Category Archives: History News

Black Science Fiction: Joy, Reimagining, and Alternative Futures

Introductory page of The Telescoping Effect: Part 1 by Rasheedah Phillips. Philadelphia, Pa.: AfroFuturist Affair, 2017.

Writing in a largely white-dominated space, Black science fiction authors have been creating fantastical stories since the earliest days of the genre. From space opera to alternative history to time travel to imagined utopias, their stories critique social structures, explore issues of oppression, and imagine futures and alternate realities for Black people throughout the world—and beyond. A pop-up exhibit in the Special Collection Research Center‘s reading room for the month of February 2023 highlights several Black science fiction authors using materials from the SCRC’s collections, including the Paskow Science Fiction Collection.


Martin Delany (1812-1885)

Martin Delany was an abolitionist, author, journalist, physician, Civil War soldier, and one of the most important African American political leaders of his time. Delany’s Blake; or The Huts of America: A Tale of the Mississippi Valley, the Southern United States, and Cuba, is considered to be the first work of science fiction written by an African American author. The story, an alternate history and utopian speculative fiction narrative, was published in multiple parts between 1859 and 1862. The novel as it is now known is unfinished, since the final parts were supposedly published in the May 1862 issue of the Weekly Anglo-African, and no known copies of that issue exist. Harvard University Press published a book version of the story in 2017.

The exhibit features Delaney’s Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party. In 1859, Delany led an African American exploring party to the Niger Valley, seeking a possible location for a new Black nation of African Americans.


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)

Frances Harper was one of the leading Black woman poets of the 19th century, as well as an abolitionist, suffragist, speaker, and teacher. Her 1892 novel Iola Leroy was another early African American utopian speculative story.

The exhibit includes a copy of Harper’s Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects.


Samuel R. Delany (1942- )

Samuel Delany is a science fiction writer, memoirist, and literary critic. His work has won multiple Hugo and Nebula awards. Delany has taught literature and creative writing at multiple universities, including at Temple University from 2001 to 2015.

Cover of Delany's Babel 17.
Displayed in this exhibit is a paperback copy of Delany’s Babel-17 (New York: Ace Books, 1966).
Photograph of Octavia Butler at a convention
Octavia Butler at the Inconjunction convention, July 1988. Carlos Roy Lavender Papers.



Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006)

Octavia Butler was one of the most important science fiction authors of the twentieth century. She won both the Hugo and Nebula awards multiple times, and she was the first science fiction writer to win the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant.”

The exhibit includes photographs of Octavia Butler at the Inconjunction convention, Indianapolis, Indiana, July 1988, her first published story, “Crossover,” and her novel Kindred. “Crossover” appeared in the 1971 Clarion Writers’ Workshop anthology. Clarion : An Anthology of Speculative Fiction and Criticism from the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, Robin Scott, editor.

Butler’s novel Kindred, perhaps her best-known story, is a time travel narrative in which the heroine, a Black woman named Dana, and her husband, a white man, travel back and forth through time to and from a Maryland plantation.

SCRC’s first edition copy of Kindred (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1979) is inscribed by Butler “To Bea + Aubrey, Thanks for the complements, Octavia E. Butler,” and includes a program from “A tribute to Octavia E. Butler” held June 5, 2006, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, as well as an advertisement for the tribute and a newspaper clipping of the New York Times obituary for Butler, dated March 1, 2006.


Rasheedah Phillips

Rasheedah Phillips is a Philadelphia activist, artist, author, and housing attorney at Community Legal Services. She founded the Afrofuturist Affair, a science fiction and Afrofuturism community; is co-founder with Camae Ayewa of the Black Quantum Futurism (BQF) artistic collective; and is a founding member of the queer science fiction collective Metropolarity. She is a graduate of Temple University (2005) and Temple University’s Beasley School of Law (2008).

This exhibit includes a copy of Style of Attack Report (Philadelphia: Metropolarity, 2016) and The Telescoping Effect: Part 1 (Philadelphia, Pa.: AfroFuturist Affair, 2017).


–Katy Rawdon, Coordinator of Technical Services, SCRC

David Goodis ‘38, Noir Fiction Author

Temple University Libraries’ Special Collection Research Center’s January 2023 reading room pop-up exhibit commemorates the anniversary of David Goodis’ death.

David Loeb Goodis was born in Philadelphia on March 2, 1917, and died on January 7, 1967. He was an author and screenwriter of noir crime fiction, creating short stories, novels, and screenplays.

