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On the Battle to Desegregate the Nation’s Libraries


On May 28, 1945, Violet Wallach of Locust, New Jersey, complained that black residents in her area had to enter a back door in the Navesink township library. Once they entered, black would-be readers were shuttled to a small room isolated from the main reading room for white patrons.

Wallach was not merely an observant bystander. A member of the Navesink Library Association in Monmouth County, she had made her objections known to the association. But on that day, Wallach went one better and met with an NAACP lawyer—perhaps because she was frustrated because she had not received a satisfactory response from library leadership.

The story of the Navesink library and its racial exclusion is a story told mostly in letters and bureaucratic memos.

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