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In the middle of the Great Depression, Mollie Huston Lee left her job and set out to establish a library. Lee was working at Shaw University’s library in Raleigh when

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In the middle of the Great Depression, Mollie Huston Lee left her job and set out to establish a library. Lee was working at Shaw University’s library in Raleigh when

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In the middle of the Great Depression, Mollie Huston Lee left her job and set out to establish a library. Lee was working at Shaw University’s library in Raleigh when

Curating Inclusion

In the middle of the Great Depression, Mollie Huston Lee left her job and set out to establish a library. Lee was working at Shaw University’s library in Raleigh when she realized that the city didn’t have anywhere for Black citizens to check out books. (Charlotte opened its first public library for African Americans in 1905, but most other cities across the state were slow to adapt.) In 1935, Lee opened a small storefront on East Hargett Street with about 900 books, making her Wake County’s first Black librarian. Eventually, the storefront transformed into Richard B. Harrison Library, and, with growing community support, it moved twice before finding a space on New Bern Avenue that was big enough to hold all of its books and patrons. Lee also trained Black librarians and amassed a large collection of Black literature. By the time she retired in 1972, her efforts had become legendary. To Lee, the library was a place where a community could congregate and minds could flourish. “I don’t know of anything that can help anyone grow more,” she said, “than working in a library.”

This story was published on Mar 02, 2021

Jeremy Markovich

Jeremy Markovich

Jeremy Markovich is a writer and the host of Our State's podcast, Away Message. He lives in Oak Ridge.