Monday, February 24, 2020

Gloria L. Fox Papers are now open for research

The Gloria L. Fox Papers, part of the Legislative Papers Processing Project for the Special Collections Department at the State Library, are now open for research!

Gloria Lavera Fox was born on March 18, 1942. Raised as a foster child, she attended Boston and Everett public schools. As a single mother of two young sons, she moved into the Whittier Street Housing Development in Roxbury. She worked there as a community organizer, but her real start as an activist began when she joined a movement in the 1960’s to stop a section of Interstate-95 from running through her neighborhood.

Gloria Fox campaign button, undated.
Fox first ran for public office in 1984, when she decided to challenge 7th Suffolk District incumbent Doris Bunte. She lost, but ran again in 1986 and won, going on to represent her district for the next thirty years. Fox believed in inclusionary politics, which is reflected in her legislative work on criminal justice reform, child welfare and foster care, redistricting, Election Day voter registration, and eliminating health disparities in communities of color. When Fox retired from her seat in 2016, she was the longest serving woman on Beacon Hill.  Throughout her long career, she lived by her motto: “If you have a purpose in which you can believe, there’s no end to the amount of things you can accomplish” (Marian Anderson).

Gloria Fox campaign literature, 2012.

Her long career yielded a large and varied collection.  Some interesting items to be found among the volumes of records include:
- A transcript from a 2010 interview, in which Fox discusses her early days as a community activist. This is one of my favorite quotes from the interview, in which she discusses how the movement to stop the freeway had its roots in other issues:  “And we started it as a health issue as well as politically. It was an immobilization issue. They wanted to keep us in between all of these little circles that would be created by a highway. So we would be in one little pocket, Mission would be in another – don’t forget this was the 60’s, we were organizers – only way to shut us up was to separate us or immobilize us”.  This early understanding that political issues are, at their core, about real people, informed her entire career as a legislator and as an advocate for people and communities that can’t speak for themselves.
Gloria Fox’s signature response – “Yes”!
- The word “Yes”. Fox was seemingly tireless. Throughout the collection are requests, memos, and invitations from constituents, organizations and fellow legislators. Many (so many!) of these documents have a “yes” inscribed in the upper right corner in her firm handwriting. In addition to her legislative and committee work, Fox was also a member of the Boston Delegation of the Massachusetts Legislature, the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators, the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. I often wondered, as I worked my way through her papers, when she ever had time to sleep!  
Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, 2014. Back row (L-R):
Benjamin Swan, Evandro Carvalho, Linda Dorcena-Forry, Aaron Vega.
Front row (L-R): Byron Rushing, Marcos Devers, Gloria Fox,
Carlos Gonzalez, Russell Holmes.

Gloria Fox speaking about health
disparities during a “Disparities Action
Network Advocacy Day” at the
State House, 2007.
 - Subject files that span decades. Fox was remarkably persistent. If she believed in something, she was willing to work for it, for as long as it took.  A few examples that can be found in the collection include her work on CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) reform; her focus on legislation relating to lupus, a disease that disproportionately affects African-American women; her campaign against a proposed BioLab in her district, which she feared could put her constituents at risk; and her participation in a long battle to gain a commutation for Arnold King, a man serving a life-sentence for a crime committed when he was a teenager. Each of these issues involved years of gains and setbacks, victories and defeats. But she never stopped fighting for what she believed was best for her constituents.  
Daffodil pins from the annual
American Cancer Society
fundraiser, circa 2011.
  - Daffodils.  For many years, Fox and her office staff coordinated a fundraising campaign at the State House, as part of the American Cancer Society’s annual “Daffodil Days”.  Supporters would buy daffodils, a symbol of spring and hope, with proceeds going toward research, patient services, and other cancer society programs.  Remember how I mentioned that Fox was persistent?  Imagine how relentless she might be when raising money for a good cause!

- Two Glorias!  We found this fabulous photograph of Gloria Fox and Gloria Steinem in the collection. It is unlabeled, so we are not sure when or where they met, but it does show that strong women will always find each other in a crowd. 
Gloria Fox and Gloria Steinem, undated.

As I worked on Fox’s papers, I ran into familiar names from other legislative collections I have processed at the State Library, such as Thomas P. Kennedy and Frank Smizik. This reminds me that none of these legislators worked alone. Their work overlapped and intertwined, sometimes heading in the same direction, sometimes clearly standing on opposite sides of the aisle. It demonstrates the grander purpose of this project – to preserve a glimpse, not only into the careers of individual legislators, but into the state of Massachusetts through the eyes of those who have served it through the years.

Gloria Fox at her desk, 1999.

Deanna Parsi
Special Collections Department

Monday, February 17, 2020

Julius Caesar Chappelle and Black Boston

Often the research topics of our patrons inspire us to dig deeper. A recent question about Julius Caesar Chappelle, a prominent African-American legislator and orator in the late 1800’s, made me realize how little I knew about a man who “outside of Lewis Hayden, John J. Smith, and Edwin G. Walker… was one of the best-known colored men in Massachusetts,” so proclaimed his obituary in the Boston Globe.

Portrait from Government of the
Commonwealth of Massachusetts: a souvenir

Chappelle was born into slavery in South Carolina in 1852. He was 13 when slavery was abolished at the end of the Civil War, and he moved with his brothers and other relatives to LaVilla, Florida, a historic African-American town now a suburb of Jacksonville. Several of his brothers became successful businessmen, and his musical prodigy nephew Pat Chappelle would grow up to be a vaudeville legend and famous in his own right.

By 1870, Julius Chappelle decided to move to Boston, a northern city with a thriving African-American community. The capital of the Commonwealth had been a hotbed of abolitionist activism since before the Civil War, and Beacon Hill and the West End had become an important cultural center for African-American Bostonians. Today, this area is home to the Black Heritage Trail supported by the National Park Service. The community was so powerful in that concentrated area that at least one African-American resident had had a seat on Boston’s community council every year between 1876 and 1895 (The Hub, page 231). Initially, Chappelle worked as a janitor at the Boston Herald newspaper, then later a building superintendent at the U.S. Post Office and the United States Boston Customs House. His profession in the State Library’s Legislative Biography File still lists his profession as “janitor.”

Living in Boston’s West End, Chappelle found a mentor in Lewis Hayden, a businessman and lecturer who had also escaped slavery in Kentucky, moved to Boston, and served as a Representative in the Massachusetts General Court in 1873. Hayden introduced Chappelle to the Republican Party and tasked him with registering people to vote. Chappelle would become a life-long Republican. In 1883, Chappelle was elected to the General Court, serving in the House of Representatives until 1886. However, his elections were not without contention, both from Democratic opposition and resistance within his own Republican Party. He was proven the winner by recount several times in his political career. One recount was particularly contentious against Charles Albert Prince, who supposedly beat him for the Ward 9 seat for the 1884-1885 legislative session. While the initial vote had Chappelle the victor by 31 votes, the Board of Alderman proceeded to do a recount of the vote supposedly without Chappell’s knowledge or presence, declaring Prince the victor instead. Chappelle petitioned against the recount, and Prince ultimately resigned his seat in favor of Chappelle, blaming the placement of the stickers on the ballot for the voting confusion. The Boston Globe, however, blamed the Republicans’ mistreatment of African-Americans, even within their own party, for the recounts and charged leading Massachusetts Republicans with racism in a scathing 1885 article entitled "A Sample of Meanness”:

