Abstract

In the waning days of the Jim Crow era in Virginia, the integration of public libraries was a hotly contested issue. However, public libraries in the state capitol, Richmond, integrated in 1947. That the library system integrated prior to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling might at first suggest progressivism; however, this belies the library system’s incremental and often unwilling journey towards integration. Through an examination of the Richmond Public Library’s services for African Americans between 1925 and 1947, this study explores the circumstances preceding desegregation while considering the methods the Richmond Public Library used to maintain de facto segregation after integration. It additionally uncovers the untold story of the community advocacy that was the catalyst not just for the establishment of the library system’s first branch for African Americans, but also for the system’s eventual integration.

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