Racism at Library of Congress 1971-73
This set contains images of six of the 12 members of the central bureau (executive board) of the organization Black Employees of the Library of Congress (BELC) in 1973.

Pictured from left to right are James Nix, Sylvia Gee, Leon Turner, Carolyn Torsell, Sandy Stutson and Howard Cook.

It also contains two photos of a rally by BELC August 26, 1971 against wage controls imposed by President Richard Nixon earlier in the month

In the early 1970s, black employees at the Library of Congress were occupying the lowest paying jobs without opportunity for promotion. BELC was formed in a lunchroom conversation in July 1970.

In 1971, there were only seven African Americans out of 230 people occcupying GS grades 9-18.

Protests began in earnest in 1971 when a sit-in was staged. Library management had six workers arrested and fired 13. This led to a series of rallies, Congressional Hearings and lawsuits.

BELC was the primary mover of all these and was headed by Executive Director Howard Cook (pictured on far right in photos) and President Joslyn Williams. Williams was fired from Library during this period, but went on to lead the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO as president where he serves today.

It took years of struggle, but the lawsuits were ultimately successful with the primary suit winning $8.5 million in 1995. The final disposition wasn't done until 2002 when the Howard Cook and Tommy Shaw Foundation was established with money from covered persons who could not be located.

The judge authorized the committee to use interest generated by the foundation principal--or enhanced by foundation fundraising –to pay for the education and training of African-American employees seeking to advance their
careers at the Library and to assist employees pursuing discrimination claims against the Library. The principal was to be held until persons not found could be located. Cook is now retired from the Library.

The five images of the executive board were scanned from one 8 x 10 and four prints from contact sheets. All were in poor condition and some minimal restoration work has been done to make the images viewable. Original negatives are apparently lost. Non-commerical use of photos on this site should be credited to Reading/Simpson unless otherwise noted. Commercial use of these items is prohibited without express permission.

The two rally photos are courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection ©Washington Post. All rights reserved. Originals were photographed with a Nikon D-5100.
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