Indiana University and South African Divestment

Cover art, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Late this summer, I was contacted by colleagues in the Kelley School of Business. The Kelley Common Read book was going to be Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime – did the University Archives have anything that could bring Noah’s story closer to home?  

I knew a little bit about the movement to get Indiana University to divest from South African companies in the 1980s to protest apartheid, but I had never taken the time to dig into the whole story and was eager for this opportunity. What I learned was – oh my goodness, YES, we have a TON related to South African divestment, student protests, and the work of faculty and staff to move toward a more thoughtful and ethical investment strategy in South Africa.  

First, What is Apartheid? 

Simply put, apartheid was a system of institutionalized racism that was in place in South Africa for nearly 50 years from the late 1940s until the early 1990s. It put South Africa’s minority white population in power in every sense of the word. Segregation in every area of life was staunchly enforced; Black residents of the country were required to always carry an internal passport; the ethnicity of a person dictated where they could live, who they could marry, whether they could vote, where they could go to school, etc. Noah’s book provides readers with a glimpse of what it was like to grow up both under this kind of oppression and as “a crime” – the product of a Black mother and white father.  

Indiana University & Divestment: 1970s 

In Indiana University records from the late 1970s, we see evidence that students, staff, and faculty were really beginning to take notice of apartheid and South Africa, and they objected to Indiana University profiting from the brutality of the system through investments with companies that did work in the country. They added their voices to calls coming from throughout the U.S. to eliminate investments in South Africa, hopeful that loss of money would pressure its leaders to end minority rule.  

In a November 10, 1977, Indiana Daily Student article, reporter John Butwell dug deep into the work of three IU student groups working on the university’s and the IU Foundation’s divestment of more than $5.7 million in South African companies. (N.B. – the Foundation is separate from the University and serves as its fundraising arm.) The active groups included the Student Coalition Against Racism (SCAR), the Bloomington South Africa Committee, and the Black Christian Student Fellowship, though they had the support of several other student organizations on campus, including the Latin Alliance of Midwest America (ALMA). They worked together to collect signatures for a petition demanding IU’s divestment.  

Protestors with signs and one with a bullhorn. Caption says, "Chanting and marching, bundled against the cold, approximately 120 I.U. students marched in protest of I.U.'s investment in businesses with South Africa holdings. The amrch across campus ended at the Indiana Memorial Union where the board of trustees was meeting."
Image of protestors from February 6, 1978 IDS article “I.U. holdings in South Africa protested with demonstration.”

The response at the time, according to Butwell’s article, was that IU officials felt that their divestment would have little effect on the companies’ policies, given how small their investments were in the grand scheme of things. Even IU’s beloved Herman Wells, then University Chancellor but also a member of the IUF investment committee, told Butwell that before he considered divestment, he’d want to know more about the extent of U.S. companies’ holdings in South Africa, saying, “I read somewhere that many companies listed as being in South Africa don’t actually manufacture there, but just sell small amounts of goods there.” (That was indeed the case, Butwell’s research showed.) 

But also, some argued, it was possible these U.S. companies could make headway in undermining apartheid by adhering to what was known as the Sullivan Statement or Sullivan Principles, developed in 1977 by U.S. Civil Rights leader and General Motors board member Reverend Leon Sullivan. The Sullivan Statement was a pledge for corporate responsibility – for companies to use nondiscriminatory employment practices, to train Blacks for more highly skilled jobs and to improve Black workers’ health, housing, education, recreation and transportation facilities. (In 1999, Sullivan helped unveil the updated and expanded corporate code of conduct known as the “Global Sullivan Principles.”). Butwell’s article shared that of the 40 South African companies with which IU and the IUF invested, only six had signed the statement as of April 1977. Response from the IU Board of Trustees was mixed, with some members saying yes, social effects of IU investments should be considered, but ultimately their obligation to IU should come first. Trustee Carolyn Gutman, however, told Butwell, “There are always many thousands of kinds of investments to make – it seems we could invest in something which did not have serious political ramifications, even if the (political) investment had an amazingly large return.”  

