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Mon, 05.12.1913

The Carnegie Colored Library (Houston, TX), Opens

Carnegie Colored Library

*The Carnegie Colored Library is celebrated on this date in 1913. It was established by Houston's African American community in the Fourth Ward.

Because of Jim Crow, Blacks were prohibited from accessing the Houston Lyceum and Carnegie Library, so Black leaders organized their public library in Houston's Booker T. Washington High School in 1909. Native Houston resident Emmett J. Scott and his boss Booker T. Washington secured a Carnegie Library grant to help pay for a new building.

It was designed by William Sidney Pittman, a Black architect and the son-in-law of Booker T. Washington, and was constructed in 1913. It faced Frederick Street. The board overseeing the institution was composed entirely of Blacks. In 1921 the city of Houston disbanded the library board and made the library a branch of the Houston Public Library system. Charles Norton Love, an African American civil rights activist and publisher of the Texas Freeman, helped advocate for the construction and funding of the library.


The Carnegie Colored Library was a turning point for library services in the segregated South. Through the work of librarian, Julia Ideson and an all-Black committee made up of Houston leaders, African Americans were active participants in planning and governing their library. The Carnegie Colored Library, though it provided services that were nonexistent before, still existed and operated in a segregationist structure that provided unequal services and collections.

However, the Carnegie Colored Library model "moved beyond the lobbying of local white librarians and city officials" to a national strategy in which black leaders could proclaim themselves "actors in the civic and cultural politics that influenced their city, the services it provided, and its built environment."  Houston's public library system was desegregated in 1953. The neoclassical library building was demolished in 1962 to make way for Interstate 45, the urban renewal that cut through Houston's Fourth Ward.

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