Leon E. Pettiway Papers

portrait001Born just eight years before the Civil Rights Movement began in 1954, Leon Pettiway grew up in a racially segregated Durham, North Carolina.  He started his academic career at North Carolina University in Durham under Dr. Theodore Speigner, one of the few African Americans in the nation with a doctorate in geography.  From there he moved northwest and obtained his master’s in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1976.  Continuing his interest in geography, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and received his Ph.D. in 1979.  A devoted scholar, he contributed numerous studies to the field of criminology.  In his initial research, he focused primarily on the felony of arson and progressed into the study of urban lifestyle, specifically of drug-using criminal offenders.

A grant awarded to him by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 1989 to study drug use and the spatial patterns of crime generated such scholarship. In what became known as the “urban lifestyles project,” Pettiway made significant contributions to the field of criminological research.  His study involved both a quantitative and qualitative approach to data collection, an innovative approach to crime research. His research material, including surveys, interviews, and data, can be found at the archives. In his research, he employed the assistance of former offenders and recovered drug users to conduct interviews of active drug users and offenders in North Philadelphia.  What resulted from his work was a series of publications: “Participation in Crime Partnerships by Female Drug Users: The Effects of Domestic Arrangements, Drug Use, and Criminal Involvement” (1987), “The Drug and Criminal Activities Patterns of Urban Offenders: A Markov Chain Analysis” (1994), and “Copping Crack: The Travel Behavior of Crack Users” (1995).

Honey Honey Miss Thang

Pettiway also published two books based on the life-history interviews recorded during the time he was in Philadelphia.  The works Honey, Honey, Miss Thang: Being Black, Gay, and on the Streets (1996) and Workin’ It: Women Living through Drugs and Crimes (1997) each gained Pettiway national recognition for being one of the first to observe how race, class, and gender intersect and influence the criminal behavior of urban individuals.

During this time, Pettiway also devoted time to teach at both the University of Delaware (1985-1994) and Indiana University (1994-2012).  At I.U. he applied his experience to teach courses on urban crime patterns, drug use and criminal behavior, theories of crime and deviance, and quantitative methods.

His later career has been inspired by his conversion to Buddhism and his position as a fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk.   In his upcoming work, Unraveling the Endless Knot of Deceptions: Afrocentric Reflections on Race, Crime, and Justice in the Construction of Criminological Thought, he combines features of Buddhism and Afrocentric worldviews :  In his journey from North Carolina to Indiana, a place where he has taken root, it is evident that he has influenced the members of his field, as well as his students, the future criminologists.

In 2014, Dr. Pettiway deposited all the research related to the urban lifestyles project to the University Archives. A finding aid is now available; contact the Archives for further information!

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The varied research interests of Charles Heiser

Charles B. Heiser, August 1988. (P0030550)

Charles B. Heiser, August 1988. (P0030550)

Charles Heiser was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Botany Department from 1947-1986. He received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Washington University in St. Louis in 1944, and his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1947. Heiser joined the faculty at Indiana University in 1947 and was honored as a Guggenheim Fellow in 1953 and an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in 1962.

During his professional career, Heiser served as president of the American Society of Plant Taxonomists, vice president of the Society for the Study of Evolution and as a council member for the Society of Economic Botany. Heiser was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, a prestigious distinction given only to the top scholars in the field. Other awards include the New York Botanical Garden’s Henry Allan Gleason Award and the American Society of Plant Taxonomists Asa Gray Award.

How to write a letter of recommendation

How to write a letter of recommendation

As a well-respected authority in the field, Heiser established a network of colleagues. Many of the files in this collection contain 40-50 years of correspondence with these peers. This length of time provides ample opportunity to share personal life stories. While the pieces of communication relate in some way to a research project, several close friends sent research of a different kind. “Fun” articles like the one on National Pun Week or the how-to article on writing a recommendation letter can breathe life into a collection of papers.

Heiser spent many years as a consultant for Tabasco, the pepper sauce company, conducting research on the variety of pepper used to make the sauce. The company was disputing a copyright issue with a Canadian company that marketed a similar sauce with a similar name. Ultimately, the dispute came down to the naming conventions for the varieties of capsicum, since there is a species commonly referred to as Tabasco. Heiser also worked to determine which countries could not grow the variety of pepper, and therefore possibly establish a trademark for the region.

The collection is filled with information on the unexpected uses of the plants Heiser studied. Gourds, for example, were sometimes used as penis sheaths or musical instruments. Boats can be made from totora. Capsicum could be used as a weapon. Other unique items in the collection include a box of seeds–mostly from gourds. One small canister contains numerous seeds from a tobacco plant–originating in 1657!

