African American Collection

Donations from Robert C. Hayden* in 2016 inspired the collation of books celebrating African American arts, political activities, historical movements, and significant figures. Hayden was a senior Lecturer at U MASS Boston, Northeastern University, Boston College, and Lesley University, spanning from 1978 to 2006 and is President Emeritus of the local branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), established in 2002.

The town of Oak Bluffs has a rich history as a time-honored black summer community, supporting African American arts & culture. Continuing to pique the interest of  both historians and members of the general public, some materials within this collection describe local historic sites and tours, which juxtapose the contributions of and the injustices suffered by African Americans on the island dating back to the 1700s. The bulk of the collection allows for cultural connections between the island and Black America.

The collection does not contain fiction or autobiographical titles nor is it exhaustive of the library’s existing holdings related to this special collection.

*Robert C. Hayden passed away in January 2022 at the age of 84. His accomplishments and contributions to educating others about the Black experience in American can be found in his obituary.  

The brochures below were created in 2018 and updated in 2020 to assist patrons with browsing the collection.

A series of subject pamphlets collectively list and briefly describe more than 140 items in this evolving collection. Click on the subject title to view or download each brochure. **Books available for loan in person with a CLAMS library system card, or through inter-library loan on COMCAT (within Massachusetts) or Worldcat (within U.S.), ask your local library for assistance borrowing. 

Not sure how to discuss racism and disenfranchisement with children and youth? Or do you want to learn more about Institutional Racism and the history of racism in the United States? Look at our resource page for adults, parents, caregivers to explore curated resources.

Have you seen films from the American Experience on PBS? Tune into this website to see films curated for the Black American Experience collection. We recommend watching the Blinding of Isaac Woodard, which tells the story of a WWII Veteran who was accosted on a bus and blinded by a Sheriff in South Carolina in 1946. The film explores the personal growth of the President at the time, Harry S. Truman, a federal judge, J. Waites Waring of South Carolina and the nation as a whole as the injustices of abject racism and resulting hatred were running rampant through the southern United States. Isaac Woodard’s small action to stand against abuse would result in years of forward momentum for the Civil Rights movement and the realization that whites, especially those in power, could no longer ignore what was happening in broad daylight.

The Blinding of Isaac Woodard film is based on the book Unexampled Courage, by Richard Gergel, check it out from our collection today by clicking on the title, logging into your CLAMS account, and placing a hold.

PBS and Library of Congress collaborate to bring you access to “Black Journal” on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. See press release and watch any of the 59 digitized episodes by searching “Black Journal,” or search for other topics in the archive.