COL L E C T ION S A P U B L I CAT I O N O F T H E B E N T L EY H I STO R I CA L L I B RA RY
I’m just Ruth. “In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, Ruth Ellis and Babe Franklin’s home was known as the ‘Gay Spot.’ For generations of African American gays and lesbians in the Midwest, their home provided an alternative to the bar scene that discriminated against blacks. It was a haven for African Americans who came ‘out’ before the Civil Rights Movement and Stonewall.”
4 Living with Pride
She was described as “one of Detroit’s oldest and proudest African American lesbians.” She was a trailblazer who created a space for other LGBTQ African Americans. She opened up her home and her heart, but never quite understood why anyone thought she was noteworthy.
8 Panther by the Tail
A discordant United States. A presidency testing the limits of its power. A counter-culture resistance movement mobilizing in surprising and shocking ways. It’s 1968, and three Michigan men are at the center of a Supreme Court case with the Fourth Amendment at stake.
13 Interpreted Witness
For 1,500 years, St. Catherine’s Cathedral in Egypt has stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, where Moses is believed to have spoken to the burning bush and received the Ten Commandments. Until the 1950s, St. Catherine’s had never been the subject of archaeological study. All that changed with George Forsyth.
1 Haber’s Labor
Terrence J. McDonald Director, Bentley Historical Library
2 Select Bentley Bites
(Left) William Haber (far left) with military personnel and unidentified children in Germany during World War II.
IN THE STACKS
16 Soldiers and Warriors 18 On the (Treasure) Hunt 19 All the News
Haber’s Labor: Saving the World
20 Beyond the Bicentennial 21 Family Matters
WHEN BILL HABER ARRIVED IN MILWAUKEE
22 Defending Sirhan Sirhan 24 Teaching Archives
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(This page) Saint Catherine’s Monastery nestled next to Mount Sinai in Egypt, story on page 13.
(Cover) Ruth Ellis in an undated portrait, story on page 4.
from Romania around 1909, one of his first thoughts was how to raise money to support his widowed mother and four siblings. Hearing that an immigrant could make money peddling newspapers, he and his brother rushed downtown to begin work, even though neither could pronounce “papers,” “peddling,” or “Milwaukee.” Perhaps it was that early entrepreneurial experience that inspired Haber to major in economics at the University of Wisconsin and remain there for his doctorate in economics in 1927. In 1936, he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he would become William Haber, world-famous economist, author of scores of academic publications, chairman of the Economics Department (1962), and Dean of LSA (1963–1968). And, for a generation of U-M students, he would be the instructor of the labor economics course that they would christen “Labor with Haber.” But his academic life was only the half of it. Haber liked to say that his field of economics was “manpower mobilization,” and helping the less fortunate to mobilize into social and economic opportunity was also the focus of his public work. During the 1930s, he held not one, but three positions in the New Deal programs in Michigan. At one point, more than 160,000 Michiganders were working in programs he oversaw.
During World War II, he again wore many hats, this time in Washington. And, as he liked to say, he did all of this for one salary. But the heart of his public work life was service to refugees and immigrants, starting with the heroic effort to save German Jews from Nazi extermination. He was head of the National Refugee Service (1939–1941), served as adviser on Jewish Affairs to the American command in Germany (1945–1948), and had a long-term commitment as President of the American Organization for Rehabilitation Through Training Federation (1950–1975). In these positions, he met the heroes and villains of the 20th century, including those struggling to get Jews out of Germany before World War II—all while America shamefully sat on its hands. Haber helped “displaced persons” in Germany find their futures: Of the 850,000 people in so-called displaced person (DP) camps, 250,000 were Jewish survivors of the Nazi death camps. Later, Haber worked with Jewish immigrants and refugees all over the world to find the economic training and skills to make them a welcome presence in their new societies. His teaching was so rich because it was so full of concern for the world. “Labor” was not an abstraction for Haber. His magnificent story and personal heroism are well told in his archives at the
Bentley, which include the transcripts of a marvelous set of oral history interviews recorded in 1978. In the latter, the interviewers ask him an important question:
Q: Why don't you ever get disappointed in anything? A: I'm disappointed in the whole world. To live in a world where there is no reason for poverty, and it's so widespread; no reason for hunger, and millions are hungry in our own country; no reason for war, and everybody’s at each other’s throats; no reason for hatred, and there’s more hatred than love in the world; and a world of refugees, more refugees now than ever. But this was not really his list of disappointments, rather his list of motivators. He never stopped working on the remedies. At a time when Americans are ambivalent about immigration and their duty to the suffering millions outside our borders, it behooves us to reflect on the whole life of this remarkable man. And his records remind us of the function of archives: They help us to bear witness.
Terrence J. McDonald
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Professor of History, and Director
Number of stories featuring illegal surveillance in this issue. See pages 8 and 22.
Number of visitors to the Bentley this past year.
1412.15 Number of gigabytes in new digital content.
@BENTLEYHISTORICALLIBRARY: Boy Scouts deliver Ann Arbor Community Fund ballots, 1938. (From the Eck Stanger photograph collection.)
1908 The year George Gregor William Andree received his D.D.S. degree, according to the Board of Regents Proceedings, making him the first deaf person in the United States to receive a D.D.S. BLUE FROGGE THE RUBAIYAT Bars frequented by Madonna when she was a student at U-M, according to Bentley Archivist for University History Brian Williams, in a story about the Material Girl on dailybeast.com. 2 BENTLEY.UMICH.EDU
“Contrary to what many believe, service to mankind need not necessarily be the building of a magnificent monument, the construction of a sewer system, the building of roads, or the giving of food, books, clothing, or tools. Service can be, and I believe is most effectively performed, when it is living with people. Service means ‘to give.’ Often this is construed to mean to give something material. But living with people is the most substantial form of service because it requires the giving of our most precious and personal possession—ourselves.”
The Regional Map of the Head Ever wonder where gregariousness resides in the brain? How about faith or suavity? The Regional Map of the Head was part of a turn-of-the-century guide called Yourself in the Light of Vitosophy, which offered a “scientific delineation of character.” For a fee, users could fill out the guide, then return it for an evaluation by Professor Elton Burwell McNeil, a “thoroughly qualified Vitosophist,” who instructed the user about life choices including professions, mates, interests, and areas of the brain to cultivate. The Bentley holds a full 25-page assessment in its collections for anyone who wants to learn more about their suavity. @GLASSPETALSMOKE:
Excerpt of a letter from Barbara Bassett McIver, who was part of the second cohort of Peace Corps volunteers and part of the first Peace Corps group to go to the Philippines in 1961. Her collection of letters, scrapbooks, diary entries, and more, was recently added to the Bentley archives.
Writer Paul Showers and artist Paul Galdone collaborated on a children’s book called Follow Your Nose (1963). Showers was a U-M graduate who studied English and theatre. He had an interesting career as a writer, editor & journalist. His papers are @umichbentley. #SmellLiterature
Detroit Egypt Ann Arbor Manhattan Jerusalem Palestine Virginia Nova Scotia Locations visited in this issue of Collections magazine.
