Building a Collection: Fr. Paul Prucha and the Bureau of Catholic Indian Mission Records

Or: How his Leadership—plus Serendipity and “Star Alignment”—led to Marquette becoming a national center for Catholic Collections about Native Americans

By Mark G. Thiel

MU archivist and guest blogger Mark G. Thiel tells the story of how the Marquette library archives obtained its largest and most-used collection with the help of a powerhouse researcher, an idiosyncratic philanthropist, and savvy librarians.

First-time visitors to the Marquette University Department of Special Collections and University Archives (MUA) discover that its third-floor reading room in the Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J., Library is named in honor of the Rev. Francis Paul Prucha, S.J., Professor Emeritus of the Department of History. His prolific research delved into many aspects of U.S. policy about Native Americans, and is best known for The Great Father, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, and is regarded as a classic among professional historians. His reading room portrait oversees a bookshelf filled with his many publications, because more than anyone else, his archival research and advocacy affected the development of the department’s special collections.

In 1970, after several years of extensive research at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., Father Prucha addressed a conference there titled, “Research in the Administration of Public Policy.” He admitted that he found its vast holdings on federal administration of American Indian policy intimidating. But he reiterated the importance of thorough and extensive research and pointed out the need for more of it in many areas, including education, which was the realm of his own study. In conclusion he said, “It would take many researchers, each one digging in some special section of the files, before these riches are properly exploited. Yet books and articles of a purportedly scholarly nature keep appearing on Indian history matters, written by men who have seldom if ever set foot in the National Archives.”

At that time, his research focused on the political and legal battles between the Catholic Church, the Protestant churches, and the federal government over education, which would culminate in his illuminating book, The Churches and the Indian Schools, 1888-1912. Besides the National Archives, his commitment to thorough research required visits to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, which held the records of the Indian Rights Association, a Protestant organization, and the records of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions (BCIM) in Washington, which since 1874 has represented the Catholic Church in its business with the federal government with respect to Native Americans.

In about 1970, the BCIM Executive Director, Rev. John Tennelly, S.S., granted Fr. Prucha access to its records. Fr. Tennelly led him to a side room with four four-drawer cabinets holding about 30 cubic feet of records, which were its central files with correspondence of church leaders and federal officials that was essential to his research. Fr. Prucha was impressed with the quality of the records, but also their poor condition. Unknown to him, there were not four, but over forty such cabinets with over 425 cubic feet of mission correspondence, photography, reports, and rare publications dispersed from the basement to the attic above the third floor.

Nonetheless, Fr. Prucha correctly recognized that these brittle records were valuable and needed archival custody. By 1972, he began to share his concerns about them with historians, archivists, and administrators at Marquette and The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington. In so doing, he further noted that the BCIM director was aged and in poor health, the adjacent George Washington University coveted the property, and while he believed that Marquette would be a good place for the records, his main interest was to make sure that they would be preserved somewhere with access for scholars.

Desiring growth for the university’s special collections, Marquette archivists and administrators soon heeded Fr. Prucha’s concern, and they did so with his misconception that the BCIM holdings comprised just four file cabinets of church-state correspondence. During the next three years, they formulated a plan to justify and fund their acquisition. They believed that these records would fit well for three reasons: Fr. Prucha’s distinguished scholarship on the history federal Indian policy, Marquette’s Jesuit identity and namesake, and its previous acquisition of national collections on Catholic social action, a number of which focused on the concerns of ethnic minorities. Also, they had reason to hope that de Rancé, Inc., which funded several Catholic Indian missions, might provide the necessary funding.

Founded by its president, Harry G. John, Sr., Milwaukee-based de Rancé, Inc., was then the largest religiously-oriented foundation in the United States. John was an enigmatic past family president of Miller Brewing who financed de Rancé grants with first the dividends and later the proceeds of the sale of his 47 percent or 1,900 shares of Miller’s stock. Overall, his funding decisions were highly motivated by his religious concerns, which Marquette Jesuits had apparently influenced.

During the fall of 1975, Marquette archivists developed and submitted an ambitious proposal to de Rancé, which became the first of two that it funded with grants totaling $85,000. It called for a national Catholic Indian mission archives project with multiple goals, one of which was to enable Marquette to become the BCIM’s archival repository. That goal called for funds to acquire, preserve, and microfilm the BCIM records with Dr. Herman J. Viola named as project consultant. Dr. Viola was a Marquette History alumni and protégé of Fr. Prucha’s, who since 1972, had served as a curator at the Smithsonian in Washington.

