Black Librarians Table

Black Librarians Table


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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Black Librarians Table



 Arna Bontemps                                                                       Marcus Bruce Christian



An Overview


David Ruggles (1810-1849), born in Norwich, Connecticut, is probably the first known African-American book collector. He was  was known for his intimate knowledge of law as it related to cases of formerly enslaved escapees on the Underground Railroad. Black Librarians

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This book [Bibliography of the Negro in Africa and America (1928)] has a history of a quarter of a century. The first date of importance is 1904, when the author, Mr. Monroe N. Work, was  a teacher of History at the Georgia State Industrial College in Savannah. He then became deeply interested in the study of Africa and began to compile a bibliography on the subject. This work was materially helped by his purchasing several thousand cards on Africa from the Library of Congress.Anselm Phelps Stokes

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Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995), a scholar-librarian and bibliographer was born in Warrenton, Virginia in 1905, to her father, Hayes Joseph Burnett, a physician, and her mother, Bertha Ball Burnett, a tennis champion.  After receiving her A.B., from Howard University in 1928, she became the first African American woman to complete her graduate studies at Columbia University receiving a Bachelors (1931) and a Masters (1932) of Science in Library Science.   Dorothy Bennett joined the library staff at Howard University in 1928, and on December 29, 1929 married James Amos Porter. In 1930 University President W. Mordecai Johnson appointed her to organize and administer a Library of Negro Life and History incorporating the 3,000 titles presented in 1914 by Jesse Moorland.

  The library opened in 1933 as the Moorland Foundation.  In 1946 Howard University purchased the Arthur Spingarn Collection.  By the time Porter retired in 1973 the library, which was now called the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, had over 180,000 books, pamphlets, manuscripts and other primary sources.  Over 43 years, Porter had successfully created a leading modern research library that served an international community of scholars. . . . Black Past

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Glennor Shirley head librarian for Md. prisons, believes in books behind bars—By Michael S. Rosenwald—25 March 2011—Glennor Shirley, head librarian for Maryland prisons, responsible for the rows of books behind the barbed-wire fences here at Western Correctional Institution and 16 other state prison libraries. . . .Miss Shirley, 67, immigrated to Maryland in the 1980s from Jamaica, where she was a librarian. She has a gentle voice, inflected with an island accent, and she’s a talker. While working low-level jobs in public libraries during the day, she worked nights in a prison library to pay her bills. . . .

Roughly 7,000 new prisoners sign up for library privileges every year, according to state statistics. There are about 199,000 items in monthly circulation. The libraries look little different than an elementary school’s facility. The shelves are low. The Dewey Decimal System is in operation.

Posters for the National Book Festival hang on the wall, even though these library patrons won’t attend. Miss Shirley has found that leisure reading among prisoners—when they aren’t doing legal research—has held relatively steady. Urban novels are popular. So are romance novels by Jackie Collins and Eric Jerome Dickey.

“A lot of guys in relationships, they read that stuff to tap their sensitive aspects,” says Heslop, the inmate from Silver Spring. Westerns are popular for their depiction of old-time lawlessness. Thrillers are also in high demand.—WashingtonPost

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Racism: A History, the 2007 BBC 3-part documentary explores the impact of racism on a global scale. It was part of the season of programs on the BBC marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. It’s divided into 3 parts.

The first, The Colour of Money . . . Racism: A History [2007]—1/3

Begins the series by assessing the implications of the relationship between Europe, Africa and the Americas in the 15th century. It considers how racist ideas and practices developed in key religious and secular institutions, and how they showed up in writings by European philosophers Aristotle and Immanuel Kant.

The second, Fatal Impact . . . Racism: A History [2007] – 2/3

Examines the idea of scientific racism, an ideology invented during the 19th century that drew on now discredited practices such as phrenology and provided an ideological justification for racism and slavery. The episode shows how these theories ultimately led to eugenics and Nazi racial policies of the master race.

