An exhibition of archival imagery by Maurice Sorrell (1914-1998), the first Black member of the White House Photographers Association


Charles L. Blockson

A conversation about archiving and honoring the contributions of African Americans

Fields of Knowledge
  • Memory
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions

Penn Social Policy & Practice, Slought


Stephanie Renée

Opens to public





The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection
1330 Polett Walk, 1st Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19122

Slought and Penn School of Social Policy & Practice are pleased to announce a conversation with Charles L. Blockson on Thursday, July 12 from 2-3pm at Temple University. Curator Stephanie Renée will dialogue with Blockson about the importance of preserving history and archiving as a political and cultural project. This event has been organized in conjunction with the exhibition Photographic Memory, an exhibition of archival imagery by Maurice Sorrell (1914-1998), on display at Slought from June 21, 2018 to July 21, 2018.

Dr. Charles L. Blockson is one of Philadelphia's most vocal advocates for learning and respecting history. Responsible for virtually every Pennsylvania historical marker that honors the contributions of African Americans, he will discuss the necessity of archival preservation and how his Temple University collection holds significant value to the Philadelphia story from the Black perspective.

Audience members are also invited to bring a favorite photograph from their personal collections to this event, to be scanned and shared with visitors to the exhibit. Subject matter and image size may vary. The only qualifying criteria is that the image has meaning for the participant! The images and the brief caption you provide will be gathered and arranged as a slideshow for the Slought website, reflecting the diversity of perspective and experience of those who have engaged the installation. It is a celebration of life, through your lens.

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Charles L. Blockson is the Founder and Curator Emeritus of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University. The collection was established in 1984 with a gift from his personal collection, and has been one of the nation's leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of people of African descent.

Blockson's passion for history and books began at the age of nine when a teacher asserted "Negroes have no history." That experience as a young child marked the start of a lifelong journey of unearthing, collecting, and preserving the history, culture, and contributions of African descendants. His research and travels have inspired him to write 12 books on the Underground Railroad, making him one of the foremost experts on the topic. In 2017, he was the 96th recipient of the Philadelphia Award.

He has also contributed books and other historical items to the African Diaspora at the Pennsylvania State University and the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NAAMHC) at the Smithsonian Institution. A recent donation to NAAMHC includes 39 of Harriet Tubman's personal items – highlighted by the shawl that Queen Victoria presented to Tubman, the "crowing jewel" of Blockson's collection.