The trustees had an opportunity to learn, as members of the University Faculty Council organized a seminar for the purpose of educating them about apartheid in the spring of 1978. The information presented at the seminar must have been compelling (perhaps coupled with campus protests and continued pressure by the IU community), as by June of that year, the trustees had approved a new policy surrounding investments in countries doing business in South Africa. The policy, however, fell short of outright divestment. Rather, it recognized the concerns of the University community and affirmed that the University would place pressure on corporations to adopt a corporate code of conduct (whether it be the Sullivan Statement, the European Economic Community codes of conduct or the equivalent). If companies failed to do so, IU would then divest and make no further investments in the corporation until such steps were taken.  

So progress, but the IU community continued to keep an eye on the situation in South Africa and maintain pressure on university leaders.  

Indiana University & Divestment: 1980s 

In 1985, campus activity regarding South Africa and apartheid made headlines again as the IU Student Association (predecessor to IU Student Government) adopted a resolution denouncing apartheid and called upon IU to once again reconsider its investments. Additionally, IUSA asked that the University advise the federal government of IUSA’s concerns and urge lawmakers to end all US involvement in South Africa until apartheid ended. 

Behind O'Meara and Bareikis is a sign that says "Forum on Investment Options."
Screen capture from forum video. Patrick O’Meara on left, Robert Bareikis (?) just behind him

One result from the resolution was an educational forum about apartheid that once again focused on educating IU’s trustees about the issues. Organization of the forum largely fell to Professors Robert Bareikis (Germanic Studies) and Patrick O’Meara (African Studies) – the latter born and raised in South Africa until the 1960s. Together with student leaders and other faculty, they planned the day long “Investment Responsibilities in South Africa: A forum for The Indiana University Board of Trustees,” held September 20, 1985. It was broadcast throughout the Indiana University system and at IU Bloomington, it could also be watched on the big screen at the IU Auditorium. Speakers for the day included South Africans Dumisani Kumalo and Bishop Desmond Tutu (via telephone), Ford Motor Company’s William Broderick, Congressman and House Subcommittee on Africa Chair Howard Wolpe and more. At the forum, 1984’s Nobel Peace Prize recipient Bishop Tutu emphasized the importance and necessity of outside governments to help end apartheid, telling the IU audience, “I myself believe that our last chance for reasonably peaceful change in South Africa will lie in the attitude and action of the international community.”  

COOL RESOURCE ALERT! Through the efforts of IU’s Media Digitization and Preservation Initiative, tapes of this event have been digitized and are freely available in Media Collections Online!  

Faculty and student groups provided university administrators with recommendations on how to move forward with South Africa but there was still a great deal of concern from IU’s leaders about balancing the university’s fiduciary responsibilities with moral responsibilities. Trustee Joseph Black told IDS reporter Leah Lorber, “I’m terrified about divesting from Eli Lilly. They’ve given us close to $50 million for (IU-Purdue University at Indianapolis) in the last 10 years. You stop and think all that Lilly’s done for us….If I were a corporate executive in these corporations, I would think ‘Indiana doesn’t want us around.’” (IDS, “Divestment could affect recruiting, scholarships,” October 29, 1985) 

At their November 1, 1985 meeting, the Board of Trustees once again voted against total divestment of South African companies. Instead, in an updated policy, they laid out a list of expectations for companies who were required to respond through submission of a written acknowledgement of compliance. The IU Treasurer was charged with reviewing the acknowledgements and providing the Investment Committee with recommendations regarding investment or divestment.   

Shantytown in Dunn Meadow. Photo by Garrett Ewald of the Indiana Daily Student, April 13, 1986. IU Archives P0029022

Students continued to keep an eye on the University’s work in this area, and in April 1986, a group of about forty students organized in Dunn Meadow and began to erect shanties. The shanties, according to IDS reporter Melinda Stevenson, were “meant to resemble the bantustans in which the apartheid system forces many South African blacks to live.” (IDS, “Few witness shanty dismantling,” December 2, 1986). Throughout the month, students staged protests and erected additional shanties. When Little 500 weekend came around, protestors and the IUSA distributed yellow armbands, asking students to wear them throughout the weekend to raise awareness of apartheid. Despite vandalism and threats, protestors remained in the Dunn Meadow “Shantytown” through the school year, summer, and into the next fall semester. The Assembly Ground Advisory Committee, formed by IU’s Dean of Students Michael Gordon, recommended the University allow protestors to remain but in December, the protestors begin disassembling the Shantytown with plans to move their protest efforts indoors through a series of debates at the residence halls.  