And the 3rd, A Savage Legacy . . .  Racism: A History [2007] – 3/3

Examines the impact of racism in the 20th century. By 1900 European colonial expansion had reached deep into the heart of Africa. Under the rule of King Leopold II, the Belgian Congo was turned into a vast rubber plantation. Men, women and children who failed to gather their latex quotas would have their limbs dismembered. The country became the scene of one of the century’s greatest racial genocides, as an estimated 10 million Africans perished under colonial rule.

The Enoch Pratt Free Library

Baltimore, Maryland

page 48

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African Libraries Project (Runoko)

Anson Phelps Stokes 

Ansom Stokes Intro 

Arna Bontemps African-American Museum

Arthur Schomburg

Basic Background Reading on Afrocentrism

Bebop, Modernism & Change (bibliography by Dr. Floyd Hayes, III)

Bibliophiles and Collectors of African Americana 

The Black Presence in the Bible: A Selected Bibliography  (Runoko)

The Bible Itself A Library

A Bibliography of Bibliographies 

Bibliography of the Negro Table 

Bibliophiles and Collectors 

Bill Gates and Libraries

A Black Man Talks of Reaping

Black Presence in the Bible: A Selected Bibliography  (Runoko)

Carnegie Sketch  

Carnegie Table 

Christian’s BioBibliographical Record

Chronology in Black Librarianship   

The Commission on Interracial Cooperation

Cuban BookList

Cuba Photo-Exhibit 

Dudley Randall and Audre Lorde

Fifty Years Ago

Immigrants British  — Immigrants, Minorities and Race Relations

The Importance of an African Centered Education

Introduction By  R.R. Bowker 

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

Kalamu ya Salaam: A Primary Bibliography

Method of  Giving 

Monroe Work Preface 

My Archival Experience 

Niger and the National Museum  (Runoko)

Reading Africana

Rhonda Miller/Chuck Siler Bibliography 

State of HBCU Archives 

Tuskegee Library & R.R. Taylor 

What Is A Library?

Writing and Libraries

Writing History       

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Related files

Activist Works on Next Level of Change

American Bible Editions — Paul C. Gutjahr

America With Its Pants Down

The Bible and Biblical Typology

Bibliophiles and Collectors  of African Americana

The Black Experience in America is Unique

Britannica Negro 1910

Call for Artists and Photographers

Christian’s BioBibliographical Record 

The Dark Side of Obedience

Dark Matter

Education & History

Fifty Influential Figures 

Gates the Birth Encarta Africana 

H. L. Mencken Collection

Inside the Caribbean

Is There a Need for a Black Agenda?

A Labor of Genuine Love

Legitimacy to Lead 

Letter from Dillard University

The Lie That Unraveled the World  

Lies Truth and Unwaged Housework    

Locked Up in Land of the Free   

Louisiana Endowment Review 

Lynching Index

Magpies, Goddesses, & Black Male Identity 

Master of the Intellectual Dodge   Gates the Birth

My Archival Experience

Nicohola Guillen  

Noise of Class Ideology 

Pedro Pérez Sarduy

Poems in the Key of Life

The Psychology of Reading

The Quest for the Cuban Christ 

Race in US Politics Syllabus

Religion and Colonial Brazil

Religion & Politics

Responses to Skip Gates’ The Talented Fifth   Encarta Africana

Rules for Radicals

Runoko Rashidi    

Satan’s Advancing Kingdom

The Shape of Absence — Hannah Craft

Stirrings in the Jug Adolph Reed

A Theory of a Black Aesthetic

Those Missing Noses in Kemet Sculpture

White Nationalism Black Interests Reviews 

White Nationalism Contents

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Vivian Gordon Harsh

She was the first African American librarian in the Chicago Public Library system and a significant contributor to Chicago’s Black Renaissance.  In 1932 she was appointed head librarian of the George Cleveland Hall Branch, the city’s first library built in an African American community. During her career, Harsh developed a black history collection that would become a world-renowned resource for residents and scholars.

