Draft:Charles L. Blockson

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Charles L. Blockson in home office (1972)

Charles Leroy Blockson (born December 16, 1933) is an African American historian, author, bibliophile, and collector of books, historical documents, art, and other materials related to the history and culture of African Americans, Continental Africans, and the African diaspora throughout the rest of the world[1]. He has two significant collections related to the study of African-American history and culture at the Charles L. Blockson African-Americana and the African Diaspora at Pennsylvania State University and the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University.[2]

Blockson is a co-founder of the African American Museum in Philadelphia[3]; founding member of the Pennsylvania Black History Committee[4] of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission; past president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society; former chairman of the National Park Service Underground Railroad Advisory Committee[5]; and former director of the Philadelphia African American Pennsylvania State Marker Project (the largest African American marker program in the United States).

Blockson recently donated Harriet Tubman’s signed hymnal and other personal items to the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NAAMHC) at the Smithsonian Institution. Blockson said that when he inherited Harriet Tubman’s 39 personal items, including the shawl that Queen Victoria presented to her, it was the crowning point of his life as a collector. This donation has become a popular attraction at the NAAMHC in Washington, DC[6][7].

Early Life and Education[edit]

Born on December 16, 1933 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Charles L. Blockson is the oldest of 8 children born to Charles and Annie Blockson[1]. During a history lesson his fourth grade teacher, a white woman, asserted that “Negroes like he had no history, and that they were born to serve white people.” Blockson went home and told his parents who assured him that black people do have a history and taught him about prominent African American men and women. That statement launched Blockson's lifelong journey to unearth, collect, and preserve the history, culture and contributions of African descendants. From the age of ten, he began collecting and set out to prove that teacher wrong. Book collecting excursions led Blockson to the Salvation Army, antique shops, church bazaars and Philadelphia where he discovered many book stores. His favorite book store was Leary's at 9th and Market Streets[1]. There he would look for any titles that included the words such as “Negro, Colored, African, African American or Black.” Blockson became well known among book and artifact dealers, and his passion for collecting ultimately has taken him around the world, inspired him to write books, made him one of the foremost experts on the Underground Railroad and put him in the company of leading African American figures like Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson and Rosa Parks.

Educated in Norristown Area School District, Blockson excelled in athletics including football and track and field[5]. A star athlete at the Norristown High School and Penn State University, he won state and national honors, and participated in the Penn Relays. While in high school and college, Blockson would go to book stores when traveling to participate in sports events. He especially liked to visit the book stores in Harlem and Greenwich Village in New York City.

Blockson is a 1956 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and has three honorary doctorate degrees from Lincoln University, Holy Family University, and Villanova University.

He married Elizabeth Parker in 1958, and from his union he has one daughter, Noelle P. Blockson[8].

Career[edit]

Blockson is a co-founder of the African American Museum in Philadelphia, founding member of the Pennsylvania Black History Committee of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, a past President of Pennsylvania Abolition Society, former Chairperson of the National Park Service Underground Railroad Advisory Committee, Distinguished Alumni of Penn State University, Director of Philadelphia African American Pennsylvania State Marker Project (the largest African American marker program in the United States)[9], Advisor to the Philadelphia Constitution Center, and is listed in the Who's Who in Black America. He was the State Representative for the U.S. Department Lecture Tour in the Caribbean Island and South America and lectured at the Sorbonne in Paris, France in 1991 “African-Americans in Europe Conference.”

Among his proudest moments, that he was deeply touched by, was the commemoration of the Pennsylvania Slave Trade marker at Penn's Landing near the Independence Seaport Museum[10].

In addition, he served as adviser to the Philadelphia Constitution Center; a member of the Norristown Area School District's Hall of Fame and Hall of Champions[11]; instrumental in establishing, along with the Valley Forge Alumni Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the memorial at Valley Forge that honors Revolutionary War soldiers of African descent[12]; listed in the Who's Who in Black America; and is featured, along with his mentor, Arthur Schomburg in the book, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A Basbanes.

In addition to his extensive travel in Pennsylvania and the United States for his research, he has lectured in Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and South America. Blockson has written many magazine articles. In 1984, the article he wrote for National Geographic, “Escape from Slavery: Underground Railroad,” was the first cover story pertaining to African American people, and is one the most popular stories in the history of the National Geographic magazine[13].  As a result, the U.S. State Department commissioned him to lecture on the subject in the Caribbean Islands and South America. He lectured across the globe including the Sorbonne in Paris, France (one of his favorite cities) in 1991 at the African Americans in Europe Conference; in the African countries Egypt and Senegal; and in Sweden, Iceland and Denmark with the U.S. Department of the Interior on the subject of the Underground Railroad[1].

