Whether books are written for Negro children or about them for other children, the objective should be the same. They should interpret life. They should help young people to live together with tolerance and to understand each other better. – Charlemae Hills Rollins
Charlemae Hill Rollins was an educator and library pioneer. Born in Yazoo city, Mississipi in 1897, Rollins was the granddaughter of a former slave. Her mother was a school teacher at the school founded by her family. Although Rollins grew up during a time when opportunities were limited for African-Americans. However, her grandmother was able to keep reading books and listening to stories about her life as a slave.
After Rollins finished school and married, she moved to Chicago with her husband. She became a library assistant in 1927 and later moved into the position of the first black head of a children’s department with the Chicago Public Library in 1932. She served the community for 36 years and had a profound impact on the blacks in literature.
Rollins started a reading guidance clinic that encouraged a partnership among teachers, parents, children, and books. However, Rollins was frustrated about the lack of resources and books about African-Americans and the lack of diversity stories about black people. She made it her mission to make a change and improve the number of books available to the community. Rollins later formed a Negro history club and a series of appreciation hours in which she taught children about the contributions of African-Americans. She did her research and made publishers aware of the need for more materials on black culture and history.
Besides these contributions to librarianship, Rollins also taught at Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland, and during the summer at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She also began teaching a course in Children’s Literature at Roosevelt University in 1949. Rollins authored several books of her own, including young adult biographies of black men and women. In 1972, she was the first black woman to receive an honorary lifetime membership in the ALA. Rollins’ role in promoting African-Americans in children’s books deservedly earned her awards from library, education, and humanitarian organizations. Rollins died in 1979, at the age of 81.