Syracuse University Special Collections Research Center Acquires Notable Archives of Black History

Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center has announced that it has acquired the African Market Literature Collection with 77 Nigerian and Ghanaian market literature publications produced from the late 1950s, just before independence, through the early 1970s and the earliest years of the new African states. The collection includes work from Nigeria’s first female novelist; the first recorded piece of erotica published on the African continent by a native African; Nigeria’s (and possibly Africa’s) first detective novel; and early published works from notable writers such as Chinua Achebe and others.

The largest consolidation of publications originates from the Onitsha Market in Nigeria, one of the largest in west Africa, where working people — taxicab drivers, waiters, and day laborers — wrote and published their own works of fiction, poetry, and instructional pamphlets. Found in the collection are tales of life in the big city, love and loss, industry and riches, representing lively and unique voices at a crucial historical moment on the African continent.

The university’s special collections unit also has purchased the Masood Ali-Wilbert Warren Papers. Masood Ali-Wilbert Warren was a Black American painter, sculptor, and Korean war Army veteran. He was known primarily for his many bronze busts of high-profile entertainers, celebrities, and politicians. Spanning the years of 1935-1986, the collection contains correspondence and photographs relating to his career, original artwork (sketches and watercolors), and photographs of finished artworks.

Of particular note are the hundreds of sketches as a result of Masood’s practice spanning decades of documenting residents of New York City, largely in Harlem. Masood depicted figures who appear to be mostly Black Americans, moving through everyday life in the city — walking, sleeping on subway cars, sitting on park benches, smoking, playing instruments, and candidly posing on sidewalks.

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