In 1987, the Manuscripts Department and the Rare Books Department of the University of Virginia Library mounted two concurrent exhibits respectively entitled "The Afro-American Experience" and "Two Hundred Years of Black American Literature." The keepsake of the two exhibitions was entitled "Trading Eights." The process of assembling and mounting the exhibitions of course involved an examination of the Library's holdings on the topics. Like many self-examinations, it was a bittersweet process. We were delighted to find books and materials relating the African-American experience, and uncovered some that we were not aware of. But our examination also revealed major gaps in our holdings, especially in materials generated by African-Americans. We felt a committment was necessary to insure that the students and faculty of the University of Virginia and other users of our special collections would have access to a strong collection of original materials that emphasized the contributions of African-Americans in literature and history. The Special Collections Department has continued that emphasis in the intervening years, and this exhibition focuses on some of our more recent acquisitions.
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