PAS students collect oral histories that capture 2020 turmoil in Louisville

A continuing pandemic and historic reckoning with racial tensions in Louisville and throughout the country have created unprecedented stress and turmoil in the Louisville community. No group has borne the brunt of the difficulties more than people of color.

To capture some of these experiences, students of Dr. Bamba Ndiaye’s Pan-African Studies-200 class conducted interviews with UofL students and Louisville community members, offering insight into their emotions and experiences over the past year.

Students were given the tools to conduct the interviews during an oral history workshop held within the class, led by University Libraries Archivist Heather Fox.  Resulting conversations have been turned into an eight-week series on the Archives and Special Collections’ Instagram page.

Image from Archives' Instagram page on oral history workshop interviews.
Image of “Santa George” from the Archives’ Instagram series.

“Dr. Ndiaye used oral history methodology in his doctoral work and recognizes its value,” said Fox. “He reached out to me to do a workshop with his students and was extremely proud of the work they did in this class.”

The Oral History workshop 101 was framed as an hour-long session, one typically taught to history students, but also students in Modern Languages and Women, Gender and Sexuality studies. Students learn about oral history as “a guided interview where your interviewer has done research on the topic and is trying to elicit info about a particular topic with focus being on the interviewee,” said Fox.

The interviewer’s role is to listen, she continued. “It’s hard for people to get used to that. I counsel them: “‘Don’t talk; you’re supposed to listen. Don’t say, “uh huh,” etc. Just stay focused on what you are saying. Count to 10 before asking another question.’ That’s hard to do, especially if they’re nervous.”

But resulting interviews were extremely professional and gleaned many insights into individuals’ experiences during the past year.

Image from Archives' Instagram page on oral history workshop interviews.
Domini Williams is interviewed by Edison Pleasants, from Archives and Special Collections’ Instagram series.

One interview by UofL student Buff Fallot is of Tara Bassett, one of the 502 Livestreamers, a collective organized in the midst of the protest movement in Louisville. Bassett not only reveals life experience that led her to being a part of this group, but also explains a specific moment where her footage helped a protestor who was wrongfully arrested.

Fallot also interviewed George Smithers, AKA Santa George, about his work appearing in malls throughout the country as Santa to provide representation where it is lacking. Smithers livestreamed along the 502 Livestreamers during the protest movement, something he speaks on in the interview as well.

Student Daja Walker interviewed Jazman Branche, a young protestor who details her experiences during the protest movement, including her feelings on the National Guard being employed, how the collective energy of the movement felt, and her emotions after the verdict was announced. This particular segment focuses on the impact that media outlets had on perception of the protest movement.

Student Edison Pleasants interviewed Domini Williams, a nurse practitioner working at the Park Duvalle Community Health Center, who finished nursing school in May of 2020. A single mother of three, Williams juggled the completing nursing school, working full time in the University Hospital ER trauma center, guiding her kids through online schooling, and navigating the pandemic all at once. This interview also touches on Williams’s experience being a first responder to covid while working at the ER, her experience with nursing school at UofL, and mental health trends in the African American community during the pandemic.

Ja’Nay Williams interviewed Ecasia Burrus, an educator at the Shawnee Boys and Girls Club and an activist in her community. In the interview, Burrus talks about the difficult conversations she had to facilitate with her students as the upsetting events of police brutality unfolded last spring and summer, as well as what Black Lives Matter means to her as an activist.

The students’ questions were savvy and helpful in revealing important information from each individual, Fox said. “They’re not experts: these are 200-level 15 students, but they were extremely engaged, and asked excellent questions, so I’m really pleased with the work they did.”

“There’s quite a bit of pedagogical value in these interviews,” said Fox. “It’s a different ways to engage in the community and also as a research method that people are trained in.”

The Oral History Center will collect and curate the interviews. Archives and Special Collections Imaging Manager Cassidy Meurer has created a series of videos released as an eight-week series on ASC’s Instagram page over the past six months. 


Ekstrom Library online librarian presents at ACRL virtual conference

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected academic libraries and the roles of online learning librarians? That question formed the genesis of a recent paper and presentation by Amber Willenborg, Ekstrom Library’s online and undergraduate learning coordinator, and co-author and presenter Tessa Withorn, online learning librarian at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Willenborg and Withorn presented findings from their paper, Online Learning Librarianship in a Fully Online World: Findings (and Advice) from a National Study During the Covid-19 Pandemic, at the April virtual conference of the Association of College & Research Libraries’ (ACRL).

