Author Archives: Linda Papa

Headache Cure

The James T. Callow Folklore Archive is an interesting place to spend some time before the summer ends.  A visitor can usually discover something interesting, funny, or amazing there.  Each entry is brief but loaded with a bit of America that few other collections offer.

Take this post, for example.  I was searching for something to write about and typed a few lines into Google to see what I could find.  To my delight, this brief story from the collection popped onto the page:


This, to me, is why the term “holy moly” was invented.  The U of D football players of the 1920s were indeed solidly built and … um, “head strong”!

The introduction to The James T. Callow Folklore Collection tells the reader more about this unique archive:

“The University of Detroit Mercy Digital Folklore Archive, founded in 1964 by Professors Frank M. Paulsen and James T. Callow was donated to the University of Detroit Mercy Libraries /Instructional Design Studio in 2009. The archives is comprised at this point of over 42,000 folklore traditions taken from field notes gathered by UDM (formerly University of Detroit) students as part of their course work in ‘Introduction to Folklore,’ ‘Studies in Folklore,’ ‘Folk Groups,’ and ‘Folklore Archiving.’ The folklore archive covers traditions gathered between 1964 and 1993. Included in the Archive is the Peabody field note collection containing approximately 12,000 entries from Tennessee and the Southeast.”

Sounds interesting, right?  To discover more, visit this wonderful archive by clicking here.


The 1917 Tamarack (published in June of that year) presents a portrait of a university deeply committed to the war effort.  What begins as 14 pages of interesting advertisements (which capture the readers’ attentions right away), leads subtly into the strongly patriotic support of the country’s entry into World War I.  Reading through the pages of this issue offers visitors a glimpse into a time of war before this country really knew how horrible a world war could be.  There was no precedence for this type of combat as country after country got involved.  This young generation in this country had never known bloody warfare, especially the type that awaited them.  There was no way of knowing how terrible this would be.

Reading this issue of the Tamarack, visitors to the archive may wonder how many of these fresh faced souls came back alive.  How many of the ones who did were able to deal with the scars, both physical and emotional, that time in the trenches left with them.  The traumatic effect of war on survivors has been called by different names over the decades since 1917. Hopefully those returning from the Great War managed to find peace when they returned … if they did return.

By 1917, the war had spread across Europe.  In April of that year, the U.S. had declared war on Germany.  When this issue of the Tamarack was published in June, the country was in the process of losing its innocence.  Two years later (in June, 1919) the Treaty of Versailles would end it.  The world would never be the same again.

Two more issues of the Tamarack would be published after this one. Both focused on questions regarding the war and patriotism. I can’t help but wonder if the sobering effects of war helped to end the Tamarack’s future publications.

tamarack_1917 tamarack_1917-06


Antebellum Education

Slavery in America can be traced back to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. It was legalized in this country in 1641. As it evolved from a cheap source of labor to an economic necessity in the years that followed, more and more restrictions were placed on the enslaved people involved. The governing powers had soon realized that in order to keep control over their laboring human property, they had to keep them ignorant and uneducated. A literate slave, they reasoned, was more dangerous. An educated slave could influence other slaves to question their lack of freedom; could share knowledge and information about the outside world; could encourage revolt and urge escape. If slaves could read and write, they would be able to communicate with people outside of their restricted environment, expand their connection to the world outside of the plantation, and realize their own power as human beings in an unjust world.

So, even though educating the black population was not illegal in the northern states during this period, it wasn’t encouraged or supported. Many schools dedicated to educating black children folded under the pressures of lack of funding and lack of support from the white population. Education in this section of the population at one point became a communal endeavor: literate parents taught their children, friends taught friends, groups formed to help each other learn. In the South where educating slaves was not allowed, this type of communal education (mostly centering on learning to read the Bible) was unstoppable.

During this time, the Black Abolitionists saw the value of education and worked tirelessly to encourage it among the black population, both free and enslaved. An educated population was a more powerful force for change in an unjust society that seemed to turn a blind eye on the horrors that made possible their economic bounty. They knew that improving the conditions of the black people depended upon education for themselves and the generations to follow. The primary focus of editorials written by black abolitionists during this period was on “the mental and moral cultivation of our people.” And into this determination to learn and improve came access to and development of quality schools and libraries (and in the case of the editorial shared here, the Philadelphia Library for Colored People).

In its December 2, 1837 publication, the Colored American filed this report on the educational opportunities the editor visited in Philadelphia. Within this article, the editor notes, “In union, brethren, there is strength.”

Want to read more? Please visit the Black Abolitionist Archive in our Digital Special Collections.

Outer Echoes Still Heard

In 1940, the Sisters of Mercy established a presence in Detroit at Southfield and West Outer Drive. About a year later, Mercy College of Detroit began offering classes on this spot that would leave an indelible mark in this city’s history. Over the years until its consolidation with the University of Detroit in 1990, Mercy College expanded from offering nursing and teaching classes to women into a comprehensive coeducational liberal arts college.

