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Max Geier The Color of Night Research Files, circa 1900s-2016

By Cody Hess and Natalia Fernández

Collection Overview

Title: Max Geier The Color of Night Research Files, circa 1900s-2016

Predominant Dates: 1940s-2000s

ID: MSS Geier

Primary Creator: Geier, Max G

Extent: 1.6 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: This collection is comprised of three series: Series 1: History of African Americans and Railroading, circa 1900s-2011; Series 2: Robert E. Lee Folkes Case, 1923-2007; and Series 3: The Color of Night Manuscript Materials, 1940s-2016.

Date Acquired: 04/30/2016

Languages of Materials: English [eng]

Abstract

The Max Geier The Color of Night Research Files include the materials used by author and history professor Max Geier to write his 2015 book The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and Murder in the Wartime West. The book revolves around the 1943 trial of Robert E. Lee Folkes, a young black man and train cook who Geier argues was wrongly accused and convicted of the murder of Martha James, a young white woman, while both were aboard a train traveling near the Willamette Valley town of Albany, Oregon. The collection includes Geier’s research on the history of African Americans in Oregon and California, as well as the history of the Pullman Company; legal documents and other materials related to the Robert E. Lee Folkes case; and The Color of Night manuscript drafts and publication related documents.

Scope and Content Notes

The Max Geier The Color of Night Research Files span from circa 1900s to 2016, with the bulk of the material dating from 1940s to the 2000s. The collection features a variety of materials gathered, researched, and analyzed by Geier to write his book The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and Murder in the Wartime West, published by the Oregon State University Press in 2015. The book depicts the broader context as well as specifics of the 1943 trial of Robert E. Lee Folkes, a cook who worked for the railroad, convicted of murdering Martha James, a passenger, while a train they were both aboard was traveling near the Willamette Valley town of Albany, Oregon. James was a young white woman from the south who was newly married to a Navy pilot, while Folkes was a young black man and train cook from South Central Los Angeles. Through his extensive research and in his book, Geier argues that despite inconsistent and contradictory eyewitness accounts, a flawed and racially biased judicial system, and broader issues of wartime politics, race, and privilege, Folkes was charged and ultimately convicted of the crime.

The research files include Geier’s research on the history of African Americans in Oregon and California, as well as the history of the Pullman Company, a company that manufactured railroad cars in the late 1800s to mid-20th century. The bulk of the collection consists of materials related to the Robert E. Lee Folkes case such as photocopies of evidence, testimonials, court records, assorted legal documents, newspaper articles and other media consulted by Geier to write the book. The collection also contains The Color of Night manuscript materials including research proposals, funding requests, information requests, proof copies, and promotional materials for the book.

The digital files within the collection are available for viewing in the Reading Room.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Max G. Geier is a Professor of History, Emeritus, at Western Oregon University, specializing in 19th and 20th century history with a focus on community development in the western U.S. and Canada. A native of rural Minnesota, he lived and worked for many years near downtown Los Angeles. He has written two previous books on the history of forest science research in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Inspired by his own experience with a racially biased trial that changed his life, Geier undertook an academic study of a 1943 murder trial involving racial, gender, and class issues. The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and Murder in the Wartime West, published by the Oregon State University Press in 2015, presents Geier’s research of the murder of Martha James and the subsequent execution of Robert E. Lee Folkes who had been found guilty of her murder.



Author: Cody Hess

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 5 boxes, including 1 oversize box; 1,472 digital files 2.3 GB; 38 digitized photographs and 5 printed photographs

Statement on Access: This collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: Various materials within the collection are copies of primary source documents from other archival repositories and in many cases have stamps or related documentation pertaining to the material's original locations. Permission for publication would need to be acquired from the repository in which the original material is housed.

Acquisition Note: Max Geier donated these materials to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center April 30, 2016.