From his Smithsonian post and on Marquette’s behalf, Dr. Viola wrote to the BCIM’s Board of Directors about the de Rancé grants during the first half of 1976. They included John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia, the chair, and John Cardinal Cooke of New York and Archbishop William Borders of Baltimore, the members. In addition, Marquette’s President, the Rev. John P. Raynor, S.J., recruited Milwaukee Archbishop William E. Cousins, who in writing, formally presented Marquette’s offer to Cardinal Krol.

On July 1, Msgr. Paul A. Lenz succeeded Fr. Tennelly as executive director of BCIM, and over the next three weeks, he carefully reviewed all related correspondence to and from Cardinal Krol. On July 22, Msgr. Lenz wrote to Cardinal Krol with his assessment, prefacing it by acknowledging that, while the final decision rested with the board, he believed “the records should be given to Marquette University at the earliest date possible.” Viola warned Msgr. Lenz that the de Rancé grants were a rare and “golden opportunity” that would expire in a year. Then he suggested to Marquette Archivist Fr. Robert Callen, S.J., that Marquette invite Msgr. Lenz to visit. He came to Milwaukee within the month. Following tours of campus and the archives – then located in the basement of the Memorial Library– a group including Fr. Callen, Vice President Rev. Michael G. Morrison, S.J., and Dr. Viola, explained Marquette’s evolving vision. Through de Rancé, they had the necessary financing to preserve the records and they planned to coordinate with Marquette’s recruitment efforts to attract more Native American students and develop a study center focusing on Native – Catholic history. Furthermore, they noted that in a previous collaborative archives project, CUA had failed to perform as promised. In conclusion, Msgr. Lenz assured them that his recommendation would be that Marquette receive the records.

The board met to make its final determination in May. Despite some concerns about whether or not Marquette was “truly Catholic,” Msgr. Lenz’s views prevailed. Within six weeks an agreement had been negotiated and signed designating Marquette as the repository (although BCIM retained ownership), contingent upon ongoing de Rancé funding. The agreement also required Marquette to microfilm the records and supply a copy of them to Catholic University. Furthermore, if Marquette ever ceased to be a Catholic and Jesuit university, the BCIM retained the right to take back the records.

The records were relocated to Milwaukee in mid-July 1977. Under Dr. Viola’s supervision, professional movers moved ten tons of records in a sixty-five-foot semitrailer from the BCIM to Memorial Library. In his report, Dr. Viola noted, “Aside from being dusty and dirty… the BCIM collection does not pose major preservation problems… The major problem is the high acid content of the paper. Many of the letters have turned dark and are exceedingly brittle.”

MeanwhilFr Prucha & Msgr Lenz @ BCIMe, Fr. Prucha finished the research and hunt for illustrations for his manuscript on Native American education and submitted it to the University of Nebraska Press. It was published in November, 1979.

Fr. Prucha presented a copy of the The Churches and the Indian Schools to Msgr. Lenz while they stood in front of the BCIM building (the vegetation in the picture on the left suggests the meeting took place in the spring of 1980). By this time, the Marquette Archives had nearly finished preserving the original records and photography. It had refiled the materials with archival quality boxes and folders and had adjusted the overall arrangement scheme, and then in progress was its selective microfilming of textual records and associated rare periodicals along with the creation of additional written descriptions, most of which are now online.

The collections preserved at Marquette continues to grow. With BCIM support, the Marquette Archives has become a magnet for more Native American, primarily Native Catholic, collections. Now numbering over fifty unique collections, they comprise over 900 cubic feet of holdings with descriptive inventories on the Raynor Memorial Libraries’ website, http://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/. A large number of them have been digitized and can be examined at http://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/earchives_atoz.shtml.

Mark Thiel is archivist at Raynor Memorial Libraries, where he is responsible for Acquisition, administration and reference service of special collections and digital initiatives pertaining to Catholic Native America and Catholic Broadcasting. He drew this essay from documents found in the collections he describes. Fr. Francis Paul Prucha, SJ, was a long-time professor at Marquette and the author many books on government policy toward Native Americans; find out more on his Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Paul_Prucha!

The Crusades are in the News Again

Lezlie Knox introduces some of the issues raised whenever a political leader confronts history–especially when that history is fraught with meaning to the present (of course, that could be said for most historical events!).  In this case, the history is the Crusades and the issue is the use of religion to justify violence.

