I still go to libraries.
I got my first library card at the Hall Branch Library on 48th in Michigan on Chicago’s south side. I was thirteen years old and still needed my mother’s signature. I wasn’t into Black History back then. I chose this library because I wanted to check out books, and it was down the street from my grandmother’s house.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Yesterday, I discovered Hall Branch was named for the renowned African American surgeon, social activist, and civic leader Dr. George Cleveland Hall (1864-1930). It was the first Chicago Public Library location with a Black branch manager, Vivian G. Harsh, who served as its first manager. We will get deeper into Hall’s background on this Friday’s Black History Fun Fact, the last one of the year.
In 1949, Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks visited the Hall Branch to celebrate the publication of The Poetry of the Negro Anthology.
On July 7, 2000, the Friends of Libraries USA (now United for Libraries) and Illinois Center for the Books designated Hall Branch as a literary landmark. This was in recognition of its promotion of African American literary culture by serving as a meeting place for such writers as Arna Bontemps, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, and Richard Wright. (Learn more about the Chicago Renaissance of the Black Belt Here).
I thought I had picked this library at random and for no particular reason. I had no idea it was so rich with Black History or that it was this hub for Black writers.
This helped me to see how unique each of our journeys are. No one has walked in your shoes or experienced what you’ve experienced. No one is you, and that is your power.
Everything is a stepping stone to get us to the place Yah has destined for us, every path like a thread weaving and connecting everything together.
It would be years before I learned who Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks were, and many more years before I would publish a collection of poetry of my own.
Little did I know I was building on the same foundation as those who came before me.
Talk about the power of purpose!
Also, I still got that library card!