by Ernest Young


This article is a comparative view of social justice of Benjamin Banneker’s (1731-1806) “Letter to Thomas Jefferson” 19 August 1791, the reply “Letter to Benjamin Banneker”, 30 August 1791, the “Declaration of Independence” 1776 by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826); “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” 1852 by Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) and” Ain’t I a Woman?” 1851 by Sojourner Truth (1797/-1883).

LaGarrett J King’s article, “More Than Slaves…” argues that “Throughout the mid-18th to mid-19th Centuries, Black Founders helped establish Black institutions, served in the military, developed Maroons settlements, and used media to openly challenge and critique the practical ideas of democracy” (p.88)

Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Photo by F Delventhal

Benjamin Banneker, the African American Astronomer, Almanac writer, Mathematician and Surveyor, wrote on Thomas Jefferson expressing his views on slavery. He uses moral suasion to reason with Jefferson on the issue of equality. He writes:

“Now sir, if this is founded in truth, I apprehend you will embrace every opportunity, to             eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions, which so generally prevails with respect to us… (p 1)

He cites biblical references; paragraph eight (8) “put your soul in their souls’ stead;” Job 16:34, and James 1:17 “every good and perfect gift is from above”, challenging Jefferson to see the injustice of slavery, and the justice/rightness of freedom for all. He reminds Jefferson in paragraph seven (7) of the words from the “Declaration of Independence” written by Jefferson; “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”  

Charles Cerami’s book, Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher, Patriot (2002), asserts that Banneker is a courageous free African American intellectual who dares to challenge Secretary of State Jefferson regarding slavery. If Jefferson is persuaded by Banneker to denounce slavery, then Jefferson would become a strong proponent in support of Banneker’s cause against slavery.  

Scholar, Angela G. Ray’s article “In My Own Handwriting” notes, “By sending the letter and manuscript copy of the almanac together, Banneker constructed himself rhetorically as a free man, as one capable of bestowing gifts” (p. 400) 

Jefferson’s reply to Banneker:

“Nobody wishes more than I do, to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren talents equal to those of the other colors of men… (p 1)

Jefferson’s reply to Banneker is a polite platitude. He dodges the issue because Banneker is proof.

Additionally, Thomas Jefferson became a United States Diplomat, Secretary of State, author of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of United States.

Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence:

“Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed… (p. 1)

According to Jefferson, the government’s role is to protect individual rights and promote the general welfare of those for which it is charged to govern. 

Next, Frederick Douglass, an African American Abolitionists, Diplomat, Orator and Newspaper publisher/writer was born a slave but fought and won his freedom. Therefore, he is very adamant about the cause of freedom and liberation for all slaves. 

Douglass delivered “What to the American Slave is the 4th of July?” as part of an 1852 Independence Day Celebration at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York.

“What to the American slave is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. (p. 9)

Douglass, a former slave, knew the slave’s feelings and thoughts about this 4th of July commemoration. How can slaves celebrate freedom and liberation when, in fact, they are yet slaves and have never experienced freedom and liberation?  

Duffy and Besel’s article “Recollection, Regret, and Foreboding in Douglass’s 4 of July oration of 1852 and 1875”, argues that. 

“Douglass maintains that the Fugitive Slave Law essentially nationalized slavery. The  law made it possible for an African American man living in the North to be consigned to  slavery in the South… “(p. 10)

Douglass biblical references states: 

“This to you is what the Passover was to the emancipated people of God.” (p,2) 

The Biblical Passover reference chronicles the Israelite’s deliverance form Egyptian bondage (slavery).

“And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are and when I see the blood, I will pass over you…” Exodus 12: 13

In another Biblical text he compares the British government’s tenacious hold on the colonies to Pharaoh’s dominant oppression of the Egyptians. 

He writes: “But, with that blindness which seems to be the unvarying characteristic of tyrants, since Pharaoh and his host were drowned in the Red Sea, the British Government persisted in the exactions complained of.” (p. 3)

“And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.” Exodus 14: 28

The use of Biblical quotes by Douglass demonstrates his awareness of the United States religious heritage since its inception.  

Finally, Sojourner Truth, an African American female Abolitionists, Missionary and Orator was bilingual and spoke the Dutch language. She was born a slave but fought and won her freedom.  In her speech “Ain’t I a Woman”, delivered in Akron, Ohio, on May 28-29, 1851, Truth makes the case that women are oppressed as slaves are oppressed. She was relentless in challenging white women regarding all women’s rights. Scholar, Meredith Minister’s article: “Religion and (Dis)Ability in Early Feminism” posits: 

“In this speech, Truth’s references to her black, female body challenged religious discourses that regarded women as weak and susceptible to temptation and cultural discourses on “true womanhood… (15-16).

Truth states:

 “Den dat little man in black dar, he say women can.t have as much rights as men, cause Christ wan’t a woman! Whar did your Christ come from?”  From God and a woman! Man had nothin’ to do wid Him.

If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone, dese women togedder ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now dey is asking to de it, de men better let ‘em.”

These statements by Truth are so profound as they resonate in many circles of liberation today.

She also used Biblical references in her speech. 

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 1: 18, 21

“If de fust woman God ever made was strong enough to turn de world upside down all alone…”                           

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”  Genesis 3:6.

Frederick Douglass said it best about Truth when he eulogized her in Washington in November 1883. He said:

“Venerable for age, distinguished for insight into human nature, remarkable for independence and courageous self-assertion… (Russell, 1998, p. 419).


Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth are the embodiment for social justice against oppression. Thomas Jefferson wrestled with, and it was not clearly settled as to his views on slavery. They challenged the world with their lives and their words for justice and truth.

LaGarrett King argues that attention to “Black Founders” illuminates the “intellectual agency” that African Americans exercised throughout the history of the United States”. King writes:

“Such agency explores the philosophical and practical approaches to how Black Americans responded to racialization and the limited citizenship opportunities in the United States… (89).

