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James Baldwin Among the Philosophers

Exhibit Location: The Joseph Regenstein Library, Fourth Floor
Exhibit Dates: September 25 – December 31, 2017

James Baldwin at Civil Rights March on Washington

James Baldwin at Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., 08/28/1963 via Wikipedia Commons

“Take no one’s word for anything, including mine—but trust your experience. Know whence you came. If you know whence you came, there is really no limit to where you can go.” James Baldwin wrote these words for his nephew, and namesake, as the open letter “My Dungeon Shook,” originally published in The Progressive and later as an introduction to his book The Fire Next Time (Dial Press, 1963). The book was one of the best sellers of 1963 and earned him the cover of Time Magazine.

James Arthur Baldwin was born in Harlem on August 2, 1924. He became a minister at Fireside Pentecostal Assembly at age 14. During his teenage years, Baldwin started writing seriously. By the end of high school, he had started to question the role of the church in the African-American community, while growing more appreciative of the arts and aware of his queerness. He stopped preaching in 1941 at 17 and by 1944 was living in the artist community of Greenwich Village, with his roommate and lifelong friend Marlon Brando. Baldwin rose to prominence after the publication of his first novel in 1953, Go Tell It on the Mountain, a semi-autobiographical account of his childhood. By the 1960s, Baldwin had become the most recognizable African-American writer in the U.S. and the de facto spokesperson for the Civil Right Movement, a title he opposed. In 1971, Baldwin moved to France. He continued to write and visited the U.S. to teach at Bowling Green University and the University of California, Berkeley. By the time of his death on December 1, 1987, James Baldwin had published over 25 works, including novels, plays, poems and essay collections.

Baldwin’s house in Saint Paul de Vence, France in 2009

The house where James Baldwin lived and died in Saint Paul de Vence, France (image taken July 2009) via Wikipedia Commons

James Baldwin’s work is widely recognized for its religious overtones and influences as well as for its critiques of racism and heterosexual norms. His work is equally important as a contribution to American philosophy. Cornel West dubbed Baldwin a “Black American Socrates” since he “infect[ed] others with the same perplexity he himself felt and grappled with: the perplexity of trying to be a decent human being and thinking person in the face of the pervasive mendacity and hypocrisy of the American empire.” (Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight against Imperialism [New York: Penguin, 2004] 80) This two-case exhibit displays books and essays by James Baldwin, alongside philosophical works that engage his work.

Well Equipped: Library Technology from Days Past

library worker with photoduplication equipment

From the Photographic Archive (URL: http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/), Identifier: apf1-02019.

September 18, 2017 – June 7, 2018
Location: Crerar Library First Floor

Over the years Crerar Library has used the newest equipment and technologies to make books, journals and other information accessible to patrons.  These tools have evolved through the years.  A library card system has been replaced with online catalog with significant collections available electronically.   Early techniques for photocopying and microfilming materials have been eclipsed by digital scanning services.  Displayed are objects and photos of some of these earlier technologies used by the Library.

A Web version of this  exhibit is also available: https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/collex/exhibits/well-equipped-library-technology-days-past/

Red Press: Radical Print Culture from St. Petersburg to Chicago

The Red Press exhibition has been extended.
Exhibition Dates: September 25, 2017 – January 15, 2018
Location: Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Socialist Revolution poster

“Long Live the Worldwide Socialist Revolution,” undated. Dr. Harry Bakwin and Dr. Ruth Morris Bakwin Soviet Posters Collection, The University of Chicago Library.

Samuel N. Harper, the first American scholar to have devoted a career to the study of Russia, was a first-hand witness to Russia’s revolutions of 1905 and 1917. An avid collector, over four decades, Harper built a unique archive that provides a street-level view of many of the historic events of the period. Broadsides, handbills and pamphlets attest to a long war of ideas—and to a decisive battle for explanatory power in the months leading up to the Revolution.

Presented on the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the exhibition also draws from other archives in Special Collections, including materials documenting the development of revolutionary print culture in the USSR, the spread of revolutionary ideas and methods from Russia to the Far East and to the streets of Chicago, and anti-revolutionary texts such as the fraudulent, anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Together they allow us to trace visual genealogies from the political satire of the post-1905 period to the mortal derision of Stalinist propaganda in the 1930s and the HUAC hearings of the 1950s.

Curators (from University of Chicago unless otherwise indicated): Robert Bird, Professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies; Christy Brandly, Ph.D. student in Political Science; Monica Felix, graduate student in Comparative Literature; Erin Hagood, student in the College; Austin Jung, Ph.D. student in Comparative Literature; Zachary King, Ph.D. student in Russian Literature; Zdenko Mandusic, Assistant Professor, Saint Louis University; William Nickell, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Claire Roosien, Ph.D. student in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Department of History; and Kaitlyn Tucker, PhD student in Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Hours: Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., and, when University of Chicago classes are in session, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Free and open to the public.

Related Events

Socialist poster

“Here and There and Everywhere We’re Building Socialism!,” 1930. Dr. Harry Bakwin and Dr. Ruth Morris Bakwin Soviet Posters Collection, The University of Chicago Library.

Exhibition: Revolution Every Day
September 14, 2017 – January 14, 2018
Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60637

Presented on the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, this exhibition immerses visitors in the distinct textures and speeds of everyday life that arose—and have lingered stubbornly—in the wake of revolutionary upheaval. Revolution Every Day juxtaposes works of Soviet graphic art—primarily posters from the 1920s and 1930s, many by female artists such as Valentina Kulagina—with works on video and film, including excerpts from Dziga Vertov’s documentary films from the 1930s, post-Soviet videos by artists like Olga Chernysheva, as well as a new commission by Cauleen Smith.

Humanities Day—Guided Tour of Red Press: Radical Print Culture from St. Petersburg to Chicago
October 21, 12–1 p.m.
Special Collections Research Center, The University of Chicago Library, 1100 East 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637

Trace the worldwide spread of revolutionary and anti-revolutionary media and ideas through rare printed sources. Professor and co-curator William Nickel leads a tour of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 as it was waged through broadsides, pamphlets, periodicals, and posters.

Registration: This tour is full. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email humanities@uchicago.edu.

Revolutionology Workshop: The Bolshevik Contagion
November 3–4
Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 5701 S. Woodlawn Ave., Chicago, IL 60637

Presenters at this two-day workshop, the first in a series sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium research project Revolutionology: Media and Networks of Intellectual Revolution, will focus on key texts and images emerging directly from the revolutionary struggle in Russia and the early Soviet Union.

Use of Images and Media Contact

Images from the exhibition included on this page are available for download by members of the media and are reserved for editorial use in connection with University of Chicago Library exhibitions, programs, or related news.

For more information, contact Rachel Rosenberg at ra-rosenberg@uchicago.edu or 773-834-1519.