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Products for grant FT-265433-19

FT-265433-19
The Making of African American Archives, 1910-1950
Laura Helton, University of Delaware

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=FT-265433-19

Access Restrictions and Secret Libraries: Virginia Lee and the Policing of Black Books (Conference/Institute/Seminar)
Title: Access Restrictions and Secret Libraries: Virginia Lee and the Policing of Black Books
Author: Laura E. Helton
Abstract: In the early twentieth century, African American women librarians in Raleigh, Atlanta, Greensboro, and other southern cities created a remarkable set of small archives that documented Black life. In Roanoke, Virginia, for example, Virginia Lee was a dedicated collector of books, ephemera, and clippings, building a “Negro Collection” inside the segregated Gainsboro Branch Library that today remains the largest accumulation of Africana in southwest Virginia. But like her counterparts elsewhere in the Jim Crow South, Lee operated against forbidding material and political conditions. At times she had to operate secretly, at one point even protecting the collection from a threat of destruction by white city leaders. This talk uncovers the clandestine collecting practices of Virginia Lee to show how branch libraries put record-keeping at the center of Black public life, often under threat of erasure. It argues that any theory of the Black archive must encompass not only the iconic collections in New York, Washington, or New Haven, but also the small collections, like Lee’s, that prioritized local access to Black texts. The “lady librarians” at the center of this project were good at keeping secrets, underscoring the risks—and the radicality—of Black archive-building during and after the nadir.
Date Range: 09/28/2020
Location: Workshop in the History of Material Texts, University of Pennsylvania
Primary URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0ppuTTlIzI
Primary URL Description: Recording of Fall 2020 Workshop in the History of Material Texts, Laura E. Helton, "Access Restrictions and Secret Libraries: Virginia Lee and the Policing of Black Books"


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