Also, they left a powerful legacy of commitment to justice. May their contributions challenge us to continue this commitment? 

Works Cited

Banneker, Benjamin, “Letter to Thomas Jefferson” 19 August. 1781 Direct Link

Charles Cerami, Benjamin Banneker: Surveyor, Astronomer, Publisher, Patriot (2002)

Douglass, Frederick, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” 1852.  My Bondage and My 

     Freedom, New York: Druer, 1969 441-5 1852

Duffy, Bernard K. and Richard D’ Besel, “Recollection, Regret, and Foreboding in Douglass’s 

    Fourth of July Orations of 1852 and 1875”. Making Interdisciplinary Approaches to Cultural 

    Diversity 12.1 (2010): 4 -15.

Jefferson, Thomas.  “Letter to Benjamin Banneker 30 August 1791 Direct Link

   “Declaration of Independence” 1776.:  Direct Link                                                    

King, LaGarrett J. “More Than Slaves: Black Founders, Benjamin Banneker, and Critical 

     Intellectual Agency”. Social Studies Research & Practice 9.3 (2014): 88-105.

Minister, Meredith, “Religion and (Dis)ability in Early Feminism”. Journal of Feminist Studies 

     in Religion, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2013. p. 5-24.

Ray, Angela G.  “In My Own Handwriting: Benjamin Banneker Addresses the Slaveholder 

     of Monticello”. Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 1.3 (1998): 387-405.

Russell, Dick. Black Genius and the American Experience. Carrol & Graf. New York, 1998.  

Truth, Sojourner, “Ain’t I a Woman” (1851) Direct Link

About the Author

Ernest Young earned a BA degree, U. of California, Santa Cruz, an M Div., Iliff School of Theology, a D. Min., Claremont School of Theology. Currently. he is a Ph.D. candidate, Union Institute & University. Also, he is a Humanities Instructor with the Los Angeles Community College District.


by Terry Barr

In William Faulkner’s 1932 novel Light in August, a man named Joe Christmas, whose racial identity sits at the center of the work, asks the following question of the middle-aged woman who has become his lover and whom he will later kill: 

“Just when do men who have different blood in them stop hating one another…” (249). 

That we still don’t have an answer to his question in 2021 is profoundly troubling. In the course I will discuss momentarily, we will almost certainly fail to provide any comforting or enlightening answers. Nevertheless, we’ll keep trying.

I have been a Professor of English for the last thirty-four years at Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, a private, liberal arts college, drawing students mainly form the deep southeast. My Senior Capstone seminar focuses on American Literature and Racial Identity, using three texts: Faulkner’s Light in August, Danzy Senna’s Caucasia, and Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half. Each of these novels explores a character or characters who are caught in a racial limbo. Some know their parentage and its mixed racial makeup; others have no clear idea of their racial background but have heard rumors. All are caught in a society where racial identity is a life or death matter.

Our class meets twice a week for the first six weeks of the term, and in those weeks, we talk about the theme as it applies to these novels, slowly building in research from critical sources. The students will write 500-word responses to two of the novels as part of their requirement, and they will also select a critical essay on one of the novels and make a presentation on that essay as it pertains to racial identity.

In consultation with me, each student will then come up with a central research question that he or she will pursue independently for the next several weeks, eventually turning that question into a thesis. The students are free to select one or more of the novels we’ve discussed in class, though they are not strictly bound to these texts, or to literature per se. They are free to pursue film and music, too. I can see the recent comic books-turned-films like Black Panther and The Watchmen bearing bittersweet and strange fruit for this topic. With their research, the students will write a MLA documented essay roughly fifteen pages long, and then present their research on Honors Day to the rest of the English Department and to anyone else in the college community who chooses to attend.

Our college, like many in these times, has had intense and ongoing discussions about racial diversity and what that looks like and means today. We are a very “white” college, and so as I considered the theme for this year’s seminar, Racial Identity seemed a timely choice, especially given the history of the American South and its reluctance, recalcitrance, in seeking racial equality.

As we discuss these works, I have asked the students to consider the following questions:

  1. Who in our culture gets to determine Racial Identity, and how has this group/person been allowed to make such determinations?
  2. What do we know about our own racial identity, our family’s genetic and historical background?
  3. As a child, were you given sets of social evils or taboos? If so, what were they?
  4. Has a racial hierarchy ever been suggested or imposed on you?
  5. Do you believe that you have benefitted from racial privilege? If so, how?
  6. How would you rank the social acts that most horrify you, or the ones that bestow on you the most honor or gratification?
  7. How would your family members react if you decided to date or marry someone of a different race?

I have six students in the seminar, and all are Caucasian. Because of the above questions, our discussions have been open, I believe, and frank. How would such discussions differ if one or more of the students were African American? While there is no way to know how we might alter or filter our views were we to have African American students in the class, we have at least addressed this issue, noting the problems of white people alone, trying to determine the factors that contribute to our racial misunderstanding of each other.

In our last class, we discussed the problematic scene in Light in August in which Joe Christmas, as an orphaned child, follows an African American yard man across the orphanage grounds. Joe has already been called “nigger” by both children and adults, though they do so only because Joe is different, a new boy alien to them; a loner who often finds himself in places he shouldn’t be, and who seems to harbor secrets. They are trying to put him in his place by using the most dehumanizing word anyone in that era who is white could call anyone else who is white, or black. And so, in his racial confusion, Joe follows the only black man he knows:

“‘What you watching me for boy?’ And he said ‘How come you are a nigger?’ And the nigger said ‘Who told you I am a nigger, you little white trash bastard?’ And he says ‘I aint a nigger’ and the nigger says ‘You are worse than that. You don’t know what you are. And more than that, you won’t never know. You’ll live and you’ll die and you won’t never know’ and he says ‘God aint no nigger’ and the nigger says ‘I reckon you ought to know what God is, because don’t nobody but God know what you is…’” (383-4).

