Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Dorothy H. Robinson was born and grew up in Washington DC.  In 1919 she received a BA from the Howard University Teachers College.  It seems likely that she began teaching at that point, but I have not been able to confirm that possibility

In 1931 she came to New York City to attend the School of Library Service at Columbia University and received her degree in October 1932.

Homer worked at NYPL, 1932-1935, but then returned to her hometown to be a librarian at Miners Teachers College.  In December 1935 Dorothy Robinson married Theodore H. Homer, Jr., who was a pharmacist.

She returned to NYPL in 1938 to be the Acting First Assistant at the 135th Street Branch, serving under Ernestine Rose.  Homer who was described as  "a southern lady" who was "soft-spoken, very quiet" was clearly being groomed as Rose’s successor.   As First Assistant, she helped Rose bring artists, writers, and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance into the 135th Street Branch.

When Rose retired in 1942, the Harlem community wanted an African-American appointed as her replacement.  The NYPL administration, however, thought that Homer needed an additional one or two years experience before being promoted.  In the end, NYPL acceded to community pressure and named Homer as Acting Branch Librarian and later appointed her to the position permanently.  Thus Dorothy Homer became the first African-American to head the 135th Street Branch which was the center of NYPL’s efforts to serve the Harlem community.   Homer was also one of the three African-Americans  who headed a neighborhood branch of NYPL before 1950.  (See Regina Andrews and Jean Blackwell for the the others).

In 1962 Homer was promoted to work in the Office of Branch Librarians and she retired in 1964.

Today would be Dorothy Homer’s 114th birthday.

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