Sunday, February 5, 2012

Virginia Proctor Powell Florence: First African American Female Library Science Graduate

Born in 1897, Virginia Proctor Powell Florence was the first African American female to receive a formal education in library science. She was a 1923 graduate of the Pittsburgh Carnegie Library School (the school is now the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Science). Ms. Florence began her career at the New York Public Library (135th Street Branch).  She was also the first African American librarian to take New York’s certification exam for high school librarians.  In addition, Ms. Florence was a librarian at Seward Park High School in Brooklyn, New York; Cordoza High School in Washington, D.C.; and Maggie L. Walker Senior High School in Richmond, Virginia. She retired from librarianship in 1965. Ms. Florence passed away in 1991 in Richmond, Virginia.

Ms. Florence's husband, Charles Wilbur Florence (the couple married in 1931), was the president of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri from 1931 until 1937. A 1919 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Mr. Florence later served as the head of Virginia Union University's Department of Education from 1938 until his retirement in 1956. He passed away in 1974.

Update 12/26/2012:

See related posts: Edward Christopher Williams: First African American Male Library Science Graduate ; Helen Price Sawyer Braxton: Hampton Institute Library School Graduate and Librarian at Lincoln University (Jefferson City, Missouri).

Sources: “Virginia Proctor Powell Florence: A Remarkable Oberlin Alumna Librarian.” Library Perspectives: A Newsletter of the Oberlin College Library 32 (2005): 5. Print. ; Gunn, Arthur C. "A Black Woman Wants to Be A Professional: The Struggle of Virginia Proctor Powell Florence." American Libraries (Feb. 1989): 154-157. Print. ; Scott, Diane R. Celebrating African American Librarians. Feb. 2009: 2. Print. ; Josey, E.J. "Foreword." Educating Black Librarians: Papers from the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the School of Library and Information Sciences, North Carolina Central University. Ed. Benjamin F. Speller, Jr. Jefferson: McFarland, 1991. x-xi. Print. ; Directory of Negro Graduates of Accredited Library Schools, 1900-1936. Washington: Columbia Civic Library Association, 1937. 10, 26. Print. ; Dyer, Ervin. "The Great Debater." Pitt Magazine (Summer 2008):n. pag. Web. 2012 Dec. 26.

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