"Open These Hallowed Doors:" The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the American South

Dr. Wayne Wiegand, distinguished historian of libraries and F. Williams Summers Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Studies, Florida State University, will visit the Hattiesburg Public Library on April 17th at 6 p.m. to discuss the desegregation of public libraries in the South.

Wiegand’s presentation will focus specifically on the local activism that helped bolster the library integration movement of the early 1960s. His book, The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South (co-authored with Shirley A. Wiegand), was published earlier this spring by the LSU Press.

“The movement to desegregate public libraries was a local contest over public space,” Wiegand explains. “By refusing to be pushed around, by brazenly defying segregationist practices, risking their lives and daring local officials to arrest them, [African Americans] forced local whites to confront questions of freedom, justice, and the democratic ideals the American public library claimed to embody.”

Though Wiegand’s is the first substantial work to document the Hattiesburg library protests of August 1964, his book covers local movements across the entire southeastern region, not just Mississippi. “These local-level stories frame a narrative that demonstrates similarities and differences as individual communities negotiated—mostly peacefully, sometimes violently—the integration of the local public library as a place.”

Students, scholars and members of the public are invited to attend this free event and join the discussion. Participants from the 1964 Hattiesburg library demonstrations will be in attendance, and Main Street Books will offer copies of Dr. Wiegand’s book for purchase.

The event has been made possible with support from the Friends of the University Libraries, and with additional help from the Honors Forum, the Hattiesburg Public Library, the School of Library and Information Science, and the Center for the Gulf South. For more information or to arrange press interviews with Dr. Wiegand, please contact Dr. Matthew Griffis at matthew.griffis@usm.edu or 601-266-4228.