Their Novel Approach To Reading Made History

Delta Sigma Theta Chapter at Wilberforce University in 1922
Leslie Taylor-Grover
July 8, 2020

For Black children in the 1930s, there was hard manual work, early morning chores, and limited educational opportunities. But that wasn’t the extent of their struggle.

Reading books and doing schoolwork was often difficult. With Jim Crow’s rampant segregation, the best hope many had for learning opportunities were either discarded books from white libraries or books purchased by Black churches. 

But the community wouldn’t stand for it - and did something wonderful.

The women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. had a brilliant, powerful idea: get books to areas where there were no libraries, access was limited, or our people were simply not allowed. But how to overcome the racist restrictions of the day?

From the 1930s to the late 1950s, they took books into rural communities via a Bookmobile! Thousands received books this way. 

And by the time the Bookmobile stopped running, a permanent literacy program was in place. This meant many of our people, who did not have the chance to learn to read, became able to do so - regardless of their age.

In this COVID-19 environment, reading is even more important for us - but most libraries and schools are shuttered. Innovation like the bookmobile inspires us to get creative as we invest in our community's enrichment and take care of our own! 

What brilliant ideas do you have to meet educational needs in your community?

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