Skip to main content

FunTimes Magazine

Noted Historian Charles L. Blockson Remembered

Jul 15, 2023 10:00AM ● By Karen Warrington
Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, former U.S. Rep. Robert L. Brady and historian Charles Blockson review Harriet Tubman artifacts donated to the Museum by Mr. Blockson

Charles Blockson, a noted historian, author, bibliophile and collector, has died at the ageof 89. He is being remembered as the “architect of one of the most prestigious collections of African American artifacts in the US.” Located at Temple University, the Charles Blockson Afro American Collection houses more than 700,000 items reflecting the breadth of the African Diaspora. The Collection, donated to Temple in 1984, has a catalog that dates back to 1581. 

Dr. Diane Turner, curator of the Collection said, “Blockson has been a great influence on numerous scholars, students and people of all nationalities.” And, we will continue to promote his legacy through hard work and dedication. 

Born in 1933 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Blockson was educated in Norristown public schools. And, in the fourth-grade class, a white substitute teacher explained, in the strongest of terms, that, “Negroes have no history. They were born to serve White people!” But, after being assured by his parents that his teacher was uneducated on the subject, young Blockson began a lifelong journey to refute the teacher’s ignorance. The rest of his life was spent unearthing, collecting and preserving African and African American history and culture. 

In 2010, in recognition of the 188th anniversary of the birth of African American
abolitionist Harriet Tubman, U.S. Representative Robert A. Brady hosted the unveiling of historic Tubman artifacts donated by Mr. Blockson to Lonnie G. Bunch III, the Founding Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The artifacts included a silk and linen shawl given to Harriet Tubman by England’s Queen Victoria, historic photographs and a hymnal signed by Tubman. 

On making the donation, Mr. Blockson, an authority on the Underground railroad and the Great Migration of the early 1900s, said he believed the NMAAHC would be the most suitable place for “an paralleled collection to be shared with the millions of visitors to the Museum.” 

Image: The African American Museum of Philadelphia, cofounded by Charles Blockson. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Blockson was a cofounder of the African American Museum of Philadelphia and a founding member of Pennsylvania history committee of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Director of the Philadelphia African American state marker project. Mr. Blockson also excelled in sports. He was a star athlete at Norristown High School and his alma mater Penn State University. 

In celebration of Mr. Blockson’s contributions and legacy, State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta says he will introduce legislation to mark his Dec.16 birthday as a state holiday. “He is a hero,” Kenyatta said. Mr. Blockson’s daughter Noelle said, ”I and countless others will carry my father’s memory in our hearts and will find comfort and strength in the profound and impactful legacy he leaves behind.”

Mr. Blockson was honored as one of FunTimes Magazine's Men of Influence in 2017.

Read also:
Nina Elizabeth Ball sitting in front of the Sanctuary Exhibit Derrick Adams at AAMP Photo by Tezarah Wilkins

Respect on her name: AAMP’s new director of programming has deep roots in activism and the arts

Nina Elizabeth Ball had no idea her passion for poetry and love of the arts would take her on a fulfilling work-life journey. Read More » 


9 Black Museums to Visit Across the U.S

May is Historic Preservation Month and we want to highlight museums and memorial sites and centres which highlight the good and the bad of African American history. Visit these significa... Read More » 


How Philadelphia is Honoring the Legacy of Harriet Tubman

How Philadelphia is Honoring the Legacy of Harriet Tubman

“Freedom gives you choices, but education helps you make the right ones”. Read More » 



 Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.

Read more from Karen Warrington:

Enslaved Africans get no Reparations from King of Netherland Just Apologies

Enslaved Africans get no Reparations from King of Netherland; Just Apologies

Although slavery was officially abolished in the Netherlands in 1863, it didn’t really end until ten years later. Read More » 


Cheney Universitys Inaugural Kente Ceremony

Cheney University’s Inaugural Kente Ceremony

Addressing the soon-to-be graduates Cheney President Aaron A. Walton said, “The ceremony represents and acknowledges the accomplishments you have achieved in America’s first HBCU, and leg... Read More » 


Philadelphia celebrates the history and contributions of the women of the Black Panther Party

Philadelphia celebrates the history and contributions of the women of the Black Panther Party

The book presents 110 black and white candid photos of the women of the BPP who were committed to supporting the party’s social, economic and political agenda. Read More »