Queens Library houses more than a collection of works about African-American history. Our library has been shaped by, has gone to great lengths to document and continually celebrates the African-American experience.
Did you know that one Queens Library, the one with the highest circulation in the country, became a public library and became funded in part thanks to the efforts of an African-American leader? Can you guess which community library in our borough is home to a mini archive of music legend Louis Armstrong? Or which location houses the important papers of inventor Lewis Latimer?
We’ve created a Black History Tour to highlight some of the important connections Queens Library has to African-American history. Below is your guide to these unique “landmarks,” both physical and digital. Some may be right on your block; others can be accessed instantly!
1. Queens Library at Langston Hughes
Named in honor of the famous African-American poet and author of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, this leading institution in the community has been designated as a Literary Landmark and is home to the Black Heritage Reference Center of Queens County... Visit this landmark.
2. Queens Library at East Elmhurst
“Keeping jazz alive in Louis and Lucille Armstrong’s neighborhoods” is one of the goals of this community library, home to a “mini archive” of Armstrong memorabilia... Visit this landmark.
3. Queens Library at Flushing
Thanks in part to the advocacy of Mary Ann Shaw, the principal of an African-American school in Flushing, this became a free circulation library in 1884... Visit this landmark.
4. Queens Library at Central
Home to many special collections, Queens Library at Central has two of note for Black History Month... Visit this landmark.
5. The Archives at Queens Library
Among the 36,000 books and volumes of serials, approximately 2,500 cubic feet of manuscripts, 4,500 maps and broadsides, 105,000 photographs, 422 feet of vertical files, and 9,000 reels of microfilm housed at the Archives, you will find plenty covering African-American history, including the important papers and patents of this noted black inventor... Visit this landmark.
6. Queens Libraries with Free Black History Month Events: Some of the above landmarks will be hosting free programs for the community, as will:
Queens Library at Lefrak City – Wednesday, February 27: Free Event, Looking Back, Moving Forward: Friends of the Library Black History Celebration
7. Queens Library's Website
Your Queens Library card grants you free access to the African-American Experience Database, an online collection of authoritative reference works, primary sources, images and audio clips documenting Blacks in the United States... Visit this virtual landmark.
8. ALL Queens Libraries
Check out the black experience and black literature sections of your local library to get even more information. And while you’re there, pick up a Black History Month Bookmark. These bookmarks highlight the great contributions of selected African-American leaders and authors and include suggested Black History Month reads.
Have you visited any of these landmarks in person or online? Tell us about your experiences in a comment below. Can you think of other important connections to African-American history here in Queens?