The yard man is more prescient than he knows. For most of the novel, Joe wonders about his racial identity, believing and telling many that he might have some Negro blood in him. He will ultimately be lynched when the town discovers that he’s both been a lover to and killed a white woman. The lynching occurs because Joe’s colleague, “Joe Brown,” has told the sheriff that Christmas is “ a nigger.” From that moment, the TOWN decries that “that nigger Christmas” can’t be allowed to get away with his crime, even though the TOWN has never accepted the woman in question because she’s a northern transplant—a Yankee and an Abolitionist. 

Still, it’s Christmas who most confuses them:

“He never acted like either a nigger or a white man. That was it. That was what made the folks so mad” (350).

But what if he’s neither?

Ultimately, we learn that no one really knows whether the man who impregnated Joe’s mother was Black, or a Mexican, or fully White. Joe himself dies without ever knowing, but to the town and everyone else who knows him, he has forever been deemed Black.

For my students, one of the other central questions this novel raises is the role of religion in determining or interpreting racial identity. Joe is adopted by a strict Calvinist family, the father attempting to beat the fear of God into Joe. Not only doesn’t he succeed, but we know that the orphanage that places Joe in this family does so with the belief that Joe is a racially Black child. They “lie” to Joe’s new father in order to keep Joe from being sent to the Black orphanage. They claim to be trying to save the little boy.

So they lie, and the Calvinist father never knows the lie. At this point, we ask about Christianity’s role in southern racial relations. How did/have so many Southern Protestants made peace with segregation, racial superiority and hierarchy? The novel also includes a defrocked Presbyterian minister who helps us consider this and many other religious and moral questions about the inadequacy and the impotency of religion’s response in considering those outside of the racial norm. And in some cases, religion’s clear persecution of and urging crucifixion on people like Joe Christmas who outrage the religious folk by refusing to accommodate them and stay within the boundaries of boldly-marked racial identities. That Christmas might also be a Christ-figure causes us to consider Christ’s skin color and wonder about the racial category he would have been consigned to in the American South

Christmas has tried to pass as white and even as black. So, too, do two of the central characters in Senna’s Caucasia: the white mother, Sandy Lee, daughter of well-respected WASPish Cambridge socialites, and her paler daughter, Birdie. Sandy and Birdie go on the run, hiding in “caucasia” due to Sandy’s indiscretions with radical, post-1960’s revolutionaries. Because Birdie’s skin color is a bit off-white, Sandy tells everyone in white America that Birdie’s father is Jewish. Meanwhile, Sandy’s African American husband, Deck, and their older darker daughter, Cole, fade into the novel’s background, perhaps passing as the saner, if not more law-abiding pair. The burden is on Birdie, however, to come to terms with all that she is, all that society deems she should be, and what she in fact wants to be.

As a student put it in class today, regarding Birdie and her sister Cole: “How do we blend in to society when we already stand out?”

Caucasia is a novel of inversion, of viewing the negative of a photograph instead of the positive, the “norm.” And in this metaphor, we can understand negative and positive as exactly the value judgments historically deemed on those of mixed racial identity by our society.

The Vanishing Half affords comparisons to Caucasia and allows students to pair the two more closely to analyze the ways sisters, in this case twin sisters, confront or flee their racial identity. How does America force us to define ourselves because of, or despite, whom America would rather we be?

So far, my students have been up to the task of engaging in this theme. I can’t know all they’re thinking and maybe will never know. But I see their faces; I see how deeply they are thinking, and I look forward to their research and the studies they’ll present. I hope the course will change us and help us think even more deeply about who we are and how we can continue to engage with the racial identities imposed on all of us.

Works Cited

Bennett, Brit. The Vanishing Half. New York: Riverhead Books, 2020.

Faulkner, William. Light In August. New York: Vintage International, 1990.

Senna, Danzy. Caucasia. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998.

About the Author

Terry Barr is a Professor of English at Presbyterian College, specializing in Modern Literature, Creative Writing, and Southern Studies. His three essay collections, published by Red Hawk Press, are available from Amazon, and he writes regularly at about music and food culture. He lives in Greenville, Sc, with his family.


By Biko Agozino

How do you pronounce the name that Massachusetts Patriots gave to themselves and that is now retained as the Mascot for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst football team? Is it Minutemen as in men who were ready at a minute’s notice to answer the call to defend their independence or is it ‘Mainutemen’, or little guys who were taking on the mighty British empire?

American students and colleagues always giggle and roll their eyes when I pronounce it as mainute or  and occasionally they offer to correct my strange foreign accent. I smile and use it as a teaching moment to explain my different understanding of the name. To this they often throw up their hands and say that I might be right. Now I want to throw the challenge open to UM Amherst community to see if they have been pronouncing their historic name wrong all these years.

Lexington Minuteman Monument

In his book, The African American People: A Global History, Molefi Kete Asante of Temple University adopted the temporal definition that the Minutemen were men who were ready at a minute’s notice. However, Mark Kulansky, Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea, gives a clue that supports my Little Guys interpretation of the iconic name.

The story goes that the first skirmish of the revolutionary war took place when little children saw the Red Coats marching past and started pelting them with snowballs. The British troops retaliated and started chasing after the children like bullies.

The parents heard the screams of the kids and came out to defend the little guys. From that day, they adopted the name—Minutemen (perhaps) because they were not highly educated and could not tell the difference between the pronunciation of minute as in little and minute as in time. And being chauvinist, they did not care to mention the women who may have been the first to rush out at the cry of their children. In those days, the word ‘men’ embraced women and so the women who fought in the revolutionary war had to cross-dress like men to be accepted and respected as equal members of the militia.

Asante also highlighted the story of free Black men, like Mr. Salem, who joined the Minutemen from the start to fight against the British colonizers. This may be an indication that there were children of African descent among those children that waged war with snow balls against the British empire.

