Friday, November 17, 2017

Fisk University in the Great War

By Allison Griffey

Like other schools, Fisk University contributed to the war effort during World War I. University leaders promoted the war effort and inspired students to participate. Two professors, Dexter N. Lutz and Leo E. Walker, joined the service not long after war was declared. On the homefront, professor Isaac Fisher coordinated many patriotic events on campus, such as lectures and flag raising ceremonies. He inspired students by linking patriotism with increased civil rights since the war had created new opportunities for African-American at home and overseas. Fisk instituted weekly military training for its male students through the Students’ Army Training Corps and converted its facilities to host over 600 black soldiers on-site.

Odie Falls Jennings, 1918

Tennessee World War I Gold Star Records, 1918-1924

Jennings was a member of Fisk’s Students’ Army Training Corps when he died at age 20 of influenza and pneumonia during the global Influenza Epidemic of 1918. The S.A.T.C. was a popular choice for college-age men, since it allowed them to continue their studies while joining the military and training on the homefront.

Fisk was one of three black institutions, alongside Howard University and Atlanta University that collaborated to establish the first black officers' training camp at Camp Dodge, Iowa. Black college students were instrumental in the formation of this camp, at least in part because of the direct impact the draft had on their lives. The Selective Service Act of 1917 called for draft registration of American men regardless of race. While some African-American were hesitant to support the United States' involvement in the war, many hoped that participation might lead to securing equal rights for the black population. Over 370,000 African-American men were inducted into the army. The military remained segregated and most black soldiers were assigned to service units that performed manual labor, though the army did create two combat divisions for African-American troops.

Letter to Governor Tom C. Rye from F. A. McKenzie, President of Fisk University, April 7, 1917

Governor Tom C. Rye Papers, 1915-1919

These documents describe the willingness of the African-American students at Fisk University to participate in the war effort. McKenzie also suggests organizing a network of African-American schools in Tennessee to create programs for military training and volunteer service in organizations such as the Red Cross.

Women at Fisk also worked industriously to “do their bit.” Their auxiliary chapter of the Red Cross produced 450 bed shirts and 100 knitted items for servicemen. Additionally, black women joined in the war effort by leading liberty loan drives, hosting rallies, registering nurses, and supporting black servicemen through clubs such as the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), Red Cross, and women's auxiliaries for black soldier unit. Ella Brown, dean of women, advocated for food conservation and asked students to take an active role addressing food shortage issues overseas. Professor Fisher also arranged for leading black women in the community to share their views on the war with soldiers. These lectures were given in part because professor Fisher believed women’s’ voices were as necessary to hear as men’s’ and because he hoped that the women would inspire soldiers by reminding them of the women in their lives.

Charter members of Fisk University Auxiliary, Nashville Chapter, American Red Cross, circa 1918

Davidson County Women in the World War, 1914-1919

Members of the group (alphabetical): Misses Abigail Jackson, Chairman, Instructor in Mathematics, Felina G. Blaine, Velda T. Brown, Lucy Brewer, Helen M. Burrell, Grace B. Broyles, Mabel E. Campbell, Emmie F. Drake, Tommie Sue A. Fosta, Pearl C. Haynes, Flay M. Henderson, Arah L. Horton, Florence B. Jackson, Clara W. Johnson, Clara L. Langrum, Ada B. Lewis, Ferris W. Lewis, Andrades S. Lindsay, Alma A. Oakes, Manila L. Owens, Roselyn L. Purdy, Nellie A. Randolph, Altamese C. Roberts, Ruth I. Rowan, Valda E. Sanders, Margaret A. Slater, Moirselles M. Stewart, Ethelynde J. Sutton, Alice M. Thomas, Isabel B. Walden, Annie G. Quick, Mrs. Ella W. Brown, Dean of Women and Mrs. M. S. Crosthwait, Registrar.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Meet the Staff - Jennifer Randles

Meet Jennifer Randles. She is the Digital Materials Librarian with the Digital Workgroup.

How long have you worked here?

A little over one year, since August 2016.

What are some of the things you do as Digital Materials Librarian?

