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The Spirit Moves is a rare and vital social document providing a living record of the men and women who crafted American social dance styles and jazz music into an improvisational art form. The Spirit Moves is a compilation of Mura Dehn’s raw footage of directed improv from 1900-1950, previously only available for viewing at the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library. 

The film presents demonstrations of ragtime and jazz dances by artists made famous at the Savoy Ballroom including James Berry, Pepsi Bethel, Teddy Brown, Sandra Gibson, Leon James, Al Minns and Frankie Manning. Dances include the Cakewalk and Charleston Black Bottom, Susie Q, Shake Blues, Gutbucket Blues, Trunky Doo, Big Apple and some aerial Lindy Hop.


 The Spirit Moves: Jazz Dance from the Turn of the Century to 1950 


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

 4:00 pm

Konover Auditorium, Dodd Research Center




Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center is pleased to announce the literary manuscripts and personal papers of writer and artist Allen Polite have been made available for research. 

Recently donated to the Dodd Research Center by Allen Polite’s widow Helene Polite, the collection dates from 1955 to 1993 and contains unpublished manuscripts of his poetry, prose, songs, and a play for voices, early writing and student work, notebooks including drafts and notes, transcriptions of poetry by Helene Polite, as well as a selection of his published works.  This rich collection offers researchers ample source material for exploring Polite’s extensive body of work, for illuminating his life as an expatriate artist and his affiliations with the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s, and for revealing his contributions to African-American literature and culture.   An inventory to the collection can be viewed here.

Born in 1932 and raised in Newark, NJ, Allen Polite was drafted into the United States Army in 1952.  After serving in Korea and Japan, Polite settled in Greenwich Village and between 1954 and 1956, studied philosophy at Columbia University.   The writer LeRoi Jones acknowledged Polite as his ‘mentor’ in Jones’ Autobiography and first published Polite’s poetry in 1958 in the little magazine Yugen.  In the early 1960s, Polite worked on a novel, which he never completed, and a long cycle of poetry and prose called “The Dead Seeds”.  He refused, however, to publish his work. 

Polite’s writing was included in Sixes and Sevens, An Anthology of New Poetry (1962) and in Langston Hughes’ New Negro Poets, U.S.A. published in 1964.  In 1963 Polite left New York for Paris, London, and eventually Stockholm, where he visited his friend the painter Harvey Cropper.  He decided to settle in Stockholm, where he joined an international group of artists centered around a small community of African-Americans already resident there.  Polite began a life of drawing and painting, in addition to his writing, and in 1964 organized and sponsored the exhibition “10 American Negro Artists Living and Working in Europe” at Den Frie, the largest gallery in Copenhagen.  In Sweden he met Helene Etzelsdorfer who remained his companion, and later his wife, from 1963 until his death in 1993. 

The Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut welcomes visitors, students, and scholars between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm, Monday through Friday.  Travel grants are available to researchers interested in using the Center’s collections and are awarded on a rolling basis; see application details for more information.

Melissa Watterworth Batt, Curator of Literary, Natural History and Rare Books Collections

One of the most fascinating aspects of working in an archives is what you discover while looking for something else.  And I’m always looking for something!  As University Archivist and Curator of a wide variety of collections, I am frequently poking around in boxes and folders in our (secure and climate-controlled!) stacks in search of the odd document, image, report, study, letter or bit of ephemera needed to answer a question, illustrate a point or present to a class.   On a recent hunt for something interesting and unique to post for the January “Item of the Month” I thought to combine the desire to highlight a recent acquisition and resulting inventory with the upcoming 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (hostilities began April 12, 1861).  Recalling a series of notecards labeled “Connecticut Civil War soldiers” in the recently inventoried Albert Van Dusen papers, I thought how perfect this would be.  A newly accessible collection and primary materials brought to light in time for this significant anniversary!

As you can see from the images below, our conscientious copying of Dr. Van Dusen’s box labels  was not useful in my search for Civil War materials but I did discover a new resource to share with those interested in Connecticut’s involvement in the American Revolution.   A wonderfully unique and delightful discovery–but not what I was looking for.  And so it goes.   Keep this in mind if you’re interested in commemorating the 236th anniversary of the beginning of the War for American War of Independence on April 19, 2011!

     Betsy Pittman, University Archivist

Ensign Nathan Haynes Whiting, 9th Connecticut Continental Line, 1777-1781


Private Stockman Sweat, 2nd Light Dragoons, 6th Troop, 1777-1783

Testimony, Oral History, and Human Rights Documentation:
A Conference Workshop at the University of Connecticut

Sponsored by the Human Rights Institute and the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center

Thursday, March 24 – Friday, March 25, 2011
Homer Babbidge Library, University of Connecticut, Storrs

Flame outside the Kigali Memorial Centre, Kigali, Rwanda. Photograph by Valerie Love, 2009.

The first day of the conference will consist of a day-long workshop for academics and practitioners currently engaged in oral history work on human rights themes. 

On the second day, selected participants will present their work to a larger audience of students, faculty, librarians, and interested members of the public. 

Non-UConn affiliated attendees are requested to register.  The Thursday workshop is now full, but space is available for the Friday sessions.

Schedule for Public Presentations on Friday, March 25, 2011:

9:30 – 10:00 AM:  Tea and continental breakfast

10:00 – 10:05 AM:  Welcome: Valerie Love, Curator for Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections, University of Connecticut

10:05- 10:10 AM: Opening: Bruce Stave, Director, Oral History Office, University of Connecticut

10:10 – 11:00 AM: Presentation by Mary Marshall Clark, Director of the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University, and co-founder of the of the September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: Presentation by Daniel Rothenberg, Professor of Practice and Executive Director, Center for Law and Global Affairs, Arizona State University, and former head of the Iraq History Project, which collected over 8,000 testimonies from Iraqis following the US invasion  

12:00-1:00 PM:  Lunch Break

1:00- 1:45 P.M: Presentation by Lee Ann De Reus, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Penn State Altoona, and 2009 Carl Wilkens Fellow with Genocide Intervention Network, who has interviewed women survivors of rape in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

1:45-2:30 P.M: Presentation by Socheata Poeuv, Founder, Khmer Legacies, which documents stories from the Cambodian genocide

2:45- 3:15 P.M: Closing: Emma Gilligan, Professor of History and Human Rights, University of Connecticut

More information is available on the Dodd Research Center’s website.

The Samuel and Ann Charters Archives of Blues and Vernacular African American Musical Culture was established at the University of Connecticut in 2000. The archives, housed at Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, comprise the collection of scholar and producer Samuel Charters, one of the pioneering collectors of jazz, blues and folk music. The Archives sound recording holdings include 1500 discs, 900 cassettes, 300 tape reels and 2000 compact discs. To explore the archives, watch this interview with Samuel Charters and browse the guide to the archives. 

Kristin Eshelman, Curator of Multimedia Collections

Explore the Harlem Renaissance through the poetry, novels and music that emerged between 1917 and 1934, a period in American history characterized by an “unprecedented mobilization of talent and group support in the service of a racial arts and letters movement,” according to historian and author David Levering Lewis.  First editions by Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, Rudolph Fisher, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Wallace Thurman, Zora Neale Hurston, and George Schuyler, as well as original pamphlets, periodicals, audio recordings and reference sources are now available at the Dodd Research Center.  The rich collection of materials was recently donated to Archives and Special Collections by Ann and Samuel Charters.

Among the recordings in the collection are record albums featuring poets reading their work and a rare Black Swan recording of Marianna Johnson singing “The Rosary” and “Sorter Miss You”, accompanied by the Black Swan Symphony Orchestra recorded between 1921 and 1922.  Black Swan Records, established in January 1921 as a subsidiary of the Pace Phonograph Corporation, was the first record label owned and managed by African-Americans and issued material recorded exclusively by African-American musicians.  Board members of the Pace Phonograph Corporation included W. E. B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson.  The record label was named after the opera singer Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, nicknamed “the Black Swan”.  The Black Swan catalog included European classical, jazz and blues.  Fletcher Henderson served as the house accompanist.  In March 1923 the Pace Phonograph Corp. was renamed the Black Swan Phonograph Co.  This was the last year any new records were issued, although Pace reissued Black Swan recordings through 1926.

Listen to the Black Swan recording of soprano Georgia Gorham singing ‘A Little Kind Treatment (Is Exactly What I Need)’ with Maceo Pinkard, composer, issued between May 1921 and June 1922:

A Little Kind Treatment

Melissa Watterworth, Curator of Literary, Natural History, and Rare Books Collections

The third annual African American Music Film Series, hosted by Archives & Special Collections at the Dodd Research Center, begins Thursday February 3, 2011 with the screening of The Bob Marley Story, Caribbean Nights: a documentary on the life of Bob Marley. 

Bob Marley died in 1981 at the age of 36, and was buried in the parish of Nine Miles, in the heart of rural Jamaica where he was born. In his brief life he went from a poor upbringing to international stardom, the first artist from the Third World to be acclaimed to that degree. He brought the music of Jamaica and his deep beliefs to the rest of the world. This award winning documentary traces the life of Bob Marley, from interviews with his friends and family to rare archive footage of interviews with Bob Marley himself capturing the feel and timelessness of his music and the man himself.

The Bob Marley Story, Caribbean Nights: a documentary on the life of Bob Marley

Thursday, February 3, 2011

4:00 pm

Konover Auditorium, Dodd Research Center


Dodd Center’s Tweets