In October 1941, the first issue of the Mercy College newspaper, then called “Outer Echoes,” was published. The first column on the first page of this issue welcomed the first classes to this new college on September 8, of that year. Even in its publication infancy, this first issue is loaded with information regarding the beginning of this new institution of higher learning. We can read about the dedication ceremonies, along with details of the elections and activities involved with the opening of a new college. We can see who was chosen for each important aspect of the governing of this new institution, along with photos of the bright faces of those who could consider themselves the first students in what would become such an influential school for those to follow. On page 3, we get a glimpse into one of the dorm rooms at “McAuley Lodge” (the residence building at the time), along with a brief description of campus life written by excited freshmen.

Four pages of history are here in this issue of the Mercy College Newspapers digital collection for your review. It’s worth the time just to look at the photos! But linger a while in these pages, and I think you’ll be pleased by the treasure you’ll find.

Josiah Henson and Harriet Beecher Stowe

It seems an unlikely pairing, but one theory in the history of slavery assures us that Harriet Beecher Stowe was influenced to write her novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin after reading the autobiography of Josiah Henson, former slave and Black Abolitionist.  Stowe’s character of Uncle Tom even looks a bit like the photograph of Henson available on various web sites devoted to African American history.  And according to one site, Henson’s supporters even encouraged this connection after the book’s popularity to call further attention to the horrors of slavery that were going unrecognized by most of the white population.

But Stowe’s character of Uncle Tom was also based on a lack of understanding of the actual depth of the problem with the economic “industry” that slavery had become.  Her fictional character lacked the human element that Henson brought to the cause.  Henson had lived through slavery, he had been a loyal slave, and he had been changed forever by his immersion in the way a lack of human compassion can alter human lives.  His encounter with sick and starving slaves encouraged his escape to Canada and his work with education that followed.

The Black Abolitionist Archive contains a brief but important speech by Henson, delivered in 1851, and published in the Anti-Slavery Reporter newspaper.  Stowe’s novel would not be published until March, 1852.   Henson’s autobiography (written by ghost writer Samuel A. Eliot), The Life of Josiah Henson, was published in 1849.  The “tumultuous greeting” he received was then based on his book and not on Stowe’s.

In this speech (shown below), he praises the way education was offered to those of African descent living in England, emphasizing the work of the Sunday School Union there.

 The Rev - Henson_11608spe

 June 2, 1851, the Anti-Slavery Reporter


Have you ever wondered about the history of UDM’s yearly Convocation?  Each year university faculty and employees gather together to kick off the new academic year.  Did you know that the Digital Archives offers a way to trace the history of this annual event through our Convocation Collection?  And not just the history of these important assemblies at UDM, but also those held when we were known as the University of Detroit and Mercy College.

What can you find there?  Well, you’ll find names (who’s who and who’s new!):

  • of those who were honored,
  • of the current university president,
  • of new colleagues,
  • of retiring colleagues,
  • of current university faculty

And you’ll sometimes find images:

  • of the campus,
  • of maps,
  • of new buildings

In this excerpt from the introduction to this collection, Margaret Auer,  Dean of University Libraries and Instructional Technology, describes the collection this way:

“The University of Detroit Mercy has primarily held two types of convocations. The first is the annual convocation called by the president of the university. The purpose of the convocations is for the President to provide a “state of the university” speech and the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs to provide a “state of academic affairs” overview. Over the years, convocations have also provided an opportunity to introduce new faculty, staff, and/or administrators and to honor those individuals who have retired from the university during the previous academic year. For many years, a booklet was distributed in which the Deans of the colleges/schools and the Deans of the academic support units provided annual reports on their respective unit’s successes and challenges. As time went on annual reports from major administrative offices, such as student life and admissions and enrollment management were added to the booklet.”

Entering this digitized aspect of the university’s story is only a matter of a few clicks.  Each booklet is like a small opening to a larger history of the university itself.

convocation2013President’s Convocation, Monday, August 19, 2013

Mercy College

Mercy College, once located at 8200 West Outer Drive, opened its doors to the first class of eager students on September 8, 1941.  October of that year marked the first issue of Outer Echoes, the school newspaper.  Frequent visitors to our digital archives know by now that our Mercy College Student Newspapers collection contains a wealth of history within its issues from October, 1941 through April, 1989.  Our Tower Yearbook collection fills in the history of the school after this time as Mercy College merged with the University of Detroit in 1991.  And for an in depth look at the early history of Mercy College (1941 to 1966), the University Histories collection is a great place to spend some time.

One unique way to learn about the history of any college or university, however, is through researching the institution’s Catalogs and Bulletins.  The Mercy College Bulletins available in our Course Catalogs and Bulletins collection offer a special footprint of the school’s path through time from a student’s perspective.  Recollections of the campus and campus life are rounded out within these pages.  These memories speak to the reason for students being there in the first place: the quality coursework and superb education the college offered.

And in this collection it’s not just the course names, dates, and times that help jar the memory of the place.  There are photos and documented rules and student directives in these bulletins that are guaranteed to provide a former student with an informed journey down memory lane to a long ago campus on Outer Drive.