3 hours 39 minutes
“Greg Kinney is probably the most underappreciated individual that we’ve had at the athletic department since the early 1990s. He’s like history. You have to find out about him. You have to take a look at him. I think the guy is just amazing. I’ll be honest with you. If we don’t have a Greg Kinney, I don’t think we have what we have at the Bentley. I’m not positive somebody else could have done it.” Quote from Bruce Madej, the longest serving Sports Information Director in U-M history, about Bentley Athletics Archivist Greg Kinney and his role preserving Michigan athletics history, in an article on theathletic.com.
Average time a patron spends in the Bentley’s Reading Room.
11,324 Number of collections used this past year by researchers.
HEMISPHERIC SOLIDARITY What researcher Simone Kropf, a visiting scholar from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, called the allied relationship of the United States and Brazil against Nazism in World War II. She was featured on the Bentley’s Facebook page as part of a regular series, Stories from the Reading Room. BENTLEY.UMICH.EDU 3
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THE COVER OF THE JOURNAL MAKES A PROMISE: “Secrets,” it
Living with Pride During a time when many people stayed in the closet, Ruth Ellis—born in 1899—forged a path for people in Detroit’s LGBTQ community, especially other African Americans, until her death at age 101. By Katie Vloet
declares, in shiny script against a background of cheery hydrangeas and roses. Tantalizing! What secrets could these pages hold? “After getting up this morning and had [sic] my breakfast. . . .” A trip to Target. A bowl of broccoli soup. A new TV, the need for a larger TV stand. Hmm. Where are the secrets? Maybe in the later pages. Alas, flipping through until the end reveals that most of the pages are blank. But the absence of intrigue in this journal makes sense, in a way. Ruth Ellis received it as a present for her 98th birthday, and, by then, she had no secrets left to tell. The center in Detroit that bears her name describes her as “one of Detroit’s oldest and proudest African American lesbians.” Born in 1899, she came out in 1915, according to some biographies. Ellis herself said she was never in the closet to begin with. “I never thought about hiding who I was,” she said in a 1999 interview. “I guess I didn’t go around telling everybody I was a lesbian, but I wasn’t lying about it either. If anyone asked me, I’d tell them the truth, but it wasn’t the sort of thing people talked about much.” Her collection at the Bentley Historical Library is also open— to researchers, to historians, to students, and anyone who wants to learn more about her story. It contains photographs, letters, and journals that paint a picture of a woman who changed lives simply by being herself.
THE GAY SPOT
Ellis’s early years in Springfield, Illinois, were filled with music. She could play the piano by ear, and she and family members loved to dance. But Ellis was also lonely. She was one of the few African American students in her class, and she became the only woman in her home during her teen years when her mother died. The racial divide was evident in the school population, but more violently during the 1908 Springfield Riots. Ellis recalled her father and brothers preparing for their home to be attacked, lining up the only weapons they had: a Knights of Pythias commemorative sword and a row of bricks, she recalled in her biographical notes. During her teenage years, Ellis first recognized her attraction to women when she fell in love with her gym teacher, a woman named Grace. With her mother’s passing, Ellis had to rely on her father for guidance in this and all areas of life. Fortunately, his views on sexual orientation were ahead of their time as well. “She believed her father was sort of relieved that she was gay,” said a 1999 newspaper profile of Ellis. “‘He wouldn’t let me go with the boys,’ she said. ‘He would say, ‘books and boys don’t go together.’ So I think he was kind of glad I was with women because that way I wouldn’t have a baby.’” While her father was supportive, or at least not antagonistic, it was still up to Ellis to learn about her sexuality. “I found a psychology book,” she said. “It had different things in it about different types of people. That’s how I learned. Nobody told me anything.” Ellis met Ceciline “Babe” Franklin in the 1920s, and the two began a relationship. They moved to Detroit, where Ellis built upon some printing skills she had learned years earlier to start the Ellis and Franklin Printing Company on Oakland Avenue.
I never thought about hiding who I was,” she said in a 1999 interview. “I guess I didn’t go around telling everybody I was a lesbian, but I wasn’t lying about it either. If anyone asked me, I’d tell them the truth, but it wasn’t the sort of thing people talked about much.
She taught herself photography and ran the printing company and darkroom out of the home, creating stationery, fliers, posters, and raffle tickets for churches and small businesses in and around Detroit. The house on Oakland also became a gathering place for LGBTQ Detroiters who had few places to socialize. “In the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s Ruth and Babe’s home was known as the ‘Gay Spot.’ For generations of African American gays and lesbians in the Midwest, their home provided an alternative to the bar scene that discriminated against blacks. It was a haven for African Americans who came ‘out’ before the Civil Rights Movement and Stonewall,” according to promotional materials for the documentary Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100. Ellis and Franklin were together for 30 years. In that time, hundreds of people laughed, talked, and danced at their home, where everyone was welcome.
“I’M JUST RUTH”
is an email from 2000, the year Ellis died, in which the writer said she was using a fake address and name. “I hope to instill in my children the ability to be true to themselves. So, I need them to see stories like yours and others who have lived their lives being true to who they are.” But she could not reveal to her husband “my attraction to this community.” The letters highlight exactly why learning Ellis’s life story was important to so many, said Kofi Adoma, a clinical psychiatrist and activist from Detroit, in the documentary about Ellis: to help people know they are not alone, and to see how far we have come in society—as well as how far we still need to go. “I think it’s important we know about people like Ruth Ellis because we don’t know how many are out there who are in their 80s, 90s, or even hundreds that are living an out life,” she said. “Ruth is a gift to us in that she has come out to the world. And in doing so, she has been able to share what it is like to experience triple oppression: being a woman, being black, and being a lesbian.”
