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Black Archives as Sites and Symbols of Black Liberation

February 24, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EST

Sponsored by The Grolier Club

Dr. Melanie Chambliss and Laurel Davis will speak on “Black Archives as Sites and Symbols of Black Liberation”

About this event

Two scholars will explore recent discoveries about how Black community libraries, activists and bibliophiles have preserved and advocated for deeper understanding of Black history. The moderator will be Grolier Club member Gabrielle Dudley, Instruction Archivist at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

Grolier Club member Laurel Davis, Curator of Special Collections and Lecturer in Law at Boston College Law School, will speak on Robert Morris (1825-1882) and a new digital exhibit from BC Law about his life and legacy. Morris was America’s second Black lawyer and had a thriving law practice in Boston. He represented fugitives from slavery and was even indicted in federal court in 1851 for aiding in the escape of a freedom seeker from Virginia. He handled a huge school desegregation case against the Boston Public Schools that anticipated arguments later made in Brown v. Board of Education. Morris also was a book collector. He and his wife Catharine donated books in his personal library to Boston College, forming part of the institution’s foundational collection in English and American literature. Ms. Davis will delve into Morris’s life as a lawyer and activist, discuss the recovery and reconstruction of the Morris collection at Boston College, and share how Morris’s book collecting fits into the larger narrative of his life.

Dr. Melanie Chambliss, Assistant Professor of African American History in Columbia College Chicago’s Humanities, History and Social Sciences Department, will speak on the George Cleveland Hall branch library. Founded in 1932 as Chicago’s first full branch to serve the city’s growing Black population, the Hall Library became a site and a symbol for anyone wanting to learn more about African American history. During the early 20th century, public libraries’ special Negro collections helped to cultivate a distinctive Black cultural identity, which differed from the Americanizing goal of “foreign language” collections from the same era. Much like other Black archives, the Hall Library’s Special Negro Collection gave patrons the resources and frameworks with which to challenge White supremacist histories. Dr. Chambliss will explore how the surrounding community used and supported this collection as an expression of their racial identity.

This will be a live online event, and all attendees will receive an email with the link the day of the event. If you’ve not received a link by 9:00 am Eastern time, please check your spam folder.

Sign up on Eventbrite’s Grolier Page: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/grolier-club-virtual-lecture-on-black-archives-tickets-228938339737?aff=ebdsoporgprofile