All posts by Gina Woodward

Ruby Diamond: 1905 Graduate of Florida State College and Philanthropist

From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.
From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.

Ruby Diamond was born in Tallahassee on September 1, 1886. She was one of thirteen members of the Florida State College’s 1905 graduating class and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Chemistry. Ms. Diamond preferred that her wealth help those in need, and she contributed to many charities in Tallahassee and across Florida and was a generous donor to more than thirty-seven organizations.

Ms. Diamond was also a political activist and fought for lower taxes and racial equality. She and  her brother Sydney, along  with other members of the Jewish community, founded Temple Israel in 1937.

Ms. Diamond and her collection of snuff bottles. Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.
Ms. Diamond and her collection of snuff bottles. Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 11.

Ms. Diamond was a generous benefactor to Florida State University and established two scholarships for disadvantaged scholars. She supported the Alumni Association and the Department of Educational Research, Development, and Foundations.

In 1970, for her contributions to the university, Florida State University expressed its appreciation to Ms. Diamond by naming its largest auditorium, located inside the Westcott Building, in her honor. In 1971, she donated property in Tallahassee worth $100,000 to the university, and at age 95 in 1981, she donated downtown property assessed at more than $100,000 to partially fund an endowed chair of  “national excellence” in the College of Education. In 2010,  the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall was reopened after a $38 million renovation.

Ms. Diamond was 93 when this picture was taken.  From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 14.
Ms. Diamond was 93 when this picture was taken. From Ruby Diamond Family Papers, 2007-037, Box 1, Folder 14.

The Ruby Diamond Family Papers in our collection include  family photographs, correspondence between Ms. Diamond and her friends and cousins, genealogical materials, news clippings about the Diamond family, and her eulogy. The materials in the collection also contain information about the history of Tallahassee and Florida State University.

Gloria Jahoda

Gloria Jahoda, an author and Florida historian, was born on October 6, 1926, in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a B.A. in English in 1948 and an M.A. in Anthropology in 1950, both from Northwestern University. She retired in 1957 to write full time after teaching anthropology at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.  In 1963, she and her husband Gerald moved to Tallahassee when he accepted a teaching position at Florida State University’s School of Library Training and Service. Her non-fiction works include the The Other Florida (1967), a social and natural history of the West Florida Panhandle; Trail of Tears (1976), an account of the uprooting of Indians in the Southeast; The Road to Samarkand: Frederick Delius and His Music (1969); and The River of the Golden Ibis (1973), about the Hillsborough River. This book was named by the Society of Midland Authors as the “Best History Book” of 1973.

From Florida Collection, F316.2 J3
From Florida Collection, F316.2 J3

In honor of  Women’s History Month, I wanted to feature this author since The Other Florida, is a favorite book of mine. I read it before I lived in North Florida but read it again after I moved here, which made it all the more interesting. We have books written by her in our Florida Collection, and we also have  manuscript collections that have been either donated by her or by her husband. Included in the manuscript collections are biographical information, family and personal papers, correspondence, writings, photographs, galley proofs, and original book jacket designs.

Earlier book jacket design, Gloria Jahoda Papers, Box 317
Earlier book jacket design, Gloria Jahoda Papers, Box 317

Ms. Jahoda was president of the Tallahassee Historical Society and was elected as a registrar of the Creek Indian nation. In 1973, the Florida Senate passed a resolution honoring her for her works depicting the history and culture of Florida. In 1975, she was presented with the D.B. McKay Award by the Tampa Historical Society for her contributions to Florida history.

The last paragraph of The Other Florida ends with this: “The Other Florida’s pines will survive too, I think. Often among them I remember the person I was before I came to them and what I thought was important then, and the landscapes I have since known, and the history I have since learned, and the friends I have since made. Whatever the fates may take me in the years to come, I shall not be the same again”.

Zora and Marjorie: Literary Legends and Friends

From Zora in Florida, edited by Steve Glassman and Kathryn Lee Seidel.
From Zora in Florida, edited by Steve Glassman and Kathryn Lee Seidel. Florida Collection, PS3515 .U789 Z955 1991.

Zora Neale Hurston moved to St. Augustine at the beginning of World War II for a quiet place to write. While in St. Augustine, she taught part-time at the local black college, Florida Normal. She did not get along well with the administrators of the college after she became involved in a dispute between serviceman being trained at the signal corps school at the college and the college president. Zora sent a letter to Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP in November 1942, telling him she thought the soldiers were living in inadequate living quarters and blamed him for putting pressure on Florida Normal to allow the government  the use of the school when Fisk, Hampton, and Tuskegee had wanted the training at their schools. Zora did not see the argument settled because she left St. Augustine in early 1943 to move to Daytona Beach where she lived on a houseboat she had purchased.

I have had to go through a long, long, dark tunnel to come out to the light again. But I had the feeling all the time that you believed in me ~Zora Neale Hurston

From Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.
From Crossing the Creek: The Literary Friendship of Zora Neale Hurston and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings.

In 1942, while in St. Augustine, Zora became friends with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who lived part-time in St. Augustine, as her husband, Norton Baskin, owned the Castle Warden Hotel located there. Zora’s autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road and Marjorie’s Cross Creek were both published in 1942. Zora invited Marjorie to speak to her class, and in turn, Marjorie invited her to tea at the Castle Warden, a segregated hotel. When writing about Marjorie’s invitation to the hotel in Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography, Robert E. Hemenway says, “Later, realizing what she had done, she gave special orders to the elevator man to take Zora immediately up to the Rawlings residence on the fourth floor. But Zora had lived in the South for a long time; she went in through the kitchen and walked up the stairs. Safe in the apartment she was her usual vibrant self, causing Rawlings to admit to her husband that she had never in her life had such a stimulating visit”.

The 1940’s were a time of personal hardships for both women; they struggled with their writing and experienced health issues and had various other issues. They remained friends through the years, and Zora visited Marjorie’s home Cross Creek.

Our Florida Collection includes books written by them and about them, and we also have theses and dissertations written by Florida State University students on their lives and works.

And without my writing, I am nothing ~Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

The Florida Highwaymen

Willie Daniels painting from The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters by Gary Monroe. Florida Collection, ND1351.6 .M66 2001.
Harold Newton painting from Harold Newton: the Original Highwayman by Gary Monroe. Florida Collection, ND237 .N4875 M66 2007

I love the paintings of The Highwaymen artists.   They are colorful, show movement, and depict images of “Old Florida” with palms, water, birds, boats, and sunsets.  The paintings are mostly landscapes although I have seen a few with people in them.

According to Gary Monroe in The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters, “The Highwaymen didn’t exist, so to speak, until 1994, when art aficionado Jim Fitch assigned the name to an unknown group of African-American artists.  Suddenly, thousands of the Florida landscape paintings they had produced since the end of the 1950s, which had been stored for years in Florida attics, were brought down, dusted off, and viewed with renewed interest”.  Monroe states that “They made upwards of 50,000 paintings; some estimates exceed four times this amount”.

The artists painted on construction material called Upson board, named after the company that produced the material, and sold their paintings around Florida from the backs of their cars.   The paintings were sold inexpensively, but now original Highwaymen art can sell for very high prices.

Recently, The John G. Riley House and Museum in Tallahassee was the recipient of 13 original Florida Highwaymen paintings donated by Tallahassee resident Grace Dansby.  The Riley House is a member of the Florida African Heritage Preservation Network — a statewide web of 40 museums and groups. The downtown museum is now the largest holder of Highwaymen art in the network.

In his book, Monroe has identified one woman and twenty-five men as members of The Highwaymen: Mary Ann Carroll, Curtis Arnett, Hezekiah Baker, Al “Blood” Black, Ellis Buckner, George Buckner, Robert Butler,  Johnny “Hook” Daniels, Willie Daniels, Rodney Demps, James Gibson, Alfred Hair, Isaac Knight, Robert Lewis, John Maynor, Roy McLendon, Alfonso “Pancho” Moran, Harold Newton, Lemuel Newton, Sam Newton, Willie Reagan, Livingston “Castro” Roberts, Cornell “Pete” Smith, Charles Walker, Sylvester Wells, and Charles “Chico” Wheeler.   In our Florida Collection, in addition to Monroe’s  The Highwaymen, we also have his Harold Newton: the Original Highwayman.

Harold Newton painting from Harold Newton: the Original Highwayman.
Harold Newton painting “Eddie’s Place” from The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters.

Valentine’s Day


The sun rides higher

Every trip.

The sidewalk shows.

Icicles drip.

A snowstorm comes,

And cars are stuck,

And ashes fly

From the old town truck.

Valentine heart with birds

The chickadees

Grow plump on seed

That Mother pours

Where they can feed,

And snipping, snipping

Scissors run

To cut out hearts

For everyone.


John Updike


Good Morning to You, Valentine, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Tommie de Paola

Shaw Collection, PZ8.3 G6

Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley

From the cover of Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner. Florida Collection, E444. K56 S33 2003.

From the book jacket of Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley: African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner by Daniel L. Schafer:

“Both an American slave and a slave owner – and possibly an African princess – Anna was a teenager when she was captured in her homeland of Senegal in 1806 and sold into slavery. Zephaniah Kingsley, Jr., a planter and slave trader from Spanish East Florida, brought her in Havana, Cuba, and took her to his St. Johns River plantation in northeast Florida, where she soon became his household manager, his wife, and eventually the mother of four of his children. Her husband formally emancipated her in 1811, and she became the owner of her own farm and twelve slaves the following year. For 25 years, life on her farm and at the Kingsley plantation on Fort George Island was relatively tranquil. But when Florida passed from Spanish to American control, and racism and discrimination increased in the American territories, Anna Kingsley and her children migrated to a colony in Haiti established by her husband as a refuge for free blacks. Amid the spiraling racial tensions of the antebellum period, Anna returned to north Florida, where she bought and sold land, sued white people in the courts, and became a central figure in a free black community. Such accomplishments by a woman in a patriarchal society are fascinating in themselves. To have achieved them as a woman of color is remarkable.”

Anna returned to Florida from Haiti in 1846 to fight for the control of Zephaniah Kingsley’s Florida properties. He had died in 1843, and his sister Martha McNeil had tried to have her brother’s will declared “null and void”. She did not want Kingsley heirs of African ancestry to inherit his estate. The Florida courts ruled in Anna’s favor, and she remained in Florida as the matriarch of the Kingsley clan until 1862 when she went North with her family to escape  pro-slavery. She returned in 1865 with her daughters to their diminished estates and wealth. Anna died in the spring of 1870 and was first buried in a family cemetery, but her final burial place is in an unmarked grave in the Arlington area of Jacksonville, Florida.  Anna was from the Wolof states of Senegal and was Anta Majigeen Ndiaye before she was captured.

Snow in Florida!

snow pictureOn February 13th, 1958, the Florida State University campus experienced a snowfall.   We have several pictures of students enjoying the snow, but we thought this one was appropriate for the season.

Happy Holidays from Special Collections!

Rabindranath Tagore Collection

Tagore picture 2Rabindranath Tagore was an eminent scholar and prolific Indian writer in the latter half of the Nineteenth-Century and first half of the Twentieth-Century.  He was born at Jorasanko, Calcutta, India on May 7, 1861.  At an early age he showed promise as a writer, specifically of poetry. Rabindranath went on to write over 3000 poems, 2000 songs (including the Indian National Anthem), 8 novels, 40 volumes of essays, and 50 plays.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 for his most famous work Gitanjali (Song Offerings), which was published in 1910.

In 1906, Rabindranath sent his son, Rathindranath, to the University of Illinois at Urbana to study agriculture.  In 1912-1913, Rabindranath spent time himself at the University of Illinois where he became friends with Professor Arthur Seymour and his wife Mayce.  Dr. Seymour was the head of the University of Illinois’ International Studies program.  In 1926, Dr. Seymour became a professor of French at the Florida State College for Women and served as Head of the Department of Modern Foreign Languages until 1946.

In 1982, The Tagore Collection was donated to Special Collections by the estate of Marion Jewell Hay.  Marion Hay became a professor of education at Florida State College for Women in 1929 and retired from Florida State University in 1967.

Tagore letter
Letter from Rabindranath Tagore to Mayce Seymour, December 27, 1955. Box 1158, folder 2.

The majority of the correspondence in the collection is between Rabindranath and Professor Seymour and his wife, as well as other friends and family.  Also included in the collection are biographical materials related to Rabindranath’s life in India and the United States, photographs, articles, periodicals, and artwork.  To view the finding aid, click here.

Rabindranath died when he was eighty years old on August 7, 1941, at Jorasanko, Calcutta, India.  He is remembered as a poet, musician, artist, philosopher, mystic, and teacher.

“STRAY birds of summer come to my window to sing and fly away.  And yellow leaves of autumn, which have no songs, flutter and fall there with a sigh.”
Verse 1, Stray Birds by Rabindranath Tagore, translated from Bengali to English by the author,  New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916.

Fore-Edge Paintings

Paradise Lost 1
From Paradise Lost by John Milton

The Nancy Bird Fore-edge painting collection is dedicated to the memory of Nancy Bird, Head of Special Collections from 1960-1974. Many of the paintings on the books housed in Special Collections are of landscapes or other scenes.  Each one holds a different image and is truly a work of art.  We even have one book that has a double painting.  When you fan the pages one way you get one scene and then  fanned the other way there is a different scene.  The fore-edge painting collection is home to 27 titles encompassing 35 volumes.  Fore-edge paintings began in the 1400s, before the invention of the printing press, when books were written on vellum. Since vellum is a heavy material and cannot be folded with the neatness and compactness of printed books today, books were shelved horizontally with the unbound pages facing outward and the title of the book written on the fore-edge.  After the invention of the printing press and with the modernization of printing and publishing books when the spine became the method of printing the title, book owners used the fore-edge to identify to whom the book belonged.  Books then began to be decorated with gold leaf, gold leaf edges and other techniques to enhance their beauty.  For most books with fore-edge paintings, you see the gold leaf edge but not the painted scene until you hold the book in a certain way in order for the painting to appear.

A fore-edge painting is made by fanning the pages, clamping the book securely, applying water-color landscapes or other miniatures.  The entire process takes several days or even weeks to complete to allow for drying time.

It is fun to show these to our students and patrons who have never seen one and to see their surprise when the painting comes to life.

silex scintillans
From Silex Scintillans by Henry Vaughan
the history of sir charles FEP
From The History of Sir Charles Grandison by Mr. Samuel Richardson
the book of gems
From The Book of Gems, edited by S.C. Hall

Happy Birthday, Emily Bronte

PictureOn July 30, 1818 Emily Bronte was born in Thornton, Bradford, West Yorkshire, England.  Although best known for her novel, Wuthering Heights, Miss Bronte was also an artist.   Included in The Life and Eager Death of Emily Bronte: a Biography (1936), by Virginia Moore, which we have in our Shaw Collection, are three of her illustrations.  The one I like best is this watercolor of  Hero, her pet merlin-hawk.

Included in our copy of The Life and Eager Death of Emily Bronte: a Biography are two items of interest.  One is a review written by David Garnett in the Current Literature column of The New Statesman and Nation, September 5, 1936, where he states he was going to write about this book but decided not to because it “irritated” him, so instead he read Villette by Charlotte Bronte, Emily’s sister.  The other is a letter to the editor from Virginia Moore in response to his column (10/10/1936 is handwritten on this letter).  She is essentially telling him that it is common courtesy between authors that before expressing an opinion about a book that one should read it.  She also says that if she made errors in her book as another Bronte scholar made in his (and was corrected for), that she could bear it if she were corrected for any errors in her book.  Her letter ends with this sentence “For my real task, was to collate the many uncollected facts of Emily Bronte’s life.”