Saturday, May 21, 2011


Regina Anderson Andrews was the first of three African-American women who headed an NYPL branch before 1950. 
Regina Anderson was born in Chicago and attended both the University of Illinois and Wilberforce University.  She obtained library experience at the Hyde Park High School, the Chicago Public Library, Wilberforce University, and the Zenia (OH) Public Library.

She came to NYC in 1923 and was soon hired to be a substitute at the 135th Street Branch in Harlem.  By 1920 the neighborhood around 135th Street had become predominantly African-American, and NYPL installed Ernestine Rose, who was white, to head the 135th Street Branch.  Rose’s mandate was to create an inter-racial staff and serve the growing African-American community.  Andrews was probably the fifth librarian of color hired by Rose.  Until 1924, this was also the only branch were librarians of color were allowed to work.    

In 1926, Regina Anderson married William T. Andrews, Jr., a Harlem lawyer and political leader.

Regina Andrews became NYPL’s first African-American to be promoted to First Assistant in 1930, at the Rivington Street Branch.  She was finally appointed Branch Librarian at the 115th Street Branch in 1938 after W.E.B. DuBois interceded on her behalf with Library administrators.

Andrews also served as Branch Librarian at the Washington Heights Branch, 1948-1966.  There she was noted for developing Family Night, a program which encouraged family groups to attend discussions at the Library.  As Andrews wrote in ALA’s Top of the News (Vol. 10, pages 31-33) “It is our way in the Library of saying, ‘Come, meet your neighbor, and talk over with him those problems of living, working and playing together which, when frankly approached, will help to establish a well integrated community.’”

Regina Andrews is also remembered for her connection to the Harlem Renaissance.  She opened her home to artists, writers and intellectuals.  She also had her own role in the intellectual ferment as a playwright, actor, and supporter of the Harlem theater movement.

Prof. Ethelene Whitmire is writing a full biography of Regina Andrews, and I recommend her blog on Andrews. 

Today would be Regina Andrews 110th birthday.

No comments:

Post a Comment