“Had the price of looking been blindness, I would have looked.”
Ralph Ellison, author of The Invisible Man
You’ve never seen such a comprehensive collection of Black History as this one. Penn State University’s Paterno Library recently received a generous donation of over 10,000 books, letters, paintings, and sheet music from African-American bibliophile Charles L. Blockson. In 2007, Penn State awarded Mr. Blockson with Distinguished Alumnus status, one of the highest awards the University can give. Mr. Blockson gave an equally priceless gift back to Paterno Library for all alumni and students to see.
Graduate students have just begun to sort the collection that Blockson began in fourth grade, when his teacher claimed that African-Americans “had not made any historical contributions.” The collection is Mr. Blockson’s overwhelmingly rich and resounding cultural response. From a 1955 edition of The First Book of Jazz by Langston Hughes to an autographed copy of Phillis Wheatley’s “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” to the letters of Paul “Renaissance Man” Robeson, Mr. Blockson’s gift sings the pride of the African-American community. And that’s just the beginning.
The Diversity Studies Room in 109 Pattee contains only screenshots of works such as children’s books by James Baldwin, political commentaries by Cornell West, and autobiographies of Miles Davis and Ray Charles. The actual collection is just down the hall at 104 Paterno Library. If you’d like to touch the books and let their vivacity seep into your fingers, then contact the Special Collections Library at (814)-865-1793.
Check out the exhibit until March 2!