An Afternoon to Remember:
The Rededication of the African American Collection

By Rae Helton
Office of Information Literacy
Photographer: Richard Trigg

An upbeat jazz tempo wafts through the air. The aroma of gourmet hors d'oeuvres demands my attention. Literary conversations and friendly laughter fill my ears. These were the sights and sounds experienced by all who attended the rededication reception for the African American Collection. The best part is that this wonderful experience was actually held in the collection area. Yes, jazz, food, and fun in the library!

I'd better back up a bit and give you a little background on how all of this began. Shortly after I joined the Libraries, Ralze Dorr asked me to become a member of the African American Collection Committee. Ralze understood the value of the collection to the Libraries and to the university community. He formed a committee to create more awareness of the collection and to assist with maintaining its quality. The committee is comprised of faculty from the Libraries and various units. Ralze hired Dr. Joyce Taylor, an Indiana University Library School professor, to evaluate the collection and provide the committee with recommendations for improvements. Dr. Taylor gave the collection high marks for its breadth and quality. She suggested improvements to the physical collection area and recommended ways to promote it. With Dr. Taylor's recommendation in hand, the committee began work. First, additional lighting and tables and chairs were added. Then, Art Librarian Gail Gilbert helped me select some prints by prominent African American artists to display in the area. Finally, we were ready to promote the collection. Linda Wilson, Director of the Multicultural Center, and I co-chair the committee. We began planning the reception and laying a foundation for increasing awareness of the collection.

On Friday afternoon, October 24, the reception was held in the collection area. The free, public event featured an exhibit of historical photographs depicting local African American life, refreshments, and a jazz ensemble. Local and campus authors were on hand to sign their books. The authors included Dr. Judi Jennings, author of The Business of Abolishing the British Slave Trade, 1783-1807 (HT 1162 .B87 1997), Dr. Robert Douglas, author of Wadsworth Jarrell: The Artist as Revolutionary (ND 237 .J34 D68 1996), and noted local educator, Emma M. Talbott, author of The Joy and Challenge of Raising African American Children (HQ 769 .T267 1997).

Highlighting the program were remarks made by Dr. Blaine Hudson, Pan-African Studies Professor. The following is a summary of Dr. Hudson's remarks:

    The establishment of the 4500-piece collection dates back three decades and owes its existence to the black student revolution at the University of Louisville during the late 1960s. In 1967 and 1968, with the ever-growing number of black students enrolling in UofL, an African American movement evolved. During the fall of 1968, Dr. Hudson and other student leaders composed a list of demands that they believed would transform UofL into an establishment of more value and interest to black students. These changes included the establishment of the African American Collection. Dr. Hudson calls the African American Collection "a strong statement of diversity on campus." Of the revolution thirty years ago he said, "If the campus was a place where African Americans, whites and all people of color were to have equal status, then everyone had to be represented. The library is central to academic life, where the body of knowledge resides. African American information had to be in the library and easy to access. There had to be an identifiable African American Collection to support student and faculty research."

A few weeks before the rededication reception, a naming recommendation for the collection was submitted to the UofL Board of Trustees. One afternoon while reviewing reception details with Erea Marshall, I wondered aloud why the Collection was never named. I believe it would be much easier to promote and to remember if a name and a strong image were associated with it. That's when I proposed the Collection be named in honor of Granville Bunton, former personnel officer for the Libraries. We're still awaiting final approval from the Board of Trustees on the name. I'm hopeful that the rededication reception and the proposed naming recommendation will make us remember the African American Collection for more than an afternoon.