Effie Lee Morris honored for her work as a librarian, advocate for underserved children and the visually impaired

For Immediate Release
Tue, 06/15/2010


Steve Zalusky

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pays tribute

CHICAGO – On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi read into the Congressional Record a tribute to Effie Lee Morris, the first African American president of the Public Library Association, who died in San Francisco on Nov. 10.

Pelosi’s tribute came five days before a celebration of her lifetime of work as a librarian and advocate for underserved children and the visually impaired was held at the San Francisco Public Library.“I rise to pay tribute to a longtime literary advocate and community leader,” Pelosi began, as she recognized Morris as “a visionary who recognized the power of literacy and education in overcoming racism, inequality and poverty.”

Morris began as a public librarian in Cleveland, Ohio more than 60 years ago, focusing primarily on children's literacy in African American communities and low-income urban areas, helping to establish the first Negro History Week.

In 1955, she moved to New York City where she worked for the New York Public Library. There she continued to work with children and began advocating for the rights of the visually impaired, eventually becoming a children's specialist at the New York Public Library's Library for the Blind from 1958 to 1963.

In 1963, Morris arrived in San Francisco, becoming the first coordinator of children's services at the San Francisco Public Library, where she established the Children's Historical and Research Collection. The children's literature section that she created is named in her honor.  In 1968, Morris helped found the San Francisco Chapter of the Women's National Book Association and served as the first African American president of the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association (ALA).

After retiring, Morris continued to serve the San Francisco Bay Area community and taught courses on children's literature at Mills College and the University of San Francisco. Morris served as the first female chairperson of the Library of Congress as well as the President of the National Braille Association for two terms. She also served on the California State Library Board, and was a lifetime member of the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society.

“We grieve Effie Lee Morris' passing, but celebrate her legacy, which will live on in the many lives she touched,” Pelosi said.