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photograph


Goodis was the oldest child of William and Mollie Halpern Goodis, both with Russian-Jewish emigrant roots. Goodis graduated from Simon Gratz High School in 1935. He then attended Temple University and graduated in 1938 with a degree in journalism. Goodis resided in Philadelphia, New York City, and Hollywood during his professional years.


Goodis’s first published novel was Retreat from Oblivion (1939). François Truffaut filmed Goodis’ 1956 novel Down There as the acclaimed Shoot the Piano Player (1960).


In 1965, Goodis sued United Artists-TV and ABC for $500,000, claiming copyright infringement. He said the movie The Fugitive was based on his 1946 novel Dark Passage. Although Goodis died before the case could be settled, the lawsuit continued to make its way through the courts. Goodis’ main beneficiary had also died, so the Goodis estate agreed that the case only had nuisance value and accepted $12,000 to settle. The case is still regarded as a landmark decision in intellectual property rights and copyright law.


Goodis has become a noir icon, supported by a group of devotees who founded and sponsor NoirCon, a “literary conference devoted to the dark, elusive, and seductive areas of art and life.” Around the date of his birth or death, the group also organizes a tour of Goodis-related sites in Philadelphia.

–Margery Sly, Director, SCRC

New Accession Spotlight: the John Dowlin Papers

Bike for a Better City Button

“Bike for a Better City”

John Dowlin used the bicycle as a means of political, diplomatic, and environmental activism. In 1974, after recently relocating to Philadelphia, he co-founded the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition. Dowlin and the Coalition saw the bicycle as a viable, cheaper alternative to the car and the answer to environmental concerns, as well as traffic and congestion issues in the City. With a goal to increase bicycle ridership, they pushed for accommodations for bicycles on all public transit, including buses, trains and even planes, and safe bicycle lanes on city streets and even the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

Dowlin was director of the Bicycle Parking Foundation, founder of the international Bicycle Network, and editor of Network News and the Cycle and Recycle reusable wall calendar. Internationally, Dowlin led Tour de Cana, bicycle touring in Cuba and Latin America, and was president of Citizen Diplomats, ‘people-to-people’ diplomacy in Cuba. In the 1980s, Dowlin participated in Bike for Peace, during which he and other bikers rode together from Leningrad to Washington, DC. He was also an active neighbor in West Philadelphia’s Powelton Village. Together with Drexel University and the Powelton Village Neighbors Association, he worked on the Westbank Greenway Project to improve the Schuylkill River banks in West Philadelphia.

A small selection of John Dowlin’s papers documenting his work is on display in the Greenfield Special Collections Research Center Reading Room, Charles Library, for the month of December 2022.

Dowlin, with the assistance of his daughter Debby, donated his papers to the SCRC in Summer 2020. Staff are preparing the collection for research use. Among his many projects, Dowlin also worked with Rick Shnitzler on Taillight Diplomacy, promoting the preservation and restoration of Cuba’s old cars. Shnitzler’s papers, also in the SCRC, were recently opened to research use.

–Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC

The Diamond Cutter’s Daughter

Elaine Terranova grew up in Philadelphia, the daughter of Nathan and Sadie Goldstein, and studied at Temple University, graduating in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in English. While working as a manuscript editor for J. B. Lippincott & Co., she attended Vermont’s Goddard College, earning a master’s degree in 1977. Her career shifted from editing to education, and she taught English and creative writing at Temple University until 1987.

Terranova developed a passion for writing poetry and began publishing her works while continuing to teach. Her poems have appeared in various publications including The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Ploughshares. She has also published several books of poetry, including The Cult of the Right Hand (Winner of the American Academy of Poets’ Walt Whitman Award for 1990), and Perdido, (2018) with the next, Rinse, is forthcoming in 2023.

Cover of Cult of the Right hand


On September 20, 2022, Temple Libraries was pleased to host a reading by Ms. Terranova, followed by a conversation between her and Rebecca Alpert, professor of religion emerita at Temple. Alpert was was among the first women in America ordained as a rabbi, at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1976. Her primary field of study is American Judaism in the twentieth century, focusing sports, race, and sexuality. View a video of that program.


On October 6, Temple University Libraries Book Club is discussing her memoir The Diamond Cutter’s Daughter, Princeton, NJ: Ragged Sky Press, 2021, about growing up in Philadelphia.

cover ofo The Diamond Cutter's Daughter

The Special Collections Research Center celebrates Ms. Terranova’s life and work with a pop-up exhibit in the reading room in Charles LIbrary. The exhibit, up for the month of October, presents a small sampling of material from her papers, which she donated to the Libraries in 2020.