Related Materials: This collection is a component of the Oregon Multicultural Archives. Other collections pertaining to the Oregon African American experince include the Urban League of Portland Records, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Corvallis Branch Records, and the Harold C. Williams Papers. Anohter collection showcasing the African American railroad worker experiece is the African American Railroad Porters Oral History Collection.

Preferred Citation: Max Geier The Color of Night Research Files (MSS Geier), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Creators

Geier, Max G

People, Places, and Topics

African American railroad employees--Oregon--Willamette River Valley--Social conditions--20th century.
African Americans--Oregon.
Folkes, Robert E. Lee, 1923-1945
Oregon Multicultural Archives
Oregon State University. Press.
Racism--History.
Railroads--Oregon.
World War, 1939-1945--Social aspects--Oregon--Willamette River Valley.

Forms of Material

Digital images.


Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: History of African Americans and Railroading, circa 1900s-2011

Included within this series are both physical and digital materials pertaining to general information about the history of African Americans and railroading, specifically the histories of Pullman Porters. The digital files within the series are available for viewing in the Reading Room. Materials pertaining to Portland’s and Oregon’s African American community’s history include articles such as “A History of Portland’s African American Community (1805-to the Present)” published by the City of Portland Bureau of Planning, “The Problem of the Color Line: Civil Rights and Racial Ideology in Portland, Oregon 1944-1965”, several papers given at symposium on “The History of African Americans in Portland, Oregon,” as well as 1940s and 2000s census data. Materials pertaining to Los Angeles’s African American community’s history include an excerpt from Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America, along with maps of early Los Angeles, and a 2009 exhibit press release. Also included are lists of archival collections located in the state of California. The series also includes copies of Geier’s library circulation records that list a variety of books used as part of his research, the slides for the presentation “Big History and Lost Selves - Militarized Identities in Oregon", the notes for Geier's 2011 presentation, "They Always Get Their Man – Oregon State Police Seeking Real and Imagined Murders”, and a set of research articles regarding crime as well as women and World War II.

Because Geier conducted his research in a variety of archival repositories, the bulk of the series includes a number of scanned or photocopied documents. These include: the metadata information for various documents within the University of Southern California Libraries; documents from the Governor Charles Sprague Records (originally housed in the Oregon State Archives); the 1931 Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, city directory; three folders of copies of textual documents and photographs, along with the collection guide, from the Pullman Palace Car Company Records (the original collection is housed within the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois); and documents pertaining to the trial of Richard Harry Layton, a man convicted of murder during the 1940s. Lastly, the series includes two folders pertaining to the Southern Pacific Railroad: copies of several wartime issues of the Southern Pacific Railroad Bulletin and a photocopy of the book Southern Pacific’s First Century, which covers the railroad company’s origins and development over time.

Digital Folder 1: African American History - Oregon, 1940-2009
Extent: 2 digital files; 24 MB

Box-Folder 1.01: African American History - Portland, 1993-2004
Box-Folder 1.02: African American History - Los Angeles, 2005
Digital Folder 2: African American History - California, 2009
Extent: 3 digital files; 3 MB

Box-Folder 1.03: Circulation Records, 2007
Digital Folder 3: Document Metadata Files USC Libraries, circa 1900s-1950s
Extent: 12 files; 12 MB

Digital Folder 4: Governor Charles Sprague Records, circa 1930s-1940s
Extent: 42 digital files; 42 MB

Digital Folder 5: Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia - City Directory, 1931
Extent: 1 digital file; 117 MB

Digital Folder 6: Presentation - "Big History and Lost Selves", 2009
Extent: 6 digital files; 76 MB

Box-Folder 1.04: Presentation Notes - "They Always Get Their Man", 2011
Digital Folder 7: Pullman Company Archives collection guide, 1995
Extent: 1 digital file; 2 MB

Box-Folder 1.05: Pullman Company Archives materials, circa 1920s-2007
Box-Folder 1.06: Pullman Company Archives materials, circa 1920s-1950s
Box-Folder 1.07: Pullman Company Archives materials, circa 1940s-1970s
Digital Folder 8: Research Articles, 1981-2001
Extent: 4 digital files; 9 MB

