On the Battle to Desegregate the Nation’s Libraries
over 1 year ago
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"The realization that the public library—idealized as a democratic place of learning and sanctuary, where the life of the mind was more ostensibly important than the color of skin—was not a haven for all was not new. As scholar Karla Holloway has written in BookMarks: Reading in Black and White, Black Americans knew that they had a “vulnerable relationship” to public libraries and found ways to “contradict the value that those segregated spaces explicitly assigned.” In 1925, NAACP Secretary Walter White mounted opposition to the establishment of a library science school at the all-Black Hampton Institute, reasoning that the creation of a segregated training program would only bolster an already segregated profession or create boundaries where they were being deliberately and incrementally torn down. A decade later, the American Library Association would be on the hot seat when it held its 1936 conference in the old Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia; Black participants were allowed, but were seated in their own section in meeting halls and were not invited to any events where meals were served."
"Segregated libraries, many but not all in the South, had developed both obvious and subtle mechanisms to keep their spaces white. If their towns were big enough, they sometimes built separate reading rooms or black libraries, often funded by Carnegie endowment money that constructed more than a thousand “Carnegie free libraries” across the nation. Bookmobiles circulated to reach readers throughout their communities, but bookmobiles also helped to divert Black readers from browsing among the stacks. As in Navesink, some libraries offered special days and hours for black patrons."
What? "A decade later, the American Library Association would be on the hot seat when it held its 1936 conference in the old Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia; Black participants were allowed, but were seated in their own section in meeting halls and were not invited to any events where meals were served."
Richmond to this day has multiple large Confederate monuments on a main avenue, so I'm not surprised. I'm actually surprised Black participants were allowed at all prior to the 1960s.
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