Black Lives, Black Letters: Primary Sources in African American History and Literature

[African American family]

February 17th thorugh April 14th, 2022

“Black Lives, Black Letters: Primary Sources in African American History and Literature,” highlights the range of DeGolyer Library’s holdings in this area, featuring rare books, pamphlets, broadsides, sheet music, prints, photographs, manuscripts, and ephemera documenting aspects of the Black experience in America, from the colonial period to the present. Well known figures, from Phillis Wheatley to Toni Morrison, from Frederick Douglass to Barack Obama, are represented. But more often than not, our sources are drawn from much less familiar, sometimes anonymous, figures from the past, in literature, education, politics, religion, business, sports, the performing arts, domestic life, and popular culture.

Our exhibition is designed to complement a lecture at SMU on March 24 by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, whose recent book, On Juneteenth, is both a personal memoir of growing up in segregated Texas and a profound mediation on the meaning of our shared past. “All the major currents of American history flow through Texas,” she writes. We agree, and attempt to illustrate that fact through this exhibition, bringing attention to important, previously overlooked voices.

Black Lives, Black Letters: Primary Sources in African American History and Literature