by Dorothy Porter Wesley
(Speech presented at Morgan State College, Social Science Club,
Hunt Gymnasium, February 13, 1957, in celebration of the
Negro History Week Program. Edited and referenced by Constance Porter Uzelac,
Executive Director, Dorothy Porter Wesley Research Center, Inc., January 16, 2001)

It is a real pleasure and privilege for me to be here and to participate in your Negro History Week Program. Over the years, Negro History Week has become for me a living event. I have learned to look forward to it with a sense of obligation, or duty, and to feel that somehow I have become a devotee of its cult. Each year, for many years, I have assembled special exhibitions and helped groups throughout the country to mark and color the event. I have subscribed to the belief that Negro History Week must be just as seriously regarded in a national way as it well may be in a regional or local way.

1994 Invitation

Certainly it was the hope of Carter G. Woodson,1 the founder of this annual celebration, that all African Americans would be aroused through the annual recurrence of this event to a keener appreciation of the contributions our people have made to their own as well as to world history. Indeed, Carter G. Woodson was dedicated not only to the passion of scholarship but his public life was an unending search for the greater- as well as the lesser-known truths of the Negro past. And it was from him, this leader who began life as a coal miner and ended it as an educator, humanist, historian and publisher, that we have learned the hard but all important fact that the African American can claim no achievement as a group unless he has records to document them. It was under the compulsion of this belief that Woodson begged for and assiduously collected old family records in the form of letters, diaries, bills, certificates and other miscellany of our racial past. Moreover, along with many like-minded men, he helped to raise up a small army of younger scholars with the double purpose of preserving and interpreting the records of his people.

I have often wondered how C[arter] G[odwin] W[oodson], who worked nearly always alone, found time to write and edit seventeen books on Negro life and history, to establish the A[ssociation for the] S[tudy of] N[egro] L[ife and] H[istory], 2 the Associated Publishers, the Journal of Negro History and the Bulletin of Negro History. Additionally, he completed three volumes of a projected Encyclopedia Africana. He inspired many historians, white and black; and some of the fine scholars he championed are on your faculty now, carrying the burden of teaching while trying to reevaluate the African American and to fit him into his proper place in history.

I know some of you who are here today may be wondering why a librarian is addressing you instead of an historian. If you are making an effort to recall the title of some monograph or book of fullsome bulk I may have written, or if you are trying to recall which aspect of a burning social or political question I may have defended, set your minds at rest for I make no claim to memorable literary or polemical effectiveness in the area of history. As a librarian, I do claim to have had access to a few unusual collections of books and periodicals.

It is fitting, therefore, that I share with you some of the experiences and insights that I have derived from an actively acquisitive and professional concern with the materials of African American history. While I will not attempt a definition of such materials at this time, you will be able to imagine its scope when I say that within it are embraced books and pamphlets, manuscript letters, diaries, journals, documents of all kinds, broadsides, maps, engravings, pictures, microfilms, microprints, phonograph records, curios, museum and ephemeral pieces of various types.

To work with such a varied accumulation of materials is a never-ending temptation to browse or to do research. Occasionally, and to a degree automatically, I find myself doing both at the same time. However, a librarian's task is somewhat like that of an historian: to pursue the facts and, quite naturally, more facts are often turned up in places where interest has already made the ground familiar.

I recall that not many years ago the African was said to lack all sense of history because African history was not available in the form of written language. But now I know that the objective studies of anthropologists, linguists and historians have gone far to correct this ignorant opinion. They have proved that many African people of high culture have possessed an historical sense, and further, that their trained memories and prodigious fund of legend have served as the actual conservators of their history.

Delafosse3 in his Negroes in Africa stated that over many areas of Africa one finds "living books" rather than libraries, laws and codes, supernatural tales, comic stories, proverbs, riddles, epic poems, funeral dirges and dramas. These living books are of all types: some are musicians, poets, storytellers, and others are dancers. They memorize genealogies of noble families, many important facts relating to great men, religious beliefs, and tribal life that is then handed down from generation to generation, each one adding to the heritage it has received from the preceding generation.

