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"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
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
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- three different unpublished versions of Lorraine Hansberry's 1969 play Les Blancs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'
- 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
- The collection contains many signed volums. Signatures and salutations
from Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Booker T. Washington and
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Literature & Life: The Givens Collection was made possible by a grant from The St. Paul Companies with additional support from Northwest Area Foundation.