–Margery Sly, Director, SCRC

Dog Days of Summer in Philadelphia, 1928-1981

Kids running through a sprinkler
1981, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin


The Special Collections Research Center is pleased to present our latest pop-up exhibit “Dog Days of Summer in Philadelphia, 1928-1981.” This fun and whimsical exhibit features items from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photograph and News Clipping collections, the Urban Archives Pamphlet Collection, and the Newspaper Illustration Collection documenting how Philadelphians keep cool and have fun in the summer months. This exhibit was curated by student intern Abigail Boyer and will be on display in the SCRC reading room through August.

–Brenda Galloway-Wright, Associate Archivist, SCRC

cartoon of mne jumping into water
Jumping into the Delaware River, 9/23/1955, Newspaper Illustrations Collection

A police horse eating an ice cream cone
The Horse that Likes Vanilla, July 31, 1975, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

Battling Housing Discrimination in Post-War Philadelphia

Your Home in a Changing Neighborhood booklet

Philadelphia’s African-American population grew during World War II and in the decades that followed. Exacerbated by racial segregation, this population growth led to a severe housing shortage among the city’s Black population. In response, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Philadelphia Branch, and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations led efforts to combat racial discrimination and segregation in housing. Records documenting these efforts are on display in the latest Special Collections Research Center pop-up exhibit in the reading room.


Fair housing efforts of this period at first focused mostly on appeals to principles of justice and fairness in order to reduce barriers to housing for African Americans. In the 1950s and 60s, Philadelphia became an epicenter for fair housing activism. Notably, in 1951 voters approved a Home Rule Charter, which banned discrimination in public employment, public accommodations, and housing. The new charter also created the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (CHR), whose mandate was to enforce the charter’s prohibitions on racial segregation. Under Mayor Joseph Clark, the first Democrat to serve as mayor (1952- 1956) since the nineteenth century, the city instituted reforms on a wide variety of issues, including reforms aimed at fighting racial housing discrimination.


Filmstrip focuses attention on neighborhood integration cover

The CHR provided education about housing integration through publications, films, and neighborhood programs, a few of which are on display. Despite these efforts, racial discrimination, tension, and white flight continued. In response, the commission shifted its focus to crafting and supporting fair housing legislation more broadly at the local and state level.

What To Do pamphlet


The NAACP, Philadelphia Branch, under the leadership of Charles A. Shorter, also made important strides in extending civil rights during this period. Shorter led successful efforts to force department stores to hire black clerks, end segregated seating in Philadelphia theaters, and integrate the Philadelphia Real Estate Board and the Pennsylvania Parole Board, among other accomplishments in this era. In 1953, the Philadelphia Branch was awarded the Thalheimer Award, the NAACP’s top award given to branches for outstanding achievements.

Letter from Shorter to Letson


Included in this pop-up exhibit are a selection of items from the NAACP, Philadelphia Branch Records, the Urban Archives Pamphlet Collection, and clippings and photographs form the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Photograph Collection documenting efforts by CHR and the NAACP Philadelphia Branch to combat housing segregation and white flight during the economic and demographic changes of the post-war years in Philadelphia.

–Josue’ Hurtado, Coordinator of Public Services, SCRC

LGBTQ+ PRIDE MONTH: Pride in the Archives

Stonewall to San Francisco event flyer

Pride month began in 1970 and is celebrated every June. It honors the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, when members of the LGBTQ+ community responded to a June 18, 1969, police raid at Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village, New York City, with a series of demonstrations. The demonstrations lasted six days, with many people arrested.

On June 28, 1970, the first Pride March occurred in New York City on the uprising’s one-year anniversary, with up to 5,000 marchers demonstrating against centuries of abuse and discrimination. Celebrations in the years afterward include parades, picnics, parties, concerts, workshops, and other events to recognize the impact LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations have had on history. Memorials are also held for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS.

The first gay pride demonstration in Philadelphia took place on June 11, 1972, with over 10,000 people marching from Rittenhouse Square to Independence Park. While pride events took place every year, the parades would only continue for the next three years due to the more popular New York City parades. However, on June 18, 1989, the city resumed its gay pride parade and rally with over 1,000 people marching from 10th and Spruce Streets to JFK Plaza. The parades and rallies have continued in the city ever since. This year’s parade, scheduled for June 5, will look a little different, however, with a community march instead of a parade. It will be followed by a pride festival in the Gayborhood.

1993 Pridefest flyer

The Special Collections Research Center commemorates Gay Pride Month 2022 with a pop-up exhibit in our reading room featuring selections from collections that focus on the LGBTQ+ community and their coverage of pride events around the city through the years. The exhibit includes material from the AIDS Library (Philadelphia, Pa.) Records, the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force Records, the Philadelphia Gay News, and the Scott Wilds Papers.