For further information on Dr. Heiser and his papers, please see the finding aid!

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Children of IU Faculty lived in Home Economics “Practice House”

Established in 1913, the Department of Home Economics at Indiana University sought to teach students how to be homemakers, which included courses on “Quantity Cookery” and “Institutional Management” as well as textile merchandising.

Children lived at the Practice House to give child-care experience to undergraduates.

Children lived at the Practice House to give child-care experience to undergraduates.

As part of the curriculum, the department opened its first “practice house” to teach home management in 1920. Common throughout institutions of higher education with home ec programs, the responsibilities for the girls who lived at the house were divided into several parts: student manager, main cook, salad and dessert cook, general kitchen upkeep, cleaning and care of the house, and baby director. Most of the time, a baby (usually the child of a faculty member) lived at the house full-time, sometimes for as long as two semesters. Students would live in the house for eight weeks at a time. The house remained active until at the least of the end of the 1960s.

In this photo from 1948, undergraduate students toast marshmallows at the Practice House.

In this photo from 1948, undergraduate students toast marshmallows at the Practice House.

The Department of Home Economics still exists today, although its name has been changed. On January 31, 1987, the Board of Trustees approved changing the name of the department to “Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design.

The records of the department, spanning 1911-1999, are now open for research in the University Archives. Contact Archives staff for further information!

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How to demystify Pentecostalism

It’s not that dropping to the floor in a spasm of joy upon receiving the Holy Spirit is wrong, exactly. It’s just that this doesn’t represent the entirety, or even the majority, of the Pentecostal faith. Such is the perspective of Joy Unspeakable, a documentary produced by the Indiana University Folklore Institute and Radio & Television Services in 1981. While the so-called holy rollers receive some attention in the film, the Pentecostal story is told mainly by members of the faith—many of whom wish to lift the perception of their religion as a collection of rural eccentrics. Describing the ecstatic state that some Pentecostals experience, one of the film’s subjects comments: “Some of them, maybe, did roll on the floor. And they called everybody, then, holy rollers. I didn’t like that.”

Through commentaries like this, Joy Unspeakable presents an insider’s portrait of a Pentecostal assembly in Bloomington, Indiana. The members of the church are collected, amiable people who seem to have little use for snakes and strychnine. Instead, they describe their religion as a series of daily joys experienced via shared worship in a tight-knit faith community. Women are a particular focus. The role of the female in church life is a major theme, and this is more often than not explained by female churchgoers themselves. The film is memorably bookended with commentary from an elderly woman who eloquently narrates her faith in an accent that captures the unique vocal cadence of southern Indiana.


A still taken from Joy Unspeakable

University Archives and Records Management now makes available the administrative files for Joy Unspeakable. More than anything, these serve as something like DVD extras. Because the film is already available in full, for free, on the website Folkstreams, the papers of this collection are a chance to understand the filmmakers’ vision for the project. While it’s one thing to watch a movie, it’s another thing entirely to figure out how the producers want you to watch it.

The production techniques used for Joy Unspeakable are typical of ethnographic film, a genre in which the people onscreen determine the tone of the project as much as (or more than) the producers. Reading through the materials of this collection reveals that the filmmakers’ approach was rooted firmly in ethnographic soil. A remark in the project overview is illustrative: “The emphasis here is not on academics, but rather the community.” This bears out in the film, as voiceover is used only minimally, and members of the church take the lead on relating who they are and what it means to be part of their group.

After its release, the film became a touchstone for fostering public dialogue. Producers Elaine Lawless and Elizabeth “Betsy” Peterson arranged for local screenings before audiences of religious devotees and social service professionals. The latter group were invited to participate with the hope that an open discussion would allow them to better serve their Pentecostal clients. In a letter dated Sept. 18, 1980, Lawless and Peterson note that “our program has been designed with the aim of clarifying misconceptions and stereotypes about Pentecostals as well as providing a general overview of the religion.”

Both women were Folklore Institute graduate students when they completed Joy Unspeakable. In one way or another, their aims for the film—those of public outreach and community engagement—have carried forward into their careers. Lawless, an esteemed folklorist at the University of Missouri, recently completed an ethnographic film focusing on Pinhook, Missouri, where a federally-sanctioned flood displaced residents in 2011. Peterson, previously a consultant for folklife-related projects, is now the director of the American Folklife Center in Washington, D.C.

To access the archive of the Folklore Institute’s Joy Unspeakable project, visit the University Archives and Records Management website at http://libraries.iub.edu/archives, or call (812) 855-1127.