In the following years, campus groups continued their work to encourage the trustees to take stronger actions. In April 1989, the IUSA and the IU Anti-Apartheid Committee submitted a “Report to the Indiana University Trustees on the Issue of Divestment from South Africa.” The report outlined the problems with IU’s policy on South Africa, gave a timeline of significant events in South Africa from 1986-1988, and provided excerpts of South African policies of fellow Big Ten universities, which indicated several had already moved to complete divestment while others were well on their way.  

And into the 1990s 

Art shows Black woman with head covering and dollar sign behind her.
Art from IDS “Point/Counterpoint” column, Indiana Daily Student, February 16, 1990.

In a February 16, 1990 “Point/Counterpoint” column for the IDS, trustee Harry Gonso explained the steps the trustees had taken to that point to hear arguments from both sides of divestment. He wrote that the board wanted to speak out against apartheid and that it indeed “justified the adjustment of the normal investment criteria.” But to pull completely out would have meant they had spoken out only once; by moving forward with companies, they could communicate to these U.S. companies “that as one of the finest universities in the world, we cared about their social responsibility, we expected them to combat racism in South Africa, and we wanted reports as to their activities in South Africa…had we divested or disinvested, we would have spoken just once saying, in effect, that we were against apartheid and we wanted to contribute to the dismantling of U.S. involvement in South Africa (never mind that the vacuum would be immediately filled by investors from Japan, Germany and elsewhere). Thereafter, having said that, our ability as a shareholder to communicate our opinions and values would have been gone.” 

In his “Counterpoint” article, student Joe Kulbeth, chairperson for IUSA’s Anti-Apartheid Committee, recognized that IU had made progress. In 1982, it had $5 million invested in companies doing business in South Africa. At the time of writing, IU had reduced its investments to under $900,000 in eight companies (total university investments were approximately $55 million). But he called for IU to finish its work and direct the money elsewhere. 

Gonso and the trustees were once again listening, it seems. In April he shared the draft of a new trustees policy with IUSA President Jerry Lee Knight. The policy addressed both direct and indirect investments and how they would approach each of these. For direct investments, IU would not only ensure that companies had a statement of principle for working in South Africa but also that the product or service produced by the company would benefit ALL people of South Africa. Further, the products could only be “benign” in nature – no automobiles, trucks, guns, ammunition or similar products that could be used by the South African military. Knight, however, told the IDS that he thought the new policy was possibly weaker than the 1985 policy, noting “I’m almost afraid that it’ll open loop holes that trustees in the future can take advantage of.” (IDS, “IU rethinks apartheid investment,” May 5, 1990). The policy went forward and was approved at the June 9, 1990 Board of Trustees meeting. While the students may have continued to have misgivings, the Indianapolis Business Journal held up IU’s new policy as “worth imitating.” (IBJ, “IU’s new investment policy re: South Africa is worth imitating,” May 14-20, 1990) 

The End of Apartheid 

Nelson Mandela, imprisoned in South Africa in 1962 for his role in attempting to overthrow the apartheid government, was released in 1990 amid growing domestic and international pressure to release him. It was one of the first steps taken by South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk to begin dismantling the system of apartheid in his country. There were several years of negotiations, but apartheid officially came to an end in 1994 with Mandela, representing the African National Congress, elected South Africa’s new president.  

In 2013, the Board of Trustees voted to revoke and rescind several policies that were no longer relevant to or affecting the University, which included the 1985 “Policy on Investments in Corporations Which Have Business Operation in South Africa” as well as its 1990 amendment.  

This is obviously a very broad overview of a very complicated subject that included many other players and important events on campus. As I worked with our Kelley colleagues, I scanned a lot of the documents I came across for their use in Kelley events, including those cited in this post. They are freely available in a OneDrive folder at https://go.iu.edu/43Vq. File names include the collection or accession number, along with the folder title, when applicable. Several items had been previously digitized, such as the IUSA resolutions and Bloomington Faculty Council documents and can be found in a separate folder. As always, please do reach out with any questions or if you would like to view any of these materials in person!  

Whose Building is it Anyway?

As you walk through Indiana University’s beautiful Bloomington campus, do you ever wonder who is cool enough to have their name attached to a whole building? If so, you’ve come to the right place! The Old Crescent buildings are named after some of the earliest and key figures here at IU Bloomington.

For those who do not know what the Old Crescent is, it is the area between 3rd Street and Indiana Avenue and includes the oldest structures on our IUB campus. The buildings – Wylie, Owen, Mitchell, Maxwell, Kirkwood, Lindley, Franklin, and Swain Halls, along with the Frances Morgan Swain Student Building, Kirkwood Observatory, Rose Well House, and Sample Gates – form a crescent shape, hence the name.

The land now known as Monroe County was originally home to the Delaware, Potawatomi, Miami, Shawnee, and Eel River Miami tribes. These populations were largely displaced through conflict with white settlers during the nineteenth century, and eventually the Dunn family owned much of the property IU now calls home. After the university experienced several devastating fires at its Seminary Square location south of the courthouse, IU purchased land from the Dunn family as it looked to rebuild and expand in the future.

Sepia tone photo of Owen and Wylie Halls, looking north.
Owen and Wylie Halls, 1897. Source: IU Archives P0029980

The first two buildings on the current campus were Wylie Hall (1884) and Owen Hall (1884). The first is named after Andrew Wylie, IU’s first president, and longtime professor Theophilus A. Wylie (who also happened to be President Wylie’s cousin!). Owen Hall is named for Richard Owen, a geology professor and Indiana’s second State Geologist.


Black and white photo of Dunn Woods with homes that can be seen through the woods and a man standing on a boardwalk to the right
Dunn’s Woods and Bloomington, 1890. Source: IU Archives P0022323

Dunn Meadow/Woods – The Dunn family owned the land that would become Dunn Meadow, Dunn’s Woods, and the Dunn Cemetery (though only the Woods are considered part of the Old Crescent). They were farmers who allowed IU to purchase their land to expand the campus.

Black and white photograph showing Dunn Meadow and the Campus River
Dunn Meadow from the west looking east, 1891. Source: IU Archives P0023330

Front view of the Rose Well House in the middle of Dunn Woods covering the well pump
Source: IU Archives P0020079

Rose Well House (1908) – Have a lover you want to smooch under the midnight moon? Rose Well House has you covered! This popular kissing spot was originally constructed to address a more basic kind of thirst – as a functioning well, it provided relief to Bloomington residents during times of drought. The structure is named after alumnus, banker, and Board of Trustees chair Theodore Rose, who helped design the house with arches salvaged from the Old College Building at IU’s original Seminary Square campus.


Sepia tone photograph of Maxwell Hall through the trees of Dunn's Woods
Source: IU Archives P002221


Maxwell Hall (1890) – Originally Library Hall, Maxwell Hall is named after David Henry Maxwell. Also known as the “Father of IU,” Maxwell petitioned the state for the establishment of the state seminary (1820) that would transform into the university we known today. He served as a trustee for decades, and his son followed in his footsteps.


Newly built Student Building next to the  beloved IU sundial
Source: IU Archives P0030001

The Frances Morgan Swain Student Building (1906) is one of the few Bloomington campus buildings named after a woman. Frances Morgan Swain, wife of President Joseph Swain, had hoped for a Women’s building to draw in female students and create an environment for them to thrive. In soliciting John D. Rockefeller, Jr., for financial support, however, he agreed to match $50,000 only if the building served all of IU’s students.

Fun fact, or maybe a not-so-fun fact, in 1990 the student building clock tower burned down and took several of the original bells with it. Reconstruction however began right away, which included forging eleven new bells. A bonus fun fact for when you have a class in room 015 — Take a deep inhale and see if you can get a whiff of chlorine since that room used to house the women’s swimming pool!


