West Virginia University Libraries and the Teaching and Learning Commons (TLC) have selected three faculty members to receive Open Educational Resources (OER) grants. This year’s recipients are Erin Jordan, teaching assistant professor and program coordinator for health and well-being, College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences; Mandy Weirich, MSW online program coordinator, Gerontology program coordinator and clinical instructor, School of Social Work; and Adrienne Williams, assistant professor, Department of Biology, WVU Institute of Technology.
“We’re so excited to continue our Open Educational Resources grant program and help WVU students spend less money on their books and other materials,” Grants Committee Chair Martha Yancey said. “This cohort of grant recipients will provide good models for other faculty to learn from and consider during next year’s grant process. We hope to continue building momentum toward even bigger savings in the future.”
Long before zombies lumbered through 11 seasons of the popular television series “The Walking Dead,” there was an infamous night when corpses first crawled from their graves to haunt the living. The annual West Virginia University Isaac Asimov Sci-Fi Symposium will celebrate the classic horror film “Night of the Living Dead” on October 28 at the Mountainlair’s Gluck Theater.
Make your way to the student union while it is still light outside. The event, co-sponsored by the President’s Office and WVULibraries, begins at 4 p.m. with a panel discussion with “Night of the Living Dead” co-writer and actor John Russo, BS ‘61, who will talk about the impact of his iconic movie in taking the horror film genre to a new level.
Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 18th, 2021
On October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown and a band of his followers seized control of the Harpers Ferry Armory, a U.S. Army arsenal, in order to distribute the arms there to enslaved people in the surrounding area, to overthrow the South and free the slaves. The raiders easily captured the arsenal, but the mass uprising of enslaved people that they hoped for never came to be.
On the morning of October 18, 1859, United States forces commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee stormed the armory engine-house at Harpers Ferry, where Brown and his fellows made their last stand. There, the soldiers captured Brown and the others who had barricaded themselves in the building. Of the 18-22 men Brown had started with, ten had been killed and Brown himself was wounded. Innocent people in Harpers Ferry were also killed in the initial raid.
David Hunter Strother’s collection includes multiple images of John Brown, his trial, and his execution, as well as facsimiles of “Harper’s Weekly” articles for which Strother provided the illustrations. Known then as “Porte Crayon,” Strother was a famous illustrator for his time.
Brown was found guilty of murder, treason, and inciting a slave insurrection and executed December 2, 1859.
Strother also sketched the others involved in Brown’s raid, including “Emperor” Shields Green, an abolitionist freedom-fighter and fugitive from South Carolina.
Initially, Brown’s insurrection was viewed as fanatical. It is widely reported that Frederick Douglass was invited to join the raid but he declined because he thought the plan was suicidal. During and after his trial, Brown became either a hero or a villain, depending on one’s political sympathies. The event spurred the beginning of the Civil War.
After a year-long process of iterative internal conversations and activities, distillation of hundreds of potential action items and a series of campus stakeholder feedback, WVU Libraries has launched its 2021-2024 Strategic Roadmap.
Based on the University’s Strategic Transformation, which launched in March 2019, and in alignment with the same goals, we have mapped our path toward participation in great achievements at WVU.
“We look forward to partnering across campus to advance our initiatives and meet the goals of our great institution,” Dean of Libraries Karen Diaz said.
Blog post by Christina White, undergraduate researcher at WVU
This is the sixteenth and final post in White’s series on race, justice, and social change through cookbooks, featuring the following books from the Ebersole collection: Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook, A Date with a Dish, A Good Heart and a Light Hand, and The Jemima Code.
Writing a series of posts on cunning, determined Black women was an honor and a challenge. Half passion project and half professional goal, this blog is my mode of self-education and sharing lessons from cookbooks that you don’t have time to read.
