ON JUNE 25th, Glenn Carrington's collection of black literature was formally installed in the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University, and thereby hangs a tale of a New York City social worker who loved literature and learning and spent a considerable amount of his life acquiring both. He was a man of very modest means. Yet for more than 50 years he collected books, records, manuscripts and other material on a wide range of subjects - but particulary on the life and history of black people.
Mr. Carrington, you see, was of a generation of black people dedicated to expanding the vision they had of themselves. He is also a product of a time when it was thought that black culture would be lost; like many others, he pledged himself to help preserve it.Mr. Carrington's perception of himself and of America was fashioned in the early 1920s on the Howard University campus. There he became a student of Dr. Alain Locke, a major figure in the literary and cultural explosion known as the "Harlem Renaissance." There he also honed his belief that blacks had to become aware both of their heritage and of the world around them in order to participate in American society. And there he made his commitment to share his ideas and ideals with others - by donating a literary collection to his alma mater.
Two years after his death, his dream has been fulfilled. The Morrland-Spingarn Research Center, one of the most comprehensive repositories of materials related to the history and culture of black people, has been given 2,200 books in 15 languages, 500 recordings and 18 boxes of personal papers, manuscripts, newspaper clippings and photograhps - all of which Mr. Carrington carefully stored in his Brooklyn apartment. Merely cataloguing the collection does not do justice to its priceless quality. The university was given a small piece of history, hundres of early Duke Ellington recordings; numerous typed Langston Hughes manuscripts, signe by the author; rare books; a complete set of "The Crisis," the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other irreplaceable correspondence. The gift was one of the most sizeable collections ever received by the university - and one of the more significant gifts of its kind in the country.
Glenn Carrington did not fit the traditional mold of a philanthropist. He pursued a career in social work and in teaching; he was the first black parole officer in New York City. He continued his own education at the New York School of Social Research and at Harvard University. He was not by any means a rich man, nor did he make his donation out of a sense of noble purpose. Rather, he gave his collection, much of which is now available to the public, because he loved the university and the experiences there that enriched his life. Our lives are now a little richer for Mr. Carrington's foresight, dedication and generosity.