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This post by Anne Holmes of the Library’s Poetry and Literature Center was first published on “From the Catbird Seat,” the center’s blog.

Robert Hayden was U.S. poet laureate from 1976 to 1978. Photo by Timothy D. Franklin.

National Poetry Month is here, and we’re over the moon to announce the release of 50 additional recordings from the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, now available to stream online.

The archive—a collection dating back to 1943, when Allen Tate was consultant in poetry—contains nearly 2,000 audio recordings of celebrated poets and writers participating in literary events at the Library of Congress, along with sessions recorded in the recording laboratory in the Library’s Jefferson Building. Most of these recordings were originally captured on magnetic tape reels and have only been accessible by visiting the Library in person.

As of this week, you can now stream previously undigitized recordings featuring poets laureate Robert Hayden, Maxine Kumin, Mark Strand, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Pinsky, James Merrill, James Dickey, Joseph BrodskyRichard Wilbur, Robert Hass, Stephen Spender, Charles Simic, Josephine Jacobsen, Anthony Hecht and Howard Nemerov.


Make sure you also tune in for more from Lucille Clifton, Czeslaw Milosz, Michael S. Harper, Kenneth Koch...

Ohio State University undergraduate Carley Reinhard stands beside a poster about her research in the Slave Narratives Collection that she displayed at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Historical Association.

Carley Reinhard first encountered stories of slave capture in early 2017 in Professor Stephanie Shaw’s African-American history course at Ohio State University. Reinhard became fascinated by one narrative that tells of red cloth being used to entice Africans onto ships bound for North America.

During Shaw’s course, Reinhard asked Shaw to serve as her adviser on a senior research project to find out more about the narrative. The pair put together a winning grant proposal that funded Reinhard’s trip to the Library of Congress last summer to research the Slave Narratives Collection in the Manuscript Division. The collection contains more than 2,000 first-person accounts of slavery collected in the 1930s as part of the Works Projects Administration (WPA).

Reinhard subsequently won another grant to continue her research, and she was selected by the American Historical Association to display her findings in a poster session at its 2018 annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C., in January. While in Washington, she visited the Manuscript Division with Stephanie Shaw.

Here Reinhard discusses her research, her experiences at the Library and the career her project has inspired her to pursue.

Tell us a little about the red-cloth narrative.
It consists...

Julia Obear, a bicycle messenger, wears the hat of the National Women’s Party while cycling in 1922.

On Sunday night, July 16, 1895, Hattie Strage of Chicago was arrested and fined for disorderly conduct. Her offense? Bicycling over the city’s fashionable South Side boulevards “arrayed in a bloomer suit consisting of flesh-colored tights and a short jacket.”

Women’s cycling attire was a subject of intense scrutiny at the dawn of the golden age of bicycling in America, as documented by newspaper stories highlighted on the Library’s Chronicling America site—the notice about Strage’s arrest appeared in the Mexico (Missouri) Weekly Ledger.

This month, as warmer weather signals the start of the cycling season, we’re adding to our Free to Use archive all kinds of themed content about bicycles. We’re including images portraying early women cyclers like Strage, but also historical ads featuring bicycles, cartoons, lithographs, maps and more.

The Free to Use archive features themed sets of content (such as travel posters, presidential portraits, Civil War drawings, dogs and, now, bicycles) that are all free to use and reuse, meaning there are no known copyright restrictions associated with this content. In other words, you can do whatever you want with it.

Scroll down for a few more examples and make sure to check out other sets in the archive. And if you find a creative way...

This is a guest post by Guy Lamolinara, communications officer in the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress.

Do you work in the field of literacy or know someone who does? Then you may want to consider applying for a Library of Congress Literacy Award.

Applications will be accepted from organizations that have made outstanding contributions to increasing literacy in the United States or abroad. You may apply on behalf of your own organization or for another organization. Three prizes will be given in 2018:

The David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000) is awarded for an outstanding and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels to an organization based either inside or outside the United States that has demonstrated exceptional and sustained depth in its commitment to the advancement of literacy.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden (left) and David M. Rubenstein present the 2017 American Prize to Sharon Darling of the National Center for Families Learning of Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Shawn Miller.

The American Prize ($50,000) is awarded for a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels or the national awareness of the importance of literacy to an organization that is based in the United States.

