Louisville is home to the first public library for African Americans

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When talking about the history of library systems, the Western Branch Library of Louisville in Russell should be part of the conversation. Dating back to 1905, its importance in the black community was just as crucial then as it is today. fight for your own space, to be able to come check out a book and read,” said Natalie Woods, director of the Western Library. For blacks in the southern United States, the 20th century struggle for equality extended to the public library system, including here in Louisville. With the lack of adequate reading materials in schools, and blacks Only allowed one hour a week inside the York Street Main Library, three educators pioneered change.Continuous Coverage: New exhibit focuses on Louisville bus integration, impact on studentsAlbert Myzeek, ​​former principal of Central High School, the only high school for black students in Louisville; Reverend Thomas F. Blue, the very first black librarian in charge of the Western Branch; and Rachel Harris, who ran the children’s library, broke down those barriers with the Carnegie-funded Western Colored Branch Library on S. Tenth Street. “It all started in three rooms of a house at 1125 West Chestnut,” Woods said. “While this building was being built, they moved the library out of this house.” Their passion for championing library services and educating the underserved as the only library at the time that would train black librarians is a legacy Woods as current library director continues and protects. “I definitely feel the weight every day, but it’s an honor to be able to be here to carry on their legacy,” she said. “They only had books and you can see how much they loved it. All the tables were filled here, wall to wall, with children reading, adults reading, it was just such a love of reading.” Inside the library during this time was an all-black staff, diverse genres of books, and a sense of place—quite the opposite of what residents like Jackie Floyd experienced in the outside world in the 1950s. in Louisville: African American Roots 101 Museum opens new space in downtown Louisville “You would come here and read, do your homework, or just stay here somewhere safe,” Floyd said. “It was an environment where you learned, and they respected you for who you were and what your possibilities and your potential were.” Just as it was for Floyd, the Western Library is important for future generations to be proud of where they came from and where they are going. “We need to make sure our children know the history of this library and its importance, and it will continue to be in our culture,” Floyd said. “Come to the Western Branch Library and watch future mayors, future politicians, governors or doctors. That’s where the kids are.” Library officials have said it’s important to reconnect with the past, so they’re bringing back the traditions that its creators started. One is an annual poetry-writing contest called the Cotter Cup to honor Professor Joseph Seamon Cotter Sr., who hosted the event at the library from 1913 to 1939.

When talking about the history of library systems, the Western Branch Library of Louisville in Russell should be part of the conversation.

Dating back to 1905, its importance in the black community was just as crucial then as it is today.

“Back then, they had to fight to be able to have their own space, to be able to come and check out a book and read,” said Natalie Woods, head of the Western Library.

For black people in the American South, the struggle for equality in the 20th century extended to the public library system, including here in Louisville.

With adequate reading materials lacking in schools and black people only allowed an hour a week inside the York Street Main Library, three educators pioneered change.

Continuous coverage: New exhibit focuses on Louisville bus integration and its impact on students

Albert Myzeek, ​​former principal of Central High School, Louisville’s only high school for black students; Reverend Thomas F. Blue, the very first black librarian in charge of the Western Branch; and Rachel Harris, who ran the children’s library, broke down those barriers with the Carnegie-funded Western Colored Branch Library on S. Tenth Street.

“It started in three rooms of a house at 1125 West Chestnut,” Woods said. “While this building was being built, they moved the library out of this house.”

Their passion for championing library services and educating the underserved as the only library at the time that would train black librarians is a legacy that Woods continues and protects.

“I definitely feel the weight every day, but it’s an honor to be able to be here to carry on their legacy,” she said. “They only had books and you can see how much they loved it. All the tables were filled here, wall to wall, with the kids reading, the adults reading, it was just such a love of the reading.”

Inside the library at that time, there was an all-black staff, diverse genres of books and a sense of place — quite the opposite of what residents like Jackie Floyd experienced in the outside world in the years 1950.

History in Louisville: Roots 101 African American Museum Opens New Space in Downtown Louisville

“You would come here and read, do your homework, or just stay here somewhere safe,” Floyd said. “It was an environment where you learned, and they respected you for who you were and what your possibilities and your potential were.”

Just like Floyd, the Western Library is important for future generations to be proud of where they came from and where they are going.

“We need to make sure our children know the history of this library and its importance, and it will continue to be in our culture,” Floyd said. “Come to the Western Branch Library and watch future mayors, future politicians, governors or doctors. That’s where the kids are.”

Library officials said it was important to reconnect with the past, so they are bringing back the traditions that its creators started. One is an annual poetry-writing contest called the Cotter Cup to honor Professor Joseph Seamon Cotter Sr., who hosted the event at the library from 1913 to 1939.

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