Cataloging the Pan-African Experience: Temple University's Charles L. Blockson Art Collection Helps Students, Teachers Grasp the History of Peoples of African Descent

By Hayes, Dianne | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, February 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

Cataloging the Pan-African Experience: Temple University's Charles L. Blockson Art Collection Helps Students, Teachers Grasp the History of Peoples of African Descent


Hayes, Dianne, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Of all the honors and accolades bibliophile and noted authority on the Underground Railroad Charles Blockson has received, being bequeathed recently with some of Harriet Tubman's personal items by her great-niece is one of the most significant experiences of his life.

A longtime collector of books and rare items by and about African-Americans, Blockson has amassed the largest privately held collection, which he donated to Temple University in 1984. The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection is one of the nation's leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of people of African descent. The Blockson collection has grown to more than 200,000 items including books, photographs, drawings, manuscripts, prints, sheet music, posters and artifacts.

In his 78 years, Blockson has walked with his personal hero, Paul Robeson; met Marian Anderson, Langston Hughes and Rosa Parks; spoken at the Sorbonne in Paris; toured around the world for the United States Information Agency; written books and articles and placed markers following the trail of the Underground Railroad. He was most moved, however, after learning that he was chosen to receive 39 items that belonged to Tubman. Those items included photos that many people had never seen, a silk and linen shawl that was presented to her by England's Queen Victoria and her personal hymn book, which he received a year and a half ago.

Blockson became a friend of Tubman's great-niece after numerous tours and trips for his research on the Underground Railroad.

"I've stood over the grave of Harriet Tubman in Auburn, N.Y., and the tears came down my face," Blockson told Diverse. "How did she make the journey so many times? They were exposed to the elements. People were raped and killed. She was a unique woman, and for me to inherit her items, this is one of the greatest honors. I just cried. This is divine providence."

Blockson donated the items to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., in March 2010 during a ceremony on Capital Hill. Among the donated items is a hymnal published in 1876, which includes Tubman's signature in cursive inside the front cover. The donated items are the only relics known to exist outside of her home in Auburn, N.Y.

Blockson's appreciation of books and African-American collectibles was spawned at an early age. He became ill with pneumonia and scarlet fever as a child and wasn't expected to live. Blockson also developed a lisp, which made him self-conscious. Despite his medical challenges, he became physically strong and excelled in sports.

Blockson learned about African-American history by listening to his grandfather sing songs about the Underground Railroad. His great-grandfather, James Blockson, had been a slave in Delaware, and escaped into Pennsylvania via the Underground Railroad. His zeal for documenting African-American contributions came as a young boy when he asked his White teacher about their contributions in building the nation. He was told, "Negroes have no history. They were born to serve White people." Fifty years later, the teacher phoned Blockson to apologize.

A standout in football and track at Norristown (Pa.) High School, Blockson often rewarded himself after a win by visiting a bookstore where he was drawn to books on the Underground Railroad. After a track competition in New York, Blockson visited a bookstore in Harlem where, by happenstance, he met Langston Hughes. On another occasion when he was searching for books he met Malcolm X.

Because of his athletic skills, Blockson received 60 scholarship offers, but chose Pennsylvania State University, where he roomed and was teammates with Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier and Lenny Moore.

Then known as Charlie "Blockbuster" Blockson, he became one of Penn State's best track and field and football athletes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Cataloging the Pan-African Experience: Temple University's Charles L. Blockson Art Collection Helps Students, Teachers Grasp the History of Peoples of African Descent
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.