Three book collections form the core of the Library Division’s Reference and Reader Services Department: The Moorland Collection, donated to Howard University in 1914 by Reverend Jesse E. Moorland; The Spingarn Collection, purchased by the University in 1946 from attorney Arthur Spingarn; and The African Collection, accumulated from the Spingarn purchase and from other sources over the years. These book collections total more than 100,000 bound volumes and together are one of the richest sources of materials on Blacks in the world.
The African Collection
Developed from a major part of the Spingarn holdings and accumulated from other sources over the years, the African Collection contains more than 30,000 bound volumes on Africa and the African diaspora. The collection includes histories, novels, and collections of poetry in various African languages. Over 75 bi-lingual dictionaries and grammars are included, and African authors are well represented. Zulu, Swahili and Yoruba languages are featured. There are also government documents, hundreds of African periodicals, and current subscriptions to many newspapers to supplement the book collection.
The Jesse E. Moorland Collection
The Moorland Collection was donated to Howard University in 1914, at the behest of HU alumnus and trustee Professor Kelly Miller. The private library of Reverend Jesse E. Moorland, the gift of 1500 books, has grown over the years to almost 100,000 items. Books have been received through gifts to the Center since 1914, obtained through the collecting efforts of the Center’s first Curator, Dorothy Burnett Porter, and purchased through the Center’s budget allocation from the University. The C. Glenn Carrington Collection was a major addition which was integrated into the Moorland holdings in the 1980s.
The Moorland holdings feature titles by both Black and non-Black authors, and the subject concentration is the humanities and social sciences. The collection features anti-slavery tracts, biographies and autobiographies of both the well-known and the obscure, poetry, speeches, and African American histories. With the continuous addition of new titles, the Moorland Collection is the largest of MSRC’s collections.
The Arthur B. Spingarn Collection
In 1946 Howard University purchased a personal library of 3000 books from Arthur B. Spingarn to add to its special library of materials on Blacks. Composed exclusively of books by Black authors, the collection has remained intact since 1968 and currently totals more than 7500 bound items. There is a small percentage of duplication with the Moorland Collection. Approximately one-sixth of the collection deals with the Caribbean and areas connected with the African diaspora, and the collection is strong in Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, and Haitian writings. Many first editions and autographed copies are included, and many foreign language titles are featured. Works in Arabic, Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Russian are available, as well as Swahili, Yoruba, and Zulu.
Rare Books Collection
The Rare Books collection contains rare works which are unique in a library of many first editions and exclusive materials. Several items may be the sole copy of the work in existence. Examples of rare items in the Library Division’s collections include: Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, The African (1794); a collection of 18 editions of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in various languages; and Henry Baker’s Patents by Negroes [1834-1900].
The Library Division Reading Room is open to the public, however, books must be requested from the closed stacks. No materials circulate. Researchers should familiarize themselves with the Library Division Policies which govern use of the collections, and should be prepared to present photo identification when requesting materials. Up to three titles in the Center’s holdings may be verified by telephone.