Center for Mason Legacies faculty present to local history chapters

George Oberle (CML director, assistant term professor, and history librarian) and Anthony “Tony” Guidone (history doctoral candidate) delivered a presentation to the Fairfax Resolves and George Mason Chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution on 14 May 2022. This presentation shared the progress of the ongoing work of the digital edition of the Mason Family Papers produced by the Center for Mason Legacies.

Oberle to receive 2022 Distinguished Library Faculty Award

The Libraries is pleased to announce that George D. Oberle III – history librarian, director of the Center for Mason Legacies, and assistant term faculty with the department of history and art history – has been selected to receive the 2022 Distinguished Library Faculty Award. With this award, he is recognized by his library faculty peers for his exemplary professional accomplishments and his dedication as a librarian, historian, scholar, and mentor.

In the snapshot that follows, you will find it no surprise that Dr. Oberle has been called “the most extraordinary librarian I have ever known,” esteemed for his “unflagging work ethic and amazing degree of intellectual curiosity,” and applauded for the literal transformation of Mason’s campus brought about by such projects as the Enslaved Children of George Mason and Black Lives Next Door.

Oberle is a longtime member of the George Mason University community. He began his career with the Libraries as a graduate research assistant in the reference department of Fenwick Library. Since then, he has held several librarian faculty appointments. Having earned his BA and MA in history at Mason, and his master of library science from the University of Maryland (College Park), Oberle returned to his history studies at Mason and earned his PhD in 2016, while working full-time in his librarian role. His dissertation focused on “Institutionalizing the Information Revolution: Debates over Knowledge Institutions in the Early American Republic,” and he is currently working on an adapted book manuscript, Forge of Learning: Institutions of Knowledge in the Early Republic.

By his colleagues in the Libraries, George is named “one of the best librarians I have ever worked with”; praised for never losing sight of the clear role and value libraries and librarians play; known for his “passion for primary source materials” and his consistently high research consultations numbers; and credited for his mentorship of many students, library staff members, and librarians.

By his faculty colleagues across the university he is known as a “distinguished scholar, an eminent practitioner in the field of library sciences, and a caring and devoted educator” committed to student success. His impact on both the instructional and research activity of the history department over the years is “difficult to overstate” and he consistently goes above and beyond, with the result that he is viewed not only as a contributor of valuable resources and information but as an integral and vital part of the history department being able to do their work. By his faculty colleagues outside of the Mason community, he is known as a “wonderful, supportive colleague whose passion for history and education has shaped the experiences of thousands of people.”

Dr. Oberle’s leadership contributed to the founding of the Center for Mason Legacies, which has been recognized at Mason and beyond on the regional and national level. Such work has culminated in his selection for the nationally competitive American Library Association’s I Love My Librarian Award earlier this year.

Please join the Libraries in commending George Oberle for his contributions to the George Mason University Libraries, the George Mason University academic community, and the broader scholarly community, and please join me in congratulating him on his selection by his peers to receive the University Libraries’ Distinguished Faculty Award in 2022.

The award will be presented officially to Dr. Oberle at Mason’s annual Celebration of Teaching Excellence ceremony, hosted by The Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning. This year’s ceremony is scheduled for May 2, 2022.

It’s Mason’s Time!

Next week marks a special week in the university’s yearlong 50th anniversary celebrations, and we hope you will join us! 

On Monday, April 4, the Enslaved People of George Mason Memorial will be officially dedicated at 1:30 p.m. on Wilkins Plaza. Faculty and students affiliated with the Center for Mason Legacies were instrumental in proposing and designing this memorial, and we are excited for our community to come together for this dedication.

On Thursday, April 7, the official 50th Anniversary Commemorative Celebration will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. RSVP for this special event and luncheon here.

April 7 is also Mason Vision Day – Mason Vision Day is an opportunity for our community to come together to identify and support a deserving initiative on campus. This year, Mason Vision Day centers on the Green Machine!

Center for Mason Legacies: research discussion + reception on April 22

The Center for Mason Legacies (CML) is pleased to announce an upcoming panel discussion and reception surrounding their research for Black Lives Next Door, to take place on Friday, April 22, 2022, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in Fenwick Library, Room 2001.

