style and theology. Phillis Wheatley’s poems contain many conventional self-deprecating references to her lowly status, but in fact she had little hesitation in addressing the grandest personages, from King George to General Washington. In one poem she offers advice to the graduating class of Harvard:
Phillis’s independence of mind is also evident in the little we know about her later life. John Wheatley granted her freedom (perhaps under some pressure from her English supporters), and Susanna Wheatley died shortly after Phillis’s return from England in 1773. Phillis seems to have remained with John Wheatley and later with Mary and her husband during first years of the Revolution. But both John and Mary died in 1778, and Nathaniel had married and remained in England. Against the wishes of members of the extended Wheatley family, Phillis married a free black man, John Peters, in 1778.
Later biographers depicted Peters as a lazy con man, unworthy of the refined Phillis’s attentions. But this is probably unfair. In truth, Peters seems to have been intelligent, handsome, and ambitious. But the remaining Wheatleys disliked him, and Phillis seems to have had little contact with the family after her marriage.
John Peters advertised a planned second volume of Phillis’s poems in 1779, but it was never published. Peters, like many others, found himself in dire financial straits during the disastrous economic depression that followed the Revolution. He was likely interred in debtors’ prison more than once, leaving Phillis in difficult circumstances. The Peterses may have had as many as three children, but all apparently died in infancy.
Phillis, who had always suffered from respiratory ailments and an “asthmatic condition,” died in December 1784, probably while her husband was in prison. The manuscript of her second volume of poetry has never been found. We are left to remember this remarkable author only by her Poems on Various Subjects.
ZSR Library’s first edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was purchased in 1994 with funds from the Oscar T. Smith endowment.
Vincent Carretta. Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011.
Mukhtar Ali Isani. “The British Reception of Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects” The Journal of Negro History , Vol. 66, No. 2 (Summer, 1981), pp. 144-149.
Walt Nott. From “Uncultivated Barbarian” to “Poetical Genius”: The Public Presence of Phillis Wheatley”. MELUS , Vol. 18, No. 3, Poetry and Poetics (Autumn, 1993), pp. 21-32
Kirstin Wilcox. “The Body into Print: Marketing Phillis Wheatley.” American Literature , Vol. 71, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 1-29