THE RUTH ELLIS CENTER
Ellis drew attention locally and nationally as the oldest African American lesbian in Michigan, and possibly the nation, as she In her later years, Ellis traveled with a group called the Golden approached the century mark. Newspaper profiles were written, Threads, an organization of elder lesbians. “I’m one of the oldest, photos were published, interviews were conducted. Ellis earned though,” she told an interviewer in 1998. Each year on her birthnational awards. It was all strange and a bit funny to Ellis, who day, she handed out Baby Ruth candy bars at fairs and schools. thought she was “just an ordinary person,” as she said to one For her 100th birthday, she planned to not only hand out candy interviewer. bars but to “party all day. In fact, I think I’m going to party for two Independent filmmaker Yvonne Welbon decided or three days—why not? I’m going to have all kinds of that Ellis was anything but ordinary. Welbon made people at my party, gay and straight. I think sometimes the documentary about Ellis called Living With Pride, now there is a bit too much separation. I love all kinds timed to come out in 1999, the year of Ellis’s 100th of people and I am going to dance for days.” Ruth is a gift birthday. The movie highlights Ellis’s trailblazing Today, her name, legacy, and love of life carry on to us in that role in creating a space where black people who were at the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit, a short- and longLGBTQ could fit in. It also shows her love of dancing, she has come term residential safe space for runaway, homeless, and including a scene in which she leads the electric slide at-risk LGBTQ youth, which also provides numerous out to the in a dance hall. She grapevines right, grapevines left, support services. The young people who are helped world. And and thoroughly out-dances people half her age. by the center are aware of Ellis’s impact. “I think she in doing so, The documentary also includes an audio recordhumanized a lot of the youth here in Detroit,” says one ing with Ellis, laughing at the idea that anyone would young person in a video for the center. she has been be interested in a film or book about her. “Who would Others on the video discuss their career goals, how able to share want to read a book of my life?” she cackled. “I’m they found a place for themselves at the center, and the what it is like nobody. I’m just Ruth. Who would want to read it?” importance of treating people how you would want to to experience be treated. And they dance. They dance with smooth Plenty of people, it turns out, wanted to learn about triple oppres- steps and waving arms, with abandon, with complete her. The documentary was well-received, and it led to Ellis receiving countless postcards, emails, and letters freedom. Ruth Ellis surely would be proud. sion: being thanking her for being “just Ruth.” Ruth Ellis's papers at the Bentley are open to the a woman, “Dear Ruth: Happy 100th birthday! And thank you for public. being black, being OUT and PROUD as an African American Lesbian! Sources: and being a Eichberg, Sarah. “She Helps Many Just by Being Herself.” Detroit Free Press, July What a life you have had! Your love and zest for life are 20, 1998. Jewell, Terri. “Miss Ruth.” Does Your Mama Know?: An Anthology of Black Lesbian lesbian. truly contagious,” read one email. “You reminded me of Coming Out Stories. Lisa C. Moore, ed. Austin, Texas: RedBone Press, 1997. 189-196. “Living with Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100,” publicity notes, 1999. Sojourner Truth,” wrote another fan. “Ruth, you are my Michael, Jason A. “Ruth Ellis: A century worth of history.” Between the Lines, May 2, 2003 . hero. God bless you, woman,” said another. “One Hundred Years of Stories,” Morning Edition, May 25, 2000. One writer asked for advice; she knew she was a lesRogers, Lesley. “Homecoming,” The State Journal Register, May 12, 1998. Smith, Rhonda. “100 Years Young,” Washington Blade, May 28, 1999. bian, but she loved her boyfriend, and she didn’t want “Who We Are”: Ruth Ellis Center video. Wilkinson, Kathleen. “Portrait of a 100-Year-Old Lesbian,” Curve, November 1999. to hurt him. “If it weren’t for people like you,” she wrote to Ellis, “I would feel so alone.” Perhaps the most harrowing of the correspondences
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Top: Ruth Ellis at her Detroit printing press, circa 1940. Right: Ruth Ellis with friend Sarah Uhle in 1992.
Bottom: A vibrant mural at the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit features a quote from Ellis that reads: “The
only way we can get any place is by being together. Have a happy life if you can in this crazy world.”
Panther by the Tail JUST BEFORE MIDNIGHT ON SEPTEMBER 29, 1968, a bomb went off
By Robert Havey
in downtown Ann Arbor. Five sticks of dynamite blew a hole in the concrete and shattered the windows of a building at 450 South Main Street. The blast could be heard from Michigan Stadium all the way to the U-M hospital. No one was hurt in the explosion, and it fell off the front page of The Michigan Daily after one day. The most surprising part of the story for many locals was that the non-descript building targeted was a surreptitious CIA office, which had been recruiting U-M students for almost a decade. Two weeks later, another bomb exploded just before midnight, this time on University of Michigan property. The east entrance to the Institute of Science and Technology on North Campus was destroyed, but again no one was hurt. The Michigan Daily reported that some of the groups in the IST building were conducting “classified military research” funded by government agencies. A few months later, a third bomb destroyed a car parked in front of the U-M ROTC headquarters. The bombings were proof that Ann Arbor wasn’t immune to the upheaval happening across the country. Barely a year had passed since riots in Detroit killed 43 people. In August 1968, at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, images of police violence against anti-Vietnam War protesters were broadcast to every TV in America. Just as the fall semester began at U-M, more than 200 protesters were arrested in Ann Arbor demonstrating against the jailing of a Michigan Daily editor. After a year of investigation, the FBI connected the three Ann Arbor bombing incidents to a string of politically motivated bombings in southeast Michigan. In 1970, a man named David Valler confessed to carrying out or aiding the attacks. The FBI then used Valler’s testimony to charge three prominent Ann Arbor radicals with conspiracy: John Sinclair, John W. Forrest, and Lawrence “Pun” Plamondon. All were all members of the White Panther Party (WPP), a counterculture organization created in solidarity with the Black Panther Party. They were accused of helping Valler, who was not a member of the WPP, choose the bombing locations in Ann Arbor. Plamondon was also accused of planting the bomb at the CIA office. The FBI’s case against the trio included Plamondon’s recorded conversations from a phone wiretapped for an unrelated investigation. Much to the surprise of the WPP’s defense lawyers, the prosecution admitted during pretrial hearings that the FBI didn’t obtain a warrant for this wiretap. The FBI instead relied on a provision in the newly passed Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, which gave them the power to monitor without a warrant any person
Top: The White Panther Party’s 10-point program is part of White Panther Party propaganda in both the Pun Plamondon and John Sinclair collections at the Bentley. Left: The John Sinclair collection contains the entire FBI file on the White Panther Party, including the phone logs obtained from illegal wiretapping. Opposite page: Police investigate the 1968 bombing of the ROTC building in Ann Arbor. 10 BENTLEY.UMICH.EDU
or group they suspected of attempting to overthrow the United States government. Before the trial even began, the defense’s challenge of this warrantless wiretap made it all the way to the Supreme Court. While the original trial would have focused on determining the potential guilt and motivations of the White Panther Party for the bombings, the Supreme Court instead had to answer fundamental constitutional questions: Does the government have the power to surveil its citizens without due process guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment if it believes those citizens are plotting the overthrow of the government? If so, what are the limits of this power? It would be a decision of monumental importance made during a time when America seemed hopelessly divided. MICHIGAN DAILY ALUMNI PHOTOGRAPHER JAY CASSIDY
Previous spread, left: The cover for a White Panther Party program.
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We Will Do ANY Anything John Sinclair and his wife, Leni, had been involved in the intersection of music, counterculture, and politics in Michigan years before the trial. They spent the 1960s producing rock and roll concerts in Detroit while running the Trans-Love Energies Unlimited commune. As their group of artists and activists grew, so did the attentions of the police and unfriendly neighbors. After a firebomb attack on their commune in early 1968, the Sinclairs, Plamondon, and a handful of other others left Detroit and moved to new headquarters, the “mansions” at 1520 and 1515 Hill Street in Ann Arbor. In November 1968, the first issue of the Ann Arbor Sun (then just a few pages of mimeographed text written and printed by Sinclair) proclaimed the formation of the White Panther Party, which was dedicated to “cultural revolution through a total assault on the culture.” There was a 10-point program that started with a “total
endorsement of the Black Panther Party’s 10-point program,” as well as a manifesto containing repeated endorsements of free sex, drugs, and rock and roll. “Everything is free for everybody. Money sucks. Leaders suck. Underwear sucks. School sucks.” The manifesto, which was printed and distributed just two weeks after the bombing on North Campus, said the members of the WPP “don’t have guns yet—not all of us anyway. . . . But we will use guns if we have to—we will do anything—if we have to.” Sinclair even included an obscure reference to “Hassan I Sabbah,” [sic] the 11th-century founder of the Order of Assassins, when he wrote that, like Sabbah, “We initiate no hostile moves, but when moved against we will mobilize our forces for a total assault.” When the arrest warrants were issued for the conspiracy charges, John Sinclair was already in jail, serving 10 years for marijuana possession (months later, his infamous “10 years for two joints” sentence was overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court). Plamondon heard about his impending arrest on the radio and fled to Algeria. After making it onto the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list, he and Jack Forrest, who’d been laying low in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, were arrested near St. Ignace. The Supreme Court began hearing arguments on February 24, 1972.
