Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Unnatural Causes Interview on WUGA

Click here to listen to audio from March 19, 2009, of Mary Kay Mitchell interviewing Jan Levinson, (Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library) and Dr. Claude Burnett (Director, Northeast Georgia Health District) about the Russell Library's 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series on WUGA.

Outside the Box - April

Object: AMVETS Silver Helmet Award
Collection: Erwin Mitchell Papers

Harlan Erwin Mitchell was born in Dalton, Georgia, on August 17, 1924. He served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Corps (1943-46) during World War II. He returned to Georgia in 1946 and earned an L.L.B at the University of Georgia School of Law. Following further service in the U.S. Air Force (1951-52), Mitchell became solicitor general, and briefly served as a Superior Court judge, for the Cherokee Judicial Circuit.

In early 1958 Mitchell was elected as a Democrat to the 85th Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Henderson L. Lanham (7th District) in November 1957. He won re-election the following year and during his term in the House (1958-61), he served as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Patents and Scientific Inventions, as well as a member of the Committee on Science and Astronautics and the Veterans’ Affairs Committee. After leaving Congress, Mitchell served as a State Senator in the Georgia General Assembly (1960-61) and then returned to Dalton to resume practicing law.

"The Veteran's Oscar"...
Also known as American Veterans, AMVETS is a volunteer led organization which has provided wide-ranging assistance to American veterans and their families since its founding in 1947. The Silver Helmet Award, often called “the Veterans Oscar,” is presented annually by the organization to recognize excellence in “Americanism, defense, rehabilitation, congressional service and other fields.” Erwin Mitchell received this honor in 1960 for his service on the Veterans Affairs Committee in the U.S. Congress.

Erwin Mitchell's Account of the Award Ceremony: “The award ceremony was held as a luncheon in the majestic old Mayflower Hotel, and no detail was left unattended. The attendance of Members of Congress and the Executive Branch was significant. If memory serves me correctly, in addition to the honorees, among those addressing the luncheon was Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee Olin (Tiger) Teague of Texas, and Congresswoman Edith Norse Rogers of Massachusetts.

Presidential politics was the main course of the luncheon. This was 1960 before the political party nominations at which Vice-President Nixon and Majority Leader Johnson were the "odds on" favorites to be the nominees. I was first to speak and began by announcing that I was not seeking the Presidency this year. This seemed to loosen the crowd and we all were warmly received. Neither the Vice-President nor the Majority Leader made openly political speeches but Richard Nixon, who followed me to the podium, did comment "if I could make a speech like Congressman Mitchell, I would have no problem being elected." This was the most generous statement which I, of course, greatly appreciated. However, my appreciation was not great enough to cause me to support the Vice-President in the General Election in November. I spent all my efforts during the campaign working in behalf of Jack Kennedy, whom you will recall carried the State of Georgia by a greater percentage than any others, including his home state of Massachusetts.” -- Erwin Mitchell, 3/23/2009

April's "Outside the Box" object will be on display in the lobby gallery of the Russell Library, open 8:30am-4:30pm, Monday through Friday, until May 1st. For further information on the Erwin Mitchell Papers, please contact russlib@uga.edu or visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/.

Campaigning the Old Fashioned Way

Although the 2008 elections are over, I am often reminded of campaign season in the Hugh Peterson, Sr. Papers through memorabilia from the Congressman’s bids for a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives in the 1930s and 1940s. These items are unique reminders of a time when campaigning was live and in person instead of on television and the internet. Among the items are campaign flyers from his bids for Congress as well as those of his opponents. Photographs from a rally in Lyons, Georgia in the 1930s show a day-in-the-life on the campaign trail.

Some of the most interesting items donated by the Peterson family are five hand-painted cloth campaign banners used for rallies in the First Congressional District of Georgia, which included Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Candler, Chatham, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Jenkins, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Montgomery, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen and Wheeler Counties. Three of the banners contain vibrant blues, greens and yellows and measure 35 inches by 17 inches. The fifth banner is 6 feet by 35.5 inches and is painted in red, black and gold, and states that Peterson is “Young, Bold, Brainy, Sincere, and Patriotic” – good things in a politician!

Here is a brief timeline of Peterson's career in politics...

1898 - Hugh Peterson is born in Montgomery County, Georgia

1918 - He Graduates from the University of Georgia with a law degree and enters the military for the remainder of World War I.

1922 - Peterson is elected to Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as a Representative (1923-31) and Senator (1931-33)

1934 - He is elected to represent Georgia’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives (1934-46), where he serves on Committees on Public Lands, Territories, Public Roads, and River and Harbors.

