Harvard College Library

Exhibition Highlights Du Bois/Houghton Collaboration

Fortune's Freeman, New York: T. Thomas Fortune, 1908, on display in A Working Partnership: Acquisitions made with the assistance of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.
September 8, 2003 -- The exhibition, A Working Partnership: Acquisitions made with the assistance of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, opened September 3 in the Amy Lowell Room, Houghton Library and features material acquired through an unprecedented relationship between Houghton Library and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. Over the past ten years, the two units have worked closely together to obtain collections that support research in African and African-American history and literature, such as the Chinua Achebe papers and the Albert Murray papers.

Henry Louis (Skip) Gates Jr. recognized early in his tenure as Director of the W.E.B Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research that a strong research collection was part of the foundation of a strong Afro-American program and initiated the partnership between Houghton and his department, with both contributing towards acquiring and providing intellectual access to manuscripts, personal papers, and rare materials.

Leslie Morris, Curator of Manuscripts in the Harvard College Library said, "This is truly a unique relationship for Houghton – with no other department do we receive financial support. Ultimately the Institute and the Library are interested in the same thing, building the depth and breadth of the research collection."

On display is a rare letter from Polly Carter, mother and slave, to son Hamilton Carter, servant, written during the Civil War, which begins, "We have all kept well this summer both white & black have not been visited by the Yankees tho’ they have been prowling about in the County." The exhibition includes a letter from William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B) Du Bois to leftist writer Anna Melissa Graves. Du Bois was an early leader in the 20th-century African-American protest movement, an advocate of pan-Africanism, and a Harvard graduate. In the letter Du Bois expresses his views on Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and the left wing writer Hanna Louise Strong. Also featured are autograph manuscripts of Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah and John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers and Keepers.

A Working Partnership: Acquisitions made with the assistance of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute runs through November 26. For details, call Leslie Morris at 617.495.2449.

This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College