NAMED Unanimous Both sides knew that this was going to be an important case. The constitutionality of the wiretapping laws was an open question, and the Attorney General’s office had passed on other potential test cases to bring this one to the Supreme Court. It was the best chance the newly elected Nixon administration had of defending the practice of warrantless wiretapping.
Robert C. Mardian, head of the Internal Security Division at the Department of Justice, argued on behalf of the U.S. government. He said that when the FBI overheard Plamondon talk about the bombing case, they were in the process of monitoring an organization that “was engaged in activities of a type which would ultimately lead to the destruction for the United States government before some violence.” This was, he argued, a narrow exception to the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of due process that was within the president’s constitutional power. William T. Gossett, then the president of the American Bar Association, argued against this notion, saying that the consequences of this case were much more profound: “The question before this Court is whether the Fourth Amendment is going to be protected, whether the protections of the Fourth Amendment are going to be respected, whether people are going to be protected against arbitrary power of government.” In a unanimous 8-0 ruling, the Supreme Court held that “government officials are obligated to obtain a warrant before beginning electronic surveillance, even when domestic security issues are involved.” Justice Lewis Powell, Jr., writing for the Court, said that in the case of perceived threats against the state, the Fourth Amendment protections become “more necessary” since “history abundantly documents the tendency of government . . . to view with suspicion those who most fervently dispute its policies.” The charges against Sinclair, Plamondon, and Forrest were dropped. The White Panther Party changed its name to the Rainbow Coalition and continued to make music and political manifestos. The Nixon administration wasn’t done with its wiretapping controversies. On June 17, 1972, two days before the Supreme Court would hand down its ruling, five men were arrested breaking in to the Watergate Hotel with wiretapping equipment. The Bentley Historical Library preserves and provides access to primary sources from this time, including the John and Leni Sinclair papers, the Pun Plamondon papers, the William T. Gossett papers, and the digitized Michigan Daily.
IntErPreTeD iNteRprEted WITNESS Part Indiana Jones and part academic scholar, George Forsyth traveled the world documenting sacred sites and undertaking ambitious archaeological surveys, including that of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. His collection at the Bentley is full of priceless details about holy structures, many of which have already been lost to the ravages of war and time. By Mary Jean Babic
NESTLED INTO THE STEEP GRANITE SLOPES of Mount
Sinai, in Egypt, St. Catherine’s Monastery occupies, as its website describes it, “God-trodden” land. This is where, it is believed, Moses spoke to God through the burning bush and, on top of the mountain, received the Ten Commandments. Built in the sixth century during the reign of Emperor Justinian, St. Catherine’s—commonly referred to simply as Sinai—is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian monastery in the world. For 1,500 years it has welcomed pilgrims, served as a fortress against invaders, and housed priceless Byzantine art. To this day, Greek Orthodox monks rise at four o’clock in the morning to keep canonical hours behind the ancient stone walls, in the spiritual tradition of retreat from the world. Despite its longevity and historical importance, Sinai had never been the subject of an in-depth archaeological study until the mid-1950s. That’s when George H. Forsyth Jr., then a professor in and chair of U-M’s History of Art Department, arrived at Sinai for the first time. Already a veteran of excavations in France, Turkey, and the Near East, Forsyth, then in his mid-50s, was scouting his next adventure. Sinai would prove to be his biggest. Forsyth’s early Sinai explorations grew into the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions, a multiyear, three-university project led by Forsyth that brought dozens of specialists and literally tons of equipment into the desert to perform a top-to-bottom survey of Sinai’s archaeological features and art treasures. Research teams worked at Sinai during monthslong campaigns in 1958, 1960, 1963, and 1965.
1954. The archive holds at least two dozen photographs from that trip. The Sinai monastery remains intact, but art historians know all too well how much cultural heritage a single missile can wipe out. That awareness drives staff members of the Visual Resources Collection (VRC) in U-M’s History of Art Department. In addition to creating images for teaching, the staff in the basement of Tappan Hall digitize slides, photographs, and illustrations of “places that might be at risk,” says Sally Bjork, a photographer and VRC digital specialist. The VRC’s catalog now contains more than 500,000 images, 10,000 of which are of Sinai during the Michigan-Princeton-Alexandria Expeditions. Photography of Sinai was under the direction of Fred Anderegg, a Michigan photography legend who created U-M’s centralized Photo Services department and,
beginning in the 1950s, took part in several university archaeological expeditions. At Sinai he was essential, photographing the monastery’s structural aspects as well as its icons, frescoes, and mosaics with precise detail and composition. At Sinai, Forsyth focused on architecture while Princeton art historian Kurt Weitzmann turned his attention to Sinai’s world-renowned collection of icons, many of which pre-date bans on religious imagery that began in the eighth century. (Princeton now maintains its own Sinai archive of thousands of icon images.) A third scholar, Ahmed Fikry of Alexandria University, studied the monastery’s Islamic antiquities. With such a massive, expensive project, it’s probably not surprising that academic egos might clash. In a 1967 letter Forsyth penned to Weitzmann—it’s unclear if he ever sent it—he vented about Weitzmann’s perceived lack of gratitude for U-M’s support. “During [1963 and 1965], you were ‘field director’ in the literal sense, but the superb expedition you directed was entirely planned, packed, and delivered to Mt. Sinai for your use by Michigan,” Forsyth wrote. “Previously Fred [Anderegg] and I had spent months mustering the vast technical resources of this University, ordering, planning, packing and transporting the 43 cases weighing four tons, which you never even saw until their contents were being placed at your disposition in the Sinai desert.” Forsyth’s own luggage, he noted, “were three small cases of surveying equipment. I could have gone by myself in a taxi.” He goes on: “You can see why we were all so hurt last year and why my dean erupted so violently when you proposed to split the project so that we would not even have right of access to the material we had enabled you to obtain.” Forsyth and Weitzmann planned an ambitious series of publications. However, only two books were produced: Weitzmann’s study of icons, and a volume of Anderegg’s photographs (both Forsyth and Weitzmann contributed forwards, so it’s likely that their rift healed at some point). Only in 2016 did some of Forsyth’s drawings, and his analysis of the monastery’s architecture, finally appear in print, in a paper co-authored by Ilene Forsyth and Sears—colleagues since Sears came to Michigan the year following George’s death—that appeared in the journal Dumbarton Oaks Papers. Forsyth, they write, was often asked why he went to the pains of drawing. Why not just take pictures? “In the manual act of drawing with pencil on paper (he always had pencils ranging from blunt to needle sharp at hand), he was able to learn as he synthesized,” they write. “As he moved from first on-site sketches through to finished drawings, he came to see the logic of the builders’ choices.” Forsyth’s drawings “even now encourage fresh thinking about the challenges that were identified and ingeniously met by the
Previous spread left: George Forsyth drawing on site at St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. Previous spread right: George and Ilene Forsyth on Mount Sinai. This page top: An unidentified man on a scaffold surveys the ceiling at St. Catherine’s Monastery. This page bottom: St. Catherine’s lobby area, also known as a narthex.