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An update on “Miss Carrie”

It’s difficult to even know where to begin. On July 24, I posted “A previously unknown IU pioneer,” detailing how I stumbled across an 1898 newspaper article about the first African American woman to enroll at Indiana University. As I mentioned in that article, this is history that had long ago been forgotten so for us, this was not only “new,” it was “news.” From the time I found that article, I spent the next two weeks as time allowed working to uncover anything else I could about “Miss Carrie,” as I’ve come to know her, but by the time of my blog post, I had decided I just had to put the project aside. My hopes were that someone else would come across my post in the same serendipitous manner and be able to help track down Carrie’s family so that we could obtain more information, a photograph, and to make certain they knew about her status at IU.

Well, from that little blog post came a tremendous amount of publicity, thanks to a LOT of help from my friends in IU and Library Communications. I had my first ever radio interview, several IU web sites wrote about it, and the story was even on the front page of the local newspaper, the Herald-Times (above the fold, which I’m told is a Big Deal). My call for help in finding out more about Miss Carrie had clearly been heard. I received several emails that helped point me to some resources I had not yet tried, including a database for historical African American newspapers, to which the IU Libraries has a subscription. In it, I got my first look at Carrie in a story about her high school graduation that appeared in the Indianapolis Freeman in 1897:

Drawing of Carrie Parker from Indianapolis Freeman, June 5, 1897.

Drawing of Carrie Parker from Indianapolis Freeman, June 5, 1897.

It’s not great but it was a start! Additional searches turned up more hits in the Indianapolis Recorder, a newspaper that has been in circulation for the African American community since the 19th century. In it, I found a very short article from February 1899 (after Carrie had left IU) that said, “Miss Carrie Parker has been obliged to discontinue her studies at the State University on account of nervous trouble. She hopes to resume work again at the beginning of the spring term.” The next month, they reported that Carrie and John G. Taylor had been married and that it “was quite a surprise to their many friends.”

Finding the family

These leads were enough to keep me going in my search for Carrie’s family. I won’t pain you with the all the details but I sent many emails and made many phone calls. From my previous research, I had found the census records that listed Carrie and John’s children and I had tried some half-hearted Google and Ancestry searches on them but I decided to give it another go. This time, my Google searches seemed to indicate there was some possibility that Carrie’s son Leon Parker Taylor was still alive. Surely that wasn’t right because he would be (counts on fingers) 99 years old. That had to be a mistake. But it kept turning up that Leon Parker Taylor was alive and living in southern Michigan.

So what’s an archivist to do? I called on my brothers and sisters in the information world, the public library of the little southern Michigan town. I know the librarian probably thought I was more than a little nuts as I told him my story but I gave him Leon’s information and asked if he could find out if he was indeed still living in their town of 12,000. By the end of day, my new best friend Earl had emailed me, confirming Mr. Taylor was still alive and gave me his phone number and address.



The next morning, I called Mr. Taylor as soon as I thought it a decent time. He was unavailable but I talked to his daughter, Carol. I told her the story about how I had just “rediscovered” her grandmother Carrie Parker and that she was the first black woman to enter IU. Carol’s response? “Oh yes, ma’am!” Apparently the family knew all along! She told me a few little tidbits about Carrie but said she wanted to save the storytelling for her father and he would call me back.

When Mr. Taylor called me, I just about fell in love. This man is incredibly sweet, incredibly sharp, and incredibly generous with his time. He talked to me about his mother a bit, said he would look for a picture of her but mainly he wanted to know, “How did you find me?!” Then he told me that because he was retired (I hope so!) and I had worked so hard to find him, he wanted to come to Bloomington to visit me. He would talk with his daughter and get back with me but he definitely wanted to come before winter.



Well, he wasn’t wasting any time. Last Monday he called and asked if it would be okay for him, his daughter, and two nieces to visit that Thursday. It wasn’t a long drive and they just planned to come for the day.

I reached out to my friends throughout the University and we scrambled to roll out as much of the red carpet as we could with this short notice. You all, it was amazing. The family was wonderful. And the University overwhelmed them – in a good way – with its response to this rediscovery. At lunch, Vice President Yolanda Trevino told the family IU wants to work with them to develop an appropriate way to honor Carrie with a named scholarship or award. Then Kelly Kish from the President’s Office told them they plan to commission a portrait that will become part of the University’s permanent collection. Clarence Boone from the IU Alumni Association invited them all to return as guests of the University for this year’s Homecoming, at which time the Neal-Marshall Alumni Association will be celebrating its 40th anniversary. There may or may not have been a few tears shed and shared.

Leon "Parker" Taylor holds the only photograph his family could locate of his mother, seated bottom middle surrounded by her children.  Parker is the young gentleman in the upper left corner. Photo courtesy Eric Rudd, Indiana University.

Taylor holds the only photograph the family could locate of his mother, seated bottom middle surrounded by her children. Parker is in the upper left corner. Photo courtesy Eric Rudd, Indiana University.

Leon "Parker"  Taylor, 99 year old son of Carrie Parker Taylor Eaton, the first African American to enroll at IU. She attended during the 1898 calendar year. Photo courtesy Eric Rudd, Indiana University.

Leon “Parker” Taylor, 99 year old son of Carrie Parker Taylor Eaton, the first African American woman to enroll at IU. She attended during the 1898 calendar year. Photo courtesy Eric Rudd, Indiana University.


So what about Carrie?

Carrie’s story is truly an epic tale.

Her father, Richard, was born a slave in 1834 in North Carolina. Upon emancipation, he retained the surname of his last master, Parker, and settled in Enfield, North Carolina. In an autobiographical sketch obtained from the family, Carrie wrote that it was her mother, who could read and “loved the idea of schooling,” who persuaded her father to move to the north so that their children would have the opportunity to attend school. Thus the move to Clinton, Indiana, when Carrie was just over a year old. Sadly, the family arrived in January 1880 and on March 13, her mother died in childbirth.  Her father wanted to move back home but his mother-in-law, who had traveled with them, convinced him to stay.

Carrie wrote,

Through his teaching and actions my father had instilled into our hearts that no one was better than we, unless he was a better Christian. With this belief in our hearts, none of us have ever been ashamed of our race and none of us could see why the so-called superior race could not see how foolish it is to believe otherwise.

Nonetheless, Carrie and her family faced discrimination — in church, in school, and in work. When Carrie finished middle school, the principal at the time had his own policy that no African American children would pass into high school. So he flunked her. Three times. She was determined to make it through or “die trying.” By the time she stood for her exams the third time, the citizens of the town were on her side and told the school not to interfere with her graduation; the school acquiesced and she finally passed on. She reported that the rest of her time at school went fairly smoothly and I’ve already reported in the previous post about the grand reception she received at her graduation.

The family did not have many details about Carrie’s time at Indiana University. She wrote that she “was not made to feel my color much while there” but as we already knew, she had to work to put her way through school. To do so, she lived with a faculty member and according to her granddaughter Carolyn, the wife heaped insane amounts of work on her and the faculty member was very generous in his interpretation of ‘other duties as assigned.’ So after a year of schoolwork, housework, and trying to keep out of the hands of the good Professor, Carrie decided she needed a break.

By this time she was engaged to John G. Taylor of Bloomington but planned to wait until she received her degree before marrying (the family thought he was also an IU student but the University has no record of such. I’ve not yet spent much time digging into his story). According to her memoir, when she took her break from school, John convinced her to marry him, promising to continue to finance her education. She later told IU folklorist Richard Dorson (more on this later!), “Every year I’d cry to go back” but she never again stepped foot on the Bloomington campus.

I still have much to learn about Carrie and her life but her family says she was a headstrong woman who said what she thought and fought for what she believed to be right. She wrote poetry, and instilled the importance of education upon her family. Her oldest son John graduated at the top of his high school class and received a scholarship to attend the Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology), where he studied to become an electrical engineer. The plan was that he would come out of school, get a job, and then pay for Parker to also go to school for engineering and they would go into business together. John graduated in the top third of his class but when he came out of college in the early 1930s, the country was deep in the Great Depression. Couple that with his race (according to Parker, there were only three black electrical engineers in the country at the time), and John was unable to secure an engineering position. Anywhere. Ever. So he worked for the post office and Parker had to put aside his dreams of attending school.

I have updated the Box with the autobiography the family gave me of Carrie as well as another amazing find! Karen Land of IU Communications found in Google Books that IU folklorist Richard Dorson had talked to Carrie and her sister Lulu in the 1950s when he was in Michigan doing fieldwork for his book Negro Folktales in Michigan. What’s more, IU’s Lilly Library holds Dorson’s papers, which includes all of his notes from this trip. Lulu and Carrie primarily told Dorson slave tales passed on from their father but there is also an amazing short life history Dorson collected from Carrie.

Me, loving my job. Photo courtesy Eric Rudd, Indiana University.

Me, loving my job. Photo courtesy Eric Rudd, Indiana University.

I know I will see the family again (and perhaps meet more) when they return in October, so this story is far from over. But let me share just a few more thoughts with you.

At the Society of American Archivists meeting this year, the Society released a new marketing campaign: Archives Change Lives. I long ago drank the water and believed this. But this. This has proven to me that even an institutional archives can play a part.



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