The phrase “unsung hero” is often overused; in the case of Millie Huston Lee, the term is certainly more than appropriate.

In honor of Black History Month, NYLI will be blogging every Wednesday in February about great African-American librarians.

Their names may not be known — but their dedication to literacy affected generations– and so it’s time to make them the heroes that we sing about !

Mollie Huston Lee , a graduate of both Howard University and Columbia University (M.L.S.), moved to North Carolina and significantly changed the lives of African Americans living in the Raleigh area by:

Starting the Richard B. Harrison Public Library — the first public library for African Americans in North Carolina.

Organizing the North Carolina Negro Library Association — the first Negro Library Association to be admitted as an ALA chapter…

Offering library outreach — by walking with a book basket to various local businesses and providing books to the patients of St. Agnes Hospital,

Serving as the Supervisor of Negro School Libraries in North Carolina.

In an 1981 interview, Mollie Huston Lee reminisced about her early days as a librarian:

I started it because Negroes didn’t have anywhere to go to get books. I had to work very hard to get the people to use the library in the beginning. I’d take a market basket up and down the street passing out books. The Negroes didn’t know what a library was or what it was for.

We hope that our readers take inspiration from our Black History weekly profiles of great African-American librarians — “tune in” next Wednesday for another profile….. and members may want to check out….