The International Prize ($50,000) is awarded for a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels to an organization that is based outside the United States.

Other organizations...

Branch Rickey

Opening day for Major League Baseball took place last week, on March 29—the earliest opening date in MLB history, excepting for special international events. This year’s opening day also marked the first time in 50 years that a full slate of games was scheduled for the first day.

The Library of Congress is marking the beginning of the 2018 season by posting a series of scouting reports compiled by Branch Rickey (1881–1965), a former player, manager and baseball executive, best known as the man responsible for bringing Jackie Robinson into Major League Baseball in 1947, thereby breaking baseball’s long-established color barrier.

The Library’s Manuscript Division is custodian of a collection of Branch Rickey Papers, which offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of 20th-century baseball, viewed through the prism of this influential figure. Last spring, the Library released a handful of Rickey’s scouting reports on its website. Now the Manuscript Division has digitized all of the reports and made the entire set available online for the first time.

Jeffrey Flannery, head of the Reference and Reader Services Section of the Manuscript Division, helped develop content for the new online collection and assisted in processing the scouting reports. Here he answers a few questions about the reports and the Library’s Rickey holdings.

This is a guest post by Naomi Coquillon of the Interpretive Programs Office.

In this print by artist Hiroshige Ando (1797–1858), sightseers view cherry blossoms along the Sumida River in Japan.

As spring slowly blossoms in Washington, we’re gearing up for our celebration of all things windy, flowery and new with our Spring Fling Pop-Up Exhibition. Open April 6, 7, 13 and 14, the pop-up invites visitors to experience the living history of the National Cherry Blossom Festival through rare drawings and photographs; learn about the weather, seasons, gardens and botany from books and maps; explore the imaginations of leading writers through literature and poetry; discover springtime cultural traditions from around the world; and feel the beat of the season with music and films that depict these spirited months.

For those who can’t join us in person, follow the hashtag #SpringFling to see updates from the exhibit and join the fun by:

  • Practicing Hanami (blossom viewing). Widely celebrated in Japanese literature, poetry and art, “sakura (cherry blossoms) carry layered meanings. For example, because they bloom briefly, the blossoms are often seen as a metaphor for the ephemeral beauty of living. At the same time, the joyful practice of “hanamiis an old and ongoing tradition. If there are no cherry blossoms where you are, explore our online exhibition Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship.
  • Dancing to the Beat...

This is a guest post by Ryan Reft, a historian in the Manuscript Division, in honor of Women’s History Month.

1918 poster showing a woman tending a garden with a drawing of a soldier in the background.

“The man with the hoe is gone. Six hundred thousand of him left the fields of America last year,” observed the Los Angeles Times in April 1918. Hundreds of thousands more would follow as a mobilizing U.S. military called millions to serve. Wasted harvests and diminished agricultural production could be avoided, but it meant that others would have to farm the fields. “The woman with the tractor must take his place,” wrote the Times.

The Library of Congress exhibit Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I explores of the role of the Women’s Land Army, revealing a fascinating intersection of wartime exigencies, suffragist fervor and labor.

The idea of a U.S. women’s land army had circulated as early as 1915 due to labor shortages. U.S. entry into World War I and a series of lectures at Vassar College in 1917 by British feminist Helen Fraser brought the idea to greater prominence, points out historian Rose Hayden-Smith.

In the winter of the same year, with the nation’s food supply appearing to be at risk, food riots struck several cities.The most notable was in New York City, where “housewives reacted...

Harry Belafonte, Run-DMC, Yo-Yo Ma Recordings Among Newly Announced Inductees

Tony Bennett’s hit single “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”; the Latin beat of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s 1987 “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”; the timeless soundtrack of “The Sound of Music”; Run-DMC’s 1986 crossover hit album “Raising Hell”; and radio coverage of the birth of the U.N. have been honored for their cultural, historic and aesthetic importance to the American soundscape.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today named these recordings and 20 other titles to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress as aural treasures worthy of preservation.

“This annual celebration of recorded sound reminds us of our varied and remarkable American experience,” Hayden said. “The unique trinity of historic, cultural and aesthetic significance reflected in the National Recording Registry each year is an opportunity for reflection on landmark moments, diverse cultures and shared memories—all reflected in our recorded soundscape.”

Under the terms of the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, the Librarian, with advice from the Library’s National Recording Preservation Board, is tasked with annually selecting 25 titles that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and are at least 10 years old.

The recordings selected for the class of 2017 bring the total number of titles on the registry to 500, a small part of the Library’s vast recorded-sound collection of nearly 3 million items. Scroll down...

This is a guest post by digital library specialist Elizabeth Gettins.

The Declaration of Independence, printed in Baltimore by Mary Katherine Goddard.

Mary Katherine Goddard (1738–1816) lived during remarkable times in early American history, and she did not sit idly by observing events. Instead, this brave and industrious woman actively took part in helping to found a new republic through use of her printing press. She may not be a household name, but one item she printed is: an early edition of the Declaration of Independence, the first with all the names of the signers on the document. March is Women’s History Month, and what more deserving woman to laud than Goddard?

She was born in Connecticut to Giles Goddard, a postmaster, printer and publisher. He passed his skills on to all his family members, including his wife, Sarah, and their two children, Mary Katherine and William. It is interesting that Goddard taught both his wife and his daughter the trade, as normally women were expected to keep home and raise children. He was a well-educated man, and it is likely that he was forward-thinking.

But women postmasters were not unheard of in the colonial era—there were no laws on the books preventing them from assuming the position. With a relatively low population, the colonies needed people with printing and publishing skills, whether they were practiced by...

Photo by Shawn Miller.

On March 13 and 14, an international team of linguists visited the Library of Congress to transcribe and translate, for the first time, the “Guatemalan Priests Handbook,” a rare and important manuscript in the Library’s Jay I. Kislak Collection.

Dating from the early 16th century, the manuscript is written in several indigenous Mayan languages. The visiting linguists, experts in the earliest Christian theologies written in the Americas, were Saqijix Candelaria Lopez Ixcoy of Guatemala’s Universidad Rafael Landivar, an authority on the manuscript’s ancient k’iche language; Sergio Romero of the University of Texas, Austin; Frauke Sachse of the University of Bonn; and Garry Sparks of George Mason University.

“They are a truly amazing group whose handle on ancient Maya languages is perhaps unparalleled,” said John Hessler, curator of the Kislak Collection. “As someone who has struggled to understand some of these indigenous languages, I am in awe.”

Frauke Sachse and Saqijix Candelaria Lopez Ixcoy study the manuscript. Photo by Shawn Miller.

This is a guest post by actor Douglas Taurel, who developed an original one-man show based on a World War I diary in the collections of the Library’s Veterans History Project. Taurel performed the show on November 11, 2017, as part of a full day of programming at the Library in honor of Veterans Day. A recording of Taurel’s performance appears at the end of this post.

Douglas Taurel as Irving Greenwald

For its commemoration of the centennial of the First World War, Library of Congress staff invited me to write a new play based on the life of Irving Greenwald, a World War I soldier. Greenwald’s diary is preserved by the Library’s Veterans History Project and is currently on view in the exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I.

Irving Greenwald left 465 days of diary entries, and I set out to read all of them. Luckily, since Greenwald’s diary had been digitized, the process was simple—much easier than my last project, “The American Soldier.” That play is based on letters written by veterans from the American Revolution all the way through current-day Afghanistan, and took eight years to research and write. I located individual letters, mostly at the New York Public Library, photocopied passages from those I found especially compelling, then sorted and transcribed them before fleshing them...

This is a guest post by Benny Seda-Galarza of the Communications Office.

Family members in the recently launched ad campaign of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) react with joy at being able to share a reading experience thanks to a digital NLS audio book.

From braille to audio books, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) has embraced technological innovations throughout its 85-year history to allow people with visual impairments and other disabilities to read texts all over the world.

NLS is a free braille and talking book library service for people with low vision or blindness or a physical disability that prevents them from reading or holding the printed page. Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS circulates books and magazines in braille and audio formats by postage-free mail or instant download.

NLS Talking Books traces its beginning to March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed the Pratt-Smoot Act into law. The legislation authorized the distribution of embossed braille books through a network of regional libraries, administered by the Library of Congress. Two years later, the act was amended to include recorded books.

Student Harley Cannon uses an open-reel talking book in 1969.


