HISTORIC LIBRARY MEMORIES HONORING BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2021

(4th of 4 parts)

In his Autobiography, Malcolm X said that Black and White people should read not only their own history but also each other’s. By extension, each should read the other’s literature.

In the spirit of Malcolm X‘s insightful advice, the Clarence Darrow Branch Library invited Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks to be the keynote speaker at its 1990 Literacy Rally. Ms. Brooks encouraged audience participants – including 1,000 Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC, Cook County Jail) detainees, to read to succeed.

To everyone’s delight, she recited her favorite poetry selections.

To reinforce Ms. Brooks‘ recitation, Malcolm X’s recommendations, and presentations by a diverse panel of other distinguished guests, including some who are mentioned in previous parts of this four-part series, the library prepared and distributed 1,000 curated packets of books. Each packet included, among others, a copy of Ms. Brooks‘ poetry, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and a dictionary. Each packet also contained a “Nothing Book” of blank pages and a (CCDOC approved) pen for the purpose of encouraging those who wished to learn to read or enhance their reading and writing skills to follow Malcolm X’s example of having taught himself to read while incarcerated by copying every word out of a dictionary.

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Illinois Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks (left) was welcomed as the keynote speaker to the former Clarence Darrow Branch Library’s 1990 Literacy Rally by Maria Hayley (right) who directed library services at the CCDOC at that time.