On Feb. 5, the Library will open "The African American Odyssey," a major exhibition that comprises items from the nation's largest collection of materials relating to African American history and culture and documents the quest for full citizenship.
"The Library has eagerly sought African American materials for more than a century," said Dr. Billington. "Its holdings encompass not only books, but also manuscripts relating to black individuals and institutions; musical recordings from 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 justice for all.'"
The exhibition is based on a book published by the Library in 1993, The African American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture, edited by Debra Newman Ham, professor of history at Morgan State University, former specialist in African American history and culture in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress and guest curator of the exhibition.
Like the resource guide, the exhibition 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. The exhibition will include books, pamphlets, microfilm, manuscripts, newspapers, recordings, sheet music, posters and films.
The "quest for full citizenship" theme of the exhibition will extend to sports figures such as boxing champion and popular hero Joe Louis and Brooklyn Dodger Jackie Robinson, who was the first African American to play major league baseball in the 20th century and who fought for civil liberties even as he achieved recognition for athletic achievement.
Each section of the exhibition will also include relevant contemporaneous musical selections. For example, from the slave era, the song "Jump Isabel, Slide Water," sung by ex-slave Isabel Barnwell and recorded in 1939 in Jacksonville, Fla., will be played.
The free exhibition will be on view in the Northwest Gallery of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, at Independence Avenue and First Street S.E. Graphic kiosks reprising scenes from the exhibition and inviting people to tour it will be mounted in the Library's two other buildings on Capitol Hill, the John Adams and James Madison buildings.
An exhibition catalog, The African American Odyssey, edited by Dr. Ham, prefaced by Dr. Billington and published by the Library, will be available in its sales shops in the Jefferson and Madison buildings.
"The African American Odyssey" is being supported by the Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the Cafritz Foundation, Citibank, Fannie Mae, the James Madison Council and HBO.
The exhibition will be open through May 2, 1998, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Library is closed on Sundays and federal holidays. The exhibition also will be available online at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits. For information, call (202) 707-8000, (202) 707-6200 TTY.