Through the generosity and vision of Judge Pamela Appelt and Fabian Coverley, the executors of the Louise Bennett estate, McMaster University Library is pleased to announce that it has acquired the archives of Louise Bennett Coverley (1919-2006). Affectionately known to the public as "Miss Lou" and dubbed Jamaica’s First Lady of Comedy, she was a poet, folkorist, and entertainer - a veritable icon and champion of Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage and language. This exhibition is a celebration of her life, exuberance, and many-sided contributions. In a broader context this exhibition also focuses on the history of the West Indies.
In the last few years, our collections have benefited enormously from the donation of books from Dr. Anthony MacFarlane, a graduate of McMaster University and an insightful and assiduous collector of books, documents, imprints relating to the West Indies and its diverse history.
The University Library has a number of collections that pertain to the West Indies: books of exploration, travel, trade and commerce, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade; and archives of the novelist Austin Clarke (born in Barbados, now residing in Toronto), the politician and author Sir Edwin Leather (from 1973 to 1977, Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Bermuda, traditionally regarded as part of the British West Indies), and the Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay (correspondence with C.K. Ogden, editor, semiotician, and inventor of Basic English); and archives related to Cuba.
Shaped by European colonialists, the struggles of former African slaves, Asian immigration, and the legacy of its native peoples, the West Indies enjoys an enchanting Caribbean identity, a favourable, tropical climate, and vibrant expression found in its Creole language, music, rhythm, and, dance. We invite you to explore this exhibition. We end this introduction with the warm, parting words of the inimitable Miss Lou:
Walk-good on yuh way an
good spirit wid yuh;
Walk-good, good fallow
If yuh jus’ walk-good.