Author Archives: Linda Papa

A Note on the New Year from 1855

The following editorial was published in the Provincial Freeman newspaper on January 6, 1855. The digitized version of this editorial in the Black Abolitionist Archive allows us to bridge the expanse of 161 years, and merge in time with the author who signs her name simply as “S.” (This is probably Mary Ann Shadd who edited the newspaper during this time.)  Although so much historic change has taken place since this editorial was written, it seems today’s readers will recognize how relevant the sentiments are here.

I’m including a transcribed version of this editorial here for reading ease.  But in order to gain a full experience of the connection in time, please visit the original article here:

“Two Weeks of Time

     “Since our last issue the old Car of Time has been rolling forward, and two weeks more have been added to the days that are past and gone.  During that short period, the holidays have come and gone, and as this is the first opportunity we have had of greeting our readers, we sincerely hope that the season has been to them one of predictable enjoyment.

     Christmas, Merry Christmas has been here. To many it was indeed a day of rejoicing, a time of social reunion; then families assembled, and while enjoying the festivities of the day, the past was almost forgotten and the future lightly thought of.

     May their brightest hopes and brightest anticipations be realized!

     Within these same two weeks another year has dawned upon us, another account has been opened in the Book of Time, to be continued until the approaching year warns us that the Balance Sheets must be compared.

     How many on the opening of the departed year started out with a large stock on hand of plans formed for the future! How many resolves to avoid vice in its many forms, were made? To shun the gaming table, to put away the “maddening bowl,” to make renewed efforts to retrieve a good character or restore a ruined fortune?  How many looked forward to long lives of happiness, surrounded with all the comforts that wealth can procure, or upon how many who went forward in the strength of manhood to do battle for their country, conscious of hardships to be encountered, yet willing to brave them all in defence of the right and their country’s glory, and hoping, with a laudable ambition, to win unfading laurels by doing deeds of valor, has the New Year dawned?

     Each heart knoweth its own sorrow and of the millions who have compared notes, we fear but few, comparatively, will dare say, I am in a solvent condition.  A great majority have been declared bankrupt.

     The thousands who fell at Inkermann and on the banks of the Alma, assist in swelling that vast majority; but though they will never be again greeted by the accustomed salutations, the story of their noble achievements will often be recounted on many a day which shall usher in what we hope this will be to all, — A Happy New Year!  S. “

“The Merry Christmas Time”

Christmas celebrations in the late 1800s weren’t anything like they are today. The focus was on church activities, caroling, and the warm gathering of family and friends. Gifts were secondary to the celebration of this holy season, and giving was more about caring than buying expensive presents. For those whose very existence depended on the kindness of strangers, support from charity and provisions for the poor were appreciated more than ever to help them through the harsh winters and desperate times.

In 1860, the country was on the verge of war. South Carolina had seceded from the Union on December 20th of that year.  Other states would follow in the months after. By February, 1861, the Confederacy would be officially formed, and by April, the country was at war. During the Christmas season of 1860, the country was poised for a traumatic change that would take its toll on the celebration that year and the years to come.

This article from the December 29, 1860, issue of the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper reflects the unsettled feelings of the time.  Not only was the threat of war discussed in the social gatherings of activist and concerned white citizens in both the northern and southern portions of the country, it was also an important topic in black newspapers across the U. S. and in Canada. Now more than ever the poor, the enslaved, and the disenfranchised needed a helping hand. And this help could only come from individual donations, along with church organizations.

The writer asks those of his readers with “the means or even the possibility to give” to remember the poor this time of year.  He suggests that offerings like a “half a load of coal” or a turkey or a few blankets would make welcome gifts for those in need who are too proud to ask for help. This season, he tells his readers, offers the perfect time to give what will be most appreciated.

“Reader, with the means or even the possibility to give, you cannot imagine until you have tried, how much these little benevolences add to the joy of the merry Christmas times.”

This message holds true for us today, even with all the assistance programs available to those in need. Charity is a gift of love that benefits both the giver and receiver.

When viewing this article, don’t forget to use the magnifying tool included on the page. And while you’re there, why not check out other articles and speeches in the Black Abolitionist Archive. It’s a great way to experience a unique perspective on a very traumatic time in U.S. history.


The Madrigal Christmas

During the Renaissance (the early 16th century), the Madrigal, a part-song for several voices, developed as a result of an interest in the musical tones that Italian language and poetry encouraged from the human voice.  It was the sound, the music of language itself that offered the art of this expression.  Poets and musicians had long recognized this unique aspect of language, but the two merged during this time to form something completely unique and profoundly beautiful.

