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Lewis Black ’70 has donated his plays, television pilot scripts and materials from his comedy career to the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library.
Black is known for embodying cathartic anger on stage and in popular segments on The Daily Show. He’s won Grammy Awards for his comedy albums and has written three best-selling books. “I wrote all this stuff, I kept it all,” Black said. “I don’t know why. I was a writer, so I kept everything, to go back to it.”
Wilson Library already holds Black’s published works, DVDs and photographs from his student productions at Carolina. The additional material runs the trajectory of Black’s creative writing, public service and media career. The Lewis Black Collection will be used to teach students the process artists go through in developing and refining their work, said Jason Tomberlin ’97, head of special collections research and instruction. The collection also contains memorabilia, including a poster from Black’s play, Feast, which he wrote when he was a student. While at Carolina, Black was awarded a Shubert Fellowship for playwriting. After graduating, he studied at the Yale School of Drama.
In April, Black was in Chapel Hill to speak to Carolina students taking the American studies course, “Comedy and Ethics,” taught by Associate Professor Michelle Robinson. The course explores the production of comedy, the social psychology surrounding humor and the history of stand-up comedy in the 20th century.
Earlier in the semester, the students studied Black’s plays, television scripts, joke drafts and class notes that were part of the collection he donated to Wilson Library.
“The students had the opportunity to visit Wilson Library’s Southern Historical Collection and see everything from his undergraduate thesis to letters from Oprah Winfrey thanking him for being on her show,” Robinson said.
Black encouraged the students to also keep their notes and drafts throughout their academic careers. “It doesn’t count as hoarding if your papers end up in a library,” he said.
“Donating my papers to UNC gave them meaning they didn’t previously have outside of myself,” Black said. “The fact was, when the library took my papers, it was more of an honor than a Grammy. Much more.”
— Claire Cusick ’21 (MA)