The Crusades are in the news again. Last Thursday President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, with one passage from his remarks drawing particular attention:

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

 So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.

Unsurprisingly, especially in this era of extreme political partisanship, the president’s critics were quick to criticize his remarks as anti-Christian and even anti-American, while other voices have defended the context and emphasized that acknowledging religious motivations or justifications is hardly the same as asserting causality. To some degree the dispute breaks down along liberal and conservative lines (with the exception of David Brooks, who spoke in defense of a gospel of humility).

Nonetheless, as a medievalist who sometimes hears that her field lacks relevance, this story and its expanding commentary represent clear evidence that events that happened over nine centuries ago on a separate continent still matter. Indeed, this heated response is especially pertinent for the twenty-one undergraduates and three Marquette alumni who are studying the Crusades with me this semester.

bnf-fr-22495f154v  Guillaume de Tyr, Histoire d'Outremer,  XIVe siècle, France (Paris)

William of Tyre, Histoire d’Outremer, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale MS 22495, f. 154v

The source of the illustration to the left indicates that the Crusades sparked complicated meanings and attitudes within European society almost as soon as they were over.  This vernacular translation of an earlier text called History of the Deeds Done beyond the Sea, dates to about 1337 and shows how medieval authors and illustrators already were representing the Crusades as a racialized a clash between Christianity and Islam.  Here the well-armed European knights attack a group of darker-skinned Muslim warriors who lack armor. Interestingly, the knights are not cruciferos–bearing a cross, a sign of having vowed to crusade, but are instead identified by their heraldry. This manuscript image may be “medieval” in the sense that it dates from the fourteenth century, but it has nothing to tell us directly about events that occurred during the First Crusade (1095-1099) much less life in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291).  Rather, it speaks to the memory of such events and their contemporary uses (a subject for another blog).

The discussion on the internet engages directly with the assumptions that this class seeks to complicate. Were the Crusades a clash of civilizations? Should they be understood as a defensive response to an Islamic threat to Europe? To what degree(s) did religious faith underscored the decision to crusade? I’m not going to weigh in here on these specific issues—not the least because my students have a midterm coming up in which they will have to assess such questions in light of the evidence drawn from the medieval sources they have been reading.

The following articles and blogs are particularly recommended for those who want to learn more about how historians of the Crusades understand these events as well as how they respond to appropriations of these events for modern political debates.

Lezlie Knox is Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies.  She is the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

First Journeys: Interview Stories

With the history department in the middle of two searches—we’re hiring a colonial US/Native American historian as well as an ancient historian—we thought it would be fun to share a few interview stories. Everyone has one; the excruciating sequence of AHA screening interviews (now often conducted via Skype) and the nerve-wracking, two-day on campus interviews are rites of passage for any historian. They can be memorable; they can also scar you for life! But to commemorate the “hiring season,” here is a little trifle of a blog post about interviews past and present from faculty members and former graduate students alike. A few names have been changed to protect the hapless.

Faculty member Alison Efford starts with a cheerful story about interviewing here at Marquette several years ago: On my flight to Milwaukee for the on-campus, I sat next to a person who I now know is a member of the political science department. He saw me reading over materials and worked out that I was on my way to an interview. Of course, he didn’t know anything abbot the search, but he gave me a very welcoming introduction to the university. We’ve hardly ever talked since, although we did catch up at a reception when he won a research award.

Before arriving in Milwaukee in the early 1980s, Julius Ruff held several jobs and endured countless interviews. Here’s a story from one of them: In 1977 I had an on-campus interview for a one-year job at a New England university where budgets must have been tight; I was housed in the chairman’s basement, sleeping on a convertible couch. The basement had a bathroom complete with a metal shower stall. During my stay, I also learned that the chairman’s wife vacuums the living room carpet directly above the basement room at 6:00 AM.

Ann Ostendorf, another of our former PhD students, tells about an interview she experienced: During the part of the process when I was being interviewed by the full department, a (rather senior) member of the department asked if I was into the whole Annales School philosophy [the early and mid-twentieth century French social history movement], (remember this was 2009). I looked around the room and could tell everyone else was embarrassed by this question, so I randomly made up some stuff that sort of talked around the question.  As soon as I finished, he promptly fell asleep for the rest of the department interview, and the rest of the department seemed quite relieved.

