Black history is about remembering. Since their forced arrival in the Americas, African-descended people remembered their past and cultivated dreams of freedom. By the late 20th century, Black people demanded that their contributions be included in mainstream institutions. In 1969, the patrician Library Company of Philadelphia answered the call for inclusion and exhibited “Negro History.” Fifty years later, the Library Company stands at the historical and cultural crossroads where Black history is unapologetic and multifaceted. In this exhibition, you will bear witness to the colorful depictions of 17th century Ethiopian artisans who painstakingly crafted and drew religious figures in their mirror images. You will see 19th-century middle-class Black girls’ collections of words, drawings, advice, and poems about Black people near and far so that they could meditate on friendship and heed communal advice – #blackgirlmagic before the invention of the hashtag. Ultimately, this exhibition honors the humanity of Black people through the fragments, the rituals, the writings, and prayers they left for us in the here and now. From classical Africa to Philadelphia, the home of Mother Bethel and Neo-Soul, take a journey with us “From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures: Black Creative Re-Imaginings.”
21st Century Culture Bearers
From Negro Pasts to Afro-Futures: Black Creative Re-Imaginings is a community effort. Five graduate students at Queens College, CUNY—all working on dual M.A. and MLS degrees in history and library science—were led by Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens in curating this exhibition. Their participation serves as not only a testimony to the legacy of creativity inspired by the Diaspora, but also, to the place young scholars should occupy in curating Black History.
Thank You to Our Generous Donors
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
Pennsylvania Abolition Society Endowment Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation
National Endowment for the Humanities
Pennsylvania Council for the Arts
We would also like to thank the following donors to the Stevens-Codgell, Sanders-Venning Collection: Cordelia H. Brown, Beverly Brown-Ruggia, Lillie V. Dickerson, Elsa Hardy, Mary Hinkson Jackson, and Georgine E. Willis. Donations to this collection have been made in honor of Phillip S. Lapsansky.