UM Libraries Exhibition Commemorates Black History Month

by Sarah Block, Libraries Communications

Raymond Bellamy clutched the iron arrow in front of his chest as he marched across the University of Miami campus in the 1970s, leading the induction ceremony for the Iron Arrow Honor Society. One of the first African-Americans to be a part of the elite organization, he wore a tribal patchwork jacket over his plain clothes, proudly holding the instrument, as tradition dictates, for tapping new members.

“Bellamy had a natural ability to lead,” said Marcia Heath, research services supervisor at the University Archives, where Bellamy’s participation in the tapping ceremony is documented in the Iron Arrow Collection, 1968–1972. The photograph of the march is featured in The Truth Marches On, an exhibition at the Otto G. Richter Library commemorating February’s Black History Month through March. The sun peaks through the trees in the background of the photograph and overwhelms Bellamy’s tall figure as he forges ahead.

Raymond Bellamy leading the Iron Arrow tapping ceremony.

Bellamy enrolled just a few years after the University embraced racial integration, making him the Hurricanes’ first African-American football player. With the University’s financial support, he also was the first African-American player to receive a football scholarship from a major university in the Southeast. A near-fatal car accident his junior year derailed his athletic career, but the following year he decided to try out for an entirely new position, student body president, and won.

The Truth Marches On is full of stories about challenges that were faced with tenacity and resilience, its name inspired by a speech delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after the deaths of three civil rights activists.

The lead curator of the exhibition, manuscripts librarian Beatrice Skokan, says she wanted many voices to tell the stories of black history. Displayed in a case about historic literature is a quote from Sula by Toni Morrison, telling the story of a woman who is unable to channel an artistic energy, which then becomes the source of her own destruction. “It describes the importance of expression for all,” Skokan said.

From the cover of March Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

The exhibition features materials about various African-American artists in the realms of music, television, pop culture—even comic books. The television case, for instance, provides mounted stills that help piece together the evolution from the days of minstrel shows and “blackface” through the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

“It shows ways in which minorities, who have been ‘othered’ historically, are now portrayed as an integral part of contemporary culture,” said Shannon Moreno, a circulation supervisor at UM Libraries. Moreno helped contribute materials from the Libraries’ circulations holdings, many of which also comprise a display for the topic of African-Americans in contemporary politics.

The case features symposia materials from Tavis Smiley’s The Covenant with Black America as well as Bell Hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman? “They are addressing the question of ‘What does it mean to be black today?’” Moreno said, adding that the discussion now also accounts for the black female experience.

President Obama on the cover of Still I Rise by Roland Owen Laird

The exhibition also provides reflection for a time when the topic of race was not yet discussed in the context of civil, or even human, rights. UM Libraries Special Collections contributed several original slave documents from its holdings, including handwritten letters from plantation owners on behalf of their slaves. One letter was carried by a slave identified as “Black Jesse.” It authorized the slave to work outside of the plantation, and detailed the percentage of future earnings he was obligated to send back to his master.

UM Libraries’ Cuban Heritage Collection  contributed primary source materials from its own holdings, including materials that reflect Cuban anthropologist Lydia Cabrera’s work  on Afro-Cuban culture during the mid-twentieth century. Cabrera’s most famous book, El Monte (The Wilderness), is an important text for practitioners of Afro-Cuban religions.

“She was studying Santeria, and she became part of the culture,” explained education and outreach librarian Lisa Baker. Cabrera’s works debunked sensationalized myths about African culture in Cuba, and helped to convey the richness of its many symbols and rituals.

The exhibition shares some of her original manuscript documents, and on the walls nearby hang celebrated portraits of the spiritual orichas, an important subject of Cabrera’s research.

Materials from The Lydia Cabrera Papers also appear in an ongoing exhibition at the CHC titled Out of the Shadows, commemorating the centenary of the birth of Afro-Cuban poet and writer Gastón Baquero, a corresponding literary force in Havana during the 1940s.

The Truth Marches On also includes materials related to Haitian Vodou, some of which partly comprise the written and photographic works of UM faculty members Kate Ramsey (The Spirits and the Law) and Maggie Steber (The Audacity of Beauty). A series of Steber’s large-format prints are featured in the exhibition, providing vivid insights into daily life in Haiti, which she will be discussing at an event presented by UM Libraries Special Collections at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 20, at Richter Library. A reception will precede the talk at 6 p.m.