1946 - Peterson loses the campaign for re-election to Prince Preston of Bulloch County. He spends the rest of the 1940s working in Germany with General Lucius Clay. Until his death in 1961, Peterson spent his final years practicing law, managing his businesses in South Georgia an lobbying in Washington for several Georgia businesses.

Post by Renna Tuten, Project Archivist, Russell Library

Monday, March 30, 2009

We Need a Vision!

On a blustery Sunday afternoon a group of 70 of us gathered at the Athens Public Library to consider the damage that the chronic stress racism and other types of discrimination can inflict on our bodies as part of the Russell Library’s second event in the 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series.

We watched, “When the Bough Breaks,” the second episode in the Unnatural Causes documentary that focuses on the connections between the stress of racism that African American women experience throughout their lives and statistics that indicate high rates of premature delivery, low birth-weight babies, and high infant mortality among African American mothers. The film describes research studies indicating that genetics, education, or economics play a role in these birth outcomes but cannot alone, or in concert, account for such high statistics among African American women.

The film revisits the social programs of the 1960s and 1970s, when efforts by government and community empowered African Americans and provided greater opportunities and support. During this time period the overall health and maternal health of African American women improved significantly. Since 1980s, as many of these government programs lost funding and many areas of the United States have become unofficially re-segregated, these gains in health and wellbeing among African Americans have declined significantly. According to the documentary, “Each year, babies in the U.S. die at twice the rate of those in Japan or Sweden – most because they are born premature. Although our numbers are better today than they were in 1970, we fare worse relative to other countries...Of the premature babies who survive, many face a lifetime of learning and medical problems, including increased risk for hypertension, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.”

Following the film, acting as moderator, I introduced a panel of three women whose work is directly related to the challenges laid out in the episode. Dr. Carol Hogue, an epidemiologist at Emory University, and Dr. Fleda Jackson, a psychiatrist who works at Emory and Atlanta Regional Health Forum, were featured in the episode and are actively engaged in research and outreach efforts connected to this topic. Our third panelist, Dr. Lia Fasse, is a neonatologist at Athens Regional Medical Center, provided a local perspective. The panelists offered some initial commentary and then I opened up the discussion to the group.

Highlights from our discussion:
  • A Somber Note: At the onset of our discussion, one woman remarked that the fight to end racial injustice always comes down to money, or a lack thereof. She expressed a sense of frustration, not knowing what might help us move forward.

  • Strategies for Daunting Problems:Dr. Jackson raised the importance of building greater awareness of the connection between racism and health as a key first step in tackling the problem. She shared information about the “Save 100 Babies Symposium” in Atlanta that is raising awareness of this problem much as our Unnatural Causes series is trying to do in Athens.

  • Moments in the Everyday: Others in the audience talked about the need to find teachable moments where we as individuals can raise these issues with family, friends and community -- using personal examples to get the point across.

  • Local Matters: Several comments came from a handout we distributed with local statistics, provided by Dr. Claude Burnett and the Northeast Georgia Health District, that suggest that African American women and their babies who live in the Athens area have much better health than African American women in general in the United States. What programs have worked well in our local community?

  • We Need a Vision: A final comment from an audience member summed up the spirit of the group: we need a new vision to move forward. In response to this call to action, I shared that the Russell Library and the other conveners for this series were all committed to continuing to build on the conversations and ideas expressed in the series in future programs. Everyone has to keep these issues in mind and continue this type of productive discussion. We’ve made a good start; now let’s keep the momentum going!
The next program of the series, “Becoming American” will take place on April 3rd at 3 p.m. at the Paul Coverdell Center located at the corner of D. W. Brooks Drive and Carlton Drive just east of the Coliseum. There is a parking deck next to the Center and parking is free there on Sunday. This episode compares the health of recent immigrants to that of the average American, demonstrating that health advantages erode the longer immigrants remain in the US. Our guest panelists will help us explore what causes health to worsen as immigrants become American?

Click Here for More Images from the Event!
Post by Jill Severn, Head of Access & Outreach, Russell Library

Monday, March 23, 2009

Film & Discussion Series Kicks Off!

An audience of nearly a hundred gathered in the main auditorium of the Athens Clarke County Public Library this past Sunday to kickoff The 2009 Unnatural Causes Film & Discussion Series! Our opening event began with introductions and thanks to all of our partner organizations from Jill Severn, Head of Access and Outreach at the Russell.

From there, we jumped right into the screening of “In Sickness and Wealth,” the first episode in the seven-part documentary series Unnatural Causes – which introduces the audience to four individuals from different socioeconomic classes living in Louisville, Kentucky. During the next hour, we see how their social class, race, and neighborhood shape their health and explore the broader themes addressed throughout the other sections of the documentary.