From PhD alum Ed Schmitt (now associate professor of history at UW-Parkside): I have a funny hiring story that my colleagues and former students have never let me forget. It was my first year at Parkside and we were interviewing for a second Americanist. I was running late for a candidate’s 8:00 am research presentation, so I parked in an unauthorized spot that was going to save me quite a few steps. When I went back out to get my bag that had lecture notes for a new course I was teaching, I found that my car was gone. It had been towed to an impound lot, and the only one available to give me a ride there was the candidate. And that candidate didn’t end up getting the job!  So I felt kind of terrible about the whole situation, but hopefully the candidate found happiness, better parking, and more responsible colleagues elsewhere.

Lezlie Knox has two stories featuring cars: On one interview, I was picked up at the airport by a faculty member in a pick-up truck that had seen much better days.  I had to enter through the driver’s side door, since the passenger door was tied shut with a rope connected to the gear shift.  This situation raised a lot of questions about faculty salaries, but I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask her why she drove that particular vehicle (she had it the next day too).  Once she had a job, at a school in California, she witnessed the worst job interview ever: Two colleagues took a candidate out for coffee off campus.  Coming back, they were stopped in a turn lane on the Pacific Coast Highway and were rear-ended by a driver on a cellphone.  The candidate could only be extracted from the back seat by using the “jaws of life.”  She wasn’t hurt too badly, but when she stood up, the force of the accident had stretched the fabric in her suit so that her skirt fell off.  She also had two black eyes—which she took to the Rhode Island campus where she interviewed the next week. She ended up getting that job.

Ken Shonk, who completed his PhD at Marquette several years ago and has held tenure-track positions at two different universities, has had more than his share of interviews, and offers several stories from both sides of the interview process (warning: these are not for those easily offended by officious or clueless academics!): I was interviewing at an east coast university that was located about 25 miles from a major international airport. I was instructed to take a bus from the airport to a bus terminal, from which I was to take a cab to hotel (where I had to make reservations myself). What they did not tell me was that the bus ran every 90 minutes, resulting in my waiting in the cold for well over an hour. Shivering, I arrived at the bus station where I had to wait another 45 minutes for a cab to arrive. The cabbie took the long route to the hotel and drove off without providing the requested receipt. The interview was fine, but when it came time to return me to the airport, I witnessed members of the faculty doing their best to get out of giving me a ride: ‘I don’t want to do it, you should do it. It’s your turn.’ ‘I gave [full name of another job candidate] a ride the other day.’ Etc., etc. Transportation aside, my teaching demo—for a secondary education position—was given to a classroom full of elementary education students.

In another on-campus interview, I was given the day’s itinerary and noticed that there were large chunks of downtime. After a 45-minute job talk in which two faculty attended, I sat in a dusty office for roughly two hours so that other faculty could meet with me. Nobody bothered to show. This was followed by a 90-minute block of time in which I was to meet with a number of undergraduate majors. The chair of the committee warned me that he expected at least 35 students, and it was important to hold the meeting in a large room. He was readied with four-dozen donuts and a large vat of coffee. Not a single student showed up. The chair spent much of the time apologizing and making excuses for the students. I don’t know who ate all of the donuts. Later that evening, I was given a city tour by another member of the committee who sought fit to point out every steakhouse that the city had to offer. I politely shared with him that I was a vegetarian—a fact to which he took great offense and sarcastically stated he’ll be sure to turn away when eating the big steak that he was planning to order. At dinner he continued to make snide comments prompting a series of odd looks from his colleagues.

Bonus high school story: I was interviewing for a high school teaching position. While waiting for my turn, the candidate before me was escorted out of the office by the school’s principal, and I overheard him say, “We will definitely be in touch soon. . . . [The job’s] as good as yours.” Obviously, this did not go over well with me, and I entered the interview with a chip on my shoulder. During the interview, neither the principal nor the department chair seemed in any way interested in my answers, as the principal made doodles on my CV. At one point the department chair fell asleep and proceeded to snore quietly.