Emil Torday, the Hungarian ethnologist who lived among and studied very seriously the Bushongo people of the Central Congo region, is one of several scientists who has helped Western minds to learn the real truth about African culture. He tells us that for many centuries, among the Bushongo people, a high-placed dignitary known as the M'aridi was the Court Historian. In his own person and in the quality of his office he represented the highest expression of oral tradition to be observed any place in Africa. The M'aridi was a walking encyclopedia of the history as well as of the mythology of his people. Through him and his associates, Torday was able to learn much of the history of the past Bakuba chiefs: he was able to retrospectively document 120 Nyimis or sovereigns (kings), thus placing the known beginnings of Boshongo culture back to the sixteenth century.

The effect of this and many similar researches by persistent investigators, among them Delaforre, Frobenius and Griaule, to name only the most persistent, has been utilized by both African and European students of culture, and particularly by African writers who are earnestly probing the root traditions, folklore, and other hallowed customs of their own people. These writers have collected and preserved in written form many of the old Court praises, folk tales, tribal histories, laws and stories derived from the more sophisticated accounts of tribal life and customs.

This lifting of the ancient curtain of mystery and half-truths has revealed the African people in a new light, and it is with a sense of appreciation that I note the recent organization of libraries with progressive, systematic collections and a concentration of records in many different formats at various urban university centers in West Africa, East Africa and, more recently, in the Belgian Congo. This, of course, does not mean that the oral tradition, the verbal and mimic modes of African communication or expression, is at an end.

Jomo Kenyatta, the Kikuyu anthropologist, writes in his book My People of Kikuyu: "The Kikuyu people have no written records and all they know of their early history is told in legends and traditions. There is no sharp line where legend ends and history begins... but there is no reason to doubt that these traditions, in their main outline, present a true picture, for the Kikuyu have always remembered their ancestors. Kikuyu history is preserved in legends and tribal songs. It is in these that the memories of great men are kept green and their personalities and deeds are immortalized."4

Silas M. Molema,5 a black South African, in his book entitled: The Bantu urged Africans to collect and record the history of their people. Not only is this being done in South Africa, but everywhere Africans are feeding presses with their manuscripts written in French, English, or their vernacular languages.

Recently, Miss Joan Parkes, a Nigerian traveling librarian, ransacked Nigerian reading rooms for local materials that where no longer of use to their owners. Her purpose was to deposit these gleanings where they would be preserved. The University College at Ibadan, Nigeria, is now a depository for all government publications. It is there that the private library of the late Herbert Macaulay, founder of the Nigerian Democratic Party, is deposited. It contains thousands of items, including pamphlets, newspapers, government documents, minute books, papers of societies, maps, manuscripts letters, diaries and business documents of great value to historical research. Other collections of Africana are finding their way into libraries especially concerned with black Africa.

The priority that collections of Afro-Americana have in our minds over collections of Africana is explained by historical conditions. Thrust into the center of a dynamic Western civilization and buffeted by powerful social, economic and cultural forces, the African American early on developed a consciousness of self that corresponds to that of a rationally controlled society. He mastered the language of the dominant group and produced in that language a literature marked by experience and hope.

African American leaders, along with their white Abolitionists friends, very early recognized the importance of the African American position in America. In response to individual and family needs and national interests and in the face of slavery and the later disappointments of reconstruction and disfranchisement, they persisted in gathering data and in the production and the preservation of records of their race.

