Rare Books Blog

The "harboring case" and Negro History Week (1954?)
February 25, 2019


This year we mark African-American History Month by featuring recent acquisitions that document less well-remembered episodes in African-American history, most of them from the Red Scare that followed World War II.

The “harboring case” and Negro History Week (Los Angeles: Civil Rights Congress, 1954?) seeks support for five defendants accused of “harboring” leaders of the Communist Party USA, comparing them to the abolitionists who harbored Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. “They dared to associate with those whose only ‘crime’ has been to oppose the McCarthyite hysteria and witch-hunts,” says the pamphlet. “They never harbored anything but ideas of peace, democracy and full freedom for the Negro people.” The title recalls the origin of African-American History Month as Negro History Week, first celebrated in 1926 in the second week of February.


The Ingrams / by Harry Raymond, Mason Roberson. 1948

Harry Raymond & Mason Roberson, The Ingrams (San Francisco: Daily People’s World, 1948?).

The Ingrams shall not die! 1948.

Harry Raymond, The Ingrams shall not die!: story of Georgia’s new terror (New York: Daily Worker, 1948).

Two recent acquisitions concern the case of Rosa Lee Ingram and her sons, a case that generated nationwide press coverage in the post-war years. Rosa Lee Ingram was a widow sharecropper with twelve children in Ellaville, Georgia. She and two of her sons were sentenced to the electric chair, essentially for defending themselves from a brutal attack by a white neighbor. They were convicted by an all-white jury in a one-day trial, having met their attorney only the morning of the trial. The NAACP and the Civil Rights Congress pursued appeals of the convictions, but it was the efforts of African American women’s organizations that are credited with winning commutation of the sentences to life in prison in 1949, and the Ingrams’ release on parole in 1959. Our two pamphlets were produced by the Communist Party, which at that time often competed with the NAACP for leadership in the civil rights movement. For a detailed account of the Ingram case, see Charles H. Martin, “Race, Gender, and Southern Justice: The Rosa Lee Ingram Case,” American Journal of Legal History 29:3 (July 1985), 251-268; available in JSTOR or HeinOnline. For a brief account, see the article in BlackPast.org.


Defend the negro sailors on the U.S.S. Philadelphia. 1940.

Albert Parker, Defend the negro sailors on the U.S.S. Philadelphia (New York: Pioneer Publishers, 1940?).

Defend the negro sailors on the U.S.S. Philadelphia (1940?) arose from a protest by fifteen African American sailors. In an open letter to the Pittsburgh Courier they wrote: “We sincerely hope to discourage any other colored boys who might have planned to join the Navy and make the same mistake we did. All they would become is seagoing bell hops, chambermaids and dishwashers.” The letter led to their dishonorable discharge, but also to protests from other Navy mess men and from the African American community, and to meetings of NAACP leaders with President Roosevelt. Doris Kearns Goodwin mentions the incident in No ordinary time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt; the home front in World War II (2013).


These are a few of the resources on African American history in the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection. To explore the collection’s resources, search for the subject “African Americans” or a related subject heading in the library’s catalog, MORRIS. You can also browse the albums for African American History, the Amistad Case, or Law and Modern Social Movements in the Rare Book Collection’s Flickr site. Or, ask one of our librarians.

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Scottish herringbone binding, early 18th century
February 12, 2019

The Rare Book Collection’s current exhibition, “Legally Binding: Fine and Historic Bindings from the Yale Law Library,” can now be viewed online in our Flickr site, in the Legally Binding album.

The album contains images of all 34 volumes displayed in the exhibition, plus three more that were cut from the physical exhibition for lack of space. The Flickr captions contain the text from the exhibition labels, as well as links to the catalog records for each book. For some of the books, the Flickr album contains images of both front and back covers, which were impossible to display in the exhibit cases.

This is an opportunity to point out two excellent online databases of historical bindings that include items from our Rare Book Collection.

“Legally Binding: Fine and Historic Bindings from the Yale Law Library” is on display through May 24 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery on Level L2 of the Yale Law School.

In closing, I and my co-curator, Michael Laird of Michael Laird Rare Books, wish to thank the following individuals for their contributions to the exhibition.

  • William E. Butler, Dickinson School of Law, Pennsylvania State University
  • Scott Husby, Princeton University Library (retired)
  • Shana Jackson, Lillian Goldman Law Library
  • Ryan Martins, Yale Law School
  • Pamela Rentz, Lillian Goldman Law Library
  • Yuksel Serindag, Lillian Goldman Law Library
  • Eric White, Princeton University Library
  • Benjamin Yousey-Hindes

– MIKE WIDENER, Rare Book Librarian

Binding with arms of Cardinal Francesco Ricci
February 4, 2019

Many of the historic volumes in the Lillian Goldman Law Library are significant not only for their texts, but for their extraordinary bindings. Over thirty of these are featured in the Rare Book Collection’s Spring 2019 exhibition, “Legally Binding: Fine and Historic Bindings from the Yale Law Library.”

The curators of the exhibition are Michael Laird, owner of Michael Laird Rare Books in Lockhart, Texas, and Michael Widener, the Law Library’s Rare Book Librarian. They selected bindings for their beauty, craftsmanship, functionality, and historical significance.

“These bookbindings tell stories about the people who owned them, read them, or sold them at some point in their long histories,” write Laird and Widener. “The bindings reflect the time and place of their creation, and reveal attitudes about the legal texts they continue to protect. They also illustrate chapters in the history of book binding.”

The examples date from the Middle Ages to the late nineteenth century, and from across Europe and the Americas. They include bindings prepared for students, lawyers, public officials, noblemen, wealthy magnates, a book collector, an Italian cardinal, a chained library in England, the tourist trade in China, the Queen Regent of Spain, the English diarist John Evelyn, and a palace of the Tsar of Russia.

“Legally Binding” is the latest in a series of exhibitions that examine law books as physical artifacts, and the relationships between their forms and content.

“Legally Binding: Fine and Historic Bindings from the Yale Law Library” is on display February 4 to May 30 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery of the Lillian Goldman Law Library, located on Level L2 of the Yale Law School (127 Wall Street, New Haven CT). The exhibition is open to the general public 10am-6pm daily, and open to Yale affiliates until 10pm.

For more information, contact Mike Widener, Rare Book Librarian, phone (203) 432-4494 and email <mike.widener@yale.edu>.

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