Free or enslaved, people of African descent were generally known as ‘inferior and subordinate beings’ under the law and it was normal for even grown men to be called boys and treated as little guys in those days and long after.

Crispus Attucks was the first casualty of the war of independence but there must have been more like him given that an estimated 500,000 people of African descent lived in the colonies at that time, according to Asante.

If you agree with me, next time the Minutemen play a game, remind the television and radio announcers that the correct pronunciation is Mainute Men. Also, what do you call your female teams or female members of the revolutionary militia? Minutewomen as in Little Women?

About the Autor

Dr. Agozino is a Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Virginia Tech, 562 McBryde Hall, 225 Stanger Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061, 540-231-7699,

I won’t waste words describing the hardships of 2020. Anybody reading this experienced the impact of the pandemic and social strife in our country over the past year. For many of us, the inequalities and issues under the spotlight the past year have been felt for much longer and more acutely. I, like many of you, have a rather short book of fond 2020 memories to thumb through and reflect on. One of the few highlights for me (and hopefully OTH readers) in 2020 is the work my colleagues and I have put in launching the new Oh, the Humanities! (OTH). 

As a medium to discuss, share, and ask questions within the ever-evolving definition of the “humanities”, working on OTH has meant something wholly unexpected for me after such a challenging year. Yes, the mission of promoting dialogue around the humanities, highlighting interesting works and projects, and exploring our readers’ expertise through original storytelling were all critical during OTH’s re-launch. The unexpected value I experienced, especially while in the deepest moments of quarantine, was the chance to connect the stories, projects, and reflections shared by our readers to the questions which consumed my anxieties and dejection over society’s current state. Even as an ardent supporter of the humanities, before the OTH re-launch I often felt that in defending them I drew too heavily upon esoteric or intangible concepts and felt as if my passion for the humanities was largely curated by my privilege and social bubble. 

The re-launch of OTH has reminded me of the beauty and challenge presented to those of us who are invested in the humanities. The beauty lies in understanding more of the world and society we live in by empathizing with new views, continuing to read and write critically, and connecting expertise with practices to bring forth in the public sphere. The challenge lies in how we connect all the dots and communicate to wider audiences the value of work in the humanities and why the humanities are essential for a just, informed society. Whether reading in-depth expertise in Art History or Race, promoting new modes of scholarly communication, evaluating the role of the humanities in public spaces, or serving your community and opening your perspective to challenges, everyone at OTH hopes to see you continue to participate in our small corner of the dialogue on critical subjects and developments for stakeholders in the humanities—which is everyone!

By Christopher Raab 

In 2006, I wrote a short journal article titled, “No Laughing in the Library: You Name It!  It was part of an ongoing humor series, and the article explored librarian surnames that were “professionally ironic” or “unintentionally descriptive.”  For example, the Cataloging Librarian named Field, the Database Librarian named Gale, the Scholarly Communications Librarian named Spark, etc. I remembered the article being a lot of fun to research and write, so fifteen years later I figured I’d take another shot at it.

Just as before, I began by searching surnames within the Personnel Index of the American Library Directory (ALD).  Only this time, I used the online version of the resource, as the print directory stopped being published several years ago.  (I should have realized this simple change from print to online would be a portent of things to come!)

Now 15 years is not that long, but in terms of library and information technology, it may as well be a lifetime.  To get started, I signed up for a free 14-day trial of the ALD, and began searching the “Personnel Name” field for surnames relating to the modern academic library.  

Where to start?  Well, I could search the same names I had explored in the first article, but that wouldn’t be much fun—just more of a longitudinal study I suppose.  Instead, I began with what I see and hear every morning when I walk into the library—technology.  That’s right, printers, scanners, computers, all lit up and ready for action.  To my surprise, the current ALD contained no Samsungs, Lenovos, or Epsons, but it did contain 5 Dells, 1 Apple, and 1 Acer.  Actually, it was an Acerro, but close enough! 

As for printers, there were 17 Cannons, 9 Sharpes, and 3 Packards (no Hewletts unfortunately.)  When considering network computing, I have to admit, I was disappointed.  No Ciscos or Routers, not even a Cloud.  There was, however, one lone Server (soon to retire, I’m sure.)  Of course, when I walk into the library each morning I also see (and greet!) my fellow staff members.  And the ALD didn’t let me down.  While there is currently only 1 Staff among us (read budget cuts here), there are 10 additional Staffords if needed.  Must be volunteers!

(I should have realized this simple change from print to online would be a portent of things to come!)

Next, I thought about cataloging, and all the changes that have occurred in recent years with content and descriptive standards.  Surely, there must be some surname representation within cataloging!  As one might guess, however, there were no RDAs, DCRMs, METS, MODS, Dublins, or Cores.  Simply no metadata surnames to be found.  Actually, there was one bit of good news. Archivists will be pleased to learn there are currently two Eads active in the profession!

But what about the virtual library, and the plethora of G Suite tools we now use on a daily basis?  Surely, Google must have influenced the “naming” of our profession by now.  I decided to run a few names to find out.  You may be interested to learn that while there were 27 Pages, there was only 1 Brin.  To my surprise, there were zero Searches, Chats, Forms, Docs, or Drives.  There were, however, 11 Books, 6 Sheets, 1 Site, and 1 Slider.  I pressed on, and while there were no Vaults, Photos, or Mails, there were 3 Newsomes and 1 Mapp.  Those of you overwhelmed with all the recent video conferencing will be happy to learn there are only 2 Meetz among us, and zero Skypes, Zooms, or GoToMeetings.

What else has changed in 15 years?  Well, social media certainly has.  (When I researched the first article in 2006, Facebook was two years old – just an infant!)  While I figured there wouldn’t be any Facebooks, Twitters, Pinterests, or Instagrams (and there weren’t!) I was interested to discover 9 Posts, 5 Storys, 3 Friends, and 1 Share.  My teenage daughters had me check for TikToks and Snapchats – nothing there.  The only thing close were 2 Snapps.  Now, if those two would get to chatting at a conference, would that count?  Not sure . . .