Though Mr. Blockson has written many magazine articles, in 1984, the article he wrote for National Geographic, “Escape from Slavery: Underground Railroad,”[13] was the first cover story pertaining to African-American people and one the most popular stories in the history of the National Geographic magazine.  Over 40 million people read the article worldwide.

Blockson retired from Temple University as Curator of the Collection on December 31, 2006 and is currently writing the history of the Collection which started over 60 years ago[14].

The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection[edit]

In 1984, Blockson donated his personal collection of rare publications and artifacts related to African American history and culture to Temple University. The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, one of the nation's leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of people of African descent, now contains more than 500,000 books, documents, and photographs[15].

He has contributed books and other historical items to the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora at the Pennsylvania State University[16] and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NAAMHC) at the Smithsonian Institution. A recent donation to NAAMHC includes 39 of Harriet Tubman's personal items – highlighted by the shawl that Queen Victoria presented to Tubman, the “crowning jewel” of Blockson's collection[7].

Honors[edit]

Blockson was awarded three honorary degrees from Lincoln University, Holy Family University, and Villanova University[1].

In 2017, Charles L. Blockson was the 96th recipient of the Philadelphia Award[17].

Publications[edit]

Articles[edit]

Blockson, Charles L. (2011, Apr 03). Cameos of the past. Philadelphia Tribune. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/866559769?accountid=14270

Blockson, Charles L., and Henry Chase. "Canada." American Visions, Apr.-May 1995, p. UR21+. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A16883768/ITOF?u=temple_main&sid=ITOF&xid=b5f50c83 . Accessed 21 Aug. 2018.

Blockson, Charles L., and Henry Chase. "Detroit." American Visions, Apr.-May 1995, p. UR16+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A16883766/AONE?u=temple_main&sid=AONE&xid=fa526aee . Accessed 21 Aug. 2018.

Blockson, Charles. L. (1988, Sep 18). Discovering Harriet Wilson. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/110471175?accountid=14270

Blockson, Charles. L. (1994, Aug 01). Genealogy: Faded memories. American Visions, 9, 46. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1297810441?accountid=14270

Blockson, Charles L., and Henry Chase. "Greene County and Wilberforce." American Visions, Apr.-May 1995, p. UR2+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A16883762/AONE?u=temple_main&sid=AONE&xid=273f4b5e . Accessed 21 Aug. 2018.

Blockson, Charles L. "Paul Robeson: Melody of Freedom". American Visions: the magazine of Afro-American culture. (Feb.-Mar. 1998): 14-17.

Blockson, Charles L., and Henry Chase. "Oberlin." American Visions, Apr.-May 1995, p. UR8+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A16883764/AONE?u=temple_main&sid=AONE&xid=2070d1c1 . Accessed 21 Aug. 2018.

Blockson, Charles L. “The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 102, no. 2, 1978, pp. 252–253. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20091264.

Blockson, Charles L. “The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 105, no. 3, 1981, pp. 365–366. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20091608

Books[edit]

Blockson, Charles L. African Americans in Pennsylvania: Above Ground and Underground, an Illustrated Guide. Harrisburg, Pa.: RB Books, 2001.

Blockson, Charles L. African Americans in Pennsylvania: a History and Guide. Baltimore, Md.: Black Classic Press, 1994.

Blockson, Charles L. Afro-Americana : an Exhibition of Selected Books, Manuscripts & Prints From the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Historical Collection, Temple University Libraries, February 2-April 15, 1984. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Libraries, 1984.

Blockson, Charles L. The Ballad of the Underground Railroad. Bloomington, Ind.: AuthorHouse, 2008.

Blockson, Charles L., and Ron Fry. Black Genealogy. Baltimore, Md.: Black Classic Press, 1991.

Blockson, Charles L. A Brief History of the Pennsylvania Black History Committee. [Philadelphia, Pa.: s.n., 1991.

Blockson, Charles L. Catalogue of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, a Unit of the Temple University Libraries. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

Blockson, Charles L. A Commented Bibliography of One Hundred and One Influential Books by and About People of African Descent, 1556-1982: a Collector's Choice. Amsterdam: A.Gerits & Sons, 1989.

Blockson, Charles L. "damn Rare": the Memoirs of an African-American Bibliophile. Tracy, CA: Quantum Leap Publisher, 1998.

Blockson, Charles L., and Louie Psihoyos. Escape From Slavery: the Underground Railroad. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1984.

Blockson, Charles L. An Exhibition of Books, Pamphlets and Manuscripts Selected by Charles Blockson: From His Collection of Black History, Past and Present, April 18 to May 3, 1971. Lincoln University, Pa.: Vail Memorial Library, Lincoln University, 1971.

