Celebrating African American Librarians and Educators

18 Feb

Vivian G. Harsh

1890 – 1960

Described as “the historian who never wrote,”Vivian Gordon Harsh devoted her life to building one of the most important research collections
on African-American history and literature in the country. The first black librarian in the Chicago
Public Library system, she was appointed head librarian of the George Cleveland Hall Branch when it opened here in 1932. It was Chicago’s first library built for an African American community.


Dr. Robert Russa Moton

1916 – 1935

Dr. Moton was named president of Tuskegee Institute following the death of Dr. Booker T. Washington, founder and first president, in 1915. He was honored as one of the speakers for the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 30, 1922, and his contributions to humankind earned him honorary degrees from Oberlin and Williams College, Virginia Union, Wilberforce, Lincoln, Harvard, and Howard Universities.


Johnnetta B. Cole

At age 15, she entered Fisk University through the school’s early admissions program. She completed her undergraduate degree at Oberlin College and went on to earn a Master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University.  In 1987, Dr. Cole made history by becoming the first African-American woman to serve as President of Spelman College. At her inauguration as seventh President of Spelman College, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille made a gift of $20 million to the College, the largest single gift from individuals to any historically Black college or university.


Carter G. Woodson

1875 – 1950

Known as the “Father of Black History,” Woodson (1875-1950) was the son of former slaves, and understood how important gaining a proper education is when striving to secure and make the most out of one’s divine right of
freedom.  Although he did not begin his formal education until he was 20 years old, his dedication to study enabled him to earn a high school diploma in West Virginia and bachelor and master’s degrees from the Universityof Chicago.  Woodson became the second African American to earn a Ph.D from Harvard University.


Christine Wigfall Morris

Christine Wigfall Morris, known as Mrs. Chris, started working as a librarian in Clearwater, Florida, in1949.  She  had never stepped foot in one of the city’s libraries before accepting the position. “It was a bad segregated area cause very few people went to the library,” said Morris, now 88 years old. “If they went to the main library, it was to return books from people they had worked for or from hotels.”

Thomas Fountain Blue

1888 – 1935

The son of former slaves, the Reverend Thomas F. Blue was the nation’s first African-American to head a public library.  He was a respected leader in the civic, religious, and educational life of the Louisville black community.  He was born in Farmville, Virginia. Upon graduating from Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1888, he gave a farewell address in which he urged his classmates to “let our every movement be characterized by unity of aim, unity of purpose and unity of act; then and not until then will the dark cloud of ignorance, superstition, and intemperance disperse, and education, intelligence, and virtue spread over our land.”

Edward Christopher Williams

1821 – 1929

Edward Christopher Williams received his bachelor’s degree from Adelbert College (the undergraduate men’s division of Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio) in 1892 as the valedictorian of his class. In 1894, he was appointed librarian of Adelbert College. When he graduated from the New York State Library School in 1900, Williams became the first professionally trained black librarian in America as well as the first black person to earn his livelihood in the field of librarianship, according to Eliza A. Gleason. Williams devoted a great deal of his time to collection building at WRU and laid the foundation for the present eminence of the collection there. When Western Reserve established a library school in 1904, Williams was appointed Instructor in bibliography and reference work, teaching courses in “Public Documents” and “The Criticism and Selection of Books.”

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 18, 2010 in Articles


Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: