Exhibition highlights contributions of African-Americans

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- "Historical figures from The Charles L. Blockson Collection of African Americana and the African Diaspora," an exhibition, will be on display through March 3, in Sidewater Commons, 102 Pattee Library.

Celebrating Blockson’s Penn State legacy, the current exhibit highlights a wide variety of rich political, cultural and historical contributions of African-Americans. Charles L. Blockson, born in 1933 in Norrristown, Pa., is a Penn State Distinguished Alumnus and a black bibliophile. When he was in the fourth grade, his teacher claimed that African-Americans had not made any historical contributions. In disbelief, Blockson embarked on a lifelong quest to collect books and artifacts on the African-American and the African Diaspora experience.

While at Penn State, Blockson played football and was recruited by the New York Giants, whose assistant coach was Vince Lombardi. Blockson recalled, “Vince Lombardi said that he could really use me, but I chose collecting books.” He has built a legacy to the African-American experience and made an important contribution to African-American history by building two library collections that are important cornerstones and testaments to his work.

In 1983, he donated the Charles L. Blockson African American Collection to Temple University in Philadelphia. In addition to serving as the curator of the Temple University collection, he has written a dozen historical guides on African-American history, including several devoted to black Pennsylvania history: "Philadelphia’s Guide. African-American State Historical Markers" (1992), "Pennsylvania’s Black History" (1975) and "The Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania" (1982).

Penn State's collection, The Charles L. Blockson Collection of African Americana and the African Diaspora, opened to the public in January 2008. Administered by the Special Collections Library, it is housed on the third floor of Pattee Library, west. The collection includes approximately 10,000 items, the majority of which are books that cover a wide range of subjects. There are also collections of sheet music, postcards, record albums and manuscript materials (letters, photographs, posters and programs) that document the lives of influential African Americans.

For more information about the Charles L. Blockson Collection, contact The Special Collections Library, 814-865-1793, or visit http://www.libraries.psu.edu/psul/speccolls/rbm/blockson.html.

The exhibition is open during regular library hours, which are available at 814-865-3063. For more information or if you anticipate needing accessibility accommodations or have questions about the physical access provided, call 814-863-4240.

Last Updated January 17, 2014