Library confronts stereotypes

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The “Dark Continent” display in the library for Black History Month breaks new ground on identifying the stereotypes associated with Africa in the 1800’s.

The “Dark Continent” display was set up by Pacific’s Archivist, Eva Guggemos. Over a course of a few weeks, Guggemos put the display of 19th century schoolbooks and maps together to help show how Africa’s geography and people were stereotyped and understood as in the 1800’s.

“The maps and pictures that they had of Africa and Africans were pretty crude and offensive,” said Guggemos.

She said these books were used to help school children better understand geography.

Guggemos said the goal of the display is to help Pacific students see the stereotypes in the old books and possibly prompt them to look at their own biases and stereotypes that they may have and look into why they are there.

Another reason Guggemos said this display was put together is to understand why Africa was labeled as a “Dark Continent” and to help students see the history of Africa from a viewpoint of an American in the 1800’s.

Guggemos said that obviously we don’t have the same racist ideas from the 1800’s but that some stereotypes and outlooks that developed then, may still live on today and it is important to think about.

Guggemos said she wanted to stress how the “Dark Continent” is in quotations because it was a label created by the writers of the books and maps in the display and not by anyone today. The idea is to see the stereotypes and take the information now and understand why it may have been that way in the 1800’s.

The display will stay through the month and will most likely be replaced by something for Women’s History Month in March.

Guggemos and library staff are willing to open cases to allow students a closer look and are giving small tours of the display as well.

The Archives department is currently working on more displays and is also in the middle of planning a large display on Oregon’s Governor Atiyeh, who donated 50 boxes of personal papers and other things to Pacific’s Archives department. The display should be done by fall of this year.


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