The Madrigal was usually arranged in elaborate counterpoint and without instrumental accompaniment.  The style now is free-form and the words move the song along without the need of sound other than the voices themselves.  The listeners’ attentions are drawn to the experience of the expression and not just to the foot taping melodies that instrumentation often lends to song.

In the mid-1960s, the Choral Department at the University of Detroit began offering Madrigal Dinner events.  The University of Detroit Chorus Collection, tells us a bit more about this in the introduction available on its event page for the Madrigal Dinner:

“In December of 1964, the Chorus started a Christmas tradition called the “Madrigal Dinner”. During this year they had four settings; each on a separate day. As one article noted “In addition to the traditional Yuletide meal of Old England, including wassail cup, roast sirloin of beef and plum pudding, the dinners will feature Madrigal Singers, who will entertain during and after the meal in authentic costumes of the period. The meal will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the UD Student Union Ballroom, with guests being heralded to the meal by trumpeters playing a fanfare and processional. The trumpeters will also be on hand to announce the arrival of the wassail bowl, boar’s head and plum pudding.

In 1965, the President’s Dinner for the Faculty became the second Madrigal Dinner. Two dinners were held with each consisting of approximately half of the full-time faculty and administrators, with their wives or husbands. According to documents within the Archives, the total attendance for both dinners was around 300 people.

In 1966 the Chorus went back to four settings, each on a separate day. The price went up from $4.00 in 1964 to $4.50. This was the last year this event took place at the university.”

This holiday season, why not spend some time with a bit of Christmas “Renaissance Style,” and explore the history of the University of Detroit Chorus Madrigal Dinners.  You can hear songs from a CD of the 1965-1966 event here.  This is bound to add to your holiday celebrations. While you’re there, check out the rest of our University of Detroit Chorus Collection.


“Children of the Cloud and Frost”

It’s often difficult to believe that some of the Tamarack publications are from the 19th century. The writing, refined and thoughtful, could have been written today. The end of the 19th century usually brings images of horse drawn carriages, oil lamps, and mustachioed male students in Bowler hats. And the women? Oh, they were at home, cinched into their corsets, raising children or reading or dusting or staying off bicycles.

By 1897, the Victorian Age (which began in 1837 when Queen Victoria was crowned and ended with her death in 1901) was nearing its end. The students at the University of Detroit had no reason to think the world would not just continue on in its refined and peaceful way. They would graduate into the world of their father’s and continue on the path towards success already created for them.

Within the pages of the early Tamarack issues, lies a truer image of individual life in 1897 Detroit. The country was changing, the peace and relative prosperity of the Victorian era would have to soon give way to the troubling changes that waited with the early years of the new century. For now, though, 1897 was filled with an idyllic view of life exemplified in the poetic view of winter described in William F. Foley’s youthful and romantic essay.

William F. Foley contributed often to the Tamarack issues between 1897 and 1901.  He would graduate in 1902.


Print Theses Bibliography Now Available

Writing a thesis can be a daunting task.  A lot of emotional blood, sweat, and sometimes tears goes into the process.  The immense dedication, often enormous amounts of independent research, late nights and weekends spent on this is not only inspiring but amazing.  And then what?  Often the value in this achievement is not the finished work but the benefit to others that follows.

The culmination of all the knowledge and learning received during a student’s time at the university is laid before a panel of brilliant professors to be read and judged, and a lot of them are shared with the library. A good many of these have been digitized and submitted to our library database accessed through our Special Collections page.

But did you know that the library also holds 8,000 print theses in our lower level?

This month, we introduce a new section of our Special Collections page where users can easily find the call numbers and location of any of these print theses by searching through an easy to use digital bibliography. Searches can be made by author, degree, program, year, or title.  It’s really worth a look, even if you aren’t doing research.

In the introduction to the Print Thesis Collection, users are reminded that:

“If you are the author of one of these works and are interested in having it digitized and made available via UDMs digital theses collection, please contact the Associate Dean for Instructional Technology (1-313-578-0579, UDM Libraries and Instructional Design Studio would be happy to digitize your work and return the print copy to you.”



The Varsity News

January 1, 1918, the first publication of the Varsity News appeared on the campus of Detroit College. From the first issue to today (for almost 100 years), the Varsity News has been a very important part of campus life.  It keeps students informed and connected; it offers a bridge between students and faculty activities; and it continues a tradition of providing news to the university community that may not be found any other way.

