By Patterson Toby Graham
A dramatic bankruptcy in American cultural heritage. * Winner of the Alabama Library Association’s Alabama writer Award for Nonfiction Patterson Toby Graham is Director of the electronic Library of Georgia on the college of Georgia in Athens.
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Additional info for A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965
Many came from rural Mississippi, drawn by the appeal of steady pay and inexpensive housing. By 1930, blacks comprised just over 13 percent of the county’s total population. 6 The origins of library service in Walker County lie in the efforts of the county school superintendent coupled with the club work of the area’s middle-class women. Superintendent J. Alex Moore had been working to improve library facilities for the county’s schools since about 1920. He initiated library service in the county by opening a teachers’ professional library in his of¤ce.
The Authority employed white women in non-physical types of projects, like libraries. 22 Despite the discrimination they faced in receiving WPA library aid, African Americans continued to express an interest in library extension. If for nothing else, they sought library work for their own ¤nancial well being. ” She asked for a library post as a remedy for the economic distress her family faced. Most requests of this type were unsuccessful, however. For example, an AfricanAmerican woman named Margaret Butcher wrote to the state librarian, Marie Bankhead Owen, asking for assistance in initiating a “Colored Public Library” in Selma.
In a 1932 letter to the New York Times, she described the library’s predicament and asked readers to donate books. ” After the Depression, the city reinstated the funding of the Davis Avenue Branch. 46 In Mobile, the maintenance of the prevailing racial order at the public library eventually superseded all other concerns. The perpetuation of segregation was more important than the wishes of the black patrons. It even outweighed economic concerns. Clearly, creating the black reading room would have been the frugal decision.
A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965 by Patterson Toby Graham