Getting by at the Benjamin Mays Black Branch: Library Access for African Americans in Jim Crow South Carolina, 1940-1971

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Cutter, Jamie Irene
American South; Benjamin Mays; Integration; Library History; Segregation; South Carolina
thesis / dissertation description
This thesis examines a chapter of South Carolina history that has been neglected in the historical record, namely segregated libraries of the twentieth century. Previous works have covered the history of black libraries in the entire South, but details of South Carolina's segregated libraries are incomplete. This study looks first at the broader context of segregated libraries in the American South and then reviews the history of African American libraries in South Carolina. Finally, this study provides a case study of the Benjamin Mays Library, a segregated, African American library in Greenwood, South Carolina. The case study uses primary source documents and oral history interviews to establish the library's background and history, with a focus on progress toward integration. The record of this library and the broader background on South Carolina's black libraries will illustrate that there was no one single catalyst for black library establishment in South Carolina. Rather several agents developed and maintained segregated libraries throughout the state until desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s.