Over the years the emphasis in reporting has gone from light to heavy to a balance between the two. Most issues of the Varsity News are eight pages long.  Yet, within these few pages, we learn how war affected the student population; how the unsettled rumblings of a discontented youth movement were felt on this campus; how the quirky and mysterious were discovered within the halls and buildings across the university; the raising of the new and the razing of the old; the things that gave us joy and those that caused us pain; the things that made us think, and the things that made us laugh. These things were all there in the pages of the Varsity News, and available still within the Varsity News archive.

We invite you to spend some time in the Varsity News digital archive. This is part of your university experience, and something you can be proud to share.


Thanksgiving Day

In 1863, the debate about establishing a national day of Thanksgiving was well underway.  On September 28th of that year, Sarah Hale, American writer and editor, wrote an impassioned letter to Abraham Lincoln encouraging him to set aside an official day to recognize the spirit of thankfulness that defined the country overall.  This, she argued, would be of benefit to the entire population especially during this time of civil war.

Included in her letter (on the last page) is a clipping from an editorial she wrote for her Lady’s Book magazine that says,

“The influence of these state seasons of sacred remembrances, high aspirations, and tender . . . rejoicings would not only be salutary on the character of our own citizens, but the world would be made better . . . . If the germ of good feeling be ever so deeply buried under ‘the cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life,’ it may be brought out by sympathy and vivified by culture and effort.”


On August 8, of that year, however, the Pacific Appeal newspaper had already taken the first step with their own celebration of Thanksgiving.  In this case, the celebration was in connection with the already celebrated August 1 anniversary of Emancipation Day in the British West Indies (August 1, 1834).  Emancipation Day was renamed “National Thanksgiving Day” temporarily (and likely just for San Francisco) as a way for those of African decent in this county to be included in this debate.  Presented as a national holiday, the article cleverly presents its case to those readers who were already celebrating this annual holiday in the African American community.

For more information on the Black Abolitionist Archive, please visit our Special Collections page. Spending time perusing this and other collections is a great way to discover something interesting during the holiday break or any time.


The Football Riots

No one saw it coming.  It’s only a game after all, right?  Lots of students, who were more interested in academics and had never bothered with attending the games, hardly noticed the decisive blow that officially ended Varsity football at the University of Detroit.  But when it was officially ended on November 30, 1964, the serene setting of this peaceful campus exploded into screaming chaos resulting in two nights of student rioting that some will not soon forget.

The popularity of Varsity football had a slow, steady climb at the University of Detroit from the first game to its official demise in 1964, but in its final years it struggled to survive.  Yet when the death knell chimed, it was just too much for hundreds of student fans to accept quietly.  The timeline in the 1973 yearbook notes that the announcement sent them “screaming and running” into the streets, blocking traffic and removing traffic lights on Livernois and Six Mile.  The rioting mob continued on down Livernois, and spilling onto the Lodge, successfully prevented traffic from flowing there.  The 1965 Tower reports that rioting lasted two nights, with approximately 800 students participating the first night, and a thousand taking part on the second night.

Student protestors block traffic on the Lodge freeway (1965 yearbook image).

The rioting that resulted from the news of the Varsity football cut allowed a release of the anger that came from feeling unable to stop what everyone feared was coming.  Frustration took them into the streets, anger kept them there for two nights; the cold and the threat of police action, took them back to campus, deflated and resigned.

It didn’t help that the final year was so miserable.  The team had realized a steady decline that contributed to dwindling attendance and resulting financial woes.  By this point, attendance had dwindled to just under 12,000 fans per game, which meant a loss of around $65,000 (according to page 257 of the 1965 Tower yearbook).  It was no longer feasible to keep football going.

This poor performance continued into the 1965 season in games played after the axe fell.  It seemed all the steam had gone out of the team’s will to succeed.  What was the point?  The players were committed, however, and so the Titan team fulfilled its commitments, even mustering up enough energy to beat Dayton at one of the final home games 21-6.

As university officials desperately tried to resolve the mass anger and frustration with paltry solutions (Club football being one), in the end, all efforts proved unsuccessful.  Football was no more.

Football first started at U of D to encourage enrollment and help build the university.  The end came as it had begun, with the signing of a formal agreement, and an eye on financial resources.  The university powers that be had concluded that the value was just not worth the cost.

For all their efforts, those who rioted that dark November had to simply stand back and watch their beloved team sport fizzle, sputter, and die.  The stadium would soon follow.