Harsh was born on May 27, 1890 in Chicago to Fenton and Maria (Drake) Harsh, both graduates of Fisk University. Fresh out of high school, Vivian Harsh began work in 1909 as a junior clerk at the Chicago Public Library where she would remain during her 60-year career. In 1921, she received her B.A. in library science from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, and later took advanced courses at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Library Science. In 1924 she became the city’s first black professional librarian. Through her involvement with The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History founded by Carter G. Woodson, Harsh recognized the need for library services on Chicago’s south side, the heart of the city’s African American community.

Funding from philanthropist Julius Rosenwald allowed Harsh to visit African American collections in other U.S. cities, providing the basis for the George C. Hall branch that opened in the Bronzeville neighborhood in 1932 with Harsh as its director.—blackpast

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Anne Spencer

poet, a civil rights activist, a teacher, a librarian, and a gardener

In 1924, Spencer was hired by the Jones Memorial Library’s board of trustees to work at the Dunbar High School library. Dunbar was Lynchburg’s African American high school and its library the only branch open to African Americans in the city. Between these two jobs, Spencer spent much of her time writing and serving on committees to improve the legal, social, and economic aspects of African Americans’ lives.

During this time, Spencer also helped to establish the Lynchburg chapter of the NAACP and led a campaign to hire black teachers in black schools.—EncyclopediaVirginia

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Lucille Baldwin Brown

(ca. 1940s)

She was born on Suwannee Street in Smokey Hollow community to Mr. and Mrs. Dallis Baldwin (who cofounded St. John now New St. John Church). Lucille Baldwin Brown was the first Black public county librarian in Tallahassee, Florida. State Library and Archives of Florida

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Time’s Unfading Garden: Anne Spencer’s Life and Poetry

By J. Lee Greene

This biography about the life of lesser-known Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, reveals details about the Harlem Renaissance that helps to link people, places and events together. Mrs. Spencer’s garden home was an important nexus between the North and the South for many of the Black intelligentsia during that time. Her biography shares her friendships with James Weldon Johnson, W. E. B. Du Bois and others; giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of these great figures of African American history.  We also receive the gift of learning about Mrs. Spencer’s literary contribution to the Harlem Renaissance, with a healthy collection of her poems placed in an appendix in the back of the book. “Time’s Unfading Garden” would be a wonderful addition to any Harlem Renaissance collection. It is a rare item today, but if you can find it, it is worth the investment.

Anne Spencer (1882-1976), poet and librarian, lived and worked in the Pierce Street home from 1903 until death in 1975. Internationally recognized as a poet of the Harlem Renaissance period, Anne was the first Virginian and first African-American to have her poetry included in the Norton Anthology of American Poetry. Also an activist for equality and educational opportunities for all, she hosted such dignitaries as Langston Hughes, Marian Anderson, George Washington Carver, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Weldon Johnson, and W. E. B. Du Bois. The local chapter of the NAACP was founded from her home. The restored garden, where Anne was an avid gardener, and Edankraal, a one-room retreat where Anne did much of her writing, are also part of the property.—WEB Archives

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Introduction to I Am New Orleans—From 1944 to 1950, [Marcus Bruce] Christian continued his association with Dillard as assistant librarian. In her Christian essay, Marilyn Hessler suggested that Christian left Dillard after a member of Dillard’s library staff raised objections to his presence on staff without degree. After Dillard, Christian became a “recluse”; the poet “sank into abysmal poverty and everyone lost sight of him,” according to Hessler.

“Living in virtual poverty, Christian,” Dent wrote, “tried to maintain his vast and valuable collection of historical documents and rare books, his long-hoped-for volume on black Louisiana history still incomplete.” In Hurricane Betsy, Dent continued, Christian suffered the indignity of arrest as a looter in his efforts to wade to his house to save his collection from the floodwaters of the Lower Ninth Ward (Dent, 1984).

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The Bible is itself a library. During the Middle Ages it was commonly called, first “The Divine Library” and then “The Library” (Bibliotheca) in the same exclusive sense that it is now known as “The Book” (Biblia as Latin singular). Even the word Bible itself is historically “Library” rather then “Book” for it was originally the neuter Biblia “The Books,” although now made by violence into a Latin feminine singular, and “the books,” i.e., books collectively, is a natural and common name for library. Bible as Library

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Jessie Carney Smith

In 1964 Smith became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in library science from the University of Illinois. Beyond the confines of academia where she found her niche, she is widely known for her written collections that document the culture and achievements of African Americans and of Black people worldwide. Smith has lectured widely and served in a variety of international assignments.

