Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow

Cheryl Knott, Not Free, Not For All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015).



In Not Free, Not for All, Cheryl Knott traces the establishment, growth, and eventual demise of separate public libraries for African Americans in the South, disrupting the popular image of the American public library as historically welcoming readers from all walks of life. Using institutional records, contemporaneous newspaper and magazine articles, and other primary sources together with scholarly work in the fields of print culture and civil rights history, Knott reconstructs a complex story involving both animosity and cooperation among whites and blacks who valued what libraries had to offer. African American library advocates, staff, and users emerge as the creators of their own separate collections and services with both symbolic and material importance, even as they worked toward dismantling those very institutions during the era of desegregation.

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