Cover of published article: Online Learning Librarianship in a Fully Online World.

Prior to the past year of virtual work, some academic librarians may have doubted the efficacy of online librarianship, said Willenborg, but many came to appreciate the practice during the pandemic, at least according to the impressions of online academic librarians.   

“In a previous study we found that online learning librarians often felt siloed and were often solely responsible for online learning work,” Willenborg continued. “But as academic libraries rapidly expanded online offerings, online learning librarians found that their colleagues were more supportive and open to online learning, where in the past they had been hesitant about its value.”

During the pandemic, online learning librarians themselves took on more leadership roles, spent more time training colleagues, and were managing an increased workload. This gave other librarians a greater appreciation for the role of online learning, according to the paper’s findings.

Initially, with a goal of uncovering difficulties within the profession, Withorn and Willenborg asked academic online learning librarians about their roles and challenges in early 2020. However, the pandemic hit soon after interviews were concluded, so the two decided to re-interview the same librarians in late 2020 to find out how their roles had changed. 

Interviewees offered helpful advice to academic librarians who may be newly involved in online learning work due to the pandemic. “Find a support network and be proactive about training and professional development,” said Willenborg. “That was the topline advice: online learning is a lot of work but don’t get discouraged.”

The paper and presentation on these findings followed up an earlier study on online learning librarians titled A Foot in Both Worlds: Current Roles and Challenges of Academic Online Learning Librarians, co-authored by Willenborg and Withorn, a former Ekstrom Library student assistant. The two colleagues also presented together at the Kentucky Library Association’s Library Instruction Retreat in 2018.

Presenting at ACRL is an exceptional honor, with only 30% of presentation submissions accepted for inclusion in the conference. Willenborg also appeared at ACRL’s 2017 conference to discuss a poster.

“We received a lot of positive comments during and after our presentation,” said Willenborg. “Online learning librarians in attendance really identified with our findings.”


Ekstrom Library adds new resources on African Diaspora, Black Drama and Black Studies

The University Libraries have added new materials to Ekstrom Library’s digital collections, including links to primary source documents, recordings, video and other materials on Black studies, Black drama and the African diaspora. The additions support the University of Louisville’s drive to become an anti-racist campus.

Among the materials are the transcript of the trial of Clay v. United States (Muhammad Ali); 2,500 pages of exclusive Black Panther oral histories; and the full text of over 1,700 plays by African diaspora playwrights, including previously unpublished plays by Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka and Zora Neale Hurston among other authors.

Poster of Black Thought and Culture, highlighting a new database added to Ekstrom Library

The digital databases also offer UofL scholars and researchers access to the former Hatch-Billops Collection which includes 5,000 pages of rare interviews, oral histories, photos, original art, poetry, and other firsthand perspectives tracking African American cultural trends in the 20th century. Interview subjects include Dizzy Gillespie, Arnold Rampersand, Errol Hill, Anne Cooke Reid, Butterfly McQueen, and Charles Mingus; many recordings took place when these figures were nearing the ends of their lives, capturing a historical record that would otherwise be lost.

“It’s exciting to provide these new materials to our students and we do think they will appreciate the breadth of these digital databases,” said Libraries Dean Bob Fox. “This is part of our commitment to supporting UofL’s goal of creating an anti-racist campus.”

Recently, Dean Fox reallocated gift funding to purchase books, DVDs, digital collections and other materials on civil rights, equity, and Black history, among other subjects, in support of UofL’s anti-racism initiative.

Image of Black Studies in Video, a database added to Ekstrom Library

The purchases from Alexander Street Press include:

African Diaspora

Primary source documents exploring the migrations, communities and ideologies of the people of African descent who have dispersed around the world.  The focus is on communities in the Caribbean, Brazil, India, United Kingdom and France.  1860-present.

Black Drama: Third Edition

Approximately 1,700 plays by 250 North American playwrights, together with detailed information on productions, theaters, production companies, and more.  The database also includes selected playbills, production photographs and other ephemera related to the plays.  1850-present.

Black Studies in Video

Black Studies in Video is a collection documentaries, interviews, and archival footage exploring the black experience through history, politics, art and culture, family structure, gender relationships, and social and economic issues. 