After completing her doctorate at the University of Illinois, she joined Fisk University in 1965.

Born Jessie Carney on September 24, 1930, Smith grew up outside of Greensboro, North Carolina. She had two older siblings and a twin brother. Her parents, James and Versona (Bigelow) Carney, graduates of North Carolina A&T, ran James’s small business. The whole family would often help in the store. Smith’s maternal grandparents lived only yards from the Carney home. . . .

Smith has further plans for the library and her writing career. “I find this is a very exciting time to be in library and information sciences and to become involved in the constant changes that technology brings,” she told CBB. Given the low funding usually allocated to libraries, Smith admitted that she could have enjoyed her position much more if funds and been available to make Fisk’s library high-tech. Outside the library, Smith’s newest projects included a third volume of Notable Black American Women, set to be published in 2002. Answers

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David Ruggles

 (1810 – December 16, 1849)

No comprehensive work dealing with early African-American collectors and collections would be complete without chronicling the work of David Ruggles. Although his life and writings never gained a niche in the annals of American literature, for me his life was almost as exciting as Benjamin Franklin’s. Ruggles was probably the first known African-American book collector. He was born free in 1810 in Norwich, Connecticut, and was known for his intimate knowledge of law as it related to cases of formerly enslaved escapees on the Underground Railroad. Ruggles was a major station keeper on the New York City branch of the Railroad. A noted orator, Ruggles widely circulated essays and pamphlets, which infuriated pro-enslavement agitators and led to the burning of the bookstore which he had worked to establish. His magazine, Mirror of Liberty, published in New York in 1838, was the first magazine produced in the United States by an African American. Wikipedia

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People in Need Are Filling and Taxing Libraries—As the national economic crisis has deepened and social services have become casualties of budget cuts, libraries have come to fill a void for more people, particularly job-seekers and those who have fallen on hard times. Libraries across the country are seeing double-digit increases in patronage, often from 10 percent to 30 percent, over previous years.But in some cities, this new popularity—some would call it overtaxing —is pushing libraries in directions not seen before, with librarians dealing with stresses that go far beyond overdue fines and misshelved books. Many say they feel ill-equipped for the newfound demands of the job, the result of working with anxious and often depressed patrons who say they have nowhere else to go. The stresses have become so significant here that a therapist will soon be counseling library employees. NYTimes

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Jacob C. White, Jr. (1837-1902)

A life-long friend of Octavius Catto, Jacob C. White, Jr. co-founded the Pythians. . . In 1868, two former classmates and best friends founded the Pythians, one of Philadelphia’s first African-American baseball nines, and a team that would be the first in the nation to petition for membership in an organized baseball league. Jacob “Jake” White Jr. (1837-1902) and Octavius Catto had been friends since childhood. Both were sons of prominent black Philadelphians. . . .

In the 1890s White helped found the American Negro Historical Society—one of the first in the country to collect materials that documented the history of African Americans – and placed in its care the records of the Pythians, which he had held onto for more than twenty years. When W. E. B. DuBois came to Philadelphia in 1896 to research his path breaking sociological study, The Philadelphia Negro, White was one of his most important contacts and sources of information. Explore PA History

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Daniel Alexander Payne Murray (1852-1925) Assistant librarian, Library of Congress; bibliographer, author, politician, and historian was the son of a freed slave. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland on March 3, 1852. In 1861, he went to work at the United States Senate Restaurant managed by his brother who was also a caterer. Murray became the personal assistant to the Librarian of Congress, Ainsworth Rand Spofford at the age of nineteen. On April 2, 1879 he married Anna Evans with whom he had seven children. By 1881 he had risen to become assistant librarian. He joined the professional staff of the Library of Congress in 1871. He was eighteen years old, and only the second black American to work for the Library. Ten years later Murray was named assistant librarian, a position he held for forty-one years. Murray married educator Anna Jane Evans, and the couple became a major force in the social and civic life of the District of Columbia.

