Riots to Renaissance: Vivian Harsh

Vivian Harsh

Vivian Gordon Harsh, librarian Chicago Public Library, George Cleveland Hall Branch. (Source: Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature)

Vivian G. Harsh, the first African American to head a branch of the Chicago Public Library, was instrumental in the civic and social cultivation the Black Renaissance. After being influenced by her participation in The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, founded by Carter G. Woodson, Hall dedicated herself to collecting literary works by African Americans. She also created ongoing programs and forums at the George Cleveland Hall Branch Library to promote cultural and intellectual pursuits for residents on the South Side. Hall's strong commitment to black history led to the development of a "Special Negro Collection," which was nationally known by the 1930s. Today, the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature continues to grow and expand under the stewardship of the Chicago Public Library Woodson Regional Branch staff.