Investing in Literature: Ernestine Rose and the Harlem Branch Public Library of the 1920s

Investing in Literature: Ernestine Rose and the Harlem Branch Public Library of the 1920s Barbara Hochman Ben-Gurion University n 1920, Ernestine Rose, a young white reformer, became head librarian at the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library (see fig. 1). Rose aimed to make the library an "integral part of negro life," convinced that access to books would lead to professional, intellectual, and artistic achievements by African Americans ("Serving" 111). Rose was committed to the idea of books and reading as a gateway to success, but she was well aware that despite the impressive advances of African Americans since the end of Reconstruction, segregation remained the norm in the US public library system. She believed that the separation of "all colored people from all whites" was the biggest obstacle to her goals for the library (109). By the time she published "Serving New York's Black City" in the Library Journal in March 1921, she had hired three "colored" library assistants. In January 1922 she hired a fourth, Nella Larsen Imes, soon to become one of the most promising novelists of the Harlem Renaissance. With Rose's help and encouragement, Larsen was the first African American applicant accepted to the library school of the New York Public Library and the first black http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers University of Nebraska Press

Investing in Literature: Ernestine Rose and the Harlem Branch Public Library of the 1920s

Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, Volume 31 (1) – Jun 4, 2014

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Publisher
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The University of Nebraska Press.
ISSN
1534-0643
Publisher site
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Abstract

Barbara Hochman Ben-Gurion University n 1920, Ernestine Rose, a young white reformer, became head librarian at the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library (see fig. 1). Rose aimed to make the library an "integral part of negro life," convinced that access to books would lead to professional, intellectual, and artistic achievements by African Americans ("Serving" 111). Rose was committed to the idea of books and reading as a gateway to success, but she was well aware that despite the impressive advances of African Americans since the end of Reconstruction, segregation remained the norm in the US public library system. She believed that the separation of "all colored people from all whites" was the biggest obstacle to her goals for the library (109). By the time she published "Serving New York's Black City" in the Library Journal in March 1921, she had hired three "colored" library assistants. In January 1922 she hired a fourth, Nella Larsen Imes, soon to become one of the most promising novelists of the Harlem Renaissance. With Rose's help and encouragement, Larsen was the first African American applicant accepted to the library school of the New York Public Library and the first black

Journal

Legacy: A Journal of American Women WritersUniversity of Nebraska Press

Published: Jun 4, 2014

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