Recent Florida International University Class Visits to The Wolfsonian Library

As the spring semester at Florida International University got underway, several professors brought their students to The Wolfsonian museum and research library for presentations on subjects related to their courses.

The first of the university student visits included thirty-two students taking my own history course, America & Movies: The Underbelly of America, 1900s to 1950s. The early arrivals were treated to a brief tour of the fifth floor galleries and a perusal of Hugo Gellert’s mural study, Us Fellas Gotta Stick Together, or, The Last Defenses of Capitalism. 

87_1462_5_2_2_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Afterwards, the entire class sat down in our auditorium to watch Dangerous Hours (1920), a silent film about the first “Red Scare.”

httpswww-zazzle-comdangerous_hours_1920_vintage_movie_ad_poster-228328546414566102

Courtesy: httpswww.zazzle.comdangerous_hours_1920_vintage_movie_ad_poster-228328546414566102

After critically analyzing the message and film techniques of the movie, the students were taken up to our library to view a display of primary source materials dealing with social problems in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century.

20170128_090312

We began with an examination of a memorial book published soon after President McKinley’s assassination at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901. Inspired by the fiery speeches of Emma Goldman, a radicalized anarchist by the name of Leon Czolgosz drew out a concealed revolver and shot the president twice while he was shaking hands with the public inside the Temple of Music.

85_19_109_007

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

McKinley died a week later and his body was ceremoniously taken from Buffalo to Washington, and to Canton, Ohio during five days of national mourning. Nine days after the president’s death, his assassin was quickly tried, sentenced to death in the electric chair, and his remains interred in a prison graveyard.

xb1990_458_072a

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

McKinley’s assassination, the rise of militant unions such as the Wobblies (IWW, or Industrial Workers of the World), and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 triggered a Red Scare panic in America.

xc2001_01_3_1_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU

wc2012_10_3_9_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gift

At the height of the first Red Scare (1919-1920), Emma Goldman was among 500 radical aliens and “undesirables” rounded up and deported from the country.

1998-6-1_000

Portrait of Emma Goldman by Alexander Kruse, The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Enkelis, Palo Alto, in memory of Martin Alexander Kruse

While the 1920s are most often referred to as the “Roaring Twenties,” they were also a time of serious social strife. The trial of Italian immigrant anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti began in 1920, and after seven years of retrials and mass demonstrations, ended with their execution on August 23rd, 1927.

xc1996_16_4_001

xx1990_3639_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

This was also a decade witnessing harsh Jim Crow laws, extreme racial prejudice, and a resurgent Ku Klux Klan carrying out cross-burnings and lynchings to cow “troublesome” Black WWI veterans in the South, and Catholic and Jewish immigrants in northern urban centers. In the Midwest, another white supremacist splinter group known as the Black Legion formed and thrived on growing nativist and anti-immigrant sentiment.

td1990_316_1_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

xc2013_10_22_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The passage of Prohibition was intended as another Progressive Era check on the culture and influence of what white Anglo-Saxon Protestants perceived as an influx of “hard drinking” Irish and Italian immigrants. Ironically, attempts at enforcement of the ban on alcohol had the unintended consequences of turning millions of Americans into lawbreakers and encouraging the rise of political graft, corruption, and violent gangsters.

xc2008_12_20_4_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU library collection

xc2013_10_16_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The Wolfsonian collection is especially strong in materials documenting the Great Depression and New Deal era, and items displayed for the students covered everything from mass unemployment and urban breadlines to the farming crisis and ecological disaster of the dustbowl.

xb1990_2127_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

xc2001-12-3-6-481

The Wolfsonian–FIU library collection

xc2011_04_12_16_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchased with funds donated by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.

xc2009_07_8_333

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

td1991_99_15_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The “Dirty Thirties” became the “heyday” of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), as leftist radicals redoubled their recruitment efforts by pointing to the decade-long depression as proof of the inevitable collapse of the Capitalist system.

td1990_201_2_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

xc2012_09_4_8_001_1932

xc2000_53_2_001

xc2002_01_2_1_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU library collection

87_953_2_1_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies put millions of Americans back to work, it was the Second World War that ended the depression by stimulating American production and employment in war industries.

xc2006_12_3_17_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Leonard A. Lauder

Social and racial tensions persisted, however, with African-Americans, immigrants, and women clamoring for better opportunities and respect, even as immigrants were viewed with suspicion and Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were uprooted and sent to internment camps.

