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Jane Brodsky Fitzpatrick

first African Americanwoman legislator in Oklahoma, librarian, teacher and activist, was the fifth of six children born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to Mabel Kennedy and James Thackeray Diggs Sr., a contractor for Gulf Oil Company.

Both Atkins's parents graduated from Slater Industrial Academy. Her parents encouraged the children, four of whom were girls, to attend college. Her brother Edward O. Diggs was the first black to attend the University of North Carolina Medical School (1961). Atkins attended segregated public schools in Winston-Salem, and graduated as valedictorian of Atkins High School at age fifteen. She enrolled in St. Augustine's, an Episcopalian college in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she met and married Charles Nathaniel Atkins on 24 May 1943. A few days later she graduated with a B.A. in French and Biology. She was an honors student, whose advisor was the historian John Hope ...

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Roanne Edwards

In her 1970 article “My Years as a Children's Librarian,” Augusta Baker summed up what she had learned in her long career: “Library work with children has had a great past and has a still greater future. Young black men and women have an opportunity to be part of this exciting future and for the sake of their children they should be.” From her appointment as assistant children's librarian in the New York Public Library system in 1937 to her retirement in 1974, Baker pursued a career of library service to children with enthusiasm, vision, and leadership. During the 1940s, while working at the library's 135th Street branch, she spearheaded the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection, whose purpose, she wrote, was “to bring together books for children that give an unbiased, accurate, well rounded picture of Negro life in all parts of the world.”

Born in ...

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Shivohn N. García

was born on 2 February 1899 in Cidra, Puerto Rico, to Felipe Belpré and Carlota Nogueras. Belpré’s passion for stories and her desire to share the culture of Puerto Rico through storytelling and children’s literature can be traced to her childhood. In an unpublished autobiographical essay, she mused that “growing up on the island of Puerto Rico in an atmosphere of natural storytellers was fun: a father whose occupation took him all over the island; a grandmother whose stories always ended with a nonsense rhyme or song, setting feet to jump, skip, or dance; elder sisters who still remembered tales told by a mother; and finally, a stepmother whose literary taste was universal” (Pura Teresa Belpré Papers, hereafter PBP). As Belpré reached adulthood, Puerto Rico was undergoing a dramatic change: in 1917 the Jones Shafroth Act bestowed US citizenship on Puerto Ricans which triggered a migration from the island ...

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Georgette Mayo

teacher, librarian, and community leader, was born Ethel Evangeline Veronica Martin in Charleston, South Carolina, the only girl of four children born to Thomas Jerry Martin, a laborer, and Ethel Sinkler Martin, a schoolteacher. Martin's youth was spent in constant transition because of family loss. Her father relocated to Chicago in search of employment and died in a streetcar accident. In 1927 her mother died of natural causes while working at the Fairwold School for Colored Girls in Columbia, South Carolina. Having lost both parents by the age of six, Martin was initially reared by her paternal grandmother, Sara Martin, who was an educator at Saint Simon Episcopal Mission in Peak, South Carolina. Ethel Martin later lived with her aunt, Dora Dillard, a seamstress in Columbia, South Carolina. Both women had a lasting influence on Martin. Her grandmother exposed her to books and Paul Laurence Dunbar ...

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Krystal Appiah

educator and librarian, was born Hallie Mae Beachem in West Baden, Indiana, the youngest daughter of Mary Lucy and Hal Beachem, a businessman. Brooks's love of libraries developed when she was nine years old, and the family moved to Indianapolis allowing her to visit the well-stocked neighborhood branch every two weeks with her siblings.

Brooks began her career in librarianship as a tenth grader at Shortridge High School when she received a scholarship to attend the Indiana State Public Library Training Course. At the end of the program, Brooks received a certificate and an appointment as an assistant librarian, attending high school classes in the morning and working forty-two hours a week at the public library in the afternoon. After graduating from high school, Brooks received a bachelor of arts degree from Butler University in Indianapolis in 1934. Two years later she married Frederic Victor Brooks ...

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Dorothy A. Washington

educator, librarian, and activist, was born Doris Hargrett in Hyde Park, Florida, the daughter of Andrew Joshua Hargrett and Delia Leana Green, both educators. Clack was the eighth of nine children born into a nurturing family and in small, tightly knit African American village. The children were “fed a constant diet of positive life-sustaining sense of values,” and she “learned many valuable lessons about community, trust, honesty, love of learning, faith in God” (Clack, 1995). Although her father died when Doris was three, his values of education, hard work, and a can-do attitude were instilled in her and her siblings by their mother. Experiencing economic hardship during the Great Depression, her mother was forced to send Doris to live with her older brother O. V. Hargrett for three years in Plant City, Florida. She rejoined the Hyde Park family at the age of nine.

Upon returning ...

