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A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's by Patterson Toby Graham

By Patterson Toby Graham

A dramatic bankruptcy in American cultural historical past.    * 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 college of Georgia in Athens.

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Extra resources for A Right to Read: Segregation and Civil Rights in Alabama's Public Libraries, 1900-1965

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The TVA and its supporters sought a broad program of regional development, an unprecedented experiment in federal action, that would contribute substantially to the welfare of the people of the Tennessee Valley, part of which lay within the borders of Alabama. The South was generally believed to be the “number one economic problem of the nation” in an era rife with economic problems; the TVA was charged with the task of pulling the region out of the abyss. In many areas, including the development of regional library service, the TVA was a success.

The WPA resulted from a recognition that the nation’s unemployed would need government assistance into the foreseeable future and that a comprehensive public works effort was required. It was an attempt to lessen the reliance of the impoverished upon direct relief, instead engaging them in projects of enduring social value. WPA planners believed that public library development was an area of activity that carried this social merit. 17 The WPA created its Library Services Section in 1938 to serve as a clearinghouse for all of the agency’s library projects.

By the end of that year, however, the library was suffering. The Negro book fund had been depleted and no alternative sources re- 16 / Chapter One placed it. Birmingham administrators recognized the problem but asserted that there was little that they could do; the Washington Branch was not alone in its ¤scal dif¤culties. “Not one of the branches has enough books to take care of demand,” the board complained. Still, African Americans were worse off than the rest. The book budget given to the board in November 1922 reported that the system spent $8,934 on materials for white libraries and only $720 for black library.

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