Africana exhibit debuts at Gelman Library

Among scores of books, articles, photographs and memorabilia is a history of a 400-year-old struggle and a foundation for future leaders in Africana Women at the Dawn of the New Millennium: The Exhibit at Gelman Library.

The collection of artifacts and literature highlight the importance of contributions made by famous and lesser-known Africana women from the United States and elsewhere.

The term Africana to us meant women of black (heritage), not only American, to attempt to recognize other places that perhaps people don’t think of, such as Canada, said Francis I. Henderson, head of Gelman’s Special Collections department and curator of the exhibit.

The central feature of the exhibit is a timeline created by the library’s Special Collections department. It begins with the first Africana women arriving in the New World in 1692 and highlights major accomplishments of women until tennis player Serena Williams’ victory at the U.S. Open Championship and singer Lauryn Hill’s five Grammy awards last year.

The women portrayed have all had ties to America as leaders, educators, politicians, activists, ambassadors, entertainers and role models, said exhibit creator Dr. Cynthia Jacobs Carter of Howard University.

This is the first real chance I’ve had to understand the struggle, sophomore Kelechi Nwoso said. It’s important to carry on the legacy of the black woman.

Along one wall is a special tribute to Dr. Dorothy Height, a local woman who was president of the National Council of Negro Women and who created the Black Family Reunion Celebration.

In addition to the books and photographs of prominent black women there are other symbols of their heritage, such as baskets and dolls that researchers have traced back to Africa.

It’s a living exhibit, said Carter, who based the exhibit on her doctoral dissertation at GW. It keeps growing and growing.

The exhibit, on display until May 1, is the only African-American representation recognized by the official White House Millennium Project.

It is open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and by appointment in room 207 of the library.

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