Vivian G. Harsh was a librarian who was also an historian, one who nurtured, collected, and disseminated African American history and literature on the South Side of Chicago at a time when few others did. Today, 60 years after her death, her work continues to bear fruit.
Harsh was the Chicago Public Library’s first African American branch head and the originator of a lauded collection of African American history and literature that contains everything from manuscripts by Langston Hughes and Richard Wright to the archives of Ebenezer Baptist Church and the personal papers of prominent Chicagoans such as Timuel Black—who grew up visiting Harsh’s library and remains involved in the management of the collection. Today housed at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in Washington Heights, the collection—the largest of its kind in the Midwest—is named in honor of its first collector: it is the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature.
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