Professor’s Research of Segregated Public Libraries in the South Available Online
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.
Entitled “The Roots of Community: Segregated Carnegie Libraries as Spaces for Learning and Community-Making
in Pre-Civil Rights America, 1900-65,” Dr. Griffis’s project examines the 12 segregated Carnegie libraries that opened across the South between 1905 and 1920. They were part of philanthropist Andrew Carnegie’s library building program which funded more than 1,600 American public libraries from 1900-1925.
“These 12 libraries served for decades as learning and community spaces for African Americans in the pre-Civil Rights south,” Griffis said. “By the 1970s, most were integrated or had simply closed. But compared to the hundreds of other Carnegie libraries, we know little about these 12.”
Griffis’s project was one of 20 chosen for IMLS funding last spring from a pool of 107 proposals submitted from across the country. “It’s increasingly difficult to secure funding for historical projects,” said Griffis, a member of the USM School of Library and Information Science faculty.
Although he will publish his research as a book, Griffis designed the project as more than just routine scholarship. He is also completing interviews with surviving patrons of these libraries, recording their recollections of using them in the days before integration. While segregated libraries were not uncommon in the days of Jim Crow, Griffis’s project is one of the first to focus exclusively on all 12 of the Carnegie-funded ones and to include interviews.
Griffis is currently completing archival research in Louisville, Ky., where the first segregated Carnegie library opened in 1905. Last fall, Griffis completed research in Meridian and Mound Bayou, Miss., and will continue his work over the next two years in Nashville, Knoxville, Atlanta, Savannah, New Orleans, Houston, Greensboro, and Evansville.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.