By Patterson Toby Graham
A dramatic bankruptcy in American cultural background. * 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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Additional resources for A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965
5 The lure of jobs in mining brought a signi¤cant number of African Americans to Walker County. The region’s black population was traditionally a small one, especially in comparison to the cotton-growing counties farther south. But to satisfy the need for labor, mining of¤cials began actively recruiting blacks from other areas to ¤ll lower paying jobs. Many came from rural Mississippi, drawn by the appeal of steady pay and inexpensive housing. By 1930, blacks comprised just over 13 percent of the county’s total population.
13 Despite the economic, social, and political obstacles the Walker County library system faced during the 1930s, the progress made in African-American library service was unprecedented among Alabama’s counties. The number of books per capita at the disposal of blacks was similar to that for whites between 1931 and 1936. Throughout the Depression, blacks consistently had more deposit stations for their population size than whites. 14 The quality of service and level of readership among blacks in Walker County improved steadily during the Depression.
Eventually there were hundreds of the WPA deposit stations in the state. 20 Despite the achievements of the Administration in expanding service to whites, it failed to provide adequate leadership in black library development in Alabama. Though it used the Rosenwald Fund’s concept of county library demonstrations, the WPA did not share the Fund’s emphasis on black library service. When an of¤cer of the agency’s Negro Services group wrote to Edward A. Chapman, the WPA library chief, inquiring about service to African Americans in the South, Chapman was hard-pressed to provide an adequate reply.
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