African American slaves, freedmen, politicians, preachers and scientific-minded men from the middle of the eighteenth century in this country recorded their activities, personal histories and numerous facts that enable us today to re-evaluate past history. Their lives and their times contain much of curious history. Probably the first of these men was Briton Hammon, whose narrative was published in 1760 in Boston. I would like very much to read the title page of this book to you since it not only gives us an idea of the experiences of Hammon but also because I believe it to be the first book written by a Negro and published in the United States:

A narrative of the uncommon sufferings, and surprizing deliverance of Briton Hammon, A Negro man . . . servant to General Winslow, of Marshfield, In New-England who returned to Boston after having been absent almost thirteen years. Containing an account of the many hardships he underwent from the time he left his master's house, in the year 1747, to the time of his return to Boston. "How he was cast away in the capes of Florida; . . . the horrid cruelty and inhuman barbarity of the Indians in murdering the whole ship's crew; . . . the manner of his being carried by them into captivity. Also, an account of his being confined four years and seven months in a close dungeon and the remarkable manner in which he met with his good old master in London, who returned to New-England, a passenger in the same ship.

Before 1800, a number of interesting and often exciting volumes written by African Americans were published in this country. Among these were books by John Marrant,6 James Alber Ukawsaw, Gustavus Vassa,7 Venture Smith,8 Paul Cuffee, 9 Phillis Wheatley,10 Jupiter Hammon,11 Benjamin Banneker,12 and Richard Allen.13

In 1810, Daniel Coker14 published in Baltimore a book on anti-slavery entitled: A Dialogue between a Virginian and an African Minister. In 1816, he became a minister of the African Bethel Church in that same city. For ten years I searched a number of libraries for this book and finally found it on making a second trip to the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass. The dialogue between the Virginian and the African minister was of course an argument on slavery versus liberty. The Virginian attempts to convince the minister that the enactment of a law in the V[irginia] Legislature for the emancipation of slaves would be wrong since he had legally purchased them as property. The African minister contends that freeing men will not deprive anyone of his property but merely restore property to its rightful owner. At the end of the argument the Virginian is convinced by the persuasive African minister that he is wrong. He agreed to return home, free his 55 slaves, and treat well those who did

not wish to leave. However, of greater significance today is that in this little volume Coker included facts that are still of historical interest: such as the names of the Negro ministers whom he knew with the locations of their churches; a list of the African churches in Philadelphia, New York, Long Island, Boston, New Jersey, Baltimore, Wilmington, Annapolis and Charleston. He also gave statistics on the number of African Methodists in the United States, which he placed at 31,885 in 1809. Of particular interest to me is his list of sermons and orations written by Negroes and published prior to 1810. Coker himself published sermons and an interesting Journal in 1820, telling of his voyage on the ship Elizabeth from New York to Sierra Leone where he took three agents and ninety persons of color to settle a colony.

Anti-slavery societies, African American literary organizations, church associations, and historical societies did much to stimulate the collecting of books and pamphlets by African American authors; they also encouraged the publication of titles about the African American in order to show that our people were worthy of a fate better than slavery and that they were not the inferior beings so many believed them to be. Before emancipation many abolitionists of both races assembled representative collections of anti-slavery publications and books of African American authorship. A Catalogue of Anti-Slavery Publications in America, compiled by Samuel J. May, was printed in the 1869 Report of the American Anti-Slavery Society. It was a chronological list of publications printed from 1750 to 1863.

Perhaps the earliest effort by an African American to collect and make books available to an African American readership was that made by David Ruggles,15 an abolitionist. In 1834, Ruggles opened a book shop in New York City where he circulated anti-slavery publications. He also provided a reading room for colored persons since they were excluded because of their color from literary institutions and reading rooms provided primarily for white persons. Unfortunately, Ruggles' bookstore was destroyed by fire in 1835.

Of the several African American historical associations that had as one of their objectives book collecting, the most interesting was the Negro Society for Historical Research16 founded at Sunny Slope Farm, Yonkers, N.Y., on April 18, 1911, at the residence of John E. Bruce.17 It numbered among its corresponding members residents of Panama, Cuba, several West Indian Islands, Brazil, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, Liberia and South Africa. This society published a few historical papers and occasionally circulated some of the books from its collection of African American authors. An article published on the society in the 1912 annual issue of the African Times and Orient Review lists a few of the 300 rare works in the collection. Several of the members of this society assembled collections of Negroana that have found their way into public and university libraries. These men were John E. Bruce, John W. Cromwell,18 W[illia]m A. Lavellet, William Bolivar,19 Daniel Murray,20 Arthur A. Schomburg21 and Alain LeRoy Locke.22

It is not unlikely that early African American historians prior to Carter Woodson's time had good private collections during their day. William C. Nell,23 William Wells Brown,24 George W. Williams,25 William H. Ferris26 and others must have had near their writing tables numerous books, pamphlets and periodicals that they consulted while writing their histories.

