Monday, February 1, 2010
Library Black History
February is Black History Month. African Americans have made a significant contribution to the development of libraries in America. American Libraries has developed a timeline of that contribution. "A Chronology of Events in Black Librarianship" can be found HERE. My path crossed that of Arna Bontemps, a notable African American writer who served as Librarian of the Fisk University Library in Nashville, Tennessee from 1943-1966,while I was working part-time at my first library job at the public library in Nashville, Tennessee. Bontemps who is pictured here was serving as a trustee of the public library. His son was also a part-time employee of the library. There is an Arna Bontemps Museum in Alexandria, Louisiana. I am hopeful that at some point Bontemps will be featured on a postage stamp in the Literary Arts series of the United States Postal Service. Other possibilities for a librarian or librarians to appear on a postage stamp including Augusta Baker are located HERE. In 1965 I met with Jesse Carney Smith, another notable African American librarian, for an interview related to my application to the University of Illinois library school. Smith was the first African American to receive her doctorate from the library school at Illinois. When I met with Dr. Smith she was librarian of what is now Tennessee State University but replaced Bontemps at Fisk University when he retired in 1966. Smith wrote Notable Black American Women which was published in 1992. The period 1961-1965 when I was attending George Peabody College in Nashville was a turbulent period in race relations in that city. The Nashville sit-ins and related protests which began on February 15, 1960 (fifty years ago this month) continued during this period. For a native Tennessean, it was a period of personal growth and understanding. The image of Arna Bontemps is from the Library of Congress Memory collection.