The WC Handy Library

Subject

Community

Description

A series of Florence Herald and Florence Times articles reporting on the open house of the WC Handy Library on Monday night, March 22, 1948. Originally simply the Florence Negro Library, the facility, a branch library of the Muscle Shoals Regional Library System, was located in the parsonage of the Tennessee Valley Community Church at 113 N Pine St. Intended to serve the black community of Florence-Lauderdale the library would also serve the black community of Colbert County until the Negro library in Sheffield was completed. One thousand volumes were available for check-out and Josephine Kimber served as librarian.

At the Monday night, March 22, 1948 open house, over 100 guests, including board members of the Regional and Negro branch boards, attended the open house between 7 and 9 pm. Refreshments were served by the Women's Council of Florence and the Y-Teens of Burrell High School.

In April of 1948 a contest was sponsored by the board of directors of the new library, of which Dr. Leonard Jerry Hicks, MD was chairman, with Florence-Lauderdale Public Library board member AL Thomlinson offering a $10 cash reward to the African-American student who could write the best essay on naming the library; the contest resulted in a tie between Burrell students Wesley Carr Lewis, who wrote his essay on WC Handy, and Bettie Jo Cherry, who selected Prof. George N. White. Florence Times editor Louis Eckl was asked to break the tie, and Eckl selected Lewis' essay as the winner, thus the Negro branch of the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library was named after WC Handy.

According to local historian Alvin Rosenbaum, on p. xviii of the introduction to his book "The Muscle Shoals: First Frontier of These United States," his father Stanley, a Florence State professor and chairman of the Southern Regional Council's Alabama Council on Human Relations for the Muscle Shoals Area, was also the treasurer of the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library Board. Rosenbaum writes:

"The Negro library [WC Handy Library], part of the library system, was at the corner of Mobile and Pine Streets, a small building with a tin roof next to the red-brick Lauderdale County Jail. In the 1950s, the part-time librarian submitted an estimate for a new roof (the books were getting wet from the rain), which was more than the building was worth, according to Stanley. With board approval he directed the Negro library be closed, the books to be transferred to the main library facility [on North Wood Avenue], and the water fountain to be shut off and the restrooms locked (to meet Alabama's Jim Crow laws). The facility was integrated without public comment or incident (and was perhaps the first *public* facility in Alabama to integrate, c. 1956)."

Creator

Florence Herald and Florence Times
Alvin Rosenbaum

Source

Florence Herald
Florence Times
Florence Times
Florence Times
Florence Herald
Florence Herald
Florence Herald
Florence Herald
The Muscle Shoals: First Frontier of These United States
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Publisher

Newspapers.com
ProQuest
Whitman Publishing, LLC
Bell & Howell Miro Photo Division
Whitman Publishing Co.

Contributor

Lee Freeman

Rights

Images are available for educational and research purposes. This image may not be reproduced for commercial purposes without the express written consent of the copyright holder. It is the responsibility of the interested party to identify the copyright holder and receive permission.

Format

Jpeg

Language

English

Type

still image

Files

Negro Library to Open Mon Night FH Fri March 19 1948 p 1.jpg
Negro Library to Open Here Monday Night.jpg
Lauderdale's Library for Negroes Opens p I.jpg
Lauderdale's Library for Negroes Opens p II.jpg
Negro Library is Open Monday.jpg
Handy's Name is Given to Library FH Fri Apr 30 1948 p 2.jpg
Annual Report of District Library FH Thu Nov 10 1949 p 9 pt 1.jpg
Annual Report of District Library FH Thu Nov 10 1949 p 9 pt 2.jpg
Pub Lib Adds New Books FH Thu Apr 19 1951 p 7.jpg
Board Members of Lib Renamed FH Thu Jan 18 1951 p 1.jpg
Muscle Shoals Cover.jpg
Muscle Shoals p xviii.jpg
WC Handy Library.jpg

Collection

Citation

Florence Herald and Florence Times and Alvin Rosenbaum, “The WC Handy Library,” Shoals Black History, accessed February 5, 2023, https://shoalsblackhistory.omeka.net/items/show/1039.