At the turn-of-the-century there appeared many individual collectors of Afro-Americana. One of these was William C. Bolivar, a colored businessman of Philadelphia who for many years had some connection with almost every uplift movement of his race. For twenty years he wrote a weekly column for the Philadelphia Tribune. Many of his articles appeared under the nom de plume "Pencil Pusher." In 1914, a 32-page list of his library of books, pamphlets, magazines, reports and manuscript letters was printed. His collection was sold at auction to various collectors.

In 1899, at the suggestion of President McKinley, the American Commissioner of the Paris Exposition decided to have as a feature of the American exhibit a collection of books and pamphlets by Afro-American authors. Daniel Murray, then assistant librarian of the Library of Congress, was asked to assemble the collection. When the exhibition opened in May 1900, he had succeeded in identifying 1,100 titles from which he was able to send 500 to Paris. Murray continued to identify and list African American authors and by 1904 his list had increased to 2,200. There was much public reaction to Daniel Murray's printed Preliminary List of Books and Pamphlets by Negro Authors, published in 1900. One such reaction was a statement printed in the Boston Transcript of November 14, 1902, which declared: "this work cannot be strictly a bibliography of Negro authors, since it contains publications by mulattos, quadroons and octoroons." Senator Benjamin R. Tillman, in his speech in the Senate on February 23, 1903, said: "In South Carolina, we recognize octoroons as white people." This becomes important since Henry Timrod, a great Southern poet to whom a monument was erected in Charleston, S.C., and in whose honor numerous Timrod Societies have been formed, was an astern.

During one of the sessions of the American Negro Academy,27 a literary and historical association, held in Washington early in the 1900s, a group of delegates, while eating dinner at the home of John Cromwell,28 author of The Negro In American History, engaged in much bookish conversation. As a result, The American Negro Book Exchange was organized for the purpose of centralizing literature written by colored people. The newly-formed organization planned to contact book collectors in Africa, the West Indies, South America and Europe and to exchange duplicates written by Africana authors. A list of such authors and their works was to be compiled. Henry P. Slaughter,29 the well-known book collector, was elected president. He had come to Washington in 1896 and was at the time of the meeting a government printer. When Henry P. Slaughter was a boy he began to buy books on slavery and read them because his parents and the older folk would not talk to him about this subject that they wished to forget. From then on he avidly acquired books not only on slavery but on [the] African American in general. These were supplemented by titles on the Civil War and on A[braham] Lincoln. An eccentric bookworm, Henry P. Slaughter preferred his books to intimate companionship or to a new hat or a new suit of clothes any day. In 1946, his collection was purchased by Atlanta University. It contained more than 7,000 books and pamphlets, over 800 manuscript pieces, a large number of musical compositions by African Americans, slave papers, photographs, engravings, framed pictures and documents, as well as curios and museum pieces. It well supplemented the Countee Cullen30 Memorial Collection and other collections of Africana interest already at the University.