Photo by Maggie Steber

“Maggie’s photos show there is beauty even in the face of great tragedy,” Skokan said, referring specifically to a photograph in the exhibition that captures a man studying by candlelight the faces of political candidates on an electoral ballot. She explained that images of candidates’ faces were used rather than a list of names due to the country’s high illiteracy rates. “That man was probably voting for the first time in his life,” Skokan said.

The election, which took place following the collapse of a thirty-year dictatorship in the late 1980s, resulted in the brief presidency of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who attempted sweeping reforms on behalf of the country’s poor before he was overthrown by a coup. His photograph appears in the exhibition’s religion display. Steber captured him in his white suit, resting his head on a doorway after learning of a firebombing of a building that killed four children.

The wall of Steber’s photography ends with a portrait of Philomène, a young Haitian girl, posing in her village of Beauchamps. She is leaning against a school wall, her head tilted slightly to the left, as her eyes drift beyond the camera, leading the viewer to wonder where her thoughts may lie.

The Truth Marches On is on display at the Richter Library through March. The exhibition is made possible in part by the Lynda and Michael Gordon Exhibition Program.

Now on Display: Gastón Baquero: Out of the Shadows


We invite you to visit the exhibition currently on display in the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion on the second floor of the University of Miami’s Otto G. Richter Library.

Stay tuned in the coming months for activities related to our spring exhibit. Follow CHC to keep in touch.

Southern Suns and Sky Blue Water: A University of Miami Libraries Exhibition

Exhibition Shines on Alma Mater, Alumni

by Sarah Block, Library Communications

University of Miami Libraries’ University Archives unveils an exhibition highlighting the heyday of three generations of alumni heading back to UM for Homecoming Weekend to celebrate their 50th, 25th, and 10th-year class reunions.

The exhibition, titled Southern Suns and Sky Blue Water, will be on display from November through January 2014 at Otto G. Richter Library, featuring a collection of significant photographs, fanfare, memorabilia, and publications that reflect student life at the University during the 1960s, 1980s, and early 2000s.

“There is a vibrant history here at UM,” says Koichi Tasa, University Archivist and lead curator of this exhibition. He says the exhibition’s title, which is the first line of the University’s Alma Mater, alludes to the timeless backdrop that unifies University athletics, student activities, and campus events across many generations.

Among the exhibition’s ’60s generation mementos is a vintage photograph of soul music pioneer Ray Charles performing at the UM Homecoming Concert in 1963, just two years after the University officially desegregated the campus. Research Services Supervisor Marcia Heath, a curator of the exhibition, said that Charles’s performance was a catalyst in raising morale among the student body during the racially charged period.

“These materials really show us where we’re coming from…how far we’ve come,” she said, also referring to transformations in the University’s physical campus. One photograph taken in 1962 of Richter Library shows completion of the main floors and stacks addition, which earned a design award by Florida Architect in 1964. The library now houses a print collection of over four million volumes.

The exhibition, also curated by Education and Outreach Librarian William Jacobs and Special Collections Research Assistant Steve Hersh, includes IBIS yearbook spreads chronicling the evolution of traditions like Carni Gras, where students in the ’60s and ’80s flocked in high gear to embrace the Carnival spirit.

The exhibition even houses traditional fanfare such as a dink, once-required headgear sported during the first weeks of the semester by freshmen until Miami’s first touchdown, and then tossed into the air. “Like the world, the University is changing daily,” said Cynthia Cochran, Director of Alumni Programs. “The opportunity to visit some artifacts from those periods only enriches [alumni’s] visit back to campus, for some of whom it has been 50 years,” Cochran said.

Since he started at the University Archives in 2007, Tasa has worked closely with the UM Alumni Association. In 2010, artist Jacobina Trump created a mural at the Alumni Center, inspired by collection materials, conveying an unchanging horizon over the many generations to walk the campus. Like the exhibition, it also bears the words Southern Suns and Sky Blue Water. “Those words hit home for us all,” Tasa said.

The exhibition is made possible in part by the Lynda and Michael Gordon Exhibition Program.

