A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's by Patterson Toby Graham

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

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L. W. ” The vice-director criticized Gaines for a lack of vision and an inability to perform the practical matters associated with librarianship. He wrote to Gaines, “you are not satisfactory to us,” and gave the unfortunate man a choice between resignation and termination. 23 The administration’s reaction to bi-racial use of the Booker T. Washington Library re®ected its stringency in sustaining segregation. Beyond his lack of aptitude for librarianship, the administration reprimanded Gaines for his practice of welcoming both black and white to the Washington Branch.

It was, however, an important beginning and a forceful impetus for reading among blacks. In their 1949 study of the Rosenwald program, Embree and Waxman assert that the Demonstrations brought a 200 percent increase in black readership in the United States. 3 Walker County, which entered the Rosenwald program in 1931, comprises an area of 808 square miles in North-Central Alabama. It is part of the broken and hilly country that makes up the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian foothills. Like the Birmingham District, most of Walker County is not well suited to farming.

13 Despite the economic, social, and political obstacles the Walker County library system faced during the 1930s, the progress made in African-American library service was unprecedented among Alabama’s counties. The number of books per capita at the disposal of blacks was similar to that for whites between 1931 and 1936. Throughout the Depression, blacks consistently had more deposit stations for their population size than whites. 14 The quality of service and level of readership among blacks in Walker County improved steadily during the Depression.

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