Reference Entry

Porter, Dorothy

Courtney L. Young

in Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present: From the Age of Segregation to the Twenty-first Century

Published in print January 2009 | ISBN: 9780195167795
Porter, Dorothy

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pioneer of librarianship in African American history and studies in the United States. Born in Warrenton, Virginia, Dorothy Louise Burnett was the daughter of a doctor and grew up in Montclair, New Jersey. She married James Porter in 1929; he died in 1970, and she married Charles H. Wesley in 1979.Burnett received her AB from Howard in 1928 and received both her bachelor's (1931) and master's (1932) degrees in library science from Columbia University, where she was the first African American to earn a library degree. In 1930 she was appointed librarian for the Negro Collection at Howard University, and she served there as the African American studies librarian until 1973. The collection began with a 1914 gift from the minister and Howard alumnus Jesse E. Moorland—three thousand items on African Americans and slavery known as “A Library of Negro Life”—and was significantly expanded with the addition of some five thousand books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and pieces of sheet music when the Arthur B. Spingarn Collection was purchased in 1946. As librarian Porter thus oversaw the holdings of the facility that evolved into the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center.Porter's superior bibliographic skills and interest in the subject area allowed her to create a collection that scholars consider one of the world's most comprehensive about the history and culture of people of African descent. While continuing to build a premier research collection, Porter also contributed to the literature of the discipline. She published many scholarly articles in key African American studies journals, including the Journal of Negro History and the Journal of Negro Education. She also wrote several bibliographies, including The Negro in the United States: A Selected Bibliography (1970).Porter received three honorary doctorates: from Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, from Syracuse University in New York, and from Radcliffe College in Massachusetts. From 1988 to 1989 she also held a prestigious position as visiting research scholar at the Du Bois Institute of Afro-American Research at Harvard University. She died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Reference Entry.  387 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History

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