Monday, December 4, 2023

Black History Is American History

Minority history is in danger of being lost, but our library system is working hard to preserve it

The Local History and Genealogy department, located on the third floor of the Main Branch Library in downtown Toledo, is home to countless historic artifacts. Here, one can find books, photographs, newspapers, and public records that together represent the history of Toledo. Now, thanks to the work of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library system’s digitization lab, select pieces of that history are being digitized and placed online for individuals to explore from the convenience of their home computer.

Perhaps the most stirring example of this effort is the library’s Black History Archives. From a simple web portal, one can now peruse a selection of content including vintage photographs, oral history videos, scrapbook collections, and statistical reports that showcase local Black history from several perspectives.

Janet Rhodes, Supervisor of Digitization Services at the library, stated the intent of the archive. “You can see all of these items and hear different voices from the community, getting a holistic overview of what our Black community has been through and where there is still to go.” She adds that even though they operate a local history repository, its contents speak to the broader callings of American history. “The trajectory of the black community in Toledo very much echoes the trajectory of the black community in the United States.”

An Antidote to Censorship

Ms. Rhodes expressed how critical it is for the history of minority communities to be preserved. “At this point in time where the histories of specific communities are being censored throughout the country, you may not be able to learn about those things in school,” she said. “It feels like our responsibility to put that information in the most accessible place possible, which for us is online, so that anyone can access it from anywhere in the world at any time.”

However, the library isn’t just focusing on Black history; decades of newsletters from both the American Indian Intertribal Association of Toledo and the Toledo Area Gay And Lesbian Affiliation are in the process of being archived.

A perpetual work-in-progress, more content will be added as time and resources permit. The library also accepts items for donation from the public but advises that donors call ahead to make sure that it qualifies as local, and that another instance of the item isn’t already archived.

You can visit the Black History Archives online at

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