When Vivian Harsh started the Chicago Public Library’s “Special Negro Collection,” it had 300 books.Seventy-five years later, the collection has grown to 70,000 volumes, making it the second largest collection of its type held by any public library in the nation.
Saturday, the city celebrated the role played by Harsh — the city’s first African-American managing librarian — as well as the 75th anniversary of the George Cleveland Hall Branch library, 4801 S. Michigan, where she worked.
People “come from all over the world to see” what’s now called the Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, curator Robert Miller said.
It includes 5,000 linear feet of documents, sheet music and manuscripts, as well as works from such authors as Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, who used to meet at the library during the 1930s and ’40s, along with Gwendolyn Brooks, Horace Cayton and Claude McKay.
The collection has grown so large that it had to be moved to the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted. To see it, call (312) 745-2080.