The Louisville Free Public Library, Western Branch, is the first public library opened in the United States exclusively for and operated by African-Americans. The library first opened its doors in 1905 in a humble rented facility, expanding in 1908 with the efforts of philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
Known then as the Louisville Free Public Library, Western Colored Branch, the effort was spearheaded by Central High School principal Albert Ernest Meyzeek to open a space that could adequately serve the school’s Black students.
It was customary at the time for Black libraries to be housed in other similar facilities and such was the case for the Western Branch as it rented space elsewhere. Meyzeek pushed city officials to open a second branch for Black people, known as the Eastern Branch, in 1914.
In 1908, Carnegie funded the building of the official Western Branch and it quickly became a hub of intellectual discovery and a model for other Black libraries nationwide. There is some confusion it is indeed the first library of its kind or just the first in the Deep South, but what is agreed upon is that it spawned a growing trend.
In 2001, the Western Branch was in danger of closing. Musical icon Prince secretly donated $12,000 to keep this from happening. The library has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
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