Civil Rights and the Library

Our Review of the Week features a fascinating account of the struggle to desegregate libraries in the Jim Crow South

The desegregation of public libraries in the Jim Crow South : civil rights and local activism

by Wayne A. Wiegand and Shirley A. Wiegand Louisiana State, 2018
266p index, 9780807168677 $38.00, 9780807168691

For much of the first two-thirds of the 20th century, segregated public libraries were a fact of life in the American south. This is the story of how a number of brave young African Americans led the struggle in local communities to slowly but steadily create integrated public libraries in their communities. The Wiegands, both of whom are well-known historians of American libraries and librarianship, have crafted a foundational study of public libraries in the southern states based on a vast array of primary and secondary resources. Over the years, other library historians have researched various aspects of the African American public library experience, but the Wiegands bring an erudition and overall depth of knowledge about American public libraries that greatly enhances their contribution to an understudied aspect of American librarianship. The authors, for example, show clearly that the courage of the young African Americans who tested the social strictures surrounding their libraries was not mirrored in the tepid and timid response of the American Library Association to the challenges of the Civil Rights Movement to segregated libraries during the 1950s and 1960s. This is an absolutely essential book for all library collections.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
E. A. Goedeken, Iowa State University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies – North America
Choice Issue: Oct 2018