Augusta Braxston Baker (1911-1998) was a prominent figure in the field of children’s literature and library services. She was born on April 1, 1911, in Baltimore, Maryland, and developed a passion for reading and storytelling from an early age. Baker pursued her education at the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, where she obtained a degree in education. She later earned a Master’s degree in library science from the University of Pittsburgh. Armed with her educational background, Baker dedicated her career to promoting literacy and children’s literature.
One of Baker’s most significant contributions was her work as the coordinator of children’s services at the New York Public Library (NYPL) from 1961 to 1974. During her tenure, she aimed to make the library more accessible and engaging for children of all backgrounds. Baker organized storytelling programs and implemented innovative approaches to encourage reading among young people.
Baker’s efforts to improve children’s access to literature extended beyond her work at NYPL. She played a vital role in various organizations, such as the American Library Association (ALA) and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). She actively advocated for diversity and inclusivity in children’s literature, promoting the representation of underrepresented voices and cultures.
In recognition of her outstanding contributions to children’s literature, Baker received numerous awards and honors throughout her career. In 1980, she became the first African American recipient of the ALA’s prestigious Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, which recognizes authors and illustrators who have made substantial contributions to children’s literature.
Augusta Braxston Baker’s legacy continues to inspire librarians, educators, and readers. Her dedication to promoting literacy and diverse children’s literature has had a lasting impact, helping to create a more inclusive and enriching literary landscape for young readers.