Celebrating Research

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The Carter G. Woodson Library, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Emory University Libraries

Collection Profile

Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950) was one of the foremost African-American intellectuals of the twentieth century. Educated at Berea College and the University of Chicago, he was the second person of African descent to earn a PhD in history from Harvard University. Affectionately regarded as the "Father of Negro History," he founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915 and the Journal of Negro History in 1916. In 1921 he created Associated Publishers, which became the leading African-American–owned publishing firm producing scholarly books, novels, poetry, and children's and young adult books for the African-American community and the general public. He created Negro History Week in 1926 and the Negro History Bulletin in 1937 to promote the teaching of African-American history, the work to which he devoted his life.

By preserving and making the Carter G. Woodson library permanently available, Emory enables future scholars to understand the intellectual universe from which Woodson drew to produce the wealth of scholarship that is his legacy. His interests were wide-ranging: he gathered pro-slavery as well as anti-slavery texts; he acquired books about art, music, politics, economics, sociology, literature, philosophy, and religion; he was intensively interested in Africa and the Caribbean as well as Central and South America, Europe, and Asia. From a study of his library, scholars will find new sources for the intellectual biography of the man and of the institutions to which he devoted his life.

The Woodson Library is especially rich in African-American–authored and African-American–published books, pamphlets and periodicals, the world of literature created by and for the African-American community. Among the earliest African- American publishers represented in the collection is Annie Elizabeth Grey Brown, who published under the imprint A. G. Brown. Married to the noted historian William Wells Brown, she published the second edition of his The Rising Son (1882) and later editions of several of his other works. The Woodson Library also includes early and rare publications of the AME Church, the National Baptist Convention, and black colleges and universities as well as fraternal presses. Among the black newspapers that published books in the collection are the Bystander, the Baltimore Afro-American, and the California Eagle. Books of at least 69 African-American publishers are found in the Woodson Library.

The collection includes books inscribed to Woodson by Arthur A. Schomburg, W. C. Handy, Langston Hughes, Maggie Pogue Johnson, and dozens of other authors, both well known and obscure. It includes at least a half dozen titles not reported in any library, as well as rare books Woodson purchased on book-buying trips to Europe in the 1930s.

A catalog of the Woodson Library was published in September 2006 in conjunction with a major exhibition drawn from the library. The catalog includes essays by Emory's curator of African-American collections and two graduate students. Several hundred members of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History attended the exhibition opening. This popular exhibition was viewed by numerous high school and college classes and the general public.

Collection Profile and Overview: Stephen Enniss and Randall Burkett
Illustrations: Jon Rou

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