Library Blog

Black Literature Matters: A New Resource

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Library's Black Literature Matters project includes four original events bringing to life the voices of Black writers through history, re-examined to inspire understanding of race in our country today. The first two events took place on November 19, 2020 and January 28, 2021; their videos are now available to stream.

We're now pleased to make available a central online destination for these recordings alongside a growing collection of resources - additional images, history of the publication of Black writers, recommended reading, and much more to come.

As New York City's oldest cultural institution, we are honored to do our part to highlight the thousands of stories by African American writers contained within our building and acquired since the 1700s.

Visit the Black Literature Matters Resource Page


In the November 2020 event, participants discussed the reasons for the series' creation:
"We're thrilled to be able to tell these types of stories by delving into our archives and seeing what early Americans were reading here in New York City....It's important for us as an institiution to continually revisit our history and to look with fresh eyes as the times change. We've done all this great work over the years of transcribing and digitizing our charging ledgers...we have mined that for a lot of stories. What other stories are there? We're continuing to discover that, and it's really exciting." - Carolyn Waters, Head Librarian and series narrator

"We have moments of social upheaval that call attention to what's happening in our own time, like we're dealing with right now, a kind of reckoning, and then people start to reach for new writers, but also old writers, to better understand what brings us to where we are today. So there's a resurrection of interest." - Dr. Farah Jasmine Griffin, Chair of African-American & African Diaspora Studies, Columbia University, and series narrator

"After the brutalities including the murder of George Floyd, and with COVID striking the country,...we as the Library, and as book lovers and library lovers, felt a call to act. [Writing] our Commitment to the Black Community, we staked our identity on the idea that libraries are for everyone and all are welcome, but that wasn't enough, and thus these programs were born. It was the most emotional and carthartic experience. There are so many voices out there. I'm looking forward to what we have in store." - Marialuisa Monda, Events Assistant and creative team member

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