James McGrath Morris in the Library’s Main Reading Room in February. Photo by Shawn Miller

James McGrath Morris first came to the Library of Congress as a researcher in 1974. As a concerned citizen, he wanted to inform himself about a matter that was then in the news.

President Richard Nixon had recently appointed Sen. William B. Saxbe of Ohio as attorney general to replace Elliot Richardson, who had resigned during the infamous Saturday Night Massacre. Earlier, in Feb. 1969, Saxbe had voted for a pay increase for cabinet officers, including the attorney general, which had become law. At the Library, McGrath researched constitutional law, specifically whether a member of Congress could accept a position for which Congress had raised the salary during the member’s term in office.

The question became moot when Congress reduced the attorney general’s salary to what it had been before the 1969 vote. But Morris’ interest in the Library stayed with him. When, in the 1980s, he began writing narrative nonfiction, he returned to the Library. He has continued to visit and use the collections ever since—physical and electronic—while publishing a series of acclaimed biographies and works of nonfiction.

Morris’ most recent biography, “The Ambulance Drivers: Hemingway, DosPassos, and a Friendship Made and Lost in War,” was published in March 2017. His 2015 book, “Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black...

Composer Jennifer Higdon (standing, right) with Curtis Chamber Orchestra conductor Robert Spano (center) and soloist Roberto Díaz following the March 7, 2015, premiere of Higdon’s “Viola Concerto” in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium. The debut recording of the composition won a 2018 Grammy Award. Photo by Shawn Miller.

The Library of Congress is delighted to report that a composition it co-commissioned won a 2018 Grammy Award: Jennifer Higdon, acclaimed composer of contemporary classical music, accepted the award in Madison Square Garden in New York on January 28 for “Viola Concerto.” The Library co-commissioned the work from Higdon with the Curtis Institute of Music, the Aspen Music Festival and the Nashville Symphony for the 90th anniversary season of Concerts from the Library of Congress.

Commissioned in honor of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, “Viola Concerto” premiered in the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium on March 7, 2015. Robert Spano conducted the Curtis Chamber Orchestra, and Roberto Díaz performed on the Tuscan-Medici viola, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1690. It is on long-term loan to the Library. The debut recording of “Viola Concerto,” performed by Díaz with the Nasvhille Symphony conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero, won the Grammy for the Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

Roberto Díaz warms up on the Tuscan-Medici viola backstage...

The following is a guest post by Catalina Gomez, a reference librarian in the Hispanic Division, and Adam Silvia, an assistant curator of photography in the Prints and Photographs Division.

President Rómulo Betancourt of Venezuela and First Lady Carmen Valverde de Betancourt (left) greet President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at the airport in Caracas, 1961. Photo by Leo Matiz. Published with permission.

This past year, photography enthusiasts celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Leo Matiz (1917–98), one of the best photographers in Latin America in the 20th century. We are thus pleased to announce the recent acquisition of 10 of his photographs, available for research in the Prints and Photographs Division.

Leonet Matiz Espinoza was born on April 1, 1917, in Aracataca, Colombia. In his 81 years, he worked as a photographer, caricaturist, newspaper publisher, painter and gallery owner, living not only in Colombia but also in Mexico, Venezuela and the United States. Employed by esteemed publications, including Life and Reader’s Digest, Matiz photographed everything from urban architecture to rural folklife. He also photographed important political and cultural leaders, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Luis Buñuel. Led by an innate curiosity, an exquisite eye and diverse interests, he captured the highs and the lows of the 20th century in unique and fascinating ways.

This is a guest post by digital library specialist Elizabeth Gettins.

Thomas W. Strong was a New York City publisher of popular lithographs and the self-proclaimed “oldest manufacturer of valentines in America.” It seems only fitting that he manufactured countless valentines as St. Valentinus, for whom the holiday is named, since “valens” means “strong” in Latin. This month, I’m featuring a broadside (a large sheet of paper used primarily for announcements or advertisements) and two additional supporting ephemeral items that are both likely from Strong’s printing press. All three of these items reside in the Rare Book and Special Collection Division’s Printed Ephemera Collection.

The 1869 broadside shown at left is a quaint and informative representation of what the printer might offer and, in turn, how Valentine’s Day might have been observed and expressed in the mid to late 19th century in the United States. This particular advertisement appears to be intended for wholesalers as the broadside addresses “the trade” and encourages dealers to “send in their orders at once to secure an early supply” with valentines available in bulk lots ranging in price from $10 to $20 with “fresh stock made up for the season.”

