Friday, November 29, 2013

Dorothy Porter Wesley: Librarian, Bibliophile, and Culture Keeper

Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995), the first African American to receive a library science degree from Columbia University, was the librarian for the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University from 1930-1973. She was known nationally and internationally for her efforts in collecting, maintaining, and preserving documents and artifacts relating to African and African American history. A native of Warrenton, Virginia, Ms. Wesley was born on May 25, 1905 to Hayes Joseph and Bertha Ball Burnett. She did her undergraduate studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1928, and married artist James Porter (1905-1970) the following year. Wesley began her library career cataloging materials for the Howard University Library. Wesley later enrolled at Columbia University's library science program (Columbia University's program was created through the merger of the library science programs of the New York Public Library and the State Library of New York). When Ms. Wesley received her Bachelor of Library Science (BLS) in 1931, she became the program's first African American graduate. She also earned her Master of Library Science (MLS) from Columbia University, receiving that degree in 1932.

Ms. Wesley also worked at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library (now the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture). In addition, she served on the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped and the National Trust for the Preservation of Historic Sites, was a member of the Writers Club, and helped organized the Henry Proctor Slaughter Collection at Atlanta University (now Clark-Atlanta University). In 1971, Ms. Wesley published "Early Negro Writings, 1760-1837".  She was awarded the Black Caucus Distinguished Achievement Award in 1972 from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA). She married educator Charles Wesley (1891-1987) in 1979. In 1990, Ms. Wesley received the BCALA Trailblazer Award. Dorothy Porter Wesley passed away in 1995. Her daughter, Constance Porter Uzelac (1939-2012) was also a librarian, and served as the executive director of the Dorothy Porter Wesley Research Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Update 9/27/2014:
Janet Sims-Wood recently wrote a biography on Dorothy Porter Wesley:

Wood, Janet Sims. Dorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: Building a Legacy of Black History. Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2014. Print.

The book is available from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Alibris, Books-A-Million, and other retailers.

Update 11/12/2014:

See related posts:

Henry Proctor Slaughter: Compositor for the U.S. Government Printing Office, Bibliophile, Collector, and Newspaer Editor and Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, 1874-1938: Noted Bibliophile, Collector, Curator, and Scholar.

Sources: Moses, Sibyl E. "Dorothy Louise Burnett Porter Wesley."African American Women Writers in New Jersey, 1836-2000: A Biographical Dictionary and Bibliographical Guide. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2003. 198-207. Print. ; Scott, Diane R. Celebrating African American Librarians. Feb. 2009: 5. Print. ; Battle, Thomas C. "Dorothy Porter Wesley: Preserver of Black History - Afro-American Librarian." Diverse Issues in Higher Education. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 16 June 2007. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. ; A Directory of Negro Graduates of Accredited Library Schools, 1900-1936. Washington: Columbia Civic Library Association, 1937. 19. Print. ; "Black History Prophets and Custodians: Handful of Men and Women Created Foundations of Saga of Persistence and Creativity." Ebony 50.4 (1995): 90. Print. ;  Dawson, Alma. "Celebrating African Americans Librarians and Librarianship." Library Trends 49.1 (2000): 61. Print. ; Scarupa, Harriet Jackson. "The Energy-Charged Life of Dorothy Porter Wesley." The Black Librarian in America Revisited. Ed. E.J. Josey. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1994. 298-315. Print. ; Britton, Helen H. "Dorothy Porter Wesley: Bibliographer, Curator, and Scholar." Reclaiming the American Library Past: Writing the Women In. Ed. Suzanne Hildenbrand. Norwood: Ablex, 1996. 163-186. Print. ; Campbell, Dorothy Wilson. "Curators of African American Collections." The Black Librarian in the Southeast: Reminiscences, Activities, Challenges. Ed. Annette L. Phinazee. Durham: NCCU School of Library Science, 1980. 185-186. Print. ; McHenry, Elizabeth. Forgotten Readers: Recovering the Lost History of African American Literary Societies. Durham: Duke UP, 2002. 291. Print. ; Jordan, Casper and E.J. Josey. "A Chronology of Events in Black Librarianship." Handbook of Black Librarianship. Ed. E.J. Josey and Marva L. DeLoach. 2nd ed. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2000. 8, 10-12. Print. ; Sinnette, Elinor D. V. Arthur Alfonso Schomburg, Black Bibliophile & Collector: A Biography. New York: New York Public Library, 1989. 32, 81, 206. Print. ; Des Jardins, Julie. "Black Librarians and the Search for Women's Biography during the New Negro History Movement." OAH Magazine of History 20.1 (2006): 15-18. Print. ; "Biographies." Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995), Afro-American Librarian and Bibliophile: An Exhibition, February 1- March 16, 2001. Broward County Library, n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. ; Uzelac, Constance Porter. "Porter, Wesley Dorothy (1905-1995)." BlackPast., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. ; Finnegan, Gregory. "The Africana Librarians Council and the Cooperative Africana Microform Project since 1989." Africanist Librarianship in an Era of Change. Ed. Victoria K. Evalds and David Henige. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2005. 38. Print. ; "BCALA Distinguished Service Awards 1970-2010." Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Black Caucus of the American Library Association, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. ; "BCALA Trailblazer's Award Recipients." Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Black Caucus of the American Library Association, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2013. ; Wood, Janet Sims. Dorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: Building a Legacy of Black History. Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2014. Print.