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If I Survive: Frederick Douglass and Family in the Walter O. Evans Collection

Celeste-Marie Bernier, professor of United States and Atlantic Studies and personal chair in English literature, School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh; in conversation with Walter O. Evans, collector

Walter O. Evans has spent decades collecting, curating, and conserving a wide variety of African American art, music, and literature in an effort to preserve the cultural history of African Americans. Part of his collection focuses on the nineteenth-century formerly enslaved statesman and abolitionist Frederick Douglass (c. 1818–1895). In addition to inscribed books from Douglass’s and his descendants’ libraries and printed editions of his speeches, the collection contains letters, manuscripts, and photographs. Much of the material is of a personal nature: correspondence between family members, family histories, and scrapbooks compiled by Douglass and his children; the scrapbooks, with their personal documents and familial relationships, illuminate Douglass in ways never before seen. In 2018 Celeste-Marie Bernier and Andrew Taylor of the University of Edinburgh published If I Survive: Frederick Douglass and Family in the Walter O. Evans Collection, a guide to the collection born of a longstanding collaboration between the authors and Dr. Evans. Within its pages they have reproduced letters, manuscripts, and photographs from the collection along with transcriptions and commentary that provide an invaluable resource for Douglass scholars. On Friday, April 26, 2019, in conjunction with the exhibition In the Library: Frederick Douglass Family Materials from the Walter O. Evans Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Bernier speaks with Evans about the role of his collection in scholarship on Douglass and the preservation of Douglass’s legacy for a new generation of Americans.