Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Committee Chair

Aram Goudsouzian

Committee Member

Beverly Bond

Committee Member

Sarah Potter


As in most cities of the South, in Memphis African Americans were not welcome in the main public library. However, the Cossitt Library did open one of the first branch libraries for African-American readers, in 1903. That branch, inconveniently located, attracted few patrons and moved from location to location until 1939, when a permanent Negro Branch library was opened. The varying fortunes of library service to African Americans in Memphis can be seen in the context of waxing and waning political power of African Americans in the city, as the Lincoln League and later the Crump machine showed the power of African-American voters to influence city politics, and also its limits. As Memphians engaged in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the main library was a focus of both lawsuits and direct action for desegregation. In 1960, a sit-in protest at the main library by dozens of college students launched a city-wide movement of sit-ins and picketing against segregated public facilities. By the end of 1960, readers of all races were welcome in the main library, and in 1961 all were free to share the same bathrooms.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.