African American libraries provided vital reading content to their patrons and helped formed important community spaces for discussion and education. Bertha Pleasant Williams Library is the second public library for African Americans in Montgomery, Alabama. Long overdue library service for people of color began on December 17, 1949. African Americans had to fight for their rights to have their own library. The library board conceded that African Americans could have their own library under one condition, hire a certified librarian.


  • Bertha Pleasant Williams Library, currently
    Bertha Pleasant Williams Library, currently
  • Bertha Pleasant Williams
    Bertha Pleasant Williams
  • Bertha Pleasant Williams Library, currently
    Bertha Pleasant Williams Library, currently
  • Bertha Pleasant Williams
    Bertha Pleasant Williams

In the twentieth century popularity for libraries started to spread across the United States. Segregation laws were denying African Americans access to public facilities across the South.  In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld the “separate but equal” facilities, which meant African- Americans would have schools and libraries that were segregated.  In 1905, Kentucky opened the first public library for African Americans. However, Bertha Pleasant Williams Library wasn't established until 1949 because schools and libraries were underfunded compared to those available to whites. 

Bertha Pleasant Williams was the first African American professional librarian to work in a Montgomery, Alabama public library.  Williams was one of the first recipients of a library science degree from Atlanta University.  In 1960 she became manager of the segregated Union Street Branch (Bertha Pleasant Williams Library).   Williams was more than a librarian, she also participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Williams was honored in 2005 as “an unsung hero” for being a founding member of the Women’s Political Council. 

In retrospect, much has been accomplished and changed since the African American library opening.  The library has grown to a collection of over 600,00 volumes. The present library system has ten branches.  The modern building was built for the west side of Montgomery, on the renamed Rosa Parks Ave. Bertha Pleasant Williams Library now serves to all but will forever be historic for being the second public library for African Americans. 



“A History of US Public Libraries.” Omeka RSS, dp.la/exhibitions/exhibits/show/history-us-public-libraries/segregated-libraries.
http://www.mccpl.lib.al.us/locations_rosaparks.asp