–Ann Mosher, BA II, Special Collections Research Center

exhibit case

Celebrating Grace Baptist Church’s 150th Anniversary

Temple University Libraries was pleased to be a part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of Grace Baptist Church (now of Blue Bell), recognizing the deep connections the University has with that congregation.

In the 1870s, the fledgling congregation pitched its tent and then built its first building at the corner of Berks and Marvine—now under Temple’s Gladfelter Hall. In 1882, they called the Rev. Russell Conwell from a small congregation in Lexington, Massachusetts, to become their pastor and changed the history of Philadelphia.  Conwell’s ability to inspire, to build, and to create and recreate institutions included not only Temple University, but also Greatheart and Samaritan hospitals and the Samaritan Aid Society, among others. Starting in 1884, Grace Baptist Church facilities hosted the first night classes of what would eventually become Temple University.

Photograph of Russell Conwell, 1882
Russell Conwell, 1882

Shortly after Conwell and his family arrived, he and the congregation determined to build a larger building, and in a leap of faith, bought the land at the corner of Berks and Broad sts in 1886. Faith was also required to raise the funds to build the Temple. Groundbreaking took place in 1889, the building, an example of the Victorian Romanesque-revival style, was designed by architect Thomas P. Lonsdale, and Grace Baptist Church dedicated the building for worship on March 1, 1891.

Photograph of the Temple. 1890s
Baptist Temple, 1890s

With a seating capacity of 4600, it was at the time one of the largest Protestant church buildings in the United States. The Temple served as the congregation’s home for the next eight decades, until they sold the building to Temple University in 1974 for a little over a half-million dollars. It hosted worship services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, Sunday School classes, community meals and events. At the same time, Temple celebrated scores of commencement ceremonies there–and Russell Conwell’s life at legacy during his funeral in 1925. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the Temple in 1965 in support of the desegregation of Girard College.

The building was certified by the Philadelphia Historical Commission as an historic building in 1984, and in 2003 it was designated by the American Institute of Architects as a Landmark Building. The University renovated the Temple to become its performing arts center, opening in 2010. Restored by the architectural firm RMJM in Philadelphia, it includes Lew Klein Hall, the main-stage space, in what had been the church sanctuary, featuring a thrust stage with seating for about 2,000 on three sides. Most of the building’s 140 stained-glass windows can be seen from the theater.

Church members viewing pop-up exhibit

Sixty congregation members and friends visited Temple campus on May 1, 2022, to tour the Temple, visit Rev. Conwell’s grave, attend a reception and self-guided tour in Charles Library, and view an extensive pop-up exhibit featuring primary source material from the University Archives documenting Conwell’s life and the congregation’s early history. A selection from the exhibit remains on display in the Special Collections Research Center reading room through May.

Group photo of church members on performing arts center stage.
Grace Baptist Church members, May 2022 (May 2022 photographs courtesy of Heidi Roland Photography)

Margery Sly, Director, Special Collections Research Center



A New Declaration of Independence: Equality Activism in the Anti-sexual Assault Movement

Signing the New Declaration of Independence

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Temple University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) takes a closer look at one of the first rape crisis centers that was incorporated in 1973 in the United States, WOAR-Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence, formerly known as Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR), and the ongoing work to preserve their historical records.

Since the mid-1970s, WOAR has participated in a national network of local rape crisis centers and maintained membership in national and state organizations that guide the movement to end sexual assault. In 1989, along with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), it was host to the eleventh annual National Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCASA) Conference. With its theme, Diversity, Strength and Freedom: A New Declaration of Independence, the conference included several days of workshops, panel presentations, and events related to rape and sexual assault and sought to lift up the voices and experiences of women of color in particular. The conference opened on July 18 with the Women of Color Institute-–a full day program for, by, and about women of color, with Angela Davis delivering the keynote address. The next day, 150 women gathered in front of Independence Hall to sign a New Declaration of Independence. This document addressed the people and freedoms neglected by the original Declaration, citing racism and sexism to be the real lasting sources of tyranny and oppression in American society. It called for collective action to combat those forces.

The conference was well attended and received media attention, including a controversial article published in the Philadelphia Daily News on July 19, accusing conference planners of “drawing a color line” for the exclusion of white women from the Women of Color Institute. What the Daily News article failed to report was that the 1989 conference concluded at least a decade of increasingly active efforts of NCASA and WOAR to be anti-racist organizations and to provide safe spaces for women of color to speak and be heard.

