Black History Month: Facts #8

Song: “When The Revolution Comes” by The Last Poets

The Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) system is nearly 120 years old, established in 1902. Albert Meyzeek (former Central High School principal) and other Black leaders in the city pushed for a library for African-Americans and their needs. In 1905, on 1125 Chestnut Street, the “Western Colored Library” opened, becoming the first Free Public Library in the nation for Blacks, solely run by Black workers. In 1908, Andrew Carnegie donated funds to the LFPL system, including funds for a new building. The Western Colored Library, now known as the ‘Western Branch’ (of the Louisville Free Public Library system) became one of the original 9 “Carnegie Libraries” of Louisville, and the first library in the American South that was housed in a Carnegie-funded building. The new building was designed by McDonald and Dodd. (Some interesting, Louisville-based facts about Dodd: he also designed “The Castle” building that was the original home of Jefferson Community and Technical College, plus the Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments, and the old YMCA building)

In 1975, the Western Branch was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 2001, when the library was in danger of closing, Prince (yeah, that Prince) anonymously donated $12,000 to keep it open. Today, after a remodel a few years ago, the Western Branch also houses the African American Archives (which are only viewed by appointment), featuring resources dedicated to African American history, including papers of the poet Joseph S. Cotter, Sr., and librarian Thomas F. Blue.

For more info on the Western Branch, you can go to the LFPL page.

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