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  • Celebrating 250 years of African American Literature

First editions shine in University Libraries’ “Celebrating 250 Years of African American Literature”

Two first-edition copies of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, published in 1773, were the catalytic spark for the University of South Carolina Libraries’ newest exhibit. Wheatley was an enslaved person and the first African American to have a book of poetry published. Her well-known “On Being Brought from Africa to America” first appears in Poems.

“The publication date of Poems marks 250 years exactly, and that provides the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections an outstanding opportunity to showcase our two copies, as well as our deep holdings across African American literature,” says Michael Weisenburg, Associate Director of Rare Books and Special Collections and curator of the exhibit.

“’Celebrating 250 Years of African American Literature’ includes important first editions of works across multiple genres, as well as early periodical appearances of a variety of authors,” he says. “Detective fiction writer Walter Mosley, pioneer of the ‘sword and sorcery’ literary genre Charles R. Saunders, children’s book author and South Carolina resident Joyce Hansen, and world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni are some of the authors featured.”

Other exhibit highlights include:

  • Important works of 19th-century African American literature by Fredrick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Pauline Hopkins
  • Popular fiction by Octavia Butler, Rudolph Fisher, and Toni Morrison
  • Poetry by Langston Hughes and many others

Hollings Library is accessed through Thomas Cooper Library on the USC Columbia campus, and is open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. For more information, contact Kathy Dowell at or 803-777-2029.

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