Approximately 500,000 items documenting Africans and their experiences in America are able to call Temple home once again.
The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American collection has been assembled in its entirety and is now being stored at Sullivan Hall.
The numerous carts packed with books, aging newspapers, large iron statues and native paintings are now assembled for visitors’ convenience. The collection is comprised of everything from personal letters to first editions of books written by such notable figures as W. E. B. DuBois and Langston Hughes. Pieces by Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass are included in the set, as well as original music sheets by civil rights proponent and 1940s performer Paul Robeson. All items are accessible to students upon request.
The items had previously been stored throughout the campus until recent renovations to the first floor at Sullivan Hall provided room for the entire collection to be stored there. Charles Blockson amassed his collection since childhood and continued through travels across the world. He donated the entire set to Temple in 1984 and served as curator until 2006.
Blockson, now 74, graduated from Penn State University in 1956 and turned down an offer from the NFL to play football for the New York Giants so he could pursue his interest in history. Among many other accomplishments, Blockson taught history of various cultures locally in Norristown, served as director of the Pennsylvania Black History Committee and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
Blockson chose to donate to Temple because of the diverse student body and the African-American community surrounding it. After Blockson stepped down, Diane D. Turner was appointed as curator of the collection and is picking up where here predecessor left off.
The collection was selected to participate in the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifact’s Advanced Stewardship Program where the staff at Sullivan Hall will be trained to care for the objects. A formal opening ceremony is planned to take place in June. Until then, Turner plans to expand on the already thousands of items.
“The collection promotes and supports the study of Africa and its diaspora” Turner said.
Greg Adomaitis can be reached at email@example.com.