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Newark Public Library Pays Tribute to African-American Literary Groups During Black History Month
January 2, 2008
Media only, please contact:
Heidi Cramer at (973) 733-7837 or Pam Goldstein at (973) 228-4559

The Newark Public Library will celebrate Black History Month from Wednesday, January 23 to Saturday, March 22, 2008 with an eight-week salute to African-American Literary societies, their legacy and evolution, including the impact of popular culture and music on African-American literature.

The centerpiece of the program is an exhibit extolling black America’s love affair with books entitled, Entrusted to Our Keeping: The Legacy of African-American Literary Societies in Newark, the Nation and the World. Tracing the history of black book clubs and reading groups from the early 19th century to the present, the exhibition opens Wednesday, January 23 with a reception from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Second Floor Gallery.

What’s Hip-Hop Got to Do With It? A Community Discussion about the Impact of Hip-Hop upon African-American Literature follows from 6 to 8 p.m. in Centennial Hall with panelists: Ron Kavanaugh,; Herb Boyd, author of Baldwin’s Harlem: A Biography; Gilda Rogers, author of Arrested Development: The State of Black Achievement and Education in Hip-Hop America; Irene Daniels of the Newark Literacy Campaign; Elyse Smith, a student at Bloomfield College; and motivational speaker, Edna Bailey-Woody. Dr. Margaret Hayes of the Bethany Church Book Club in Newark will serve as the moderator. The event will also feature special guest speaker Nina Mitchell Wells, New Jersey Secretary of State.

Detailed in the second floor exhibit is information on the evolution of the Frances E.W. Harper Literary Society, a book group that has been in residence for 20 years at the Newark Public Library and chaired by Newarker Dorothea Moore. The Society is named for Harper, the African-American writer, lecturer and political activist who advocated on behalf of abolition, civil rights, women’s rights and temperance. The book group, which received the 2007 Library Service Award from the New Jersey Library Association, focuses on African-American and black authors and meets the first Wednesday of each month.

Founder of the Frances E.W. Harper Literary Society, Sandra West is the guest curator for the exhibit. A writer, teacher and historian, West has written about literary society history for African Voices Literary Magazine, Richmond Free Press, Unionite Alumni Magazine, Emerge Magazine, and Greenwood Encyclopedia of Hip-Hop Literature (2008). She currently is working on a book club project that will merge hip-hop fiction and classic African-American literature: The Bloomfield College BookEnds.

"The Newark Public Library is seizing the opportunity to highlight the history, impact, and extent of African-American literary groups as part of our Black History Month activities," explained Library Director Wilma Grey. "We’re so proud that the Frances E.W. Harper Literary Society meets each month in the Library’s James Brown African American Room." The room was named in memory of Black Studies Librarian James Brown, a tremendous supporter of the F.E.W. Harper Literary Society.

The Library exhibition also documents the fact that at one point in their history African Americans were not allowed to read, while today they maintain a steadily growing number of reading clubs and literary societies in Greater Newark and around the country. Display cases, photographs and wall quotes will document early African-American literary societies nationally and in Newark and the international reach of these groups all the way to Africa today.

Weekly programs throughout the course of the exhibit will offer conversations with noted African-American authors, a fiction writers’ workshop, video presentations, and a "read-in." The following programs are free and open to the public at the Main Library, 5 Washington Street, Newark, NJ.

Members of the Harlem Writers Guild will be at the Library speaking of their work and the writing life on Wednesday, January 30 between 6 and 8 p.m. in the Library’s Centennial Hall. Authors will include Grace F. Edwards, E. L. Hobgood, Walter Dean Myers, Gammy L. Singer, K.C. Washington, and Sandra L. West.

The Frances E.W. Harper Society will hold a special staged reading in Centennial Hall on Wednesday, February 6 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Remembering Their Voices will include works by such notables as W.E.B. DuBois, Shirley Chisholm, Harriet Tubman, James Baldwin, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. John Henrik Clarke, and a slave narrative.

Renowned U.S. historian and the author of Creating Black Americans: African American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present, Nell Irvin Painter, Ph.D. will discuss her scholarship on Saturday, February 9 between noon and 2 p.m. in Centennial Hall.

On Wednesday, February 13, between 6 and 7 p.m., the Library has scheduled a film featuring a conversation with the late playwright August Wilson followed by a discussion of his Pulitzer Prize winning work. The event will be held in the James Brown African American Room.

On Wednesday, February 20, a video featuring author Alice Walker will be shown between 6 and 7 p.m. in the James Brown African American Room, followed by a discussion of her work.

The public is invited to a lunch-time "Read-In" at noon in the main lobby of the Library on Monday, February 4 to read a favorite passage in any book by a black author.

Writers are invited to attend a two and a half hour workshop, Writing the Marvelous Real: Magical Realism for 21st Century Voices, on Saturday, March 1 presented by Sheree Renée Thomas, editor of the Dark Matter series. The workshop will be held in the James Brown Room between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The interactive/multimedia workshop explores the fiction writing style of magical realism, made famous by Latin American authors like Alejo Carpentier, Gabriel García Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges and the works of Alice Walker, Arthur Flowers and Gloria Naylor among others.

For more information please log on to The Newark Public Library’s website or call 973-733-5411.

PNC Bank is proud to support The Newark Public Library’s Black History Month programs. This exhibition and related programs are funded in part by an operating support grant to The Newark Public Library from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.


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