Out of the Box and On the Road: Early Manumission Record Part of New Exhibit at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center

Special Collections and Archives is pleased to partner with the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio, by providing a rare item from its collections to be featured in their new exhibit, Freed Will: The Randolph Freedpeople From Slavery to Settlement. This exhibit, researched and created by recent WSU Public History graduate, Hadley Drodge, explores the origins and life of an early settlement of African Americans in the Piqua, Ohio, area.

Miami County, Clerk of Courts, Register of Blacks and Mulattos 1833-1847

The item to be loaned is a small bound volume from the Miami County Clerk of Courts that lists the names of the Randolph slaves, the subject of the new exhibit. In 1804, the Ohio General Assembly enacted the Ohio Black Codes to govern black and mulatto people living in the state. Under these Codes, free blacks and mulattos were required to register at their local court, proving they were free by providing emancipation papers or witnesses who could prove their “free” status and guarantee their good behavior with a monetary surety. You can see a name index of the Register by visiting our Emancipation Index for Miami County.

A member of the Ohio Network of American History Research Centers, Special Collections and Archives at WSU holds local government records of eleven counties in west central Ohio and the complete listing can be found here.

Be sure to visit the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center to see this rare item and learn more about the Randolph slaves. The exhibit runs from May 20, 2017 through November 25, 2017.

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The World at War: One Hundred Years Ago This Week

One hundred years ago this week Naval recruit Palmer Bennett Coombs (1893-1959) was drilling at Ferry Field in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Palmer enlisted in the Michigan State Naval Militia on April 6, 1917, the same day the United States formally declared war on Germany. He was sworn in that evening and received orders to report to Ann Arbor for training on April 11, 1917.

Unidentified Sailors possibly Palmer and friends

We are fortunate to know this because Palmer captured his personal thoughts and experiences in diaries from April 1917- January 1919. The diaries are held by SC&A as part of the Coombs-Learned Family Papers, 1819-1985 (MS-182) and available to view online through CORE Scholar.

Here are his transcribed diary entries for May 14-May 20, 1917, one hundred years ago this week. Coombs remained in Ann Arbor until May 23 when he and his fellow trainees boarded a train bound for the Naval Training Station Great Lakes in Chicago, Illinois.

Monday, May 14, 1917. Got up at 3:30 this morning and caught the 4 o’clock train going east. Manuel was with me as he had business in Detroit. Arrived in Ann Arbor at seven. Ate breakfast, came home and put on my old clothes. Reported for drill at 8:30 and spent the rest of the morning on Ferry Field. This afternoon we had practice in rifle sighting and then took an examination on Part one of the Blue Jacket’s Manual. After supper I fooled around the house and went to bed early.

Tuesday, May 15, 1917. Marched south of town and did some skirmish work over the hills all morning. This afternoon I took and passed both my sending and receiving tests in the wig-wag signaling. Had gym. work and more instruction in fencing. Tonight I cleaned out the room as I am the only one left in it. Harry has gone home.

Wednesday, May 16, 1917. Drilled on Ferry Field this morning. At eleven we went back to the Gym. and each man in the two divisions received $15 to cover room rent for six weeks. In the afternoon I had rifle sighting practice and wig-wag signaling. In the evening George and I did some ironing, got a “lime coc” and went to bed.

Thursday, May 17, 1917. Took a hike over south of the Boulevard and skirmished over the hills and captured the enemy, consisting of a herd of cows, which stampeded in its retreat. In the afternoon had instruction in advanced knots. In evening George and I tied knots, got a “lime coc” and went to bed.

Friday, May 18, 1917. Drilled all morning on Ferry Field. In Afternoon we went up by the boat house on the Huron River and semaphored across it. In evening I went up to hear the U. of M. Band concert and Senior Sing. Went to the Orpheum with Ralph and Jim Clarke. On the way home saw the Sophmores [sic] hazing a Freshman. Got some eats at the Busy Bee and then came home.

Saturday, May 19, 1917. Gave an exhibition drill before the Seventh Division on Ferry Field this morning, and they gave one for us. Were dismissed at seven bells as usual, but were not granted “shore leave” Sunday. Borrowed Ralph’s uniform for a parade tomorrow, and washed it after lunch. Went down to Ferry Field to see the Fresh-Soph. contest in Relay Race and Pushball6 . Fresh won first relay and the pushball. Sophs won second and third relays. Yesterday the Sophs won the light and middle weight tug of war. Fresh won heavyweight. Have a sore throat and my eyes are bothering me. Going to bed early tonight.

Sunday, May 20, 1917. Got up about 8:30 and had breakfast at the house. Fooled around awhile and then went to church with Mark Day. Shifted into uniform, went to noon mess and assembled at the gym at 1:30. Both of our divisions and Company I of the State Militia marched with the Knights Templar to the cemetery in observance of Ascension Day. Had lunch at the house and then just fooled around awhile and went to bed eary [sic].

