Press contact: Erin Allen (202) 707-7302; Allison Davis (202) 331-2700

October 10, 2007

Library of Congress Receives Collection of Oral Histories from Prominent African Americans

Acquisition Commemorated with Intergenerational Summit on Black America

The National Visionary Leadership Project (NVLP) has donated more than 200 original videotaped interviews from prominent African Americans to the Library of Congress. These oral histories, housed in the American Folklife Center, are the seed of what will be an open collection that will grow in the coming years.

The National Visionary Leadership Project Collection of African American Oral Histories includes interviews with Maya Angelou, Edward Brooke, Elizabeth Catlett, Ray Charles, Shirley Chisholm, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Katherine Dunham, Myrlie Evers-Williams, John Hope Franklin, Dorothy Height, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Coretta Scott King, Joseph Lowery, Toni Morrison, Gordon Parks, Sidney Poitier, Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton, Douglas Wilder and Andrew Young. Transcripts of the interviews, along with photographs of the interviewees, are included in the donation.

"I am delighted that the NVLP collection is coming to the American Folklife Center," said Peggy Bulger, the center’s director. "It will join and complement other collections of great historical and cultural significance, including interviews by and with Zora Neale Hurston, as well as the Fisk University Mississippi Delta Collection and the Alan Lomax Collection, among many others."

"The stories and wisdom of these extraordinary elders are an invaluable legacy for all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity," said Renee Poussaint, NVLP co-founder and CEO. "It is only fitting that they would be preserved for generations to come by the nation’s library. NVLP is pleased and proud to partner with the American Folklife Center in expanding our understanding of American history through the voices of these legends."

The interviews were conducted by NVLP co-founders Camille O. Cosby and Poussaint over the five years since the establishment of the organization. The collection also includes interviews with lesser-known elders from local communities across the country, who were selected and interviewed by college students who participated in the NVLP Fellows Program.

To commemorate the donation of the oral histories, NVLP is partnering with the American Folklife Center and hosting its fourth annual "Intergenerational Summit on the State of Black America" on Tuesday, Oct. 16, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street, S.E. This private event brings together students from capital-area public high schools and NVLP "visionaries," African American elders who have made a significant difference in shaping this country’s history, to encourage a dialogue and spark imagination and creativity in a new generation of leaders.

This year’s visionaries, who will be honored with the NVLP Wisdom Award, are Lucy Allen, plaintiff in the landmark Cherokee nation case Allen v. Ummerteskee; Derrick A. Bell Jr., first tenured African American professor at Harvard Law School; Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus; Norman C. Francis, president of Xavier University in New Orleans; Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris, first woman elected bishop in the Episcopal Church; and Faith Ringgold, story quilt artist and award-winning children’s book author.

Also on hand for the summit will be past visionaries, including John Hope Franklin, noted historian and 2006 winner of the John W. Kluge Prize; and Dorothy Height, civil rights activist and Congressional Gold Medal recipient. Media interested in attending and coordinating interviews with participating visionaries should contact Allison Davis at (202) 331-2700.

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was created by the American Folklife Preservation Act, passed by Congress in 1976 to "preserve and present American folklife" through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, publication and training. For more information on the center and its programs and collections, visit www.loc.gov/folklife/.

The National Visionary Leadership Project is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, co-founded by educator and producer Dr. Camille O. Cosby and award-winning former network correspondent Renee Poussaint. NVLP inspires leadership development in younger generations by recording, preserving and distributing through various media the wisdom of African American elders who have shaped American history. Extensive excerpts from virtually all of the interviews continue to be made available by NVLP on its Web site at www.visionaryproject.org/.

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PR 07-193
10/10/07
ISSN 0731-3527

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