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At These Crossroads: The Legacies of Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois/ Exhibition honoring Douglass’s bicentennial and Du Bois’s sesquicentennial opens at the Free Library
PHILADELPHIA—The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library opened an exhibition this week in the West Gallery honoring the lives and works of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois, marking the end of the year that held their 200th and 150th birthdays, respectively.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) were both gifted writers and speakers, who used their talents to advocate for African American freedom and equality. In this exhibition examining their lives and legacies, At These Crossroads showcases material from the Free Library of Philadelphia’s collections, in partnership with the Library Company of Philadelphia, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Temple University Libraries. The exhibition also includes images and documents from archival institutions around the country.
In addition to the display in the West Gallery, the entire run of 31 issues of Du Bois’s journal, The Horizon, will also be on display in the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia, as well as a first edition of Douglass’s 1855 autobiography My Bondage and My Freedom.
“Our goal with At These Crossroads, as with all the Free Library’s exhibitions, is to use our collections to inspire civic dialogue,” explains Andrew Nurkin, the Free Library’s Deputy Director for Enrichment and Civic Engagement. “The Horizon helps us understand the context of 1908 and challenges us to consider voter disenfranchisement, racial inequality, and economic disparity in 2018.”
The exhibition was curated by Dr. Judith Giesberg, professor of history at Villanova University, and co-curated by Kalela Williams, Director of Neighborhood Library Enrichment Programming for the Free Library, to highlight the continued relevance of Douglass’s and Du Bois’s work. Programs throughout the exhibition’s run will partner with the Rosenbach’s Legacy of Thirteenth Amendment series and the Special Collections exhibition, Philadelphia: The Changing City, currently on view in the Rare Book Department. Other programs designed to engage visitors with the exhibition will include conversations and tours that highlight black resistance, black women’s activism, and the celebration of Juneteenth.
“At These Crossroads is as much about being black in the 21st century as the 19th or 20th,” Williams observes. “It’s about the confluence of blackness and patriotism. For me, it’s what it means to celebrate both African heritage and American citizenship.”
At These Crossroads: The Legacies of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois will be on display in the Parkway Central Library West Gallery now through Summer 2019.
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About the Free Library of Philadelphia
The Free Library of Philadelphia system, with 54 locations and The Rosenbach, advances literacy, guides learning, and inspires curiosity with millions of digital and physical materials; 28,000 yearly programs and workshops; free public computers and extensive Wi-Fi, including neighborhood Hotspots; and rich special collections, including those at the Parkway Central Library and at The Rosenbach. With more than 10 million visits annually—5 million in-person, 5 million online—the Free Library and The Rosenbach are among the most widely used educational and cultural institutions in Philadelphia and boast a worldwide impact.
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