Charles L. Blockson receives 2016 Philadelphia Award
Charles L. Blockson, founder and curator emeritus of the Blockson Collection at Temple University, became the latest local visionary to receive the prestigious Philadelphia Award.
Charles L. Blockson has always been intrigued by history. This month, the man who is usually collecting history became part of it as he accepted the prestigious Philadelphia Award, given to local visionaries.
The award, a nearly 100-year-old honor, is bestowed each year on a local citizen who acts and serves on behalf of the community’s best interests.
Blockson, founder and curator emeritus of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection housed at Temple University, joins the ranks of Temple people who have received the accolade, including university founder Russell Conwell, who received the second Philadelphia Award in 1922.
David L. Cohen, chair of the Philadelphia Award committee, recounted his friendship with Blockson before presenting him with the award.
“I remember when he told me that he’s found a home with a finished basement with shelves, that basement became the first space where he stored thousands of books and other items that recount African American history,” said Cohen.
Now housed in Sullivan Hall, the Charles L. Blockson collection includes more than 700,000 items, such as a first-edition copy of The Philadelphia Negro by W.E.B. Du Bois, rare John Coltrane albums and one-of-a-kind photographs from the John Mosley collection.
In accepting the honor last week, Blockson talked about his father, who instilled in him an appreciation of history at an early age.
“Even though my grade school teachers told me otherwise, my father made sure that we knew African and African American history,” Blockson said. “He always made sure that we had books and records and art. I want to make sure I provide that for a new generation.”
Read more about Blockson.