Charles L. Blockson collection of postcards and related materials, 1919-2000

7968

Collection Overview

Title:
Charles L. Blockson collection of postcards and related materials
Dates (Inclusive):
1919-2000
Creator:
Blockson, Charles L.
Abstract:
Bibliophile, author, historian, lecturer, collector, and activist Charles LeRoy Blockson (1933- ) donated the Charles L. Blockson African American and African Diaspora Collection to Penn State in 2006.
Abstract:
This collection consists of postcards, historical advertisements, and photographs, approximately half of which were composed as humorous caricatures and are now primarily offensive stereotypes of rural African Americans. Other materials in the collection feature positive images primarily of noted African American cultural leaders and athletes .
Collection Number:
7968
Size:
0.49 Cubic feet
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical Note

Bibliophile, author, historian, lecturer, and black history advocate Charles LeRoy Blockson (1933- ) was a native of Norristown, Pennsylvania. Attending Penn State on a scholarship, he distinguished himself on the gridiron and broke school records in the discus. After graduating (1956), he served in the U.S. Army, 1957-1958, and returned to begin a janitorial service company. In 1972, he became an advisor for human relations and cultural affairs at the Norristown Area High School, teaching African-American history, and defusing sensitive race issues. Four years later, he co-founded the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia, directed the Pennsylvania Black History Committee, and the Pennsylvania Afro-American Historical Board. In 1977, he wrote and published Black Genealogy with Ron Fry. His growing expertise led him to research, write, and publish Pennsylvania's Black History in 1981.

A bibliophile and activist, he responded to the absence of research materials about African American history and culture by amassing a collection of books, photographs, drawings, sheet music, posters, and broadsides about African American history. In 1984 Blockson donated this collection of over 150,000 items to the Special Collection Department of Temple University Libraries. He served as curator of his namesake collection, the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. This collection anchored a new doctorate program for African-American studies at Temple University. His expertise continued to be recognized; he served on and directed the Pennsylvania State Historical and Record Advisory Board and Black History Advisory Board in the1980s. There he spearheaded a project to erect historical markers commemorating the contribution of African Americans to Philadelphia, and in the 1990s chaired the Valley Forge African-American Revolutionary Soldier Monument.

Blockson, whose grandfather escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad, championed the preservation of Underground Railroad history. In 1987 Blockson published The Underground Railroad: First Person Narratives of Escapes to Freedom in the North, which reinterpreted the Underground Railroad to include all people of all races. Blockson continued to write, speak, and collect; he toured the West Indies and South America for the United States Information Agency in the 1990s, and moderated the 1992 Black Writer's Conference in Paris, France. Never ceasing to collect, in 2006 he donated a second collection to his alma mater Penn State. Known as the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora, it consists of books, artwork, sheet music, posters, ephemera, and recordings. In 2012, he donated his collection of Harriet Tubman materials to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to be opened on the National Mall in Washington, D. C. in 2015.

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Collection Overview

The Charles L. Blockson Postcards and Other Materials provides a vivid contrast between stereotypic images of African Americans dating from the 1890s to the 1930s with positive images after the 1950s brought to public attention by African American groups. The collection of historic postcards includes engraved black and white cards (circa 1860-1890) and colorized postcards and stereoviews from 1900 to World War II. These primarily rely on stereotypical images of rural labor, African American poverty, and large families. There are additional cartoonish postcards from this same era which also rely on stereotypes of Dixie. Similar images appear on advertising cards and illustrations from the period. These feature humorous images and are used to market products that had relatively little to do with African Americans. Another genre of caricature is found in a catalog of black and white photographs produced by the Knaffl and Brothers photograph studio of Knoxville, Tennessee. The catalog shows contrived photographs which depicting African Americans as buffoons. Knaffl and Bros. staged and created these photographs and sold them as wall hangings, underscoring the popularity of these stereotypes.

A large set of black and white postcards created in the late 20th century, features photographic images of distinguished African American historical figures and leaders from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection also includes two sets (1975, 1993) of portraits of African American leaders. In addition, this collection features postcard booklets: one from the Library of Congress featuring African American baseball players ,and another from the National Museum of American Art depicting Harlem in the 1930s. There are also attractive notecards titled, "Brown Angels."

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Charles L. Blockson Collection of Afrian-American and the African Diaspora Postcards and Cards (7968), Rare Books and Manuscripts, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections staff.

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Related Materials

Related Material

Related Charles L. Blockson collections may be found in the Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Blockson, Charles L.

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General note

The Charles L. Blockson Postcards and Other Materials provides a vivid contrast between stereotypic images of African Americans dating from the 1890s to the 1930s with positive images after the 1950s brought to public attention by African American groups. The collection of historic postcards includes engraved black and white cards (circa 1860-1890) and colorized postcards and stereoviews from 1900 to World War II. These primarily rely on stereotypical images of rural labor, African American poverty, and large families. There are additional cartoonish postcards from this same era which also rely on stereotypes of Dixie. Similar images appear on advertising cards and illustrations from the period. These feature humorous images and are used to market products that had relatively little to do with African Americans. Another genre of caricature is found in a catalog of black and white photographs produced by the Knaffl & Brothers photograph studio of Knoxville, Tennessee. The catalog shows contrived photographs which depicting African Americans as buffoons. Knaffl & Bros. staged and created these photographs and sold them as wall hangings, underscoring the popularity of these stereotypes.

A large set of black and white postcards created in the late 20th century, features photographic images of distinguished African American historical figures and leaders from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection also includes two sets (1975, 1993) of portraits of African American leaders. In addition, this collection features postcard booklets: one from the Library of Congress featuring African American baseball players ,and another from the National Museum of American Art depicting Harlem in the 1930s. There are also attractive notecards titled, “Brown Angels.”

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Collection Inventory

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