Fall view of Kirkwood, the red brick road and sample gates surrounded by fall flowers.
Source: IU Archives P0028067


Sample Gates (1987) – Sorry to burst some bubbles, but the rumors of the Sample Gates name coming from there only being a sample of what was supposed to be an elaborate gate, is not true. The name comes from Edson Sample’s parents, Kimsey Sample Sr. and Louise Sample. Edson was the director of financial aid and scholarships and had huge ambitions for a welcoming gate to the university. At the time there was significant opposition to this plan, and construction was postponed for a while, but the project moved forward to become one of our campus’s most iconic structures.


Franklin Hall during a fire. Smoke pours out of a window while people stand outside.
Source: IU Archives P0027314


Franklin Hall (1907) – Maxwell Hall’s library was filled to capacity, and IU was in the need of more library space. President Bryan wanted a state-of-the-art library and made sure it was done right. This was the largest building in the Old Crescent at the time, and another wing added was in the 1930s. The purpose of the building was later changed to Student Services, and eventually named after Joseph Amos Franklin, an alumnus, treasurer, and Vice President at Indiana University.


Kirkwood Hall from a side view
Kirkwood Hall, 1907. Source: IU Archives P0020040
Back view of the Kirkwood observatory
Kirkwood Observatory, undated. Source: IU Archives P0020547

Kirkwood Hall (1894) and Kirkwood Observatory (1900) – Named in honor of longtime mathematics professor Daniel Kirkwood. Kirkwood was also a well respected astronomer and made a major contribution to the field with his Kirkwood Gaps discovery.


Black and white image of the front view of Lindley hall.
Source: IU Archives P0058322

Lindley Hall (1902) – Originally named Science Hall and housing – you guessed it – IU’s science facilities, there was a lot of love and detail put into the construction of this building. It was the most expensive building at IU when it was built in 1902 — vibration free, fireproof, temperature controlled, and constructed from state of the art heavy steel. Over they years, it has housed many department and schools, including the School of Medicine, the School of Education, and the departments of Physics, Philosophy, Geology, Geography, and Psychology. Lindley Hall is a very versatile building, named for a very versatile man. Ernest Lindley was a professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy/Psychology, president of University of Idaho and chancellor of University of Kansas. Lindley was a Hoosier at heart: he was a Bloomington native, an IU graduate, and a longtime professor who also aided in the creation of IU’s alma mater, rhyming “frangipana” with “gloriana” and “Indiana”.


Front view of the ivy covered Swain East in black and white.
Source: IU Archives P0033929

Swain Hall East (1910) – was originally Biology Hall and is oftentimes called the “Home of IU Laureates” for being the place of research for many Nobel Prize winning researchers. Swain Hall is named for Joseph Swain, professor of mathematics and IU’s ninth president.

That’s all for now, folks! Much of this information was pulled from Indiana University Bloomington: America’s Legacy Campus by IU Vice President Emeritus J. Terry Clapacs with Susan Moke and the University Archives’ very own Dina Kellams and Carrie Schwier. The book gives thorough descriptions of IUB’s architecture, including photos and tons of fun facts! A new updated edition will be available through the IU Press in September!

Celebrating LGBTQ+ Voices of Indiana University

Oral histories from the IU LGBTQ+ community play an important role in documenting the university’s historical record, while amplifying the voices that are so often silenced and under-documented in our history. The oral history clips shared in this blog are just four of the many voices in the IU LGBTQ+ community within the IU Bicentennial Oral History Project. You can search and listen to many more oral histories and read their transcripts by visiting oralhistory.iu.edu.

Gary Shoulders graduated from Indiana University in 2007 with a B.S. from the School of Informatics. He shares his story of coming out to his friends while attending IU in the following clip:

Bruce Smail is an IU alumnnus, as well as the Interim Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center and the Special Assistant to the VP of Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs at Indiana University. Bruce shares his memories of being involved in the LGBTQ+ Culture Center during his student years at IU here:

Doug Bauder is the former founding Director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center at Indiana University. Doug remembers the founding of the first GLBT Student Center at IU and the impact it had in the following clip:

Mara Bernstein is an IU alumna and the Advancement Associate for the IU Libraries. Mara speaks about her involvement with the IU LGBTQ+ Alumni Association and the IU Queer Philanthropy Circle here:

If you would like to share your story or obtain transcripts of the oral history clips in this post, please contact Kristin Leaman at kbleaman@indiana.edu.

