A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from December 20, 2013
“When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground” (proverb)

Amadou Hampâté Bâ (1901-1991), a Malian writer and ethnologist, is credited for saying before UNESCO in 1960:

“En Afrique, quand un vieillard meurt, c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle.” ("In Africa, when an old man dies, it’s a library burning.")

The saying means that African oral history is especially valuable and suffers a great loss with the death of each elder. “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground” is a popular form of the saying that has also been used by American genealogists and historians.


Wikipedia: Amadou Hampâté Bâ
Amadou Hampâté Bâ (January or February 1901– May 15, 1991) was a Malian writer and ethnologist.
(...)
Quotes
En Afrique, quand un vieillard meurt, c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle. — “In Africa, when an old man dies, it’s a library burning.” 1960 at l’UNESCO.

Google Books
Cote-d’ivoire
By Dominique Desanti
Lausanne: Rencontre
1962
Pg. 27:
Selon la fulgurante formule d’un ethnologue malien, Amadou Hampâté Bâ: « Chaque vieillard qui meurt, c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle. »

Google Books
Cahiers d’études africaines
Volume 5
1965
Pg. 506:
Comme l’a dit un grand érudit africain, S.E. Ahmadou Hampate Ba, ambassadeur du Mali à Abidjan : « Un vieillard africain qui meurt, c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle. »

Google Books
Vision
Volumes 14-15
1965
Pg. 30:
Finally, M. Amadou Hampate-Ba, one of the most eminent African thinkers, appealed to Unesco to treat the safeguarding of this rich oral tradition with the same urgency as that of Abu Simbel: “Every wise old man that dies”, he said, “is a library that burns.”

Google Books
Nigeria Magazine
Issues 92-95
1967
Pg. 104:
It was Hampate Ba who said that every time an old man dies a library burns down; the work now is one of salvaging.

Google Books
The Black Mind:
History of African Literature

By O. R. Dathorne
Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press
1974
Pg. 6:
Hampate Ba is credited with having said that “every old man that dies is a library that burns down” and he was possibly thinking of the traditional methods of retention and bequeathal.

Google Books
New Approaches to Comparative Education
By Philip G. Altbach andGail Paradise Kelly
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press
1986
Pg. 222:
As an African philosopher, Hampate Ba said, “When an old person dies, it is a library that burns.

Google Books
Éduquer ou périr
By Joseph Ki-Zerbo, Unesco, UNICEF
Paris: UNICEF-UNESCO : L’Harmattan
1990
Pg. 52:
A. Hampaté Ba a raison de dire que “lorsqu’un vieillard meurt, c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle “

OCLC WorldCat record
Quand un vieillard meurt c’est une bibliothèque qui brûle
Author: Jean Revidat
Publisher: Brive-la-Gaillarde : Éd. du Ver luisant, 2009
Edition/Format: Book : French

Twitter
Tananarive Due
‏@TananariveDue
“When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.” (African proverb) Interview your elders. Record their stories.
6:40 AM - 17 Feb 12

Twitter
Nobesuthu Cele
‏@ma_Ndosi
“When an old man dies,a library burns to the ground” pic.twitter.com/zYl70xZaEu
1:27 AM - 19 Dec 13

Twitter
Ian Yorston
‏@IanYorston
‘When a storyteller dies, a library burns.’
A story told aloud, in person, has a power like no other.
http://aeon.co/magazine/living-together/live-storytelling-packs-a-powerful-punch/ … by @hamilr11
8:51 PM - 19 Dec 13

Twitter
Susan
‏@samsposting
#genealogy-Remember that old saying that every time a person dies, a library burns down. So many things I wish I’d asked my mother…
12:15 PM - 20 Dec 13

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityMedia/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • Friday, December 20, 2013 • Permalink