Murray began to compile a collection of books and pamphlets authored by African Americans at the request of Herbert Putnam, the successor to Spofford. Wikipedia

The collection was to be an exhibition for the 1900 Paris Exposition on “Negro Authors”. In 1900 Murray published a list of the collections’ holdings to date and appealed for additions to the list through donations.

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Constance Porter Uzelac, formerly a medical librarian, is the guardian and keeper of the numerous books, papers and art works that once belonged to her parents and is now devoting her life to organizing and managing the Dorothy Porter Wesley Research Center (incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in 1995), an archive of items from the estates of her parents, James Amos and Dorothy Louis Burnett Porter, and step-father, Charles Harris Wesley. Her publications include William Cooper Nell: Nineteenth-century Abolitionist, Historian, Integrationist; Selected Writings, 1832-1874. BlackPast

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Salaam: When we read some of the letters, statements, and interviews with people from the village period about you, when they would mention you, a lot of the writers and publishers had a lot of respect for your talent as an editor. Did you think of yourself as talented as an editor?

Baraka: Yeah. I thought I knew how to get together something that people wanted to read. I figured if I found something I wanted to read then I knew a lot of people would like it.

Salaam: How did you develop that talent?

Baraka: I think by knowing the field and knowing the varieties of that discipline, knowing about magazines and about other kinds of publications, which I did know a great deal about.

Salaam: How did you know about that?

Baraka: While I was in the Air Force I had read everything in the world.

Salaam: Is that what you did while in the Air Force instead of Air Forcing?

Baraka: Yeah, I was the night librarian, and I ordered all the books. The woman who was the day librarian found out I knew all about the books so she hired me as the night librarian. So the whole time I was at Ramey when I wasn’t up flying, I was in the library. I ordered all the books and the records. I had my own group in there. We would sit there get drunk and read and listen to music.

Salaam: You mean you went through that whole library?

Baraka: Yeah, I stocked the sucker. Not only did I go through it, but I stocked it. I would go through all the bestsellers and the publisher’s catalogues and find out what was happening, what was I supposed to know about, what was I supposed to read.

Salaam: Basically you read not only what they call the classics, you read everything that was happening?

Baraka: Yeah. Bestsellers, classics, whatever. I would check it out and find out what was it, what was it supposed to be, who was a Kafka. I would search around until I would find Kafka, I would read it, and then I got it.—Amiri Baraka Analyzes How He Writes

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It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this Bibliography to all students of the Negro and of interracial problems. During recent weeks I have personally had several examples of its need and value. A graduate student at a southern university wrote me asking information regarding books dealing with the Negro and crime. Chapter XXXIV, Section 1-3, gives the student a key to this whole difficult field. Similarly, another correspondent wished information regarding the segregation of the Negro in public places in American cities. Chapter XXXIII, Section 4, gives him all essential facts regarding the racial characteristics of the Negro, as shown both in Africa and the United States. Chapter XXXVIII, supplemented by Chapter XXVII, will make it possible for him to pursue his inquiries intelligently. Scores of questions such as those mentioned can be answered in a competent way only by the use of this work.  Significance of the Bibliography

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Mayor Bloomberg’s budget ax will prune key public library branches—”Queens Library was recently recognized nationally as Library Journal ‘s ‘2009 Library of the Year’ in part because of the quality, depth and breadth of our programs and services,” said Thomas Galante, the library’s CEO. “When service hours are reduced by over 40% – as would happen with this budget – nearly every opportunity library users currently have, to improve and enrich their lives, could be lost behind locked doors.”

For the 50,000 people who walk through the doors of the Queens Library system each day, this would be tragic.

The city’s proposed budget calls for slashing $16.9 million on July 1 from the Queens Library. This is on top of previous funding reductions, bringing the total cut to $28.3 million—30% sustained since 2008.

If this happens, library services in the borough will have been reduced to their lowest levels ever. The cuts are part of a larger citywide plan to plug a $4.9 billion budget deficit.

Testimony given by Galante before the City Council in March forewarned that budget cuts of this magnitude would close 14 neighborhood libraries in Queens. The remaining 48 branches would continue to have weekday and Saturday hours.

More than 400 Queens library staffers would be laid off—30% of its workforce. Two-thirds of the community libraries in Queens would be closed more days than they are open.

The negative impact would be tremendous.”This is the worst time to cut the budget because people are using the library more than ever,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens), who for 11 years worked in the Queens Library system. The library’s free computers, for example, are used for about 250,000 sessions a month.

If funding is further reduced, schoolchildren won’t be able to access homework help, and the people who go to the library for job search assistance, ESOL programs, literacy programs and more than 1,000 free public-use computers would find these services drastically curtailed. If the budget reductions take place, it would be the first time in its history that the Queens Library system is forced to close a community library outright.

“Even during the depths of the Great Depression, libraries remained open seven days a week to serve a population desperately in need.” Galante said. “While the mayor, the speaker and city government embark on their ambitious plans to get people back to work, to support small business, to connect students to resources and job opportunities and to educate our adults,” Galante said, “it would be counterproductive to shut the doors on an institution with a proven record of accomplishing all of those goals.”

That is why keeping the Queens Library open in every community is so important. The community needs to be actively involved in defending its library.

“Please join us in letting your elected officials know that libraries are important to you by signing the petition at,” Galante said.  Source: NYDaily News

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Library Community Rallies to Aid Earthquake-Stricken Haiti—Unlike so many medical facilities destroyed by the earthquake, the Hospital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles was unscathed and utilizing every inch of space to treat patients. “Every single room is being pulled into service,” Ian Rawson said in the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Tribune-Review reported January 14. “The classrooms are closed. The library is closed. The cafeteria is closed.”

Miraculously, the National Library building also survived, Director-General Françoise Beaulieu-Thybule e-mailed members of the Conference of Directors of National Libraries January 15. “The building of the National Library is safe [although] the shelving and holdings have shifted,” she wrote [3]. Noting that “our building is the only one standing in the whole area,” Beaulieu-Thybule added, “I have not been able to locate all the personnel; half of them are safe. We keep on checking.”—AmericanLibrariesMagazine

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This Book Is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us

By Marilyn Johnson

In an information age full of Google-powered searches, free-by-Bittorrent media downloads and Wiki-powered knowledge databases, the librarian may seem like an antiquated concept. Author and editor Johnson (The Dead Beat) is here to reverse that notion with a topical, witty study of the vital ways modern librarians uphold their traditional roles as educators, archivists, and curators of a community legacy. Illuminating the state of the modern librarian with humor and authority, Johnson showcases librarians working on the cutting edge of virtual reality simulations, guarding the Constitution and redefining information services—as well as working hard to serve and satisfy readers, making this volume a bit guilty of long-form reader flattery. Johnson also makes the important case for libraries—the brick-and-mortar kind—as an irreplaceable bridge crossing economic community divides. Johnson’s wry report is a must-read for anyone who’s used a library in the past quarter century.—Publishers Weekly

Contemporary librarians are morphing into undisputed masters of the information cosmos. An Internet-savvy, database-crunching cohort of multimedia manipulators passionately dedicated to empowering the data-deprived, they democratically distribute all the fruits of the emerging hypertext universe. Johnson’s paean to this new generation of librarians demolishes superannuated myths and stereotypes of fusty librarians filing catalog cards and collecting fines for overdue books, and replaces that with a vision of the profession’s future where librarians serve as guardians and guides to information in cyberspace. These rock-star librarians maneuver their way through a labyrinthine network of glowing computer-terminal screens to retrieve whatever answers patrons may seek. If that’s not high calling enough, librarians stand tall as superhero sentinels bravely beating back every assault on civil liberties and Constitutional government. Johnson offers portraits of American librarians, both institutional and freelance, already achieving fame as cybrarians and informationists, and she affirms and celebrates their conquests. Take that, Nicholson Baker!—Mark Knoblauch,  Booklist