Digital Folder 9: Richard Harry Layton Trial Documents, 1943-1944
Extent: 1,262 digital files; 1.24 GB

Box-Folder 1.08: Southern Pacific Railroad Bulletin Collection, 1941-1945
Box-Folder 1.09: Southern Pacific's First Century, 1955
Series 2: Robert E. Lee Folkes Case, 1923-2007

The materials within this series consist mostly of copies of primary source documents about the Robert E. Lee Folkes case that Geier used to write his book The Color of Night. The series begins with biographical information about Justice George Rossman of the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon; Harold Wilson, a train passenger and “star witness” in the case; and William H McClendon, a prominent member of Portland’s civil rights community during the late 1930s-1990s. Also included is Robert Folkes’ biographical information and employment record. The series contains case documents from the Linn County Circuit Court including, but not limited to, affidavits, motions, court orders, correspondence, and other trial related information. Other documents pertaining to the case include a list of passengers on the train, the medical examination of Martha James, various copies of photographs and diagrams of the crime scene, as well as Oregon State Police reports and testimony from California police, and a report by the Pullman conductor.

The bulk of the series consists of newspaper clippings, Pullman Company Archives materials, and witness statements. The newspaper clippings, predominately from newspapers in Oregon and California, center on the 1943 Folkes case, with some clippings dating from the 1920s-1940s that feature other murder cases. The Pullman Company Archives materials are both physical and digital. The digital files within the series are available for viewing in the Reading Room. These documents predominately include correspondence and newspaper clippings, along with copies of magazine images and photographs. The content pertaining to the witness statements include correspondence, a list of witnesses, and the statements made by the passengers and crew aboard the train. Also included is a set of statements made by Folkes. Notably, there are several statements, including his alleged “confession” of the murder, while the others profess his innocence. Other materials in the series include “The Facts in the Robert Folkes Case”, an article issued by the NAACP Portland Branch, that features the dissenting opinion of Justice George Rossman of the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon; copies of the case’s appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court; a document with Polk County, Oregon, murder trial information during the 1920s-1940s; and some of Geier’s research notes. The series concludes with a trial summary and two train floor plans: a 1934 floor plan of a tourist sleeping car, plan no 2412-U, and a 1939 floor plan of a 77 FT dining car.

The majority of the documents are photocopies from various archival collections such as the Pullman Palace Car Company Records within the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois, and the Railroad Law Enforcement Collection within the California State Railroad Museum Library and Archives. There are also materials from other repositories such as the State of Oregon Law Library, the Cottonwood County Historical Society, and the Oregon Historical Society.

Box-Folder 2.01: Biographical Information - George Rossman, undated
Box-Folder 2.02: Biographical Information - Harold Wilson, 1943-2007
Box-Folder 2.03: Biographical Information - Robert E Lee Folkes, undated
Box-Folder 2.04: Biographical Information - William H McClendon, 1996
Box-Folder 2.05: Employment Record - Robert E Lee Folkes, 1942-1943
Box-Folder 2.06: Linn County Circuit Court Case Documents, 1943-1945
Box-Folder 2.07: List of Passengers on Train 15, circa 1943
Box-Folder 2.08: Medical Examination of Martha James, 1943
Box-Folder 2.09: NAACP Portland “The Facts in the Robert Folkes Case”, circa 1943
Box-Folder 2.10: Newspaper Clippings - Assorted, 1943
Box-Folder 2.11: Newspaper Clippings - Assorted, 1943-1945
Box-Folder 2.12: Newspaper Clippings - Assorted - Other Murder Cases, 1923-1944
Box-Folder 2.13: Oregon Supreme Court Appeal, 1944
Box-Folder 2.14: Photographs and Diagrams, 1943
Box-Folder 2.15: Police Report – Oregon, 1943
Box-Folder 2.16: Police Testimony – California, 1943
Box-Folder 2.17: Polk County Itemizer Regarding Murder Trials 1922-1944, undated
Box-Folder 3.01: Pullman Conductor Report and Copies of Ticket Stubs, 1943
Box-Folder 3.02: Pullman Company Archives materials, 1943
Digital Folder 1: Pullman Company Archives materials, circa 1943
Extent: 43 digital files; 180 MB

