In honor of Black History Month, the University Library is pleased to present the African American Voices Collection. We gathered over 1,000 resources created by authors who identify as African American for this collection as part of the BIPOC Cataloging Project. All too often African American history and culture is filtered through the gaze of those outside of the community. American culture created, supports and maintains anti-Black racism. “Beneath this anti-Black racism is the covert structural and systemic racism which predetermines the socioeconomic status of Blacks in this country and is held in place by anti-Black policies, institutions, and ideologies” (M4BL). This dynamic makes it extremely important that African American history be told through those who are part of the Black community and share the same lived experience.
History is told through the perspectives of those in power. The culture in power tells a narrative that places them in the best possible light, often omitting the harm they have caused to people in other cultures. In 2020, 50% of the top ten Banned Books in the United States were written by authors who are members of the African and Black Diaspora community. Currently the voices of African American authors and scholars are being censored from public education systems across the country under the illegitimate fight against Critical Race Theory. A recent article by Mike Hixenbaugh on NBC News.com listed 50 books Texas parents tried to ban in 2021. Overall books by BIPOC authors account for 44% (22) of the titles on the list and 67% (14) of those titles were written by African American authors. Critical Race Theory is the idea that racism is a social construct, and that it is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. The delusional fight against Critical Race Theory is a perfect example of systemic racism.
The African American Voices Collection highlights the stories, creativity and knowledge created by Black People. The selection process required a substantial amount of research because libraries classify materials based on subject matter and not by creator demographics or characteristics. Whether you select a scholarly work, fiction or visual art from this selection of resources, each provides you with the opportunity to engage the world from someone else’s perspective. As an African American woman, I invite you to share my world by checking out some of the resources from the African American Voices Collection.
BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) Cataloging Project
The BIPOC Cataloging Project was started in late 2020 under the leadership of Access Services Coordinator, Heather Hummons, who reached out and formed a working group of African American librarians here at the University Library. The goal of the BIPOC Cataloging Project is to investigate and implement ways to decolonize the library catalog. The BIPOC Cataloging Project members included myself, Heather Hummons, Library Liaison for African and Black Diaspora Studies and Critical Ethnic Studies; Wendall Sullivan, Digital Initiatives Librarian who oversees and manages Via Sapientiae, DePaul’s institutional repository; and Lori Murphy, former Principal Cataloger who was pivotal in the development and design of the project.
The first attempt to decolonize the catalog by the BIPOC cataloging project was adding local subject headings to library records that included demographic information about the author. These local subject headings would also be mirrored in Via Sapientiae, DePaul’s institutional repository. The information the group decided to include was race/ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation. Lori Murphy used her own Master’s Thesis as an example to promote the project. The next step was to reach out to faculty to get volunteers to select the demographic information they wanted to include in the catalog. Dr. Rajit Mazumder answered the call and his book was the first faculty publication updated as part of the BIPOC Cataloging Project. Then we consulted with the Rinn Law Library to add demographic headings to the works of the late emeritus professor and human rights activist, M. Cherif Bassiouni.
The African American Voices Collection was made possible through the work of the BIPOC Cataloging Project and the Alma Primo VE working groups. I want to give a special thanks to Renata Schneider, our current Principal Cataloger, and Tami Luedtke, Head of Technical Services for helping to make this collection accessible to the DePaul community.
As you review the African American Voices Collection may I suggest the following:
- The art of Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series, which is a visual narrative of African Americans escape from the Jim Crow South.
- Watch Stanley Nelson’s documentary The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords, which recounts the history and importance of Black Press in America.
- Discover the scholarship of Dr. Lisa M. Anderson as she dissects the perpetuation of negative stereotypes of Black women in the performing arts in her book, Mammies No More: The Changing Image of Black Women on Stage and Screen.
- Read the scholarly work of Dr. Patricia Hill Collins as she provides an in depth introduction to Intersectionality.
- Learn about Black Social movements in Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology one of the many books by Haki R. Madhubuti. Madhubuti is one of the founders of Third World Press, which is the oldest independent publisher of Black thought and literature in America that was started on the south side of Chicago.
- You can also review first person accounts of African American history in the HistoryMakers Digital Archives.
- Learn about how the African American Policy Forum’s #TruthBeTold initiative is working to combat the censoring of educators and librarians as part of the misinformation campaign against Critical Race Theory.
If at first you don’t succeed… Keep pushing, because the struggle continues.
Hixenbaugh, Mike. “Here Are 50 Books Texas Parents Want Banned from School Libraries.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 2 Feb. 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-library-books-banned-schools-rcna12986#anchor-9l8rg8rbyLaurenMyracle.
Jacob Lawrence, American, 1917-2000. “And the Migrants Kept Coming”. 1940-41. Artstor, library-artstor-org.ezproxy.depaul.edu/asset/AMOMA_10312309671
Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). “Anti-Black.” Glossary, Racial Equity Tools, 9 Jan. 2020, https://www.racialequitytools.org/glossary#:~:text=The%20Council%20for%20Democratizing%20Education,anti%2DBlackness%20is%20overt%20racism.
“Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues, American Library Association, 5 Apr. 2021, http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10.