This year, the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center and its Black Heritage Reference Center will be celebrating their 50th anniversary—an important milestone for Queens Library and our borough!
Langston Hughes Library was founded in 1969 through community activism by the Library Action Committee (LAC) of East Elmhurst and Corona. The LAC was an ad-hoc committee of the local Community Corporation, one of New York City’s anti-poverty programs. The Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center opened in 1969 as an experimental library, a place of reading, learning, and history. It was a source of black information and culture intended to educate and support the area’s predominantly African-American population.
The library was the first public institution named for the legendary poet and leader of the Harlem Renaissance, who died in 1967. Langston Hughes Library was nationally recognized in 2013 as a Literary Landmark, and in 2015 was named one of the winners of the second annual NYC Neighborhood Library Awards.
The Black Heritage Reference Center of Queens County, located at Langston Hughes, houses New York City’s largest circulating black heritage reading collection, with approximately 40,000 volumes of material about and related to black culture. The Center contains books, periodicals, theses and dissertations, databases, videos, DVDs, and music about the black experience, along with an art collection of prints, posters, paintings, photographs, African textiles, kente cloth, and African sculpture.
“It’s an exciting time to be entrusted with preserving the legacy of the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center,” says its executive director, Shakira Smalls. “I look forward to building on the decades of strong leadership of my predecessor Andrew Jackson (Sekou Molefi Baako) and expanding our services beyond the library doors. Our institution is excited to collaborate with all of the communities of Corona, including the emerging Hispanic community, to share our rich history, inspire the public, create new memories, and spread the great news about where we are headed.”
“My role here at Langston Hughes Community Library is a real privilege,” says Christine Zarett, the curator of the Black Heritage Reference Collection. “As we celebrate our 50 years of community service, we renew our awareness of the work, voice, and spirit of Langston Hughes, who traveled the world and reached out to all people; affirm our commitment to preserving black heritage; and offer opportunities for all our community members to discover the richness of black culture.”
We hope you will join us for special Black History Month programs at Langston Hughes, as well as the library's annual day-long Langston Hughes & Black History Month Celebration on Saturday, February 9.
And be sure to join us all year as we celebrate Langston Hughes Library and its role in promoting and preserving the cultural diversity of our city!