African Diaspora library database will support academic, research interests

The library database "African Diaspora: 1860–Present" contains content, including videos and personal accounts, related to migrations, communities and ideologies of people of African descent and includes never-before digitized content that will help Penn State University Libraries address geographic gaps in its primary resource holdings. Credit: Provided by and used with permission from Alexander StreetAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of Penn State’s 2020 #GivingTuesday achievement, Penn State University Libraries recently exceeded its 2020 Giving Tuesday goal to purchase the library database "African Diaspora 1860–Present." It is the only non-U.S.-focused multimedia Black studies collection available and will support Penn State academic and research studies in African American studies, Africana studies, Latin American studies, the Africana Research Center, international studies and history disciplines, among others, as well as the University Libraries’ newest University partner, the Center for Black Digital Research.

"African Diaspora, 1860–Present" contains content — including personal accounts — related to migrations, communities and ideologies of people of African descent, and includes never-before digitized content that will help the University Libraries address geographic gaps in its primary resource holdings.

“This database is a global collection essential for an international understanding of Black history and culture,” said Nonny Schlotzhauer, librarian and interim head of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University Libraries. “It includes never-before digitized primary source documents — full text — including books, government documents, personal papers, organizational papers, journals, newsletters, court documents, letters, and ephemera from the Caribbean, Brazil, India, United Kingdom and France. Themes include activism, racism, colonialism and emigration, identities and citizenship, and more.”

Among a total of 143 donors who supported the Libraries’ #GivingTuesday goal to purchase the database, two $5,000 challenge gifts, provided by Penn State alumna Cyndi Bloom and Dean Barbara I. and Professor Bill Dewey, as well as a total of $5,500 in gifts from alumna Elizabeth Miller Verterano and $5,000 from alumnus Peter and Ann Tombros were among those central to the University Libraries’ success.

Bloom is a 1968 graduate of the Bellisario College of Communications who worked at Pattee Library as a student. Barbara Dewey is retiring at the end of 2020 after 10 years as Penn State’s dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, and Bill Dewey is an associate professor of art history and former head of the African Studies Program in the College of the Liberal Arts. Verterano and Peter Tombros are members of Penn State’s Class of 1964, Verterano from the College of the Liberal Arts and Tombros from the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Bloom’s gift was made in memory of her husband Gil Dube, who was “a champion for social justice and human understanding,” she said. Her tribute inspired friends of theirs to contribute an additional $2,625, totaling nearly one-fifth of the funds needed to achieve the Libraries’ goal. “I believe change comes through learning, sharing and understanding the human experiences of others,” Bloom said.

Barbara Dewey said, “We hope our gift will be a catalyst for securing further collections highlighting the African experience throughout the Americas and the world to support Penn State students and faculty research and teaching.”

Bloom, Verterano and the Deweys’ personal stories of giving, along with all other donors who chose to add their statements of support, are posted on the University Libraries’ #GivingTuesday page.

Gifts received above and beyond the $38,500 goal will be applied to digitizing the Libraries’ Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora so its materials will be accessible online and available to a broader population of University Libraries users. Potential donors interested in supporting this digitization effort may contact Bob Darrah at

The "African Diaspora, 1860-Present" library database will be acquired by the University Libraries and cataloged online in 2021.

This philanthropy will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit

Last Updated April 15, 2021