Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Library Service to African Americans in Florida: The Negro Library (Clearwater, Florida) and the Harlem Branch Library (Tampa, Florida)

Today's post will focus on two libraries in Florida that provided library services to African Americans during the Pre-Civil Rights Era:

The Negro Library (Clearwater, Florida)

Clearwater, Florida's Negro Library began operation on March 15, 1950. The library was housed in a rented facility on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Palmetto Street.  The library received a new building in 1962 and was renamed the Northeast Branch Library. It is now known as the North Greenwood Branch of the Clearwater Public Library.

Christine Wigfall Morris, the city's first African American librarian, was the Negro Library's first manager (1950-1983). Ms. Morris was born in 1922 in Register, Georgia. Her parents were Eddie and Hattie Smith Wigfall. Before beginning her library career, she attended Bethune-Cookman College (now Bethune-Cookman University) in Daytona, Florida. In addition, Ms. Morris was a member of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority. In 1946, she married Willie Jack Morris. Ms. Morris served as librarian for 33 years before retiring in 1983.

In 2010, Ms. Morris wrote her autobiography in which she includes history of the Negro Library and her experiences as its manager. The book's title is Christine Wigfall Morris: Stories of Family, Community, and History, 1908-2010, and is co-written by Barbara J. Sorey.

Sources: Morris, Christine W. and Barbara J. Sorey. Christine Wigfall Morris: Stories of Family, Community, and History, 1908-2010. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2010. 55-58, 62-63, 65-66, 75-76. Print. ; "History of the Clearwater Public Library System." MyClearwater.com: Clearwater Public Libraries. City of Clearwater, 11 July 2008. Web. 4 Sept. 2011. ; "First Black Librarian in Clearwater Florida Writes Her Memoirs." LIS News. LIS News, 1 Feb. 2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2010. ; Pickell, Barbara. "Christine Wigfall Morris, Clearwater Florida's First African American Librarian Signs Books at Reception." Florida Library Association BlogSpot. Florida Library Association, 9 Dec. 2010. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. ; "Newsmaker: Christine Wigfall Morris and Barbara Sorey." American Libraries (Online). American Library Association, 16 Mar. 2011. Web. 30 Apr. 2013. ; "Morris, Christine." Documenting Florida's African American History & Heritage. Discovering Black Florida, 2007. Web. 5 Jan. 2011. ; "Newsmaker: Christine Wigfall Morris." American Libraries 42.3-4 (2011) 18. Print. 

* Update 05/04/2015: Christine Wigfall Morris passed away on December 7, 2014 at the age of 92.

Source: "Obituaries." American Libraries 46.5 (May 2015): 57. Print.

The Harlem Branch of the Tampa Public Library (Tampa, Florida)

The Harlem Branch of the Tampa Public Library in Tampa, Florida began operation in 1919. Ada T. Payne (the city's first African American librarian), Henrietta Maddox, Adelle Samuel, Cancerina Martin, Jemi B. Brown, and Lizzie Dansey [Dawsey?] were among the librarians that worked at the branch. The library was originally housed inside the Harlem Academy. In 1923, the library was located at the Tampa Urban League. In 1927, the library was moved to 1404 Central Avenue and remained in operation until 1969. The Tampa Public Library is now the Tampa-Hillsborough Library and is part of the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative.

Sources: Steele, Kathy. "Tampa to Honor Segregation-Era Library That Was Open to Blacks." Tampa Bay Online 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. ; "Great Turnout at the Harlem Branch Library History Roadshow." The Library History Roadshow BlogSpot. The Library History Roadshow, 23 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 28, 2013. ; "Coming up Next: Harlem Branch Library (1919-1969)." The Library History Roadshow BlogSpot. The Library History Roadshow, 5 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. ; "About." Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative. Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, 2013. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.