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Significantly, Forsyth produced the first measured drawings ever done of the monastery. He completed in-depth, drawn-to-scale renderings of every site he ever visited. To Forsyth, they were a form of time travel, his way of entering the minds of original builders to puzzle out why they did what they did. Elizabeth Sears, current chair of U-M’s History of Art Department, calls them “interpreted witness” and Forsyth’s “big gift” to posterity. In fact, several sites Forsyth studied and drew have recently been damaged by the Syrian Civil War, giving his work urgency as history is obliterated. The timing is propitious, then, for the Bentley Historical Library to welcome the George and Ilene Forsyth papers. Donated by Forsyth’s wife, Ilene, professor emeritus of art history, the collection overflows with sketches, letters, notebooks, photographs, packing lists, and field notes. Taken together, the contents evoke a bygone era when a certain kind of life was possible— one of far-flung, safari-hatted adventures balanced with deep scholarly work. Born to an affluent Chicago family in 1901, George Forsyth came of age between the wars. After graduating from Princeton University (B.A. ’23, M.F.A ’27), he sailed off through Upper Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria to study ancient architecture. Even then, he was constantly drawing. “I sketch as often as I brush my teeth, only oftener,” Forsyth wrote to Albert Friend, an art historian from Princeton. In a 50-page missive to Friend in 1924, Forsyth describes Baalbek, a Roman ruin in Lebanon: “And the high entablature, breasted out in luscious richness of profuse ornateness, somehow has in it the roar of the arena on a pagan holiday, all the pomp and circumstance, the luxury and lust of great Rome.” He goes on to describe, equally rapt, the ancient Semitic city of Palmyra. Between 2015 and 2017, Palmyra suffered extensive damage while occupied by ISIL, which reportedly used its theater for public executions. (Locals have also said they’ve witnessed the Syrian air force dropping bombs.) Another Syrian site Forsyth studied, the Umayyad castle Qasr al-Hayr, has also been damaged in recent years. And in May, air strikes hit the Byzantine monastery Qalaat Semaan, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Aleppo that Forsyth visited in
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sixth-century architect and the artisans who worked with him on the mountain.” Forsyth came to disagree with earlier scholars that Sinai had been constructed primarily to showcase the burning bush. Just as important, if not more, was the placement of 3,000 stairs up to the mountaintop where the Ten Commandments were given to Moses, indicating that the monastery was arranged to maximize the religious significance of the entire site, not just the bush. Among Forsyth’s other conclusions: To contend with the steep hillsides, the builders incorporated granite outcroppings into the structures, strengthening them to ensure a long life. The monastery probably wasn’t very effective as a fortress; invaders could easily clamber up the sloped hills and drop in over the northern wall. In a narrow valley prone to flash flooding, the monastery employed a sophisticated system of terraces, sluice gates, and underground passages that both retained and diverted water, as needed. In every aspect of his analysis, he was led by the insight gained through his drawings. Forsyth never signed his drawings but in the edges often included, amusingly, a silhouette of a man performing a survey. This meta trademark parallels Forsyth’s lifelong compulsion to envision what came before the ruin, to place himself among the living, breathing people who passed through a site at its heyday. “[T]hey always remain as shadows and the lingering feeling exists…that their actual reality, their true substance, is still hidden, elusive, barely lurking behind the stones and the sherds,” he wrote in an unpublished forward found in his papers. “It is to them, princes and peasants, nomads and sedentary, local inhabitants or passing travelers, that this work is dedicated, for, even if what has been uncovered is but a fraction of what they were, even if the interpretations proposed are mistaken, it is only with a sense of humble respect for a strangely superb achievement that we today may be permitted to unveil what time and nature had covered up.” The George and Ilene Forsyth papers have been digitized and are available online as well as in-person at the Bentley.
WOULD THEY BE LOYAL UNION SOLDIERS? Should these “savage warriors” be relied upon as allies? This was the cultural backdrop on the day in May 1864 that Company K of the First Michigan Sharpshooters fought Confederate soldiers for the first time in the smoky, burning thicket of the Battle of the Wilderness— the beginning stage of General Ulysses S. Grant’s offensive in Virginia. According to his comrades, Private Daniel Mwakewenah killed 32 enemy soldiers during the battle. Sergeant Thomas Kechittigo convinced soldiers to camouflage their uniforms with mud and leaves. First Sergeant Charles Allen was wounded, resulting in his death at a Fredericksburg Hospital two weeks later. Loyal? Trustworthy? Indeed. “After statewide speculation on whether Michigan Indians would make good soldiers, the Anishinaabeg of Company K proved to their white officers and the audience at home that they were loyal Union men and effective soldiers,” Michelle Cassidy writes in her dissertation about the American Indians who joined Company K. Cassidy, now an assistant professor of history at Central Michigan University, was inspired to write about the Anishinaabeg (Ojibweg, Odawaag, and Boodewaadamiig) and their role in the Civil War while researching a graduate student project at the Bentley Historical Library. Her research evolved into her doctoral dissertation at U-M, “Both the Honor and the Profit: Anishinaabe Warriors, Soldiers, and Veterans from Pontiac’s War through the Civil War.” While she conducted research at many other libraries and institutions, the Bentley served as the home base for her work. Much has been written about the 20,000 American Indians who fought for the Union and the Confederacy, though most of it has focused on men from the western United States. Cassidy tells the story of the 139 indigenous men, along with seven Euro-American men, who served in Company K. Most were Odawaag and Ojibweg from Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. “(T)hey stood out as a separate unit, which was unusual for a company outside of Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma),” Cassidy writes. Among the collections that brought her Opposite page: dissertation to life were the Peter DoughWounded American erty Papers at the Bentley, which consist Indian soldiers in of reports by two Presbyterian missionMay 1964 after the aries who worked with the Anishinaabeg second battle of around the Grand Traverse and Little TraFredericksburg. verse Bay regions of northern Michigan.
From these papers, she learned about Daniel Mwakewenah, the private at the start of this article, as well as others who fought in Company K. The George Nelson Smith Papers at the Bentley also provided valuable information about who enlisted in the Union army and why. “Materials at the Bentley stressed the complex history of Company K men and their perceptions of self that could encompass the identities of a warrior, soldier, hunter, farmer, Christian, citizen, band member, and Anishinaabe,” Cassidy says. Cassidy’s work highlights not only this complex history but also the knotty relationship between American Indians and the U.S. government and other leaders at the time. “Company K became Union soldiers at the same time government policies concerning indigenous peoples—especially west of Michigan—focused on reservations and policies of removal and containment,” she writes. “It is striking that the United States armed certain Indian men at the same time it disarmed others.” The Anishinaabe soldiers who fought in the Civil War knew that the experience could help to strengthen their claims of citizenship. “The Anishinaabe strove for a dual citizenship that would provide the rights and protections associated with state, and later, national, citizenship,” Cassidy writes, “while also claiming Indian status and determining the political, social, and religious practices of their communities.” Their efforts had mixed results. Many faced enormous land losses and experienced “social and political degradation,” Cassidy writes. Land ownership and claims to citizenship did not lead to a secure or respected place in Michigan, she writes, because of racial prejudice and unscrupulous people who took advantage of them. “Despite their military service, Anishinaabe veterans remained vulnerable to land fraud due to poverty and their Indian identities.” Even so, their efforts had some positive and lasting effects. The presence of the Anishinaabeg in the state of Michigan today, including 12 federally recognized tribes, “is a testament to Anishinaabe strategies, which includes the military service of Company K,” Cassidy says. n
Soldiers and Warriors
Among the 20,000 American Indians who fought for the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War, a single company from Michigan was made up almost entirely of indigenous men. A researcher used Bentley archives to trace their history and share the story of the Anishinaabeg of Company K. By Katie Vloet
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, CIVIL WAR PHOTOGRAPHS, LC-B811-2342
COMPANY K BECAME “ UNION SOLDIERS AT THE
SAME TIME GOVERNMENT POLICIES CONCERNING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES— ESPECIALLY WEST OF MICHIGAN—FOCUSED ON RESERVATIONS AND POLICIES OF REMOVAL AND CONTAINMENT,” SHE WRITES. “IT IS STRIKING THAT THE UNITED STATES ARMED CERTAIN INDIAN MEN AT THE SAME TIME IT DISARMED OTHERS.
