Contact: Yvonne French: (202) 707-9191

January 30, 1998

Library of Congress Receives Private Sector Gift To Digitize Rare Materials of Abraham Lincoln

A major new exhibition, "The African American Odyssey," will open Feb. 5 in all three of the Library of Congress buildings on Capitol Hill.

The exhibition showcases the incomparable African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displaying more than 200 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films and recordings, it is the largest black history exhibition ever held at the Library, and the first exhibition of any kind to feature presentations in all three of the Library's buildings.

"The Library has eagerly sought African American materials for more than a century," said Librarian of Congress James H. 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.

The Thomas Jefferson Building

The major presentation of the exhibition is in the Thomas Jefferson Building. Titled "The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship," the display explores black America's quest for equality from the early days of the nation through the 20th century. The Library's materials, gathered over the nearly 200 years of its existence, tell the story of the African American experience through nine chronological periods. These periods document the courage and determination of blacks, who overcame immense odds to participate fully in all aspects of American society.

The exhibition includes the work of black and white abolitionists in the first half of the 19th century; depictions of the long journey following the Civil War toward equality in employment, education and politics; strategies used to secure the vote; recognition of outstanding black leaders; and the contributions of writers, artists, preachers, politicians, actors, soldiers, sports figures and others in the fight against segregation and discrimination.

The James Madison Memorial Building

In foyer of the James Madison Building, the building where the library's multimedia collections are housed, will be displayed the portion of the exhibition titled "African American Odyssey: Fine Prints and Photographs by 20th Century African American Artists."

Included are examples of the work of many of the most renowned African American artists of the 20th century: Romare Bearden, Bob Blackburn, Elizabeth Catlett, Roland Freeman, Sam William, Chester Higgins Jr., Jacob Lawrence, Martin Parer, Raymond Seth and James Van Der Zee. The images range from the portrayal of leisure activities to depictions of various religious denominations, from faces of young and old to representational and abstract views of black life.

The John Adams Building

In the foyer of the John Adams Building, where the business and related collections are located, will be a portion of the exhibition titled "The African American Odyssey: Black Business and Family Life at the Turn of the Century in the Daniel A.P. Murray Collection."

Only 35 years after the abolition of slavery, W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington and Daniel A.P. Murray, a historian and librarian who worked at the Library of Congress for 52 years, planned an exhibition for the Paris Exposition of 1900. The exhibition included literature about African Americans assembled by Murray, drawings and inventions by blacks accepted by the U.S. Patent Office and a display on African American winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The exhibition also included the photographs collected under DuBois's direction to illustrate the condition, education and literature of African Americans at the turn of the century. It won a gold medal at the exposition. Photographs from the exhibit will be displayed in the Adams Building.

An exhibition catalog, The African American Odyssey, edited by Dr. Ham, prefaced by Dr. Billington and published by the Library, will be available for $19.95 in sales shops in the Jefferson and Madison buildings.

"African American Odyssey" is being sponsored by the Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc., CITIBANK, Fannie Mae Foundation, Home Box Office, the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress and the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.

Additionally, a gift from the Citicorp Foundation to the National Digital Library Program of the Library of Congress will launch a five-year effort to make freely available portions of "The African American Odyssey" and related rare items from the Library's vast African American collections to classrooms, libraries, community centers and homes electronically via the Internet at http://www.loc.gov/.

The actual physical exhibition opens Feb. 5 in all three Capitol Hill buildings of the Library, located at the intersections of Independence Avenue and First and Second streets S.E. The Jefferson Building is open through May 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The Madison Building is open 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. The Adams Building is open 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. The Library is closed on Sundays and federal holidays. For information, call (202) 707-4604, (202) 707- 6200 TTY.

Note to press: Black-and-white photographs and color transparencies of some of the items in the exhibition are available to the press from the Public Affairs Office. For duplicates, call (202) 707-9191.

# # #

PR 98-018
1/30/98
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top