Real talk: I grew up thinking it was rude to talk about race. Reflecting on this, I realize my good-intentioned parents probably felt uncomfortable or unprepared to educate their child about the oppression of Black Americans, or what my role would be when I grew up. My dad is from a small town in Appalachia where nearly everyone was white, and my mom hails from a different country where race issues appeared differently from those in the US. Either way, I needed to spark a discussion, beginning with myself, or else my comfortable silence might solidify into an illusion that I see too often: race isn’t that big of a problem today.
Each cookbook I wrote about in this blog introduced me to historical forms of marginalization, from mammy stereotypes to restricted access to culinary school. These methods roll into modern times under new names and symbols including Aunt Jemima syrup, a lack of representation in the cookbook scene, and the myth that Black food is unhealthy and greasy.
Writing these posts, I felt uncomfortable at times. I admit it — I walked into the Rare Book Room at the Downtown Library expecting a familiar lesson on slavery and Jim Crow laws, except focused on cooking. That’s not what I got! I was smacked in the face with racist tendencies that linger. Like I said, it wasn’t until 2020 that Aunt Jemima was rebranded and the mammy character was removed from syrup bottles at convenience stores and “socially-conscious” chains like Whole Foods.
I reached into the Ebersole Collection with a goal to learn and share, and I left room for you to jump in. With hundreds of cookbooks, there are a million topics to tear apart. From race to mental health, single parenthood, international holiday traditions, indigenous peoples, environmentalism, and comedy, you’ll find something tasty and stimulating for a research project or class presentation.
The librarians are eager to help you! I wouldn’t have found my starting place without the hard work and generosity of Stewart Plein, the Rare Book Curator at the West Virginia & Regional History Center.
Some ideas: complete an Honors project using these primary sources, make a presentation, or revitalize hundred-year-old recipes. When you read something that moves or angers you, pursue that theme to its fullest. Chances are you’ll help yourself and others dissolve a stigma, myth, or prejudice that holds our society back.
Thank you, from the bottom of my stomach, for accompanying me on this journey. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, start by going back to post 1! I hope I’ve inspired you to view food as a vehicle for social change, to get to the root of discomfort, and to give something new a try, whether it’s food or a different way of thinking.
WVU Libraries’ “Food Justice in Appalachia” exhibit will open at the Downtown Campus Library with a reception Saturday, Oct. 16, from 4-6 p.m. with a virtual offering of presentations at 5 p.m.
“Food Justice in Appalachia” is a multidisciplinary print and online exhibition featuring multiple themes in the food justice movement and offering suggestions for action to shape a more just, equitable, and sustainable food system.
“This collaboratively curated exhibition brings together artists, storytellers, farmers, activists and scholars to highlight intersecting values that shape our foodways through the lens of regional food activists working to address hunger and build alternative food futures,” Libraries Exhibit Coordinator Sally Brown said.
Blog post by Christina White, undergraduate researcher at WVU
This is the fifteenth post in White’s series on race, justice, and social change through cookbooks, featuring the following books from the Ebersole collection: Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook, A Date with a Dish, A Good Heart and a Light Hand, and The Jemima Code.
In the first post of this blog, I mentioned this TikTok video. It’s long overdue to say goodbye to a racist, oversimplified stereotype that Black women throughout history endured. The women I wrote about in this blog, Mary, Freda, and Ruth, helped hammer away at the myth of the jolly, ignorant mammy.
The Jemima Code by Toni Tipton-Martin was the last book I investigated, and uh-oh, it’s not a cookbook! It’s a synthesis of culinary wisdom from Black chefs in America over the years, focusing on how racist stereotypes created an accepted code of racism: the Jemima Code.
Published in 2015, this timeline guided me through the conception, propagation, and ongoing termination of the “mammy” trope. It’s about repeated images and ideas linked to Black women to keep them in a subordinate position. Chubby, uneducated, jolly, and unattractive were trademarked through mainstream ads and social influencers, all to restrain a group that desired greater freedoms and respect.
