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Miriam Matthews (1905-2003)
In 1927, Miriam Matthews became the first black credentialed librarian in California, and the first hired by the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL). When she realized how few resources LAPL held on black history, she began collecting materials on the subject, which she shared with librarians, researchers, and other users. In 1929, Matthews started advocating for “Negro History Week,” which Los Angeles began observing in 1931. From 1949 until her retirement in 1960, she served as regional librarian for LAPL, supervising twelve branch libraries in LAPL’s South Central region.
She also served as both a member and chair of CLA’s intellectual freedom committee during the late 1940s. In 1977, she was appointed to the California Heritage Preservation Commission, where she led efforts to identify important black institutions. The Los Angeles Historical Society established an annual Miriam Matthews Award in recognition of her work, and in 2004, the Hyde Park branch of LAPL was renamed for her.
For more information on Miriam Matthews, please see:
- Miriam Matthews, Black Women Oral History Project, Interview with Miriam Matthews, March 14, 16, 17, and 22, 1977. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe College, 1981.
- “Matthews, Miriam (1905-2003). BlackPast.org. http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aaw/matthews-miriam-1905-2003
Photo credit: The Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection