About the Exhibit
“The Arts of Social Justice: The Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature” highlights works by African American artists, activists, intellectuals, and their allies committed to the struggle for social change. Exploring major themes found within the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, held at the University of Minnesota Libraries, “The Arts of Social Justice” includes representations of family, community, cultural preservation and heritage, the arts, and social justice found in book art, photography, performing arts, epistolary communications, ephemera, and other archival materials. The Givens Collection itself is a testament to the importance of social change that can take place in all areas of cultural and political life—in literature and on the stage, within the intimate relationships among families, even within practices of cultural preservation and memory.
The Givens Collection is open to the public, and students and researchers may work with a first edition of Phillis Wheatley’s 1773 Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (on display here), the first book published by an African American author, which also features a portrait of Wheatley that is the only known surviving work by African-American slave artist Scipio Moorhead. Letters from poet and playwright Amiri Baraka, and annotated manuscripts by Langston Hughes—signed with his exceedingly elegant hand—are among the archival objects that make the Givens Collection such an extraordinary resource.