The last 15 years have also got me thinking about the physical library, or Library as Place.  Libraries across the country have undergone incredible physical changes in order to adapt to the modern/virtual world.  Has this trend been reflected in our surnames?  While you may be disappointed to learn that I found zero Desks, Lamps, Tables, and Chairs, I did find 2 Roofs, 2 Doores, 2 Lights, 14 Cranes, and 28 Carpenters.  Well, I guess capital projects are well represented at any rate.

So what’s in a name, or a librarian’s name in this case?  Well, according to Shakespeare’s Juliet, everything and nothing. But take heart! As I was conducting my research, I also came across 2 librarians who were Kuhl, 14 who were Wise, and 27 with special Powers.  And if all the recent technological change has left you feeling frazzled, don’t sweat it.  After all these years, our foundational commitment to basic literacy is well represented. My final searches of the current ALD revealed 80 Reeds and 72 Wrights among us!

About the Author

Christopher Raab is Associate Librarian for Archives & Special Collections at Franklin & Marshall College. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, and holds a Masters of Library Science and Certificate of Advanced Study from the University of Pittsburgh. Current research interests include library administration, digital preservation, and printing history.


Raab, Christopher. “No Laughing in the Library: You Name It!” College & Undergraduate Libraries, 13, no.3 (2006): 125 -126

Central European University Press Announces Innovative Open Access Funding Model

For Immediate Release via Project Muse

Central European University Press

22 October 2020

The Central European University Press (CEUP) announces that it is transitioning to an open access (OA) monograph programme through its new library subscription membership initiative, Opening the Future. The Press will provide access to portions of their highly-regarded backlist and use the revenue from members’ subscriptions to allow the frontlist to be OA from the date of publication. The Press is working with the Community-led Open Publication Infrastructures for Monographs (COPIM) project.

Additional partners on the initiative include Project MUSE, as hosting platform for the subscription packages and new OA titles, along with LYRASIS facilitating library membership participation, and with OAPEN for hosting and dissemination of OA titles.

Established in 1993 to reflect the intellectual strengths and values of its parent institution, the Central European University, CEUP is a leading publisher in the history of the region, communism and transitions to democracy. It is widely recognised as the foremost English-language university press dedicated to research on Central and Eastern Europe and the former communist countries. It publishes approximately 25 new monographs and research-based edited collections a year and has a large backlist of over 450 titles with 300 e-books available through several platforms.

CEUP is creating a sustainable OA publishing model that will give members access to a selection of the extensive backlist, DRM-free and with perpetual access after three years. In return, this membership revenue will then be used to make newly-published books openly accessible to anyone. When the revenue target is met and the entire monograph frontlist is openly accessible, future membership fee rates can be lowered. The model has support from LYRASIS who will assist with organizing library participation in the programme and has support from OAPEN. Project MUSE will host the books, providing MARC records, KBART files and supporting discovery systems, and subscribers will have access to COUNTER compliant statistics. Membership is open to libraries and institutions worldwide.

The initiative builds on library journal membership models such as Open Library of the Humanities and ‘Subscribe to Open’ such as being piloted by Annual Reviews, and also on successful book membership programmes such as those at Open Book Publishers and punctum books.

COPIM is an international partnership of researchers, universities, librarians, open access book publishers and infrastructure providers supported by the Research England Development Fund (REDFund) as a major development project in the Higher Education sector with significant public benefits and by Arcadia – a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

CEUP will be provided with assistance in implementing this model through Work Package 3 of the COPIM programme including documentation of this ‘working model’ as a step towards creating a free, open toolkit and roadmap for other book publishers considering OA.

Frances Pinter, Executive Chair at CEUP said, “We’re pleased to be working with COPIM as this partnership will allow us to not only achieve our goals at CEUP but to also demonstrate a sustainable model that I believe will scale up in ways that provide efficiencies and equity to the benefit of all. I am delighted that Project MUSE, LYRASIS and OAPEN are supporting the project. We’re looking forward to working with many stakeholders to ensure success.”

Martin Paul Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London, and one of the COPIM project leads, said, “We are looking forward to working with CEUP over the next two years and will be recording our progress through regular blog posts and reports. This case study collaboration will be a keystone in the COPIM project’s future success. We hope that, with the documented success of Opening the Future, we will have a model that could lead to the widespread transition of university presses worldwide to OA.”

“Participating with initiatives such as CEUP’s Opening the Future aligns strongly with our mission to support university presses and other non-commercial publishers in the sustainable, equitable dissemination of scholarship worldwide,” said Wendy Queen, Director of Project MUSE. “We’re excited by the promise of this model to demonstrate a pathway for more publishers to an open future.”

Celeste Feather, Senior Director of Content and Scholarly Communications Initiatives at LYRASIS, said “The Opening the Future model represents a thoughtful and sustainable approach to making CEUP’s scholarly monographs accessible to the widest possible readership. We are enthused about continuing our work with stakeholders in the library community to develop this very promising route to OA.”

Libraries and other institutions can support the move to full gold OA, without author-facing charges. Visit the project website

Updates on the case study and details on CEUP’s progress towards OA will be published on the project website

Notes to editors:

Open Access and the Global South

by Dr. Sven Fund, Managing Director, Knowledge Unlatched GmbH

Supporting access to scholarly content for researchers worldwide but in particular in the Global South is one of the altruistic arguments mentioned most commonly by librarians and funders in the more economically-developed regions of the world. But that wish alone does not fully address the demands and needs for equitable participation in the global publication and research process. In order to explore this in more depth, Knowledge Unlatched organized a truly global virtual panel within the context of the digital Frankfurt Book Fair. The three panelists invited were Liz Ngonzi, Founder / Executive Director, The International Social Impact Institute at Hunter College, USA; Juan Cordoba from Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, and Abel Packer, the director of SciELO, Brazil. About 30 participants from around the world also joined the conversation which took place on October 16.

