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Pearsall Library receives Muslim Journeys Bookshelf Grant

Rocky Mount, N.C.— Pearsall Library at North Carolina Wesleyan College in partnership with Braswell Memorial Library in Rocky Mount has been awarded a grant that will help students and community members learn more about Muslims.  Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Bridging Cultures initiative and the American Library Association (ALA), the grant will provide the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, which includes a collection of books, films, and other resources.

The materials are designed “to introduce the American public to the complex history and culture of Muslims in the United States and around the world.”  In their responsibilities for the grant, the libraries are sponsoring a series of free public programs on the themes covered by the bookshelf.  Several NC Wesleyan faculty members will serve as presenters:  Marjon Ames, Amy Brake, Amy Karnehm Willis, Jonathan Sarris, and Andrew Stern.

“We are delighted to join with Braswell Library Director Jane Blackburn and her staff in this endeavor,” said Katherine Winslow, director of the NCWC Pearsall Library.  “The books and materials are excellent and we are looking forward to some great programs.”

The books for the collection have arrived at the Braswell Library and the staff is in the process of cataloguing them for a display and use by the public.  The spring season for the Muslims Journey series opens for the public on Tuesday, February 26 with the showing of the film, Prince Among Slaves in the Booker T. Washington Theatre.  NCWC Associate Professor Jonathan Sarris will introduce the film at 6:30 pm and lead an audience discussion at its conclusion.


Actor Marcus Mitchell as Abdul-Rahman, the prince among slaves.

Prince Among Slaves premiered on PBS in February 2008.  In this depiction of a true story from 1788, a slave-ship set sail from West Africa with hundreds of men, women and children bound in chains and headed for American shores. Eight months later the survivors were sold in Natchez, Mississippi, including 26-year-old Abdul Rahman Sori, heir to the throne of one of the largest kingdoms in Africa.

On Tuesday, March 19 at 6 pm, Braswell Memorial Library will show the film, Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World.  NCWC Reference and Instruction Librarian Amy Brake will introduce the film and lead the follow-up discussion.  Brake holds an MFA degree from Hunter College, City University of New York.

The third spring program is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23 featuring a discussion focused on readings from Connected Histories led by NCWC Assistant Professor of History, Dr. Marjon Ames.  The program will begin at 6:30 pm at Braswell Library.

“We hope the community and Wesleyan students will take advantage of the opportunities to learn about Islam and the Muslim culture through these free programs and discussions,” said Winslow.  “Our goal is to help build bridges among diverse cultures and faiths through education and understanding.”   Additional programs are under development for the fall with a schedule to be announced at a future date.  Patrons are encouraged to monitor the libraries’ websites for updates.

The Pearsall and Braswell libraries are among 840 libraries and state humanities councils across the county selected to receive the NEH Muslim Journeys Bookshelf.  The grant provides twenty-five books, three films, and other materials, including bookmarks, bookplates, and posters.  In addition, it provides access to a Muslim Journeys companion website with digital resources relating to the Bookshelf.

According to NEH, the books and films comprising the Bookshelf were selected with the advice of librarians and cultural programming experts, as well as distinguished scholars in the fields of anthropology, world history, religious studies, interfaith dialogue, the history of art and architecture, world literature, Middle East studies, Southeast Asian studies, African studies, and Islamic studies.

The NEH/ALA grant background document states, “The Bookshelf is not intended to be a comprehensive study of Islam as a religion or of the Muslim world in all its complexity. NEH selected the title, Muslim Journeys, to convey a more modest ambition, which is to introduce readers to some new and diverse perspectives on the people, places, histories, beliefs, practices, and cultures of Muslims around the world, including those within the U.S.

Major support for the Bookshelf was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.  For more information, visit

For more information about the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf and the future program schedule, visit:  NC Wesleyan College Pearsall Library at  or Braswell Memorial Library at