pittsburgh university

The Black Panther Breakfast Programs

Every spring semester the University Library System (ULS), in collaboration with Pitt’s Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), award ten students with the Archival Scholars Research Award (ASRA). This semester, seven of those students are working in Special Collections. Each month, we ask the scholars to submit blog posts demonstrating the discoveries they are making. Enjoy! 

The cover of the 4/27/1969 publication of The Black Panther

The activism of the Black Panther Party (BPP) is commonly viewed as innately violent and antagonistic, but they had a number of social programs and fundraisers that were aimed at uplifting the most vulnerable of their community. One of their most popular programs served breakfast to children before school, many of whom would have otherwise gone without food due to social or economic factors. The BPP were staunch believers in education as a necessary component of liberation, and ensuring that the children were able to focus and engage in their studies was of critical importance.

Photographs taken at one of the breakfast programs, as included in the 4/27/1969 edition of The Black Panther.

The Black Panther newspapers often mention these breakfast programs, noting how many were served or who was responsible for the food preparation, and occasionally publicizing that one had been subject to a police raid. They were events that allowed the community to unify for a singular purpose, and though peaceful and meaningful, local police departments often stormed the buildings that hosted the programs in an attempt to find something incriminating.

-Maureen Jones, Archival Scholars Research Awardee ‘17


It’s a long-standing tradition for the sitting president of the United States to leave a parting letter in the Oval Office for the American elected to take his or her place. It’s a letter meant to share what we know, what we’ve learned, and what small wisdom may help our successor bear the great responsibility that comes with the highest office in our land, and the leadership of the free world.

But before I leave my note for our 45th president, I wanted to say one final thank you for the honor of serving as your 44th. Because all that I’ve learned in my time in office, I’ve learned from you. You made me a better President, and you made me a better man.

Throughout these eight years, you have been the source of goodness, resilience, and hope from which I’ve pulled strength. I’ve seen neighbors and communities take care of each other during the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. I have mourned with grieving families searching for answers – and found grace in a Charleston church.

I’ve taken heart from the hope of young graduates and our newest military officers. I’ve seen our scientists help a paralyzed man regain his sense of touch, and wounded warriors once given up for dead walk again. I’ve seen Americans whose lives have been saved because they finally have access to medical care, and families whose lives have been changed because their marriages are recognized as equal to our own. I’ve seen the youngest of children remind us through their actions and through their generosity of our obligations to care for refugees, or work for peace, and, above all, to look out for each other.

I’ve seen you, the American people, in all your decency, determination, good humor, and kindness. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I’ve seen our future unfolding.

All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work – the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there’s an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.

I’ll be right there with you every step of the way.

And when the arc of progress seems slow, remember: America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ 'We the People.’ 'We shall overcome.’

Yes, we can.

And if you’d like to stay connected, you can sign up here to keeping getting updates from me.

President Barack Obama 

The Art of Klauder's Architectural Drawings

Philadelphia architect Charles Klauder made his mark on the University of Pittsburgh by designing three of the school’s most beautiful buildings: the Cathedral of Learning, Stephen Foster Memorial, and Heinz Chapel. The enormity and complexity of the buildings are often taken for granted by the thousands of students, faculty and staff that pass by every day, and it is all too easy to forget that each began as an idea that had to be drawn out in fine detail before it could be crafted and built.

Luckily, the University Archives is home to the original architectural drawings for Klauder’s Pitt buildings, which provide in depth detail of features that passersby cannot see up close. Here is a sampling of some of the artistic skill used in the design of the University’s three most famous buildings.

This is a drawing of some of the more intricate carving required for an archway in the Cathedral of Learning Commons Room.


The tracery windows of the Cathedral of Learning are detailed works of geometry and artistry.


Only a select few have been able to fully appreciate the intricacies of the Cathedral of Learning’s uppermost floors.


Even the name of the building contains artistic flourishes on Klauder’s original elevation drawing of the Cathedral of Learning.


As shown in this drawing of a portal to the shrine inside the Foster Memorial, sketches had to not only convey the design of the archway, but also what features were to pierce the stonework and not just carved into it.


This is a drawing of the main entrance portal of Heinz Chapel, but the tympanum shown here is actually less intricate than the carvings in the completed building.


The Heinz Chapel fleche reaches over 250 feet in the air, meaning the detail seen here is often overlooked.

Special Collections welcomed Will Rhodes’ ENGLIT1125 Masterpieces of Renaissance Literature on Wednesday, March 15th.  Students had the opportunity to examine facsimiles of Renaissance literature and poetry; fine press and private press editions of literature and poetry; and historical texts dating back to the Renaissance. Students worked closely with these materials and completed an in-class assignment to create a short essay.  Professor Rhodes selected a handful of these essays for us to feature on the Special Collections Tumblr.  We hope that you enjoy!

As I carefully flipped through the pages of the Renaissance books at Special Collections, I was reminded of the fact that authorship, and its assembly in a work, is an art in and of itself. As our society progresses into an age where technology dominates and paper crumbles, it is rare for books to be published solely in print. Rather, out of mere convenience and affordability, consumers often resort to online editions of books, as they are “more portable” or “more convenient.” However, the books at Special Collections made me think and appreciate books in their written form because books exist outside of mere words on a page. That is, books are also a physical object, comprised of uniquely textured pages, beautifully drawn artwork, and intricate penmanship that goes relatively unmatched in today’s world.

Take, for example, Volpone by Ben Jonson, first acted in 1605. Only fifteen hundred copies were made for the members of The Limited Editions Club. Several individuals contributed to the compilation of this book outside of the written text. For example, the book cover was designed by Francis Meynell and printed by Charles Bate. William Nash made the paper itself especially for this edition of Volpone. The illustrations by Rene Ben Sussan were drawn with stencils and colored in France. The cover itself was made in a rusty colored bookcloth, and the pages felt similar to an oily canvas when examining it in the Special Collections. In addition to the physical appearance of the book, I gained even more of an appreciation for the works I looked at when understanding the history of publications during the Renaissance Era. According to Norton’s Anthology:

The career of professional writer in the sixteenth-century England was almost impossible: there was no such thing as author’s copyright, no royalties paid to an author according to the sales of the book, and virtually no notion that anyone could make a decent living through the creation of works of literature.”

Thus, it was virtually impossible to become a published author because this profession as we know it today did not exist. Whereas we attribute recognition to an author because of their written work, in the Renaissance Era, “the licensing system located not only primary responsibility for a printed work, but its ownership, with the printer rather than with the author.” That is, the printing of a work became more important than the work itself. This is because of the literary patronage system in which wealthy patrons gave financial or other monetary incentives in return for their own recognition. However, this system was not free of unethical practices. In fact, “a practice grew up of printing off several dedications to be inserted into particular copies of a book, so that an impecunious author could deceive each of several patrons into thinking that he or she was the uniquely fortunate person to be honored by the volume.”  Thus, it was an art in the Renaissance Era to be recognized for the written work itself and not solely the title of patron funding the publication.

Furthermore, the illustrations and binding of the books examined also lend to their recognition as a piece of art. This is evident in the second volume of The Ecclesiastical History of Martyrs, published in 1641. As seen in the inside cover page, the artwork displays elaborate scenes and intricate figures relating to the body of the text, while the worn outside cover of the book and torn binding also add to the art form of the book.  The artwork enriches the history and authenticity of works created during the Renaissance Era and lends credibility to the idea that authorship, and its assembly in a work, is an art in and of itself.

When taking the time to study several of the books contained within Special Collections, I have come to appreciate everything that makes a work uniquely its own including the pages, texture, material, artwork, and penmanship. As the world comes to value convenience over quality and functionality over authenticity, I am reminded that there is beauty in the worn covers and discolored binding seams that teach us about history and enrich our lives.

-Juli Buchwald, University of Pittsburgh undergraduate