“Amid all the vicissitudes and changes in the Republican party there is one theme on which its stump speakers and its orators never cease to dwell. Under any and all circumstances, when votes are needed, though at no other time, they weep great salt tears over the misfortunes and hardships of the colored man in the South, cry out with righteous indignation against his social and political ostracism, and inform the country and the world, through chosen standard-bearers, that of all the questions now agitating the public mind none is of more than fifth-rate importance when compared with that which has to do with the rights of the Southern colored man and brother… Of course one of the chief impressions desired to be left by these demagogic appeals is that here in the North, and peculiarly in Massachusetts, the colored man is ever cared for with the kindest regard and consideration by his white brethren, and, above all things, is not looked upon as socially or otherwise inferior to any other citizens of the Commonwealth. How contemptibly false and hypocritical are these assumptions was never better illustration than in a case which has just occurred in the Great and General Court.” 

The article went on to describe an incident where, after Chappelle was reinstated to the House of Representatives, his rightful chair was labeled with the name of another white Republican and he was forced to find another “out-of-the-way” chair as he “was colored and they [the Massachusetts Republicans] did not wish to sit by him,” illustrating the hypocrisy in which “he would be good enough when it came to aiding them in voting through their party measures” but otherwise “they wished to have nothing to do with him.” Chappelle was provided another seat in another section after this apparent slight.

During his political career, Chappelle fought for the rights of African-Americans throughout the United States. As a state representative he introduced a resolution against the exploitation of convict labor in the South, which was largely compromised of African-American prisoners:

House Bill No. 88 of 1883 entitled “Resolution Concerning The Employment
Of Convict Labor Upon The Works Or Property Of The United States.”

Chappelle also campaigned against the Prohibition Party, which had been fighting for the prohibition of alcohol since 1867 and was strongly supported by the Ku Klux Klan. After his final term in the General Court, he was elected to the Republican State Committee, the governing body for the Republican Party in Massachusetts, and served three terms. At the height of his prominence in Massachusetts, Chappelle spoke in favor of the Federal Elections Bill, also known as the Lodge Bill so-called for its drafter Rep. Henry Cabot Lodge, which would ensure the rights of African-Americans to vote. He addressed an enthusiastic crowd at Faneuil Hall in 1890 and the New York Age quoted him saying:
“In the days of slavery, they were opposed to freedom and are now opposed to our obtaining our rights. This bill should have passed 25 years ago. We would not have been subjected to the treatment received now. The North and South have always had trouble and will continue to do so until every man has his rights. The vote of the Negro must be counted with as much honesty in South Carolina as any white man's in Massachusetts.”
Unfortunately, the bill was filibustered and was not signed into law.

Chappelle continued speaking at public engagements and was a popular and well-known orator. He was a member of the prestigious Massachusetts Club, of which Frederick Douglass was also a member, and he spoke at memorials for prominent statesmen such as former governor Roger Wolcott and Edward G. Walker, one of the first African-American men to be elected to the Massachusetts General Court and pass the Massachusetts Bar. He died from consumption in 1904 at the age of 52.

Despite his celebrity and political reputation during his life, individuals like Chappelle and other renowned people of color in 19th century Massachusetts have drifted from public memory. Both in February and throughout the year, we should remember the many contributions by the African-American community to Massachusetts history.

Image of Julius C. Caesar included
in his obituary, Boston Globe, January 28, 1904.

Further Reading:

Works Cited:

  • "Fighting for a couple of seats: Chappell probably to be counted in--Colonel Splaine Gets a Recount." Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922), Jan 16 1885, p. 6. ProQuest. Web. 
  • "A sample of meanness."Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922), Jan 23 1885, p. 2. ProQuest. Web. 4 Feb. 2020 .
  • "Had long been ill: Death of ex-representative Julius Caesar Chappelle, a negro well known in republican politics." Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922), Jan 28 1904, p. 7. ProQuest. 
  • O’Conner, Thomas H. The Hub: Boston Past and Present. Boston, Northeastern University Press, 2001. Page 231.

Alexandra Bernson
Reference Staff

Monday, February 10, 2020

 Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero 
By Christian Di Spigna
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Noon to 1:00pm
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 341, Massachusetts State House

Join us at the State Library at noon on Tuesday, February 25, for an author talk and book signing with historian Christian Di Spigna, author of the biography Founding Martyr: The Life and Death of Dr. Joseph Warren, the American Revolution’s Lost Hero.

Founding Martyr tells the story of one of America’s forgotten Founding Fathers, a man whom a British officer once called “the greatest incendiary in all of America.” Joseph Warren, a respected Boston physician, played a key role in almost every pivotal insurrectionary event in the Boston area from 1765 to 1775, including the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, as well as dispatching Paul Revere and William Dawes on their famous “midnight ride.” Yet after his untimely death at the Battle of Bunker Hill, his legend faded and became
overshadowed by contemporaries such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Now, this fast-paced biography restores Dr. Warren to his rightful place among the Revolutionary greats. Founding Martyr is the product of 20 years of research of primary resources, such as medical ledgers, private and public letters, journals, and many other materials.

A graduate of Columbia University, author Christian Di Spigna specializes in early American history. He is a regular speaker and volunteer at Colonial Williamsburg, where he educates a wide array of audiences.

As always, the State Library’s author talks are free and open to all. To register for this event, please visit:

Laura Schaub
Cataloging Librarian

Our upcoming Author Talks:

Monday, February 3, 2020

On Display in the State Library

Visit the State Library through March 4 to see a “Proclamation on the Death of George Washington,” which was issued by President John Adams in 1800. In the wake of Washington’s death on December 14, 1799, this proclamation established February 22, Washington’s birthday, as a National Day of Mourning.

George Washington’s death meant that the relatively new country was faced with mourning its first president. Congress adjourned as soon as they received word of his death, and throughout the country bells tolled and memorial processions were organized. The funeral at Mount Vernon was a private affair for family and friends, but the country was saddened by the news and began a sixty-nine day period of public mourning that ended on Washington’s birthday.

In 1789, shortly after being sworn in as president, George Washington visited Massachusetts for a ten-day tour of the state that spanned from Springfield to Newburyport with many stops in between. Near the end of his trip, Washington spent three days in Boston, where he was met with great fanfare and celebration. There was a large procession through the city that ended at the State House (what is now the Old State House, as the current State House was not built until 1798), and next to it was a temporary triumphal arch constructed by Charles Bulfinch in Washington’s honor. It was in this spot that Washington greeted the cheering crowd of Bostonians. One decade later, Massachusetts again commemorated Washington but with a much more solemn tone, as shown through the displayed proclamation. It is divided in two sections – the first part is issued by President Adams and states, “that it be recommended to the people of the United States to assemble on the twenty-second day of February next, in such numbers and manner, as may be convenient, publicly to testify their grief for the death of George Washington, by suitable eulogies, orations, and discourses, or by public prayer.” Using these general guidelines, each state then set their own specific memorials, stated in the resolutions in the second part of the proclamation. These were issued by Samuel Phillips, President of the Massachusetts Senate, Edward H. Robbins, Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and Moses Gill, Lieutenant Governor. These resolutions call for orations at Old South Meeting House and a worship service at Brattle Church. It was also requested that similar services be held throughout the Commonwealth so citizens could join together on this mournful occasion. In both the national and the state resolutions, one theme remains consistent – that citizens gather together to acknowledge their shared grief within their community. Washington’s death was one of the first instances in early American history where citizens from various backgrounds came together and experienced a shared sense of national unity, through a universal feeling of sorrow.

220 years after President Adams established February 22 as a National Day of Mourning we still mark Washington’s birthday, or Presidents’ Day, on the third Monday of February. The holiday has evolved and is now seen as a time to honor all who have served as president. The Library will be closed in observance of that federal holiday on February 17, but visit us any other weekday this month to view this proclamation in person.

By Elizabeth Roscio
Preservation Librarian