February 2017 | Nate Pedersen

Rare Book Week West: The Gift to Sing Exhibit at the Bancroft Library

DSC_5464-768x513.jpgAll this week on the blog we'll be highlighting Rare Book Week West--either items on offer at the book fairs and special auction or items on exhibit at numerous San Francisco Bay-area venues.

Today's post is about the special exhibit on display right now at the Bancroft Library at UC-Berkeley. "The Gift to Sing" features highlights from the African American collection of Leon Litwack, professor emeritus of history at the University, and winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Litwack, who had a celebrated career as a professor of African American culture, has assembled one of the best African American collections in private hands.

Litwack got an early start on his collection. As a teenager, he haunted a used bookstore called the Book Den in his hometown of Santa Barbara, where he picked up some early Langston Hughes copies for $1 each that are included in the exhibit. Other highlights on display include are Harlem Renaissance first editions in striking dust jackets, Bobby Seale's copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (purchased by Litwack for the scandalously low price of $5), a copy of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass inscribed by William Lloyd Garrison, and Ida B. Wells' pamphlet on lynching The Red Record.

The exhibit also complements Litwack's collection with selected pieces from Bancroft's African American collection, including the first book published by an African American, Phyllis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773).

"The Gift to Sing: Highlights of the Leon F. Litwack and Bancroft Library African American Collections" is on display in the Bancroft Library Gallery through February 17, 2017, from 10 am to 4 pm.

[Photo by Alejandro Serrano for Bancroft Library].