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Friday, May 3, 2019

Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award to Be Renamed

Posted By on Fri, May 3, 2019 at 6:29 PM

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award will be renamed next year in response to critics who said the author's legacy is tainted by ties to the Vermont eugenics movement in the 1920s and '30s.

Vermont State Librarian Jason Broughton made the decision, which was announced Friday at the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Conference in Barre. 

Vermont children will be asked to help choose a new name, Broughton told Seven Days in a telephone interview after the conference. Vermont Public Radio first reported news of the renaming.

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Sunday, February 10, 2019

UVM's Kake Walk Featured Blackface Performers for Decades

Posted By on Sun, Feb 10, 2019 at 10:51 PM

  • University of Vermont Special Collections
  • Kake Walk competitors
Updated February 12, 2019

When “Meet the Press” needed a guest to counter Alabama governor George Wallace’s segregationist views in 1964, the NBC show called on a progressive leader from Vermont. The late governor Phil Hoff delivered, supporting the new Civil Rights Act “while projecting Vermont’s self-image as a racially enlightened society,” according to the 2011 biography Philip Hoff: How Red Turned Blue in the Green Mountain State.

Yet the governor also appeared more than once before thousands of people gathered at the University of Vermont to watch a popular annual blackface show called “A-Walkin-’Fo-De-Kake,” or Kake Walk. The event was so significant — and accepted — that local and state elected officials handed out trophies and cake to the fraternity brothers who performed best.

The 1963 Kake Walk program listed Hoff, lieutenant governor Ralph Foote, Burlington mayor Robert Bing and UVM president John Fey among the dignitaries scheduled to present awards.

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Library Board Pushes to Rename Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 1:03 PM

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
The Vermont Library Board is recommending that state librarian Scott Murphy remove author Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name from a children's book award created in her honor long ago.

The board voted 7-0 Tuesday on the recommendation after board president Bruce Post cited concerns including Fisher's association with the eugenics movement, which pushed for "better breeding."

"I felt honor bound to bring up this subject of eugenics," Post told Seven Days Thursday.

Murphy has not taken action in response to the vote. He did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

The board has been discussing the matter since April.  Fisher's defenders say the famed author, who died in 1958, stood up for prison reform, adult education and war relief. They say she is being judged unfairly over a minor association with the now-vilified eugenics movement.

Meanwhile, critics contend that she stereotyped Native Americans and French Canadians in her work and quietly endorsed the "better breeding" goals of eugenics.

Fisher was a member of the Vermont Commission on Country Life, an outgrowth of the Vermont Eugenics Survey directed by University of Vermont professor Henry Perkins in the 1920s and early 1930s.

The survey championed Vermont's original Anglo-Protestant "seedbed" and targeted French Canadians, Native Americans and "gypsy" families in pedigree studies that were designed to identify "degenerate" and "feeble-minded" Vermont residents.

The Library Board passed a resolution Tuesday that urged the state librarian to rename the award in a way that recognizes and encourages authors of children's literature, especially those with a Vermont connection.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Burlington Activist Takes Aim at 'White Supremacist' Mural

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 7:09 PM

The graffiti - SADIE WILLIAMS
  • Sadie Williams
  • The graffiti
Updated on October 11, 2017.

A Burlington activist said he used graffiti Monday to make a political statement about a mural off Church Street.

Albert Petrarca, who describes himself as a member of the Off the Wall coalition, said in a press release that he and other members of the group defaced an identification plaque that accompanies the “Everyone Loves a Parade!” mural downtown. Petrarca described the public art, which is 124 feet by 16 feet, as a “white supremacist symbol” that obliterates “First Nation peoples’ lives and history.”

The goal? “To reset the debate on why an undeniably racist piece of ‘art’ and ‘history’ occupies our town square,” wrote Petrarca, an activist who is outspoken on a variety of Burlington issues.

“Colorful and hyperrealistic,” Seven Days reported in 2012, “the mural unspools an eclectic cast of major and minor Vermont celebrities.” It’s located on the side of a building that houses Banana Republic along the pedestrian-only Leahy Way, which leads to the Marketplace parking garage. And yes, for those wondering, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is also depicted in the mural.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Library Board Delays Decision on Renaming Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award

Posted By on Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 7:34 PM

Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  • Dorothy Canfield Fisher
Famed Vermont author Dorothy Canfield Fisher's name will stay on a children's book award — at least for now.

The Vermont Board of Libraries met Tuesday and heard two and a half hours of debate about a request to rename the award. Critics behind the effort say Fisher was associated with the Vermont Eugenics Survey, and that she stereotyped its targets — including French Canadians and French Indians — in her writing.

But after several speakers at the meeting mounted a fierce defense of Fisher, the board delayed making a recommendation on whether to rename the award until its next meeting on October 10. State Librarian Scott Murphy will have the final say.

"I'm not trying to kick the can down the road, I'm trying to figure out a way to deal with this," board chair Bruce Post told Seven Days after the meeting in Berlin.*

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Zephyr Teachout Coming Home to Talk Corruption

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Zephyr Teachout - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Zephyr Teachout
Hot off a surprisingly strong run for New York governor in which she knocked incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo for a loop — and won a place on the TV talk-show circuit — Zephyr Teachout will be back on her home turf to talk politics.

Teachout will discuss her book Corruption in America when she takes the stage Thursday at Vermont Law School. The free event is from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in Chase Community Center at the South Royalton school. (Her father, Peter, teaches constitutional law there; her mother, Mary, is a Vermont Superior Court judge.) She’ll also be signing her book at Barrister’s Book Shop from 3:30-4:30 p.m. that day.

The 43-year-old Teachout, who grew up down the road in Norwich and teaches law at Fordham University, went from relative obscurity to prominence as the bee in Cuomo’s political bonnet during last year’s New York gubernatorial primary.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Jim Jeffords, Vermont Icon With an Independent Streak, Dies at 80

Posted By and on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Updated at 4:53 p.m.

Former U.S. senator Jim Jeffords, an iconic independent and veteran Vermont politician, died Monday at age 80.

Near the end of his 40-year career in public office, the Rutland Republican stunned the nation in May 2001 when he left his party to become an independent. The move handed control of a closely divided Senate to the Democratic Party for the next 18 months and earned Jeffords a place in political history.

But according to his longtime chief of staff, Susan Boardman Russ, Jeffords’ most important contribution was not his defection from the GOP, but his decades of work fighting for education, the environment, dairy farmers and the disabled.

“That’s his legacy. That’s what mattered to him,” Boardman Russ said. “The publicity he got for switching parties I sometimes wish hadn’t happened because all those incredible things he did over those years got lost.”

Jeffords died Monday morning at the Knollwood Military Retirement Residence in Washington, D.C., where he had lived since the death of his wife, Liz, in 2007, according to former spokeswoman Diane Derby. 

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lake Champlain Mystery: Renewed Effort Will Seek Plane Lost in 1971

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 6:52 PM

  • File photo
Authorities in Vermont and New York plan to take another look for a plane that went missing 43 years ago over Lake Champlain. The private jet had five people aboard when it disappeared in a 1971 snowstorm.

It was a January evening when the 10-passenger twin engine jet left Burlington bound for Providence, R.I. The Rockwell Jet Commander, owned by an Atlanta real estate company, was recorded on a single radar blip at 5,000 feet, and "then was gone on the very next sweep just seconds later," according to a news release from the Vermont Department of Public Safety. 

Early searching was fruitless and, within days, the lake had iced over. The following April, small parts of the plane floated ashore in Shelburne. The plane has never been found, despite searches with infrared, sonar and submarine technologies.

According to the press release, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, which went missing in March, got people talking again about the Lake Champlain mystery. Individuals and state and volunteer agencies have formulated a plan to search the lake with more modern equipment, including side-scanning sonar, underwater vehicles and a submarine. Vermont and New York state police will be involved, along with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Some boating traffic may be restricted; the efforts are scheduled to begin this month.

"The goal," said New York State Police Captain John Tibbitts, "is to locate and recover the remains to finally bring closure to these families." The plane was carrying two crew members and three passengers when it went down. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Abenaki Artifacts to Return to Original Burial Ground

Posted By on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Seven stone relics unearthed in the 1980s from an ancient Missisquoi Abenaki burial ground in Swanton will be returned to tribal members, the Preservation Trust of Vermont announced Friday.  

The relics surfaced in early March when the people who used to own the land put them up for auction. Upon discovering that they were listed on Duane Merrill & Company's auction website, members of the Abenaki community — as well as state employees in the Division of Historic Preservation — scrambled to stop the sale scheduled for March 30.

Seven Days covered the story in this week's paper, but the artifacts' fate remained in limbo at the time it was published. Ethan Merrill, who co-owns the Williston-based auction company, had agreed to take the items off the auction block — in deference to the Abenakis' beliefs — and he said he was working to broker a compromise between the consignors, John and Anita Boucher, and tribal representatives. Another plan, in which a private benefactor would purchase the artifacts and donate them to UVM's Fleming Museum, fell through last week.  

The Preservation Trust, a nonprofit founded in 1980 "to help communities save and use historic places," announced that it had helped facilitate a deal that was agreeable to the Bouchers and Abenaki tribal members. 

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

This Week's Issue: Little Italy, Big Prisons and a Band Called Phish

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 6:03 PM

Happy November, everyone. If you're cooped up inside bemoaning the chill in the air and the absence of sunlight, hey, more time for reading Seven Days. And more time for a couch tour, if you're a Phish-head — our own Paul Heintz took a break from politics this week to look back at the Vermont band's 30 years on the jam circuit. Once you're finished with that long read, here are this week's newsy stories:

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