Readex to Launch Digital Edition of the Library Company of Philadelphia’s Unparalleled Collection of Afro-Americana

Naples, FL (PRWEB) January 17, 2012

A digital edition of Afro-Americana, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia will be introduced in late Spring 2012 by Readex, a division of NewsBank. Created from the Library Company’s acclaimed collection—an accumulation that began with Benjamin Franklin and has steadily increased throughout its entire history—this unique new online resource will provide researchers with more than 12,000 wide-ranging printed works about African American history. Critically important subjects covered include the West’s discovery and exploitation of Africa; the rise of slavery in the New World along with the growth and success of abolitionist movements; the development of racial thought and racism; descriptions of African American life—slave and free—throughout the Americas; and slavery and race in fiction and drama. Also featured are printed works of African American individuals and organizations.

“The Library Company’s Afro-Americana Collection is one of the most comprehensive and valuable archives of printed material by and about people of African descent anywhere in the world,” says Professor Richard Newman of the Rochester Institute of Technology. “From early descriptions of African society and culture to the black struggle for justice in the Americas during the 19th century, it remains a touchstone for scholars and students alike. To have it available online and at your fingertips in a searchable format will be a dream come true.”

The works in this collection, many of which are quite rare, span nearly 400 years, from the early 16th to the early 20th century. Examples include David Walker’s 1829 Appeal . . . to the Colored Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly to Those of the United States of America, a militant attack on both southern slavery and efforts to colonize free blacks; Lydia Maria Child’s 1833 essay, An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans; William Still’s The Underground Rail Road: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships, Hair-breadth Escapes, and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom (1872); William J. Simmons’ Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising (1887); and Booker T. Washington’s The Story of the Negro: The Rise of the Race from Slavery, published in 1909.

Also included are such important but lesser-known works as Joseph Sidney, An Oration, Commemorative of the Abolition of the Slave Trade (New York, 1809) and Russell Parrott, An Oration on the Abolition of the Slave Trade . . . First of January, 1814 (Philadelphia, 1814), two works by African American authors celebrating January 1 anniversaries of the end of the slave trade; Grand Bobalition of Slavery! (Boston, 1820), a satire of such celebrations, one example of a long-overlooked genre; Robert B. Lewis, Light and Truth (Portland, Maine, 1836), which champions the central role of black Africans in laying the basis for ancient civilization; William Wells Brown, The Black Man: His Antecedents, His Genius, and His Achievements (an 1865 republication in newly-liberated Savannah of an 1863 collective biography of prominent blacks, many still alive, and most, like the author, former slaves); Martin R. Delany, Principia of Ethnology: The Origins of Race and Color, with an Archeological Compendium of Ethiopian and Egyptian Civilization (Philadelphia, 1879), a work by an African American analyzing the origins of color and race and championing black creativity; Charles Carroll, “The Negro a Beast” or “In the Image of God” (St. Louis, 1900), one of many savage works by whites denying the humanity of blacks; and three works by the preeminent African American sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois: The Atlanta Conferences (Atlanta, 1902); Some Efforts of American Negroes for Their Own Social Betterment (Atlanta, 1898); and A Select Bibliography of the Negro American (Atlanta, 1905).

The Library Company’s Afro-Americana Collection began to gain international renown for its size, range, and significance in the late 1960s as scholars, influenced by civil rights activism, initiated fresh studies of slavery’s part in the American story. “As researchers rediscovered the importance of the long-neglected writings of African Americans, they told us that our collection was vital to new scholarship in African American studies,” says Librarian James N. Green. The Library Company mounted the path-breaking exhibition “Negro History, 1553-1903” in 1969, and followed that with the publication in 1973 of the magisterial bibliography Afro-Americana 1553-1906: A Catalog of the Holdings of the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Since then, Afro-Americana has been a priority of the Library Company, and the collection has grown with each year. A second edition of the Catalog, including 2,500 works acquired since 1973, was published in 2008, preserving and extending the legacy of this landmark work and now providing the bibliographic control for Readex’s online edition. Afro-Americana, 1535-1922 will be fully integrated into America’s Historical Imprints for seamless searching with Early American Imprints, Series I and II: Evans and Shaw-Shoemaker, 1639-1819 and the recent Supplements from the Library Company of Philadelphia, which have added nearly 2,000 newly discovered items. In addition, Afro-Americana,, 1535-1922 will be cross-searchable with all Archive of Americana collections, including African American Newspapers, 1827-1998 and African American Periodicals, 1825-1995.

Researchers around the world have praised advance word of the partnership between Readex and the Library Company to digitize this landmark collection. UCLA Emeritus Professor Gary Nash writes, “The benefits to scholarship and teaching that will come when the Library Company’s Afro-Americana Collection is made into a digital database are virtually immeasurable. This will be a major step in infusing American history in general with its vitally important African American component. Teachers at all levels will find this a gold mine.”

And University of Michigan Professor Martha S. Jones says, “Today, early African American studies is a global enterprise that includes researchers throughout the United States as well as Europe, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America. This collaboration between the Library Company and Readex will bring new resources into reach and enrich this still expanding field of research and study.”

About the Library Company of Philadelphia
The Library Company is an independent research library specializing in American history and culture from the 17th through the 19th centuries. Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company is America’s first successful lending library and oldest cultural institution. Free and open to the public, the Library Company houses an extensive non-circulating collection of rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, ephemera, prints, photographs, and works of art. The mission of the Library Company is to preserve, interpret, make available, and augment the valuable materials within its care. It serves a diverse constituency throughout Philadelphia and the nation, offering comprehensive reader services, an internationally renowned fellowship program, online catalogs, and regular exhibitions and public programs.

With the creation of the Program in African American History in 2007 (currently directed by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, an associate professor of history at the University of Delaware), the Library Company has expanded fellowships, conferences, exhibitions, publications, public programming, teacher training, and acquisitions to help achieve the full potential represented by its holdings in this area. For more information about this Program, see
About Readex, a division of NewsBank
For more than sixty years, the Readex name has been synonymous with research in historical materials and government documents. Recognized by librarians, students, and scholars for its efforts to transform academic scholarship, Readex offers a wealth of Web-based collections in the humanities and social sciences, including the Archive of Americana, a family of historical collections featuring searchable books, pamphlets, newspapers, and government documents printed in America over three centuries, and the World Newspaper Archive, created in partnership with the Center for Research Libraries. Also available are the Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports and the Joint Publications Research Service Reports, two of the U.S. government’s fundamental sources of political, historical and scientific open source intelligence during the second half of the 20th century.

For more information, contact Readex Marketing Director David Loiterstein by calling 1.800.762.8182 or emailing dloiterstein(at)readex(dot)com.

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