Light Up the Land

The history of the University of Detroit Mercy begins with the establishment of Detroit College by the Jesuits in 1877.  The story of the university stretches the expanse of years since then from its humble beginnings on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit to the location of the current main campus on Livernois. The college became the University of Detroit in 1927, and merged with Mercy College in 1990, to become the University of Detroit Mercy. That’s the basic historical timeline that takes us from UDM’s origins to 2015 when it was ranked, “… in the top tier of Midwestern regional universities” according to the Education edition of the U. S. News and World Report.

These days, this quality ranking and the history of the university is easily available through a quick search of the web. In 1952, however, this type of historical information was not that readily available.  That year the university celebrated its 75th anniversary, and Father Daniel A. Lord, S. J., wanted to do something special in recognition of the occasion.  It was then his production of “Light up the Land” made its debut.

The UDM Libraries/Instructional Design Studio is pleased to include the digitized version of this landmark achievement in our Digital Archives. The collection includes the digitized musical (offered in two parts), along with the production program and a biography of Father Lord.

The introduction to the archive provides the following details about the musical:

“‘Light Up the Land’ was presented as part of the 75th anniversary of the University of Detroit in November 1952. The story is about the history and value of education in an American democracy. It starts out with a young couple thinking about leaving school to get married believing that education is a waste of time. A kindly professor guides them through the history of education and how democracy played a role, from the time of Moses, the City of Athens during the Golden Age, the American Revolution, and other eras up to modern America.”

This year marks the 138th year since the founding of Detroit College. We suggest doing something special to celebrate by visiting the Light up the Land archive. You’ll be able to see for yourself what an amazing gift of creativity this is.


“Where is Charles O’Conor?”

The U.S. Civil War officially began in the early months of 1861. Rumblings of war and early warning signs were very apparent in the months and years preceding this official date, however. Members of the free black population were already taking steps during this time to sabotage what they called the “slavocracy” as an economic institution.  And they were doing a great job of it. Slowly but surely each patient step toward disruption through “agitation” (as they called it), legal wranglings, and speaking engagements was making an impact.

In August, 1861, an editorial appeared in the Weekly Anglo-African newspaper. The call was for Charles O’Conor, attorney, would-be politician, and pro-slavery advocate to step up now with his reasoned commitment to an institution that war was finally killing off. At this early part of the war, O’Conor was nowhere to be found, neither siding with the North (where he lived) or the South (where his allegiance lay). Stern, outspoken, and fixed in his ideas about what was best for the U.S. economy and the country in general, Charles O’Conor represented everything that was wrong with the political system at the time. His focus was on money, growth, and enterprise with very little consideration to the suffering of the humanity involved in bringing this about. The writer tells his readers that O’Conor’s opinion was that slavery was “a blessing” to the slaves, who he considered as little more than animals.

The writer of this editorial was speaking with some knowledge of recent history involving O’Conor that he shared with his readers. In this may be subtly referenced a particularly interesting court case that O’Conor was involved in some ten years prior in 1852.

Jonathan and Juliet Lemmon were traveling from Virginia to Texas with their eight slaves. As part of this trip, they traveled to New York to await a steamer heading south. While in New York, their slaves were housed at a boarding house and came to the attention of Black Abolitionists there. A website devoted to the case tells us what happened next:

“Early the next morning, a writ of habeas corpus was presented to Judge Elijah Paine of the New York Superior Court by Erastus D. Culver, a local attorney and abolitionist, saying that the black people now at 5 (sic) Carlisle Street were restrained of their liberty and ought to be freed based on the 1841 repeal of the ‘nine months law.’ That law had been a provision in an 1817 act that had provided for the gradual abolition of slavery in New York State, and had permitted slaveholders to retain their slaves in New York if their stay was less than nine months. The repeal had not been tested since it was passed eleven years earlier. The writ of habeas corpus itself contained many errors that suggested no one had actually talked to the African American family at this point, but had only seen them at a distance. In it, Jonathan ‘Lemming’ was described erroneously as a ‘negro trader.’ But Judge Paine acted promptly, and the writ was served on Lemon that morning, with the black family taken into custody.”

As it turned out, the State of New York won this case despite O’Conor’s participation on behave of Mr. and Mrs. Lemmon.  The slaves were ordered to be set free, and Lemmon took his case to the Supreme Court of New York ready for a further fight for them. The war soon interfered, however, and the court battle ended there.

This wasn’t the only court case O’Conor was involved in regarding the issue of slavery, but it hopefully opened the eyes of a man who viewed the entire black population as “inferior.” This one case offers a great example of how an entire race of human beings were able to use whatever means was at their disposal to fight this unjust institution. In the end, it took war to finally close this down, but it was ready to crumble long before this by a continuous weakening of its foundation by those inside it.


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