Center Acquires Two Major Private Libraries
The Amistad Research Center is pleased to announce the acquisition of two large book collections that will greatly expand and strengthen its library holdings in African American and LGBTQ literature. New Orleans poet, editor and educator Kalamu ya Salaam has donated the NOMMO Literary Society Library, while Amistad staff member Lisa C. Moore has donated her extensive collection on LGBTQ literature. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, staff were working to inventory both donations and hope to continue that work as soon as possible.
A New Orleans native, Salaam has been a leading poet, playwright, arts administrator and educator since the late 1960s. Salaam was a member of the Free Southern Theater and was a founder of BLACKARTSOUTH during the Black Arts Movement. He was editor of Black Collegian magazine from 1970 to 1983. He also founded the Ahidiana Work Study Center, the poetry performance group WordBand, the NOMMO Literary Society and Runagate Press. Salaam’s poems, essays and other writings have appeared in many national and international magazines and anthologies, and he served as producer of "A Nation of Poets" at the 1989 National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.
This past January, Salaam donated the contents of the NOMMO Literary Society Library and estimates the number of books to be in the thousands. He considers it to be of one of the best Black literary libraries extant in the Deep South. The library greatly complements the personal library of his friend and mentor Tom Dent, which is already held at Amistad. Together, these two libraries will form a major resource for anyone interested in Black literature.
The NOMMO library originated out of Salaam's experiences as a teacher. "In 1995, I conducted a writing workshop for male students at Southern University in New Orleans," Salaam says. "Kysha Brown challenged me to do a workshop for women and men. That challenge resulted in the founding of the NOMMO Literary Society. Over a decade we significantly expanded my personal library, which was funded primarily out of my personal funds abetted by significant contributions by authors themselves."
According to Salaam, "The contents of the library included a major collection of books about Black culture in both Africa and the western hemisphere. We also had a significant collection of books, chapbooks and pamphlets by and about Black poets. There was a small but significant collection of dictionaries and books on writing. Additionally, there was a healthy collection of modern American writers, especially William Carlos Williams, who focused on the use of a vernacular vocabulary."
Apart from her role as reference archivist at Amistad, Lisa C. More is also the publisher/editor of RedBone Press. Her gift includes 300+ books written by black LGBTQ authors and/or about black LGBTQ cultures. Also included in the donation are titles by Asian, Latinx and Native American authors. The library gift is comprised of several genres of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, essays, theater/performance, anthologies, graphic novels and comics from her personal collection.
"I’ve been acquiring these books for a long time, and I thought they could do so much more good at the Amistad Research Center than sitting on my own bookshelves," Moore says. "With this donation, I hope to provide access to readers and researchers who might not otherwise be able to locate these titles, especially as so many are independently published. Also, I wanted the Amistad to better reflect the breadth and depth of its holdings as they relate to queer cultures; to include representation from minorities within the minority, so to speak."
Moore amassed the library during her 23 years as publisher of RedBone Press, which publishes award-winning work by black gay men and lesbians. Works by literary authors Tisa Bryant, Thomas Glave, John Keene, Randall Kenan and Patricia Powell are represented; highlighted are a large number of poets, including Samiya Bashir, S. Diane Bogus, Jericho Brown, C.C. Carter, Staceyann Chin, Cheryl Clarke, tatiana de la tierra, R. Erica Doyle, Nikky Finney, t’ai freedom ford, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Reginald Harris, Essex Hemphill, G. Winston James, Bettina Judd, Rosamond King, Rickey Laurentiis, Renita Martin, Pat Parker, Carl Phillips, Kate Rushin, Assotto Saint, Reginald Shepherd, Dorothea Smartt, Danez Smith, Pamela Sneed, Cheryl Boyce Taylor, Kitty Tsui, Tim’m West, Marvin K. White and L. Lamar Wilson. Additionally, there are performance/theater works by Pamela Booker, Djola Branner, Sharon Bridgforth, Sterling Houston, E. Patrick Johnson and Omi Osun Joni L. Jones in the collection; and black queer studies titles written or edited by Jafari S. Allen, E. Patrick Johnson, Dwight McBride, Kevin Quashie, Robert Reid-Pharr and Matt Richardson.
Independent presses are heavily represented, including works from Akashic Books, Alyson Publications, Arsenal Pulp Press, Arté Público Press, Aunt Lute Books, Belladonna*, Bywater Books, Calyx Books, Carolina Wren Press, City Lights Publishers, Cleis Press, Coffee House Press, Crossing Press, Curbstone Press, Diana Press, Evelyn Street Press, The Feminist Press, Firebrand Books, Galiens Press, GirlChild Press, House of Anansi, Iowa City Women’s Press, Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, Kórima Press, Lethe Press, A Midsummer Night’s Press, Naiad Press, Nightboat Books, Peepal Tree Press, Persephone Press, RedBone Press, Red Hen Press, Seal Press, Sister Vision Press, Tiny Satchel Press, Third Woman Press and Vintage Entity Press. Dates of publication range from 1973 to 2019, with the majority from the 1980s to 2000s, a heyday of independent LGBTQ publishing. Also included are books by university presses, mainstream presses and self-published titles.
Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.