Author Archives: Linda Papa


Agitation is an interesting word and one used often in the Black Abolitionist speeches and editorials.  One definition offered by is: “persistent urging of a political or social cause or theory before the public.”  This defining seems to fit, yet it also offers the idea that this type of action is at once determined and steady without being violent and aggressive.  “Agitation” says “we’re not going away” as it demands change.  While protest marches and rioting can spark immediate attention and forceful response in kind, agitation works slowly to alter the direction of a nation over time.

Agitation was a key determining factor in changing the mass mindset of a national belief in the economic gain of slave labor.  While those in power were beginning to see the moral duty of ending this cruel institution, fears of retaliation and violence kept this sad slave-based system in place.   A violent revolt would have worked against those who would be free.  This had already taken place in Haiti during the slave rebellion there in 1791.  The majority of slave owners in this country feared a repeat of this violence, with visions of being murdered in their sleep.

A steady demand for reasoned change is not something that would occur to a “naturally violent” segment of humanity.  Those Black Abolitionists who realized that agitation was the best course for a long term solution were the heroes of this period.  And so a steady stream of speeches, lectures, guest appearances, and public “slave narratives” allowed the message to reach those who placed God and reason over economic gain in this country and others.

One writer summed up nicely the overall intention of those working toward the goal of freedom for the slaves.  On June 1, 1839, a relatively short column appeared in The Colored American newspaper titled “Silence on Our Part Not to be Expected.”  Even the title seems to say it all.  In this article (shown here), the writer tells his readers that protest and appeals for justice should be expected from those working for the cause of freedom.  He encourages their continued efforts, yet to approach this effort as “enlightened, prudent, and modest” people.

Colored American newspaper, June 1, 1839

The Digital Titans

“All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football” — Albert Camus

Football was always near and dear to the hearts of fans from the University of Detroit.  From its mud and blood beginning, it quickly became a popular and important part of the school for students, faculty, and administration, as well as the local community.  As the team evolved, the game went from a rough and tumble brawl to a polished and professional athletic challenge.  Devoted fans ensured a place for football as part of student life until its sad end in 1964.  Along with each game, fans were kept informed about the players names and season statistics through glossy, brightly colored and highly collectable programs and memorabilia.  The Football Programs digital collection offers a glimpse into the history of the Titans, the University of Detroit’s much loved team.

The digital Football Collection offers a way to revisit the time when the pride of the university was reflected in the powerful Titan team.  Scroll through the pages of each program and imagine yourself sitting in the stands among the crush of fans.  To complete the experience, click through some of the audio interviews included with the collection and hear first hand the memories of those who were there on the field, who felt the sting of those days before uniforms were designed with safety and comfort in mind.  It’s easy to be proud once again listening to those who still remember their time on the field.

Digital Book Scanning

Ever wonder how a hard cover book gets into digital form for our Digital Special Collections archive?  The process is relatively simple, although there are a few steps involved.  Some of the books and documents in our collection are rare, and while the library will preserve these to ensure they are available to anyone who is interested, digitizing helps preserve them in a unique way so that we can offer them to an Internet based audience.  And this means reaching thousands of people, some of whom may not have access to a brick and mortar library at all.

The process begins with scanning.

Many people have access to traditional scanners, and many may have used them to scan book pages, documents, even photographs.  Scanning is how the digitization begins.  Before we start, however, we’ve got to take a closer look at what the project entails.  A photograph from the first UDM graduating class is easily created on a traditional scanner.  A 350 page yearbook, however, presents a bit of a challenge. For this type of project, we’ll use our ATIZ book scanner.  (Our very own ATIZ book scanner is shown here.)

Scanning a book with this scanner makes our job much easier… and faster!

The most important aspect of any digitization project is image quality.  Images scanned for archival purposes may in the end be the only remaining copy of an important historical event, speech, or record.

When digitizing images, each step is often performed by different people working together on one project:

  • Scanning the actual documents/books/photographs/etc.
  • Cropping scanned images (cropping, resizing, checking for quality, etc.)
  • Editing cropped images (checking for quality, tweaking the final image, etc.)
  • Uploading finished images to the Research portal for archiving and public access
  • Adding metadata (information concerning the images) prior to making the images publicly available.
  • Archiving (filing /storing) and backing up the final digitized materials (original images are archived or “saved” separately from the public area of the portal)

Viewing and handling images contributes to their degradation over time.  Having electronic copies, then, doesn’t just make the content easier to access, it helps preserve the original by allowing us to store the original images sealed away from the damages that the environment (light, oily fingers, air, etc.) can cause.  Our preservation of these important records offer students, scholars, and researchers access to a bit of history they may not otherwise have.   In this way, we’re able to help connect the past with the future.