A correspondent we’ll call Bob [not his real name] offers this example of how colleagues are sometimes not particularly helpful members of search committees: Two years ago I served as the chair of a search committee for a scholar specializing in non-western history. . . . The search resulted in our interviewing a number of international candidates, which caused [one senior member of the department who we’ll call “X”] great consternation, for X felt that the students at our university would not be able to handle anybody with an accent. When it came time to conduct phone interviews, X insisted on reading the longest of the scripted questions [state schools, especially, insist that all interviewees are asked identical questions]. When we interviewed native English speakers X affected a pseudo-British accent (“What classes would you like to teach in your shed-dule?”) and read the question just once. When we interviewed an international candidate—or one with a non-European name—X insisted on reading the questions in a very loud fashion, sounding out the long word, and was sure to read the question twice. More than once a candidate audibly sighed at X’s tone. Fast forward to the on-campus interviews: both of the candidates we brought to campus had become parents within weeks of their visit to the university. In each of the candidates’ teaching demos X asked—in front of an audience of 35 undergraduates and nearly a dozen faculty—how each candidate was doing with their recent fatherhood/motherhood. On a separate note, another faculty member [let’s call her “Y”] asked each of the candidates to say something in his/her native language. At the post-interview dinner, X and an intoxicated Y dominated the conversation, with the former spending much of the time listing every Asian restaurant and market within a 200-mile radius. Rounding out the evening was Y asking the candidate what he/she thought of Y as a person. These are but the highlights of a surreal and ridiculous experience.

Finally, on a happier note, Steve Avella recalls a chilly night during an interview here at Marquette from several years ago: Kristen Foster and I took Irene Guenther–one of our candidates for a German history position– out to a lovely Italian restaurant on the lower east side. The snow piles were mammoth and the icy wind whipped around that night–chilling us all to the bone. Poor Irene was freezing (her home state of Texas never got this bad.) Nonetheless, once inside, we had the best time: talking about everything from art to Nazis to movies to MU politics. We laughed so loud that the other diners gave us fish-eye looks and we ended up closing the restaurant.  Kristen and I were so impressed, but we both felt those damned snow piles doomed our chances to get this vivacious scholar to join us. When we drove her to the hotel and said our farewells, Kristen and I almost simultaneously remarked–“She’s never gonna come here!” Imagine how happy we were when she accepted our offer. Irene was a great colleague, but she eventually returned to Houston. But the night of entertaining the life-long Texan among the mountain-high snow-piles is my best interview memory.

Interviews can be uncomfortable, funny, rewarding—and sometimes they’re all three!

 

History Faculty Win Funding for Research on Fascists, Friars, and Foreign Relations.

Historians at Marquette, like their colleagues everywhere, require two kinds of resources to conduct their research: the funding to travel to archives and the time to write. Marquette University expects its scholars to seek funding from such agencies as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, to name just two of the larger funders of humanities and social science research, as well as from smaller, more specialized organizations and from archives. But faculty can also apply for summer research funding—that’s when much of the serious research and writing takes place–through a competitive process administered by the Committee on Research (chaired this year by our own Tim McMahon!). Summer Faculty Fellowships offer a stipend (read time), while Regular Research Grants pay for travel to collections. Dozens of MU faculty apply each year; less than half are approved. (You can find out more about the COR and the funding programs its members administer at http://www.marquette.edu/orsp/COR.shtml.)

The Committee on Research made three awards to historians this year, which will take their recipients to Germany, Italy, and Cuba to research, respectively, “the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics,” the life of an “the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil,” and the “intersections of race, identity, and gender” in the relationship between the American military and Cubans living near and working on the US based at Guantánamo. Brief descriptions of these fascinating projects follow.

Peter Staudenmaier: The Politics of Blood and Soil: Environmental Ideals in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy 

The controversial history of early environmentalism in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy is not well understood. Though scholars in a variety of fields recognize the role of “blood and soil” beliefs in the two regimes – that is, the attempt to link natural regeneration with racial renewal – there is no consensus on their historical significance or practical relevance. Detailed staudenmaier  empirical studies remain rare. My project represents the first comparative analysis of the topic based on archival research. It is structured around a series of case studies, including the history of organic farming under the Nazi regime and the Fascist campaign for ruralization in 1930s Italy. But the project as a whole goes well beyond these specifics. I aim to present a comprehensive historical analysis of the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics. This is a classic “second book” project, with a full-length monograph as the eventual outcome. It represents an important new phase in my scholarship, and I expect the book to make a provocative contribution not just to historical debates but also to ongoing public discussion of vital and timely questions about environmental sustainability and its political contexts.  Staudenmaier is assistant professor and author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (Brill, 2014).

