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Equal Access: The Unfolding Legacy of the Auburn Branch

Auburn Avenue Research Library

This exhibit highlights the Auburn Branch Library, the first public library for African American citizens.  The library opened in 1921.  One of the influential staff members was Mrs. Annie L. McPheeters, a notable African American librarian and scholar recognized for her efforts in promoting inclusive education and her advocacy work in the civil rights movement. She was a pioneer in black librarianship and developed the Negro History Collection which was one of the first of its kind to capture historically significant experiences in black America. As director of the Negro Library System of the City of Atlanta, she organized outreach educational programs for adults and children but especially for children.  She felt “strongly that the greatest service in the library is that which responds to the needs of children” and strived to give all children equal access to educational resources.

 She managed these programs at the Auburn Avenue and West Hunter Branch. These branches are featured in the exhibit and at the time they were the only public libraries in Atlanta offering services to African Americans. They hosted radio show segments, book clubs, story time sessions, voter assistance initiatives and more.  In 1949, she became more heavily involved in the civil rights movement’s push for desegregation.  Her mission in life came full circle in 1959 when she returned to her hometown in Rome, Georgia to visit the library she was banned from entering as a child.

To honor her deeds to the public, the Washington Park/West Hunter branch library was given her name, as well as the display gallery in the updated Auburn Avenue branch that is currently the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History.