Curator emeritus of Temple’s Afro-American Collection dies

Charles L. Blockson spent most of his life collecting items relevant to Black culture for his collection, which is now overseen by Temple University.

Charles L. Blockson died on June 14 in his home at age 89, Temple University announced Wednesday. FILE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Charles L. Blockson, the curator emeritus of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University, died at age 89 in his home on June 14, the university announced Wednesday. 

Blockson is remembered for his collection of 700,000 items, dating back 400 years, related to the Black experience. He donated the collection to Temple in 1984, and it is now displayed in Sullivan Hall. 

“He was a kind soul, devoted to preserving and recording America’s history,” wrote JoAnne Epps, the university’s acting president, in the announcement. “He will be missed, but his legacy will forever live on through Temple’s Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, one of Temple’s jewels and a hallmark of this institution.”

The collection continues to be a resource for both Temple and North Philadelphia, allowing for stories about Black history and culture to be more accessible to the public. 

Blockson has influenced scholars, students and people of all nationalities, wrote Diana Turner, curator of the Blockson Collection. 

Blockson wrote 13 books, mostly about Black history in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and traveled the world as a lecturer on the Underground Railroad. 

He co-founded the African American Museum in Philadelphia, was the director of the Philadelphia African American Pennsylvania State Marker Project and was a founding member of the Pennsylvania Black History Committee of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 

“Blockson was a man who hunted in the forest of knowledge, and the books that he discovered became trophies that did not sit on shelves but instead actively energized an entire population,” wrote Molefi Kete Asante, an Africology and African American studies professor. “He is, in my judgment, one of Temple’s most legendary figures.”

Information about a commemoration of Blockson’s life is to come, according to the announcement.

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