Among our people, no other man was more intrigued by the history and culture of his race than Arthur Alphonso Schomburg31 of Puerto Rico. He was perhaps the most noted of our bibliophiles. He came to New York City in 1891 to study medicine but only studied for one year. For thirty years Schomburg gathered data on the contribution of the African and his descendants to art, literature, history and science. The achievements of Africans in the Western world was a subject of special interest to him. He journeyed to Spain to study Moorish history and to establish the thesis that the Africans who accompanied the early explorers were Christians brought over to help Christianize the natives. There, he also did research on the colony of Africana founded by Balboa on the mainland of Panama. In Spain he learned of the consecration in 1751 of Doctor Don Francisco Giver Lana Victoria y Castro, an African and the first native bishop of Panama. International in scope, the Schomburg collection covered nearly every phase of Africana activity in Africa and in Europe, in South America, in the West Indies and in the United States. The Schomburg collection has many rare volumes in addition to quantities of books, pamphlets and periodicals of lesser value. It also contains prints by and about Africana, newspaper clippings, playbills, programs, broadsides, sheet music and recordings of music composed or performed by peoples of African descent. In the same room with this collection, an interesting group of African ivory, metal and wood-carved objects is always on display. In 1926, The Arthur Schomburg collection was purchased by the Carnegie Cooperation and placed under his care in the 135th Street Branch of The New York Public Library. Schomburg served for several years as its curator.

When I was the age of many of you, I knew nothing about Africa or of her descendants in this country. Of course, I was aware that the third collection of pennies taken up in the church of which I was a member went for the work of the missionaries in Africa. But no one seemed to care about Africa but the missionaries. My school textbooks did inform me that Africa was a land of naked savages, thatched huts, pygmies, witch doctors, intense heat and torrential rains. There were no special issues of Time,

Look, Life or even Colliers at that time devoted to the Negro. Ed Morrow's "See It Now" and Alan Patton's Cry, the Beloved Country32 were not televised into my home. Perhaps my first real introduction to African history was through a course I had on the early civilization of Africa taught by William Leo Hansberry33 at Howard University. Later, I was overjoyed when I learned shortly after finishing my academic work that I was to have charge of building and developing an Africana library collection at Howard University.

The excellent anti-slavery collection of L[ewis] Tappan was received as a gift by the University in 1873. Thereafter, smaller important gift items were frequently deposited by friends of the University, one of whom was Charles Sumner.

In 1914, Dr. Jesse Edward Moorland,34 a trustee of the University donated his collection of more than 3,000 books on the Negro and such diversified materials as engravings, portraits, manuscripts, curios, pictures and clippings. The acceptance of this gift by the trustees of Howard University created the Moorland Foundation, a Library of Negro Life and History. In 1932, the collection was organized as a reference collection and with the purchase in 1946 of the Arthur B. Spingarn35 Collection of Negro Authors, from all parts of the world the Moorland Foundation became probably the most comprehensive collection in existence for the study of Africana. Just this month we have unpacked the Alain L. Locke collection of books and manuscripts bequeathed to the University by the late Dr. Locke. Since time does not permit me to tell you about the wealth of materials in the Moorland-Spingarn Collection, I invite each of you to visit our library and see these treasures that are being added regularly to the Collection.

Perhaps the rapid growth of the collection is one of my greatest problems. It reminds me of the elderly Vermonter who, when asked if it were not awful to be growing older and older, replied, "No, tain't awful to be growing older and older. If I wasn't getting older, I'd be dead." Collections of course will never die when they stop growing, and I would be very unhappy if my collection did not continue to grow.

I would like to say a word about the competitive book dealers who not only often supply collectors with valuable items that later get into public collections but who also search for and call to the attention of librarians, books and manuscripts of special interest. Many book dealers mimeograph or print lists and well-annotated bibliographies of the titles that they have for sale. Frequently the finer catalogs issued by these dealers become rare bibliographical items as they soon go out-of-print or are lost. What is even more important is that they sometimes contain, in the annotation above the item for sale, interesting facts often previously unknown to the reader. Let me cite two or three examples: one dealer listed a manuscript that he offered for sale for $95.00. It was a petition written by Francisco, a slave, about 1630 that sheds light on the slave trade; however, Francisco claimed to be a free man. He said he had obtained his liberty from a Portuguese man who owned him in Brazil. Captured by the Dutch and taken to the Netherlands, he was sold to the Calvinist Jacob in Dublin, who later gave him to a Captain Tomas Gins. Finally, he was sold again to John Des, British Consul at Cadiz, where this document was written.

