University of Southern Mississippi’s New Online Archive on Racially Segregated Libraries

Matthew Griffis, an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Southern Mississippi, has conducted extensive research on racial segregation in public libraries in the South. His research has been digitized is now available online.

The archive is entitled “The Roots of Community: Segregated Carnegie Libraries as Spaces for Learning and Community-Making in Pre-Civil Rights America, 1900-65.” The research includes information on 12 segregated Carnegie libraries (or “Carnegie Negro Libraries” as they were called then), a group of public libraries that opened between 1900 and 1925. For as many as six decades these libraries served as learning spaces for African Americans in the pre-civil rights American South. By the 1970s, most had closed or were integrated into the formerly White-only public library systems of their larger communities.

In addition to photographs and scholarship, Dr. Griffis plans to add oral history interviews conducted with surviving patrons of these libraries later this year. “Reading in books about what life was like for African Americans before the Civil Rights Movement is one thing; hearing from people who actually experienced it is something else,” Dr. Griffis says. “The interviews add a very human aspect to the project.”

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  1. I would be interested in knowing if any of these libraries collected information that would be of interest to family historians? Example, news of various plantations, family letters, school records, etc.

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