Blyden Branch Library opened in 1921, the first public library for African Americans to be supported by a municipality in Virginia. Prior to 1921, African Americans in the state relied on small collections of books obtained by some of the larger black schools, churches, fraternal organizations, and the YMCA. Despite an African-American population of approximately 700,000 in 1921, not a single public library provided services to these Virginians.
In an effort to remedy this situation, black citizens of Norfolk campaigned to have the Norfolk Public Library supply books to the African-American community. The library suggested that books be sent from the main library to the YMCA on Queen Street, where African Americans could then obtain them. However, the Secretary of the YMCA, C. C. Dogan, proposed that the library instead build a separate branch for the black population. The city approved this proposal and allocated $1,700 for its execution.
On July 19, 1921, the Blyden Branch Library opened in two classrooms at Dunbar Elementary School, which shared buildings with Booker T. Washington High School on the site of the former Norfolk Mission College, founded by the Presbyterian Church for black students in 1883. Use of the library was limited by the small size of this two-room facility. In 1937, sixteen years after the branch opened, it was relocated to 1346 Church Street and Johnson Avenue. In 1957 the library moved one last time to its current location on Princess Anne Road.
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Geographical and Contact Information
879 East Princess Anne Rd