Charlotte’s Brevard Street Library for Negros opened to the public on February 2, 1906, as the first free public library for African Americans in North Carolina. The Carnegie Corporation spurred its creation by agreeing only to provide funding to build Charlotte's segregated Carnegie Library if the city agreed to build a library for African Americans. Donations for the library also came in from Charlotte's black community.
Brevard Street Library was also the first public library in the state that was run by African Americans. The librarians were all black, and as an independent institution, it was administered by a board of prominent African American citizens, including Thad Tate. The library’s independence came to an end in 1929, when it was made a branch of the Charlotte Public Library, now the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library. The library system integrated in 1956, and that along with the city's urban renewal project in Brooklyn/Second Ward spelled the end for the Brevard Street Branch, and it was closed in 1961.
To learn more about the Brevard Street Library, please check out this oral history interview with Allegra Westbrooks. Ms. Westbrooks was the first African American public library supervisor in the state, and worked at the Brevard Street Library in the late 1940s through to its closure in 1961:
Brevard Street Library, undated. From “Thriving in the Shadows: The Black Experience in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County” by Fannie Flono, page 80.
To check out previous Fact Friday articles covering "urban renewal" and its impact in Charlotte, click here!
Until next week!
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Information taken from:
UNC Charlotte Special Collections on Instagram - @unccspeccoll
“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass