The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) has awarded its 2018 print division publications award to the BC Law creators of “Robert Morris: Lawyer & Activist,” the catalog that accompanied an exhibition of the same name in the Daniel R. Coquillette Rare Book Room last year.
The winning entry was co-curated by Founders Professor of Law Mary Bilder, a legal historian; Legal Information Librarian and Lecturer in Law Laurel Davis, the curator of rare books; and Access Services Librarian Lily Dyer.
“Robert Morris: Lawyer & Activist” provides a portrait of Robert Morris (1823-1882) as understood through his books and papers. He has long been known as the second African-American lawyer in the United States, but his deep involvement and leadership in African-American civil rights in the 1840s and 1850s, has been underestimated.
The exhibit and 25-page illustrated catalog revealed Morris’s essential role in the Massachusetts antislavery and civil rights efforts. According to the catalog, it featured books from Morris’s personal library, generously loaned to BC Law by the John J. Burns Library at Boston College. Along with a sampling of his papers from the Boston Athenaeum, the volumes illuminated the many dimensions of Robert Morris—his ardent abolitionism, his leadership in the fight against segregated schools and militias, his devotion to his wife, his struggles with his faith, and his relationship with a young Boston College.
Davis said the law library usually relies on its special collections for its exhibits, so the Morris exhibition was something new. “This was an opportunity to look outward and make use of the wonderful Robert Morris collections at the Burns and the Athenaeum,” said Davis. “Our favorite items were those papers and books that we felt really spoke to Morris as an activist, lawyer, and lover of literature. We are hopeful that the AALL recognition will introduce a whole new audience to Robert Morris.”
“We are honored to have been given this award from this prominent organization recognizing our work to recover the library and life of Robert Morris, a great lawyer and early African American activist,” said Bilder. “We hope also that the award will encourage other collaborative efforts between librarians and faculty.”
BC Law’s honor is one of the annual awards presented by the AALL, a body of more than 4,000 law librarian and information specialists, with a third of the members in academic institutions and the remaining two-thirds in law firm, corporate, or government settings.