Dr. Camara Jones, Research Director on Social Determinants of Health and Equity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave a stunning keynote address. Jones opened her portion of the program by asking viewers what struck them most about the film – what were they taking away from the opening episode? From there, she used definitions, stories, and analogies to describe what social determinants are and how they can affect health.

She put forth her own “Cliff Analogy” -- a simple explanation of the multiple levels of health intervention available and why some individuals or groups fall through the cracks of the healthcare system. She concluded with “The Gardner’s Tale” – a story based on her own experiences which describes levels of racism and how we, as a society, can combat racism.

The event closed with a few more questions from the audience and a reception of healthy snacks – vegetable & fruit trays! We were overwhelmed by the size and diversity of our audience, and hope that it only continues to grow (in both ways) as our series continues.

Our next program will take place this Sunday, March 29, 3PM at the ACC Public Library. We’ll be screening Episode 2: When the Bough Breaks, and talking with Dr. Carol Hogue and Dr. Fleda Jackson, both featured in this episode of the film, as well as local neonatologist Dr. Maria Faase. For more information on this program, visit: http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/exhibits/uncauses/index.shtml

Click Here for More Images from the Event!
Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

Monday, March 16, 2009

Progress on Peterson - An Introduction

Greetings! I'm Renna Tuten, Project Archivist at the Russell Library. In 2007 I was hired to process the Hugh Peterson, Sr. Papers for a period of two years. This entry marks the beginning of a new segment on the Russell blog -- Progress on Peterson -- which will serve as a public journal of my daily work, the discoveries and challenges I encounter while readying the collection for researchers. By documenting my own work, I hope to give readers a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes at an archives and the chance to discover the treasures in this new collection alongside the archivist.

Let's start at the very beginning: what does it mean when an archivist says "process" in reference to an archival collection? Well, processing involves organizing, arranging, and describing items in a person, family or organization's collection so that researchers can locate information. The collections we receive here at the Russell contain everything from paper items like newspapers, letters, and ticket stubs to everyday objects such as t-shirts and pens as well as photographs and films. Some of these things are considered rare and unique based on factors like age and condition but every item contributes to the telling of a story. The Hugh Peterson, Sr. Papers reveal a story about state and national politics from the 1920s into the 1940s - years Peterson spent serving as a Legislator in the Georgia General Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives.

A few treasures I've come across so far are these photographs. The first (above) was used on the cover of Le Monde Illustre in the 1930s. It depicts Peterson and his staff in 1938, eating watermelons brought to Washington from the Congressman's hometown of Ailey, Georgia -- a yearly treat for everyone. The second photo shows Peterson and his son, Hugh Peterson, Jr., looking over paperwork in the Congressman's Capitol Hill office in 1937.

Over the next few months, I hope to share more unique items I find in the collection -- so stay tuned! Here's to Hugh!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Outside the Box - March

Object: Bundesverdienstkreuz Medal
Collection: Martin J. Hillenbrand Papers

Martin J. Hillenbrand was born in Youngstown, Ohio on August 1, 1915. He entered the Foreign Service in 1939, holding offices in Zurich, Burma, India, Mozambique, and Paris -- where he rose to Embassy First Secretary in 1952. He served as the first post-war Ambassador to Hungary from 1967-69, returning to Washington to become Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs and in this capacity was heavily involved in the Quadripartite Agreement on Berlin. His expertise in the Berlin Crisis and intimate understanding of America-German relations led to his appointment as U.S. Ambassador to West Germany from 1972 until his retirement in 1976.
In 1982 he became the first Dean Rusk Professor of International Relations at the University of Georgia. He went on to serve as the Director of the Center for Global Policy Studies and Co-Director of the Center for East-West Trade Policy (now the Center for International Trade and Security). Hillenbrand resided in Athens, Georgia until his death in 2005.
Story Behind the Medal....
At the conclusion of his diplomatic service in Germany, Martin Hillenbrand was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz Medal for Distringuished Service of the Federal Republic of Germany, by Federal President Walter Scheel on October 14, 1976.
In a letter dated November 9, 1976 Assistant Secretary of State James G. Lowenstein described the award ceremony as "a tribute to Ambassador Hillenbrand's unceasing and successful efforts at strengthening the close ties which have been developing between the United States and the Federal Republic [of Germany]" particularly his, "deep knowledge of Germany, his extensive range of contacts with various elements of German official, economic, and cultural life, and his contribution to better mutual understanding through many public appearances, speeches and lectures."

March's "Outside the Box" object will be on display in the lobby gallery of the Russell Library, open 8:30am-4:30pm, Monday through Friday, until April 1st. For further information on the Martin J. Hillenbrand Papers, please contact russlib@uga.edu or visit http://www.libs.uga.edu/russell/.