Black Thought and Culture

Black Thought and Culture is a collection of nonfiction writings by major American black leaders—teachers, artists, politicians, religious leaders, athletes, war veterans, entertainers, and other figures—covering 250 years of history.  It includes letters, speeches, essays, political leaflets, interviews, and transcripts.


Citizen Literacy receives notice in ALA 2021 State of America’s Libraries Report

Citizen Literacy, the University of Louisville Libraries’ online toolkit to promote information skills and resist disinformation, continues to gain recognition. The latest notice is in The State of America’s Libraries 2021: A Report from the American Library Association by the American Library Association, which offers an overview of how libraries operated in the US during the past year during the global pandemic. The report lists Citizen Literacy in its section on disinformation.

Cover of American Library Association's 2021 State of America's Libraries. Special Report: Covid-19.

The University Libraries created the online portal to help students become better consumers of media, research and information. Launched to coincide with the final weeks of the 2020 election season, Citizen Literacy promotes essential information skills like algorithmic literacy, news literacy, how to evaluate expertise, how to investigate the veracity of online sources through lateral reading, and how to become an informed voter.

The site was created by Rob Detmering, head of Research Assistance and Instruction; Amber Willenborg, online and undergraduate learning coordinator; and Terri Holtze, head of web services.

Citizen Literacy was also recently praised in a recent report by Stanford University on general deficiencies in university instruction on digital literacy. The report shows that students are mostly unable to discern legitimate news and information sources from falsehoods and proposes innovative teaching methods to combat this deficiency. Citizen Literacy embodies a good kind of remedy, the report concludes.

“Institutions need to follow the example of forward-looking librarians and information specialists at the vanguard of new approaches to dealing with misinformation—often on shoestring budgets at liberal arts colleges and state universities. . . . Robert Detmering and Amber Willenborg, librarians at the Ekstrom Library at the University of Louisville, have produced a series of polished videos (with just the right dose of snark) that provoke college students to reevaluate their online behavior. We hope these and similar efforts will shine a light on a path for other colleges and universities to follow.”

“Educating for Misunderstanding: How Approaches to Teaching Digital Literacy Make Students Susceptible to Scammers, Rogues, Bad Actors, and Hate Mongers,” (Working Paper A-21322, Stanford History Education Group, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 2020). https://purl.stanford.edu/mf412bt5333

Additionally, Last year, the Chronicle of Higher Education featured an interview with Detmering and Willenborg on media literacy; CHE’s weekly “Teaching” column focused on how higher education can combat disinformation by teaching media literacy through various means, and the Citizen Literacy toolkit was one strategy mentioned.


What Students Are Telling Us About How They Use the Libraries

By Anita Hall, Assessment Librarian

An incredible number of students visit our libraries every day, whether in person or online. We’re always trying to understand how they use the Libraries and how we can improve their experience. One way we get this feedback is through surveys. Recently, we participated in a campus-wide survey of students called the Student Support Services Survey (S4), conducted by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, which gave us lots of great information. Currently, the University Libraries is also conducting its bi-yearly Benchmark Survey to learn about student and faculty habits, needs and wishes in order to improve the Library experience for the University community.

Two students in the 102 alcove in Ekstrom Library

In the S4 survey, one of the things we really wanted to know was how students learn about the Libraries. This helps us decide how to reach out to students. Those who said they do use the Libraries in some way (in-person, online, or both) were most likely to learn about us from a campus tour, orientation, or resource fair (21.54%) or because of a course requirement (21.32%). Campus emails were not particularly helpful – only 1.98% said that they learned about the Libraries in this way. Good to know!

Here are some more of the top ways that students learned about the Libraries:

Which of the following helped you learn about the University Libraries?
Campus tour, orientation, or resources fair21.54%
Course requirement21.32%
A librarian came to my class11.10%
Blackboard10.00%
Academic Advisor8.35%
Freshman Guide6.70%
Recommendation from a friend5.49%

We also wanted to know why some students don’t use the Libraries. Most of these students said that they just haven’t needed to yet but will when the need arises (32.20%). Others say that they currently have access to all the resources they need to complete their coursework (22.03%). However, there were some students who said they either don’t know how to use the Libraries or don’t know what kinds of services and resources the Libraries offer (11.86% for each). We’ll be working hard to try and bring those numbers down before the next survey.

