Beacon Street Diary

February 14, 2008

This spring, I put together a list of books I wanted to read. Of course, in a lot of ways, I read for a living; but lately, I’ve been a lot more haphazard than I'd like to be. I wanted a list of books that would stretch my understanding of American religious history, and fill in some old gaps. If I'm not careful, my interest in Congregationalism tends to focus my reading far too much on New England. So I've purposefully reached in a number of disparate directions.

One good stretch was Paul Harvey's Freedom Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era, which tells an important "backstory" to the rise of the civil rights movement.

Harvey traces a strain of religious idealism, tempered by the dire realities of life in the South in the century following the end of the Civil War. To be sure, our current understanding of that movement assumes that Martin Luther King and those who followed him were "religious", somehow inspired by ideals imparted both by Gandhi and by Christ; but Harvey adds some backbone to that often vague depiction. He offers a lineage of people, both white and black, who were fundamentally decent and courageous enough to mount a long, slow challenge to the system of racial apartheid that emerged in the wake of the war to end slavery.

Many little-known but important stories emerge, including a regular array of Congregationalists. Henry Hugh Proctor was a graduate of the denomination’s Fisk University, attending alongside W.E.B. DuBois and Margaret Murray, the future wife of Booker T. Washington. As pastor of Atlanta’s First Congregational Church, arriving there in 1894, he somewhat split the difference between DuBois and Washington's strategies for black survival. He encouraged self-help and biracial cooperation efforts through Christian Endeavor societies and Workingmen's Clubs. But in the midst of the Atlanta riot of 1906, which Harvey describes as "the single worst racist pogrom of the era," (60) resulting in the killing of twenty African Americans and the injuring of hundreds more, Proctor demanded that white churches take responsibility for the violence. Denouncing white preachers as "the most cowardly character[s] in the whole Southern situation," he won precious few allies, and perhaps in the end, demonstrated the deep difficulties that any ethic of interracial cooperation encountered during that desperate turn of the century period.

But all in all, Harvey's book is an uplifting read and a vastly interesting one, deepening our understanding of the civil rights movement and providing a few fascinating clues for those looking for the roots of the modern religious right. Harvey argues most provocatively that because the civil rights movement was so effective in squelching public support for overt racism, that incipient strain surfaced in attitudes toward gender. He explains, at least in part, the Southern Baptist tilt toward anti-feminism in the 1980s and beyond, as a different cultural manifestation of an old southern strain of ambivalence toward liberal democracy.

More to follow -- I'm still reading.

---Peggy Bendroth, Library Director

February 14, 2008

If anyone had been looking to contact the staff between 2/11 and 2/14 via email, please try again. The nature of the malfunction was such that people wouldn't have gotten error messages.

February 13, 2008

I'll be teaching "Archives 2.0" at Simmons main campus from 9:30-12:30 (or there abouts) on March 1.

This is part of the Simmons Library School (GSLIS) continuing education program.

"Archives 2.0" will cover what RSS, Wikis, Blogs, and such-like are. How are they useful and particularly how are they useful to archivists?

If you are interested in finding out more about this class, please contact Jessica Steytler. If you're interested in signing up for this class, please contact Kris Liberman at GSLIS CE.

January 22, 2008

We will now be open evening hours by appointment. We will be happy to schedule your request to start or continue your research between the hours of 4:30 and 7:00PM, Monday through Thursday. We ask that you contact us at least a week in advance to arrange your after hours stay or visit. We will need your name, phone number, email, as well as your area of study and which, if any, archival materials you intend to request.

Contact Claudette Newhall or call 617-523-0470 x1 to arrange the date and time for your visit. You will be notified if we are able to accommodate your request.

We look forward to hearing from you.

January 2, 2008

Today's find on the Library shelves is "A Line a day". This is Dr. Alonzo Hall Quint's appointment book kept for him by Miss Mary Stone for the years 1894-1896. Dr. Quint was a clergyman and an editor. He was one of the Incorporators of the American Congregational Association in 1853. He was a Trustee of Dartmouth College and served as Secretary of the National Council of Congregational Churches of the United States from its organization in 1871. On April 30, 1894 the book lists "Meeting of Library Committee, 11:30 A.M." Other dates list meetings of the Dartmouth Board, the Andover Visitors, the Winthrop Club, the National Council as well as ACA Board meetings.

This book will be accessioned into the archives.

December 5, 2007

We are trying a new method of reaching people for our activities and events. If you are interested in joining our group, please visit our Yahoo! group.

December 5, 2007

Reading Room 2007 Beginning on January 8, 2008 at 2 PM, tours of the library will be available. These tours will be conducted the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. These introductory tours will include the history of the library, its collections, and services.

No reservations are necessary. Please call 617-523-0470 x 1 with any questions.

Directions and other information are available at our website.

October 11, 2007

On Wednesday, November 28, 2007 the Congregational Library will co-host a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Debby Applegate. Her book, The Most Famous Man in America: A Biography of Henry Ward Beecher, was published in 2006 to wide acclaim. The Library is very fortunate to be cosponsoring this free public lecture with the Old South Church in Boston, as their annual Crawford Lecture, held in honor of former pastor (and Library board member) James Crawford. The event will begin at 7pm at Old South, 645 Boylston Street in Boston's Copley Square.

On Tuesday, November 13, we'll have a book discussion of The Most Famous Man in America in the Pratt Room in the Library.  All are welcome -- just bring your lunch and we'll provide soda and chips, plus our resident church historian Peggy Bendroth, who will talk about the religious culture of Beecher's GIlded Age era and about some of the critical response to Applegate's book.  We'll begin at noon and end at 1:00.

October 1, 2007

Hello! I'm back from my sabbatical and already we're planning a lot of great stuff.

Please note, we will be having our Research 101 for Church Historians workshop again on November 16th. Please sign up as soon as you can and bring a friend. It's only 20 dollars for a whole day of information and guided study -- lunch is included.

Additionally, I am teaching 2 courses through the Simmons Continuing Education program on November 3 here at the library. The morning class is entitled "Joining the 21st Century: Integrating Current Technology into Antiquated Institutions". We will be discussing various options, such as wikis, blogs, and LibraryThing.

The afternoon class is "Using Primary Sources, a Tutorial for Educators".

Learn more and sign up at the Simmons website.


September 14, 2007


I've had a very lovely summer off. I'll be back in a few more weeks, but in the meantime, I've been to give a presentation in Milwaukee (or technically Oak Creek) this past week. We have photographic evidence to prove it! Jessica teaching in Oak CreekSince visiting the blog, I realized that I ended up wearing the same shirt here as at UCC Synod. I promise you, viewing audience, I do have more. I just really like this one.

Jessica with staff in Oak CreekThe topic of the talk, once again, was Records Management for Churches. Many have yet to hear my little song and dance, so it's not yet old.

Click on the thumbnails to enlarge

-- Jessica