Come visit our digital collections!  We’d love to share them with you.

Henry Bibb — Abolitionist

The story of Henry Bibb is fairly typical of a lot of Black Abolitionists.  He was born into slavery in the early 1800′s at the peak of American slave holding, and he died before Emancipation.   (His mother was a slave and his father was purported to be a wealthy plantation owner.)  He sought out education illegally, witnessed his siblings sold to other plantations, and married young.  He escaped slavery more than once, and established Canada’s first black newspaper The Voice of the Fugitive.  He became an outspoken activist for abolition, fighting for freedom along side Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown, and became one of the best known Black Abolitionists of his day.

The Digital Special Collections archive is proud to offer a collection of Henry Bibb’s speeches and editorials, both in text and audio formats.  The audio versions of these works were recorded by a volunteer to add another dimension of the presented text.   This allows the archive visitor to return to a time when the fight for freedom meant the struggle for life itself to so many.

The speech linked here was delivered on August 11, 1847, and published in the Emancipator newspaper.  Mr. Bibb spoke before a committee gathered to welcome fugitive slaves arriving by Underground Railroad to a small town just across the Canadian border.

Henry Bibb, August 11, 1847 (page 1)

Henry Bibb, August 11, 1847 (page 1)

British Emancipation Day – August 1

On August 1, 1834, the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 went into effect, ending slavery for the British Empire. Even without the benefit of mass communication, almost every slave in the country celebrated this occasion with hushed reverence, prayers, and hope for the future of a reasoning governmental legislation.For years after this event, August 1, was celebrated as a holiday in the United States by those in the black communities (both slave and free). This one act represented a milestone in abolition efforts fought by so many over the difficult years since the first slaves arrived on U.S. soil.

Included in the festivities for the celebration of August 1 (Emancipation Day) each year, were speeches delivered by prominent abolitionists. One champion of the cause of abolition to speak in 1861 was William Howard Day, whose speeches and editorials can be found in the Black Abolitionist Archive among our digital collections. Day, formally educated (rare for a man of color during this time), spoke eloquently and passionately for the cause of freedom, for a reasoned approach to ending slavery.

In an editorial published in the Douglass’ Monthly newspaper in 1861, Day spoke about the changes that had taken place in the years of slavery in this country since Britain realized its error in enslaving human beings for economic gain. While government officials in the U.S. argued for the economic value of slavery, Day proposed that slavery was actually not beneficial, that instead it had “impoverished the soil” with the evil of its very existence.

This one editorial offers readers a unique glimpse into the steady agitation that was the fight for freedom; that urged reason, compassion, and integration to slowly heal this moral wound.Men like William Howard Day worked tirelessly to keep this healing in progress, to encourage the move forward, to alert those reasoning minds in government to see the inhumanity in this purely economic view of the country.This one reading will likely encourage more.  There is a long and bloody history of slavery dating back thousands of years, yet with this collection of archived editorials and speeches, readers can experience the struggle from a documented accounting.  And with these documents, the contributions of these great men will not be forgotten.

William Howard Day (page 1 of 7)

Check out some amazing recorded history in the Black Abolitionist Archive.  Scroll through more material from William Howard Day and other Black Abolitionists.

1988 and 1992 Digitized Tower Yearbooks Now Available

This month UDM Libraries/Instructional Design Studio is pleased to announce the release of the 1988 and 1992 Tower Yearbooks into the digital archives.  We are also making available the 1990 through 1992 digitized Dental School yearbooks.  The release of the two digitized Tower Yearbooks marks the end of that collection.  Additional Dental School yearbooks will be added every two months until that collection is also complete and up to date.

The final two yearbooks put a very personal face on the students and the times.  Although it doesn’t seem that long ago, looking back on those days through the pages of these final yearbooks allows the viewer an intimate look at how different the fashion, the state of the world, and even the campus itself was back then.  You might see some familiar faces in these glossy pages; and you might gain some insight into how the past creates the future.  They may look different, but students were basically the same then as they are now: fun loving, intelligent, and eager for “great things.”

Robert A. Mitchell, SJ gave the farewell speech that year (1988) at Commencement.  His words spoken so long ago, still seem to apply; still seem to ring true.

