Charlemae Hill Rollins was more than just a librarian – she was a nurturer. When she looked at the books available to Black children in her 1930s library, she was appalled by what she saw. What upset her so much?
Our people were constantly portrayed as racist stereotypes! From unintelligible language to straight up buffoonery, the children’s books she saw in school libraries were a racist nightmare. She had to do something, but how?
She realized local librarians needed help picking better books for Black children. So she wrote guides, gave lectures, and created book lists. She worked to reform libraries and bring about social justice.
But her work didn’t stop there.
Part of the problem was that Black authors had so many barriers to making books for kids!
She worked tirelessly to advocate for Black authors and make libraries more welcoming and safe for Black children across the nation. She even wrote books herself after she retired! So, did all her hard work actually reform libraries?
Yes! From professional associations to inspiring more Black librarians to work to reform Black images, Rollins’ work is still celebrated today.
There’s still work to be done, but thanks to Rollins we have plenty of work to build upon. We must continue to normalize and celebrate Blackness in books and beyond. Our stories matter!