Libraries in the Jim Crow South and A Conversation with One of the Tougaloo Nine

Geraldine Edwards ArtworkNOTE: This past webinar has now been archived. Access to the recording can be purchased; please see How to Register below for more details.

In celebration of Black History Month, join author Cheryl Knott (“Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow”) and Civil Rights activist Geraldine Hollis (author of “Back to Mississippi”), along with artists Michael Crowell and Chapel Hill Library Director Susan Brown, for an engaging and educational conversation on the history of libraries and life in the Jim Crow South. This striking portrait of Ms. Hollis was a submission to the Chapel Hill Public Library's 2016 Banned Books Trading Card project by artist Michael Crowell.  Crowell's piece speaks to the power of memory, history, art, libraries, archives - and to Ms. Hollis' bravery.  Hollis, Crowell, and Brown will share the powerful connections they have made because of this project.

The Jim Crow laws were in effect in the U.S. South from 1890-1965. During that time, libraries were one of many segregated institutions. Geraldine Hollis (then Edwards), a student at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, was one of nine students arrested at the white public library in Jackson for attempting to read books that were not available at the colored library. The recent movie “Hidden Figures” highlighted several heroines from the Civil Rights era and numerous unsung heroes who contributed to the progress we’ve seen; Geraldine Hollis is one of those heroes.

The webinar is sponsored by the Freedom to Read Foundation. This archived webinar was originally presented February 23rd, 2017.

Learning Outcomes

This webinar provides a great opportunity for school library media specialists, history teachers, librarians, and students to learn more about the intersection between libraries and civil rights as well as the importance of providing access to information in our libraries today.

Who Should Attend



Geraldine Edwards HollisBack to MississippiGeraldine Edwards has achieved much in her many years of civil rights and community activism.  She was one of nine African American Tougaloo College students arrested at the whites-only public library in Jackson, Mississippi on March 27, 1961, for attempting to read books that could not be found at the colored library. She has received many awards for her efforts and continues to do the important work of sharing her personal history with groups. Ms. Edwards, now Geraldine Hollis, has written a book about her experience, “Back to Mississippi.” 

Susan BrownSusan Brown took her first library job to earn beer money while in college, never thinking it would turn into a career.  After several years in academic and government libraries, she found her true calling in public libraries. She is currently the director of the Chapel Hill Public Library in Chapel Hill, NC.  In her 20+ years in libraries, she has also worked at libraries in Virginia and Kansas, where she spearheaded the first Banned Books Trading Card Project at Lawrence Public Library, which won a John Cotton Dana Award from the American Library Association.  She writes about marketing, management, leadership, and libraries at

Cheryl KnottNot Free, Not for AllA faculty member in the School of Information at the University of Arizona, Cheryl Knott publishes in the area of information access broadly construed.  Her book “Not Free, Not for All: Public Libraries in the Age of Jim Crow” (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015) received the Eliza Atkins Gleason Book Award from the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association and the Lillian Smith Book Award from the Southern Regional Council and its partners The University of Georgia University Libraries, Piedmont College, and the Georgia Center for the Book. She is a recipient of the Justin Winsor Prize sponsored by the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association and a winner of the Methodology Paper Competition of the Association for Library and Information Science Education. With ten years of experience as an academic librarian at the Universities of Michigan and Texas, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on government information resources and online searching.

Michael CrowellMichael Crowell grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and now lives in North Carolina. He was a teenager in Jackson during the early 1960s time of sit-ins, Freedom Rides, civil rights workers' murders, Ole Miss integration, and other civil rights history. Michael's career has been as a lawyer, but he also is an amateur painter with an interest in portraits. He is particularly attracted to mugshots of ordinary citizens who became civil rights pioneers. Michael is pleased to bring some attention to the brave acts of Geraldine Hollis and he was a 2016 Special Jury Prize Winner for his portrait of Hollis which he submitted as a Banned Books Week Trading Cards entry in Chapel Hill North Carolina.




  • FTRF member: Free
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  • Non-member: $25

How to Register

To access the recording of this webinar using a major credit card, please click here. Look for the title of the webinar, under February 2017.  Questions regarding registration should be directed to ALA’s Membership and Customer Service department at 1-800-545-2433 x5 or e-mail to

Tech Requirements

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Freedom to Read Foundation

The Freedom to Read Foundation, founded in 1969, is a non-profit legal and educational organization affiliated with the American Library Association.  FTRF protects and defends the First Amendment to the Constitution and supports the right of libraries to collect - and individuals to access - information. Please consider joining FTRF as an individual or an organization to share this opportunity as a group. Members have free access to this and other educational opportunities throughout the year. Visit to become a member today.

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