Aunt Jemima came to be in the 1880’s. The promotional character was based on blackface skits by white vaudeville actors. Why? Because industries and white elites wanted to depict Black women as less than, other, and in desperate need of white guidance (control).
Aunt Jemima Pancake Flour ad from 1915 (above). The Aunt Jemima character was removed by Quaker Oats in 2020, after 130 years of public use.
“She has to be humorous, stout, lighthearted, illiterately magical- stern enough to control the children without threatening them, dependable and loyal enough to assure mothers that the kitchen was in good hands, asexual enough to foreclose any wayward thoughts among the men of the house.”
Unfortunately, these demeaning opinions aren’t gone. They persist by cycling throughout the decades in new forms meant to be more subtle, acceptable, and undetected. Heard of tokenism? Microaggressions? Colorblindness? These are the updated forms of racism that fly under the radar of many well-meaning people. I didn’t personally learn about them or how to combat them until college! I often asked myself, what else am I missing? How can I stop being complicit to racism?
It’s a tough question. Self-education is a good place to start, and as a white person, I want to hear and project the wishes of people who are hurt by racism. Celebrating the contributions of Black chefs through writing is exciting for me on two levels: I can embrace my passion for cooking and begin informing myself of the realities that affected Black cooks and social justice advocates.
“A cookbook author tells stories that… advocate for social causes, such as education, suffrage, child welfare, abolition of slavery, eradication or poverty, or improved social welfare; that use highlights of her own life to memorialize her work…”
The workshop will include hands-on activities and demonstrations on a variety of resources, methods, tools and topics. Subject librarians will be available for individual consultations about participants’ research interests and challenges.
Learn about the women who worked hard to bring positive change to Appalachia in a presentation titled “West Virginia History Makers: Black Women’s Activism in the Archives” on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kanawha City Community Center in Charleston.
Dr. Tamara Bailey, an assistant professor of history and coordinator of Wesleyan Abroad at West Virginia Wesleyan College, and Dr. Sheena Harris, an associate professor of history and coordinator of the Africana Studies Program at West Virginia University, will discuss the lives of Black women activists and educators from West Virginia and their use of women’s archives.
Blog post by Christina White, undergraduate researcher at WVU
This is the fourteenth post in White’s series on race, justice, and social change through cookbooks, featuring the following books from the Ebersole collection: Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook, A Date with a Dish, A Good Heart and a Light Hand, and The Jemima Code.
My family didn’t have many guests over for dinner. And when we did, it was one of my close friends who felt comfortable enough to sprawl out on the living room floor and chow down on Pizza Hut stuffed crust pizza. So, reading about a stuffy, formal, and extremely important dinner in the life of Ruth L. Gaskins, the author of A Good Heart and A Light Hand, was a foreign experience for me. Her family’s esteemed guest is in the name of this post; it’s the Preacher’s dinner.
“No one had to remind us about our manners because it was understood that if you ever wanted desserts again, you’d be extra careful that day.”
Before digging in, the Preacher would say grace for literally everyone. Winston Churchill, random white men, and widows made the list of blessings. I’m serious. The evidence is here:
Apart from dinner at Ruth’s house, the Church held community dinners where they served favorites like chitterlings (hog entrails), greens, potato salad, and trays of dessert. The food was a big operation, and the income was too. Ruth said, “Most churches are big business, but I’ve never known anyone who has ever complained about giving them money. They do so much for us, that we’re more than willing to keep them going.”
Just by reading the elaborate menus for Church events, I understand that it is a social hub and treasured piece of life’s fabric. I did a bit of research on why the Church took such an important role and learned that enslaved people had no choice but to hold secret meetings for worship. Before emancipation, practicing one’s religion and enjoying a sense of community were strictly prohibited. These freedoms are some of the greatest joys of being human, and necessary for happiness. I understand why freedom from slavery coincided with fierce and public dedication to a social institution that was cruelly withheld for so long. This cookbook told me more about family life, religion, and what mattered than I remember from most history textbooks. Although my memory is somewhat fried, I know these relics of history offer something tasty and special.
