April 22, 2019  

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Presentation on Desegregation of Public Libraries in American South set for April 17 at Hattiesburg Public Library

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Dr. Wayne Wiegand

Dr. Wayne Wiegand, distinguished historian of libraries and F. Williams Summers Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Studies at Florida State University, will visit the Hattiesburg Public Library Tuesday, April 17 at 6 p.m. to discuss the desegregation of public libraries in the South in his presentation “Open These Hallowed Doors: The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the American South.” This event is supported by the School of Library and Information Science and Friends of University Libraries at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Wiegand’s presentation will focus specifically on the local activism that helped bolster the library integration movement of the early 1960s. His book, The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South (co-authored with Shirley A. Wiegand), was published earlier this spring by the LSU Press (https://lsupress.org/books/detail/desegregation-of-public-libraries-in-t...).

“The movement to desegregate public libraries was a local contest over public space,” Wiegand explains. “By refusing to be pushed around, by brazenly defying segregationist practices, risking their lives and daring local officials to arrest them, [African Americans] forced local whites to confront questions of freedom, justice, and the democratic ideals the American public library claimed to embody.”

Though Wiegand’s is the first substantial work to document the Hattiesburg library protests of August 1964, his book covers local movements across the Southeast U.S., not just Mississippi. “These local-level stories frame a narrative that demonstrates similarities and differences as individual communities negotiated—mostly peacefully, sometimes violently—the integration of the local public library as a place.”

Students, scholars and members of the public are invited to attend this free event and join the discussion. Participants from the 1964 Hattiesburg library demonstrations will be in attendance, and Main Street Books will offer copies of Dr. Wiegand’s book for purchase.

Other support for this event comes from the Southern Miss Honors Forum, the Hattiesburg Public Library, and the USM Center for the Gulf South. For more information or to arrange media interviews with Dr. Wiegand, contact Dr. Matthew Griffis at matthew.griffis@usm.edu or call 601.266.4228.