Another thing the Libraries wanted to know is what types of information skills we can help with. We asked how confident they are at several different tasks. Most students feel pretty confident with all of them, which is great. Below is a snapshot of the tasks that some said they are either not at all or not very confident in completing. We also asked questions about how and when they learned these skills, and their responses to those questions will help us work with professors to support them in teaching these skills. This might involve librarians leading instruction sessions in classes, creating online learning modules for Blackboard, or developing some of our own resources that can be accessed anytime. A great example of this is our Citizen Literacy resource, which has lots of great information about evaluating news sources.

Please rate your confidence in completing the following tasks:“Not at all Confident” or “Not very Confident”
Locate books and other materials required for an assignment9.41%
Locate scholarly, peer-reviewed materials when required for an assignment5.02%
Develop a research topic for an assignment5.06%
Cite sources appropriately when required for an assignment3.72%
Evaluate the trustworthiness of news and other web sources3.31%

Are you interested in providing more feedback about the Libraries? One great way is to join the Libraries Student Advisory Board. We’re always accepting new members! The Libraries will also be sending out our Benchmark Survey later in March 2021 – we have been using this survey for almost 20 years to get feedback about our spaces, services, and collections. This survey goes to a sample of the University community, so you may or may not receive a survey invitation. Watch your UofL email, and if you get one, please answer it! We really appreciate your time and responses.


Do your students know how to research? S4 Survey reveals student information skills at UofL

By Anita Riley Hall

When your students arrive at UofL, what types of information skills have they already learned? And what skills are they learning while they’re here? These are among the questions the University Libraries sought to answer by participating in the campus-wide Student Support Services Survey (S4) in November 2020. Distributed to all students by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, the S4 Survey asked about our students’ information skills, how and where they learned those skills, and when they are being asked to use them.

As a baseline, we wanted to know how UofL students are using our libraries – do they use the Libraries at all? If so, do they come to the actual building, use the Libraries’ website and other online resources, or a mixture of both?

We were pleased to see that overall, only 11% of students reported that they never use the libraries. Most students reported using the libraries both in-person and online. Undergraduate and graduate students both reported similar usage levels, although the groups used the libraries in different ways. There were a few groups who we discovered aren’t using the libraries as much – in particular, online students and part-time students. We’ll be working hard to improve our outreach to these groups, but if you know that you have these types of students in class, it may be helpful to specifically refer them to library resources when appropriate.

I have used the University Libraries…In-Person OnlyOnline OnlyBoth Online and In-PersonNever
All Responses23%20%46%11%
Undergraduates28%14%46%11%
Graduates9%35%46%10%
Online Program4%58%18%20%
Part-Time Students22%33%28%17%

The Libraries asked students to indicate when in their academic career they had been asked to cite certain types of resources, whether before college, in their Cardinal Core classes, or in their major classes. For each type of resource, about a quarter of students reported that they had been asked to cite these types of materials in assignments before college. The most frequently cited resource types before college were non-text sources (such as audio, images, maps, and data) and news or web sources.

What does this mean for faculty? Don’t assume that your students have these skills! Especially for freshmen or sophomores, it is likely that this is the first time they are being asked to cite any type of research, particularly from scholarly or peer-reviewed sources.

I have been asked to complete an assignment or paper that asked me to find and cite…Before CollegeIn at least one of my Cardinal Core classesIn the majority of my Cardinal Core classesIn at least one of my Major classesIn the majority of my Major classes
Sources other than your textbook23.77%18.24%15.72%19.25%23.02%
News or web sources27.31%19.06%14.65%20.48%18.49%
Scholarly or peer-reviewed sources23.24%18.08%15.78%17.93%24.96%
Primary sources (such as archival materials)25.98%20.26%13.73%20.92%19.12%
Non-text sources (such as audio, images, maps, or data)28.93%22.00%11.00%22.00%16.07%

We also asked students who taught them various information skills – and whether they were ever formally taught these skills at all. For each skill that we asked about, the most common person who taught students that skill was you – teachers or professors. Does this feel like a lot of pressure? Our Research and Instruction Department (RAI) at Ekstrom Library as well as librarians at each campus library are available to either teach library instruction sessions for your class, create online learning modules that you can incorporate in Blackboard, or just give advice on how you can approach these topics.