Each of the collections that Michelle Cassidy used in her research is open to the public.
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All the News That’s Fit to Search The Detroit Jewish News digital archive comes to the Bentley. By Robert Havey
THE BENTLEY HISTORICAL LIBRARY will soon unveil the Detroit
By Lara Zielin and Deb Thompson
ROSS J. WILHELM was an esteemed professor of business economics at the University of Michigan, well known for his prediction of the 1970s energy crisis, as well as his voice on the popular radio show Business Review, broadcast on more than 100 stations throughout the United States. So why, then, does his collection at the Bentley Historical Library contain folders full of strange symbols and ciphers, complex drawings and codes, and references to an obscure 16th century text? The answer begins with Wilhelm’s experience in World War II, and ends with a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Wilhelm left Ohio State University in 1942 to serve in the Army in World War II, and was put to work in counterintelligence at Camp Hulen, Texas, under General H.C. Allen. As part of his training, he studied De Furtivis An aerial photo of Literarum Notis, a Oak Island in Nova book on cryptogScotia, taken in raphy by Giovanni 1984, showing the Battista Porta, pubdig site and overlished in 1563. laid with the code The book would that Ross Wilhelm play a role again cracked. in Wilhelm’s life,
but not for many years—after the war ended and he was awarded an Army Commendation Ribbon for his service; after he received his bachelor’s degree and a master’s in business from Case Western Reserve University and his Ph.D. from U-M (in 1947, 1948, and 1962, respectively); after he became an associate professor of business economics at the University of Michigan; and after he read a story about a fabled treasure buried on Oak Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The Oak Island treasure lore began in 1795, when three young men found a depression on the island and started to dig. Around 70 feet down, they reportedly discovered a flat stone on which several symbols were carved. They kept digging, but were halted by seawater seeping into the dig site—the same problem that has plagued the island’s treasure hunters in the centuries since. Though the stone itself has been lost to time, recreations of the symbols remain. Those symbols were included in a threepart Detroit News story on Oak Island in 1970, which Wilhelm read, and which brought Giovanni Battista Porta’s book back into his mind: The symbols were the same as those he’d studied during WWII. Using the cipher disks in Porta’s book, Wilhelm set to work on breaking the code, which he
believed was the key to unlocking the treasure vault without letting seawater in. Trying different language combinations, Wilhelm eventually landed on a message in Spanish that translates to: “At eighty guide, maize or millet estuary or firth drain F” According to a 1971 article in the U-M Business School’s Dividend magazine tucked away in Wilhelm’s collection, the code explains that adding maize to the drains would soak up the water and prevent flooding, thereby granting access to the treasure. The F, he believed, is a kind of pun, intended to be F II or a reference to King Philip II of Spain. Even though he believed he’d cracked the code, Wilhelm was doubtful that it would lead to any treasure. Philip II and the Spanish crown were in bankruptcy numerous times, and the Dividend article hypothesizes that Philip would have cleared out any gold on the island. Today, a History Channel show, the Curse of Oak Island, follows a brand new crew digging for treasure, though to date they haven’t found much of value. Wilhelm died unexpectedly in 1983 at age 63. His collection contains detailed notes about the Oak Island cipher and is open to the public—treasure hunters included. n
GARY CORBETT/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
On the (Treasure) Hunt
Jewish News Digital Archive, a free, searchable database containing more than 100 years of digital copies of the Detroit Jewish Chronicle and the Detroit Jewish News. The official launch of the digital archive will be at an event on November 5, 2018, where University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel will perform a ceremonial first search. “The Jewish News and Jewish Chronicle have served as the premier voice of its Detroit community for a century,” said Bentley Director Terrence McDonald. “As part of our continuing digitization efforts, we are excited and pleased to preserve and maintain public access to this wonderful archive.” Based on the Michigan Daily Digital Archive platform, the Detroit Jewish News Digital Archive will contain every issue of the Detroit Jewish Chronicle (1916–1951) and the Detroit Jewish News (1942–present). Researches will be able to browse by date or use a full-text search. The Bentley will add future issues of the News to the archive and will also capture content on the DJN website. Arthur Horwitz, Publisher and Executive Editor of the Detroit Jewish News and Chair of the Detroit Jewish News Foundation, says the archive will preserve the shared history of Michigan’s Jewish community. “In an era of alternative facts and fake news, the archive provides myriad ‘snapshots in time’ of events and activities that, when tied together, tell accurate stories about individuals, their families, their businesses, their connections to the Jewish and general communities, and—whether it was the price of groceries at Dexter Davison Market or news headlines from Israel or Washington, D.C.— provide this information in the context of the era in which they occurred.” Horwitz began planning for a way to preserve and protect historic pages of the News in 2002, when a fire destroyed the DJN’s Southfield offices. This image from No one was hurt, and offthe newly digitized site backups of business files Detroit Jewish made the next issue only a News appeared in day late, but the bound volumes July 2017. of the News stored in the office
suffered some smoke and water damage. When readers found out about the fire, Horwitz was inundated with questions about what happened to the newspaper archive. “People throughout the community expressed concern about how well we were safeguarding their history, the community’s history.” In 2011, Horwitz launched the Detroit Jewish News Foundation, which created the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History in 2013. At a gala on May 3, 2018, it was announced that this archive will be revamped and moved to the Bentley’s servers. “The digital archive ensures the story of our community, and the individuals and families who continue to shape it, is always at our fingertips,” said Horwitz. n
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Family Matters Researcher Nicole Persley has plenty of reasons to feel proud of her grandfather.
