The University Libraries holds a rich collection of primary source resources to study the African American and Black experience in the United States and the Americas. In celebration of Black and African Heritage Month, the Libraries has launched a new series highlighting various resources from our collections.
Black Thought & Culture
Black Thought and Culture is a landmark electronic collection of approximately 100,000 pages of non-fiction writings by major American black leaders—teachers, artists, politicians, religious leaders, athletes, war veterans, entertainers, and other figures—covering 250 years of history (from the 19th and 20th centuries to 1975). The collection provides access to full-text documents of primary source materials. In addition to familiar works, Black Thought and Culture presents a great deal of previously inaccessible material, including letters, speeches, prefatory essays, political leaflets, interviews, periodicals, and trial transcripts. The ideas of over 1,000 authors present an evolving and complex view of what it is to be black in America.
One example from the database is Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. In the introduction, Nancy Bereano writes, “Audre Lorde’s writing is an impulse toward wholeness. What she says and how she says it engages us both emotionally and intellectually. She writes from the particulars of who she is: Black woman, lesbian, feminist, mother of two children, daughter of Grenadian immigrants, educator, cancer survivor, activist. She creates material from the dailiness of her life that we can use to help shape ours. Out of her desire for wholeness, her need to encompass and address all the parts of herself, she teaches us about the significance of difference — ‘that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged.'”
Black Drama: Third Edition
Black Drama, now in its expanded third edition, contains the full text of more than 1,700 plays written from the mid-1800s to the present by more than 200 playwrights from North America, English-speaking Africa, the Caribbean, and other African diaspora countries. Many of the works are rare, hard to find, or out of print. More than 40 percent of the collection consists of previously unpublished plays by writers such as Langston Hughes, Ed Bullins, Willis Richardson, Amiri Baraka, Randolph Edmonds, Zora Neale Hurston, and many others.
One example from a contemporary playwright is The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza. From the introduction: “The Ballad of Emmett Till is an ensemble play for six actors, exploring the final days in the life of Emmett Till, a Chicago teenager who takes a fateful trip to Mississippi in the summer of 1955. Till’s murder and his mother’s subsequent decision to have an open-casket funeral are believed by many to mark the beginning of the modern Civil Rights Movement. The Ballad is a contemporary telling of Emmett’s story, a jazz integration of past and present, the events as seen from the perspective of the youth himself. It is the story of a quest, Emmett’s pursuit of happiness, of liberty and ultimately of life.”
Throughout the month of February, Mason’s Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment, along with other campus departments, is celebrating Black and African Heritage Month with a number of events. Learn more here.