Palmer Coombs’ Signature, 1918

Please continue to check back as we will be commemorating U.S. Involvement in World War I now through Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day), November 11, 2018.

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Celebrating Wright State’s 50th: Wright State On My Mind – Always and Forever

We wanted to share this wonderful reflection piece by Mary Kenton, proud WSU alum and retiree, which originally appeared in the Wright State Retiree’s Association (WSURA) newsletter. Re-posted with her permission. Thanks, Mary, for this wonderful tribute to WSU.

Wright State On My Mind – Always and Forever by Mary Kenton

Mary E. Kenton,  April, 2017

The institution of Wright State University has been much on my mind lately. To say that the place looms large to me is an understatement. It has been, in many ways, the focal point of my entire adult life. Let me tell you about it.

As I often say, I was on campus the first day Wright State held classes, but I did not become a student myself until 1969. I didn’t want to quit my quite good day-job at Dayton Power and Light until I was sure I could be a successful college student. After a year of night classes, I gave notice and en-rolled full time in the fall of 1970. I loved it.

The student body was older then and the faculty much younger. I broke my neck and sometimes speed limits to get to every class. I didn’t want to miss anything. I still feel privileged to have had the kind of educational experience Wright State was able to provide in those early years. I had American History with Jake Dorn, American Literature with Jim Hughes, Speech with Abe Bassett and Political Science with Jim Walker. Human Biology with the late Ira Fritz was my favorite science class ever. All of these men went on to make significant contributions to the development of Wright State, but I remember them best as dynamic, student-centered, sometimes iconoclastic teachers who let me in on a lot of very cool stuff. Thanks guys!

Student life was pretty dynamic too. The whole campus was abuzz when Gloria Steinem came to Oelman Hall. I had to fight for a seat but it was worth it. She spoke forcefully in favor of tenure for one of the junior women faculty members. I learned a little more that day about how universities work and why feminism was such a hot topic in in the early 70s. I became a Ms Magazine subscriber. Then there was the visit by the Marxist historian Herbert Apthecker. That caused a buzz of a whole different sort. Noam Chomsky, Dick Gregory and, a little later, Oprah—need I say more?

Allyn Hall cafeteria was THE place to be for students and faculty. We often shared tables and continued class discussion over bowls of chili and endless cups of coffee. People played cards, read, studied and sometimes napped. A group al- ways gathered for Days of Our Lives on the TV in the corner. When I became a graduate student, I met Al Gaisor there to discuss my additional readings for his class on Milton. It was where all the GAs retreated on breaks from marathon graduate seminars in history. If you needed to find some- one, you always checked Allyn Hall first.

Most of my Wright State life was lived in Millett Hall. My undergraduate English and His- tory classes were usually held there. From 1974 until 1976, I shared an office on the 4th floor with former Guardian Editor and fellow Grad Assistant Wayne Wenning. I was elected to represent the student perspective on the History Graduate Committee. Once again I learned (perhaps more than they intended) about the sometimes strange and wonderful workings of higher education. Later, I moved down to the first floor to take over from Janice Wilson as Assistant Director in the Honors Program when she decided to finish her PhD. I stayed on for more than 30 years. I got pretty attached. Sometimes when I strode down the hall, I would think to myself—I own this place. Perry Moore (the Dean of Liberal Arts back then) may think Millett Hall belongs to him, but he’s wrong—it’s mine.

When I retired in 2010, the hardest part was leaving the students. Over the years I had worked with thousands. The Honors Program grew dramatically in that time and toward the end I no longer knew every Honors student, but I still had close relationships with many, particularly the Honors Scholarship recipients. I worked with our national scholarship applicants and was always thrilled with their successes. I wrote med school and law school references, and I’m pleased to re- port our students almost always got in. We could staff a hospital with Honors MDs.

Two of the last brilliant successes I am proud to have helped along, James Dahlman and Roger Fecher, have finished their graduate and medical studies and are starting to make their mark. It’s thrilling to see one of my students’ names (all the Honors students are “mine” too, of course) in an article talking about the latest in Parkinson’s research.

I missed my colleagues too. It’s hard to beat a life in the academy. The library, the gym, the campus, the opportunities for civil discourse on almost any topic, the friendships that grow over a career. I tried to stay away for a while, but I have slowly been drawn back in. Juanita Wehrle-Einhorn bugged me to get back on Gender Equity. For that I had to get on Athletics Council and for that I had to join WSURA. One thing always leads to another, and here I am President. In this, my last presidential message, I have tried to illuminate the general by shining a light on the particular. I am not unique. Many of you feel the same sense of ownership of Wright State. We share the same sorrow about our current situation. And we always do what we can to continue the proud legacy of the first fifty years.

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