Blockson, Charles L. The Haitian Revolution: Celebrating the First Black Republic. Virginia Beach, Va.: Donning Co. Publishers, 2004.

Blockson, Charles L. Hippocrene Guide to the Underground Railroad. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1994.

Blockson, Charles L. A History of the Blackman in Montgomery County. [Philadelphia, Pa.: s.n., 1973.

Blockson, Charles L. The Liberty Bell Era: the African American Story. Harrisburg, Pa: RB Books, 2003.

Blockson, Charles L. Marian Anderson: the Lady from South Philadelphia. [Philadelphia, Pa.]: The Free Library of Philadelphia in cooperation with St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania, [and] Charles L. Blockson Collection, Temple University, 1990.

Blockson, Charles L. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society and the Pennsylvania Black : Two Hundredth Anniversary Exhibition, Apr. 17, 1964-july 17, 1974 At the Historical Society of Pennsylvania From Its Collections, Those of Charles L. Blockson, and Others. Philadelphia: The Society, 1974.

Blockson, Charles L. Pennsylvania's Black History. Philadelphia, Pa.: Portfolio Associates, 1975.

Blockson, Charles L. Philadelphia 1639-2000. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia, 2000.

Blockson, Charles L. The President's House Revisited Behind the Scenes: the Samuel Fraunces Story. Eubank, Kan.: Still Publications, 2013.

Blockson, Charles L. The Underground Railroad: Dramatic Firsthand Accounts of Daring Escapes to Freedom. Berkley trade paperback ed. New York: Berkley Books, 1994.

Blockson, Charles L. The Underground Railroad: First-Person Narratives of Escapes to Freedom in the North. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1987.

Blockson, Charles L., and Bernard C Watson. Philadelphia's Guide: African-American State Historical Markers. Philadelphia, Pa.: Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection / William Penn Foundation, 1992.

Blockson, Charles L., Constance R Cole, and Marion T Lane. Bishop Richard Allen: Founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. [United States: GramereC@aol.com, 2015.

Blockson, Charles L., and Karen Kasmauski. Sea Changes In the Sea Islands: "nowhere to Lay Down Weary Head". Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1987.

Mosley, John W., and Charles L. Blockson. The Journey of John W. Mosley. Philadelphia: Quantum Leap Publisher, 1992.

Toll, Jean Barth, Michael J Schwager, and Charles L. Blockson. Montgomery County: the Second Hundred Years. Norristown, Pa.: Montgomery County Federation of Historical Societies, 1983.

External Links[edit]

Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection: https://library.temple.edu/collections/blockson

Digital Collections by Temple University Libraries

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e L., Blockson, Charles (1998). Damn rare : the memoirs of an African-American bibliophile. Tracy, Calif.: Quantum Leap Publisher. ISBN 1892697009. OCLC 40487991.
  2. ^ "Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection | Temple University Libraries". library.temple.edu. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  3. ^ L., Blockson, Charles (1998). Damn rare : the memoirs of an African-American bibliophile. Quantum Leap Publisher. ISBN 1892697009. OCLC 40487991.
  4. ^ "History Makers - Biography -Charles L. Blockson".
  5. ^ a b "Charles Blockson, Historian and Author".
  6. ^ "Collector donates Harriet Tubman artifacts to African American History museum".
  7. ^ a b "THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AND CULTURE - I, Too, Sing America".
  8. ^ L., Blockson, Charles (1998). Damn rare : the memoirs of an African-American bibliophile. Quantum Leap Publisher. ISBN 1892697009. OCLC 40487991.
  9. ^ "The Pennsylvania Slave Trade Marker Ceremony - Charles L. Blockson".
  10. ^ "Slave trade marker has Penn's Landing berth". The Philadelphia Tribune. Aug 13, 2016.
  11. ^ "History of the Hall of Champions Association - How it all started..."
  12. ^ "Patriots of African Descent Monument".
  13. ^ a b Blockson, Charles L and Louie Psihoyos (1984). Escape From Slavery: the Underground Railroad. Washington, D.C: National Geographic Society.
  14. ^ "Community rallies for collection". The Temple News. 31 October 2006.
  15. ^ "Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection". library.temple.edu/collections/blockson.
  16. ^ "Charles L. Blockson Collection of African-Americana and the African Diaspora". libraries.psu.edu/about/collections/charles-l-blockson-collection-african-americana-and-african-diaspora.
  17. ^ "Charles L. Blockson to be awarded Prestigious Philadelphia Award on May 25". The Philadelphia Sunday Sun. 19 May 2017.