Charles L. Blockson Obituary, Death – On Tuesday afternoon, the Temple Performing Arts Center hosted an homage to Charles L. Blockson, a scholar, activist, and collector of African American artifacts who died recently. One of the nation’s most prominent African American artifact collections was curated by Blockson, who died June 14. “There’s a copy of The Underground Railroad,” said Temple University Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection curator Diane Turner.
African and African American history is represented in the collection, which includes William Still’s records, photos, artwork, literature, and more. Blockson gave the things and dedicated his life to telling African Americans’ stories. Turner, who met Blockson as his graduate assistant decades ago, stated, “Mr. Blockson was the first African American to get a cover story in the National Geographic.”
“That’s all he was trying to do is eradicate stereotype and tell the truth,” she added of the public-access collection.
Blockson died at 89 after achieving his aim. The news saddened Beverly Hill Lomax, wife of Dr. Walter Lomax Jr., the famed Philadelphia philanthropist and physician. While at Penn State, he met Blockson. “In his own right, (Blockson) was a genius in preserving all this,” she said, recalling his first time showing her and her husband his personal collection. “We were blown away by magazines, newspapers, and books.”
Blockson, from Norristown, Montgomery County, began collecting at 10 after asking his white teacher about African American history.
“His teacher was not malicious and his thinking was modern,” Turner said. “She told him, ‘Charles, Negroes have no history and must serve whites.'” That thought was disproven by Blockson throughout his life. It was difficult for him. Blockson bought numerous goods with his own money, she said. He received gifts from local families. After Blockson’s death, the Temple Blockson Collection will get some of his home’s historic treasures.