A few days ago a catalog reached my desk that listed many rare books and manuscripts relative to the discovery and history of America for the period 1492-1814. One item for sale was a manuscript diary of the 1779 Siege of Savannah, a contemporary account written by the Comte D'Estaing. The diary includes statements concerning the comparative strengths of the American and British forces at Savannah, checked and dated October 8, 1779. The annotation includes the statement that the American troops numbered 2,000 and together with the French, who had over 3,000, made a force of 5,883 men; the British troops numbered 3,000 and they had as auxiliaries 4,000 Negroes and 80 "Chiroquis savages, which brought the British forces up to 7,080.

Elsewhere we learn that of the many Negro units in the Union Army during the Civil War, the 14th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery was the only one found to have issued a newspaper. It was called the Black Warrior. One hundred and eight different military units of the Civil War published newspapers. Perhaps the young women here today will be interested in this abstract describing the contents in part of a letter written by Adah Isaacs Menken,36 a beautiful actress who for 15 years was the talk of two continents. She was born in New Orleans in 1835 and was supposed to have had a little African blood. Perhaps her life was made more exciting by the fact that she had four husbands and equally as many lovers. A manuscript letter written by her appeared in a recent catalog. In a letter to Robert Reece, the librettist, she invited him to visit her and her "Ghosts." "They will be harmless to you these Ghosts of mine," she wrote:

"They are soft-footed things that wear my brain, and live on my heart, that is the fragment, I have left to be called a heart. I hear you are married. I am glad of that. I believe all men should be married. Yet, I do not believe women should marry. Somehow, they all sink into nonentities after this epoch in their existence. This is the fault of female education. They are taught from their cradles to look upon marriage as the one event of their lives. That accomplished, nothing remains. However, Byron might have been right after all "Man's love of his life a thing apart, it is a woman's whole existence. If this is true, we do not wonder to find so many stupid wives. Good women are rarely clever, and clever women are rarely good. Now a royal tigress waits in her lonely jungle the coming of the king of the forest, brown gaiters not excluded."

An exceedingly rare Haitian imprint entitled: Glorious Events Which Have Brought Their Royal Majesties to the Throne of Haiti37 was last week listed in a dealer catalog. It belongs to the early period of King Henry Christoph's reign and was printed by Roux for the Royal Government before the Imprimerie Royale was established at Sans Souci. This publication describes the events that led to Christoph's elevation to the throne, the fabulous coronation that took place in June 1811, the Royal decrees establishing the hereditary nobility of Haiti and much other information. This costly dealer's item was written by Julien Prevost, Comte de Limonade, a very talented Mulatto, well educated in France, who held the portfolio of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and thus had more frequent intercourse with Europeans than did the other members of King Henry's Court. I had never heard of Julien Prevost before I noted this annotation. These examples illustrated the kind of information to be gleaned from dealer's catalogs that list items on Africana and related subjects. These dealers in all part of the United States and abroad are ready to supply prospective buyers with their catalogs.

Many Africana victims of Bibliomania have significantly enriched public and university library collections. It is, or course, more than likely that in most instances they were impelled by their affection for the recipient library who in many instances have perpetuated their names, but occasionally gifts are made to public institutions because they are deductible when the old man with the beard comes around in March. The impulses, however, that move them to assemble rare and useful books have varied as have their own differences in personality and background. All, however, have been equally zealous in the pursuit of their pleasures. For every true book collector book hunting is the best game in the world. Books, he believes, are even more decorative in the home than paintings. They are more varied in color and appearance than any wallpaper could possible be. Best of all, to this breed of men each book has or contains a separate personality. They are never alone when they sit surrounded by these intimate friends. They may be forgiven this odd passion when it is realized that the records they have collected and preserved would have been lost had they not been touched early in life by that gentlest of infirmities: bibliomania.

Book collectors and book dealers, and these latter are often true book collectors, very often perform a great service to the historian or scholar, although they usually increase the labors or test the conservation skills of the librarian. They supply us with enormous accumulations of books, journals and other types of documents. Our scholars must have not only the best materials but the mediocre bits also, for they are often as valuable as the phenomenal in providing understanding of the climate of opinion out of which emerged, or against which rebelled, a Frederick Douglass or a W[illiam] E[dward] B[urghardt] D[uBois].

From year to year, as I have witnessed the depositing of collections of materials in libraries through gifts or through purchase, I have become very concerned over the lack of time and opportunity to prepare bibliographies or catalogs, for they are our principle instruments of research.

The compilation of giant bibliographies such as Monroe Work's Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America,38 a tool of some 17,000 titles published in 1928, and Max Bissainthe's Dictionnaire de bibliographie haitienne,39 which includes some 10,000 entries relating to the rich culture of Haiti, require not only great moral stamina on the part of the compiler but also physical vigor and abundant time. The useful and significant contributions of the Works Progress Administration Federal Writers' Project and the Historical Records Survey are easily noted in the many guide books and calendars of manuscripts that were prepared a few years ago by many contributors. The Calendar of the Frederick Douglass Papers is an example of the kind of initial documentation that should be done for many family and personal papers of Negro men and women.

The recent discovery of the diary and personal papers of William Johnson,40 a free African American of Natchez, Miss., and the finding of the correspondence between George A. Myers of Cleveland and James Ford Rhodes,41 the historian, and the subsequent publications resulting from the discovery of these papers, indicates the unique contributions unpublished manuscripts can make to American history.

Finally, I hope many of you here will have a serious interest in the records of men and women. No doubt some of you have already been bitten by the book collecting bug. Others of you lacking time to search for particular volumes may be compiling fine scrapbooks on local history, on well- or not so well-known individuals, which will be of great value a few years from today.

Not that the collector is by his collecting proved an historian or that collecting presupposes devotion to a single idea, I say avoid the tragic example of Lord Kingsborough, who in the nineteenth century beggared himself in gathering a mammoth collection of books and manuscripts in order to publish a thesis that would prove the American Indians were descended from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel, which it is more recently believed, never left Africa.

Now may I close with this thought from William Wordsworth:

Dream books, are each a world; and books, we know
Are a substantial world, both pure and good.
Round these, with tendrils strong as flesh and blood,
Our pastime and pure happiness will grow.

Dorothy Porter Wesley, Librarian Emerita
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Howard University
Washington, DC


