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Honoring African American Librarians

In celebration of Black History Month, we would like to highlight five notable African American librarians. This post was written by Anacostia Community Museum librarian, Baasil Wilder.

Five African American Librarians who have made significant contributions to librarianship in America by transforming our profession and paving the way for all races:

Elonnie Junius Josey (January 20, 1924-July 3, 2009)
E. J. Josey was the founder of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (ALA) and the ALA’s second Black president (1984-85). He was also Professor Emeritus, Department of Library and Information Science, School of Library and Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh. In 1970, he edited the pioneering book The Black Librarian in America. He was head of the library at Savannah State, and he directed the library of Delaware State College, Dover.

Edward Christopher Williams (1871-1929)

Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, Description des Expériences de la Machine Aérostatique, 1783

E.C. Williams was the first African American professional librarian in the nation. He was head librarian at Western Reserve University, and University Librarian of Howard University (from 1916 to 1929).

Regina M. Anderson Andrews (May 21, 1901-February 5, 1993)
R. M. Anderson Andrews was a prominent force in the creation of the movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. She was a professional librarian for the New York City Library. She attended Columbia University where she obtained her Masters of Library Science.

Arnaud Wendell Bontemps (October 13, 1902-June 4, 1973)
In 1943 A. W. Bontemps earned his master’s degree in library science from the University of Chicago. At Fisk University, he became head librarian, a post he held until 1964. Bontemps became a leading figure in establishing African-American literature as a legitimate object of study and preservation.

Dr. Sadie Peterson Delaney (1889-1958)
S. P. Delaney was a pioneer in the field of bibliotherapy and organized the Veterans Administration Hospital Library in Tuskegee, Alabama. She assumed the post of Chief Librarian at the Veterans Hospital in 1923.


Websites consulted include:

Elonnie Junius Josey

Edward Christopher Williams

Regina M. Anderson Andrews

Arnaud Wendell Bontemps

Dr. Sadie Peterson Delaney



  1. Portia James

    Great website! Sorry to say, I did not know some of the people named above. thank you for bringing their stories to a wider audience.

  2. Beverly R Wilder

    This is a wonderful idea to recognize African American librarins. They have helped in much of the research where small and large important facts have been discovered.

  3. Baaraca Johnson

    This was very informative and a good read. Thanks!

  4. Dr. Belton Wilder

    In celebration of Black History Month, it is refreshing to learn that these were five African American librarians who made an impact and a significant contribution as Americans to history. Thank you for revealing these facts of our history as proud Americans.

  5. Todd Crosby

    Greetings, I’m looking for an African-American Librarian who was such an impact on my and other young black students in 1970’s Baltimore MD School #137. Her name was Ms. Poteat, very graceful and well articulate. She introduced us students to the Newberry and Caldicott winners, while amassing such a humongous volume of great books for us to escape the stressors of the time, while learning so much in the process. Ms. Poteat pioneered a book club at the asbestos dilapidated elementary school that was never seen before. We loved to run to the library after school to listen to her praises of authors, books, history and how it all tied together. Naturally she was called for bigger things in NYC. I never forgot Ms. Poteat, without her I wouldn’t have been able to navigate and circumnavigate literature as best as I did in my life. If anyone knows or remembers Ms. Poteat, can you tell her Baltimore MD hasn’t forgotten her and Thank you for your service. Tell her Baltimore MD needs anchors like her more than ever to pull us out of this educational crisis/ mire that just won’t end. Thank you

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