Senator Rockefeller was appointed to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) in January 2001. His tenure coincided with some of the most critical years for the SSCI and the intelligence community. Only eight months after joining the SSCI, terrorists carried out attacks on U.S. soil on September 11. The 9/11 attacks thrust the Intelligence Community, and consequently the SSCI, into the limelight in unprecedented ways and changed the nature of the conduct of intelligence oversight.
Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 8th, 2021
Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Assistant Director, WVRHC
Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It will be a day of remembrance to honor the 2977 immediate victims of the attacks, those who died later, and their families who lost so much. The events of 9/11 are painful memories, but remembrance is important. Many people have their own 9/11 story. The West Virginia and Regional History Center (WVRHC) is now preserving an extraordinary one.
WVU Economics Professor Tom Witt was in New York for an academic conference on 9/11/2001. The National Association for Business Economics (NABE) was being held in the Marriot Hotel at 3 World Trade Center located in between the Twin Towers. Witt and his wife, Grethe, were at ground zero during the attacks and narrowly escaped. Their experience has been recounted in local media over the years and now an archival collection documenting it is part of the holdings of the WVRHC. The Tom S. Witt September 11 Collection contains some of Witt’s recovered personal belongings, local and national newspapers with 9/11 content, as well as a number of books in which his story is told. The collection is available for research at the History Center. It will be preserved in perpetuity.
Photographs of selected items from the collection:
Twenty years later, 9/11 is a day that lives vividly in the memory of many who lived through it. A younger generation has grown up seeing the tragic footage and learning about the events and the aftermath. As strange it seems now, there will come a time when the events of 9/11 are not so close to the hearts and minds of Mountaineers and the American people. Witt’s collection at the WVRHC captures the horror of the day and the resilience of a 9/11 survivor for those future researchers.
In this 2016 MetroNews article, Dr. Witt details his experience. The article also includes audio of his interview with WV Public Broadcasting while the events unfolded on September 11, 2001.
In 2011, WVU Today interviewed Dr. Witt and remembered WVU alumni Chris Gray and Jim Samuels, who were killed in the attack.
WVU Libraries will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy with “September 11, 2001: The Day that Changed the World,” an exhibit at Evansdale Library that presents the history of 9/11 and its ongoing implications through the personal stories of those who witnessed and survived the attacks.
Told across 14 posters, the exhibition includes archival photographs and images of artifacts from the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s permanent collection. It explores the consequences of terrorism on individual lives and communities at the local, national, and international levels, and encourages critical thinking about the legacies of 9/11.
“During this 20th anniversary year, it is our privilege to share these lessons with a new generation, teach them about the ongoing repercussions of the 9/11 attacks and inspire them with the idea that, even in the darkest of times, we can come together, support one another and find the strength to renew and rebuild,” said 9/11 Memorial & Museum President and CEO Alice M. Greenwald.
Blog post by Christina White, undergraduate researcher at WVU
This is the thirteenth post in White’s series on race, justice, and social change through cookbooks, featuring the following books from the Ebersole collection: Mammy Pleasant’s Cookbook, A Date with a Dish, A Good Heart and a Light Hand, and The Jemima Code.
Given the scraps of the plantation, enslaved people did their best to tast-ify undesirable and spoiled food. I knew very little about how they transformed leftovers into something edible, or how they creatively discovered natural supplements.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: a few lessons on slavery in high school that focused on important rebellions, brutality and punishment, and maybe the Underground Railroad. Or, it could be that my education didn’t hit the minimum. Either way, I was intrigued and impressed by Ruth L. Gaskins’ description of adapted food from times of slavery in her cookbook, A Good Heart and A Light Hand. I’d kill to taste the slow-moving molasses and creamy buttermilk she writes about.
The right side of this chart shows recipes that Ruth makes from ingredients that were staples in the diets of enslaved people in Virginia.