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The Idea of the Library in the Ancient World

By Yun Lee Too

 The Idea of the Library in the Ancient World takes the reader not just to Alexandria, the home of the famed library of Greco-Roman antiquity, but far beyond it. Reading across antiquity from the fifth century BCE to the ninth century CE with Photius, the Byzantine scholar, this study recognizes that ‘library’ in antiquity comes in various forms and shapes. It can be a building with books, but it can also be individual people and individual books themselves. Its functions in antiquity are also numerous. The library is an instrument of power, of memory, of which it has various modes; it is an articulation of a political ideal, an art gallery, a place for social intercourse. The book indirectly raises issues about the contemporary library as a collection and in this way it demonstrates that antiquity offers insight into the topics that the library now raises.

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The vast generosity of Mr. Carnegie to literature and scholarship—for the library is the storehouse of literature and the open door to scholarship—is not a matter of impulse and did not take its rise in suggestion from without. Love of poetry and learning came to him by inheritance. His youth knew the spell and the inspiration of Burns and Shakespeare and those noble old ballads in which the idealism, the passion, and the tragedy of the Scottish found such moving and dramatic expression. Andrew Carnegie

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It is a correlative of the Carnegie Foundation and of the Carnegie Institution, each doing altruistic work in its separate field. Up to the year 1907 Mr. Carnegie’s library gifts had provided for 1636  library buildings, covering grants of $44,545,742 — 1014, representing $32,734,267, in the United States, and the others dotted over England, Wales, and Scotland, Canada, South Africa, and other parts of the English-speaking world. A decade later, up to 1917, the total grants promised by Mr. Carnegie personally, and by the Carnegie Corporation, had provided for 2865 buildings amounting to $65,069,684.44, in itself an enormous fortune. It would be unfair not to recognize at this writing the part of Mr. James Bertram, first, as Mr. Carnegie’s personal secretary for library purposes, and later as secretary of the Carnegie Corporation, and as the general channel of Mr. Carnegie’s library generosity. Carnegie & Method of Giving

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Arna Wendell Bontemps (1902-1973) — born in Alexandria, Louisiana, the son of Creole parents —  was one of the more prolific writers of the Harlem Renaissance. He was the author of over 25 books of poetry, history, biography, fiction and anthologies. Bontemps was a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Bontemps served as head librarian at Fisk University from 1969 to 1972.

He was also curator of the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters at Yale University.  In 1923, Bontemps received his B.A. from Pacific Union College in Angwin. In 1924, his poetry appeared in Crisis magazine, the NACCP periodical edited by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois.

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“It has been my good fortune,” said President Taft, at the dedication of the Carnegie Library of Howard University, “to stand with Mr. Carnegie and to speak with him from the same platform at Tuskegee, at Hampton, and here, and to hear his accents of encouragement to the colored race and his wise advice to them as to the necessity for education on their part, and as to the obligation of each individual of the race to remember that in all his conduct he is a representative, and on trial. Mr. Carnegie was absent a year ago when we founded this library. I was glad, on the occasion of the laying of the cornerstone, for the moment to officiate in his place and to feel as a great millionaire benefactor feels.”  Tuskegee Library and Carnegie

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The Black Caucus of the American Library Association serves as an advocate for the development, promotion, and improvement of library services and resources to the nation’s African American community; and provides leadership for the recruitment and professional development of African American librarians.

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Edward Wilmot Blyden (3 August 1832 – 7 February 1912) was a Sierra Leone Creole and Americo-Liberian educator, writer, diplomat, and politician in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Because Blyden was an intellectual force in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, historians regard him as both a Sierra Leone Creole and an Americo-LiberianWikipedia

[B]ook learning is not the most essential part of our educational needs as a people. You do not educate a man when you merely fill his mind; but you do educate him when you make him feel what he ought to feel; the one is mental, the other affectional. The one teaches him to lean upon others, the other teaches him to “retire upon himself.” . . . And this view  . . . of their education becomes more important when we look upon the work which a large portion of them are destined to do they will not be able to succeed as mere imitators of the European.—Edward Wilmot Blyden

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Manuscripts of Timbuktu

The term Timbuktu Manuscripts applies to 700,000 medieval African documents, ranging from scholarly works to short letters, that have been preserved by private households in Timbuktu. The manuscripts were passed down in Timbuktu families and are mostly in poor condition. Some of the manuscripts date back to the 13th century.