Sojourner Truth

One hundred fifty-one years ago in June, 1863, Sojourner Truth (a name chosen by Isabella Baumfree, former slave and abolitionist) attended a Sunday School Convention in Battle Creek, Michigan. On the last day of the convention, during a mass meeting of white children and their teachers at the local Methodist Church, she sat patiently in the back of the church listening to various speakers. When the last one finished his speech, she rose and spoke clearly and distinctly to the men at the podium, “Is there an opportunity that I may speak?”

By this point in her life, Sojourner Truth had already fought a long battle against slavery and gender inequality. Her devotion to her cause and the sheer inner strength of her character, were well known to most people in Michigan (both black and white). Anyone else asking to speak may have been brushed aside, but the respect she had earned by her persistence as a humble freedom fighter, allowed the crowd to part so that she could make her way to the front of the church to speak.

The National Anti-Slavery Standard newspaper reported on the events of this day and the wisdom she offered to such a young audience. In part of the article, the writer notes, “She said that the Spirit of the Lord had told her to avail herself of the opportunity of speaking to so many children assembled together of the great sin of prejudice against color.” She knew instinctively that the best way to slow the ugly spread of racial prejudice was to teach children to love one another, regardless of skin color or appearance. The children who sat in the church that day had the potential to grow to be the adults who would influence a social world toward the acceptance of all human beings as children of God. As she spoke to the white children gathered before her, she presented a rational approach to the idea of seeing all human beings as one in God’s eyes.

The Black Abolitionist digital collection is proud to offer not only a PDF version of this published article, but also an audio version of this inspiring speech read by a volunteer. Please visit the archive to read and listen to this moment in history.

The National Anti-Slavery Standard, July 11, 1863

Civil War and Civil Rights

It was fear mostly that kept free black men from being accepted for enlistment in the early days of the Civil War (1861-1865).  Although they had fought in both the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the uprisings and revolts of later years encouraged government worry about arming black men. Yet while riots and desertion were plentiful when it came to drafting white men into the war, those black men who were committed to fighting for freedom were turned away … at first.

It didn’t take long before the fierce fighting took its toll on the number of troops on both sides, however. It may have been the Confederacy that first realized it was outnumbered and overwhelmed by the success of the North. It was the South that came up with the idea of arming slaves to fight for their cause, thus ensuring freedom for those who would fight (any attempt to return a black Confederate soldier to slavery would be useless after this). In the North, Congress approved the formation of black regiment of troops on July 17, 1862, but it would be January 1, 1863, before President Lincoln officially instituted this as a clause in the Emancipation Proclamation.  (Blue, Gray, and Black: African Americans in the Civil War)

On August 1, 1863, a brief editorial was published in the Pacific Appeal newspaper.  Reading this offers us insight into how the black population was understanding and communicating the events of the war.  History records the high points, the top battles, the generals, the gains and losses. It’s only when we zero in on the individual lives of those who lived through these horrible years that we gain insight into history as it was experienced, the “enthusiasm and patriotism” (as the author tells us) go together like “fighting and freedom.” This was the first generation to really know the horrors of war and how costly the price of freedom could be. And the promises of “applause from a grateful country” would rouse the men of color to action, yet fall far short of expectation in the end. The steady march toward civil rights would begin in this generation, and this march continues today.

Quoting from an address delivered by the Executive Committee of Citizens in Pennsylvania, the writer of the article below adds:

“Take advantage of it; show yourselves to be men and patriots, and a grateful country, watching the flags of your regiments emerging triumphantly from the smoke of battle, cannot refuse the applause which is the due of valor contending for the right.”

Want more? Visit the Black Abolitionist Archive in our Digital Collections.

1943 Tower

Seventy one years ago the country was poised for war.  Europe was unsettled and those fresh faces graduating from the University of Detroit were well aware that they faced an uncertain future. In 1939, Britain and Italy had already declared war on Germany and in December, 1941, the U.S. entered the conflict by declaring war on Japan. By the beginning of 1943, heavy fighting was taking place in most of the eastern part of the world. It seemed the dreams of those graduating in 1943, held only images of joining the fight and defending the country.

The 1943 Tower Senior Yearbook reflects this atmosphere of tension and concern. This would be the last yearbook published until 1947, as the entire country tightened its economic belt and focused on the battle at hand. Paper rationing, as well as limitations of other materials meant that during the war years (1944 through 1946) publication of the yearbook would be closed to the Tower staff. It’s as if the war plunged the entire world into darkness for three years. Being without the yearbook during this time allows readers today to see the value of  the historic record these books offer. And perusing the pages of the 1943 Tower, offers a way into the state of campus life just before the lights went out.

Even though the war officially ended in the summer of 1945, the University of Detroit took a bit longer to return to the annual Tower publication (in 1947). Comparing the “book end” issues for the war years (1943 and 1947) offers readers valuable insight into the way a great society recovers from war. It’s not a matter of returning to the way things were before the conflict. It’s a matter of building a future based on the recovery. We collectively brushed ourselves off and got back to the business of growing a nation, but we did it with a lot more insight and a lot less innocence. In 1943, we cheered our fighters and celebrated their commitment to the fight for justice and freedom.  In 1947, we mourned our dead, and celebrated our hard won victory.


1943 Tower

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