February 5–May 5, 1998
The exhibition The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, showcases the incomparable African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displaying more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings, this is the largest black history exhibit ever held at the Library, and the first exhibition of any kind to feature presentations in all three of the Library's buildings.
The major presentation in the Jefferson Building, The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship, explored black America's quest for equality from the early national period through the twentieth century. The Library's materials, gathered over the two hundred years of its existence, tell the story of the African American experience through nine chronological periods that document the courage and determination of blacks, faced with adverse circumstances, who overcame immense odds to fully participate in all aspects of American society. The exhibit includes the work of abolitionists in the first half of the nineteenth century, depictions of the long journey following the Civil War towards equality in employment, education and politics, strategies used to secure the vote, recognition of outstanding black leaders, and the contributions of sports figures, black soldiers, artists, actors, writers and others in the fight against segregation and discrimination.
The items in this exhibit attest to the drama and achievement of this remarkable story. Although they give a comprehensive, rich picture of more than 200 years of African American struggle and achievement, they represent only a rivulet of the collections the Library of Congress holds in this essential part of American history.