The panel discussion will feature George Oberle (director of the Center for Mason Legacies, history librarian, and assistant term professor), LaNitra Berger (senior director of Office of Fellowships and associate director of the African and African American Studies program), Anthony Guidone (doctoral student researcher), Eliza Buckner (undergraduate student researcher), and will be moderated by Rosemarie Zagarri (University Professor). The keynote will be offered by Spencer Crew (Robinson Professor).

Black Lives Next Door is an interdisciplinary project and collaboration between faculty and students to explore the environs surrounding the early years of George Mason College and its transition to a university. Initially supported by a Summer Team Impact Grant award from the university in 2021, the work is ongoing, and CML welcomes inquiries and partnership opportunities.

The April 22 event is hosted by the University Libraries and sponsored by an award from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Intellectual Life of the College Committee.

Exploring the NAACP records at the Libraries

The University Libraries holds a rich collection of primary source resources to study the African American and Black experience in the United States and the Americas. In celebration of Black and African Heritage Month, the Libraries and the Center for Mason Legacies are launching a new series highlighting various resources, beginning with a look at the NAACP records by George Oberle, History Librarian and Director of the Center for Mason Legacies.

There are several parts to the NAACP records including the “Special Subjects” group which cover subjects and episodes that are crucial to the NAACP’s history, such as civil rights complaints and legislation, the Klan, Birth of a Nation, the Walter White-W. E. B. Du Bois controversy of 1933-1934, communism and anticommunism during the years of the “red scare,” the congressional prosecution of Hollywood personalities, the prosecution of conscientious objectors during World War II, NAACP’s relations with African colonial liberation movements, NAACP fundraising and membership recruitment, urban riots, the War on Poverty, and the emergence of the Black Power Movement.

Among this broad array of subjects, the collection has excellent coverage of topics such as the depiction of African Americans in film. Below is an example from a series of letters regarding Walt Disney’s “Song of the South.”

The Libraries also holds other significant parts of this important collection where explorations on education, housing, voting rights and other critical events throughout the 20th century can be explored. Evidence of complaints against police violence, lawsuits to promote equal pay for Black teachers and evidence of the resistance to racist practices abound in these collections.

Researchers from the Center for Mason Legacies (CML) recently uncovered a story (see document below) about a man named Willie Coles, involved in a legal case in Fairfax in 1953. CML researchers are continuing to search for more details about this man’s story, which will be added to the Black Lives Next Door site, their examination of our regional history.

To explore the NAACP papers, see:

ProQuest History Vault: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns- Education, Voting, Housing, Employment, Armed Forces

Major campaigns for equal access to education, voting, employment, housing and the military are covered in this resource. The education files in this module document the NAACP’s systematic assault on segregated education that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Files from 1955 –1965 focus on the NAACP’s efforts to implement the Brown decision as well as to combat de facto segregation outside of the South.

Proquest History Vault: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns – Scottsboro, Anti-Lynching, Criminal Justice, Peonage, Labor and Segregation and Discrimination Complaints and Responses

This NAACP module focuses on the NAACP’s efforts regarding anti-lynching, peonage, and discrimination in employment and the criminal justice system. A rich set of records in this module is the NAACP file on one of the most celebrated criminal trials of the 20th century – the case of the Scottsboro boys, who escaped execution in the landmark Supreme Court case of Powell v. Alabama.

Proquest History Vault: NAACP Papers: Board of Directors, Annual Conferences, Major Speeches, and National Staff Files

Digital access to the NAACP archive including internal memos, legal briefings, and direct action summaries from national, legal, and branch offices throughout the country. It provides a comprehensive view of the NAACP’s evolution, policies, and achievements from 1909–1970.

ProQuest History Vault: The Black Freedom Struggle of the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 2

Contains records of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Africa-related papers of Claude Barnett, and the Robert F. Williams Papers. SNCC, formed by student activists in 1960 after the explosion of the sit-in movement, was one of the three most important civil rights organizations of the 1960s, alongside SCLC and the NAACP. With the addition of SNCC records, History Vault now includes SNCC, SCLC, and NAACP records.

Throughout the month of February, Mason’s Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment, along with other campus departments, is celebrating Black and African Heritage Month with a number of events. Learn more here.