New arrivals of African American literature in Special Collections

Photo of book jacket of King book.

King offers a first look at the bus boycott.

LSU Libraries Special Collections’ manuscript collections are justly celebrated for their stories of African Americans in Louisiana and the south more broadly, be those stories told in the digital collection about the Free People of Color, or as recently cited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in his Finding Your Roots  series. Those same voices aren’t as prominent in the Libraries’ rare book collection, but that is starting to change.

One acquisition that seeks to fill in these gaps is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1958 book Stride Toward Freedom about the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. (In fact, this book was purchased in honor of African American history month in 2020, but a shipping mistake and then COVID shutdowns mean that it gets to make its debut this year.) This copy preserves the original book jacket, which gives a sense to how the book circulated and King was perceived decades before his lionization as a martyr to the civil rights movement.

Another relevant recent acquisition came by way of the bookseller and collector Wyatt Day. It arrived in two highly anticipated packages, which we took no time in unpacking, as our eagerness was getting the best of us. (The rare book trade might move slowly at times, but rare book curators need not.)


Hopefully these short videos give a sense of the diversity of this acquisition. (As well as our excitement about it!)


While it’s tempting to describe them all, here are a few highlights:

Photo of Baldwin's novel together with his funeral's program, along with Chesnutt's collection of short stories.

Limited edition of Baldwin’s final novel together with his funeral program, alongside Chesnutt’s collection of short stories.

James Baldwin, Just Above My Head (1979). One of five hundred copies of the signed limited edition of Baldwin’s sixth and final novel, with a copy of the program for Baldwin’s funeral in 1987 laid into the book.

Charles Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman (1899). The first edition of Chesnutt’s collection of linked short stories, in which he invokes the genre of plantation literature then popular in the South to condemn its stereotypes and reject their racist underpinnings.

Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1893). This revision of the 1881 edition is the final of Douglass’s three autobiographies; Special Collections already holds the first and second autobiographies. the other two of which Special Collections also holds.

Langston Hughes, Troubled Island (1949). An opera written in conjunction with Verna Arvey and composed by William Grant Still, this copy is inscribed by Hughes to the actress Hilda Simms.

Photograph of Douglass's and Hughes' books.

Douglass’s final autobiography and a signed edition of Hughes’ libretto.

Robert Benjamin Lewis, Light and Truth (1844). A rare third edition of Lewis’s ethnographic celebration of African American and Native American history.

Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon (1977). The first edition of Morrison’s third novel about Macon “Milkman” Dead III, an African American man living in Michigan. This joins Morrison’s critical work Playing in the Dark (1992), a signed copy of which we acquired in 2019.

Ann Petry, The Street (1946). The first edition of Petry’s first novel about an African American woman trying to emulate Benjamin Franklin in her struggle for the American Dream.

This is only a partial list of the treasures that were stashed away in the two boxes, but we should probably hold back a few gems for you to see when you visit us in Hill Memorial Library. (A hint: included is the first novel by the first African American filmmaker!) It will take a little time to catalog all of the books, but soon they — like all of our materials — will be available for anyone to come and consult.

Photograph of Lewis's history alongside the novels of Morrison and Petry.

Lewis’s antebellum history alongside two giants of twentieth-century American literature.

Our collections are always growing to fit the research interests and teaching needs of our community, and these new acquisitions represent our commitment thereto. While never a responsibility to be taken lightly, in this case the gravity of the mission is matched by our sheer joy at fulfilling it. May many more such treasured tomes be in LSU’s future!

In the meantime, should you find yourself quarantined and looking to browse something topical today, the Louisiana Digital Library has two relevant subject guides. The first covers the civil rights movement in our region, and draws on materials found in three different Louisiana libraries. The oral history of Maxine Crump, the first African American woman television anchor in Baton Rouge, seems particularly relevant. The other guide surveys the many materials available about slavery and the Civil War from six different institutions. Tulane University’s collection of documents surrounding the Amistad case always warrant a second look.

Finally, a parting quotation from Dr. King that seems fitting during this month of unprecedented events:

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. (Washington, DC, February 6, 1968)

Hear! Hear!

Curator of books and head of instruction in Special Collections.

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Recent faculty publications


Kelsey, Sigrid, ed. Fostering Student Success: Academic, Social, and Financial Initiatives, ALA Editions, 2022.


O’Neill, Brittany. “Do They Know It When They See It?: Natural Language Preferences of Undergraduate Students for Library Resources,” College & Undergraduate Libraries. Volume 28, Issue 2 (2021).

O’Neill, Brittany and Rebecca Kelley. “Delivering Bad News: Crisis Communication Methods in Academic Libraries,” College & Research Libraries, Volume 82, Issue 3 (May 2021).

Connel, Ruth Sara; Lisa C. Wallis; David Comeaux. “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Use of Academic Library Resources,” Information Technology and Libraries. Volume 40, Issue 2 (2021).

O’Neill, B. (2021).”Three-layer primary source dip: Introducing history students to primary source research through active learning.” In The teaching with primary sources cookbook, edited by J. M. Porterfield, 16-18. Association of College & Research Libraries, 2021.


Blessinger, Kelly and Dave Comeaux. “User Experience with a New Public Interface for an Integrated Library System,” Information Technology in Libraries. Volume 39, Issue 1.

Cramer, Jennifer A. “First, Do No Harm”: Tread Carefully Where Oral History, Trauma, and Current Crises Intersect,” The Oral History Review, 47:2 (2020): 203-213, DOI: 10.1080/00940798.2020.1793679

Diamond, Tom, ed. The Academic Librarian in the Digital Age: Essays on Changing Roles and Responsibilities. McFarland, 2020.

Kelley, Rebecca and Mitch Fontenot. “Serving our Student Veterans in Louisiana,” Louisiana Libraries. Volume 82, Issue 2 (Spring 2020).

Kuyper-Rushing, Lois.A Thematic Index of Works by Eugene Bozza, A-R Editions, 2020.

Lounsberry, Megan. “Troubleshooting electronic resources from an ILL perspective,” Technical Services Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 3.

McDonald, Ebony. “2020 Regina Medal Recipient Christopher Paul Curtis,” Catholic Library World. 

Miles, John David.  “James Harrison and the Tensas Troubles of 1878,” Civil War Book Review: Volume 22, Issue 1 (Winter 2020).

Morgan, Randa Lopez. 2020. “Supporting Student Wellness and Success through the LSU Libraries Relaxation Room.Journal of Library Outreach and Engagement v. 1, no. 1: 104–115.


Batte, Elizabeth; David Dunaway; Emily Frank; Sarah Mazur; and Laurie Phillips. “LOUIS Membership with Open Textbook Network Brings Incentive for Faculty OER Advocacy on Campuses,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 3 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Borchardt, Rachel; Polly Boruff-Jones; Sigrid Kelsey; and Jennifer Matthews, “A Proposed Framework for the Evaluation of Academic Librarian Scholarship” (2019). Proceedings of the Charleston Library Conference.

Comeaux, Dave;  Emily Frank; and Mike Waugh. “Supporting Student Success: E-books as Course Materials,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Dunaway, David. “Bibliometrics for Faculty Evaluation: A Stastical Comparison of h-indexes Generated Using Google Scholar and Web of Science Data,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 3 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Haber, Natalie, Melissa Cornwell, & Andrea Hebert. “This worksheet works: Making the DLS Standards work for you,” College & Research Libraries News. 

Hawk, Amanda K. “Implementing Standardized Statistical Measures and Metrics for Public Services in Archival Repositories and Special Collections Libraries,” Proceedings of the 2018 Library Assessment Conference, (Association of Research Libraries, 2019): 836-843.

Hebert, Andrea and Jodi Duet. “’I’m Really Confident I Can Find the Exact IKEA Pillow’: A Qualitative Look at the Search Self-Efficacy of Graduating MLIS Students,” Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian.

Lounsberry, Megan. “No Textbooks Allowed! (Unless You’re a Graduate Student!): Louisiana State University Pilots an ILL Textbook Service. Journal of Interlibrary Loan, Document Delivery & Electronic Reserve, 28 (3/4): 61–73.

Miles, John David. “Colfax, Kate Grant, and the Domestication of Reconstruction’s Violence,” Civil War Book Review. Volume 21, Issue 2 (Spring 2019).

Miles, John David. “The Loyalty of West Point’s Graduates Debated,” Civil War Book Review. Volume 21, Issue 1 (Winter 2019).

Miller, Marty. “Curriculum, Departmental, and Faculty Mapping in the Visual Arts Department,” Art Documentation, Volume 38, Issue 1 (March 2019): 159-173.

Morgan, Randa L. “Libraries and Gardens: Growing Together.” Catholic Library World, Volume 90, Issue 1 (September 2019): 68.

O’Neill, Brittany; and  Allen LeBlanc. “Evaluating Trends in Instruction Scheduling Management: A Survey of Louisiana’s Academic Libraries,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Russo, Michael, “The Moon Belongs to Everyone:  ResearchGate and Subscription Databases Compared.”  Louisiana Libraries. Volume 81, Issue 3, (Winter 2019).

Russo, Michael, “Information Literacy through Service Learning” in Library Collaborations and Community Partnerships: Enhancing Health and Quality of Life.  Fannie M. Cox, Henry R. Cunningham, and Vickie Hines-Martin, eds., 2019.

Simms, Sarah; Hayley Johnson. “Hidden in Plain Sight,” 64 Parishes (Magazine of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities). Issue 4 (Summer 2019).

Simms, S., & Johnson, H. Subtle activism: Using the library exhibit as a social justice tool, Alexandria, Volume 29, Issue 1-2 (2019).

Ziegler, Scott; and Cara Key. “More Than a Pretty Interface: The Louisiana Digital Library as a Data Hub,” CODEX: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL. Volume 5, Issue 2 (Fall/Winter 2019).

Ziegler, S.L. “Digitization Selection Criteria as Anti-Racist Action,” Code4Lib Journal. Issue 45 (2019).

Ziegler, S.L. and Steve Martin. “A Hidden Gem Becomes a Fertile Mining Ground: Historic Prison Admission Books and Data-Driven Digital Projects,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Volume 143, Issue 3 (October 2019): 363-373.


Hebert, Andrea. “Information Literacy Skills of First-Year Library and Information Science Graduate Students: An Exploratory Study,” Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Volume 13, Issue 3 (September 2018).

Miller, Marty. “Sacred vs. Profane in The Great War: A Neutral’s Indictment: Louis Raemaekers’s Use of Religious Imagery in Adoration of the Magi and Our Lady of Antwerp.” Catholic Library World, vol. 89, no. 1, Sept. 2018, pp. 20–32.

Rasmussen, Hans. “The Life and Death of Raquette in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans,” Sport History Review 49 (May 2018): 23-38.

Wilder, Stanley. “Delayed Retirements and the Youth Movement among ARL Library Professionals,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Hiring and Staffing Trends in ARL Libraries,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Wilder, Stanley. “Selected Demographic Trends in the ARL Professional Population,” Research Library Issues, no. 295 (2018).

Ziegler, Scott; and Richard Shrake. “PAL: Toward a Recommendation System for Manuscripts,” Information Technology and Libraries, Vol. 37, No. 3 (2018).


Caminita, C.; Cook, M.; and Paster, A. (2017). Thirty years of preserving, discovering, and accessing U.S. agricultural information: Past progress and current challenges. Library Trends, 65(3), 293-315.

Dauterive, Sarah; John Bourgeois; and Sarah Simms. “How little is too little? An examination of information literacy instruction duration for freshmen.” Journal of Information Literacy, 11.1 (2017): 204-219.

Fontenot, Mitch; Emily Frank; and Andrea Hebert. “Going Where the Users Are: Three Variations on a Theme,” Louisiana Libraries, Fall 2017.

Hawk, Amanda K. “Highflying Crowdfunding: Creating a Successful Partnership with a Campus Donor,” Archival Outlook, July/August 2017: 12-13, 19.

Hebert, Andrea; and Marty Miller. (2017). Using FSA-OWI photographs to teach information and visual literacy. Louisiana Libraries, 79(3), 19–25.

Johnson, Hayley. “#NoDAPL: Social Media, Empowerment, and Civic Participation at Standing Rock,” Library Trends, Fall 2017.