globe showing the americas American Studies Program
Klapper Hall Room 345 / Telephone 718-997-4633

This Little Light of Mine..
"This Little Light of Mine... I'm Gonna Let it Shine"
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.

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
Exhibit Outline

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

Left Case
Middle Case
Right Case

Prepared and posted by the exhibit committee.

American Studies Home Page
Queens College Home Page