Featured Library: Richland County Public Library

Each year, more than 40,000 people from across the state attend free cultural events at the Richland County (S.C.) Public Library (RCPL), including an annual storytelling festival, plays, literary readings, book discussions, and concerts. In February, the library celebrated African American History Month with a wide variety of programming highlighting African-American history and culture.

For music lovers, the library offered:

  • “An Overview of African-American Music: Sing, Children Sing,” a discussion of the history of African-American music led by Carl Wells of the University of South Carolina;
  • gospel programs with Blythewood High School’s Mighty Voices of Praise and Irmo High School’s award-winning gospel choir;
  • “Jazz on a Saturday Morning” with jazz as well as stories about famous jazz musicians;
  • a Lunch and Listen music series featuring the music of jazz vocalist and RCPL Literary Resident Eboniramm;
  • “Remembering Why We Sing,” a discussion of the history of sacred music, from spirituals to modern gospel, led by Frankie L. Goodman of the Center for Southern African-American Music; and
  • “Voices of Our People,” songs, poems, and speeches written by famous African Americans.

The library also had programs for the history buffs, including:

  • “A Salute to Robert Smalls” with historian Donald Sweeper reenacting an interview with Robert Smalls, a former South Carolina slave who freed himself and his family after seizing a Confederate ship and later became a successful politician serving in the South Carolina Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives;
  • “Ward One” with Dr. Bobby Donaldson, Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina, discussing his research on Columbia’s historic Ward One community; and
  • “Representing Our Yesterdays, Todays and Tomorrows,” featuring the Samuels Blessed Bears Day Care Center creatively portraying famous African Americans from the past, present, and future.

Other events included:

  • “Let It Shine,” stories from the library’s collection of Coretta Scott King Award–winning books;
  • lessons in pine needle basketry for adults;
  • The Gospel Root Chaser, a play performed by Deep Productions and Film and written and directed by Lena Carroll Clay that tells the story of a reporter who writes award-winning articles about music legends and featured a special performance by the Southeastern School of the Arts dance troop in the opening act;
  • African-American genealogy with Alexia Jones Helsley, historian, archivist, educator, and co-author of African-American Genealogical Research; and
  • “Celebrating the Past—Looking toward the Future,” featuring successful local figures Terrance Acox and Xavier McDaniel sharing stories about their careers and inspiring us to dream big.

In addition, as part of the Southern Writers series, RCPL hosted a book discussion and signing by author Percival Everett, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California. Everett, who spent his childhood in Columbia, is the author of numerous works, including Erasure, American Desert, and, most recently, I Am Not Sidney Poitier.

Be sure to check out the library’s blog, where you can find posts on a number of topics, including African-American history and culture.