Black Literature Matters at the New York Society Library

Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection, LC-DIG-van-5a52142

Portrait of Zora Neale Hurston by Carl Van Vechten, 1938.

Last week, the New York Society Library opened its new exhibit, Black Literature Matters, “inspired by our contemporary moment,” and guest curated by Farah Jasmine Griffin, the William B. Ransford Professor of English and African-American Studies at Columbia University.

The exhibition features the work of writers of African descent across five centuries, including Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Gwendolyn Brooks, Derek Walcott, Lorraine Hansberry, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison. As Griffin states in the exhibition trailer, “This rich and powerful body of literature contains a chorus of voices that speak to the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism, and racial segregation—voices that inspired the movements that have challenged and helped to dismantle these unjust systems.”

Two pioneering librarians, Dorothy Porter Wesley and Jean Blackwell Hutson, “who helped to bring works by Black authors to a broader reading public,” are also duly celebrated in the exhibition.

Black Literature Matters remains on view through May 1, 2022, and related events will be held from now until then. For more information, visit the exhibition’s main page and the BLM resource page, and check out the exhibition trailer: