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Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  61 ratings  ·  26 reviews
As the Civil Rights Movement exploded across the United States, the media of the time was able to show the rest of the world images of horrific racial violence. And while some of the bravest people of the 20th century risked their lives for the right to simply order a cheeseburger, ride a bus, or use a clean water fountain, there was another virtually unheard of struggle-- ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
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Heidi The Reader
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In Freedom Libraries, Mike Selby remembers and honors the volunteers and patrons of the numerous libraries set up to serve black populations mainly in the southern states during the civil rights era and later.

During that period of history, the institutionalized racism of many southern towns extended to library services. Books and learning programs were specifically curated at whites-only libraries in order to propagate the disgusting ideology of white supremacy in addition to keeping the black p
Stacie C
Sep 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
So many stories go untold. So many truths remain hidden. Certain areas of history that you weren’t even aware of become visible and it has the ability to shift the world as you see it. I considered myself well read in regards to the events of Freedom Summer and the works of Civil Rights activist that summer of 1964. Not a scholar or researcher but I had done my due diligence to be knowledgeable of a history, that as a Black woman, has affected my life in so many profound ways. But I have never h ...more
Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

It is well known that denying knowledge is a way to keep a group down or enslaved. It is the reason why teaching a slave to read was crime. We have, in some senses, over looked the power of education not only in the Civil Right movement. Luckily this didn’t sit well with Mike Selby.

While most people know about the Freedom Riders, but the libraries that were set up in towns and the education that the places provided are less well known, though the people who ran the
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc-s, net-galley
*I received this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review*

"A library is not a collection of books. Nor is it a building." Being a librarian, libraries are obviously very important to me and while I do know that there is was more to this world than books and the places where they are housed, I feel like that can even get lost for me. This book did a great job of reminding me why libraries are important and why libraries should be political and why we need to be.

As a 21st century Canadian
Dave Butler
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Mike Selby does a masterful job of telling a story about courage, about people who recognized -- despite the threat of significant violence -- that libraries change people's lives.

At a time when the Civil Rights movement was sweeping across the United States, and when brave people risked their lives to ride a bus, order a meal in a restaurant, or even use a water fountain, others were risking equally as much for the right to read.

This is a fascinating, skillfuly written and incredibly well-rese
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This wonderful book sheds light on a little known aspect of Civil Rights history, while demonstrating the overpowering value of books and libraries. Kudos to Mike Selby for giving us this necessary and important book.
I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Moving, enlightening, and truly fascinating "Freedom Libraries" is a fantastic history of Freedom Summer, the Civil Rights Movement, and the untold story of Freedom Libraries and the librarians who ran them.

In many towns throughout the South during the summer of 1964 and beyond, Freedom Libraries were established by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), bringing libraries, literacy and books to black
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Training to become a librarian and earning my master's degree is something that has been one of the cornerstones and defining aspects of my life. It means everything to me. I cannot imagine approaching a university offering the degree, starting there, causing a riot, having to be driven in a car that was heavily pelted with stones, and then asked to leave because it was too great a safety risk on the basis of the colour of my skin. That is exactly what happened to Autherine Lucy in Alabama in th ...more
Aug 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
(Note: I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

Speaking first as just a fairly avid reader with a preference for history, I deeply appreciate the work that Mike Selby has put into creating a work that is able to give such thorough and much-needed attention to a very overlooked part of the Civil Rights Movement.

And when speaking as a professional librarian, I deeply, deeply wish that this book or a book remotely like it was available when I was earning my MLS degree. What little I
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
An unsung chapter in the Civil Rights Movement comes to life with all the drama, terror, determination, and dignity it deserves. As a Southerner, and a librarian, I wouldn’t have thought I needed to be schooled by a Canadian about my own people. But I was, and I think we all need to know about the courageous, brief existence of thriving libraries for African Americans alongside the marches and bombings.
The author says that when he attended the University of Alabama library science program, he w
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
To see more reviews check out MI Book Reviews.

I got an ARC of this book.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day about how much history is just unknown. Unless you know what to look for and who knows things, so much is either forgotten or covered up. Libraries are some of my favorite places. When I move into a city, the very first thing I do is get a library card. Libraries have always been this safe place and they are everywhere, I am always in awe of them. I have never thought I
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an important book that should be read, especially, by librarians, librarians-to-be, and all library employees, in general. It reads like a college text book. The stance of the American Library Association during the era was a disappointing revelation and the beloved Carnegie libraries took a hit, too. The Student Non-Violent Co-Ordinating Committee (SNCC), Freedom Summers, and the courageous people who made these libraries and those who used them are my heroes. My first year of college w ...more
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Set amidst the turmoil of the Civil Rights era, concerned individuals of all ethnic groups found a way to bring literacy and education to African Americans in the South. In 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) decided to take books southward and create libraries for African Americans who could not us the segregated, “Whites-Only” libraries. And this is in an era when the libraries, despite federal law, were desegregated on paper but found other ways to keep non-whites out. ...more
Oct 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book for the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I had never heard of Freedom Libraries until reading this book. There is so much of our history that has been covered and hidden for myriad reasons. Authors like Mike Selby help to rip the veils from our eyes so we can learn the other part of the story, the side that is not beautiful nor patriotic, but it is a part of our country's history, nevertheless.

While the book is very informative with so
Michelle Mallette
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
See my full review here.
This is an interesting and highly readable exploration of a topic at the intersection of library history and the U.S. civil rights movement. Freedom Libraries were opened when workers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee discovered a need for books and literacy education, as they worked to help disenfranchised black citizens try to register to vote. "Voter tests" were often applied to keep black voters off the rolls, and so the volunteers set to work helping
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an incredibly well-told, concise history of some horrible, horrible stuff. As a library employee who strives every day to make the space I work in more inclusive and welcoming to everyone, this hit me in the worst way. The sheer, unmasked, unabashed racism of it all, from fraudulent arrests to straight up murder was too much - not from a historical perspective but from a contemporary one, especially in light of the details surrounding the Amber Guyger case (I try not to get too newsie in ...more
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I won't say this was written by the best author the world has known, but the material he wrote about was so amazingly necessary to focus on, since few people know this history. The stories that this book covered were alternatively filled with hope and despair but as a librarian, it was heartwarming to learn about people who literally fought and died to provide library service or seek it. Especially in today's world, I think its extra important to learn the (usually racist) history behind our ins ...more
Oct 23, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is a great topic for a book and it deserves a solid, scholarly, complex treatment. It does not get one in this book, which jumps around chronologically within chapters. includes anecdotes and asides, and displays a lot of hero worship by the author for his subjects. Simply stating--in often gushing tones--the importance of these libraries and telling dramatic stories about who in the Civil Rights movement learned to read where and how they got their library cards doesn't approach the kind o ...more
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
I really wanted this book to be better. Though it is deeply researched and about a fascinating topic, the prose is messy and feels like a rough draft. Perhaps the proof I was provided with is REALLY uncorrected and the final published version will be more polished. That said, I definitely learned things I did not know about Freedom Libraries and the sacrifices people made trying to bring books to underserved communities, which is always a story worth telling.

Netgalley provided me this book in ex
Dec 04, 2019 added it
I found this a fascinating view of an aspect of time in American history that is largely undocumented. We know much about the Freedom Riders and the fight for equal rights during the Civil Rights Movement, but until I read this book I did not know about the freedom libraries. Knowledge is power. And the fight was long. Those who opened freedom libraries in various states ensured that African Americans had opportunity and access.
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I suspect this book was created from the author's thesis or dissertation, but I appreciated learning about Freedom Libraries. Although I was familiar with SNCC and the Freedom Rides I had never heard about the Freedom Libraries they also set up in the south. This book gives a nice history of some of the libraries set up in various cities.
Mar 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Some reviewers are critical of this book because it isn't written in the typical scholarly style, for the author expressing opinions, and for the book moving back and forth in time/location. All this does happen, but it is part of what I absolutely loved about this book. For me, it felt like a conversation with a librarian who is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about a subject, and given the subject is libraries, this style seemed right.

I had not heard of freedom libraries before readin
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Libraries have always been meeting places, especially for groups that are marginalized or need to organize. Freedom Libraries were used during the Civil Rights movement to provide a safe space for these activities plus learning for school. The topic is very interesting, but the writing style isn't the best. It would have been better if the author had focused more in depth, rather than jumping around so much.

I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review, but all opinions are
Annie M.
Aug 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: awesome
This is an excellent book, a must-read for any decent human being. :) It chronicles the Freedom Libraries in some of the southern states during the 1960s. It also discusses the Civil Rights movement as it pertains to the time and location of these libraries. It is amazing the atrocities human beings committed against one another, but it is also amazing that so many were willing to volunteer and give freely of themselves to help others discover the belonging, acceptance, and possibilities that ca ...more
B. M.  Polier
As a library worker myself, I know the importance of not censoring the knowledge that is gathered for people to learn from. To know there was a time where books weren't censored but the people who could gain access to them was is appalling to me. An eye-opening, wonderfully written history that I am glad was unearthed.
This is an extremely important book for library science and civil rights history. I graduated from library school a little over a year ago. We discussed the perception of librarians as white women and the stereotypes that librarianship can hold. In a class on the information professions in society, we spent a week on the need for diversity and multicultural perspectives in the profession. I wrote a final paper on the concept of libraries as 'neutral' or apolitical spaces. At no time during my re ...more
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