  1. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950), educator, historian and editor of the Journal of Negro History from 1916 to 1950.
  2. Founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1915, it is now known as the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History.
  3. Delafosse, Maurice (1870-1926). Negroes in Africa: history and culture. Washington: Associated Publishers, 1931.
  4. Jomo Kenyatta. My People of Kikuyu and the Life of Chief Wangome. London: United Society for Christian Literature, 1942.
  5. Silas M. Molema. The Bantu, past and present: an ethnographical and historical study of the nature races of South Africa. Edinburgh: Green, 1929.
  6. John Marrant (1755-1791), authored Narrative of the Lord's Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, 1785; preacher, missionary, and Masonic Lodge chaplain.
  7. Vassa, Gustavus. Interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African written by himself. 1789.
  8. Smith, Venture. A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa, But Resident Above Sixty Years in the United States of America. New London: Holt at the Bee- Office, 1798.
  9. Paul Cuffee (1759-1817), wealthy merchant-mariner and humanitarian; leader in the early movement for the settlement of Negroes from the United States In Sierra Leona.
  10. Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784), poet; slave in the John Wheatley household, treated as if a member of the family, trained in social graces, learned to read and write; authored Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1773.
  11. Jupiter Hammon (1711-1806?). first American Negro poet; a favored slave to three generations of the Lloyd family of Lloyd's Neck, Long Island, NY.
  12. Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), self-taught amateur mathematician and astronomer; authored Benjamin Banneker's Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris, for the Year of Our Lord, 1792: Being Bissextile, or Leap-Year, and the Sixteenth Year of American Independence, which commenced July 4, 1776.
  13. Richard Allen (1760-1831), abolitionist and founder of the Free African Society and the African Methodist Episcopal church.
  14. Daniel Coker (1780-1846), minister, teacher, writer, activist and colonizationist.
  15. David Ruggles (1810-1849), businessman, abolitionist, journalist and hydropathist.
  16. Negro Society for Historical Research organizers included Arthur A. Schomburg and William C. Bolivar.
  17. John Edward Bruce (1856-1924), journalist and historian; founded the Argus (1879, Washington, DC); Sunday Item (1880, Washington, DC); Editor of the Republican (1884, Norfolk, VA); associate editor of Howard's American Magazine (1896-1901), and several newspapers.
  18. John Wesley Cromwell (1846-1927), editor of People's Advocate (Washington, DC) and historian; president of the Bethel Literary and Historical Association (1881); secretary of the American Negro Academy; authored The Negro in American History (1914), and other works.
  19. William Carl Bolivar (1849-1914), bibliophile, journalist, and historical researcher; organized the Afro-Historical Society.
  20. Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925), librarian, bibliographer, and biographical researcher; assistant librarian, Library of Congress from 1881 to 1923.
  21. Arthur Alphonso Schomburg (1874-1938), bibliophile, curator, writer, and Mason; president of American Negro Academy in 1922; authored several publications.
  22. Alain LeRoy Locke (1885-1954), philosopher, educator, and critic; graduated from Harvard College in 1907; elected to Phi Beta Kappa; first African American selected for Rhodes Scholarship in 1907.
  23. William Cooper Nell (1816-1874), abolitionist, lecturer, journalist, and historian; authored several publications including Colored Patriots of the American Revolution... 1855; his book collection appeared in the: Catalogue of interesting books including portions of the libraries of Dr. John W. Francis of New York City and Mr. William C. Nell the famous abolitionist. Monday afternoon and evening, October 19, 1908. New York: Anderson Auction Company, 1908. 60 p.
  24. William Wells Brown (ca.1814-1884), abolitionist, author and reformer.
  25. George Washington Williams (1849-1891), soldier, clergyman, lawyer, legislator, and historian.
  26. William Henry Ferris (1874-1914), author, lecturer and editor.
  27. American Negro Academy founded in 1897.
  28. John Wesley Cromwell (1846-1927), editor and historian; authored The Negro in American History: Men and Women Eminent in the Evolution of the American of African Descent. Washington, DC: American Negro Academy, 1914.
  29. Henry Proctor Slaughter(1871-1958), typographer, journalist, leader of fraternal organizations and book collector.
  30. Countee P. Cullen (1903-1946), poet, novelist and anthropologist
  31. Arthur Alphonso Schomburg (1874-1938), bibliophile, curator, writer and Mason.
  32. Edward Morrow. "See It Now"; TV show; Alan Patton, Cry, the Beloved Country: NY: Charles Scribner, 1948.
  33. William Leon Hansberry (1894-1965), historian and pioneer Africanist.
  34. Jesse Edward Moorland (1863-1940), clergyman and YMCA executive.
  35. Arthur B. Spingarn (1878-1971).
  36. Adah Isaacs Menken (1835-1868). Infelicia. London: Chatto & Windus, 1888.
  37. Julien Prevost. Glorious Events Which Have Brought Their Royal Majesties to the Throne of Haiti.
  38. Monroe Nathan Work (1866-1945), bibliographer, sociologist, teacher and writer; authored A Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America. New York: Wilson, 1928.
  39. Max Bissainthe. Dictionnaire de bibliographie haitienne. Washington: Scarecrow Press, 1951.
  40. William Johnson (1809-1851), businessman and diarist; authored thirteen volume journal of antebellum Natchez, Miss.
  41. George A. Myers (1859-1930), politician, barber and civil leader; Rhodes, James Ford

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