Did you know that the broadcast pieces you hear on NPR and our podcast are excerpts of longer conversations stored in the StoryCorps Archive? Participants are invited to visit one of our recording locations with a friend or family member to record a 40-minute interview with the help of a trained facilitator. Over the past 14 years, we’ve added nearly 70,000 interviews to the StoryCorps Archive.

In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve selected an unedited interview from StoryCorps Griot — an initiative ensuring that the voices, experiences, and life stories of people of African descent are preserved and presented with dignity. You’ll hear the voices of Allegra Westbrooks and her niece, Shara Traynham. The two women came to the StoryCorps MobileBooth in February 2008 when it visited Charlotte, North Carolina.

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After graduating from Atlanta University’s School of Library Service, Westbrooks embarked upon her career as an educator and librarian. In 1947, she was hired as a librarian by the Charlotte Public Library system — a segregated institution at the time. The library director tasked Westbrooks with “preaching the gospel of books.” And that she did. Westbrooks launched a campaign aimed at local churches in hopes of increasing readership and library attendance. In this StoryCorps conversation, Westbrooks remembers the effects of segregation on the library as well as her lifelong passion for literature. Listen below, and access a full transcript here.

 

All StoryCorps Griot interviews are shared with the National Museum of African American History and Culture. To hear more unedited interviews from the StoryCorps Archive, make an appointment at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

All material within the StoryCorps collection is copyrighted by StoryCorps. StoryCorps encourages use of material on this site by educators and students without prior permission, provided appropriate credit is given. This interview has not been fact-checked, and may contain sensitive personal information about living persons.