Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Black (Librarians) History Month: E. J. Josey

NOTE: This article was originally posted on February 3, 2013. Two years later, it still holds true.

February is Black History Month--a time to reflect on historically significant African Americans who have made equally significant social and  political contributions to  the United States. This month we repeatedly hear about Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and George Washington Carver.

But we usually don't hear about African Americans librarians who have made significant contributions to librarianship and beyond. Elonnie Junius Josey, Edward Christopher Williams, Regina Andrews,  Arnaud Bontemps, and Sadie Peterson Delaney broke the color line in librarianship and transformed the profession. They were, as Library of Congress research Julius Jefferson noted, the "culture keepers" (Pesca, 2008). They went beyond collecting and curating books. They actively promoted diversifying the profession.

This blog entry will briefly focus on Josey.

E.J. Josey, a co-founder of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, wrote many books and articles championing professional multiculturalism. Josey is the librarians' Martin Luther King. He passionately and endlessly battle discrimination within the profession (E.J. Josey). He was a civil right activist, in every sense of the phrase. He understood the political and social ramifications of a largely White profession that served increasingly diverse patron populations. He was not afraid to step out of the dark stacks into the brights lights of world stage to correct this situation.


I wish I had met him before he died in 2009. I wish I had know about him before I entered library school in 2008. But like many other African Americans, my knowledge of historical African Americans was limited to those who were celebrated during Black History Month.

I don't remember E. J. Josey ever being mentioned.

So, let's remember these forgotten librarian heroes. Take time this month to Google their names (Yes, a librarian recommended "Google"). Discover how they advanced librarianship and encouraged many people of color to enter the profession. These librarians may not have marched on Washington or refused to give up their seats on a segregated bus system. But their contributions to librarianship are no less political and thus no less significant than our usual Black History Month heroes.

REFERENCES
E. J. Josey. (2003). Retrieved from http://sis.pitt.edu/~ejjosey
Pesca, M. (Interviewer), Jefferson, J. (Interviewee). (2008). "Endangered species": Black male librarian. [Interview Transcript]. Retrieved http://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=91955374

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