Celebrating the Legacy of Vivian G. Harsh Exhibit at Woodson Regional Library

The exhibit Celebrating the Legacy of Vivian G. Harsh is on display Saturday, February 17 until this spring in the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature at Woodson Regional Library.

Vivian G. Harsh became Chicago Public Library's first African American branch manager on January 18, 1932, when George Cleveland Hall Branch opened in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. She noticed a lack of black history and literature in the library's holdings and began to remedy it.

Harsh purchased books on black history and collected rare artifacts from the library's patrons (such as Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and Horace Cayton). Her “Special Negro Collection,” now called the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, moved to the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library in 1975. 

This exhibit showcases documents from five archival collections Harsh staff processed while Woodson Regional Library was recently closed for renovations:

  • Phillip David Sang Collection: Sang collected manuscript materials and memorabilia on slavery and abolitionism.
  • Dewey Roscoe Jones Papers: Jones was managing editor of the Chicago Defender in the 1920s. He also edited the newspaper's famous "Lights and Shadows" poetry column. Collection will be publicly available soon.
  • Coalition to Save the South Shore Country Club Archives: South Shore Country Club was scheduled for demolition in 1977. A grassroots coalition of community groups organized to save, preserve and restore the historic site for all citizens.
  • People for Community Recovery (PCR) Archives: Founded in 1979 by Altgeld Gardens resident Hazel Johnson, People for Community Recovery demanded cleanup of toxic waste surrounding the community and pressed for repair work.
  • Developing Communities Project (DCP) Archive: Incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 1986 under the leadership of Barack Obama (executive director), the grassroots organization provided job training, tutoring, children's programs and leadership development programs in Chicago's Greater Roseland area. Collection will be publicly available soon.

Archivists and librarians at the Harsh Research Collection continue the legacy of Vivian G. Harsh by collecting, preserving and promoting archival collections documenting the African American experience.