Frederick Douglass ---

Givens Collection
Givens Foundation


Check your local listings for Literature and Life: The Givens Collection air dates and times.

"Literature & Life" is a PBS Documentary and Web site based on the The Givens Collection of African-American Literature, a unique assembly of books, manuscripts, and other items found in the University of Minnesota Library's Special Collections/Rare books department. This vast and varied collection is culled from centuries of African-American literary art.

The Givens Foundation was established to celebrate African-American literature and history, encourage reading and promote awareness of African-American Literature. The Foundation was established by Archie Givens Sr. (1919-1974), an African-American entrepreneur who emphasized education.

The collection includes over 6,000 items - books, pamphlets, manuscripts, letters, and ephemera. There are novels, plays, poems and short stories by African-American writers and by whites writing about African Americans, as well as a wealth of autobiographies, nonfiction, and scholarly titles in history, political science, education, sociology, psychology, sports, and cinema. The collection has especially deep holdings from the Harlem Renaissance period as well as works on music and theater. The Givens Collection puts the University of Minnesota among the leaders nationally in the field of African-American Studies.

The oldest work in the collection is an original first edition copy of Phyllis Wheatley's Poems published in 1773, the first book published by an African American.

Other highlights include:

  • a limited-edition copy of Roll Jorrlan Roll, signed by author Julia Peterkin, illustrated with photographs by Doris Ulmann
  • Jean Toomer's watershed 1923 novel Cane inscribed by Sherwood Anderson, who helped Toomer get the book published
  • a signed and corrected manuscript of Savage Holiday by Richard Wright, America's first best-selling African American writer
  • three different unpublished versions of Lorraine Hansberry's 1969 play Les Blancs
  • the publisher's dummy of Paul Laurence Dunbar's 1906 novel Joggin' Erlong
  • original dust jackets on many of the published editions in the collection. The dust jackets offer unique insight into the taste, times, and attitudes of publishers and the reading public
  • the Countee Cullen Papers. A major new acquisition of revealing letters, poems, and manuscripts, in English, French, and Latin, from the estate of the University of Minnesota professor who was Cullen's literary confidante for over two decades.
  • The collection contains many signed volums. Signatures and salutations from Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Booker T. Washington and many others.

The Archie Glvens, Sr. Collection is open to the public and by appointment. Titles may be accessed on-line through the University Libraries Online catalog (MNCAT).

For more information about the collection call:

The University of Minnesota Library
Special Collections/Rare Books

For more information on the Givens Foundation call:

For questions about Literature & Life: The Givens Collection PBS Documentary or this Web site, email litandlife@ktca.org.

Literature & Life: The Givens Collection was made possible by a grant from The St. Paul Companies with additional support from Northwest Area Foundation.