A wide array of valentines were offered ranging from comic to sentimental, juvenile or...

In this post, historians from the Library and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture highlight how collection items shed light on the black experience. The post is reprinted from the January–February issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine. The entire issue is available online.

Adrienne Cannon is the Afro-American history and culture specialist for the Library’s Manuscript Division. Paul Gardullo is a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture and director of the museum’s new Center for the Study of Global Slavery. Here they discuss the importance of select items they curate.

Please tell us about an artifact you secured, or a manuscript collection you interpret.

Adrienne Cannon and then-president Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP examine items from the Library’s NAACP records collection. Photo by Abby Brack Lewis.

Cannon: The Library’s African-American collections span the colonial period to the present and are particularly strong for the study of the 20th-century civil rights movement. The NAACP records are the cornerstone of the Library’s civil rights collections—they are the largest single collection ever acquired by the Library.

The Library has served as the official repository for the records since 1964; they now consist of approximately 5 million items. The Library’s civil rights collections also include the original records of the National Urban League, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Brotherhood of...

To celebrate African-American History Month and the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday—Feb. 12, 1809—we are sharing an article from “Building Black History,” the January–February issue of LCM, the Library of Congress Magazine, available in its entirety online.

Abraham Lincoln. Photograph by Matthew Brady, 1864.

The Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln understood, was a wartime measure that wouldn’t ensure the freedom of slaves once the Civil War ended and furthermore didn’t apply in slave states that remained in the Union. The only solution, he knew, was a constitutional amendment that permanently abolished slavery throughout the United States.

The Senate took an important step toward that end when it passed, by a 38-6 vote, a proposed amendment outlawing slavery on April 8, 1864.

Passage in the House proved more difficult. That June, the amendment fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority required for approval.

After winning re-election in November, Lincoln made passage in the House his top legislative priority. Following an intense lobbying campaign, the House finally passed the amendment, 119-56, on Jan. 31, 1865—cheered on by jubilant African-Americans watching from the gallery.

To celebrate the historic achievement, members of the House and Senate, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and Lincoln signed several commemorative copies of the joint resolution.

The document shown in this post, held by the Library’s Manuscript Division, is one of them: “A resolution; Submitting to the Legislatures...

“Cupid Captive,” c. 1870

St. Valentine’s Day is upon us, a “holiday” many people love to hate. Even if you shun forced commemoration, there is nothing wrong with a little romance, whether you express it on February 14 or—better still—all year round.

Although little Cupid is technically the god of love in the romantic and erotic sense, I can think of a few times at the Library where I’ve swooned over unexpected discoveries in the collections here. Like this sweet little watercolor from the mid-19th century I found when searching for “roses”:

Flower Arrangement with Red Rose, c. 1830–50

February is also African American History Month, and you will find lots of resources for research and inquiry. In February we also commemorate Presidents Day, and of course the Library of Congress has presidential resources in spades.

Following are just a few suggestions for falling in love with your Library this month.

Color our collections: Cultural institutions across the country celebrate “Color Our Collections” week every year in February. The Library has built a Pinterest board featuring coloring pages from our historic newspaper collections. Sharpen your colored pencils and settle in by a fire on a cold afternoon.

Listen to poetry: For the serious romantic, dive into this collection of readings from poets...

Famed jazz singer Billie Holiday with her pet boxer, Mister, in 1946. Photo by William P. Gottlieb. This digital image is just one example of the varied content on our website that is available for your free use.

One of our biggest challenges is letting you know about all of the content available at Another challenge we have is letting you know what you can do with it (in a nice way).

We are working on several fronts to improve the visibility of public domain and rights-clear content. We moved one step in that direction today with the launch of our Free to Use and Reuse page.

This page features themed sets of content (such as travel posters, presidential portraits, Civil War drawings) that are all free to use and reuse, meaning there are no known copyright restrictions associated with this content. In other words, you can do whatever you want with it.

When we redesigned the Library’s home page in late 2016 we began featuring free-to-use sets at the bottom of the page. Each set displayed on the home page is now available from our new Free to Use and Reuse page, and we’ll continue to add to this archive. The set featured on the...