Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Glenn Carrington was not a man of wealth like many book collectors. He was a man so obsessed with documenting the Afro-American experience that he saved pennies from his job as a parole officer to build a library.
As a student at Howard University in the 1920s, Carrington was greatly influenced by Alain Locke's interpretations of the personalities and works of the burgeoning Harlem Renaissance. At a time when black culture was largely ignored and misunderstood, Carrington took up the noted writer and professor's mandate and collected materials for a future generation.
The Glenn Carrington Collection - 2,200 books in 15 languages, 500 recordings, including many rare long-playing records of Duke Ellington, and scores of manuscript and periodical items - will be dedicated today at 1:30 p.m. at Howard's Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.
"His was a magnificent obsession. He would put his whole paycheck into buying books," said Michael R. Winston, director of the Moorland Center. Carrington, who died in 1975, intended to give the collection to Howard on the 50th anniversary of his graduation, but he died from cancer within a week of the date.
"He was an excellent representation of an early generation of Howard people who regarded themselves as ambassadors of the race, providing people with information about blacks everywhere," said Winston. "In a sense his is a case where a man's dream takes over, it's melancholy in a way but he saw it as a grand contribution."
After Howard, Carrington earned a master's degree from the New York School of Social Research and also studied at Harvard. He was the first black parole officer in New York State.
Before Carrington died, Winston visited his home in Brooklyn that was more a storage house for books and records than a home. "He had books on the window sill above the kitchen sink, in every available space," said Winston. Carrington was a slender, soft-spoken man, a vegetarian long before it was popular, and a bachelor.
Though Carrington concentrated on Afro-American acquisitions, he also collected materials on Walt Whitman, Brookyln, Alexandre Pushkin, the Russian-born author whose grandfather was an African, and the Italian Renaissance. Howard will have the Pushkin materials but the other subjects will go to another as yet unnamed library.
There is autographed material of Langston Hughes in 11 foreign languages, and materials of other writers and critics of the Harlem Renaissance period, Countee Cullen, Locke and Carl Van Vechten. The collection also contains materials on African art and jazz.
"Glenn would wear you out walking through bookstores. He moved like lightning - except in a bookstore," said Ophelia Settle Egypt, a Washington writer, who was a student with Carrington at Howard during the '20s. "During college summers he worked as a waiter on the railroad and would spend most of his money for books. Some days he would have only a quart of milk and a bag of peanuts for himself."