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Special Collections: Literary History

Charles L. Blockson Collection of African Americana and the African Diaspora

Charles LeRoy Blockson was born on December 16, 1933, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, to Charles E. Blockson and Annie Parker Blockson. He excelled in football and track at Norristown High School, selecting to attend Penn State, where he received a football scholarship and graduated with a degree in Physical Education in 1956. He served in the Army, 1957-1958, after which he started a janitorial business. As the Civil Rights movement led to wider employment opportunities for African Americans, Blockson became an advisor for human relations and cultural affairs at the Norristown Area High School. However, it was his passion for African American history that prepared him for cultural leadership in the 1970s. He co-founded the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia in 1976 and published the seminal Black Genealogy with Ron Fry in 1977. He donated his large private collection of African-American history materials to Temple University in 1984, and served as curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. He also served on the Pennsylvania State Historical and Record Advisory Board, and directed the Black History Advisory Board in the 1980s. In 1989, he launched a project to establish sixty-four African American historical markers in Philadelphia. In the 1990s he lectured internationally, and consulted on the establishment of black study programs in many schools and colleges. In 2006 he donated a large collection of published and manuscript materials to Penn State.