Books: Non-Fiction

Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South

Book — Non-fiction. By Mike Selby. 2019. 208 pages.
This book reveals the histories of grassroots “freedom libraries” that were at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South and tells the stories of courageous people who operated and used them.

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: Civil Rights Movements, Education, Racism & Racial Identity

Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the SouthAlthough 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.

This book delves into how these libraries were the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, and the remarkable courage of the people who used them. They would forever change libraries and librarianship, even as they helped the greater movement change the society these libraries belonged to. Photographs of the libraries bring this little-known part of U.S. history to life. [Description from the publisher.]

ISBN: 9781538115541 | Rowman & Littlefield