MEZCLA: Making Little 500 History

Sketch of Mezcla team logo.

I processed a new accession for the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center (La Casa) records, which doubled the size of the original collection. Since this new accession was much larger in size and scope than the present collection, I was able to rework and alter the entire collection that resulted in the formation of new series, such as Administrative, Correspondence, and Publications,  and consolidating old series to new reimagined ones, such as Associations, Events, Subject Files, and General Files. The newly updated collection now has eight boxes total, and it is my hope that it is better presented for researchers, students, and community members who have an interest in the Latino community in Bloomington and at Indiana University. While processing this collection, I came across a folder titled MEZCLA, as well as several sketches of a bicycle with Mezcla stylized across the top, and I was curious to learn what this was exactly. After looking through the folder and searching online, I learned that Mezcla is a Little 500 team, the first Latino Little 500 team to be exact. A year ago, I had the opportunity to look through and start processing the scrapbooks for the IU Student Foundation Little 500 event, so seeing this team, Mezcla, mentioned in the Latino Cultural Center records really stood out to me. Since the Little 500 race is happening again, I thought it would be fitting to highlight a piece of Little 500 history.

Since 1951, the Little 500 bicycle race has been a treasured student and university event and has seen many changes over the past 70 years. Originally, it was a male student dominated event but in 1988 the first women’s race was held. Starting out as a modest event where the bicycle race was the only attraction, in the decades that followed the Little 500 grew into a weeklong event of activities that included, at times, the Mini 500 tricycle race , concerts, golf tournaments, talent shows, fashion shows, and regattas. Over time, the event would also see historical firsts in terms of increasing the representation of underrepresented students and communities in Bloomington and at Indiana University.

Indiana Daily Student April 22, 1996 newspaper clipping featuring Jerry Gutièrrez.

In 1995, the formation of the first Latino team was a significant step in the diversification of the majority-white  Little 500. The event can be costly for teams without sponsorships, so various letters of sponsorship were sent out to companies starting in winter of 1995. Jerry Gutièrrez, a member of the first Latino team, drafted numerous letters asking for sponsorship well into the summer of the following year. Unfortunately, most companies’ responses were rejection letters, but that did not discourage history being made. Some of the original riders who participated in the first race and interested riders included Jerry Gutièrrez, Ben Abney, Derrick Espades, Gus Chavez, Sergio Magan̂a, and Erik Teter. The 1996 race, the 46th annual race, was the debut race of the Mezcla Little 500 team. The men’s team qualified in this race with a time of 02:41.53.1, with a placement in the 11th row. At the race, Mezcla placed 31st and completed a total of 176 out of 200 laps.

Indiana Daily Student April 17, 1996 newspaper clipping of the design for the Mezcla jersey.

In 1998 Mezcla became a student organization with the purpose of providing an avenue for Latino students to participate in the Little 500 race. For the next three years, Mezcla qualified and raced in the Little 500, with their best race in 1998, wherein they placed 12th and completed 195 out of 200 laps. After 2001, the men’s Mezcla team leading riders had all graduated, and it would not be until 2005 that the men’s Mezcla team would qualify again.

In 1997, a group of female students were ready to carry on the Mezcla legacy as the first women’s Latino Little 500 race team. That year the first women’s Mezcla team placed 23rd with a time of 01:11:08.889 and completed 93 out of 100 laps.

The Herald Times April 22, 2004 newspaper clipping featuring Anette Soto, Barbara Alvarado, and Liliana Cortez.

It was not until 2004 that the women’s Mezcla team would qualify again for the race, though the team would go on to compete in nine additional races through 2014, the last time they qualified. The riders from the 2004 team were Josefa Madrigal, Anette Soto, Liliana Cortez, Monica Reyes, Rosa Bonilla, and Barbara Alvarado. The women’s Mezcla team’s best race time wise was in 2005 with a time of 01:08:50, while their best race lap completion was in 2014 with 97 out of 100 laps completed, placing them 16th.

