Passing on the Legacy
To find proof of Archie Givens’s professional good deeds, look no farther than the corner of University and Dale in St. Paul, the site of a former pornography palace that had been vacant for fifteen years. The project that now stands over the once desolate corner is groundbreaking, to say the least—a joint public library and affordable-housing complex with ninety-eight units. It’s a unique structure that fills two very real needs in the community.
“It’s a pretty cool thing,” Givens, president and CEO of Legacy Management & Development, says of the joint project between Legacy and the city. “A whole lot of social good has come out of it.”
The fruits of Givens’s volunteer work are not as visible. They lie 10,000 volumes strong in the University of Minnesota Library, the home of the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, which comprises letters, plays (the Penumbra Theatre’s complete works were recently added), manuscripts, and fiction and nonfiction works by African American authors. The collection is one of the top four of its kind in the country and, according to Givens, has “taken on a life of its own.”
Named for Givens’s father, the collection was acquired with the help of the Givens Foundation, started by his parents in 1972 as a source of scholarships for African American youth. Now the collection is used to create curriculum for teachers and bring out-of-print books back into the classroom. The foundation sponsors teacher workshops and invites influential members of the African American arts community, including poet Nikki Giovanni, for readings and discussions. Givens, who has also served on the boards of the Guthrie Theater, University of Minnesota Alumni Association, Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, and Western Bank, has even created bibliographies of essential reading for young men and women.
“It’s a way to keep this literature alive,” Givens says. “It’s amazing the power the arts have to effect people and individuals.”