Beyond the Bicentennial IN 2017, THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN BICENTENNIAL commemorated 200 years of achievement at the University of Michigan. It looked at U-M’s past, including its impact on society and the people who helped shape the University, as well as its role in defining the future. Now, Gary D. Krenz, formerly the Executive Director of the University of Michigan Bicentennial Office, has been appointed Director for Post-Bicentennial Planning at the Bentley Historical Library. In this new role, Krenz will manage the transition of relevant projects and practices from the Bicentennial Office to the Bentley, and will launch new projects and programs pertinent to U-M history, working in conjunction with the Bentley’s University History Group. He will also participate in planning the new addition to the University’s historic Detroit Observatory, which was
Bentley when he first came to campus. “My dissertation had a lot to do with John Dewey (the American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer). I had known that Dewey had started his career at Michigan, and I couldn’t wait to get up to the Bentley to see what the Library had. It was my first experience with primary sources and the archives. To hold Dewey’s syllabus for the ethics course he taught here in the 1880s, to see the real thing, was fantastic.” Krenz’s appointment was effective May 1 of this year. “The way that the University community responded to the bicentennial shows that appreciation of our history has value in building institutional identity and pride, and that critical examination of our history has value in correcting historical oversights and fostering a more inclusive community,” says Krenz. “U-M’s past is rich with episodes that can provide context, precedent, and analogy for thinking about current Gary Krenz adjusts challenges.” n
a telescope at the historic Detroit Observatory
By Lara Zielin
NICOLE PERSLEY GREW UP in
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By Lara Zielin
approved by the Board of Regents in February. A goal of the new effort is to make the Observatory a locus for exploration and presentation of University history. “The Bicentennial raised awareness of U-M history, engaged a lot of people, and demonstrated that people are interested in our past,” Krenz says. “In a way, my appointment at Bentley signals an institutional commitment to keep this going.” The Bicentennial activities also produced a wealth of new material about U-M, including the Uncommon Education documentaries, proceedings from theme semesters and grants projects, exhibits, a new edition of the U-M Encyclopedic Survey, and more. “A first task is to gather this material with others into an accessible format, encourage its continued use, and build on it,” Krenz says. Krenz joined the university as an administrator in 1988, and has spent most of his career working in the Office of the President. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a B.A. in philosophy from Northwestern University. His passion for philosophy and ethics helped him find and fall in love with the
The Bentley welcomes Gary Krenz, whose new role ensures U-M history isn’t only in the past.
Virginia and always assumed she was white. But after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1992, her personal research uncovered evidence that her grandfather was African American. Years later, a 23andMe test confirmed it. Dr. Alonzo Bond Persley graduated in 1915 from the University of Michigan Medical School, and was Persley’s paternal grandfather. Now, with the help of Brian Williams, the Bentley’s Archivist for University History, Persley has been able to learn even more about him. “I was raised white and never knew anything about my African American lineage,” Persley says. “I started to wonder: If my grandfather identified as African American, did my father know and want to keep it a secret?” Or, alternatively, did Alonzo Persley pass for white
during medical school, and keep his African American heritage under wraps? The Bentley’s African American Student Life Project team, led by Williams, has worked
I STARTED TO “ WONDER: IF MY GRANDFATHER IDENTIFIED AS AFRICAN AMERICAN, DID MY FATHER KNOW AND WANT TO KEEP IT A SECRET?
Top left: The oldest African American fraternity on campus, Alpha Phi Alpha, in 1912. Alonzo Persley, not pictured, was a member while he was in medical school. Top right: Alonzo Persley’s 1915 medical school graduation photo.
to identify all African American students at Michigan from its founding to the first Black Action Movement in 1970. Alonzo Persley was already on the radar, though his medical school graduation photo didn’t make his heritage obvious. “He looked extremely white,” Persley says. However, additional research by Williams and his team turned up the name of Alonzo Persley’s undergraduate school, Lincoln University, which is a historically black college. “He also lived in a historically African American neighborhood in Ann Arbor, which was in the old Fourth Ward,” says Williams. Additionally, Alonzo Persley was featured in the NAACP’s magazine, Crisis, in its 1915 education issue, which highlighted African American graduates. He was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the oldest African American fraternity on campus. “I’m even more proud of him now,” Persley says. “This makes what he was able to accomplish even more profound. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for him during that time. I have so much more respect for him that he didn’t
try to hide his identity.” Knowing more about her grandfather also helps her feel more connected to U-M’s campus. “Angelo’s [restaurant] is right next to one of the spots where he lived, and that was my favorite breakfast spot. He also lived near the Gandy Dancer, which is where my father and I would go when my father came to visit me. These places are a lot more sentimental now.” Persley is a graduate of the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design. Today, she lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where she is an artist and real estate investor, but she says she wants to return to Michigan and the Bentley to see if she can uncover more about her grandfather. “Everyone called him ‘doc,’ and I would love to hear stories about him. It could be so informative, to learn more about what he was like.” She laughs that she spent four years on U-M’s campus and never knew that information on her family was so close by. “I was steps away from the Bentley the entire time. One block over, and I could have had all this information.” n
added material over time to complete the collection, which is now open to the public. The materials pertaining to his defense of Sirhan include court documents, investigative reports, notes from the case, interviews with Sirhan’s family, arguments addressed to the jury, and press clippings. The collection also includes his challenge to the practice of surveilling and collecting information on Arabs and Arab Americans by Detroit and Michigan State Police and the FBI. He successfully sued to have his FBI file destroyed because it was a violation of his constitutional rights.
Defending Sirhan Sirhan
Abdeen Jabara helped defend the man who assassinated Bobby Kennedy in 1968. Here, he discusses his newly opened papers at the Bentley and more about the context of the case. By Dan Shine
THERE ARE NOT MANY PEOPLE who would describe the gunman behind one of the most infamous assassinations in such kind terms. But Abdeen Jabara, now age 77 and living in Manhattan, got to know Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of killing Bobby Kennedy in 1968, better than most. “He is a caring, sensitive person,” Jabara says of Sirhan, whom he represented during the appeal of his conviction and death sentence. Jabara, who has spent a career in and out of the courtroom fighting for the civil rights of Arabs and Arab Americans, has been donating his papers to the Bentley Historical Library for several years. He has
TRINITY MIRROR/MIRRORPIX/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
DONATING HISTORY When Jabara closed his law practice in 1986 and moved to Washington, D.C., he put all his files in his sister’s basement. He knew someone who taught at U-M, who encouraged him to donate the papers to the Bentley. His collection was processed and opened to the public earlier this year. “Otherwise, they’d still be in that basement,” Jabara says with a chuckle. “They weren’t doing anybody any good there. And I guess I didn’t appreciate, as I do now, the historical value that they do have.” Jabara was raised in the small, northwest Michigan town of Mancelona to Lebanese immigrant parents. When he was 10, he was injured and his father killed in a car accident. “It had a profound impact on me,” Jabara says. “He was a patriarchal figure.” He enrolled at U-M and graduated in 1962, taking six months off during his studies to immerse himself in the Arabic language in Egypt. He then went to Wayne State Law School and, after graduating in 1965, opened a law practice in Detroit. In June 1967, the Arab-Israeli War broke out. “This had a huge impact on my whole being as it did on Sirhan,” Jabara said. “That’s where we get to this connection.”