I lead the Digital Workgroup (DWG), which is the go-to group in the building for digitization and consulting on digital projects. We work mostly with other staff, although we do regularly talk to patrons who order hi-resolution scans or professional prints of our materials. You may not see the members of the DWG very often, but you’ve seen the results of our efforts. We collaborate with other groups in the building to digitize the fascinating items in the Library and Archives and make them available to the public. Whether it’s in the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA), online exhibits or even our website pages—if you’ve seen it online, it has most certainly come through DWG at some point.

In addition to supervising staff, I manage the library’s digital collections and consult on digital projects. Somedays I am busy uploading new items to TeVA, and other days I’m consulting on how to best set up a new database or plan a digitization event. I also consult and guide other organizations who want to start digitization on how to start and maintain digital project and collections.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Often I tell people my favorite part is touching cool old stuff! I really love working with original materials and making them accessible to the public through the digital collections. It is such a thrill to take an item through the digitization and uploading process, then get feedback from people who are actually using what we’ve put online. I love hearing we have provided resources that assist someone in making progress in their research or learning more about their family history. It’s very satisfying to know you’ve helped make someone else’s life better in some way. I also must say I love working with the members of the Digital Work Group, as they are an awesome group of co-workers who can always make me smile.

Do you have a favorite collection?

I’m still learning about the collections here, but I think my current favorite is the Grassmere Collection. Several of us are working with Tori Mason from the Nashville Zoo to publish part of the collection on TeVA in the spring of 2018. It is a long process, but it has been so much fun! I’ve actually been able to do research on this project, which is something I don’t get to do very often so I’m having a ball.

Elise and Margaret Croft, who owned the Grassmere historic home and the land the Zoo is currently on, willed it all to the Nashville Children’s Museum to be used as a nature learning center after they passed on. The sisters were very proud of their connection to their land and passionate about sharing that love of nature and animals with the city. This collection has a great variety of materials, including photographs, recipe books, correspondence and oral histories. It also encompasses so many interesting topics, such as Nashville family history, agriculture, animals and even life in Cuba. It is exciting to get to know the sisters better as we go through the materials. I’ve become very fond of them through this process and I feel proud to be involved in sharing their story with the world.

What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

The public needs libraries and archives more than ever, so we can sort through and make sense of all the information we are barraged with these days. The Library and Archives provides access to original historic materials and teaches others how to discover more about Tennessee and its people. I believe the more exposure you have to historic materials, the more you can see the same issues repeating themselves over time—and the better you can interpret the present and plan for the future. To me, providing access to materials that help people understand the world is extremely important and relevant. Luckily, in my job, it also happens to be a lot of fun.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, November 10, 2017

"Books for the Blind" program honors World War I veterans

In 1930, the "Books for the Blind" program was established within the Library of Congress to provide library service to wounded U.S. veterans returning from World War I. To this day, libraries for the blind and physically handicapped across the country still give veterans priority in their service.

The Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped honors patrons who are veterans each year by sending them a card thanking them for their service, designed by art students at the Tennessee School for the Blind. This year's card recognizes the 100th anniversary of the World War I by using the image of the red poppy.

Traditionally, according to the Smithsonian, poppy seeds need light to grow, so when they’re buried in the earth, they can lay dormant for 80 years or even longer by some accounts, without blooming. Once soil is disturbed and the seeds come to light, poppies nobody knew existed can then bloom. This happened in Flanders Field, Belgium, after a particularly fierce World War I battle and poppies have been worn in remembrance of a war that, overall, resulted in more than 38 million casualties.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Secretary of State's Offices to Close for Veterans Day

The Tennessee Secretary of State's office and all of its divisions will be closed Friday, Nov. 10, in observance of Veterans Day.

U.S. Marines Corps Women’s Reservists pictured in 1943. From the Sadie Warner Frazer Papers.
Tennessee State Library and Archives: Tennessee Virtual Archive

This includes the Division of Business Services, Division of Elections, Division of Charitable Solicitations, Fantasy Sports and Gaming, Division of Administrative Procedures, Division of Publications and the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The Library and Archives will remain closed on Saturday, Nov. 11 in observance of the holiday.

All divisions will reopen at 8 a.m. CST Monday, Nov. 13, except the Library and Archives which is always closed on Mondays.

