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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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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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Charles Rosenberg

book collector, historian, and journalist, was born in Philadelphia to George Bolivar, and Elizabeth LeCount Proctor Bolivar. There is some uncertainty about his precise year of birth, with historians suggesting 1844 (Silcox) or 1849 (Welborn), while census data inclines toward an 1847 date. His father was employed as a sailmaker by James Forten, a local businessman and founder of the Philadelphia Library Company of Colored Persons.

The family numbered themselves among the “O.P.”—Old Philadelphians—of the African American community. George Bolivar had been born in Philadelphia, to a Pennsylvania-born mother and a father from North Carolina. Elizabeth Bolivar was born in Pennsylvania to parents born in Maryland (1850 census). In 1850George Bolivar owned real estate valued at $8,000, while a North Carolina–born cousin, Nicholas Bolivar, lived with the family, working as a tailor. Throughout Bolivar s life there were relatives or ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Elsie A. Okobi

Nigerian historian, educator, and archivist, was born on 17 December 1917 in Awka, eastern Nigeria. In 1933 he started his secondary education at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha, before moving to the prestigious Achimota College, Accra, Ghana, in 1936. Two years later he entered Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, an affiliate of Durham University in England, which awarded Durham University degrees. Dike graduated in 1943 with bachelor of arts in English, geography, and literature and returned to Nigeria. In 1944 he went to the United Kingdom on a British Council Scholarship to the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he earned an MA in history. In 1947 he enrolled in Kings College, London, for doctoral studies in history. His 1950 dissertation “Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta 1830–1879” (published in 1956 has come to be appreciated as one of the greatest contributions to African historiography Among his ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Carmen De Michele

Nigerian curator, art critic, writer, and academic, was born in Kalaba, Nigeria, a middle-sized city close to the Cameroonian border, on 23 October 1963. He grew up in Enugu in eastern Nigeria, where he attended a British boarding school. He was taught to speak in English in addition to his native Igbo.

In 1982 Enwezor moved to the United States, where he enrolled at the Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University) in Jersey City, New Jersey, as a political science major. He earned a BA in political science in 1987. Enwezor entered the world of art through friends and by visiting a large number of art exhibitions. He turned his attention not only to contemporary American and European art but also to modern African art. He noticed that African artists were severely underrepresented in the American art scene. In 1989 Enwezor became a freelance ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

painter, graphic artist, printmaker, curator, and educator, was born in Dayton, Ohio. His family later moved to Indianapolis, where he attended high school in 1903 and 1904. While Farrow was in high school, the noted muralist William Edouard Scott recognized his artistic potential and encouraged him to enroll at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1908 Farrow moved to Chicago to begin classes at the Institute, Scott's alma mater and one of the first U.S. art schools to admit black students.

Farrow studied intermittently at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1908 to 1918, while working for the U.S. Postal Service. When Farrow arrived at the institute, founded as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1879 it was not yet a world class art institution In the early twentieth century the institute was actively building ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Paul Von Blum

art historian, educator, curator, and artist, was born Samella Sanders in New Orleans, Louisiana, the daughter of Samuel Sanders, a strawberry farm owner and Rachel (Taylor) Sanders, a seamstress. Lewis's childhood in New Orleans exposed her to black history, culture, and art—a background that informed all of her professional activities. Her early experiences with segregation catalyzed the powerful antiracist vision that influenced her entire life. For example, as a young art student, she encountered a major barrier in visiting the Delgado Art Museum, located in a municipal park reserved exclusively for whites. Her teacher, Elizabeth Catlett managed to secure a bus and had everyone in her class move directly from the bus to the museum technically avoiding the racial restrictions of the park itself Lewis began her formal art studies at Dillard University studying with Catlett who became her lifelong friend and mentor ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...