Join us for a discussion of libraries for African Americans in the American South during 1964 "Freedom Summer".
Mike Selby is a professional librarian. He received his MLIS from the University of Alabama, which is where he first unearthed the story of the Freedom Libraries. Selby’s 2019 published title, Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South, is the focus of our discussion.
Although illegal by the 1960s, after nation-wide rulings like Brown v. Board (1954) and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, racial segregation was still strictly enforced in regions where white supremacy was deeply entrenched. Public libraries were not immune to racism post-Brown. Numerous libraries were desegregated on paper only: there would be no cards given to Black residents, no books for them read, and no furniture for them to use.
It was these exact conditions that helped create Freedom Libraries. Over eighty of these parallel libraries appeared in the Deep South, staffed by civil rights voter registration workers. While the grassroots nature of the libraries meant they varied in size and quality, all of them created the first encounter many Black Americans had with a library. Terror, bombings, and eventually murder would be visited on the Freedom Libraries — with people giving up their lives so others could read a library book.
Clara Cabrera & Miriam Childs discuss with Mike what he found in his research that was the foundation for his work.
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