Lezlie Knox: Mariano of Florence: An Ordinary Friar in an Extraordinary Time

This biographical study of Fra Mariano of Florence (d. 1523) explores the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil both within his own religious order and in the Roman Church more generally in the decades prior to the Reformation.  Mariano performed ordinary clerical duties throughout his life, but also found the time to research aclarend write fifteen treatises on his order’s history and noted members.  My research project uses these writings (some of which exist only in manuscript copy) to explore daily life in the friaries and convents of central Italy at the end of the Middle Ages.  It also assesses how important debates over what it meant to be a Franciscan played out at a local level, a subject that is frequently overlooked in favor of conflict at the level of the Order’s leadership. This proposal specifically seeks funding to travel to Florence, Italy in June-July 2015 in order to read Mariano’s autograph manuscripts and research archival documents related to the communities in which he lived.  Lezlie Knox is associate professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

Michael Donoghue: Race, Identity, and Gender in U.S. Military-Cuban Relations 1941-1964

I plan to travel to Cuba next summer to investigate the local records of U.S. military-Cuban relations from 1941-1964 in Santiago, Guantánamo City, and Caimanera.  The focus of my research is on the intersections of race, identity, and gender that occurred between U.S. military personnel and the Cuban people from World War II until the closing of the U.S. Guantánamo naval base from Cuban contact in 1964.  The main focus of my research is how these interactions contributed donoghueto the anti-American atmosphere of the Cuban Revolution.   The U.S presence resulted in numerous binational encounters.  Some were negative that included brawls, crimes, the growth of a sex industry, and narcotics sales.  Other had more positive impacts such as cultural and economic exchanges, service jobs, intermarriages, and joint interests in sports, religion, and spectacle.  This study will examine the impact of these encounters in transforming what was once regarded as Washington’s closest alliance in the Caribbean into one of intense hostility by 1960.   My third trip to Cuba will be concentrate on finishing up my research in the archives of Santiago and Guantánamo City and also conducting more interviews with retired Cuban workers from the base and local service industries that catered to Americans. This project will make a significant contribution toward our understanding of the many strands and forces that helped shape the Cuban Revolution beyond, high status actors, larger events, and economic indices, as it focuses on the personal and social relations that drove so many revolutionary processes.  Michael Donoghue is associate professor and author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (Duke, 2014).

 

Christmas on the Western Front, 1914

 As many of you know, this fall the History Department commemorated the centenary of the beginning of the First World War with a lecture series called “Legacies of the Great War. Watch the lectures online at http://www.marquette.edu/history/NewsHistGreatWarLectures.shtml.

It’s fitting, then, that our traditional Christmas-time blog features the centennial of the famous “Christmas Truce” between German and Allied armies in 1914, the war’s first Yuletide. Mostly we’ll let an excellent British website provide most of the information. But first, Julius Ruff, who teaches a course on WWI and was co-organizer of the lecture series, provides a brief introduction (check out the website his class created featuring biographies of many WWI soldiers at http://experienceofworldwarone.weebly.com/).  Merry Christmas, everyone.

Amid the carnage of the First World War, a conflict that claimed the lives of some 10,000,000 soldiers, a bizarre event spontaneously occurred on the Western Front in northern France at Christmas, 1914. On Christmas Eve, Allied soldiers noted the appearance of Christmas trees and the singing of Christmas carols in the trenches of the Germsoldiersan forces facing them. In plain defiance of military regulations forbidding fraternization with the enemy, Allied soldiers joined the German response to this most central observance of the Christian faith, and soon left their own lines to meet their enemies in the middle of the “no man’s land” that separated the opposing armies. On that killing field, up and down the front, war suddenly stopped, as the soldiers observed an unofficial truce to exchange Christmas greetings, holiday foods, and tobacco with their nominal enemies. In some sectors, the soldiers even played soccer. This cessation of hostilities endured through Christmas Day, 1914, before officers on both sides re-imposed traditional military regulations. The soldiers repeated one last, diminished celebration of this sort in 1915, before the belligerent forces resumed warfare that would continue uninterrupted until the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918.

For descriptions, documents, news about centennial commemorations, and much more about the truce, go to “Operation Plum Puddings” at http://www.christmastruce.co.uk/article.html.

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Nigeria: Beyond Ebola and Boko Haram

By Chima J. Korieh

Associate Professor Chima Korieh reminds us of the challenges, misconceptions, and successes related to recent events in his native country. Chima’s latest book is “Life Not Worth Living”: Nigerian Petitions Reflecting an African Society’s Experiences during World War II (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2014).

