Desegregation of public libraries in Columbus and the South to be discussed this week

Two free programs this week will examine the desegregation of the public libraries in Columbus, sparked by a protest 55 years ago.

Wednesday, starting at 6:30 p.m., in the Mildred L. Terry Public Library, 640 Veterans Parkway, Wayne A. Wiegand, who co-authored with Shirley A. Wiegand “The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South,” will give a presentation.

“As in other efforts to integrate civic institutions in the 1950s and 1960s, the determination of local activists won the battle against segregation in libraries,” says the news release from the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries. “In particular, the willingness of young African American community members to take part in organized protests and direct actions ensured that local libraries would become genuinely free to all citizens.”

Wayne Wiegand is the F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies Emeritus and a professor of American Studies at Florida State University. His appearance in Columbus is funded in part through the Muscogee County Friends of Libraries.

Shirley Wiegand is professor emeritus of law at Marquette University. Copies of their book will be available for purchase.

Thursday, starting at 6 p.m., in the Columbus Museum’s Patrick Theatre, 1251 Wynnton Road, some of the nearly 40 protesters who staged the 1963 “read-ins” at the W.C. Bradley Memorial Library, which was the city’s main public library, will share their experience.

Wayne Wiegand will moderate the roundtable discussion featuring four of the activists: Christine Dawson, Gwendolyn Jackson, Ibrahim Mumin and Cleophas Tyson.

“Though they faced scorn and arrest,” the news release says, “the young people continued their silent protests for weeks, leading to the libraries’ desegregation.”

Although admission to the discussion is free, registration is encouraged. Call Liliana Harrell at 706-748-2562, ext. 2124, or email her at

The discussion is part of the Rothschild Distinguished Speaker Series. Copies of the Wiegands’ book will be available for purchase in the museum’s gift shop.

The programs are part of the exhibit “Our Stories Live Here: 65 Years of the Mildred L. Terry Public Library,” which was founded as the Fourth Avenue Library and designated for blacks during segregation. The exhibit is on display in the Columbus Museum’s Yarbrough Gallery through Feb. 10.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.