OHIO Archives

Ohio University Libraries Archives & Special Collections

Books & More for BAR (Black Alumni Reunion, 2022)

The Black Alumni Reunion (BAR), one of the largest gatherings of OHIO graduates and friends, begins Thursday, September 15th. To help celebrate this coming together of Black Alumni, the Mahn Center for Archives & Special Collections, has curated an exhibit in two parts.

The first part of the exhibit, open through Sunday, September 18th, celebrates Black student and faculty life through photographs, yearbooks, posters, and other materials from the University Archives. Everyone is encouraged to interact with the materials on the tables, to look for familiar names, or find pictures of family and friends. 

Students in Visiting Professor Uzoma Miller’s Africana Media Studies course exploring the hands-on University Archives exhibit for BAR

The second part of the exhibit includes materials from the rare book collection that relate to Black alumni or Black history in Athens. These books, found in the three display cases, will be on view throughout fall semester. Read on for more information about the rare books on exhibit!

Case one features a recent acquisition: Adger, the new book of photographs along with two original platinum prints by Ohio University alumnus Adger Cowans (’58). Adger was one of the first Black students to receive a degree in photography from Ohio University. He studied here with Clarence H. White, Jr. After graduating, Cowans went on to work with Gordon Parks at Life Magazine and was a founding member of the civil rights art collective, the Kamoinge Workshop.

View of the open book, Adger, and two platinum prints by Adger Cowans

Adger is a bit of a retrospective of Cowans’ photographic work, coupled with transcripts of interviews with Cowans processed by Collier Brown into erasure or blackout poetry. While most of the text recedes into a dark background, certain words are highlighted. The highlighted words can be read separately, or in conjunction with each other as well as with Cowans’ images, inviting the reader/viewer to form new associations and meanings.

We were very fortunate to welcome Adger Cowans himself, in conversation with Ohio University School of Art + Design Director and Professor Julie Dummermuth, on September 7th. Watch a recording of the Authors@Alden event.

The second case contains a selection of books by or about Booker T. Washington.

Display of five rare books by or about Booker T. Washington

While Washington is not an alum, he married Athens-local Olivia America Davidson (1854-1889) on August 11, 1886, at Olivia’s sister’s home on Washington Street here in Athens. In 1881, Booker T. Washington had recruited Davidson to help him build the renowned Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Both had enormous impact as Black educators and activists.

Frontispiece portrait of Booker T. Washington in Working With The Hands (1904)
Colorful decorated binding of Daily Resolves by Booker T. Washington (1896)

Case three contains the beautiful oversize book, Sunrise Is Coming After While, containing poems by Langston Hughes, selected and introduced by Maya Angelou. The poems are illustrated with colorful silkscreens by Phoebe Beasley, another Ohio University alum (’65). Angelou chose Beasley to illustrate the book, which is signed at the back by both the poet and the artist.

Collage image of the colorful Phoebe Beasley silkscreened frontispiece, title page, a Langston Hughes poem, and the signatures of Phoebe Beasley and Maya Angelou from Sunrise Is Coming After While (1998)

The exhibit is open anytime the 5th floor of Alden Library is open. All are welcome.

For more information on the items on display or to schedule a class visit to see these or other Mahn Center materials, please complete a Research Request form.