Please indicate who taught you each of the following skills:Self-taught or never formally learnedLearned from a friend or family memberLearned from a teacher or professorLearned from a librarian outside of UofLLearned from a UofL Librarian
Locate books or other physical materials needed for an assignment34.31%7.41%35.00%12.76%10.52%
Locate scholarly, peer-reviewed articles when required for an assignment24.70%5.91%46.96%10.43%12.00%
Develop a research topic for an assignment29.64%6.07%52.50%6.61%5.18%
Cite sources appropriately when required for an assignment26.46%5.82%54.14%7.58%6.00%
Evaluate the trustworthiness of news and other web resources32.69%7.21%46.05%7.73%6.33%

Would you like to learn more about our S4 data, or dive deeper on a particular topic? Contact Anita Hall, Assessment & Analytics Librarian, at anita.hall@louisville.edu. We also care about faculty members’ own experiences using the Libraries. Be on the lookout for our Libraries Benchmark Survey later this month (late March 2021) to provide feedback on how you experience our spaces, services, and collections and let us know how we can serve you better!


Celebrating Black History and Excellence Throughout the Year

By: Alexandra Howard, Business Research & Teaching Librarian

Here at the University Libraries, we recognize that the celebration of Black history deserves more than a month. Ekstrom Library’s Research Assistance and Instruction department has created a library research guide that the UofL and global research community can use to investigate and celebrate Black history and Black excellence 365 days a year, every year.

Photo by Alex Howard

The guide not only introduces library resources on Black history, but also celebrates the history of the Black community in Louisville and recognizes the struggle for racial justice in our city. In 2020, Louisville made national headlines after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed inside her home by police officers. Black history is being made every day in Louisville as leaders work to empower their communities, to secure systemic recognition that Black Lives Matter, and to demand justice for Breonna Taylor. The Louisville portion of the research guide highlights community organizations in Louisville involved in these important efforts.

Photo of black protester. By Logan Weaver on Unsplash.
Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash.

The Celebrating Black History library research guide also seeks to expand the traditional Black History Month narrative honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. While these are important figures, it is vital to expand the narrative and highlight Black scholars from across academic disciplines. We want to ensure that our Black and African American students see themselves reflected in their disciplines. We want to encourage faculty and staff to incorporate the work of Black scholars into their curriculum and research. Our Academic Leaders portion of the guide offers a selection of written material within our collection by Black scholars in different academic disciplines. We plan to expand this portion of the guide and are working on an initiative to highlight the research and scholarship of BIPOC faculty, staff, and students at the University of Louisville.

Some of the incredible resources our library offers to research Black history are the African American Newspapers database, Ethnic NewsWatch, Louisville Leader Collection, and an oral history collection of African American community interviews. The University Libraries recently launched an initiative to diversify our collections. Please send us your recommendations.

If interested in learning more, please email Alexandra Howard: alexandra.howard.1@louisville.edu.


Libraries Diversify Collections to Fulfill Anti-Racist Vision

The Libraries have increased funding to four libraries – Kornhauser, Music, Art and Ekstrom – to diversify our collections in support of UofL’s drive to create an anti-racist university. Dean Bob Fox has used gift funding to allow the purchase of more books, DVDs and other materials on civil rights, equity, and Black history, among other subjects.

“We’re very committed to expanding our collections in areas that will support President Bendapudi’s mission to have an anti-racist campus,” said Dean Fox. “This extra funding provides an additional boost to meeting this goal.”

Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and it's urgent lessons for our own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

The allocation of gift funding is in addition to the typical yearly budget for new materials.

Additional funding provided to the Music Library has covered recent purchases of 134 music scores by Black composers. Prior to receiving this funding, the Music library used one of the music library’s endowments to purchase 97 music scores by Black composers. A catalog listing of those items can be found here.

The Lexington Six by Josephine Donovan

In Ekstrom Library, new titles include The Devil You Know: a Black Power Manifesto by Charles Blow (2021); White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity by Robert Jones (2020); Diversity, Oppression, and Change: Culturally Grounded Social Work by Flavio Marsiglia (2021); The Lexington Six: Lesbian and Gay Resistance in 1970s America by Josephine Donovan (2020); and Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie Glaude (2020). Additional funding helped the library purchase new titles for the Granville A. Bunton African American Collection.

Kornhauser Health Sciences Library has purchased new books dedicated to diversity and anti-racism, specifically in healthcare.  A current list of the library’s diversity related resources can be found within WMS by searching “diversity in healthcare.”

With the additional funding, the Art Library will continue to add to its collection of diverse materials related to art history, artists, graphic design and art pedagogy, among other subjects. See this list for a snapshot of the library’s latest acquisitions.