I was in Nigeria over the summer to explore the archives for my book on Africans and the Second World War. The period coincided with the outbreak of Ebola virus in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city of about 13 million people. Mr. Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian-American and the first Ebola case in Nigeria, had flown into Lagos from Liberia. Sawyer was already symptomatic when he arrived in Lagos on July 20. The case in Lagos brought widespread panic in the country, but the government took immediate steps to contain the spread. This included large-scale mobilization of human and material resources, the immediate isolation and monitoring of those who came in contact with Mr. Sawyer, and aggressive public enlightenment.

Nigeria is a very good example of what could be achieved with domestic expertise and capacities. It was a Nigerian female medical doctor, Dr Ameyo Adadevoh, who insisted on isolating the country’s first Ebola patient when she correctly suspected that he may have been infected by the virus. Her action saved many lives. The federal, state and local officials took the necessary steps that effectively limited the spread of the disease to other parts of the country.

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The Africa without Ebola (Anthony England / @EbolaPhone)

The Nigerian experience has shown the capacity of an African country with resources to deal effectively with such health challenges as the outbreak of Ebola. Unlike Liberia and Sierra Leone, which are still recovering from long periods of civil war and where the basic infrastructure is woefully inadequate, Nigeria is in a better position to deal with such crisis. When The World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free after forty-two days of no new reported cases, only eight of twenty reported cases had died. Nigeria was very proactive when the first case was confirmed. An effective community approach using communication technology such as text messaging helped Nigeria officials to continuously keep track of every single person who had come in contact with Sawyer from the flights he boarded to the Lagos airport and his movement in Lagos after he arrived. This process known as contact tracing was dome quickly, efficiently until the last case was resolved.

However, there are conclusions that can be drawn from the outbreak of this virus. One is a new emerging discourse on Africans, survival, and disease. The other is the premium placed on foreign expertise. As a result of the outbreak of Ebola, what Nigerian writer Teju Cole characterized as the “white saviour industrial complex” or a “pathology of white privilege” in a 2012 article in The Atlantic, has reemerged. One needed to listen to a Texan government official’s remark when the first Ebola case was diagnosed in the United States. He assured the American public that the health department was in a better position to deal the outbreak because “this is not West Africa.” He basically framed African societies as backward “infantile objects” incapable of dealing with such outbreak. Additionally, the external interventionist paradigm, which has often defined Western approach to aid also came in to play. Western medical doctors who have gone to treat Ebola patients in the worst hit areas are hailed as heroes. As the Liberian author Robtel Pailey noted, “We’ve been assailed with images of mostly white foreigners flown out of the Ebola ‘hot zone”’ with the promise of expert care abroad. As spokespersons for the thousands “left behind,” they are the ones who have made the headlines. Such perspectives have ignored what she rightly called “domestic capabilities,” or what ordinary men, women, and children are doing to help their communities.

Other issues of concern are the “anachronistic” image of Africa that still prevails, as well ignorance about where the disease exists. The worst outbreak of Ebola is in the western African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Still, the media has characterized this disease as ravaging the entire West African region—a region made up of 16 countries. It is worrisome that even the mainstream Western media characterizes this enormous region as a country—a single region. As a result every person from West Africa and indeed Africans is suspect. People have deliberately avoided anyone who has travelled to Africa even if one has never been in an area infested with the virus. Indeed, The Washington Post recently wrote that “Despite clear geographical limits to the Ebola outbreak, many Americans seem confused. How else could you explain the recent Ebola scare that kept two children who had moved from Rwanda to New Jersey from attending school, despite the fact the East African country is Ebola-free. . . . Or the resignation of a teacher in Kentucky due to a backlash to her traveling to Kenya?”

Of course, Nigeria has been in the news for other reasons, including the ongoing Islamist insurgency led by Boko Haram. Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram (Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lid Da’awati Wal-Jihad) has been fighting to create an Islamic state. Founded in the capital of Borno state, Maiduguri, in 2002, Boko Haram has carried out several bloody bombings in Nigeria since 2009, including the Christmas Day attack in 2011 at a Catholic church that killed dozens of worshipers and the bombing of UN Headquarters in Abuja in August 2011 and of the police headquarter in Abuja in June of that year. Nigerians also witnessed coordinated attacks in the northern city of Kano in January 2012 that targeted the country’s security apparatus and civilians, killing 185 people. More than 1,000 people were killed last year in attacks blamed on the group across the country including a school bombing that killed at least forty-six students in the north-eastern Nigerian town of Potiskum on November 10, 2014.

posterHowever, the horrific abduction of 230 schoolgirls by Boko Haram April 16 this year has once again brought the dangers posed by the groups to Nigeria and the West African regions. It has also resulted in a world-wide condemnation of the group and the emergence of a movement known as “#bring back our girls.”

