Negro Teacher-Librarian Training Program (1936-1939)

A Brief Historical Overview


The Negro Teacher-Librarian Training Program (NTLTP), funded mostly by the General Education Board, took place from 1936-1939 at four centers on HBCU campuses in four different states, and its participants represented 16 states across the South (Barker, 1939; Sutton 2005). The four centers were: Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University), Fisk University, Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University), and Prairie View Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University). The program’s specific mission was “to improve conditions in the Negro public schools.” When the program participants completed the 12-credit hour program, or even half of it, they returned to schools across the South better trained, having a greater impact on the students and schools they served., as well benefiting the communities as a whole (Sutton, 2005)The NTLTP may be viewed within the context of a type of continuing education, or a type of certification program. The brief three-year program began only a few years prior to the closure of the “first” library school for African-Americans, Hampton’s School of Library Service (1925-1939). In 1941, two years after the last NTLTP summer session was held, the Atlanta University School of Library Service opened. The program is credited for training 279 African American teacher-librarian at HBCUS in the South, and significantly increased the presence of formally trained African American school librarians in that region (Sutton, 2005).The planning committee for the NTLTP was coordinated by Florence Rising Curtis, the Director of the Hampton Library School ( a White woman graduate of the New York State Library School), and was faced with the task of selecting locations that would provide a “geographical spread to accommodate students unable to travel great distances,” and selecting teachers for the four centers. Decisions were made to use the regular library school faculty (also all White) at Hampton, and assignments were made to Fisk and Atlanta. However, with one more position to fill at Prairie View, Curtis soon learned that “by state law, a White person could not teach at Prairie View A&M College in Texas (Sutton, 2005). Virginia Lacy Jones, a recent Hampton Library School graduate was chosen, by Curtis, as instructor for the Prairie View Center, and was assisted by a recent Hampton graduate student (Jones, 1970; Sutton, 2005). The Prairie View NTLTP was responsible for training teachers from Texas, Oklahoma, southern Mississippi, and northern Arkansas; Fisk University – Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, northern Alabama, and northern Missippi; Atlanta University – Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, souther Alabama; and Hampton – Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia (Sutton, 2005).

Virginia Lacy Jones (1912-1984) later served nearly 40-years as the Dean of the Atlanta University School of Library and Information Science, from 1945-1981). She was the second person to hold this position, the first being Eliza Atkins Gleason, who was the first African-American to receive a doctorate in Library Science (University of Chicago). Jones also attended the University of Chicago where in 1945, she became the second African-American to earn a doctorate in Library Science. Her dissertation was on “The Problems of Negro Public High Schools in Selected Southern Cities (Jones, 1970).” Wiegand (2002) notes that Jones made a number of contributions to library education, after receiving two undergraduate degrees from Hampton, and a Master’s Degree from the Library School at the University of Illinois. Although she wrote and spoke on issues important to the entire profession, she was particularly instrumental in addressing those issues concerning African Americans and minorities in librarianship (Jones, 1970). However, few are aware that she was an instructor for the NTLTP, and assigned to the Prairie View A&M Regional Center.

The greatest number of NTLTP participants were from three states: “North Carolina (36), Georgia (35), and Texas (32)” according to Barker (1939). Based on the total number trained (279) over just three summer sessions, the literature cites the NTLTP as playing a significant role in educating African American teacher-librarians of that era, since the Hampton Library only graduated 183 Negro librarians with “degrees” over the 14 years that the school was in existence. By the end of the “thirties” the number of African-American librarians with professional training had more than doubled in comparison with census data reported in 1930 and the NTLTP and Prairie View played a major role.

Note: According to archival records, by the mid-1940s Prairie View developed a Bachelor of Library Science Degree Program, offered in the Department of Library Science, in the Division of Arts and Sciences, until it was moved to the School of Education, in the late 1960s. The B.L.S. program prepared close to 300 teacher-librarians, now known as “school media specialists” until the late 1970s. (Source: Report of the Prairie View A&M College Centennial Council, December 1968.)


NTLTP References:

Barker, T. D. (1936). Libraries of the South: A Report on Development 1930-1935, Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Jones, Virginia Lacy (1970). “A Dean’s Career,” In, The Black Librarian in America. Edited by E. J. Josey, 19-42. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1970.

Sutton, Allison (2005). Bridging the Gap in Early Library Education History for African Americans: The Negro Teacher-Librarian Training Program (1936-1939). The Journal of Negro Education. Vol. 74. No. 2 (Spring, 2005), pp. 138-150.