A Journey Through the Orphan Asylum Archives

June 1, 2023

As many of our readers know, the Spring 2023 Hard Histories Lab focused in on the Johns Hopkins Hospital Colored Orphan Asylum (JHH COA). We reviewed the administrative and financial records of the asylum together as a group and individually at the Johns Hopkins Medicine Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives. I was a new and inexperienced historical researcher, both excited and intimidated by the prospect of visiting the Chesney Archives for the first time. Baltimore history has always fascinated me, and the opportunity to delve into primary source material and uncover new insights was too good to pass up. However, I had no idea what to expect or how to go about conducting research in an archive.

Still Here: How at Hard Histories We Stay the Course

May 30, 2023

In 2020, as our work at Hard Histories began, that summer’s cries for racial reckoning echoed in our thinking. Ignited by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, demonstrations occupied streets in the United States and across the globe that season. Not long afterward, as we began to examine the ties of Johns Hopkins to the past of racial injustice, we recognized that the work of Hard Histories would endure only if we became part of something bigger than ourselves.

The “Reception, Maintenance and Education of Orphan Colored Children.”

April 26, 2023

It has been a semester for breaking silences. Our work began with the March 1873 letter that Johns Hopkins penned to the men he selected to steer the future of the hospital that would bear his name. Among his provisions were those related to what became the Johns Hopkins Hospital Colored Orphan Asylum. Today at John’s Hopkins we have had very little to say about what his words came to mean. Our research aimed to remedy that by examining the records from the asylum and understand how it ultimately provided for the “reception, maintenance and education of orphan colored children,” as Mr. Hopkins put it.

When Academic Historians Tackle Hard Histories

April 17, 2023

Later today, April 17 from 12 noon to 1 pm ET, we’ll talk live with two academic historians, Dr. Andrew Jewett and Dr. Ken Lipartito, about their approaches to writing hard histories. Dr. Jewett is the lead author on an institutional history of Johns Hopkins that will appear in conjunction with the university’s 150 year anniversary in 2026. Dr. Lipartito is at work on a biography of enslaver John McDonogh, for whom the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland, is named. Registration here is, as always, quick and easy.

When it Comes to Hard Histories, Can Silence be a Virtue?

April 3, 2023

From the Hard Histories Substack

Sometimes, the work of Hard Histories requires that we attend to the silences. And when it comes to our founder and namesake, Johns Hopkins, no aspect of his founding 1873 bequest has gone less examined that that of the so-called Colored Orphan Asylum. Our followers likely know some about the evolution of the hospital and university that were provided for in Mr. Hopkins’ will. These are stories the university and hospital have more readily and fully told. But the workings of the orphan asylum is a subject about which the university and hospital have remained largely silent.

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