Library Celebrates OU Black Alumni With Exhibit, Speaker

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This Friday and Saturday, Ohio University Libraries will present two events in honor of the OU Black Alumni Reunion: I Feel Good: A Soulful Stroll Down Memory Lane, a special archives display; and a conversation with Carl H. Walker, author of Soulful Bobcats: Experiences of African American Students at Ohio University during the 1950s.

I Feel Good: A Soulful Stroll Down Memory Lane chronicles Bobcat history with an emphasis on African-American life in Athens.

Attendees can expect to revel in local civil rights movement materials, Alpha Phi Alpha mementos and documents that recount the development of the University’s Department of African American Studies.

Handmade fliers and slick professional placards, haphazardly arranged in the style of a dormitory bulletin board, herald the arrivals of performers and speakers from the past.

Dozens of photographs, programs and keepsakes will conjure memories and transport viewers to a time when dorm curfews were enforced and library typewriters were available to rent. Approximately a century of campus happenings will be represented.

Bill Kimok, university archivist and records manager, emphasized that like the annual homecoming exhibit, “This event is hands-on.” People are encouraged to flip through books, listen to music and dig into the tables of memorabilia. In short, the display offers attendees a unique opportunity to interact with Ohio University history.

I Feel Good: A Soulful Stroll Down Memory Lane is open from 1-5 p.m. on Friday and 10-5 p.m. on Saturday in the Alden Library fifth floor Mahn Center. It is the first University Archives event held in collaboration with the Black Alumni Reunion.

Soulful Bobcats

On Saturday, as part of the "Authors @ Alden series," Ohio University Libraries will host a conversation with Carl H. Walker.

The topic of discussion is his book, Soulful Bobcats: Experiences of African American Students at Ohio University during the 1950s, a collection of African-American alumni accounts of campus life in the era between segregation and the civil rights movement.

Walker, an OU alumnus and former professor of criminal justice at Clark Atlanta University, organized a group called Soulful Bobcats to preserve bonds forged in the 50s and 60s.

Decades later, the group’s informal gatherings resulted in this book. Soulful Bobcats, published in 2013, reconstructs the worlds of 18 alumni who ventured into the predominantly white university setting well before the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling. 

Walker reminisced about hangouts in the student union and racial tensions in the classroom, as well as academics — and romantic pursuits — at Chubb Library.

He and his college sweetheart-turned-wife often met at the Library to study before relaxing with friends. The institution, he said, was an integral part of his college experience.

“I would hate to think of a student who goes through his undergraduate years and fails to appreciate the significance of the Library, both intellectually and socially,” Walker said.

Describing the timing of the event as “critical,” Walker believes that discussions like Authors @ Alden are crucial for the preservation of his generation’s experiences.

“We are passing on,” he said.  “And this opportunity to leave a footprint in the sand, particularly in an intellectual setting like Alden Library and Ohio University, is a wonderful thing.”

Open to the public, Authors @ Alden will be held in the 1951 Lounge on the fourth floor of Alden Library on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 1-3 p.m. A live webcast of the event will be available on the Authors@Alden page