“Black Lit” Exhibition of Rare Books at Marist’s Cannavino Library Celebrates Black History Month

Julia Fishman

My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) by Frederick Douglass

January 28, 2019—A collection of rare books will be on display in an exhibition to celebrate Black History Month at Marist College. “Black Lit: The African-American Narrative” will feature 31 books, all first editions or advance copies by African-American authors, spanning more than 170 years.

The books are from the private collection of Marist alumnus and trustee Alvin Patrick. Patrick, a Senior Producer for CBS, is a passionate book collector who appreciates the stories behind the books as much as those within the covers. “I love reading, so I’ve been collecting books on many subjects forever,” he said. “But I suppose that this collection began in earnest when I purchased The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature in 1996. From there, I focused on obtaining some of the classics mentioned in that anthology.”

“Black Lit” will be on view February 8-March 31. An opening reception will be held on Wednesday, February 13, 4:00pm, in the James A. Cannavino Library’s North Reading Room. The opening will feature a talk by Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. This event is free and open to the public.

“This rare book collection features culturally perceptive novels, historically significant biographies, iconic poetry, and famously critical essays from some of the most prominent black authors of our time,” said John Ansley, Director of Archives and Special Collections at Marist. “We are truly thrilled that Alvin Patrick has shared this collection with us and that the College, in turn, can share it with the public, particularly during Black History Month.”

The collection on view spans mid-nineteenth century slave narratives, the artistic heights of the Harlem Renaissance, and 21st century essays on racism in the United States. Each book is astounding in both its timelessness and striking modern relevance. The debates between authors like W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, and inspirations between writers like Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry are what allow these books to transcend their binding and create the African-American narrative.

The exhibition will be available for viewing during regular library hours: 7:30am to 2:00am Monday through Thursday; 7:30am to 8:00pm Fridays; 10:00am to 8:00pm Saturdays; and 10:00am to 2:00am Sundays.

Lisa Lucas Bio

Lucas is Executive Director of the National Book Foundation. She previously served as the publisher of Guernica, a non-profit online magazine focusing on writing that explores the intersection of art and politics with an international and diverse focus. Prior to that, she had multiple professional positions in the arts, including Director of Education at the Tribeca Film Institute, on the development team at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and as a consultant for the Sundance Institute, San Francisco Film Society, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and ReelWorks Teen Filmmaking. 

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