THE ISSUE OF OPPRESSION Sirhan was four years old and living in a four-bedroom house in Jerusalem when the state of Israel was created in 1948. According to Jabara, Sirhan said Jewish settlers committed acts of violence and terror in the city to force Palestinians to leave. Sirhan’s family fled to a convent outside of Jerusalem; they eventually
returned to a one-room apartment in the city after the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan annexed that part of Palestine. It took nearly 10 years for the family to find a sponsor in the U.S., but eventually Sirhan, his two brothers, and his parents emigrated from Palestine in 1957 (three other siblings would join them two years later). But after six months in the U.S., Sirhan’s father abandoned the family and returned to Palestine. Even though Sirhan was now safely in the U.S., what happened to him and his family in Palestine stayed with him. When he was arrested after the assassination, Jabara says there was a newspaper clipping in Sirhan’s pocket that discussed the incongruity of Kennedy’s advocacy for the oppressed while also supporting Israel over Palestine. At the time of Kennedy’s assassination, Jabara was practicing law in Detroit and was beginning to develop a reputation for his involvement in Palestinian and Arab American issues. The Sirhan family contacted an Arab American lawyer in Long Beach, California, who then contacted Jabara. Jabara was not a member of Sirhan’s defense team, but he attended the trial every day, met with Sirhan, and interacted with one of his lawyers. “My concern was to what extent Sirhan’s and his family’s experience in Palestine played a role in what happened,” Jabara says. “And if it played a role, it should be exposed; it shouldn’t be swept under the rug for political expediency. So I went there to monitor the situation and to ascertain if Sirhan’s defense was tailored in the best way to secure justice for him.” Jabara says Sirhan was experiencing a severe mental condition at the time of the shooting, which was linked to the trauma he experienced as a young boy in Jerusalem “and the tragedy that befell the entire Palestinian people.” When Sirhan was found guilty and sentenced to death, he dismissed his attorneys and appointed Jabara, the Long Beach attorney, and another appellate lawyer to handle his appeal. Jabara says he received criticism back home for representing Sirhan, with opponents claiming he was doing it only for publicity and some friends being embarrassed to say they knew him. This past May, shortly before the 50th anniversary of the assassination, Kennedy’s son, Robert Kennedy Jr., visited Sirhan in prison. The younger Kennedy said that, after months of investigation, he believes there was a second gunman in the kitchen area of the Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel and supports a reinvestigation of the assassination. Jabara says he cannot be certain there was not some sort of conspiracy, but has little doubt Sirhan shot Kennedy. “Sirhan never said there was somebody else,” Jabara says. Nevertheless, he is not opposed to re-opening the investigation as long as “all facts are put on the table, including who Sirhan is, and why he is the way he is.” He adds, “You can’t look at him as just an assassin. If you do, then you miss all that he is and all that he experienced.” n
MY CONCERN WAS TO “ WHAT EXTENT SIRHAN’S
AND HIS FAMILY’S EXPERIENCE IN PALESTINE PLAYED A ROLE IN WHAT HAPPENED,” JABARA SAYS. “AND IF IT PLAYED A ROLE, IT SHOULD BE EXPOSED; IT SHOULDN’T BE SWEPT UNDER THE RUG FOR POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY.
Opposite page: Sirhan Sirhan in Soledad Prison.
Abdeen Jabara's papers at the Bentley are open to the public.
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In an upcoming fall symposium, the Bentley will explore how evidence from the past impacts today. By Lara Zielin
EACH YEAR, MORE THAN 1,000 undergraduate students come to the Bentley Historical Library to engage with its archival collections. How best to teach those students with primary sources has been a topic that the Bentley has vigorously addressed since early 2016, when the Library was awarded a five-year grant from the University of Michigan Office of the Provost to more deeply pursue engaged learning. Since then, archivists and members of the University’s tenure-track teaching faculty have met regularly to perfect the way that University faculty use archival collections for teaching at the Bentley and elsewhere. Now, halfway through the five-year
grant, the Bentley Historical Library is hosting a three-day symposium called Teaching Undergraduates with Archives. The symposium invites archivists, faculty, and students to participate in sessions focused on collaboration, design, evaluation, and research centered around teaching undergrads with primary sources. “We’ve been embedding archivists in multiple aspects of the undergraduate learning experience and now, more than two years in, we’re ready to share our first findings,” says Bentley Associate Director Nancy Bartlett, who has helped organize the symposium and has reviewed proposals for presentations, workshops, and panel discussions. “The symposium is a reflection of a larger shift at the Bentley to design and develop a new approach to engaging undergraduates.” Cinda Nofziger, the Bentley Archivist for Academic Programs and Outreach, says the symposium is all the more relevant in an era of “fake news.”
COLLECTIONS, the magazine of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, is published twice each year. Terrence J. McDonald Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Professor of History and Director Nancy Bartlett Associate Director Lara Zielin Editorial Director Robert Havey Communications Specialist Patricia Claydon, Ballistic Design Art Direction/Design Copyright ©2018 Regents of the University of Michigan ARTICLES MAY BE REPRINTED BY OBTAINING PERMISSION FROM: Editor, Bentley Historical Library 1150 Beal Avenue Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113 PLEASE DIRECT EMAIL CORRESPONDENCE TO: email@example.com 734-936-1342
“Teaching students how to analyze and understand primary sources is how you can teach students to analyze and understand anything,” Nofziger says. “You have to think about who it was written by, who the audience was, were there biases and what was the context? When students learn to do this, our hope is that they can take that analysis into other arenas as well. “I’m excited by the opportunity for those who do this work to be in the same room together, to think about these issues and generate solutions together.” The symposium will be held November 7–9 at the University of Michigan, with a first-day reception at the Bentley Historical Library. To make the event as inclusive as possible, it is being offered without charge to participants, with meals included. n For more information, please visit teachingwitharchives.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I desire to speak of the University of Michigan with gratitude that I have been permitted to be so long associated with it in its days of prosperity.
—James B. Angell Regents of the University of Michigan Michael J. Behm, Grand Blanc Mark J. Bernstein, Ann Arbor Shauna Ryder Diggs, Grosse Pointe Denise Ilitch, Bingham Farms Andrea Fischer Newman, Ann Arbor Andrew C. Richner, Grosse Pointe Park Ron Weiser, Ann Arbor Katherine E. White, Ann Arbor Mark S. Schlissel, ex officio
B E N T L EY U N B O U N D
Teaching Undergraduates with Archives
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THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TO SUPPORT MICHIGAN’S PAST.
The Bentley has digitized the legacy of a great University president, James B. Angell. Today, his letters, photos, lecture notes, articles, and much more are available online.
With your help, the Bentley Historical Library can bring even more University of Michigan history into the 21st century. PLEASE USE THE ENCLOSED ENVELOPE OR GIVE ONLINE TO HELP US DIGITIZE OUR COLLECTIONS.
A B O U T T H E B E N T L EY
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN 1150 BEAL AVENUE ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN 48109-2113
Where Michigan’s History Lives Every day, people use the Bentley Historical Library to explore history. With more than 70,000 linear feet of letters, photographs, books, and more, the Library is a treasure trove of primary source material from the State of Michigan and the University of Michigan. We welcome you to uncover Michigan’s history here. Our team is eager to help you find what you need. We offer assistance in person, by phone, and by email: 734-764-3482 Bentley.firstname.lastname@example.org VISIT THE BENTLEY Monday–Friday 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. EXPLORE COLLECTIONS AND FINDING AIDS ONLINE bentley.umich.edu FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL facebook.com/bentleyhistoricallibrary @umichbentley MAKE A GIFT bentley.umich.edu/giving 734-764-3482
PANTHER BY THE TAIL (Above) In 1968, the newly elected Nixon administration was looking to prove that their warrantless wiretapping of American citizens was necessary to defend the country against radicalism. That same year, members of Ann Arbor’s White Panther Party bombed three buildings in Ann Arbor, including the ROTC headquarters on U-M’s campus. The Nixon administration took three members of the White Panther Party all the way to the Supreme Court in a case that would decide the balance of presidential power and the rights of American citizens. Read the story on page 8.