As the Black Lives Matter movement has gained momentum over the past few weeks, I am doing the same thing that many of you are: I am reading a lot of books in an effort to understand others’ perspectives. I found an interesting story in Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library.
Young Martin Luther King Jr. liked to play a game with Miss Annie Watters at his local Atlanta Public Library Branch. He would quote 1 line of a poem, and then she would finish the verse. They connected with their appreciation of literature and the power of ideas.
Miss Watters was instrumental in helping Martin learn about the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. He was a 15-year-old college freshman who couldn’t check out adult non-fiction due to library policy at the time. Miss Watters created a library card for his father and then let Martin use it. He checked out every book by Gandhi in the library. Those books profoundly changed Martin’s philosophy, which laid the groundwork for non-violent protests throughout the Civil Rights movement.
As a community, you have been requesting books on anti-racism, and we have responded by ordering dozens of titles. Following the example of librarians like Miss Watters, we are working to promote understanding by providing access to anti-racism materials for everyone who wants to read them.