Honoring African American Contributions: Rare Books - National Council of Teachers of English
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Honoring African American Contributions: Rare Books

African American History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in US history. This week we will investigate rare books written by African Americans.

The African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection  from the Library of Congress gives a panoramic and eclectic review of African American history and culture and is primarily comprised of two collections in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division: the African American Pamphlet Collection and the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, with a date range of 1822 through 1909. Among the authors represented are Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Benjamin W. Arnett, Alexander Crummel, Emanuel Love, Lydia Maria Child, Kelly Miller, Charles Sumner, Mary Church Terrell, and Booker T. Washington.

The Library of Congress holds a rare book from William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Du Bois. It features one of his most beloved creations, The Brownies’ Book, a serial published in 1920 and 1921. It is digitally presented here—22 back-to-back chronological issues. It was the first magazine of its kind, written for African-American children and youths to instill a sense of racial pride and provide overall instruction on how to conduct oneself. Du Bois is credited with establishing the genre of African-American children’s literature. The Brownies’ Book is considered part of the movement known as the Harlem Renaissance, a time of great African American artistic expression.

African American Perspectives: Women Authors” shares details from the lives of the sisters Angelina and Sarah Grimké,  who became two of America’s most prominent female abolitionists. They also supported women’s rights and were instrumental in linking the two crusades. Also profiled is influential writer and editor Lydia Maria Child. The social reformer Clarissa Olds Keeler is also featured.

Many rare books have been digitized so they can be accessed wherever you are.


Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced recently by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!

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