The J. Lewis Crozer Library collection actively promotes diversity. Each collection in the Library has both a general section and an African American section. Furthermore, our librarians have been diligently adding titles for all ages in Spanish. The specialized collections promote literacy among our patrons and provide easy access to books for school projects and life-long learning.
Black History Month — do you know about?
The 1917 Race Riot in Chester
The 1917 Race Riot in Chester, PA occurred between July 24 and July 30, 1917. While many race riots occurred around the country during and after World War I, the riot in Chester is distinctive “because there were no accusations of police brutality, and city officials and police made strenuous efforts to prevent the lynching of blacks rather than participating in or ignoring the violence” (Mack, 2017). Learn more at Black Past and through this article by Eric Ledell Smith published in Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies.
the Mississippi Black codes
Despite Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, several southern states enacted their own laws shortly after the end of the Civil War to deny freedoms and civil rights to African Americans. Learn more about the Black Codes and the Reconstruction Era at Teaching American History and Mississippi History Now.
Frederick Douglass and The Hill Community
The life and work of Frederick Douglass is deeply connected to The Hill Community in Easton, MD, one of the oldest, continuously inhabited, African-American communities in the United States. In 2014, a group of 6th graders from Stetser Elementary School in Chester, PA had the opportunity to visit Easton, MD, Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD where they learned more about Douglass and his monumental contributions to American history. Their journey is chronicled in Stetser 6th Grade on Frederick Douglass and The Hill Community. A collection of reflections and poems, the book can be borrowed from the J. Lewis Crozer Library. Learn more about The Hill Community here.
Thanks to Lavar Johnson, Jr., Crozer Library circulation assistant for his help on this Black History Month project.
January 2022 — One hundred and thirty years ago, Homer Plessy deliberately was arrested to protest an unjust law. Two years earlier, Louisiana had passed the Separate Car Act. In 1892, Plessy refused to move from a whites-only car even though he could have passed for white. After paying a $500 bond, Plessy was released. He and a group of concerned citizens took his case to the Louisiana Supreme Court and to the United States Supreme Court. Interestingly, the railroad company sided with Plessy as it thought the law created an additional economic burden to buy and run additional cars. In an historic, yet unjust, decision, the Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that the Separate Car law was constitutional, arguing that the “separate but equal” doctrine did not constitute discrimination. Only Justice Harlen dissented, saying that the “Constitution was color-blind and that the United States had no class system. Accordingly, all citizens should have equal access to civil rights” (“Plessy v. Ferguson,” Oyez). Plessy v. Ferguson was famously overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, when the Court ruled that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional.
On January 5, 2022, Louisiana’s governor, John Bel Edwards, signed a pardon for Homer Plessy, noting that “he was ‘beyond grateful’ to help restore Plessy’s ‘legacy of the rightness of his cause … undefiled by the wrongness of his conviction.’” (McConnaughey, APNews). The ceremony was attended by descendants of Plessy and Ferguson and the Citizens Committee that supported Plessy’s actions. Click here to read more about this event and a foundation created by members of Plessy’s and Ferguson’s families that is committed to a “more just and equitable future.”