With the demise of Arabic education in Mali under French colonial rule, appreciation for the medieval manuscripts declined in Timbuktu, and many were being sold off. Time magazine related the account of an imam who picked up four of them for $50 each. In October 2008 one of the households was flooded, destroying 700 manuscripts.

The majority of Manuscripts are in Arabic or in African languages written in Arabic script or Africanized versions of the Arabic alphabets, collectively called “Ajami script”. The written local languages in the manuscripts include Songhay and Tamasheq. These manuscripts deal with a wide variety of subjects including Islam, astronomy, law and even contracts.—


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Targeting Timbuktu—Paul Stoller—25 April 2012—For scholars of Africa and Islam, of course, they are of enormous importance. In my studies of the Songhay people, I’ve made use to two manuscripts, the Tarikh es Soudan, written in the early 17th century, and the Tarikh al Fataash, compiled in the late 17th century. These works give deep documentation to the history of the Songhay Empire. In some passages the authors give us a glimpse of the nature of precolonial social life in West Africa. Both works demonstrate powerfully that Songhay, a medieval African empire (1464-1599), had a sophisticated bureaucracy replete with a variety of ministries, provincial governments, and armed forces—a political structure whose complexity rivaled those of Songhay’s European counterparts.

That resource is wonderful for scholars interested in the African past, but there is a more profound reason to save the manuscripts of Timbuktu. In this day and age we associate Africa with civil wars, brutality, refugees, and despots. . . . The libraries of Timbuktu symbolize the rich heritage of all things African. Their destruction would be a devastating cultural loss that would reinforce a warped and deeply embedded perception of social and cultural life in Africa.—


*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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The Price of Civilization

Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity

By Jeffrey D. Sachs

The Price of Civilization is a book that is essential reading for every American. In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, he offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity. Sachs finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. Sachs argues that we have profoundly underestimated globalization’s long-term effects on our country, which create deep and largely unmet challenges with regard to jobs, incomes, poverty, and the environment. America’s single biggest economic failure, Sachs argues, is its inability to come to grips with the new global economic realities. Sachs describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. . . .

Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around. He argues persuasively that the problem is not America’s abiding values, which remain generous and pragmatic, but the ease with which political spin and consumerism run circles around those values. He bids the reader to reclaim the virtues of good citizenship and mindfulness toward the economy and one another.

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon’s violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King’s assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —

Jamie Byng, Guardian

Gil_reads_”Deadline” (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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My First Coup d’Etat

And Other True Stories from the Lost Decades of Africa

By John Dramani Mahama

Though the colonies of sub-Saharan Africa began to claim independence in the late 1950s and ’60s, autocratic and capricious leadership soon caused initial hope to fade, and Africa descended into its “lost decades,” a period of stagnation and despondency from which much of the continent has yet to recover. Mahama, vice president of the Republic of Ghana, grew up alongside his nascent country and experienced this roller-coaster of fortunes. In this memoir, Mahama, the son of a member of parliament, recounts how affairs of state became real in his young mind on the day in 1966 when no one came to collect him from boarding school—the government had been overthrown, his father arrested, and his house confiscated. In fluid, unpretentious style, Mahama unspools Ghana’s recent history via entertaining and enlightening personal anecdotes: spying on his uncle impersonating a deity in order to cajole offerings of soup from the villagers hints at the power of religion; discussions with his schoolmates about confronting a bully form the nucleus of his political awakening.

As he writes: “The key to Africa’s survival has always been . . . in the story of its people, the paradoxical simplicity and complexity of our lives.” The book draws to a close as the author’s professional life begins. —Publishers Weekly

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Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country’s race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury’s claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington’s political outlook on race. The group’s respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 2 July 2012




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