It soon emerged that is a truism for all three panelists that there is no such thing as “the” Global South, as conditions vary greatly from country to country and continent to continent. While a number of academic systems in Africa for example still lack very basic technological preconditions to enable scholarship to take advantage of the free resources available, others are well-advanced both when it comes to publishing as well as reading/using open content. While in some countries even top institutions are just starting to familiarize themselves with digital publishing and the concept of openness, others can already look back at several years of experience.

Liz Ngonzi highlighted that there are blocking issues on a number of levels, not just the technical restrictions. Many – particularly authoritarian – governments in the world still restrict access to knowledge, viewing academic freedom on both the consumption as well as the dissemination sides as a threat to their rule.

However barriers also exist on a more individual level, and Abel Packer was able to report from his own experience at SciELO on how important education about available open access models is, as well as individual training in a number of fields. Juan Cordoba, with a strong background in and overview of the scene at Latin American university presses, emphasized the importance of a stable organizational setting. He reported from the experience of his region, where journals and books are often published by libraries directly, thereby providing a cost-efficient alternative to other forms of scholarly publishing.

The panelists agreed that the trend for more collaboration necessitates a better use of digital resources, independent of world region, and it is no surprise that open access is seen as an ideal means to that end. They also unequivocally called for better access to publication opportunities for researchers from less economically-advanced regions (or institutions) around the globe. This entails inclusion in international research contexts as well as better funding opportunities for scholarly projects and academic publishing within the countries of the Global South.

The discussion highlighted the many motivations and facets of open access, not only within one academic system, but more particularly across different types of borders. Be it technical preconditions, funding resources or the issue of different national languages beyond English, as well as research publication traditions in the academic production – open access as a model needs to take all of this into consideration if it wishes to enhance its inclusive nature. Funders and research organizations, libraries and publishing houses have a tool at hand to create a more equitable and better environment, to the advantage of researchers in both the North and the South. All three panelists made it very clear that open access is not a charity or a funding transfer between world regions, but that it does have the power to make the research itself better, provided resources are pooled effectively and viewpoints include more global input.

But at the same time methods must be developed to eliminate the existing boundaries within the respective communities, requiring a shift in mindset alongside the need for more pragmatic solutions.

The panel discussion was recorded and is freely available here:


by Nayla K. Muntasser John R. Clarke

As the world struggles with the horrifying toll that the COVID 19 pandemic is taking on lives and livelihoods, from time to time moments of clarity emerge, providing a glimmer of hope that positive outcomes are possible. In a very small way, a decision made over a decade ago that was met with some skepticism within the humanities, has turned out to have been prescient and doubly valuable. Such was the decision by the members of the Oplontis Project, with the support and collaboration of the ACLS Humanities E-Book team, to begin the process of producing a born-digital multi-volume series on the research being undertaken at the ancient Roman sites of Oplontis in Torre Annunziata, Italy. It was uncommon at the time to publish a book on archaeology and art history straight into a digital format; even rarer was the aim to also make the results of the research freely available. Yet today, especially while libraries remain inaccessible, our work is a boon to scholars, with two comprehensive open-access volumes offered online and a third in production.

The Oplontis Project was created within the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin in order to study and fully publish the two ancient Roman structures at Oplontis that had been buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Although both are called villas, only one, Villa A (of Poppea), is strictly a luxury residence. Villa B (of Lucius Crassius Tertius), is better called Oplontis B, for it is a multi-use complex that incorporates a wine distribution center, storage facilities for agricultural products, some modest residential quarters and possibly a harbor. Villa A and Oplontis B were excavated and reconstructed by the Italian archaeological authorities beginning in the mid-1960’s through 1991, but neither structure had been fully published. The sites were made UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1997.

Once the Oplontis Project received the mandate in 2006 to study both structures further, each year a team of researchers and archaeologists spent 4-8 weeks documenting the villas’ present state, researching archival material and opening exploratory trenches. Excavation campaigns were undertaken in Villa A from 2006 to 2010 and at Oplontis B from 2012 to the present. In 2020, for the first time in fourteen years there was no Oplontis Project excavation and study season, an unexpected hiatus that so many projects around the world have had to accept. So far, two volumes on the research at Villa A are available in the Open Access Humanities E-Book Collection hosted by the University of Michigan on the Fulcrum Platform. 

Readers of the volumes on Villa A at Oplontis will find that the first one provides chapters that place the villa in its historical, geographical and cultural contexts, as well presenting a history of excavations that reveals the complexity of the villa’s excavation and reconstruction as well as the inevitability of our incomplete knowledge of it. Volume 2 provides catalogues of all the paintings, sculptures, pavements and stuccoes in the villa as well as new focused studies of the graffiti, and some previously unstudied motifs on the walls including carpet borders and tiny processional scenes. Scientific analyses include chemical analysis of the pigments in the frescoes, the provenance and composition of the expensive stones used throughout the Villa. There are also digital reconstructions of significant decorative schemes. Volume 3 will present the results of the Oplontis Project excavations, including a study of the ceramic finds, the bones unearthed and miscellaneous small finds. A close study of the masonry informs the two chapters on the architectural evolution and room functions over the life of the villa from about 50 B.C.E to its destruction in 79 C.E. An account of the in the hydraulics of the villa shows the changes over time from the exuberant use of water in the fountains and majestic pool to the damaging effect of the 62 C.E. earthquake. This third volume will also include studies of previously unpublished materials from excavations prior to 2006 and documentation of both the first excavations in the nineteenth century and the most modern attempts at conserving the villa in digital form through the creation of a navigable 3d model.

During the studies of Villa A, the Oplontis Project team noticed a small section of mosaic on the other side of the Sarno canal constructed in the sixteenth century to provide hydraulic power to the flour mills in the area. This canal cut through the seaward façade of the villa complex. This discovery led to a campaign of excavation by archaeologists from the Italian Ministry of Culture between 2014 and 2016 that revealed a series colonnaded terraces descending to the shore. An account of those excavations and a reconstruction of that façade will be included in this volume.

While Villa A with its sprawling layout, cliff-top perch and seaward vista, is typical of the luxury maritime villas that developed along the Bay of Naples, Oplontis B does not fit neatly into any category of Roman building that is known so far. It is, instead, a hybrid of several existing building types. A large courtyard with a two-story tufa colonnade is surrounded by storage rooms on four sides. To the east, on the ground floor is a wide opening that provided access from a north-south road that connected the hinterland to the coast. The southern side of this main core consists of a row of barrel-vaulted storage rooms with spacious apartments above. Abutting the north wall of the building lies a group of row houses built into former shop spaces facing onto a narrow street. They have cooking platforms and latrines on the ground floor and decorative frescoes on the upper story walls. Across the street another row of similar spaces remains only partially excavated, so what lies behind them is not known. To the west is another partially excavated two-story building seemingly not attached to the colonnaded core, but since the rest of it lies under the local school, it is not possible to explore this building further. A detailed account of the row houses, their decoration, and their contents will be available in the forthcoming copy of the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

The 2020 season was to be the last excavation campaign and 2021 was to be a study season. So far, everything has been postponed for a year, so the publication of Oplontis B will also be delayed. However, the study of the over three thousand amphorae found at the site has been completed and should see publication sooner. In the meantime, excavation reports and articles pertaining to Oplontis B can be found on the peer-reviewed online journal FOLD&R (Fasti On Line Documents & Research) at


By Lauren Heidbrink, PhD.

“The Guatemalan government treats us like we don’t belongeven on the lands of our ancestorsand blocks us at every turn. Bad schools, no work, no medical care. They treat us like indios sucios [dirty Indians] while they rob gold from under our lands. Believe me, I never wanted to migrate. I’d heard the stories from my cousin–about the dangers of the journey, living in a cramped apartment, working twenty hours a day and never saving–but I had no choice. My mother and sister got sick; the [Marlin] mine contaminated our water and spoiled the crops. They call it “desarrollo” [development], but it is not developing our communities; it is devastating them. They are killing us slowly.”

– Juan Gabriel, seventeen years old

Juan Gabriel is one of a growing number of young people migrating unaccompanied from Central America to the United States. Often dismissed as mere victims of poverty or stigmatized as gang members, these young people are social actors who contribute to the survival of their households through their care, labor, and mobility. In spite of his desire to remain in Guatemala, Juan Gabriel migrated due to the environmental repercussions of a gold mine near his hometown of Sipacapa that imperiled his mother’s and sister’s health when it contaminated the soil and local water sources. The U.S. and Guatemalan governments contend that foreign investment—often in the form of extractive industries, free trade zones, and agricultural initiatives—create alternatives to migration through employment opportunities, improved infrastructure, and investment that, in theory, trickles down to communities. For Juan Gabriel, however, the adverse consequences resulting from “development” in tandem with a failing public health system spurred his transnational migration. For other young migrants, limited employment and education opportunities, high rates of unemployment, scarce arable land, financial debt, and family emergencies (such as accidents or death) prompted their migration.           

The experiences of young migrants like those of Juan Gabriel are regularly overlooked, ignored, or discounted. They are relegated to simplified tropes of children left behind, abandoned, or dependent upon the actions and outcomes of adults. When the media and policymakers acknowledge young people’s migratory experiences, their perspectives often are overshadowed by advocates who claim to speak on their behalf. In contrast, my book Migranthood chronicles young people’s long-term trajectories of migration and deportation from their own perspectives. Through research with Indigenous (primarily Maya-Mam and K’iche’) children and youth ages 13 to 17) in diverse spaces and geographies—in communities of origin in Guatemala, zones of transit in Mexico, detention centers for unaccompanied minors in the United States, government facilities receiving returned children in Guatemala, and communities of return—young people share how they negotiate everyday violence and discrimination, how they and their families prioritize limited resources and make difficult decisions, and how they develop and sustain relationships over time and space. In other words, their lives are so much more than the migranthood ascribed to them.

 Migranthood chronicles deportation from the perspectives of Indigenous youth who migrate unaccompanied from Guatemala to Mexico and the United States.

  Alongside young people’s diverse migratory trajectories, Migranthood traces how securitized approaches to migration management, often under the guise of “development,” is a mode of governance that moves across and beyond geopolitical space. National and regional securitization programs, border externalization policies, and detention and deportation are enlisted to manage desired and undesired migrants, increasingly ensnaring children and youth in this global immigration dragnet. Although cast as objects of policy, not participants, Indigenous youth are not passive recipients of securitization policies, development interventions, or discourses of migranthood. Drawing on the resources of transnational kin, social networks, as well as financial institutions and actors, Indigenous youth enlist a rich social, cultural, and political repertoire of assets and tactics to navigate precarity and marginality in Guatemala. As I observed over five years of research, young people enact care and belonging through their paid labor, unpaid care work, and mobility. They shape household bonds and mediate conflict by providing emotional and social support to family members adapting to new cultural, social, and economic contexts. And, like Juan Gabriel, they migrate to ensure the survival of their multigenerational households amid marginality and precarity in Guatemala. By attending to young people’s perspectives, we learn the critical roles they play as contributors to household economies, local social practices, and global processes. In a new era of mass deportation, the insights and experiences of young people likewise uncover the transnational effects of the securitized responses to migration management and development on individuals and families and across space, citizenship status, and generations.

Nearly two years following his deportation to Sipacapa, Juan Gabriel shared, “I dream of the right to not migrate…of having the conditions in which I can choose to stay just like I can choose to leave, but you see the difference? It is a choice.” Explicitly acknowledging young people’s expertise and eliciting their insights creates opportunities to craft policies and programs that more accurately reflect their realities, and collaboratively enacts and ensures their right to not migrate.


Read Migranthood Now

About the Author

Lauren Heidbrink is an anthropologist and Associate Professor of Human Development at California State University, Long beach. She is author of Migrant Youth Transnational Families, and the State: Care and Contested Interests (U. of Pennsylvania Press 2014) and Migranthood: Youth in a New Era of Deportation (Stanford University Press 2020). She is co-editor of Youth Circulations.

by Dr. Frances Pinter

About five years ago I ran across a book by UCLA Professor Christine Borgman – Big Data, Little Data, No Data where she draws from a report authored by Paul Edwards, herself and others. They define Knowledge Infrastructures (KI) as:

…robust networks of people, artifacts, and institutions that generate, share, and maintain specific knowledge about the human and natural worlds. In this framing, the distinguishing features of a KI are ubiquity, reliability, and durability: when a KI breaks down, it results in social and organizational chaos. A KI is not one system, it is instead a multi-layered, adaptive effort in which numerous systems, each with unique origins and goals, are made to interoperate by means of standards, socket layers, social practices, norms, and individual behaviours that smooth out the connections among them (Edwards et al). 

Borgman argues that each academic discipline has its own knowledge infrastructure. These include the buildings, the places of activity, the people, the communications networks and, of course, how research is published and disseminated. It’s a complex ecology.

Knowledge infrastructures reinforce and redistribute authority, influence and power – and this has profound impacts both within and outside of these KIs.

As a result of the global pandemic we are about to see some huge changes. Contractions of higher education institutions will make the headlines. There will be redundancies amongst faculty and with that, reductions in library budgets. How much, we do not yet know, but it won’t be evenly spread out. Parts of knowledge infrastructures will contract faster than others: a few may expand, but there will definitely be a scrabble for resources and a chaotic adjustment period. It is likely that the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) will suffer more than STEM – at a time when we need more than ever to learn about ourselves so that we can better cope with the global challenges that threaten the very existence of humankind.

I believe that with some much overdue changes to the way the we publish monographs, we can use this crisis to mark a commitment to reducing costs while improving dissemination of these specialist monographs that provide the foundational basis for development in the HSS subjects.

The key to this is Open Access (OA). For that to succeed, we need to work on four aspects of monograph publishing. The first aspect is the funding – which will come if we can demonstrate that the demand is there, that monographs are good value for the money, and that costs can be reduced significantly. The second aspect is that we need business models through which funding can be channelled efficiently and cost effectively. The third aspect is to produce the right kind of metadata that stays constant throughout the life cycle of a book. Finally, we need to find ways in which OA can sit visibly alongside other formats, such as print, that should continue to be available where there is a demand.

The first is easy. When over 80 publishers allowed their books to be freely accessed from mid-March to the end of July 2020, usage rates skyrocketed. Here are just a couple of examples from the MUSE platform:

  • Johns Hopkins University Press made 1553 titles across the range of monographs, professional, reference, and academic trade books open on the MUSE platform – usage each month grew to 3000% before reverting to closed access.
  • CEU Press, with its narrower range of predominantly monographs, experienced a massive 315,000 visits on the MUSE platform alone for its 300 titles – accessed in 129 countries.

These sorts of figures need to be championed around institutions so they can see the benefit of OA. Mandates are also an important factor. While Plan S comes into force for publicly funded research resulting in journal articles throughout much of Europe in 2021, it is expected that monographs and edited collections will fall under the same mandate by 2024. In the US, the Office of Science & Technology Policy  is looking at OA as a way to enhance public access to federally funded research. While OA mandates remain controversial, they are not likely to disappear, especially with evidence of the benefits having become clearer over the past few months.

At the same time, publishers are looking for ways to reduce the cost of producing monographs without sacrificing quality. An example here is the Sustainable History Monograph Project .

Next, there are several business models that work for OA monographs. Just as there is great variety in the types of monographs published, we have a number of sources for funding and ways of channelling those funds into OA programs. Some examples are listed here:

  1. Research Funding Bodies – see Plan S
  2. Institutions – central funds to support OA – Lever Press
  3. University Departments – many small hidden pockets of money
  4. Crowdfunding – Knowledge Unlatched ,
  5. Foundations – Wellcome Trust
  6. Membership – Open Book Publishers
  7. Collective models – Luminos

One area where there is much work to do is improving metadata. We need to agree on standards and apply them consistently. Metadata is often altered on its way through the system to serve the particular needs of anyone along the road to discovery. This can clog the system and result in poor search results. If everyone agreed on a core set of minimal metadata, then success in discovery and finding monographs would show a huge increase. This would also help improve usage data — another essential part of feedback on scholarly publications.

Everyone along the supply chain needs to better understand what role the intermediaries can and perhaps should play in the dissemination of OA content. But to get to that point, we need a better understanding of what their charges are buying currently. The light green box in the diagram below indicates where we lack sufficient information about the costs being applied, and therefore, the price of the book at its final destination.

Too often, OA content resides behind a bush and its full value cannot be achieved. Because the availability of OA books is often unknown, already stretched library budgets are sometimes spent unnecessarily. There is little incentive to intermediaries who make a living selling content, yet there could be a role for them in effectively distributing metadata in this new OA world.  We also need ways of selling books to those who want and can afford the printed text. This should be encouraged as print sales help to provide support for sustainable OA.

The period ahead of us will be one of great changes to the academic knowledge infrastructures. It could also be a period when having grasped the value of OA for HSS, all stakeholders contribute to making the changes necessary to provide cost effective and easily discoverable Open Access monographs.

The pie may well be smaller, but we have a choice. Either all sectors fight one another for larger parts of the smaller pie, or we get smarter about how we do things. And for this, Open Access is the way to go.

Dr. Frances Pinter is Executive Chair for the Central European University Press. Learn more about Dr. Pinter’s work and projects here: