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On These I Stand: exhibit of rare Black books and collectibles returns to Mills

On These I Stand, a special exhibit curated by Special Collections Librarian Janice Braun, and former Mills College faculty member, Daphne Muse, opens in the Mills College F.W. Olin Library on Oct. 27, featuring books and memorabilia relating to Black life and culture.

Originally presented by Muse at  Mills in 1978, the exhibit will include rare, first edition books dating back to the early 19th century, through the Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movement as well as books from the library’s rare book archives and Muse’s personal collection. Now in its second rendition, the 2014 exhibit has been expanded to include more from Black life and culture and will focus on topics such as cookbooks, books on hip-hop, childrens books as well as memorabilia.

“This particular group of material brought together with Daphne’s sensibility and contextualization will be an exciting viewing and learning experience,” Braun said in an email.  “[Muse] has incredible energy and the heart and mind of a consummate collector and curator. She is an accomplished historian and storyteller and a born communicator.”

Muse is a writer, collector and social commentator who taught English and ethnic studies from 1975-1983 and 1991-1993. Recently, she served as director of the Women’s Leadership Institute from 2004-2009.  She also recently finished her sixth book, a memoir about being educated in public schools in Washington, D.C — “They Taught Me into My Calling.”  Currently, Muse’s rare book and memorabilia collection is the subject of a documentary directed by a BBC-trained filmmaker in New York, Vivian Ducat.

According to Muse, the exhibit will include many 19th and 20th century literary masterpieces. Among the newly added material is a limited edition of “MLK Jr.’s 1963 Letter from a Birmingham City Jail,” illustrated by Faith Ringgold, “West Oakland Soul Food Cookbook” (circa 1963) and “Center Stage: An Anthology of 21 Contemporary Black American Plays” (1981).

The exhibit will also feature circulated U.S. coins on which Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver appeared, photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1958 visit to Mills College, documents related to the 1961 visit of poet Langston Hughes to Mills and a recording of his reading.

“Some of the most interesting things to me are those that are connected with the history of Mills,” Braun said.  “One book that will be exhibited, ‘Selected Poems’ by Langston Hughes, was just donated by an alumna last year. It has an inscription to her from Hughes that she obtained when he visited her English class in 1961.”

There will be an opening event on Sunday, Nov. 2, from 2 to 4 p.m. for a conversation and Q&A with Daphne Muse, and Mills College professor of English Ajuan Mance. A reception and special tour of the exhibit will follow.