Emory University Acquires Carter G. Woodson Archives

Emory University Acquires Carter G. Woodson Archives

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Scholars and researchers interested in the life and works of Carter G. Woodson will now have direct access to his archives via Emory University’s Special Collections and Archives Division.
Woodson’s library and that of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), which he founded in 1916, have been in storage in the headquarters of the association for many years, and have been inaccessible to researchers.
Under terms of a collaborative arrangement, Emory will preserve and catalog the collection and will publish a printed catalog. In addition to providing full bibliographical citation to each item, the printed catalog will note inscriptions to and marginal comments by Woodson, and it will indicate the presence of bookplates, dust jackets and other distinctive features. In addition, two fellowships in Woodson’s name will be created to encourage scholars to work with the library.
“Collaborating with Emory University to preserve and catalog the Carter G. Woodson Library has furthered the association’s mission of preserving, protecting and disseminating information and artifacts about Africana life and history,” said Dr. Gloria Harper Dickinson, 2001-2003 national president of ASALH. “ASALH enthusiastically marks this 21st-century milestone because it ensures that this 20th-century visionary’s life and work will be preserved in perpetuity.”
The collection includes many rare and important books, pamphlets and periodicals, according to Emory’s curator of African American collections Dr. Randall Burkett.
Among the earliest books in the collection is a beautiful leather-bound copy of A Short History of Barbados, From its First Discovery and Settlement, to…1767 (1768). Within the collection of books there are many important inscriptions to Woodson, including one from the great book collector Arthur A. Schomburg, who on July 4, 1919, inscribed a rare edition of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems and Letters — the first collected edition of her work, and limited to only 400 copies. Schomburg’s inscription in Spanish quotes a line from the Cuban slave poet Plácido, executed in 1844 for his presumed participation in a slave revolt.
Perhaps the most apt inscription, according to Burkett, is from the famous musician W. C. Handy, who signed his book, Unsung Americans Sung (1944), “To the Father of Negro History Week, From the Father of Blues.”
“This acquisition is so important because very few libraries of African American intellectuals have been preserved, and Carter Woodson was truly one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century,” Burkett said. “You can see from his personal library that he was not reading only African American authors. There are anti-slavery tracts, but also pre-Civil War pro-slavery tracts. What you see is the extraordinary breadth of his own knowledge and how that informed his understanding of African Americans’ place in American history and culture.”
The collection arrived in more than 65 boxes containing books, pamphlets, periodicals and print ephemera. The library will be available for research use in the next 24 months. An exhibition of items in the collection is scheduled to open at Emory in October 2006.



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