The Marian Bruce Logan Collection of Civil Rights Activism

The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections recently acquired a collection comprised of the personal papers and effects of civil rights activist and cabaret singer Marian Bruce Logan (1920-1993). Marian Bruce was a cabaret singer who performed in clubs in New York City, Paris, and London in the 1940s and 1950s. She later retired from the stage and married Dr. Arthur Logan, personal physician to Duke Ellington.

Marian Bruce, Halfway to Dawn, Riverside Records (1959).

            After retiring from singing, Marian Bruce Logan began working on several civil rights initiatives, including the Student Emergency Fund, which she founded with Jackie Robinson in early 1960. The Fund was set up to help African American college students who weren’t able to make their tuition payments. Logan and Robinson maintained the Fund through money solicited via personal letters and were able to help support students throughout the South. 

Cancelled Check, Student Emergency Fund, signed by Jackie Robinson and Marian Bruce Logan, July 10, 1961.

            While working with the Student Emergency Fund, Marian became aware of the Diner Sit-ins, wherein African American college students sat in segregated diners and refused to leave. Marian decided to raise funds to buy books, magazines, and other forms of entertainment for the students to enjoy as they occupied the diners. She asked friends and neighbors for $10 each. Word spread of her efforts and she raised over $1,000.

Letter from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Marian Bruce Logan, March 18, 1965.

            Her success in raising funds brought her to the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He asked Marian to work raising funds to support the efforts of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to bring awareness to civil rights disparities through non-violent demonstrations and protests. She became a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference board, its first Northern board member. She and Arthur became close friends with Martin and his wife, Coretta.  King even baptized Marian and Arthur’s son and Marian later accompanied King to Oslo, Norway when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Photo of Marian Bruce Logan and Coretta Scott King.

            After the assassination of King in 1968, Marian continued to work with the Southern Christian Leadership board until April, 1969 when she exited the organization, feeling that the group was straying from King’s ideals.

Letter from Coretta Scott King to Marian Bruce Logan, June 5, 1968.

            In 1977, Marian was appointed New York City Human Rights Commissioner, a position she held for two years. While serving as Commissioner she became involved with the Black Americans in Support of Israel Committee (BASIC). BASIC was concerned with the treatment of the Black Hebrew Community in Israel. She took two trips to Israel, first in 1978 then again in 1981, to work to resolve the situation. The largest portion of the collection stems from her trips to Israel with BASIC, though the collection spans the duration of her life.

Letter, Marian Bruce Logan to Bayard Rustin, November 19, 1977.

            Other items in the collection include correspondence and other documents relating to the various civil rights organizations of which Logan was an active participant, documents relating to Logan’s personal life, including sheet music from her early career as a cabaret singer, and a collection of books signed by the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Sidney Poitier are also present in this archive. 

            Marian Bruce Logan lived an exceptional life that combined art and activism and was well loved and respected by some of the most prominent figures of the civil rights movement and the Marian Bruce Logan Collection of Civil Rights Activism serves as the recorded memory of her great legacy.

Jessica Crouch
Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections 


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The Last Carolina Parakeet

Incas, the last captive Carolina Parakeet, died at the Cincinnati Zoo 100 years ago today.  Only a few decades prior, the Carolina Parakeet had numbered in the millions, with a range from Florida to New England.  The parakeet was especially prevalent in the Carolinas. 

Though almost entirely wiped out by the mid-1800s, the Carolina Parakeet was only first scientifically described in English in 1731 in Mark Catesby’s two volume work Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands published in 1731 and 1743.

The Parrot of Carolina, Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina Florida and the Bahama Islands, 1731 and 1743. This image is taken from the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections’ copy of Natural History of Carolina Florida and the Bahama Islands (1731 and 1743) which was donated by Susan Gibbes Robinson.

Catesby’s scientific description is below. (In his description, Catesby remarks that the Carolina Parakeet is toxic to cats but this is likely because the birds would eat the seeds of cockleburs, which are poisonous to cats.)

“This bird is of the bigness, or rather less than a Black-bird, weighing three ounces and an half; the fore part of the head orange colour; the hind part of the head and neck yellow.  All the rest of the Bird appears green; but, upon further scrutiny, the interior vanes of most of the wing feathers are dark brown: the upper parts of the exterior vanes of the larger wing or quill feathers are yellow, proceeding gradually deeper colour’d to the end, from yellow to green; and from green to blue: the edge of the shoulder of the wing, for about three inches down, is bright orange colour. The wings are very long, as is the tail; having the two middle feathers longer than the others by an inch and half, and end in a point; the rest are gradually shorter.  The legs and feet are white: the small feathers coving the thighs, are green, ending at the knees with a verge of orange colour. They feed on seeds and kernels of fruit; particularly those of Cypress and Apples.  The orchards in autumn are visited by numerous flights of them; where they make great destruction for their kernels only: for the same purpose they frequent Virginia; which is the furthest North I ever heard they have been seen.  Their guts are certain and speedy poison to Cats.  This is the only one of the Parrot kind in Carolina: some of them breed in the country; but most of them retire more South.” 

The Carolina Parakeet was already decreasing in number by the time John J. Audubon included it as the 26th plate in his double elephant folio printing of Birds of America, published between 1827-1838. 

Plate no. 26, The Carolina Parrot, John J. Audubon’s Birds of America, published between 1827-1838. This image is taken from the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections’ copy of John J. Audubon’s double elephant folio printing of Birds of America, published between 1827-1838.

