A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965

A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965

A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965

A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965

Synopsis

"The tradition of American public libraries is closely tied to the perception that these institutions should be open to all without regard to social background. Such was not the case in the segregated South, however, where public libraries barred entry to millions of African Americans and provided tacit support for a culture of white supremacy. A Right to Read is the first book to examine public library segregation from its origins in the late 19th century through its end during the tumultuous years of the 1960s civil rights movement. Graham focuses on Alabama, where African Americans, denied access to white libraries, worked to establish and maintain their own "Negro branches." These libraries - separate but never equal - were always underfunded and inadequately prepared to meet the needs of their constituencies." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

At approximately 3:30 p.m. on September 15, 1963, W. B. McClain and Quintus Reynolds, both African-American ministers, arrived at the Carnegie Library in Anniston, Alabama, to apply for membership at the recently integrated facility. What happened next was one of the most disturbing events in the history of American public libraries. Before they finally escaped from the waiting mob, the ministers would be knifed, chain-whipped, and savagely beaten on the steps of that public institution of culture and education. Racial fear had turned to violence as angry whites played out a worst-case scenario of library discrimination in the United States. The events in Anniston represented an extreme expression of the racial order that excluded African Americans from public libraries, and from full citizenship, in the segregation era.

The tradition of American public libraries is closely tied to the perception that individuals, regardless of their social backgrounds, may freely access information in those institutions in the interest of selfimprovement, social awareness, and entertainment. Born of a democratic impulse, or at least a reform-minded one, this right to read is associated with national issues of intellectual freedom and freedom of expression. There have been, however, vast exceptions to this ideal. Quantitatively, the most significant of these exceptions was the exclusion of millions of African Americans from the public libraries of the American South during the years before the civil rights movement. Like the nation's other contradictions of democratic ideal and actual practice, public library segregation was part of the conflict of values that characterizes the whole of American history, particularly in regard to race relations.

Southern public libraries, including those in Alabama, developed in . . .

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