Celebrating Black History and Excellence Throughout the Year

By: Alexandra Howard, Business Research & Teaching Librarian

Here at the University Libraries, we recognize that the celebration of Black history deserves more than a month. Ekstrom Library’s Research Assistance and Instruction department has created a library research guide that the UofL and global research community can use to investigate and celebrate Black history and Black excellence 365 days a year, every year.

Photo by Alex Howard

The guide not only introduces library resources on Black history, but also celebrates the history of the Black community in Louisville and recognizes the struggle for racial justice in our city. In 2020, Louisville made national headlines after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed inside her home by police officers. Black history is being made every day in Louisville as leaders work to empower their communities, to secure systemic recognition that Black Lives Matter, and to demand justice for Breonna Taylor. The Louisville portion of the research guide highlights community organizations in Louisville involved in these important efforts.

Photo of black protester. By Logan Weaver on Unsplash.
Photo by Logan Weaver on Unsplash.

The Celebrating Black History library research guide also seeks to expand the traditional Black History Month narrative honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X. While these are important figures, it is vital to expand the narrative and highlight Black scholars from across academic disciplines. We want to ensure that our Black and African American students see themselves reflected in their disciplines. We want to encourage faculty and staff to incorporate the work of Black scholars into their curriculum and research. Our Academic Leaders portion of the guide offers a selection of written material within our collection by Black scholars in different academic disciplines. We plan to expand this portion of the guide and are working on an initiative to highlight the research and scholarship of BIPOC faculty, staff, and students at the University of Louisville.

Some of the incredible resources our library offers to research Black history are the African American Newspapers database, Ethnic NewsWatch, Louisville Leader Collection, and an oral history collection of African American community interviews. The University Libraries recently launched an initiative to diversify our collections. Please send us your recommendations.

If interested in learning more, please email Alexandra Howard: alexandra.howard.1@louisville.edu.

African American Read-In celebrates 30 Years at UofL

Thirty years ago, a group of UofL scholars gathered to read African American authors’ works aloud, celebrating literature during Black History Month. Led by Celeste Nichols, who in 1992 earned her PhD at UofL – the first African American to do so – the event boasted such auspicious attendees as Blaine Hudson, later Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Ed Lassiter, who worked in a variety of roles at UofL including as director of Black Student Affairs.


Ed Lassiter (r) emcees at the African American Read-In in 2019.

This year, on February 10, UofL’s African American Read-In celebrates its 30th anniversary. Readers will gather in Ekstrom Library’s east side lobby from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. to read their favorite authors’ works aloud. Lassiter returns as the event’s emcee, Joan D’Antoni and Fannie Mae Cox continue as organizers, students, faculty, staff and the public are invited. Thus the tradition begun by Nichols, who passed away in 1996, continues.

UofL’s event is sponsored by the University Libraries, the UofL English Department, and the Commission on Diversity and Racial Equity (CODRE). The Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English founded the event nationally in 1990 to celebrate literacy during Black History Month.

Volunteers who would like to read are invited to contact D’Antoni, U of L professor of English Composition, at j0dant01@exchange.louisville.edu to schedule a time. Readers receive free books; attendees have the chance to win free books via periodic drawings.

Books to be handed out include I’m Down, Mishna Wolff; Living by the Word, Alice Walker; The Work, Wes Moore; Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo, Ntozake Shange; and The Story of Ruby Bridges, Robert Coles, among many others.


All-Libraries MLK Exhibit Leads Visitors Through Civil Rights Timeline

To honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King on his birthday, all University of Louisville’s libraries will participate in an exhibit of posters and materials celebrating Dr. King’s life, “A Walk Through the Civil Rights Movement with the University Libraries.”

MLK 2020

The exhibit highlights pivotal events in the civil rights movement in the United States, beginning with the Brown v Board of Education decision in 1954, and ending with Dr. King’s assassination in 1968. Visitors can follow the panels’ timeline starting in Kornhauser Library, then moving to Music, Law, Archives and Special Collections, Ekstrom, and ending at the Art Library.

The featured panels commemorating the civil rights movement once hung in Ekstrom Library for a decade. Each library will display some of the panels and supplement the exhibit with their own materials.

An accompanying MLK digital timeline and Library Guide (LibGuide) will reference all materials displayed in the exhibit, showcasing the numerous civil rights-related works within each library’s collection. It will be linked to the University Libraries’ website.

Charles Anderson Papers Highlight African-American Legacy in U.S. Law and Legislation

A recent summer afternoon in the 4th floor offices of Archives and Special Collections in Ekstrom Library, Archivist Tom Owen dug into two large boxes filled with photos, scrapbooks, legal files, news clippings and other items belonging to one of Louisville’s most important African American leaders of the 20th Century.

The brimming boxes were donated to the UofL Archives by the children of Charles W. Anderson, Jr., the first African American to serve in the Kentucky Legislature, and the first in the South since the Reconstruction era in the late 1800s. A lawyer educated at Kentucky State College and Wilberforce and Howard universities, Anderson was elected as a Republican representative from Louisville in November 1935 at age 28 and served six terms until 1946. He died in a train-car accident in 1960 at the age of 53.


University of Louisville Libraries Archivist Tom Owen reviews stacks of literature and documents belonging to Charles W. Anderson.

While in office he achieved a number of legislative milestones, including the Anderson-Mayer State Aid Act, which offered $7,500 annually to African American students to attend out-of-state colleges. The fund was necessitated by Kentucky’s Day Law, which mandated separate white and black educational facilities, meaning that only one college in the state, Kentucky State College in Frankfort, could accept African American applicants. Because Kentucky State’s curriculum was limited, many African Americans seeking graduate degrees and specialized programs were forced to go out-of-state.

Anderson passed additional legislation aimed at expanding educational opportunities for Kentucky African Americans, including one for improving public school facilities and another providing a $100 education and travel stipend for each black student forced to travel outside his or her county to attend segregated schools.  Most famously, he fought to combat lynching in Kentucky and worked vigorously to successfully repeal the state’s public hanging law.

Anderson passed legislation . . . providing a $100 education and travel stipend for each black student forced to travel outside his or her county to attend segregated schools.

Owen said his expectations for the Anderson papers were far exceeded by the items he discovered in the boxes.

“Often with papers from political leaders we find mostly Who’s Who type publications that can be obtained elsewhere, but here we found mostly one-of-a-kind files, brochures, and photos unique to Anderson. So that’s great.”

His children, Victoria Anderson Pinderhughes, who lives in New York City, and Charles W. Anderson, III, of Detroit, sought a home for preserving their father’s important legacy and memorabilia. Happily, Victoria had maintained contact with childhood friends in Louisville who recommended UofL as the most trusted repository.

What’s next for the Charles W. Anderson Jr. Papers?  Owen noted that before the public can access the collection he will organize the files into “series” such as clipping scrapbooks (eight), manuscripts, photos (dozens), legislative issues, legal records, and condolences sent at the time of Anderson’s death. Then he’ll rebox and refile them in acid-free containers and prepare a finding aide to guide users of the collection. Eventually, the papers will be exhibited in ASC’s galleries in the lower level of Ekstrom Library.

Now available: Charles W. Jr. and Victoria McCall Anderson papers finding aid.