1988 Tower Yearbook image 22

To view this and other digital collections, please visit the “Special Collections” link on the Library home page.

Independence Day!

The July 4 holiday celebrates our national freedom and commemorates the hard won independence from England that Americans value. Yet for 300 years there were people living in this country without inclusion, without citizenship, without a national identity, and without freedom. Each year on the fourth of July, they watched the celebrations, the fireworks, and the merrymaking without feeling a connection to place or national pride. For so long, this celebration of freedom only served to remind a portion of the population that they were not free.

The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, however, set in motion a change that would allow those realizing freedom for the first time to have something to celebrate on the 4th of July. By 1865, the country was completely free of the curse of slavery and thousands of people were able to throw off the yoke of “thralldom” they had carried for so long. The joy of the seemingly simple act of celebrating Independence Day now meant so much to this portion of the population who could at last see themselves as citizens.

In an editorial published in the Elevator (an African American owned newspaper) in 1865, the author expresses a happiness in celebrating the July 4 holiday that offers a rare glimpse into a very open expression of freedom.

Elevator - June 30, 1865

Remembering a Tragic Event

As with any traumatic national event, anyone living during the early 1960s likely remembers exactly where they were when they heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. Even today, when anyone mentions “tragic event in Dallas,” it’s likely that this particular event comes to mind. That day, students, teachers, administrators, and staff at the University of Detroit all reeled from the shocking news. Everything in their lives seemed to stop, suspended in an attempt to comprehend what had happened, to try to understand the words “the President is dead.” Amidst the tears and disbelief, who could concentrate on schoolwork, on tests, on paying attention in class? So, like a lot of campuses, offices, and public spaces, U of D shut down for the day following the event. But unlike a lot of places, students showed up for a memorial mass held in honor of our fallen president.

John F. Kennedy died in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. Two solemn pages were devoted to commemorating this unimaginable occurrence in the 1964 Tower Yearbook.

A lot took place during the 1964 school year. The dances and sporting events were held as they always had been. Students went about their days of lectures, and late night studying as usual.  But this year something had changed, and from this year forward in a lot of lives, something would never be the same.

1964 Tower Yearbook image 295

Forever Free

History was made 100 years ago in the cause of human freedom. On the first of January 1863, Abraham Lincoln (16th president of the United States) signed the Emancipation Proclamation declaring the end of slavery in the Confederate states. Part of this document states:

    “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.” (Library of Congress document)

Word of this proclamation traveled slowly from state to state. Some states (those not participating in the rebellion) were left untouched by this document, but with the Civil War in full swing at the time, this wasn’t the sort of news the rebel states wanted to hear. Mostly ignored by the Confederacy, this one official announcement changed the course of the war. Now the fight was for freedom and no longer one that focused on restoring the Union. Over time, all states recognized the moral and ethical choice to abolish slavery, and all agreed to the principles laid out in this one declaration.

On January 16, 1864, an editorial appeared in the Pacific Appeal (published in California) announcing the status of the state by state recognition of this proclamation.

Pacific Appeal January 16, 1864

The Take-Over Generation

In 1962, Life published a special edition of its magazine called “The Take-Over Generation.” This featured the “100 most promising young professionals in the midcentury,” and focused on innovation, creative thinking, and cutting edge ideas. Youth, leadership qualities, and determination were all greatly admired during this time, and Life Magazine set out to recognize those upcoming movers and shakers in business, politics, and science.

The University of Detroit recognized the dynamics of the times too. Where would these bright stars come from anyway? Universities were the fertile ground from which these leaders emerged, and U of D was part of this movement.

In 1963, the first pages of the Tower Yearbook declared U of D’s own part in the making of the Take-Over Generation. A focus not only on gaining a degree, but on learning innovative ways of expressing what students learn was the theme for this year. The idea wasn’t about making money; it was about making changes, and helping to make the world a better place. Back then, we had scientific discoveries to draw from, advances in engineering techniques to experiment with, and conceptual thinking research to spur creativity. The future for the student in 1963 was exciting, open, and limited only by the time it took to announce the next big thing to offer to the world. Students graduating into the social world at this time went on to help bring about the advancements in medicine, technology, and critical thinking we see in the world now.

1963 Tower Yearbook, Image 9

The Take-Over Generation didn’t just “take over,” they inspired the generations that followed to continue in their footsteps. Come take a look at U of D 50 years ago and, and spend some time with those shining faces poised to do great things!

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