We’d love your help in this work! Please consider recommending materials that will help us better serve our community via this RECOMMENDATION FORM.


Muhammad Ali: A Transcendent Life: A Celebration in Virtual and Onsite Exhibits, Opens January 25

On January 25, 2021, UofL’s Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice and the University Libraries will commemorate Muhammad Ali’s social justice legacy with a series of virtual and onsite exhibits titled Muhammad Ali: A Transcendent Life

Image of Muhammad Ali. Charles Harrity, AP
Charles Harrity/AP

The exhibits honor Muhammad Ali’s connections to Louisville, his unique contributions to civil rights and social justice movements, and his inspiring global legacy. Transcendent Life will engage the UofL campus and community and show how Ali’s legacy as a global humanitarian and champion for social justice impacts peace and justice advocacy today. 

The multimedia exhibits will begin a phased opening on January 25, the week after his 79th birthday on January 17. The first exhibit showcases Ali as a Humanitarian and Peace Advocate. In February, a virtual exhibit will honor his civil rights record. Subsequent exhibits emphasize his boxing and athletic background and his involvement with Islam.

Multimedia exhibits launching January 25 include a display in Ekstrom Library of a rare book of Ali photos , while a virtual exhibit features a story map of public art and monuments titled “Muhammad Ali: An Extraordinary Life in Louisville and Beyond.”   

Photo of Muhammad Ali addressing a gathering at a Black Muslim convention in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1968. (AP)
Muhammad Ali addresses a gathering at a Black Muslim convention in Chicago on Feb. 25, 1968. (AP)

To include all voices in the celebration, exhibit organizers invite University and Louisville community members to record and upload video/audio memories or thoughts for a tribute titled “Standing Up For Peace.”  Contributors may share uploads to this video tribute and archive through June 2021 via: louisville.libwizard.com/f/ali-stand-up-for-peace.

Color photo of Muhammad Ali, by Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty Images
Eric Feferberg/AFP via Getty Images

A symposium titled “Standing Up For Peace – Celebrating Muhammad Ali’s Social Justice Legacy” is planned for Spring 2022, Ali’s 80th birth year. The symposium’s focus will be national and global racial justice and human rights issues, featuring nationally recognized speakers, UofL student contributions, and excerpts from the video archive. A series of break-out sessions will bring together community organizers and justice advocates to design action agendas to stand up for peace in their communities.  

The Muhammad Ali: A Transcendent Life commemoration will include:

  • An exhibit in Ekstrom Library of rare archival resources on Muhammad Ali including the massive volume Greatest of All Time: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali with additional photographs by Howard L. Bingham and Lin Caufield. The Archives and Special Collections exhibit will be held in the first floor cases of the west wing of Ekstrom Library, across from the circulation desk through February 26.  
  • A Digital Storymap titled “Muhammad Ali: An Extraordinary Life in Louisville and Beyond”  featuring public art and monuments to Muhammad Ali in Louisville:  storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/a28b07b8238847de994dd6165877a1b6. This is a collaboration between University of Louisville, the Muhammad Ali Institute for Peace and Justice, the Bridwell Art Library, and the Center for Geographic Information Sciences.  
  • UofL’s Music Library display will feature original music and other recordings by and about Muhammad Ali.  He was an eclectic artist who acted on Broadway and released several recordings.
    • Did you know that the song “The Greatest Love of All” sung by Whitney Houston is about Muhammad Ali? The 1977 version was performed by George Benson as the theme song of the The Greatest, a film about Muhammad Ali.
  • The Bridwell Art Library will display books highlighting artists who photographed or depicted Muhammad Ali in their work.
  • The Kornhauser Health Sciences Library will feature innovations in Parkinson’s Disease treatments as well as Muhammad Ali’s contributions to advance this research.
  • A Research Guide will feature several Digital Timelines of Muhammad Ali’s life focused on: his Boxing Excellence; his Spirituality and Islamic Faith; his work as a Humanitarian and Peace Advocate; and his actions as a Social Justice and Civil Rights Icon. The timelines connect Muhammad Ali’s life with key moments in global and U.S. history. The Research Guide will feature additional resources from University Libraries and the Muhammad Ali Institute. https://library.louisville.edu/ali  
  • The Standing Up For Peace Community Engagement Video Series will ask our community to share their thoughts about this question: “What can we learn from Muhammad Ali about standing up for peace today?” This audio/video collection of community contributions will be available to the public. Upload here: louisville.libwizard.com/f/ali-stand-up-for-peace
  • Spring 2022 – SYMPOSIUM – “Celebrating Muhammad Ali’s Social Justice Legacy – Standing Up For Peace.” This symposium/conference will focus on how Muhammad Ali can inspire the world to stand up for peace today on national and international racial justice and human rights issues.  We are seeking funding and will collaborate with other UofL offices and academic units, student groups, and community groups.
  • Related Scholarship: Fannie Cox and Enid Trucios-Haynes will submit a proposal to present this collaboration and its outcomes at a national library conference.

