Refugees on levee, April 17, 1897, photo by Carroll's Art Gallery

Introduction

This exhibit marks the publication of The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. A noteworthy and singular publication, the Mosaic is the first Library-wide resource guide to the institution's African- American collections. Covering the nearly 500 years of the black experience in the Western hemisphere, the Mosaic surveys the full range size, and variety of the Library's collections, including books, periodicals, prints, photographs, music, film, and recorded sound. Moreover, the African-American Mosaic represents the start of a new kind of access to the Library's African-American collections, and, the Library trusts, the beginning of reinvigorated research and programming drawing on these, now systematically identified, collections.

This exhibit is but a sampler of the kinds of materials and themes covered by the publication and the Library's collections. Many of the exhibit items are featured in the Mosaic. Other exhibit materials, not specifically described in the publication, are also included to illustrate that the Mosaic is an effective guide to the Library's rich collections, not an exhaustive inventory.

The exhibit covers only four areas --Colonization, Abolition, Migrations, and the WPA-- of the many covered by the Mosaic. These topics were selected not only because they illustrate well the depth, breadth, and richness of the Library's black history collections, but also because of the significant and interesting interplay among them. For example, the "back-to-Africa" movement represented by the American Colonization Society is vigorously opposed by abolitionists, and the movement of blacks to the North is documented by the writers and artists who participated in federal projects of the 1930s.

Also, to illustrate that the Mosaic opens avenues for further research, several items are included which, though important for black history, cannot have their full stories told until further research is completed.

Finally, this presentation is a sampler of a much larger exhibit now in progress. In 1998, the Library will mount a major exhibition and cultural program examining the impact of African- American history and tradition in the formation of American national identity. The 1998 outreach program will be this institution's first extended reflection upon its pervasive black holdings, and The African-American Mosaic will be a major resource guide in that program's development and realization.

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