87_952_2_1_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

xc2009_09_13_000_1940

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

83_2_740_000f

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While America and the Soviet Union became allies in the common struggle against fascist, Nazi, and Japanese aggression, as soon as the war was won, the old ideological antagonisms reasserted themselves in the Cold War, the Korean conflict, and a second Red Scare.

xb1990_496_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

wc2012_04_8_5_000

wc2012_04_8_9_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised gift

Not long after my own class visit, FIU Assistant Professor Dan Royles brought the graduate students in his History, Memory, and the Public class to The Wolfsonian library to review some materials on the theme of race and memory. The professor and his students had the opportunity to peruse several primary resource materials regarding the African-American experience in the 1920s; some promoting racist stereotypes, others celebrating the cultural contributions of the “New Negro” and the achievements of the Harlem Renaissance.

xb1991_567_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

xc2012_03_10_000gxc2012_03_10_000h

xc2012_03_11_000gxc2012_03_11_000h

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library Collection

The students were also quizzed about their knowledge of the Scottsboro Boys, nine African-American youths unjustly accused of raping two white girls and subjected to a sham trial in Alabama. The CPUSA took up their legal defense, secured them a retrial, took their case to the Supreme Court, and also organized mass demonstrations across the globe on their behalf in a manner reminiscent of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial of the 1920s. The plight of the Scottsboro Boys was memorialized in pamphlets, magazines, and an unpublished linocut manuscript produced by the CPUSA.

xc2013_01_6_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library Collection

xm2001_02_2_1_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. loan

xc2001_01_3_16_000

xc2001_01_3_11_001

xc2001_01_3_9_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU Library Collection

83_2_2295_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Scottsboro propaganda materials were part of the CPUSA’s larger strategy for recruiting African-Americans to the Communist cause.

xc2010_11_3_001

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

The Party’s best-known artist, Hugo Gellert designed illustrated covers and artwork calling attention to the mistreatment and lynching of Blacks in Capitalist America.

xc2010_09_1_415

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

83_2_2022_024

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Gellert also illustrated the dust jacket of a booklet of “Negro Songs of Protest”—plantation, lumber camp, and chain gang music collected by his brother Lawrence and arranged for voice and piano by Elie Siegmaister.

XB1990_493_002.jpg

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Other left-leaning and socially-conscious artists of the period also used their artwork to push for civil rights and an anti-lynching law. Lynd Ward, an American Socialist, used the wood-engraving technique to produce numerous graphic novels in the 1930s, one of which captured the horrors of a lynching.

83_2_897_018

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In the same period, the famous designer John Vassos also attacked lynching in his art deco illustrated book, Humanities.

83_2_838_044

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Our last set of university student visitors came to The Wolfsonian library earlier this month with Professor Ebru Ozer. Her class is interested in the US1 and Miami Metrorail and are studying themes such as mobility, highway construction, speed, railways, transportation technology, etc.

td1990_199_5_117

xb1990_1301_000

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Naturally, Professor Ozer was interested in having her students see what we had relating to the construction of roadways and railways both in the United States and abroad.

xc2008_12_12_000

xc2008_12_12_067

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

Road-building and other labor-intensive infrastructure projects were particularly popular in democratic and totalitarian countries as a means of employing engineers and construction workers during the depression decade. At the same time that President Roosevelt was spending tax dollars on U.S. One and other road and highway projects, Adolf Hitler was promoting the building of the Autobahn in Nazi Germany.

84_2_490_1_50

84_2_490_1_60

xc1993_677

xc1993_677_14

84_2_595_32

84_2_595_78.jpg

The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

A number of the students participating in these visits have already scheduled appointments to return to do further research, and we look forward to their and other student visits this semester.

~ by "The Chief" on February 10, 2017.

One Response to “Recent Florida International University Class Visits to The Wolfsonian Library”

  1. Brilliant and timely images as usual

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: