African American librarians are the gateway conservators of our history; their existence in the profession will play a vital role in the 21st century. I will never forget when I opened up Mildred Taylor’s, “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry,” I was in the fifth grade. The writer took me into the world of a family who believed in love, perseverance, and faith. It was also the first time that I started to understand what race meant in the United States. An African American librarian suggested that I read the book. I will forever be grateful that she did. From that point on in my life, I started to collect books. It would never occur to me that I would one day be entering the profession of librarianship. I have come to understand today that Research Librarian, Julis Jefferson, Jr., is right when he says, “African American librarians are culture-keepers.”
Dating back to the 1800’s, African Americans preserved their history, though they were denied the right to read or write. As bibliographers they saved literature, memoirs, slave documents, and academic papers—with limited resources. Since that time, there have been numerous black librarians who have created library collections and archives. Dolly B. Davis Hoover, was a pioneer librarian in the field. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1923, she saw the need for black librarians to be experts in the profession. Hoover attended Catholic University of America, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Library Science. She then went on to work as an Assistant Cataloger at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, from 1945-1949. Dolly B. Davis Hoover was hired at Indiana State University, in 1958, where she worked as a Senior Librarian. She experienced racism and segregation. Despite challenges, Hoover was the first African American female librarian given tenure in 1961.