March is Women’s History Month commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history. As a South Carolina women-owned, ethnically diverse law firm, GaffneyLewis, LLC is proud to shine the light on some of the women who blazed the trail before them.
Meet Augusta Baker
Augusta Braxton Baker was a pioneer for black librarianship.
She was the first black person to earn a B.S. in library and information studies from SUNY Albany. Baker spent most of her career working in the New York Public Library system (37 years) in many roles, including Children’s librarian, storytelling specialist, assistant coordinator of children’s services, and coordinator of children’s services.
During her career she became the first African American Coordinator of Children’s Services for all 82 libraries within the New York Public Library system. In this role, and throughout her career, Baker worked to diversify the genre of children’s literature and to make books for young readers more reflective of the young people who read them.
Baker’s love of books extended into writing. As an author, she wrote “Books about Negro Life for Children” (later renamed “The Black Experience in Children’s Books”), the first extensive bibliography of children’s books that featured positive black role models.
In 1980, after a remarkable career, Augusta Baker moved to Columbia, South Carolina. She became the University of South Carolina’s storyteller-in-residence. She served in this role for 14 years, continuing to influence the youth of South Carolina and beyond.
Augusta Baker died on February 23, 1998. Truly an innovator, her life’s work lives on through the Augusta Baker Collection of Children’s Literature and Folklore and the “Baker’s Dozen: A Celebration of Stories,” which is an annual storytelling festival sponsored by the School of Library and Information Science, College of Information and Communications, and the Richland Library. The University of South Carolina School of Information Science also established the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair in her honor.
Well done, Augusta Braxton Baker, well done.
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