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A Right to Read

Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965

Patterson Toby Graham

Publication Year: 2002

A dramatic chapter in American cultural history. * Winner of the Alabama Library Association’s Alabama Author Award for Nonfiction Patterson Toby Graham is Director of the Digital Library of Georgia at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-17

The present study lies at the confluence of my abiding curiosity about southern race relations and my commitment to librarianship. I embarked upon the project—originally my doctoral dissertation—as yet another in what had become a series of self-indulgent educational enterprises. It has become more than this, I hope, and the book contains a...

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pp. 1-5

At approximately 3:30 p.m. on September 15, 1963, W. B. McClain and Quintus Reynolds, both African-American ministers, arrived at theCarnegie 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. Be-...

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1. Black Libraries and White Attitudes, The Early Years: Birmingham and Mobile, 1918–1931

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pp. 6-25

Public libraries developed later in the South than in other regions. Unlike that of the Northeast, whose tax-supported free library service came into its own during the second half of the nineteenth century,the South’s public library movement was for the most part a twentieth-1855, Jesse H. Shera identified the causal factors he believed led to the...

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2. Black Libraries and White Attitudes II: The Depression Years

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pp. 26-48

The Depression era was a time of growth for public library service in the South. The federal government, led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, responded to the economic hardships of the 1930s by initiating the New Deal, an unprecedented plan of public relief. It included an ambitious program of federal projects intended to generate jobs for...

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3. African-American Communities and the Black Public Library Movement, 1941–1954

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pp. 49-68

African Americans in southern cities responded to segregation by creating cohesive, but diverse, communities characterized by spirited civic action. Urban segregation bound together blacks of dissimilar social, educational, and economic backgrounds, facilitating the development of black institutions and a well-defined community identity. Since they...

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4. The Read-In Movement: Desegregating Alabama’s Public Libraries, 1960–1963

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pp. 69-98

The desegregation of Alabama’s public libraries was a product of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It resulted from direct action by African-American civil rights workers coupled with federal intervention. The year after the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision, Montgomery’s African-American community initiated a bus...

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5. Librarians and the Civil Rights Movement, 1955–1965

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pp. 99-130

In 1944, Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal wrote that the United States faced a racial dilemma that pitted its underlying social values of democracy and self-determination against its practice of inequality in regard to African Americans. Librarians experienced the “American Dilemma,” but they also carried a second conflict of values. Their code...

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pp. 131-138

Affecting millions of blacks, the exclusion of African-American read-ers from public libraries undermined intellectual freedom in American libraries more than any other factor during the twentieth century. Neither the segregation of libraries nor their integration has been treated adequately in scholarly literature, however. The study of such events in...


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pp. 139-162

Bibliographic Essay

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pp. 163-184


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pp. 185-191

E-ISBN-13: 9780817313357
E-ISBN-10: 0817313354
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817353711
Print-ISBN-10: 0817311440

Page Count: 207
Illustrations: 11
Publication Year: 2002

Edition: 1