January 28, 2019 Theatrical Readings and Panel Discussions Among Highlights of African-American History Month

Press Contact: Deanna McCray-James, 202-707-9322
Public Contact: Office of Visitor Engagement, 202-707-8000,
Request ADA accommodations five business days in advance at (202) 707-6362 or ADA@loc.gov

The Library of Congress will host several events throughout February that celebrate African Americans and their contributions to the fabric of American culture and history.  All of the following events are free and open to the public.

“Conversation on the Omar Ibn Said Collection at the Library of Congress”
Tuesday, February 5; 10 a.m.
LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., S.E., Washington,
In celebration of the African American History Month, the African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) at the Library of Congress invites you to the Omar Ibn Said Collection half-day event featuring scholars whose work focuses on the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said and related slaves’ diaries. To date, this is the only known autobiography by a slave written in Arabic in the United States. It is a historically unique and important primary source for those trying to understand the connections between the Muslim communities in Western Africa and the slaves who continued to practice Islamic faith after being captured during the Atlantic slave trade.

“Echoes of Our Past / Voices of Our Future” - A Black History Month Celebration.
Thursday, February 1; Noon
Great Hall, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., S.E., Washington, The Daniel A.P. Murray African American Cultural Association and the Music Division of the Library of Congress are hosting a Black History Month Celebration of spirituals and gospel music in American history featuring the Pine Forge Academy Choir.  This group of vocally diverse, talented, and dedicated youth will transport us through time with their spirituals, gospels, anthems, and classical repertoire.

“What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism”
Tuesday, February 12; 4 p.m.
Mumford Room, James Madison Memorial Building – 6th Floor, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C.  
Author/playwright Tananarive Due, novelist N.K. Jemisin, and poet Airea D. Matthews will discuss the origins and extensions of Afrofuturism in a conversation moderated by Sheree Renée Thomas. Book sales and signing to follow. Co-sponsored by the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Presented in partnership with Folger Poetry and PEN/Faulkner Foundation.

Tickets are recommended for entry to this event and can be obtained at https://afrofuturism-libraryofcongress.eventbrite.com.  Seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Entry is not guaranteed. This event will be recorded for future presentation as a webcast on the Library of Congress website.

“Black Pearl Sings: A reading and discussion”
Wednesday, February 13; Noon
Pickford Theater, James Madison Memorial Building – 3rd Floor, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington, D.C.
A theatrical reading of the play “Black Pearl Sings!” followed by a discussion with director Tom Jones II and actors Roz White and Susan Galbraith from the Alliance for New Music Theater, facilitated by N. J. Mitchell. The discussion will focus on the ways in which the Library’s extensive primary source collections inform creative artistic practice.

Written in 2006 by Frank Higgins, the play was inspired by the relationship between John Lomax and Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter. “Black Pearl Sings!” is set in Depression-era Texas and imagines a meeting between a white musicologist from the Library of Congress and a jailed African-American woman with a soulful voice and steely spirit.

Thomas (Tom) W. Jones II has directed, written and performed in more than 200 plays worldwide. In 1978, Tom founded Jomandi Productions, where, as co-artistic director and producing director, he led the company to become the third largest African-American theatre company in the United States. He also teaches at the high school and college levels. 

Susan Galbraith is a director, writer, and actor at Alliance for New Music-Theater in Washington, D.C. Trained as both an actress and dancer in styles that include both western and far eastern performance, she has directed and also performed in repertory theater, new plays and experimental cross-over forms of dance-theatre. She holds a BFA in Drama and English from Tufts University.

NJ Mitchell serves the Washington, D.C. theater community as artistic director, board of director, community talkback coordinator, public programming committee member, drama teacher, facilitator and panelist.

Roz White is a vocalist, actress, motivational speaker, and teaching artist. A Washington, D.C. native, Roz graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and Howard University’s College of Fine Arts.

This event is a part of the American Folklife Center’s Benjamin A. Botkin Folklife Lecture Series and is co-sponsored by the Library’s Daniel A.P. Murray Association.

Discussion: African American Passages: Black Lives in 19th Century America
Thursday, February 21; 4 p.m.
LJ-119, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St., S.E., Washington, D.C.   
The Library of Congress's vast 19th Century manuscript collections include extraordinary documents written by African Americans. They can be found in collections ranging from the papers of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to those of lesser-known figures.   The discussion will be hosted by the John W. Kluge Center and will feature Adam Rothman, recent Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Kluge Center. 

Adam Rothman, Professor of History at Georgetown University, has been researching important Library manuscripts featuring the writing of 19th century African Americans. As a Kluge Center Distinguished Visiting Scholar, he studies the history of the United States from the Revolution to the Civil War, and the history of slavery and abolition in the Atlantic World. Rothman served on Georgetown’s Working Group on Slavery, Memory and Reconciliation in 2015-16, and is currently the principal curator of the ‘Georgetown Slavery Archive’.

In this event, Rothman will discuss his findings in the archives, and highlight remarkable personal stories of African Americans during the eras of slavery, emancipation, and Reconstruction. The conversation will also serve to highlight a series of podcasts, which will feature historically noteworthy documents drawn from the Library’s Manuscript Division.

Gallery Talk: Satchel Paige and the Negro Leagues
Friday, February 22; 11 a.m.
Baseball Americana Exhibition Gallery (South Gallery), Thomas Jefferson Building – 2nd Floor, 10 First St., S.E., Washington, D.C.  
In honor of African American History Month, reference librarian Darren Jones will discuss the legendary Satchel Paige and the story of the Negro Leagues through the lens of his remarkable career.

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov; and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.


PR 19-007
ISSN 0731-3527