Human Rights: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

As part of Human Rights week, SCRC is sharing some items from a few of our collections that relate to either the protection of human rights or a neglect for them. The first is a report on the Virginia Council on Human Rights, which was established on August 7, 1987. The goal of the council included protecting individuals from unlawful discrimination. This report is part of the Emilie F. Miller collection which covers a vast array of topics relating to politics within Virginia. She was local activist and supporter of equal rights for women.

"Virginia Council on Human Rights." Emilie F. Miller collection, Collection # C0048, Box 07, Folder 60, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“Virginia Council on Human Rights.” Emilie F. Miller collection, Collection # C0048, Box 07, Folder 60, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The second item comes from the French Communist Poster collection. The poster advocates for amnesty for the political prisoners and exiles of Spain. Though it did not gain enough support to win a presidential election, the PCF supported the workers and farmers of France and fought for more social welfare programs, like higher minimum wages, better retirement conditions, better working conditions, and equal pay and also sought female support by celebrating women’s issues and equal rights.

French Communist Party poster collection #C0168, MC folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

French Communist Party poster collection #C0168, MC folder 2, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The last item is from the East German Poster political series collection. This poster is undated but references events of 1939. The quote is taken from a Bertolt Brecht poem about the “house-painter” and who made promises of “great times to come.” Brecht went into exile at the onset of the Second World War and is famous for many of his plays.

"Aus dem Reich kommen wenig Nachrichten",East German poster collection # C0169, AE-1825, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“Aus dem Reich kommen wenig Nachrichten”,East German poster collection # C0169, AE-1825, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to view collections.

University Libraries Acquires Mason Family Account Book

Re-post from GMU News.

By Mark Schwartz, communication and marketing officer, University Libraries

Mason family manuscript account book, 1792-1820, C0214. Special Collections & Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

The George Mason University Libraries has acquired an important late 18th-century manuscript with handwritten entries by the George Mason family. Previously, the university owned only three single-page original documents directly related to its namesake, George Mason IV.

“The Mason family account book is not only an important historical resource, but has immense symbolic significance for Mason,” notes John Zenelis, university librarian. “We are thrilled that this important Virginiana manuscript has been repatriated, particularly to this part of the Commonwealth where the extended Mason family lived.”

The University Libraries purchased the 220-year-old Mason family account book last summer through an antiquarian dealer in Boston. The acquisition was facilitated through the generosity of the Washington and Northern Virginia Company of The Jamestowne Society, an organization dedicated to preserving the historical record of early Virginia.

The book documents the business, family and personal accounts of Stevens Thomson Mason (1760-1803) and his son, Armistead Thompson Mason (1787-1819), respectively the nephew and grandnephew of George Mason IV.

The two men who wrote most of the entries for the family account book led noteworthy lives. Stevens Thomas Mason fought in the American Revolution as a colonel in the Continental Army and served as an aide to George Washington during the battle of Yorktown. Armistead Thompson Mason served as a general in the War of 1812 and as a United States senator for one year. He was killed in a duel with his cousin, John M. McCarty, over a contentious election.

The family account book includes detailed records about the Mason family plantation Raspberry Plain Farm, located near Leesburg in Loudoun County.

“The account book reveals the considerable work of managing a plantation in the early 19th century,” says Jordan Patty, processing librarian/archivist in Special Collections and Archives (SC&A). “You begin to picture how busy the days must have been, contrary to the image of the Southern gentleman sitting on the porch sipping a mint julep. At the same time, the account book also includes many mentions of the slaves on the plantation, and to see those names among the other business of the day is particularly powerful in light of what we know today about the brutality of slavery.”

Stevens Thomson Mason wrote the accounts from 1792 until his death in 1803, and his son, Armistead, made entries from 1810 until his death in 1819. William Temple Thomson Mason also contributed a number of entries. Other entries in the hand of William Temple, the half-brother of Stevens Thomson and the uncle of Armistead Thompson, can be found in the pages. Other Mason family members adding entries to the accounts were John Thomson Mason (1765-1824), John Thomson Mason (1787-1850), and Stevens Thomson Mason, Jr. (1789-1815).