Hilton H. Brown’s Diary: A Young Man’s Chronicle Finds A Permanent Home

By Tom Owen, Archivist, Archives and Special Collections

Almost fifty years ago, a young couple moved into a Victorian home in the Crescent Hill neighborhood and a few years later discovered a set of diaries in their attic that had been written over a half-century earlier by a young man who lived in their old house when it was the manse for St. Marks Episcopal Church.  Leafing through the sixteen small diary notebooks, they determined the diarist was Hilton Brown, son of the rector of that Frankfort Avenue congregation from 1921 to 1934.  Early on, the couple tried unsuccessfully to locate Brown or his kin but continued to lovingly care for their abandoned property throughout the decades even through a downsizing.  Now, getting along in years, they are looking for a permanent home for the diaries, asking their son to bring them to me for evaluation for our Archives and Special Collections.

Before I opened the neat black box containing the diaries, I set out to find out more about Hilton Brown, his life and time.  In a five hour search, l got a goodly number of hits under his name in the Courier-Journal (historical) database, learning that the family had relocated to Louisville for his Dad’s church job when Hilton was around fourteen, that young Brown had played football at both Male High School and at the University of Louisville, and that the diarist later married and remained in the city at least until just after WWII before moving to Chicago.  Then thru Ancestry.com, I determined that Hilton was born in 1907 in Florida and died in the Tampa area at age 69 in 1976.  Expanding on his UofL connection, I turned to our University history holdings where I found in our Digital Collections multiple photos of him in our Thoroughbred yearbooks from the late 1920s and several mentions of him in our online student newspapers from those years: the Cardinal News and the UofL News. Finally, I located in our collections a biographical card file on UofL athletes who earned sports letters in the 1920 to 1950 years where I learned more details about Brown’s football career.  

I was now ready to consider the historical value of the sixteen Brown diaries, spreading them out in chronological order across a table.  The first one was unnumbered and in faded pencil, its entries made over a period of just several months in 1921 by a teen who had just moved to town from Florida.  The other fifteen little notebooks were much more legible in ink and sequenced by a roman numeral on the cover, a few cover containing inscriptions that described how the author thought his life had gone during the period within.  One read: “in which I have many doubts” and another: “containing many reflections and disappointments.” While there were a few gaps—at least one while Brown worked at a summer camp—those volumes spanned the years from late 1924 to late 1930 chronicling in significant detail a final high school year, four years at the University of Louisville, and entry into the workforce.  Several of the volumes contained pages listing the diarist’s male friends with comments about their personality and character or lists of young women and his interest or success in dating them. One entry about date eligibility had “married” written beside many of the names indicating that the list might have been amended retrospectively. 

After leafing through several pages in each small volume, I concluded that Archives and Special Collections should accept the couple’s offer to donate the Hilton Brown Diary largely because of their connection to our university.  Brown arrived at UofL at a pivotal time, just months after undergraduate students were moved to Belknap Campus following the renovation of the old buildings of the city’s Louisville Industrial School of Reform, an orphanage/reform school, for collegiate use.  The bulk of the diary entries cover those four years in which Brown was deeply involved in UofL’s student life on the new campus. The daily notations record the personal introspection and sometimes poignant discomforts as well as the mundane activities of a privileged late-adolescent white male student who spent substantial energy arranging his next dates with multiple young women while longing for a more permanent relationship with an elusive coed named “Gert.”  Finally, my appreciation for this window into youthful life in the 1920s was heightened by the seeming ease that Brown and his friends had in acquiring alcohol during national Prohibition. The Hilton Brown Diary finds a permanent home among hundreds of other collections that shed light on the history of the Louisville region and the University of Louisville; clearly, rescuing from obscurity one young man’s 1920s diary does not a history make but, viewed alongside other documentation, a fuller and increasingly more accurate story of our community and university’s past emerges.