Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rev. Thomas Fountain Blue and the Colored Branches of the Louisville Free Public Library

Reverend Thomas Fountain Blue (1866-1935), a native of Farmville, Virginia, was the first African American to head a public library branch in the United States. From 1905 until 1935, Rev. Blue was the head of the African American branches of the Louisville Free Public Library (the Western Colored Branch and the Eastern Colored Branch). In 1922, he became the first African American librarian to give a speech before the American Library Association.

During the 1921 Joint District Meeting of Indiana and Kentucky Librarians and Trustees held at the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, Rev. Blue and his assistant Rachel D. Harris gave attendees a tour of the library's Western Colored Branch. In 1927, Rev. Blue organized the First Negro Library Conference held March 15-18 at the Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia (the institute is now Hampton University; Rev. Blue was an alumnus). In 1928, Rev. Blue was one of several African American attendees at the 50th Annual Meeting of the American Library Association held in West Baden, Indiana. He passed away on November 10, 1935.

See related posts: ALA History: 1928 Annual Conference of the American Library Association, West Baden, Indiana ; Librarian Education: Louisville Free Public Library ; and Rachel Davis Harris and the Colored Branches of the Louisville Free Public Library.

Update 04/29/2012:

In 1922, at the Annual Meeting of the American Library Association in Detroit, Michigan,  Rev. Thomas Fountain Blue presented a paper "Work with the Negro Roundtable". In his paper, Blue talks about the librarian training class he started for African Americans at the Western Colored Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. The training class was the first library training program offered in the South for African Americans, and was in operation from 1912 until 1931. Blue's paper was published in the September 1922 issue of The Southern Workman (v.51 , no. 9, p. 437-438).

Update 03/09/2013:

The following article by Reinette Jones contains a resolution written for Rev. Blue that was presented at the 2003 ALA Annual Conference:

Jones, Reinette F. "Spotlight: Reverend Thomas Fountain Blue." Kentucky Libraries 67.4 (2003): 6-7. Print.

You can also find the article here (cited as Library Faculty Publications 67):

Rev. Blue's papers have been digitized and are now available online:

Update 5/26/2014:

Rev. Thomas Fountain Blue is briefly mentioned in an I wrote an article on Lillian Haydon Childress Hall. The article was featured in the latest issue of Indiana Libraries (v. 33, no. 1). The link is below:

Fenton, Michele T. "Stepping Out on Faith: Lillian Haydon Childress Hall, Pioneer Black Librarian." Indiana Libraries 33.1 (2014): 5-11. Print."

Update 8/10/2014:

Rev. Thomas Fountain Blue gave an address at the opening ceremony of the Howard Branch of the Chattanooga Public Library in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The ceremony was held on October 11, 1913. The Howard Branch was established to provide library services to Chattanooga's African American residents.

See post: The Howard Branch of the Chattanooga Public Library (Chattanooga,Tennessee) 

Sources: Jones, Reinette. Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky, from the Reconstruction Era to the 1960s. Jefferson: McFarland, 2002. 51, 53-57, 77-78, 84, 88-89. Print.  ; Spradling, Mary Mace. "Black Librarians in Kentucky." The Black Librarian in the Southeast: Reminiscences, Activities, Challenges. Ed. Annette L. Phinazee. Durham: NCCU School of Library Science, 1980. 41. Print. ; Battles, David M. The History of Public Library Access African Americans in the South or, Leaving Behind the Plow. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2008. 33-34, 44, 50, 54, 60, 70, 142. Print. ; Musmann, Klaus. "The Ugly Side of Librarianship: Segregation in Library Services from 1900 to 1950." Untold Stories: Civil Rights, Libraries, and Black Librarianship. Ed. John Mark Tucker. Champaign: Board of Trustees U of Illinois, 1998. 83-84, 86. Print. ; Jordan, Casper LeRoy. "African American Forerunners in Librarianship." Handbook of Black Librarianship. Ed. E.J. Josey and Martha DeLoach. 2nd Ed. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2000. 28-29. Print. ; Dawson, Alma. "Celebrating African American Librarians and Librarianship." Library Trends 49.1 (2000): 56. Print. ; Campbell, Lucy B. "Black Librarians in Virginia." The Black Librarian in the Southeast: Reminiscences, Activities, Challenges. Ed. Annette L. Phinazee. Durham: NCCU School of Library Science, 1980. 124-125. Print. ; Jones, Reinette and Alonzon Hill. "Thomas Fountain Blue, Sr." Notable Kentucky African Americans Database: Librarians, Library Collections, Libraries. University of Kentucky Libraries, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. ; Sinnette, Elinor D. V. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, Black Bibliophile & Collector: A Biography. New York: New York Public Library, 1989. 154. Print. ; "Library Opened: Colored People of Louisville Looked After." Indianapolis Recorder 2 June 1906: 1. Print. ; "Free Libraries in Louisville: Kentucky City Leads Country Along This Line - How They Benefit the Public." Indianapolis Recorder 25 Jul. 1914: 1. Print. ; "West Baden, Ind." Indianapolis Recorder 9 June 1928: 7. Print. ; Curtis, Florence Rising. "Colored Librarians in Conference." Library Journal 52.8 (1927): 408. Print. ; Joint District Meeting Indiana and Kentucky Librarians and Trustees, Main Library, Thursday, March 10, 1921, Louisville, Kentucky. Program. [Louisville: Louisville Free Public Library, 1921]. Print. ; "Louisville." Library Occurrent 6.2 (1921): 80-81. Print. ; Brown, Beatrice S. Louisville's Historic Black Neighborhoods. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2012. 104. Print. ; Librarianship in Gilded Age America: An Anthology of Writings, 1868-1901. Ed. Leonard Schlup and Stephen H. Pascen. Jefferson: McFarland, 2009. 322. Print. ; Potter, Joan. African American Firsts: Famous, Little Known, and Unsung Triumphs of Blacks in America. New York: Kensington, 2009. 34. Print. ; Blue, Thomas F. "A Successful Library Experiment." Opportunity 2.20 (1924): 244-246. Print. ; "American Library Association." The Southern Workman 55.11 (1926):486. Print. ; Blue, Thomas F. "Work with the Negro Roundtable." The Southern Workman 51.9 (1922):437-438. Print. ; Jefferson, Julius C. “The Black Male Librarian: An Endangered Species.” The National Diversity in Libraries Conference. Louisville Marriott Downtown, Louisville, KY. 3 Oct. 2008. Pdf. ; Fenton, Michele T. "Stepping Out on Faith: Lillian Haydon Childress Hall, Pioneer Black Librarian." Indiana Libraries 33.1 (2014): 5-11. Print.

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