The Women of Color Institute, a 1983 directive of the NCASA, was one of several initiatives to increase participation of Black, Latinx/a/o, and other under-represented groups in the anti-sexual assault movement. WOAR embraced these ideas noting a need to recruit more volunteers from communities of color throughout the 1980s. At that time in Philadelphia, close to 75% of people served by WOAR were Black women and children, while WOAR’s volunteer crisis responders remained predominantly white.

The events of the 1989 NCASA conference and WOAR’s activities to diversify the crisis response community are documented in the WOAR Records as well other collections held in the SCRC. WOAR’s records were recently reorganized and the collection finding aid expanded. As part of this effort, previously inaccessible digital records from WOAR’s archives including records about the state-wide initiative Women of Color Network were migrated from over 150 5.25-inch floppy disks and will be available for research soon. This is the first time SCRC staff has preserved digital content from that many computer disks from a single organization.

WOAR floppy disks

Flexible magnetic disks like the 5.25-inch floppy played a key role in workplace technology, record keeping practices, and personal computing from the 1970s through the 1990s. Digital records saved on 5.25-inch floppies are virtually trapped due to the lack of available hardware and the high susceptibility to damage caused by magnetic and electrical fields, dust and other contaminants, and temperature and humidity fluctuations.

So how easy is it to rescue digital information from these technological dinosaurs? It’s becoming increasingly more difficult, but archivists, digital preservationists, and retrocomputing enthusiasts have adopted tools like the FC5025 by Device Side Data to do this work. What’s a FC5025, you ask? It’s a 5.25-inch floppy controller that plugs into a computer’s USB port, attaches to a 5.25-inch floppy drive, and is compatible with IBM PC formatted disks, as well as Apple, Atari, Commodore, and TI, among others. Together, the floppy controller and disk drive facilitate read-only access to the files on the disk, meaning new files can’t be written to it, but existing files can be copied to newer media for long-term preservation without altering them. This is an integral and important step to safeguarding historical materials that record the actions and legacy of organizations like WOAR.

Courtney Smerz, Collection Management Archivist, SCRC
Jessica M. Lydon, Associate Archivist, SCRC

Patti Smith at Middle Earth Books

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Temple Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is featuring a small pop-up exhibit about the publication of poet and punk musician Patti Smith’s Kodak in 1972 by the Philadelphia bookstore, Middle Earth Books. The one-case exhibit is in the SCRC Reading Room on the 1st floor of Charles Library and will be up through April, Monday through Friday, 8:30 to 5:30.

In the early 1970s, Patti Smith was just beginning her punk rock singing career, but she was already known in New York’s punk scene for her poetry, where she regularly did poetry readings before shows at the Mercer Art Center and at the Poetry Project in St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery in the East Village. During this time, she was also doing readings at Middle Earth Books in Philadelphia. Founded in 1969 by Samuel and Sims Amico, the bookstore, located at 1134 Pine Street, began hosting readings and publishing their own chapbooks, highlighting the underground literary and art scene. The Special Collections Research Center houses a collection of the records of the bookstore from 1972 to 1979. Donated by the founder Samuel Amico in 2009, the records include materials relating to Middle Earth Books’ poetry readings, publications, and commercial activities promoting poetry and poets. It includes correspondence, posters, paste-ups, and broadsides of many well-known poets of the 1970s.

In a 1995 Philadelphia City Paper interview entitled “Seventh Heaven” by A.D. Amorosi, Patti Smith was asked about what Middle Earth Books meant to her and she responded, “If it wasn’t my first reading, it was the first out-of-town thing because I was living in New York at the time, which made it very exciting. Like a first job….I was 22 and Robert Mapplethorpe and I were living together at the time in the Chelsea Hotel and he took the Polaroid for the cover. Didn’t make any money (laughs) but just the thrill of seeing one’s work, that someone thought it worthy of printing…”.

The exhibit includes pages from the original typescript of Kodak, two photographs of Smith reading at Middle Earth Books, two letters from Smith to the owners of Middle Earth, and the published volume, one of only 100 copies printed. In one of the letters on exhibit, she writes of the impact her association with the Philadelphia bookshop had on her creative process: “That reading at Phillie was so good for me. Something snapped. Ever since then I got better. looser. Sacrifice the art for the moment. It feels so good.”

The Special Collections Research Center has numerous contemporary poetry volumes and broadsides throughout our collections. Several of our archival collections, like the Middle Earth Books records, are dedicated to documenting the writing and publishing of poetry. For more information about our collections, please visit our website or email us at scrc@temple.edu.

Kimberly Tully
Librarian and Curator of Rare Books

Smith standing on table
Patti Smith reading at Middle Earth Books, Philadelphia, circa 1972