If not for the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 race would have been the 70th Men’s race and 33rd Women’s race. However, the race was rescheduled and is happening once again on Wednesday, May 26 in the Bill Armstrong Stadium.

For more on this piece of Indiana University history – and more – the Indiana University Latino Cultural Center records can be viewed by appointment with University Archives.

The Archives Behind Disney’s Howard: Guest Blog Post by Lori Korngiebel and Don Hahn

The Indiana University Archives had the honor of assisting Lori Korngiebel and Don Hahn in their quest for archival materials on IU alumnus, Howard Ashman, for their documentary Howard. Director of Howard, Hahn is also a film producer who has produced some of Disney’s most beloved animated films, such as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Korngiebel, producer of Howard, has worked on several Disney films and served as Associate Producer for Maleficent and the soon-to-be-released Cruella.

We are so pleased to share that Lori and Don were kind enough to answer a few questions about their research process as they worked on Howard!

Can you tell me about your archival research process? What repositories did you visit?

We were fortunate because Howard’s estate had gifted his archives to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Don and I started our journey there and spent days excitedly going through archival boxes, finding hidden treasures from Howard’s life (such as his handwritten notes during the “Little Shop” casting process and an audio recording of Howard talking to the “Little Mermaid” directors, Ron Clements and John Musker).  

After we left the LOC, Don and I traveled to NYC were we interviewed Howard’s friends and family, who were also so generous to share photos and videos with us. So, between the LOC and our F&F interviews, we went back to California with a strong foundation to begin building the documentary.

From there, as we began editing the film, Don and I would do research online, reaching out to the people and places that Howard may have had contact with during his life and career. The Indiana University Archives was one of the places we reached out to when we happened upon Kristin Leaman’s Howard Ashman blog post during our online research.

What are some of your exciting archival finds for this documentary?

We knew that Howard had done interviews at THE LITTLE MERMAID junket in Walt Disney World but after searching high and low we were not able to find any of them. Tragically, the 80s are a black hole of lost video tape archives and we had all but given up. Then, one day Don Hahn received a phone call at the office from a colleague saying they had found an audio cassette from the MERMAID junket that they believed had Howard interviews on it. Well, after literally YEARS of searching, we jumped on it and were over the moon when we heard Howard and Alan (Menken) answering questions. It may not have been video but that audio was like GOLD to us!

Did you find any archival materials that significantly impacted the film in a way you were not expecting?

We were told that Howard had learned about his HIV diagnosis on the same day that he spoke at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. We discovered that the Y did not video tape lectures back then but they did record audio and lucky for us they were able to find that audio. With this discovery we knew we would have to find a way to show the significance of this lecture. No one there knew what Howard and his partner Bill had just been told and it is gut wrenching to listen to the interview with the understanding that he is keeping it together, answering questions and making people laugh all while grappling with this horrible news.

What is the most exciting thing you discovered in the Indiana University Archives?

One of our most exciting archival finds came from the IU Archives! We were told there could be a local interview with Howard when he came to the University to see their production of LITTLE SHOP in 1987. When we received the footage we were THRILLED. Our goal was always to have Howard tell his story as much as possible in the film and there he was in an interview that probably hadn’t been seen in over 30 years. It was amazing!

Why was doing archival research and including archival materials in the documentary so important to you?

This is the story of an amazing man, who during his short time on earth, changed the lives of millions (and continues to do so) through his lyrics and songs. In order to do Howard justice, we needed to ensure that we uncovered every lyric, photo, interview and song so the audience could know the man who created the songs we already love and by doing so, fall in love with him, too.

Is there anything that you want people to know about the documentary?

I just feel so lucky to have worked on the film. Like our audience, I never met Howard in person, I only knew him from his work. But, because of the generosity of Don, Sarah (Howard’s sister), Bill (Howard’s partner) and countless other friends and family who donated their time, love and memories to the film… I feel like I do know Howard now and I am blessed to consider him a friend.

Howard Ashman sitting on desk during 1987 campus visit
Howard Ashman, April 1987, courtesy Indiana University Archives, P0026314