Making (Quaker) History: the Roundtable Is Now on Video!

Lots of questions! (Plus videos.)

By the end of the Quaker History Roundtable last weekend, there were lots of questions; several flip chart sheets worth.

We wrapped up the gathering on Sunday morning June 11, after fourteen lively presentations, with a brainstorming session on research we’d like to see about American Quakerism in the last century. 

We had already accumulated two flip chart pages of suggestions. And in two more hours, we filled several more sheets. Only the fact that it was time to head home brought the intellectual jam session to a close.

This should not be surprising. Both the energy and the curiosity had been running high since . We had learned a lot in the fourteen formal presentations since Thursday evening. But there was so much more to explore.

Presenters Isaac May (left) and Guy Aiken (left center) listen as ESR’s Lonnie Valentine (hands raised) pursues an idea, as Jeff Dudiak from Canada (right) listens in.

Back home after this extraordinary long  weekend, the ideas are still echoing,  and calling.

There was a lot to like at the Quaker History Roundtable,, at least for me. Here are several things in particular:

  1. The mix of elders and rising talent. Our lineup included some of the most distinguished senior Quaker historians still active, and several young researchers and archivists who are just entering the field.
  2. In addition, we did pretty well elsewhere on the diversity front: there were participants of color, LGBTQ, close to parity male/female; various branches were represented, and at least one was a registered Republican.
    Group photo of presenters. Back row (left to right): Doug Gwyn, Dick Nurse, Tom Hamm, Guy Aiken, Chuck Fager, Celia Caust-Ellenbogen; Middle row: Janet Gardner, Betsy Cazden, Steve McNeil, Gwen osney Erickson, Emma Lapsansky, Mary Craudereuff; Seated, front: Greg Hinshaw, Larry Ingle, Isaac May & Steve Angell. Thanks to all!
  3. This variety was not the result of a planning committee checking off boxes. Presenters stepped up, and brought papers as their ticket of admission. So active interest in what has happened among American Friends of late is found on numerous points of the spectrum.
  4. There was a sense of immediacy and connection. Many events that presenters wrote about, some of us had lived through, or had personally felt the reverberations. And in some cases, though the “history” goes back many decades, it is far from over yet.
    Larry Ingle, retired author of a landmark study of the Separation of 1827 and the leading biography of George Fox, describes the ambiguous response of Quaker officials to the famous Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers Communist spy scandals of the late 1940s and early 1950s — a case that launched a young Quaker Congressman, Richard Nixon, onto the national stage. Beside hm is Isaac May, a doctoral student from the University of Virginia. Isaac examined the 1928 presidential election, which pitted a world-famous Friend, Herbert Hoover, against Catholic Al Smith. The contest, he showed, brought out much that was not very uplifting about Friends.
  5. Willingness to open up tough questions: Does FUM have a future? Was there militant segregation, war fever & homophobia in a large southern yearly meeting? (And how much still lingers?)  Communists working with AFSC?
    Other socialist influence among Friends then?
  6. Gwen Gosney Erickson (left) from Guilford listens to Mary Craudereuff, from Haverford, describing plans to renovate and expand their archival collection and facility. They also grappled with questions such as: who gets remembered and documented in Quaker archives? How do these collections find ways to broaden their work to better include communities and persons whose voices are marginalized or silenced?

     Archives are exciting! Staff from four major collections (Lilly Library at Earlham, Haverford, Guilford College’s Quaker Historical Collection & Swarthmore’s Friends Historical Library) showed that their stacks and vaults are not only rich treasure troves of insight and answers for seekers, but also arenas for some of today’s most contested questions, and magnets for talented younger Friends.
    It was no accident that the Roundtable was opened by two very articulate archivists, focusing on such issues. They voiced plenty to ponder & work on here, both in and out of the stacks.
  7. A supportive setting. Major kudos are due to to the Earlham School of Religion, from Dean Jay Marshall to its office staff, for unstinted support and active hospitality to the Roundtable project.
    ESR Dean Jay Marshall, welcoming us to Indiana. Backing him up were staffers Miriam Bunner, Mandy Ford, videographer Ryan Frame, students Eva Abbott, Anne Hutchinson & John & Elizabeth Edminster, and faculty Steve Angell. My apologies to the kitchen staff & other volunteers who helped out in various sessions, and whose names I did not record.

    The facilities were comfortable and compact (no need to wander a sprawling campus, unless one wanted to). Meals were ready on time; and staff & volunteers were ready to help ease the many details; the video cameras ran quietly and continuously.
  8.  Media to share the event: by autumn, there will be a book of papers, which will include the Research Agenda notes as well.
    And in the meantime, videos of the presentation have just been uploaded by ESR’s intrepid videographer,  Ryan Frame, You can find them, in nine segments, by clicking here.

Watching is free and no registration or other data sharing is required. (But comments are welcome!)

What can become of  a venture like this? My hope is that it stimulates & encourages more research and reflective presentations on these and the many other remarkable events, personalities, troubles and accomplishments that marked Quakerism’s 20th century in the U. S. These can show up in many venues; keep an eye out.

 

For those skeptics who doubted the existence of the Quaker History Roundtable.

 

 

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