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Melanie R. Thomas

librarian, library director, and educator, was born Louie Zenobia Coleman to Joseph and Alice Hunter Coleman at Childersburg, Alabama. Joseph was a farm laborer, and Alice was a homemaker and helped on the family farm. Zenobia Coleman earned a BA degree in Education at Talladega College in 1921 and continued her studies in education at the University of Chicago during the mid-to late 1920s. Coleman's first professional position was at Bricks Junior College in Brick, North Carolina (later the Franklinton Center), where she worked as a teacher and librarian from 1924 to 1932. In 1936 she graduated from Columbia University Library School earning the bachelor of science degree in Library Science She received a fellowship for advanced study through the General Education Board Fellowship an academic award program funded by the Rockefeller agency The scholarship fund provided financial aid to African American and white students from rural southern ...

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Eric Gardner

librarian, was born in Paducah, Kentucky, to Robert H. Dunlap and Emma M. (Donovan) Dunlap. Robert Dunlap, alternately listed in censuses and directories as a laborer and a driver, was Donovan's second husband, and Mollie Dunlap was raised in a large family that eventually included three siblings, four step-siblings, and her maternal grandmother. She attended schools in Paducah until the family moved north to Kalamazoo, Michigan, about 1918. She continued her education—specifically studying English and elementary education—at Wilberforce University, apparently worked at Wilberforce in the early 1920s, and also taught in Kalamazoo, where she is listed with her family in the 1920 Federal Census (p. 6B).

Dunlap accepted a position as a teacher and librarian at Winston-Salem Teachers College in North Carolina in 1925. She returned north to take an A. B. from Ohio State University in 1928 and with the aid of a fellowship ...

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Sylvia M. DeSantis

librarian and educator, was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Gleason earned an AB degree from Fisk University in 1926 and a bachelor of science in 1931 from the University of Chicago Library School. Gleason began her library employment that same year as an assistant librarian at the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes in Kentucky. In 1932 Gleason became head librarian and taught library classes in the new library department she had created. The department, in conjunction with the Louisville Western Colored Branch Library, offered the only available library classes for African Americans in Kentucky between 1932 and 1951. In 1936 Gleason left Kentucky, earned a master's of arts degree in Library Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and taught at Fisk University in Tennessee as an assistant professor through 1937.

Gleason's impressive academic career reached a zenith in 1940 when she became the first African ...

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Courtney L. Young

was born in Tallahassee, Florida, the daughter of Colleen Dowling (Hayden), a music teacher and social worker, and Bruce Kenard Hayden, Jr., a college music professor (specializing in stringed instruments). Carla Diane Hayden was raised in Brooklyn, New York and Chicago.

In 1973 Hayden received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Roosevelt University in Chicago. She later received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Library Science from the University of Chicago, a program that closed in 1989. Her professional library career began in 1973 as a library associate and children’s librarian at the Chicago Public Library. In 1979 she became the young adult services coordinator, a position she held until her first departure from the library system in 1982. She set up and operated the library at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry from 1982 to 1987 In this position Hayden became a library advocate skilled in ...

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Sharon Howard

librarian, archivist, bibliophile, and college professor, was born Jean Blackwell in Summerfield, Florida, to Paul O. Blackwell and Sarah Myers. Her father was a commission merchant who operated a farm, buying and shipping produce. Her mother taught elementary school. At age four she moved to Baltimore, Maryland, her mother's hometown. Paul Blackwell remained in Florida and visited the family over the years. Blackwell was a very precocious child and a voracious reader. She graduated as valedictorian from Baltimore's Frederick Douglass High School in 1931. The prestigious secondary school gave her a love of black history, which was taught by Yolande Du Bois and May Miller, daughters of two famous black leaders, W. E. B. Du Bois and Kelly Miller. She met the poet and writer Langston Hughes, with whom she shared a lifelong friendship, and the composer and pianist Eubie Blake ...

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Richard Newman

Born into a middle-class family in Summerfield, Florida, Jean Blackwell Hutson was the second African American (following Zora Neale Hurston) to graduate from Barnard College, and the first to receive a master's degree from Columbia University's School of Library Service. She was married to Andy Razaf, the song lyricist who collaborated with Thomas “Fats” Waller, and then to John Hutson, a library security guard. Their adopted daughter, Jean, died in 1992.

Hutson joined the staff of the New York Public Library in 1936 and twelve years later was appointed head of its black collection, originally the private library of Afro–Puerto Rican bibliophile Arthur A. Schomburg, on 135th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem Under her leadership the library s holdings grew from 15 000 books to its present collection of more than five million separately catalogued items including manuscripts music art photographs and ...

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Carolyn Wedin

librarian. Hutson was born three months prematurely in Summerfield, Florida, the only child of Paul O. Blackwell, a commission merchant, and Sarah Myers Blackwell, an elementary school teacher. Moving with her mother to Baltimore at age four, young Jean suffered from allergies, anemia, and rheumatism. Precocious, she loved reading and graduated from high school as valedictorian at age fifteen. She enrolled at the University of Michigan, planning to study psychiatry, but the Great Depression intervened, and she transferred to Barnard College in New York City, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1935. In 1936 she was the first black person to earn a master of arts degree at the Columbia University School of Library Service, having decided on a more practical occupation with a shorter training period. In 1941 she also received teacher certification from Columbia.

Jean Blackwell worked briefly at a high school in ...