While these attacks pose a serious challenged to Nigeria’s security and economic development, there are growing concerns about the failure of the international community to recognize the serious danger that Boko Haram poses to Nigeria, West Africa’s regional stability, and the global attempt to fight terrorism. This is not obviously a Nigerian problem alone. The world, especially the West has to pay attention. The rest of the world needs to learn to cooperate just at the jihadist groups have historically done in pursuing their common interest and ideology. Nigeria’s Boko Haram is united with other fundamentalist groups in their disdain for Christianity and Western influences. These groups are united in their goal across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The rest of the world needs to approach the issue from a collaborative and cooperative strategic position.

Overall, the potential for greatness in Nigeria is enormous. Nigeria has emerged from decades of military rule and is today a thriving democracy. The country is the largest economy in Africa and the economy is worth $510 billion. The country is attracting direct foreign investment more than any other country in Africa despite all odds. The current success witnessed in Nigeria is a reminder that African countries have the potential for growth despite the current handicaps.

 

 

Here Lived Herbert Frank: History, Art, and Memory

By James Marten

A few weeks ago I literally stumbled across some of the most moving historical monuments I’ve ever seen. I was attending a conference on the experiences of military veterans through the ages and around the world in Hamburg, Germany, where I stayed in a lovely late nineteenth century neighborhood unscarred by the massive bombing of this northern German port during the Second World War. As I walked the streets lined with trees just coming into full autumn color, I occasionally came across little bronze plates hammered into the concrete or nestled i10646672_10154718720320623_5441253725156192487_nnto the cobblestones; in fact, two were right outside my hotel. The simple inscriptions consisted of names, dates, and a few German words; their meaning became clear after I recognized a few words that have been seared into the world’s historical consciousness seventy years ago: Theresienstadt, Lodz. They were concentration camps, and the information etched into the brass were the names of victims who died there, with their dates of birth, dates of “deportation,” and, if known, dates of death (some simply had question marks rather than death dates). The first words on each were “Here lived . . . ,” and, indeed, the memorials have been placed outside buildings or at least addresses where the victims had actually lived when they were taken away.

A little on-line research revealed that the stones were the idea of a Cologne artist named Gunter Demnig, who installed the first fifty-five plagues as an art project in Berlin in the 1990s. Since then tens of thousands have been placed in dozens of cities across Germany and in some cities occupied by Nazis during the war. Individuals, religious congregations, schools, and others have come up with the €120 (about $150) and have done much of the work of documenting the homes, names, and fates of the people remembered on the markers. Several websites can locate stolpersteine in various cities by the victims’ names or addresses (click here for Berlin’s searchable website).

Some Jewish groups have complained that the constant traffic of humans and dogs and other urban pedestrians over the brass plates (in fact, all of the ones I saw were more or less scuffed) demean the memories of the victims. However, Demnig claims that the markers highlight the personal, individual experience of the holocaust. And they are, indeed, memorable, even riveting. They provide a specificity to our mind-numbing knowledge the millions of victims of Nazi genocide that I found extraordinarily moving.

Most of us have seen movies, documentaries, or other images of the genocides of the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and other ethnic groups, the disabled, Communists, anIMG_0360d other enemies of the Nazi state. They offer appropriately horrifying images that most of us probably can’t get out of our heads (the skeletal corpses stacked like cordwood, the little girl in the red coat from Schindler’s List, the weeping, confused men, women, and children waiting to be chosen for death camps or work camps beside waiting box cars.

But these tiny 4” x 4” brass markers, despite their subtlety, are equally haunting to me. They’re nearly invisible, but they mark a spot where a real person on a specific day was dragged to his or her doom across this little square of space. They don’t say much, of course, and it’s a tragic statement on how little we know about the people whose names are etched in brass. But maybe, in a small way, it’s all we really need to know about them.

For more on the “stumbling stones,” see:

http://www.stolpersteine.eu/en/home/

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/31/153943491/stumbling-upon-miniature-memorials-to-nazi-victims

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/memory-blocks-173123976/

James Marten is professor of history and has been chair of the history department at Marquette since 2004.


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