Common foods eaten by enslaved people (according to Ruth)
Selected cookbook recipe(s) using this food
Hoe Cakes – Corn Meal Method Raised Cornbread
Chitterlings (Hog entrails) Pork Cake
Muskrat, Squirrel, Rabbit – Caught and Skinned Casserole of Possum
Fish Baked in the Ground
Why focus on the metamorphosis of plantation food to Ruth’s cookbook?
Understanding the historical processes that shape dietary habits, especially those as profound and cruel as slavery, helps you grasp today’s patterns, customs, and even health outcomes.
I traveled to Baltimore, Maryland a few summers ago to a food festival dedicated to Black culinary traditions. I heard people shout, “Soul food is not plantation food!” I was confused for a while, then a speaker at the event explained that the dietary habits of Black Americans are heavily stereotyped. Fried, greasy, and barbequed are words that stick to society’s vision of “Black food,” and the root of the issue dates back to slavery. With nothing but leftovers, enslaved people did what they could to make scrape palatable, whether that meant frying undesirable meat or adding fat to supplement calories.
This article by Christina Regelski says that “Slaves depended on salty, fatty foods to survive demanding work.” It also discusses what enslaved people were provided during transit from Africa or elsewhere: “Rations were scientifically calculated to provide the cheapest, minimal nutrition to keep enslaved people alive.”
Even so, I learned that small plantations permitted higher quality food to be eaten by enslaved people, sometimes the same meals as the owners. Chef Thérèse Nelson, the founder of Black Culinary History, said “It’s not always the slop leftover narrative,” she added. “We saw value in these parts, and made them delicious.”
With a simple Google search, I found that African food is full of vitamins and minerals, a plant-based diet that supports longevity and health. If you look around at trendy Black-owned restaurants, you’ll notice a resurgence of traditional “Black food” in a way that is directed by Black cooks themselves.
As an aspiring doctor, I care about health inequities. I want to understand why certain groups suffer more than others from diet-linked diseases like obesity or diabetes. Taking time to read about the history and subjugation of not just bodies, but diets, unveils current health issues in a new light. It’s not so much “Black food” as “Forced-on-enslaved-people-by-white-people food.”
“These basic ingredients- corn, pork, chicken, greens, seafood, sour or buttermilk and molasses have stayed with us for 300 years, and still form the heart of Negro cooking.”
Not to say that things haven’t changed. Innovations and regional adaptations took place. However, noticing the ingredients and where they came from fosters awareness of why Black food is often misunderstood and misrepresented.
Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
August 27th, 2021
Blog post by Rachael Barbara Nicholas, WV National Digital Newspaper Project grant assistant, WVRHC
Nathaniel Willis was the first of several great literary men in his family, including his grandson, author and poet, Nathaniel Parker Willis. Willis published the Independent Chronicle and Universal Advertiser in Boston during the American Revolution. He also participated in the Boston Tea Party and served as an adjutant in the Continental Army. Willis sold his interest in the Chronicle in 1784 and relocated to Winchester, Virginia, as the editor of Willis’s Winchester Gazette & Public Advertiser. He moved to Shepherdstown in 1790 and began to print the Potowmac Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser before moving a third time to Martinsburg, where the paper underwent two name changes (the Potomak Guardianand Berkeley Advertiser in 1795 and the Potomak Guardian in 1798). Willis presented his paper as a source of national and international news that curious readers could comment on through letters to the editor. Although the content on the first page varied, the second and third usually contained articles on major events and speeches from significant political figures. The fourth concluded with poetry, titled the “Seat of the Muses,” and a series of advertisements.
