Lillian Childress Hall

I returned from a family reunion recently to find an email celebrating the recent anniversary of the graduation of Lillian Childress Hall. Ms. Hall was the first Black librarian in Indiana. Face it, we’re still in a space where we need to honor and celebrate our firsts. We have to call to mind all the tribulations they faced so that they could excel, so that we could excel. Our children aren’t always trying to give their best anymore. I think they need to be reminded of the Lillian Childress Halls and the Pura Belpra’s who literally opened doors so that we could get into libraries. They need to know so that they’ll want to keep opening doors.

I wanted to add photos to this piece, but there just isn’t a lot of information available on Ms. Hall. I wanted to do more than simply cut and paste the work that results from the efforts of Michelle Fenton, but all I can add to her research is that Ms. Hall lived from 1889-1958.

Last Saturday was the 95th anniversary of the graduation of Lillian Childress Hall, the first black librarian to work in Indiana. On July 24, 1915, Mrs. Hall was one of 37 students (all women) to receive a librarian’s certificate from the Public Library Commission of Indiana’s Summer School for Librarians. The Public Library Commission of Indiana’s Summer School for Librarians was a six week course held every year in which students learned the practical aspects of librarianship. Once the course was completed, students were awarded a certificate and were certified as librarians. The classes were held at Butler University (at that time it was Butler College).  Eventually, the summer school was held at IU which eventually led to SLIS (the Public Library Commission had merged with the State Library in the late twenties and stopped giving the classes).

Once Ms. Hall was certified, the director of the Evansville Public Library (Ethel McCullough) promoted Mrs. Hall from apprentice to branch manager for the Cherry Street Branch (colored branch). In 1921, the Indianapolis Public Library (now IMCPL) decided to start its own “negro branch” and recruited Mrs. Hall to run it. This branch was the Paul Laurence Dunbar Branch and was located inside of School #26 (located at the corner of 16th and Columbia – the building is still standing and is now called the John Hope Education Center). It closed as a branch in 1967 and became a regular school library.  When Crispus Attucks High School was built, the Indianapolis Public Library decided to open a branch there as well and hired her to be the branch manager. Mrs. Hall stayed there until 1956, the year she retired. The Indianapolis Public Library Association gave a retirement tea in her honor at Butler University in May of 1956. Mrs. Hall died on April 23, 1958. She’s buried in Crown Hill Cemetery (section 98, plot 1472 – this is near the 32nd Street and Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. side of the cemetery).

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