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Dorothy Porter Wesley

Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995) was an African-American librarian, bibliographer, and curator who made significant contributions to the field of African-American history and literature. She dedicated her career to collecting, preserving, and promoting materials related to African-American culture and history. Wesley was born on May 25, 1905, in Warrenton, Virginia. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science from Howard University in 1928 and later pursued a Master’s degree in Library Science from Columbia University. She became the first African-American to receive a graduate degree in library science from Columbia.

Dorothy Porter Wesley

In 1928, Wesley began working at Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, a renowned research library dedicated to documenting the history and culture of people of African descent. Over the years, she played a crucial role in building the collection and transforming it into one of the premier research facilities for African-American studies. As a bibliographer, Wesley compiled extensive bibliographies and catalogs on African-American history, literature, and culture. Her notable works include “African-American Literature: A Bibliography of the Collection at the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center,” “Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837,” and “The Negro in the United States: A Selected Bibliography.”

Wesley’s passion for preserving African-American history extended beyond her work at Howard University. She was an active member of professional organizations and worked closely with the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History (ASALH). Wesley served as the librarian and later as the director of publications for ASALH, where she contributed to the organization’s mission of promoting the study and appreciation of African-American history. Throughout her career, Wesley actively sought out rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and other artifacts that shed light on African-American experiences. She recognized the importance of preserving these materials and making them accessible to researchers, scholars, and the general public.

Dorothy Porter Wesley, 23 May 1951

Dorothy Porter Wesley’s dedication and contributions to African-American librarianship and bibliography were widely recognized. She received numerous accolades, including the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society’s Carter G. Woodson Award and the Association of College and Research Libraries’ Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award.

Wesley’s work laid the foundation for future generations of African-American librarians, archivists, and scholars. Her commitment to preserving African-American history and promoting its study continues to inspire and inform the field of African-American studies.

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