On Display: Picturing the Story: Cuban illustrators of children’s books, 1980s-2000s

The Cuban Heritage Collection‘s latest exhibit: Picturing the Story: Cuban illustrators of children’s books, 1980s-2000s/Dibujar el cuento: ilustradores cubanos de libros infantiles, 1980s-2000s, brings together original illustrations and their printed counterparts from several important Cuban artists.

The official opening of the exhibit took place on Thursday, October 10th at 6.30pm in the Goizueta Pavilion of the University of Miami Otto G. Richter Library. The event featured a presentation in Spanish by Cuban writer and scholar Sergio Andricaín. The lecture was presented in collaboration with Fundación Cuatrogatos and it was part of their Fiesta de la lectura/Reading Festival. For more information, please contact the CHC at 305-284-4900 or

Hispanic Heritage Month 2013

A University Libraries Exhibition

To commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, the University of Miami Libraries is displaying an exhibit celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the Hispanic community in the United States. Hispanic Heritage Month is a time for sharing and honoring the histories, cultures, and contributions of those who have come to the States from, or whose ancestors came from, Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Discover books, movies, and music that may be borrowed and enjoyed at home, and peruse rare photographs, one-of-a-kind artists’ books, musical scores, and literary manuscripts.
On view are selections from the Libraries’ many distinctive areas, including materials from Special Collections, the Cuban Heritage Collection, the Marta and Austin Weeks Music Library, and the University Archives, all celebrating Hispanic and Latino/a history, art, and culture. Learn more about the exhibition »

Now on display: colloquium highlights handmade books inspired by Ediciones Vigía

We invite you to view an exhibition of handmade books currently on display on the second floor of the Otto G. Richter Library. These books are the work of students in Professor Mia Leonin’s Introduction to Poetry class (English 292, Fall 2012), inspired by books in the Ediciones Vigía Collection at the Cuban Heritage Collection. Using the Vigías as examples, and with the expert help of Carol Todaro, a local artist specializing in book making, the students created their own books based on their experiences and interests.

What We Found Here: Miami Obscura, and Ruth Behar's Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé

What We Found Here: Miami Obscura, and Ruth Behar’s Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé (2001)

As part of the CHC Research Colloquia, Leonin and Todaro presented on February 22nd about their experience using Vigía as a teaching tool in the Introduction to Poetry class last semester. Both professors could not be more pleased with the outcome of their classroom experiment.

“It was love at first site for me,” explained Leonin as she described her interaction with the Ediciones Vigía handmade books made in Matanzas, Cuba. Her artisanal approach to poetry writing, which she encourages her students to practice, involves allowing the archives to enter through all the senses and be expressed in the final literary product. The Vigías fit this model perfectly as each book possesses a distinct smell, feel and visual intrigue.

Over the course of six weeks last fall, the students were free to explore their own ideas about themes and topics while the professors offered advice on elemental book structure and guidance when needed. The result was a medley of works of all shapes, sizes and colors, much like the Ediciones Vigía books themselves.

“We just opened up a floodgate for these students to have a reason to make these books they’d always wanted to make,” explained Todaro.

Also on exhibit is What We Found Here: Miami Obscura, a collaborative class project inspired by Ruth Behar’s Everything I Kept/Todo lo que guardé, published by Ediciones Vigía in 2001.


Mia Leonin and Carol Todaro with a selection of Ediciones Vigía

Mia Leonin and Carol Todaro with a selection of Ediciones Vigía after their presentation.

Tell us: where do you get your Cuban food fix?

Arroz con pollo, Versailles Restaurant in Miami

Arroz con pollo, Versailles Restaurant in Miami

As part of the latest CHC exhibit, “Food and Memory: An exploration of Cuban cooking, 1857-today,” and with the current prevalence of food photography thanks to mobile apps like Instagram, we want to know: where do you get your Cuban food fix? We’re especially interested in hearing about the unexpected places you’ve found Cuban food, from a Parisian alley to a street corner in Pasadena.

Send us an email to with a photo and description of where you’ve found your fix. We’ll be posting submissions over the next few months. To whet your appetite, here are a few images we found in our archives.


Cuba Libre Restaurant, New York City

Cuba Libre Restaurant, New York City