Arts and Entertainment

University Libraries exhibit highlights the African experience in Americas

Artifacts from the Charles L. Blockson Collection on display through Mar. 4

This pencil sketch by Yang Deng is on display with the Blockson Collection exhibit, located in Pattee Library. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In recognition of Black History Month, Penn State University Libraries will host an exhibit featuring a sampling of materials from the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora, through March 4 in the Central Pattee Library Entrance display cases at Penn State’s University Park campus.

The multidisciplinary exhibit is part of a larger collection that includes books, magazines, photographs, manuscripts, sheet music, postcards, record albums, and artifacts of the African experience in the United States, Latin America, Caribbean, and Africa, dating from 1632 to the present. The exhibit was curated by Rebecca Y. Bayeck, the Blockson Collection graduate assistant and includes an original drawing of the entertainer Josephine Baker by Yang Deng, a doctoral candidate at the Penn State School of Visual Arts.

Bayeck said she drew inspiration for the exhibit from the African concept of "Ubuntu," which places emphasis on the interconnectedness of community living. “Ubuntu is a another way of saying ‘I am because you are,’ and by highlighting African-American contributions to the creation of our nation, this exhibition details the interdependence between African Americans and the United States.”

In addition to the Blockson exhibit, a poster display featuring original designs submitted by students for this year’s MLK Commemoration — “Deconstructing the Dream: At Whose Expense?” — will be displayed in the adjacent Sidewater Commons, First Floor Pattee Library, through Feb. 28.

Charles LeRoy Blockson was born in 1933 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he developed a passion for African-American History during the height of the Civil Rights movement. He co-founded the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia in 1976, co-authored "Black Genealogy" with Ron Fry in 1977 and served on numerous black history advisory boards across the state. Blockson lectured internationally to help establish black study programs across the country and donated his extensive personal collection of African-American historical documents and artifacts to Temple University, where he served as curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.  He also donated a large collection of published and manuscript materials to Penn State, including the Charles L. Blockson collection on Josephine Baker, 1928-2003, housed in the Special Collections Library.

The complete Blockson Collection is open to the public during limited hours and is located on Third Floor West Pattee Library, however, materials from the collection can be accessed in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, 104 Paterno Library, during their regular business hours.

For more information about this exhibit or the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora, contact Rebecca Y. Bayeck at

Last Updated February 22, 2018