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Blockson General and Special Collections

About the Collection

General Collection

The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection is one of the nation's leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of African Americans. The core collection was donated to Temple University in 1983 by Charles L. Blockson, a historian, bibliophile and collector of Afro-Americana. As a major research facility, it provides materials, expository programs and service for Black Studies research scholars. The collection is used by a wide spectrum of researchers ranging from high school students to well-established scholars.

Located in Sullivan Hall on the Main Campus of Temple University, this collection of over 600,000 items has materials on the global black experience in all formats: books, manuscripts, pamphlets, journals, broadsides, posters, photographs, audiotapes, videos, DVDs and rare ephemera. In addition, the collection houses selected artifacts, including statues, busts and figurines.

Most of the titles are in English and others are in languages of areas in the world with sizeable black populations, including Africa and various parts of the Caribbean and South America. Information contained in fliers, newspaper and magazine clippings, pamphlets and ephemera is available in the Blockson Clipping File. Books and other materials owned by Blockson Afro-American Collection are included in Library Search, Temple University Libraries' catalog. You can use Advanced Search by typing in an author, title, keyword, or subject and then select Blockson Collection as the Library before clicking the search button. Temple University Libraries Digital Collections offer access to the primary historical and cultural resources of Temple Univeristy Libraries, inlcuding the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

A permanent rotating exhibit which changes themes periodically is on display upon entering the Collection. The exhibit is displayed in the foyer of the reading room. Other exhibit items are located within the reading room, along the wall.

Special Collections

Rare books, prints, photographs, slave narratives, manuscripts, letters, sheet music, foreign language publications and ephemera comprise the impressive special collections component of the Blockson Collection. The Collection's rare books section is particularly strong in its first editions, as well as its holdings in African, African-American and African-Caribbean publications dating back to the sixteenth century.

Among the rare works in the Collection are Leo Africanus' Ioannis Leonis Africani Africae descriptio IX lib. absoluta (1632); Phillis Wheatley's Poems on various subjects, religious and moral (1773); Olaudah Equiano's The life of Olaudah Equiano (1789); Robert Benjamin Lewis' Light and truth (1844); William Wells Brown's Clotel (1853); The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831) and David Walker's Appeal (1829). In addition, the Collection boasts first editions of works by Jacobus Elisa Joannes Capitein, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, George Washington Williams, Carter G. Woodson and others. There is also an extensive African Bibles collection.

The primary source materials of the manuscripts component of the Collection include sheet music, the principal papers of Samuel Holmes, Dr. R.R. Wright, Natalie Hinderas and Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre, as well as personal papers of William Still.

The Paul Robeson Collection contains sheet music, photographs, posters and ephemera. The Rhythm Brown Collection includes photographs, business records, and correspondence.

The Philadelphia (Alpha) Chapter Boule Society Papers of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, the first African-American fraternity, includes programs, social registers and private correspondence.

Among the works of enslaved Africans in the Slave Narratives Collection are narratives by Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho, Prince Lee Boo, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Nancy Prince.

The Prints and Photographs Collection includes prints and Black film posters, as well as photographs and prints of African-American Civil rights leaders, religious leaders, artists, entertainers and scholars.

Images of African-American associations and organizations are also included. This section also houses the John Mosley Photograph Collection which contains over 500,000 photographs, prints and negatives which provide a visual history of notable black entertainers, Negro Baseball League players, Penn Relays, social and political personalities and the general social life of Pennsylvania.

The Raymond Trent Oral History Collection contains thousands of taped interviews and radio programs on African and African-American history and culture.


  • African Americans
  • Culture


Charles L. Blockson Reading Room


(215) 204-6849