Magazine article American Libraries

Newsmaker: Christine Wigfall Morris

Magazine article American Libraries

Newsmaker: Christine Wigfall Morris

Article excerpt

Christine Wigfall Morris, affectionately known as Miss Chris, was hired by the City of Clearwater, Florida, in July 1949 as its first African-American librarian. Prior to working for the city, she had never been inside a public library because local segregation practices did not encourage African Americans to visit one. Now at 88, she has recapped her lifelong Florida history and her 33-year career as a librarian in Christine Wigfall Morn's: Stories of Family, Community, and History (PublishAmerica, 2010), cowritten with local author Barbara Sorey. Morris helped to spearhead the opening of the facility designated as the Negro Library in April 1950, located in a storefront.

American Libraries: Why did you decide to write this book?

CHRISTINE WIGFALL MORRIS: I had so much to put into the book and not all of it is in there. I also thought that it would be nice for other people to learn about the family and its history in the community.

Was there a controversy when you were hired by Clearwater in 1949?

Before I was hired, Afro Americans, or blacks, could not go into the main library. You could take books back for some of the families, but there was no place for us to go. That was the reason why a number of concerned citizens went to the city commissioners.

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What about the reaction from the staff? Some liked it and some did not. They had heard so much about Afro Americans. They wanted to feel my hair to see if it was kinky. There were certain things that they had read about Afro Americans, blacks, or Negroes that wasn't true.

What role did you play in the opening of the Negro Library in 1950? I was everything: the sweeper, the keeper, the book checker, and the storyteller. And it was a joy to know that I could hold my head up and do some of these things. …

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