If you have business with any of the divisions, please plan accordingly.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Library and Archives Hosts Genealogy Workshop the Saturday after Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time when many of us reconnect with family members and share stories. At the Tennessee State Library and Archives, families can also explore stories of their relatives who lived generations ago.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the staff at the Library and Archives is encouraging Tennesseans to visit the library and celebrate “Family History Day” by learning more about genealogical research.

"I invite Tennesseans looking to discover more about their heritage. This event is a wonderful opportunity for families to come together to reflect and be thankful for each other and their ancestors," Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "I encourage people to reserve their seats as soon as possible."

Gordon Belt, director of the Library and Archives’ public services section, will present a genealogy workshop for beginners entitled, "Genealogy A to Z," which will provide tips and guidance for anyone interested in starting their family history research. The workshop will also include advice on researching Library and Archives' collections, which can offer a wealth of information for those researching their ancestry. After the workshop, Library and Archives staff members will be on hand to help visitors with their research.

The session will be held from 9:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 25, at the Library and Archives auditorium, and research assistance will be available until 4:30 p.m. While the workshop is free, reservations are required due to limited seating. To make a reservation, visit Please note that Library and Archives will be closed Thursday, Nov. 23, and Friday, Nov. 24, for the Thanksgiving holiday, so it is important to make reservations beforehand.

The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, directly west of the State Capitol building in downtown Nashville. Parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween books for all ages

By Ruth Hemphill

Each fall, as the days get shorter and nighttime comes earlier, it’s the perfect time for Halloween! For those who like to scare themselves reading books, the Tennessee Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (TLBPH) has many Halloween books for all ages. Here are a few:

Ray Bradbury is famous for writing science fiction, horror and mystery novels, so, of course he has a Halloween novel. Graveyard for Lunatics: Another Tale of Two Cities, is a satirical account of a science fiction screenwriter and a 20-year-old mystery, set in the 1950s movie industry at the height of its glittering power. It is available in audio format.

Bradbury also wrote a Halloween story for children. The Halloween Tree, for grades 4-7 is available in both print and braille. It’s the story of eight boys in Halloween costumes who visit a haunted house on Halloween night. When one of them gets swept away by a dark and cadaverous being, the other seven boys travel through space and time to find him.

What happens when two mice choose the same pumpkin in the garden but have opposite goals for it? The Biggest Pumpkin Ever, by Stephen Kroll, explores how to resolve the problem when one mouse wants to enter the pumpkin in their town’s pumpkin contest and the other wants to carve it into a giant jack-o’-lantern. For grades 2-4, this title is available in braille.

And, of course, for large print readers, TLBPH has The Ghost and Mrs. Mewer, set in Wagtail, Virginia, the top pet-friendly getaway in the United States. In The Wicked Witch Murder, by Leslie Meier, is the new resident of Tinker’s Cove a psychic or a witch?

To find out more about who is eligible to borrow books from TLBPH, or what is available, go to:

Take a look at some other ‘Haunted Tennessee’ themed books, newly available at the Library and Archives:

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, October 27, 2017

Land Platting Workshop video now available online...

On Sept. 23, Presenter J. Mark Lowe, a certified genealogist and a renowned author and lecturer who specializes in original records and manuscripts throughout the South, delivered a presentation on how platting a property tract map may help identify many important features of a community, including ferries, mills, cemeteries, trails, historic homes and many other landmarks. With the aid of a few inexpensive tools, researchers can construct their own plats of land tracts as described in deeds, wills, court records or land grants.

Registration for this lecture drew a full house, so due to high demand we are making a video of Lowe's lecture available to the public. If you missed it the first time, or if you attended and wanted to revisit the lessons learned in this informative session, we encourage you to view the video at:

On Saturdays, the Tennessee State Library and Archives periodically hosts free "Workshop Series" lectures, featuring experts from our staff and researchers from outside our institution. The goal of the "Workshop Series" is to share information about materials and services offered by the Library and Archives and to provide opportunities for scholars, genealogists and historical researchers to share their work. Each lecture draws upon the resources of the Library and Archives and informs our audience about the historic value of our vast collection, and how they may use it in their own research.

See the entire "Workshop Series" video catalog here:

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett