Tuesday, January 22, 2013

PBS Documentary Host Visits the Library Company

On December 10, 2012, the Library Company received a surprise visit from Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., Harvard University professor, author, and documentary host. Although he still has in his possession a much-used copy of our 1973 printed catalog Afro-Americana 1553-1906 from his graduate school days, this was Gates’ first visit to our collections.

Gates and his crew were in Philadelphia to film a segment on Richard Allen for the upcoming public television documentary, "African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross," a six-part series which will explore almost 400 years of African American history. When he heard that the Library Company holds rare prints of Richard Allen, founder of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Gates decided to postpone their departure to include a visit to us. The Logan Room was carefully transformed into an impromptu set as Gates was filmed examining the portraits of Allen, including an engraving modeled on a portrait by Rembrandt Peale.

Gates pictured with John Van Horne, Director and Krystal Appiah, Reference Librarian

After filming, Gates took photographs with staff and viewed a few more items from our collections before hitting the road for the next destination. The "Many Rivers to Cross" producers are currently exploring using other materials from our African Americana collection in conjunction with the documentary.

John Boyd. The Revd. Richard Allen, Bishop of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, in the U. States. (Philadelphia, 1823). Stipple engraving.

Krystal Appiah
Reference Librarian
and African American Specialist