Blood Done Sign My Name
Thursday, September 29, 2005
  Letter from a Birmingham Jail
"The effect of King's words on my father was electric. He was already committed to racial equality, but Dr. King hit him with the conviction that he needed to do something. 'When I began to read his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Daddy recounted, 'I wept while I was reading it and got down on my knees, because it was the best thing outside Scripture that I had ever found.'" (p. 69)

Read full text of the letter here.

from The King Center
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
  What Got You?
Here are a few of the things I'm grappling with:

"That's just how clueless local white authorities were -- they thought that black people might stop complaining if the town simply built enough basketball courts" (212).
Though the "white authorities" in the basketball court story seem almost a stereotype of blindness, I wonder what it is that I'm not seeing, and my fellow white people are not seeing, today. ...Katrina may have brought some of this out.

"This was the first sign for Mama that there existed a world on yonder side of the color line, where white eyes and ears could not readly penetrate and where black people did not necessarily accept white valuations of moral worth" (26).
Where is the color line today, in Madison, Wisconsin? Are we segregated? When do I make contact across the color line? When do others in my community? What was my first sign? What was yours?

Tyson talks at length about what he calls "the sexual obsessions of white supremacy." What do you think about this? I've been wondering about whether we are seeing traces of this in the headline stories about Paul Barrows. You?

So... what got you?
Monday, September 26, 2005
  Good Dialogue
Habits That Block Conversation gives a new way of looking at the dynamics of spoken conversation. If you're a practicing facilitator or part of a discussion group, it's definitely worth a read.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
  Test Yourself for Hidden Bias
Have you seen or experienced the Implicit Association Test?

The following is from, which has a nice page explaining the test, and a tutorial you can take afterwards to help you figure out what is going on inside your own mind.

Check it out here.

From the site:
        Recent scientific research has demonstrated that biases thought to be absent or extinguished remain as "mental residue" in most of us.
        Studies show people can be consciously committed to egalitarianism, and deliberately work to behave without prejudice, yet still possess hidden negative prejudices or stereotypes.
        So even though we believe we see and treat people as equals, hidden biases may still influence our perceptions and actions.
        Psychologists at Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Washington created "Project Implicit" to develop Hidden Bias Tests — called Implicit Association Tests, or IATs, in the academic world — to measure unconscious bias. ... MORE
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
  University of North Carolina -- Chapel Hill Summer Reading Program
UC-Chapel Hill chose Tyson's book for their 2005 Summer Reading Program. Each new undergraduate is expected to read the book and come prepared in the fall to discuss it in groups containing faculty and staff. On their site you can find more information about Tim Tyson, including a list of interviews available online, a bibliography of his work, and a list of reviews of the book.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
  White Supremacy
The Challenging White Supremacy Workshop folks define white supremacy as:

"an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege."

More resources on What is U.S. White Supremacy?
ALA's timeline of events in African American librarianship provides some good context for a first look at slavery, reconstruction and Civil Rights era events as they intersect with library development. But there's lots more. Check out the Chronology of Events in Black Librarianship put together by the ChickenBones folks. If you know of a good timeline, please post it here.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
  KKK in Madison?

KKK Parade in Madison, 1924

Bart Klotzbach '58 asks Abe: "In the 1924 Badger, a picture of the Ku Klux Klan student members is included among other pictures of social and professional groups. There are at least a couple of fellows who became prominent in the Madison area primarily because of their good works, and one of them was far from being racist. What was the club about in those days?"

Answer: The Ku Klux Klan on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus included some of the university's best and brightest fraternity members, and was not affiliated with the national Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

The UW chapter of the honorary fraternity called the Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1919 under its parent fraternity Phi Gamma Delta. The Klan honorary society, along with other portentously named honorary societies of the time including Skull and Crescent, Iron Cross and Inner Gate, was formed by the fraternities to honor their most accomplished junior class members.

Few organizations on campus could boast about their members holding as many prestigious offices as could the honorary Klan. Honorary Klansmen were members of the student senate, student court, Badger yearbook board, and prom and homecoming committees among others. They also served as directors on the YMCA cabinet, the Student Union board, the Memorial Union fund-drive committee, the athletic board and the Daily Cardinal board of control.

The appearance of the honorary Klan on campus did not seem to raise concern among the student body or the university administration. This may be due to the fact that the actual Klan was still a relatively small organization existing only regionally with less than 2,000 members. It would be another year before the secret society would be popularized, with millions of members nationwide.

In fact, when the Invisible Empire began to gain popularity nationally in 1923 and started recruiting members on campus, the honorary Klan decided to disassociate itself from the rival group. Gordon Wanzer, president of the honorary Klan, said his group had decided to change its name because "so many people confused it with the name of the noncollegiate secret organization of the same name." The group became known as Tumas in the 1925 Badger.

Disdain and disenchantment among the fraternal leaders brought to a close the episode of the honorary Ku Klux Klan. Actual Klansmen were not welcome in either the fraternities or, especially, the honor societies of the fraternal elite. While the honorary Klan may have had no affiliation with the actual Ku Klux Klan, it existed during a time of widespread intolerance and bigotry at the UW, as well as throughout the Madison community and the United States. Unfortunately prejudice was an accepted part of white American culture at the time, and official events and celebrations often included derogatory parodies of racial minorities including Italians, Asians, Jews and African-Americans.

We may never know if the members of the Ku Klux Klan honor society held racist beliefs similar to those of the Invisible Empire. During this time it is entirely possible that individual members did hold these beliefs, but as a university organization the Klan never expressed these beliefs collectively. The members were exemplary students, many of whom went on to become prominent businessmen and politicians who continued to serve their communities.

This unfortunate episode in our history leaves little to be proud of, but we can only learn from the past and hope to teach tolerance and understanding for the future.

University of Wisconsin-Madison
School of Library and Information Studies

Further Discussion: MONDAY, SLIS LIBRARY, NOON

September 2005 / October 2005 /

Powered by Blogger