Friday, October 8, 2010

How Raleigh's Richard B. Harrison Library Got Its Start

Link to October 2 Raleigh News Observer article, "Shaw library welcomes a 'treasure'."

Excerpt: In the 1930s, Mollie Huston Lee walked the streets of Raleigh carrying a basket full of books, slowly gathering the collection that would become Wake County's first library for blacks.

In time, that collection grew to 8,000 volumes that detail the social, political, religious, literary and scientific experiences of black Americans, and would form the heart of the Richard B. Harrison library.

On Friday, the library parted with much of that printed history, giving more than 2,000 books to Shaw University. The university's James Cheek Library is positioning itself as a repository for African-American materials, and Shaw officials applauded the chance for a new generation to thumb through the past.

"It just adds a treasure to the collection," said Musette McKelvey, Shaw's interim library director. "We have a lot of first editions and a lot of signed copies. ... Please visit us very often."

Lee, who once worked as a Shaw librarian, opened the Harrison library in 1935. In 1948, the library moved into a larger space in a house on South Blount Street and attracted visits from poet Langston Hughes and author Zora Neale Hurston

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