University of North Texas Libraries to house archives of Dallas' Black Academy of Arts and Letters

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - 20:48

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- During the past 38 years, a nonprofit cultural arts institution in downtown Dallas has hosted Academy Award nominees, Grammy winners and some of America's most noted jazz musicians and comedians, as well as unknown performers who later became famous.

Programs, posters, photos and video recordings from these performances at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, and other items from the academy's archives, will be housed at the University of North Texas Libraries as part of its Special Collections.

The agreement between the UNT Libraries and the academy, known as TBAAL, will be formally announced at 11 a.m. Feb. 9 (Monday) in the Flag Room on the sixth floor of Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St.

TBAAL was founded in 1977 as the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters by Curtis King, who formed the academy in homage to the original Black Academy of Arts and Letters, which is now defunct. King had attended the organization's national conference in 1972, where he met Alvin Ailey, Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and other noted African Americans in the performing arts.

Today, TBAAL's offices are housed in the downtown Dallas Convention Center Theatre Complex, with events taking place in the Naomi Bruton Theatre, Clarence Muse Café Theatre and James E. Kemp Art Gallery.

King called the UNT Libraries agreement to house the TBAAL archives -- which include documents and records from the original Black Academy of Arts and Letters that were rescued from a trash container -- "a historic milestone for TBAAL and UNT."

"Artists and scholars from across the United States and around the world will now have the opportunity to delve into the artistic contribution of African American culture born and nurtured in America, and, specifically, in Dallas and the North Texas region," King said.

Martin Halbert, dean of the UNT Libraries, said the libraries' agreement with TBAAL will "preserve the rich cultural heritage of black arts and letters for study by the public and academic communities."

"This partnership will provide students and faculty a unique collection of materials that brings to life research in history, dance and theater, and African-American studies," he said. "TBAAL's artistic and cultural contributions are woven into the fabric of American life, and UNT scholars will benefit immensely by learning from their work."

About the UNT Libraries

With more than 7 million print and digital cataloged items in six separate facilities, the UNT Libraries are the heart of learning and research at UNT. The UNT Libraries has been nationally and internationally recognized for its emphasis on digital preservation. The Portal to Texas History, created by the libraries in 2002, received the 2013 Project of the Year award from the Texas Library Association. It was also chosen as one of the best online resources for education in the humanities by the National Endowment for the Humanities and named a Service Hub by the Digital Public Library of America.

About The Black Academy of Arts and Letters

TBAAL's mission is to promote, foster, cultivate, perpetuate and preserve the arts and letters of the African, Caribbean and African-American experiences in the fine, literary, performing and cinematic arts.

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