Audubon’s representation of the parakeets shows them as they existed in nature, friendly birds that existed in large flocks.  These flocks could decimate a farmer’s field.  For this reason, the colorful and friendly bird with the farthest northern range of any known parrot was viewed as a nuisance and landowners would wipe out an entire flock in a single day.  Others were captured and kept as pets because of their friendly natures. More were killed for their colorful plumage, in demand for ladies’ hats. The last sighting of a Carolina Parakeet in the wild was in 1910 and with Incas death on February 21, 1918 the Carolina Parakeet was extinct.

Southern author Ron Rash, whose archive was acquired by the Irvin Department in 2017, often writes about species that, though once plentiful in the Carolinas, have become extinct due to man’s destruction.  He is particularly interested in the extinction of the Carolina Parakeet.  He often laments its decimation in his works. In his 2002 book of poetry, Raising the Dead, Rash summarizes his feelings of loss and well as the loss to us all in his poem:

Carolina Parakeet

Though once plentiful enough
to pulse an acre field, green
a blue sky, they were soon gone,
whole flocks slaughtered in a day,
though before forever lost
found last here, in these mountains
so sparsely settled a man
late as 1860 might
look up from new-broken land
and glimpse that bright vanishing.

Jessica Crouch
Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections 

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Frederick Douglass & American Autobiography

Born into slavery in Talbot County, Maryland, probably some time in February of 1818, Frederick Douglass (c. 1818–1895) escaped to freedom on 3 September 1838. After his escape, Douglass became involved in the abolitionist movement, began giving public recounts of his life, and quickly became one of the more prominent orators of the movement. He published his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845.

Douglass’ Narrative is his best known and most commonly read work. It sold well in the United States, was translated into several languages, and published throughout Europe. In addition to brining Douglass fame, his Narrative also aided in funding the legal purchase of his freedom. There were some, especially in the south, who were initially skeptical of Douglass’ work and his ability to have written it; however, in their public criticism of Douglass they also, unwittingly, verified some of the details of his Narrative, providing an opportunity for Douglass to publicly respond and further validate his life’s story.  

Douglass would revise his autobiography twice more during his life, and these later memoirs would grow to include the many accomplishments of Douglass’ later years. My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) brings the two halves of his life into contrast. While it considerably expands the recount of his life as a slave as reported in the Narrative, Douglass’ second autobiography also details his growing involvement in abolitionism, his travels to Great Britain, his move to Rochester, NY, and the founding of his newspaper, and provides an appendix of his anti-slavery speeches. However, because slavery was still the law of the land in 1855, there were many elements of his life, especially the nature of his escape, that Douglass withheld from publication.

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881 / 1892) is a more mature retrospective of an elder statesman. Written well after the Civil War and published just after Reconstruction, Douglass felt it was safe to finally tell the tale of how he escaped. The book also gives accounts of his life during and after the war, his appointment to the Santo Domingo Commission, his various roles in the political life of Washington, D.C, and his involvement with and support of the women’s suffrage movement.

Like the autobiographies that Douglass wrote, the illustrations of later editions of Douglass’ works also change in style, tone, and content. While the engravings of My Bondage and My Freedom are more sensational, the images from The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass illustrate Douglass’ post-bellum accomplishments and growing role in politics. Douglass’ autobiographies are quintessential works of American literature, combining elements of previous urtexts from Benjamin Franklin and the The Columbian Orator with the lived reality of racial injustice and the hope of achieving equality and prosperity.  

Michael C. Weisenburg 
Reference & Instruction Librarian
Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections

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Phillis Wheatley & Early African-American Literature

Phillis Wheatley’s (1753-1784) Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (London, 1773) is the first book published by an African-American author, and the frontispiece portrait of Wheatley is the only surviving work by the African-American slave artist Scipio Moorhead (born ca. 1750). The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is home to a first edition of the work (, and the University Libraries’ Digital Collections hosts a digital facsimile of the volume that is freely available to view (

As Vincent Carretta explains, “the little girl who would become Phillis Wheatley was born around 1753 somewhere in west Africa, probably between present-day Gambia and Ghana, and was then brought to Boston, Massachusetts, on 11 July 1761. A Boston Merchant, John Wheatley, bought the little girl for his wife, Susanna, and they renamed her Phillis Wheatley after vessel that brought her to America.”

Phillis showed great perspicacity, quickly learned English, and received an education in English and Classical literature, history, geography, and Christianity, predominantly under the guidance of the Wheatley’s daughter, Mary. Phillis Wheatley’s poetry shows not only command of imagery and allusion but also a mastery of the Augustan poetic style that was popular in both Britain and America during the eighteenth century. While much of her work was occasional verse, such as her poem “On the Death of the Rev. Mr. George Whitefield. 1770,” her most commonly taught and anthologized poem today is “On being brought from Africa to America.”

Wheatley was self-conscious about both her African origin and her position as an American Slave writing within a British literary tradition. This is perhaps best exemplified in her poem “To Mæcenas,” in which she uses her understanding of the Classics to simultaneously situate her own writings in the European tradition and cannily remind her readers that many classical authors such as Terence were, like her, African.  You can read more about Phillis Wheatley’s life and works at  

Michael C. Weisenburg 
Reference & Instruction Librarian
Irvin Department of Rare Books & Special Collections

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