RPCV Charles Larson Gives His African Literature Collection to U of Texas

The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired Charles Larson’s (Nigeria 1962-64) collection of African, African-American and Native-American literature.  Larson, a professor at American University, is well known as an authority on African and Third World writers.
     This collection includes signed and inscribed books, rare publications and unique manuscripts and letters. There are more than 1,100 books by African writers, 250 books by African-American and Caribbean writers, and 60 books by Native-American writers.
     “I began reading African writers in 1962 when I was a Peace Corps volunteer,” said Larson.  “It was immediately apparent to me that a rich and exciting literature was emerging across the continent.  My interests expanded when I returned to the United States and discovered similarly important (though sadly overlooked) writing by African-American and American Indian writers.  I feel as if I’ve been in a privileged position to observe so many great writers during what is fast approaching a half century.”
     Larson has edited collections of African writers, going back to 1970, and is  the author of several novels, as well as, academic books.
     Among the documents that Larson has given the library are substantial correspondence with the South Africa/Botswana novelist Bessie Head and the Somali novelist Nuruddin Falah, research material and correspondence with African writers for Larson’s books on African literature and publishing. There is also the manuscript of the unpublished autobiography of popular Nigerian writer Cyprian Ekwensi.
     For anyone who can attend, the University of Texas at Austin is hosting the 2009 Africa History Conference this weekend, March 27-29.   In conjunction with the conference, the Director’s Gallery will host a display of materials from the Ransom Center’s African literature collection, including manuscripts and correspondence by Head, Mazisi Kunene, Es’kia Mphahlele and Wole Soyinka, historical materials dating back to the Second Boer War and audio recordings of Amos Tutuola, Chinua Achebe, Okot p’Bitek and Joe de Graft. The Director’s Gallery, on the third floor of the Ransom Center.

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