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NEH Chairman Unveils African-American Newspapers and Periodicals

On February 9, 1999, NEH Chairman William Ferris addressed a group of some 50 people attending the unveiling of African- American Newspapers and Periodicals: A National Bibliography (Harvard University Press, 1998) at the Library of Congress.

James Danky, Wisconsin State Historical Society librarian and bibliography editor; William Ferris, NEH chairman; Maurvene Williams, program officer for the Library of Congress's Center for the Book; John Cole, director of L.C.'s Center for the Book.

African-American Newspapers and Periodicals is the first comprehensive guide to all known newspapers and magazines by and about African Americans. The oldest recorded publications go back to 1827. The bibliography, which describes some 6,500 titles and indicates their locations in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean, is a gateway to hundreds of historic news stories, short novels, poems, letters and other popular writings by African Americans.

NEH contributed $534,750 for the seven-year project, which was carried out at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in Madison under the editorship of its librarian, James P. Danky.

"Rediscovering and transmitting the voices that have shaped our world is central to NEH's mission," Dr. Ferris said. "The African American periodicals project is an enormous achievement that will be an outstanding resource for study of our nation's history. The bibliography will open the door to a universe of black experience that heretofore has not been accessible."

In the foreword to the bibliography, National Humanities Medalist Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is director of Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, writes, " Few reference tools have a greater impact upon the development of African-American studies than this one."

In his research for the forthcoming encyclopedia "Africana," Professor Gates used the evolving bibliography to locate more than 40,000 pieces of literature, including 150 serialized novels, published in historic black newspapers and magazines.

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