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On June 24, the governing Council of American Library Association (ALA) passed a historic resolution that “apologizes to African Americans for wrongs committed against them in segregated public libraries” and commends those “who risked their lives to integrate public libraries for their bravery and courage in challenging segregation in public libraries and in forcing public libraries to live up to the rhetoric of their ideals.” ALA President Jim Neal read the resolution later the same day to an audience gathered at the main New Orleans Public Library to hear about this neglected chapter in library history from four individuals who participated in sit-ins and protests at libraries in the South during the 1960s.
Wayne and Shirley Wiegand, authors of The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South, began the presentation with some historical context. Wayne A. Wiegand, professor of library and information studies emeritus at Florida State University, said that many of his library colleagues had been completely unaware of library sit-ins in the South and assumed that librarians had been the same champions of access to all and intellectual freedom that they are in the 21st century. “Not so,” Wiegand said. “The few public libraries in the South that did provide limited services to blacks often subjected them to experiences that were humiliating.”
During the civil rights era, Wiegand said that public libraries became an early flashpoint for desegregation. He retold the stories of the Greenville (S.C.) Eight in 1960, the Tougaloo Nine at the Jackson (Miss.) Public Library in 1961, the St. Helena Four in Greensburg, Louisiana, in 1964, as well as other sit-ins and protests that led to the desegregation of libraries in the South.
But it was the panel of four people who had actually been involved in those demonstrations that drew the most interest during the presentation.
Joan Mattison Daniel, one of the Greenville Eight, who participated in a sit-in at the Greenville (S.C.) Public Library, on March 27, 1960.
Ethel Adolphe, one of the Tougaloo Nine, who conducted a read-in at the Jackson, Mississippi, Public Library on March 27, 1961.
Ibrahim Mumin participated in a protest at the public library in Columbus, Georgia, in July 1963.
Teri Moncure Mojgani, now a librarian at Xavier University, participated in a protest at the public library in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1964.
Save the Date: On October 3, 2018 the Friends of the Furman University Libraries will be sponsoring a CLP featuring Dr. Wayne Wiegand.