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American Studies

This Little Light of Mine...

"This Little Light of Mine... I'm Gonna Let it Shine"
An Exhibit Presented by Queens College
Spring 2006 / Opening February 1, 2006
Flushing Library of the Queens Borough Public Library
Lower Level Display Cases, outside the Auditorium

See also the Queens College Black History Month Website

The stories in this exhibit focus on local history, and are stories of contrast, struggle, and accomplishment.  They also draw attention to the power of individuals and collections of individuals taking a stand to make a difference and to improve the human condition.  As the title of an old spiritual, "This Little Light of Mine..." seems to be a fitting title for this exhibit which opens for Black History Month 2006.  How can you make YOUR light shine? It is not by accident that we include three wonderful and very different "lights" and that we feature one of the inventors of the light bulb.

We like to make connections - it gives us a better feel for the times or for an issue. For example, our recent exhibit at the Flushing Library  focused on Walt Whitman, great American poet, because of his work in Queens.  In this new exhibit, we have some of Whitman's words on slavery that evoke the so-called "Underground Railroad," a network of good people who helped escaped slaves travel to safety and freedom. There were several "stops" on the underground railroad in Flushing.  We also have some of his words on diversity that could have been written about the vibrant diversity here in Queens.

Walt Whitman was here in Queens as a school teacher, a newspaper man, and a political activist in the late 1830s - early 1840s.  In 1845, he reportedly lost his job with the Brooklyn Eagle due to his strong editorial stand against slavery.  We wonder if he ever met educator and newspaper man Wilson Rantus, one of the local leaders highlighted here, in the same period.  Whitman wasn't all that far when the now famous Amistad was found drifting off the coast of Long Island after a slave rebellion, or when Sojourner Truth walked and talked most of the way from Manhattan through Brooklyn and Queens, to Huntington - town of his birth.  Did he ever hear Frederick Douglass speak?

It appears that there may have been opportunities for Lewis H. Latimer, an inventor who moved to Queens in 1906, to have crossed paths professionally with Granville T. Woods.  Latimer is highlighted in our exhibit, and during part of Black History Month, Woods is the focus of the wonderful exhibit against the walls facing our exhibit.

In addition to encouraging you to learn more and to make your own connections, we have also tried to stimulate thought about shameful as well as exciting times, and about great hopes for a better future.  Please enjoy our exhibit.

Contributors: Jeff Castellan, Syd Lefkoe, Ellen Rondot, Bette Weidman, Nancy Williams

This exhibit is sponsored by the Queens College Library, the Queens College American Studies Program, and the Queens College Office of Events as part of a program of collaboration with the Queens Library System.

Special thanks to our new friends in the Queens Library - both here in the Flushing Library, and in the Long Island Division of the Queens Library - for making research for and presentation of this exhibit easy and enjoyable.

Main Topics
  • This Little Light of Mine ... theme
  • Watch the Dates - are you surprised when things happened?
  • Slavery - Local Stories
  • Education - Colored Schools
  • Queens College students and faculty take a stand
  • Highlighting a few local individuals
  • Inventions of yesterday and how they lead to completely different opportunities and technologies
  • Today's vibrant local diversity
Exhibit Outline

We will add photos and more information to this outline soon.

Left Case
  • Top Shelf
    • The Road to Freedom / The Underground Railroad - New York and Beyond (book) / The "Underground Railroad" had several "stops" in Flushing.
    • Lantern - old look, modern technology
    • Main text for exhibit
  • Second Shelf
    • Excerpt from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself / on his helping an escaped slave
    • Sojourner Truth in Flushing
    • Frederick Douglass in Flushing
  • Third Shelf
    • Flyers for two February 2006 Queens Historical Society Programs on local aspects of slavery
      • Brother and Me
      • Friends of Freedom / featuring a new book
    • Record of Jamaica NY Manumission of slave Abraham / From Jamaica Town Records - late 1790s
  • Bottom Shelf
    • Kinte Cloth
    • Publications from the current NY Historical Society Exhibit Slavery in NY
    • Somewhat More Independent - The End of Slavery in NYC (1790-1810) - book / We're sorry to say it didn't really end then.
    • Amistad - A Long Road to Freedom (book)
Middle Case
  • Top Shelf
    • Editorial from QC Student Newspaper  The Phoenix, September 29, 1964
    • Photos of the Queens College Library's Chaney, Goodman, Schwerner Clock Tower and the Clock Tower Dedication Plaque
    • Three Lives for Mississippi (book)
  • Second Shelf
    • House Panel Names Educator - NY Times, January 11, 1962 / about QC Professor Dr. Deborah Partridge Wolfe
    • Queens College CORE Presents... at Carnegie Hall, ad, NY Times, June 2, 1963
  • Third Shelf
    • Mary Ann Shaw - photo and information about principal of Flushing's Colored School, and one of the founders / benefactors of the Flushing Library
    • A Tempest  in Flushing, NY Times, January 20, 1882 - integration of Flushing High School
    • Wallace Will Win His Case, Brooklyn Eagle, April 2, 1900 - integration of Jamaica High School through efforts of Cisco family and others
  • Bottom Shelf
    • Louis H. Latimer -  inventor / his work with Alexander Graham Bell and with Thomas Edison is well known / information about him, his Flushing house museum, archives, fund, photos
    • lantern that flashes from different colored panels; light bulb, light bulb switch and socket, light switch
    • Mobile Magazine - Spring 2006 / cover story Cell Phone Handbook  / how to get the right cell phone with all the non-phone features you MUST HAVE
    • Brochure for current exhibit at Museum of the City of New York Tranformed by Light - The New York Night / "... how illumination shaped the modern city..."
Right Case
  • Top Shelf
    • Helen Marshall - Borough President / from her web site; Queens College Alum / first African American Borough President of Queens
    • Isabel Sanford -  photo and information from the web / was one of the stars of All in the Family, set in Queens, and was the first Black woman to win an Emmy (for her role in The Jeffersons)
  • Second Shelf
    • Queens Neighborhood Seeks Racial Balance - NY Times, November 22, 1958 / Springfield Gardens homeowners who won't panic and sell, who welcome a racial mix in their neighborhood
    • Martin Luther King To Groups in Harlem and Queens - NY Times, March 27, 1968 / King visits with Concerned Clergy in Corona just a few days before he's murdered
    • Similar Quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pastor Robert Neimoller about standing up for other people's rights
  • Third Shelf
    • Wilson Rantus / helped establish school in Jamaica and newspaper in Jamaica / article about him; map showing his family's property near Queens College
  • Bottom Shelf
    • Flyer for Fall 2005 program at Queens College: Crossing Into Queens - The Immigrant Experience
    • Queens College WORLD CLASS bag / says"Welcome" in many languages
    • Walt Whitman quotes on diversity, including "I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear..."
    • Flashlight that runs on AA, C, or D batteries
    • Further explanation of exhibit title "This Little Light of Mine"

Prepared and posted by the exhibit committee.


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