“The Mason account book is in its original rough or reversed calf binding with headbands, blind stamping on the covers, and raised cords on the spine,” says Yvonne Carignan, head of SC&A. “Although the binding was worn and the front cover detached at the hinge, we had the book conserved instead of rebound to preserve the original artifact. We believe it is instructive for students and other scholars to have an opportunity to view the book as its creators saw it.”

SC&A is also home to the Virginia Historical Documents Collection, which has three other documents related to the Mason family. The 1853, single-page document is a deed-of-gift from Maynadier Mason, grandson of George Mason IV, which transferred ownership of his “negro slave woman named Lucy” to his late wife’s maternal aunt, Mary Ann Clark. The two other Mason family documents are letters written and signed by James Murray Mason, the grandson of George Mason. The 1860 document is a recommendation for a political appointment addressed to President James Buchanan. The other letter concerns James Murray Mason’s involvement in the Trent Affair in 1861.

The Virginia Historical Document Collection and the account book can be examined at the Fenwick Library on the Fairfax Campus. The Mason Family Manuscript Account Book can also be seen online.

Collection of “Frankly Speaking” Radio Shows Looks Back to the 1980s

A seven-inch reel containing a program from the “Frankly Speaking” radio series. “Frankly Speaking” Radio Show records. George Mason University Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright George Mason University.

What issues were on the minds of Northern Virginians during the beginning of the 1980s?  A collection of public service broadcasts recorded by George Mason University’s GMU Radio offers some clues.  “Frankly Speaking” was a series of weekly radio shows which featured discussions about current topics of interest.  A recently-processed collection, the “Frankly Speaking” Radio Show records, contains 156 recordings from between 1980 and 1984 and notes from each broadcast.

Memo regarding the July 17th episode of “Frankly Speaking” entitled: The Parkway: Where, When, and Why. “Frankly Speaking” Radio Show records. George Mason University Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright George Mason University.

The Fairfax County Parkway is a 33-mile 4-lane highway which runs from the Fort Belvoir area at U.S. Route 1 in eastern Fairfax County to the Dranesville area at Va. Route 7 west of Tyson’s Corner.  Planning for the Fairfax County Parkway, originally known as the Springfield Bypass, began in the 1970s.  Construction began in 1987 and finally wrapped up (for the most part) in 2012. During construction 55 homes and five places of businesses were uprooted in order to complete the highway.  A July 1981 episode of “Frankly Speaking” entitled The Parkway: Where, When, and Why discussed Parkway plans with Fairfax County opponents and proponents of the project.

Listen to The Parkway: Where, When, and Why

The town of Colchester in eastern Fairfax County was established in 1753 as a tobacco center on the Occoquan River. Thomas Mason, the son of George Mason of nearby Gunston Hall, frequented Colchester, running a a ferry from the north side of the Occoquan to the south side in the later 1700s.  By the end of the 19th century Colchester was in decline and died off, mostly due to the success of rival Alexandria.  In an August 1982 broadcast archaeologists from George Mason University and Fairfax County discussed archaeological surveys of Colchester done during the summer of 1982.

Listen to Digging out History in Virginia

In a December 1982 program entitled Economics and Electioneering, George Mason University faculty member W. Mark Crain discussed the increasing necessity of political candidates to market their campaigns to the public, generating, spending, and sometimes even making, large sums of money.

Listen to Economics and Electioneering

In an episode dealing with the fledgling home-computer market, July 10, 1983’s Computer Tips for Consumers examines the difficulties experienced by first-time users just getting into the home computer market.  The learning curve was steep with early home computers, as there were few standards with respect to software and hardware platforms.  A guest on the show prophetically observes that even though many users have trouble finding appropriate applications of computer technology in the home,  “it is becoming more and more true that computers are being used in every facet of business and… everyday use.  You can hardly function during the day without coming in contact with… a computer.”

Listen to Computer Tips for Consumers

Taken as a whole, the collection provides a look into not only significant issues of the day, but George Mason University’s involvement and community outreach with regard to these issues. The collection is open to researchers for use in Special Collections & Archives.  A finding aid to the collection can be found at:

Clive DuVal Finding Aid Update

The finding aid for the Clive L. DuVal papers has been updated to include the full inventory. In addition to DuVal papers, graduate student assistant Eron Ackerman also completed the full inventory for the Virginians for Dulles records, an organization that DuVal participated in as a board member.

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