By Patterson Toby Graham
A dramatic bankruptcy in American cultural heritage. * Winner of the Alabama Library Association’s Alabama writer Award for Nonfiction Patterson Toby Graham is Director of the electronic Library of Georgia on the collage of Georgia in Athens.
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Extra info for A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965
Smith, used a pro-segregation argument to save black library service in Mobile. He asserted that Alabama had wisely committed itself to the separation of the races, but that Mobile could only legally exclude blacks from the white library if it provided parallel service for them. The alternative to the Davis Avenue Branch, he argued, was desegregating the main library. Having convinced the court of the branch’s importance in preserving the racial status quo, Smith won the case. ” Completed in 1931, the Davis Avenue Branch was an almost exact replica of the main library in miniature.
Congress and President Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration in 1935 to coordinate the New Deal work relief efforts. The WPA resulted from a recognition that the nation’s unemployed would need government assistance into the foreseeable future and that a comprehensive public works effort was required. It was an attempt to lessen the reliance of the impoverished upon direct relief, instead engaging them in projects of enduring social value. WPA planners believed that public library development was an area of activity that carried this social merit.
Library facilities were segregated according to the mores of the region. It was, however, an important beginning and a forceful impetus for reading among blacks. In their 1949 study of the Rosenwald program, Embree and Waxman assert that the Demonstrations brought a 200 percent increase in black readership in the United States. 3 Walker County, which entered the Rosenwald program in 1931, comprises an area of 808 square miles in North-Central Alabama. It is part of the broken and hilly country that makes up the Cumberland Plateau of the Appalachian foothills.