The Early Republic was a fruitful era for newspaper content. The Age of Revolutions could be felt in France, Haiti, Greece, and Latin America. Anglo-Americans watched with interest from the United States in the aftermath of their own revolution. The adherents of Jeffersonian Republicanism who patronized the Potowmac Guardian and Berkeley Advertiser scanned its columns for the latest updates from France. They praised the French Revolution and celebrated “the cause of democratic republicanism” in France, drawing comparisons between the French and American Revolutions. The Seat of the Muses published a poem “by a citizen of Belfast” echoing the sentiments of Jefferson’s adherents: “Should France be subdu’d—Europe’s liberty ends/if she triumphs—the WORLD will be free.” So “let ev’ry true Patriot unite in her cause/a cause of such moment to man/let all whose souls spurn at tyrannical laws/lend her all the assistance they can.” Although the poet was presumably writing for an Irish audience, Jeffersonians recognized the call to “spurn at tyrannical laws” as their own.
Willis and his Jeffersonian audience used the press to denounce laws that seemed tyrannical. They had to remain vigilant against tyranny if they wished to maintain their republican identities. The Jay Treaty (1794) and the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798) afforded several opportunities for protesting tyranny and defending political virtue. The Jay Treaty mitigated the threat of war and promoted peaceful trade between Great Britain and United States during the French Revolutionary Wars. Jeffersonians believed the treaty would undercut republicanism at the expense of France, America’s would-be ally, and strengthen aristocracy. More than that, many felt it was a betrayal of France, who was at war with Great Britain. Willis published a letter that he attributed to the Minister of the French Republic, which lambasted America for scorning her friends in France. “Those who went to brave tempests and death upon the ocean, forgot all dangers in order to indulge the hope of visiting that American continent where… the French colours had been displayed in favor of liberty,” the author asserted. “Under the guarantee of the laws of nations… they expected to find in the ports of the United States an asylum as sure as at home.” Instead, they found a British-American alliance. Indignant Jeffersonians sympathized with the French and burned effigies of John Jay in contempt.
The Alien and Sedition Acts impacted Willis personally as a newspaper editor. The Sedition Act criminalized the making of false statements directed at the federal government during the Quasi War, an undeclared naval war with France. Critics of the act argued that Federalists were using the Quasi War to justify the suppression of dissent from Democratic-Republicans. Willis announced his opposition to the Sedition Act when he changed the header of the Potomak Guardian in 1799. The new header read, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” The audience of the Potomak Guardian agreed, sharing their opinions with Willis. A reader calling himself “A True Republican” condemned the publication of “impudent and scandalous falsehoods” and believed Congress could “restrain by law the writing and publishing [of] any thing which tends to prevent the execution of any power vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States.” Those stipulations aside, he could not accept the Alien and Sedition Acts, which he deemed “dreadful.”
Willis remained the editor and publisher until October 30, 1799, when Armstrong Charlton succeeded him, publishing the last known issue of the Potomak Guardian on January 8, 1800. Willis professed his intention to leave Martinsburg on December 4, 1799, and subsequently moved to Chillicothe, Ohio, where he established the Scioto Gazette.
West Virginia University Libraries’ “Appalachian Futures” exhibit has made its second stop on its tour of Appalachia. The exhibition will be on display at Appalachian State University’s Belk Library through December.
“Appalachian Futures” is the Art in the Libraries’ second annual collaborative, multidisciplinary project advancing important conversations in the region. The exhibit addresses the dominant contemporary narratives about Appalachia in a new way — how the people of Appalachia have worked and will work to rewrite their own narrative and transcend limiting definitions of what it means to be Appalachian.
“’Appalachian Futures’ takes us beyond the stereotypes to paint a rich and multi-layered picture of what it means to be Appalachian,” Libraries Exhibits Coordinator Sally Brown said.
Farina researched the early conceptualizations of botanic life in the pre-modern medicine world, as well as its effect on philosophy, art, and literature. She will discuss the categorization and naming of plants in ancient and medieval cultures, with a special focus on herbals.
The exhibit should present an evolution of one’s work by visualizing research, influences, and findings. The goals of these awards are to provide a multidisciplinary platform for deeper learning, while fostering intellectual discourse, in order to demonstrate the breadth of WVU’s creative and innovative activities.