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Allison M. Sutton

librarian, library educator, administrator, and advocate for librarians, was born Virginia Lacy, the only child of Edward and Ellen Parker Lacy of Cincinnati, Ohio. Her father died when she was eighteen months old, and Jones spent her early years living with her mother and grandmother in a poor, racially mixed neighborhood in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Her mother took in boarders to help with expenses, and as Jones recalls of these additional residents, “They made a very good environment for me to grow up in because they were all rather accomplished people” (Anderson, 1978 In Clarksburg Lacy completed elementary school and her first two years of high school There were also frequent trips with her mother to the Clarksburg Public Library as her mother worked to ensure that Lacy had an appreciation for the value of education reading and cultural arts Under the guidance of ...

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Melanie R. Thomas

educator, university librarian, and historian, was born in Texarkana, Texas, to Early Marshall, a carpenter and railroad worker, and Muskogee, Oklahoma, native Mary (Bland) Marshall. Little is known about Marshall's early life, but his father died when “A.P.” was still a boy, and the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. There Marshall began his library work experience at one of the public library branches while he attended high school. Marshall prepared himself for a professional career by attending Lincoln University at Jefferson City, Missouri (1934–1938), earning a BA in English and History. He continued his studies at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, receiving a BS degree in Library Science in 1939.

His foremost contribution to the field of library services was A Guide to Negro Periodical Literature (vols. 1–4, Nov. 1941–Dec. 1946 which he began while working as a library ...

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Saundra Liggins

Sharon Bell Mathis's concern for the welfare of young people is evident in her career as a teacher and librarian, but closest to her heart is her role as author. Mathis explains that “I write to salute the strength in Black children and to say to them, ‘Stay strong, stay Black and stay alive’” (quoted in Something about the Author, vol. 3, 1987).

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mathis grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, where she attended parochial schools. Her parents, John Willie and Alice Mary Frazier Bell exposed her to a vast array of literary works and encouraged her to write poems stories and plays Despite her affinity for this work however Mathis decided not to pursue a career as an author believing that she would neither be able to make a living at it nor be as great a contributor ...

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Karen Mason

public librarian and activist, was the second of three children born to the painter Reuben Hearde Matthews and the homemaker Fannie Elijah Matthews in Pensacola, Florida. Matthews's paternal grandparents were schoolteachers, and her maternal grandfather, Zebulon Elijah, was Pensacola's first postmaster. Despite a relatively comfortable life the Matthews chose to move Miriam and her siblings, Ella Shaw and Charles Hearde, to Los Angeles in 1907 in order to shield them from the inevitable limitations of racism and segregation in the South. The entire family flourished socially and professionally in their new city. Miriam Matthews distinguished herself as a trailblazer by becoming in 1927 the first known credentialed African American librarian in the Los Angeles Public Library system, where she enjoyed a thirty-three-year career first as a branch librarian, then as a regional librarian after 1949 During her tenure she became recognized for her expertise in documenting ...

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Ramona Hoage Edelin

library educator and administrator, author and developer of special collections, was born Alethia Annette Lewis in Orangeburg, South Carolina, on the campus of South Carolina State College, the first of two children of William Charles Lewis II and Alethia Minnie Lightner Lewis. Her parents were both educators and church and civic leaders. W. C. “Dad” Lewis was a professor and coach at South Carolina State College. Alethia Lightner Lewis taught in a one-room rural schoolhouse for all the African American children in the county for many years before accepting a position teaching first grade in town during the early 1950s. Her brother, William Charles “Pap” Lewis III, coach and educator, was the only African American to retain his head coaching position at a high school in the state of South Carolina after desegregation.

Annette Lewis completed her primary and secondary education in Orangeburg at age sixteen and ...

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Billie E. Walker

librarian, author, developer of curricula in multicultural children's literature, and one of the first bibliographers of African American children's books, was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the daughter of Allen G. Hill, a farmer, and Birdie Tucker, a teacher. During her early childhood, Rollins's family moved to the Oklahoma territory. Although Rollins was denied access to her local library as a child because of her race, she credited her family with encouraging her to seek as much education as possible, and her grandmother, a former slave, with instilling in her a love of books. She explained: “Grandma told wonderful stories of her life as a slave. I've always loved books because of her…. I would read anything and everything” (Hopkins, 300). Rollins attended segregated schools in Beggs, Oklahoma; St. Louis, Missouri; and Holly Springs, Mississippi; and in 1916 she graduated from ...

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Christina G. Bucher

journalist, librarian, bibliographer, and fiction writer, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Henry Allen and Bessie Lucas Allen, social workers. Her mother, in fact, was the first African American social worker in Louisville. Shockley's aspirations to be a writer began at Madison Junior High School when a teacher encouraged her in her work; she later became editor of the school newspaper.

Shockley left Louisville in 1944 for Nashville, Tennessee, to attend Fisk University, where she wrote for and served as the fiction editor for the Fisk University Herald. When she returned to Louisville for the summer after her freshman year, she wrote a column titled “Teen Talk” for the Louisville Defender. Upon graduating from Fisk in 1948, Shockley moved to Maryland, where she convinced the white editor of the Federalsburg Times to include a column called Ebony Topics in which she ...