Belle de Costa Greene: Library Director, Advocate, and Rare Books Expert.

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, Passing, United States, Women on 2022-02-13 04:25Z by Steven

Belle de Costa Greene: Library Director, Advocate, and Rare Books Expert.

Headlines & Heroes: Newspapers, Comics, & More Fine Print
Library of Congress
Washington, D.C.

Joanna Colclough, Reference Librarian
Serial and Government Publications Division

Belle de Costa Greene, Oct. 1, 1929. Photograph by Bain News Service. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In 1999, biographer Jean Strouse published her work on J. P. Morgan, railroad magnate, financier, and New York millionaire of the late 1800s. Of course, Belle de Costa Greene is featured in the book – she worked closely with Morgan for the last 8 years of his life as his personal librarian, managing his private art and rare book collection. Greene’s name was not unknown to history. The first half of the 20th century saw Greene rise as a top expert in the rare book world as librarian and first director of the Morgan Library and Museum. But Strouse discovered something new about Greene that presented Greene in whole new light. In an article for The New Yorker (March 29, 1999, p. 66-79), Strouse tells how she located Greene’s birth certificate in Washington, D.C. which was marked with a C for “colored.”

Greene passed as white for her entire professional life. This is a fact both surprising and not – surprising that such a secret could be so well-kept and not surprising considering the prejudice of society…

Read the entire article here.

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