Geisel Library Exhibits Celebrate Black History Month: From Fantastic Fans to Freedom & Justice

Two exhibits on view at UC San Diego’s Geisel Library beginning this month shed light on very different aspects of African-American history. The exhibits, which are part of the university’s Black History Month festivities celebrated in February, include the Arts Library’s “Fantastic Fans from Africa & the African Diaspora,” featuring a wide range of vintage printed paper fans, and “Also There: Unsung Voices from the Crossroads of Freedom & Equality,” sponsored by the Social Sciences & Humanities Library.

“Fantastic Fans from Africa & the Africa Diaspora,” which will be on display in the Arts Library through the month of February, showcases fans from throughout the 1900s. While the fans had a utilitarian purpose, many were also used in the African-American community to promote businesses owned by African-Americans. These “church fans,” which sport images of African-Americans on one side and printed business advertisements on the other side, were often used in churches, at public social gatherings, at election events and at civil rights meetings. Other fans in the exhibit include woven fans from the African continent, fans featuring iconic images and inspirational messages from the civil rights movement, and souvenir fans from various nations. The exhibit is co-sponsored by the African & African-American Studies Research Center at UC San Diego.

“Also There: Unsung Voices from the Crossroads of Freedom & Equality,” celebrates the March on Washington and the stories of many of the organizers and participants in the Civil Rights Movement, many of whom aren’t always recognized in textbooks and in the dominant narratives about those turbulent times. The exhibit, which is on display in the West Wing of Geisel Library through April 15, reaches back to offer a fresh take on President Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation he issued 150 years ago. While the Emancipation Proclamation granted freedom to the enslaved and ushered in “a new birth of freedom,” institutionalized racism and other forms of discrimination would remain pervasive for many more decades. By 1963, 100 years later, boycotts and speeches clamoring for equal treatment were the order of the day. From grassroots protests to Supreme Court cases, activists demanded freedom and equality for all. Students occupied lunch counters and Freedom Riders rode interstate buses through the South, risking their lives to test new anti-segregation laws. The exhibit, which highlights the Library’s rich resources, features materials have been gathered from our print and digital collections.

In addition, the Library will hold a speaker series for Black History Month, which will feature veterans and activists of the Civil Rights Movement. For more information on the exhibit and the speaker series, please visit:

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