• On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading

    Author(s):
    Laura Helton (see profile)
    Date:
    2019
    Subject(s):
    African American knowledge production, Gender history, History of reading, Library and information science, African American literature
    Item Type:
    Article
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/f3km-xk26
    Abstract:
    Entering Howard University’s Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, one still passes through the “catalog room,” an antechamber filled with rows of card drawers. Inaugurated in 1930 by librarian Dorothy Porter, this catalog of the “Negro Collection” served for much of the twentieth century as one of the only extant portals to African American print culture. This article reconstructs the creation of that catalog in order to chart the relationship between infrastructure and racial imaginaries of reading. Porter contravened the routine misfiling of blackness in prevailing information systems by rewriting Dewey decimals, creating new taxonomies for black print, and fielding research inquiries from across the diaspora. She built public access to books “by and about the Negro” at a moment when a majority of black readers were barred from libraries. In so doing, she fueled a broader sensibility of what a black archive—or what Porter called a “literary museum”—might afford.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    9 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
    Share this:

    Downloads

    Item Name:pdf helton_pmla.2019.134.1.99.pdf
     Download View in browser
    Activity: Downloads: 317