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Library of Congress to put “African American Odyssey” on display


An exhibit comprised of items from the nation’s largest
collection of materials relating to African American history and
culture will go on display next year at the Library of Congress.

Based on a book-edited by Dr. Debra Newman Ham, The African American
Mosaic: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Black History and
Culture, “African American Odyssey” documents the Black quest for full
citizenship with materials from the library’s collection. It will open
here on February 8, 1998, but those who can’t get to the nation’s
capital will be able to view the exhibit online.

“The Library [of Congress] has eagerly sought African American
materials for more than a century,” said Librarian of Congress James H.
Billington in a statement released by the library. “Its holdings
encompass not only books, but also manuscripts relating to Black
individuals and institutions, musical recordings form the world’s
largest jazz collection, the fullest surviving collection of films from
the early Black film industry, as well as photographs, prints, maps,
folklife, and oral histories.

“These collections demonstrate the tenacity of Americans of all
colors and races in believing that this nation guarantees ‘liberty and
freedom for all.'”

Ham, who is now a professor of history at Morgan State University,
is the main curator of the exhibit, which grew out of her work at the
Library of Congress from 1986 to 1995. She said that she and other
experts from each of the library’s sections, such as music, documents,
and so forth, would meet regularly to pool their materials relating to
the African American experience, beginning with the period of slavery
and working up to the civil rights era.

That led to the book, The African American Mosaic, and to a related
Web site which, Ham says, had “one million hits – it was more popular
than any other exhibit. We know people are interested.”

Ham says she hopes the new exhibit and Web site will be even more popular.

Although nothing can replace actually seeing the exhibits in person,
viewing them online has certain advantages, she says. For instance, if
just the front page of a particular document is on view at the exhibit,
the entire document can be perused online. The Web-site address will be>.

The exhibition, which will run through May 2, 1998, will have nine
sections: Slavery – The Peculiar Institution; Free Blacks in the
Antebellum Period; Abolitionists, Antislavery Movements and the Rise of
Sectional Controversy; The Civil War; Reconstruction and Its Aftermath;
The Booker T. Washington Era; World War I and Postwar Society; The
Depression, The New Deal and World War II; and The Civil Rights Era. It
will include books, pamphlets, microfilm, manuscripts, newspapers,
recordings, sheet music, posters, and film.

For more information on “African American Odyssey,” call (202)
707-8000. For the hearing impaired, the number is (202) 707-6200 TTY.

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