A selection of materials from the Wright Collection, which contains over 3,100 items.
Photo of W&M Libraries
by Tami Back, W&M Libraries
March 2, 2020
In the fall, the William & Mary Libraries received a valuable collection of comics and other graphic art depicting African Americans, donated by Richard Percy Wright, an avid collector who lived in Williamsburg, Virginia.
âWe are eternally grateful to Mr. Wright for contacting us to donate his collection,â said Carrie Cooper, Dean of University Libraries. “His collection will contribute to the depth of our collections on African American history and culture and enhance research and scholarship on this subject.”
Wright passed away in November.
Wright first contacted W&M in a letter he wrote to Cooper. In it, he explained that he was looking for a permanent home for his collection.
Wright knew he wanted his collection to reside in a place that would take care of it and where people would have a chance to use it.
âMr.. Wright had done his homework. He had researched local universities, trying to decide where his collection would fit best,â Cooper said. âHe heard about our Hip Hop collection and learned the classes that W&M teaches. on African American history and culture and decided that the Swem Library would make a good home for its collection. â
Excited by the letter, Jay Gaidmore, director of the library’s special collections, contacted Wright. Their first meeting gave Gaidmore some insight into Wright’s relationship with libraries.
âHe told me how he grew up in the Bronx and how the library became his refuge,â Gaidmore said.
Wright began collecting comics depicting African Americans in 1986. His collection reached over 1,000 comics over the next 30 years. It contains the first Tarzan, Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four, featuring the first appearance of Black Panther. In addition to the comics, the collection contains a variety of other material that represents African Americans in pop culture, including books, magazines, newspapers, original artwork, sheet music, cartoons, photos and reference books, bringing the total number of items in the collection to over 3,100.
âHis collection impresses with its richness and depth. It’s also unique because he understands his research notes, âsaid Meghan Bryant, library archivist. âMr. Wright has created an inventory of his materials which is wonderful to have as we process the collection.â
Once processed, the collection will be available to researchers and students who visit the Special Collections Research Center of the Swem Library.
“I expect the collection to be useful for a variety of subjects, including film studies, studies of race and racism, art and illustration, African American writers and publications, ephemeral and advertising studies and collectible stories, âsaid Bryant.