Civil Rights, History, Now

The right to vote has been a struggle the world over. Agitation for the right to participate in the election of the government is a common them in the history of many nations. Associated with the right to vote are a host of related rights: the right to equal access to public venues, the right to equal access to education, to equal treatment by the law…

In recent weeks there have been many fiftieth anniversaries of momentous events of the Civil Rights era. The Civil Rights movement had its heart in the United States but pulsed throughout the world. Recently in Australia the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘Student Action for Aborigines’ freedom ride was marked by the original freedom riders revisiting the places in country New South Wales where in 1965 they had shone the spotlight on how Aboriginal people were barred from accessing public venues. Aboriginal people had already gained the right to vote in federal elections in 1962, but it was not until the end of 1965 that Queensland became the last state to granted Australia’s indigenous people the right to vote in state elections.

Nearly two weeks ago thousands of people marched across a bridge in Selma, Alabama to mark the anniversary of ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1965. It had been fifty years since an orderly group of people had marched across the same bridge in their quest for African-Americans in that locality to be allowed to vote. At this bridge they were repelled by police who charged with batons, tear gas and horses. Broadcast live nation-wide, this unprovoked attack by police galvanised the nation and contributed to the passing of the Voting Rights Act by Congress.

At the foot of the same bridge two weeks ago, President Obama’s oratorical powers were unleashed. It was a speech replete with a rhetoric that spoke truth and was delivered with the rhythm, the pauses, the softness, crescendos and diminuendos that are rarely heard from public speakers in Australia.

President Obama’s speech had depth of content. It was a lesson on how to use history to meet the needs of society today. Throughout the speech President Obama reiterated the exceptional nature of the United States, yet as pointed out on the ABC, ‘The Drum’ website, most of his comments are applicable elsewhere in the world. Obama had pertinent things to say about drawing on history to inspire change today. Before I highlight these passages take the time to view his entire speech via the video above. Continue reading

Exhibition of Soldier Diaries at State Library NSW

war diaries sitting amongst red poppies

Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales

We gasped as we entered the exhibition. The enormous room was dominated by a wall of hundreds of World War I diaries. Born at Gallipoli, on the Western Front, the Middle East or on an Australian naval boat, these diaries now sit in the calm and comfortable conditions of a new exhibition at the State Library of New South Wales.

There are big diaries, little diaries, stout ones and thin ones. Some contain pragmatic accounts of the experiences of the diarists; others contain discussions of the literature they read and their thoughts as they battled internally about the horrors they were participating in.

The State Library of New South Wales has launched a major new exhibition that draws on the wealth of material in the diaries. Life Interrupted: Personal Diaries from World War I is comprehensive. It includes the familiar aspects of Australian participation that you would expect – Gallipoli, the Western Front and the Middle East. But it also includes the often overlooked military action by the Australian Navy and World War I in New Guinea. The exhibition has a section on Australian prisoners of War and scattered throughout are the words of a World War I nurse and army chaplains. Continue reading

Historians Walk the Talk

A man and a woman holding a wide photo.

Dr Ian Hoskins holding a copy of a panorama of Sydney Harbour photographed from Holtermann’s tower in 1875.

If you want to get to know an area better, enjoy history and some gentle outdoor exercise you should consider joining history walks.

Historians have been conducting history walks for many years.  You can join a walk guided by a historian or you can download the notes for a history walk and do the walk in your own time.

This week I joined a history walk conducted by North Sydney Council historian, Dr Ian Hoskins.  The walk was one of myriad events held throughout New South Wales last week for the annual festival of history – History Week.

Following Photography’s Footsteps’ introduced walkers to sites associated with nineteenth century patron of photography, Bernhardt Holtermann, as well as those linked with photographer of the construction of the Harbour Bridge, Frank Cash.  But it also included a lot more. Continue reading

Sausages and Australian Elections

After casting their ballots voters around Australia were greeted by cheery volunteers raising funds for their local school.

After casting their ballots voters around Australia were greeted by cheery volunteers raising funds for their local school.

Sausages and elections go hand in hand in Australia.  The schools and community centres which are used throughout the country as polling booths take advantage of elections to do some much-needed fundraising.  The most popular fundraising event is the sausage sizzle.

DSCN9935 White BreadAll that is needed is a barbeque, sliced white bread and tomato sauce to make a sausage sandwich.  Often fried onions are included.  I have no idea why manning the barbeque is traditionally a male thing.  In my family it isn’t.

But I digress.

Stumbling Through the Past was born a little over three years ago on the day of the last Federal election in 2010.  I was writing up my thesis which included discussion of the Federal election of 1910.  Writing about the Federal election of one hundred years ago was an obvious topic to launch my new blog. You can read that post here.

So I had to write an election day post today to celebrate the third anniversary of Stumbling Through the Past and pay homage to the event that helped me start my blog.  But what to write about?  I had planned to write a serious post about technology and elections, but it has been an intense week this week.  I was in no mood to write a serious post.

It came to me when I saw that “#sausage” was trending world-wide today on Twitter:

Continue reading

Search For WWI Soldier Diaries Held by State Library NSW

One of the many postcards soldiers sent their families from northern France during WWI.

One of the many postcards soldiers sent their families from northern France during WWI.

11/11/2013: I have taken down the page referred to in this post because the State Library of NSW has launched a new portal to their WWI collection and now have one page on their website which lists all the transcribed diaries. See my post ‘New WWI Website from State Library NSW‘ for an overview and links to the Library’s WWI pages.

Are the World War I diaries or letters of the person you are researching available on the website of the State Library of New South Wales?

The Library has a collection of over two hundred diaries written by people serving in WWI which they are transcribing and making available on their website.  Yesterday I gave a brief talk about my research using the LIbrary’s European War Collecting Project to professional historians from around Australia who were meeting in Sydney.  As I mentioned in my last post about Archie Barwick’s diaries, the State Library of NSW collected these diaries in the aftermath of WWI and volunteers are spending many hours transcribing them. This is an ongoing project, there are many more to transcribe.

After my talk yesterday some historians expressed interest in accessing this collection.  In order to assist professional historians and family historians access the collection I have created a spreadsheet listing the names of those who wrote the diaries which are held in the collection together with links to the pages on the State Library of NSW website where you will hopefully find the transcriptions and images of the pages of the diary you are interested in.

The spreadsheet is available on a new page on this blog, ‘Search WWI Diaries at State Library of NSW’.

Please let me know whether you find this spreadsheet useful in the comments below.

Happy searching!

Addendum 2/9/2013

The State Library has many plans for the centenary of WWI and is eager for people who are researching any of the authors of these diaries to contact them directly.  Please contact:

if you have any information about these diarists to share.