Box-Folder 3.03: Research Notes, undated
Box-Folder 3.04: Statements - Correspondence, 1943
Box-Folder 3.05: Statements - List, 1943
Box-Folder 3.06: Statements - Passengers and Crew, 1943
Folder 1 of 4
Box-Folder 3.07: Statements - Passengers and Crew, 1943
Folder 2 of 4
Box-Folder 3.08: Statements - Passengers and Crew, 1943
Folder 3 of 4
Box-Folder 4.01: Statements - Passengers and Crew, 1943
Folder 4 of 4
Box-Folder 4.02: Statements - Robert E Lee Folkes, 1943
Box-Folder 4.03: Trial Summary, 1943
Box-Folder 5.01: Train Floor Plans, 1934-1939
Series 3: The Color of Night Manuscript Materials, 1940s-2016
This series includes both physical and digital materials related to the writing and publication process of Geier’s book The Color of Night. The digital files within the series are available for viewing in the Reading Room. The bulk of the materials are dated 2007-2016, however, the series also includes a number of scanned 1940s photographs. The series begins with various versions of Max Geier’s proposal for The Color of Night, along with his contract with the Oregon State University Press to publish the book. Also included are a number of manuscripts drafts, proofs, and reader reports. A variety of documents related to the manuscript draft include, but are not limited to, a list of characters, index information, acknowledgements, cover ideas, an style sheet, and a marketing questionnaire. Because Geier wrote The Color of Night while he was a professor at Western Oregon University (WOU), there are a number of documents related to Geier’s request for materials and funding such as information about his research, timeline, expected outcomes and budget, along with a sabbatical report, in which he details his conception of The Color of Night. This series also contains various photo citations, permissions, and scanned copies of photographs used for the book. There are photographs of the investigation, Pullman promotional photos, scans of pulp-fiction based on the murder, documents in which Geier lays out his ideal placement of photos within the book manuscript, and a list the photo citations. Completing the series are various promotional materials for the book, a draft of Geier’s 2015 reflection on writing the book, and the notes and poster for a 2016 presentation titled, “Working, Race, and Homeland: Divided Lives in the Wartime West” Geier gave at Oregon State University.
Digital Folder 1: Book Proposal, 2008-2011
Extent: 6 digital files; 6 MB

Box-Folder 4.04: Book Proposal and Contract, 2011-2012
Box-Folder 4.05: Manuscript Drafts, 2013
Digital Folder 2: Manuscript Drafts, 2010-2014
Extent: 19 digital files; 19 MB

Digital Folder 3: Manuscript Draft Related Documents, 2009-2015
Extent: 11 digital files; 15 MB

Box-Folder 4.06: Manuscript Proofs, 2013-2014
Digital Folder 4: Manuscript Proofs, 2015
Extent: 3 digital files; 6 MB

Box-Folder 4.07: Manuscript Reader Reports, 2011-2015
Digital Folder 5: Manuscript Reader Reports, 2011-2015
Extent: 4 digital files; 4 MB

Box-Folder 4.08: Material and Funding Requests to WOU, 2007-2015
Box-Folder 4.09: Photo Citations and Permissions, 2015
Digital Folder 6: Photo Files and Permissions, 1940s-2015
Extent: 53 digital files; 564 MB

Box-Folder 5.01: Poster for OSU Presentation, 2016
Box-Folder 4.10: Promotional Materials, 2015-2016
Box-Folder 4.11: Reflection and OSU Presentation, 2015-2016

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.