A major collection of Black poems, books is coming to LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU has obtained one of the country’s largest collections of African-American poetry, including a book once owned by Frederick Douglass and a collection of works by 1950 Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks.

The collection, assembled by book collector and dealer Wyatt Houston Day, includes more than 800 works from the 18th century, the Harlem Renaissance and up to the present day. It will be available for public access at Hill Memorial Library once it has been properly catalogued and preserved.

The LSU Libraries have plenty of records where African-Americans are talked about, from manuscripts to plantation records, said John Miles, curator of books for Special Collections. But the new items in the collections are a way to have Black voices tell their own stories.

“What I’m really excited about is that this really is a symbol of our dedication to incorporate African American and Black voices speaking themselves into the collection,” Miles said.

Mona Lisa Saloy, Louisiana’s current poet laureaute, sees the new collection as part of a larger effort to remember and reflect on Black poetry — and what it says about the state’s past.

Saloy was in Baton Rouge recently for a poetry reading and book signing during a commemoration of the Southern University Museum of Art’s 21st anniversary. She spoke about her ties to Louisiana, being named poet laureate and the importance of preserving African American poetry.

“A lot of Black poets have gone by the wayside because of time or death or moving to another part of the country or even out of the country,” she said. “So having a huge collection of a variety of Black poets is outstanding and there are a lot of poetry books that are out of print, so that’ll be invaluable for anyone who loves poetry, especially Black poetry.”

Saloy said she was surprised to learn about her appointment of poet laureate due to the subject of much of her work.






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