Dorothy B. Porter

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Dorothy B. Porter
Dorothy B. Porter, librarian and curator at Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University
Dorothy B. Porter, librarian and curator at Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University
Born
Dorothy Burnett

(1905-05-25)May 25, 1905
DiedDecember 17, 1995(1995-12-17) (aged 90)
NationalityAmerican
Other namesDorothy Louise Porter Wesley
Alma materHoward University, 1928; Columbia University, B.S. 1931, M.S. in 1932 in library science
OccupationLibrarian
Bibliographer
Curator
EmployerMoorland-Spingarn Research Center,
Howard University
Known forFirst African American to graduate from Columbia's library school; built Moorland-Spingarn Research Center into a world-class collection
Spouse(s)James A. Porter (1929-1970)
Charles H. Wesley (1979-1979)
Children1

Dorothy Louise Porter Wesley (May 25, 1905 – December 17, 1995) was an African-American librarian, bibliographer and curator, who built the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University into a world-class research collection.[1]

Early life and Education[edit]

Porter was born Dorothy Burnett in Warrenton, Virginia, the first of four children of Dr and Mrs Hayes J. Burnett.

Porter received a B.A. from Howard University in 1928. She studied at Columbia University, earning B.S. in 1931 and M.S. in 1932 in library science. She was the first African American to graduate from Columbia's library school.[2]

Career[edit]

She was appointed in 1930 and over the next 40 years was key to building up what is now the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center to be one of the world's best collection of library materials for Black history and culture at Howard University.[3] Her limited budget meant that she sometimes asked publishers and book dealers directly to donate specific books to the library. She developed a world-wide network of contacts that reached from the USA to Brazil, Mexico and Europe through friends including Alain Locke, Rayford Logan, Dorothy Peterson, Langston Hughes, and Amy Spingarn. The collection is thus international and in many languages and includes music and linguistics as well as literature and scholarship by and about Black people.[3] In addition, she was instrumental in ensuring scholars such as Edison Carneiro and statemen like Kwame Nkrumah and Eric Williams visited the university to increase student's interest in their African heritage.

In addition, the collection required a new cataloging system that she developed as well as expertise to assess the materials. Earlier librarians, notably Lula V. Allen, Edith Brown, Lula E. Connor and Rosa C. Hershaw had started to develop a system suitable for the library's materials. Porter built on this to highlight genre and authors rather than use the conventional Dewey Decimal Classification which lacked appropriate class-marks. When Arthur Spingarn agreed to sell his private collection to Howard University, the university's treasurer required an external appriasal of its value. Although Porter requested someone from the Library of Congress to do this, they lacked expertise in the subject area and asked her to write the report, that they then signed, and which was accepted by the university treasurer.[3]

Honors[edit]

  • 1994 Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities - given to "Americans who have brought the humanities to a wide public audience"[4]

Personal life[edit]

Porter's first husband was the historian and artist James A. Porter, author of Modern Negro Art.[5] Their daughter, Constance "Coni" Uzelac (who was married to Milan Uzelac), served as Executive Director of the Dorothy Porter Wesley Library, and helped create the African American Research Library & Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale.[6]

Porter's second husband was Charles Wesley, an American historian and educator.[7]

She died in Broward County, Florida.[8]

Selected publications[edit]

Dorothy Porter published numerous bibliographies and one anthology.[9]

  • Wesley, Dorothy Porter. Afro-American Writings Published Before 1835: With an Alphabetical List (Tentative) of Imprints Written by American Negroes, 1760-1835. [New York]: Columbia University, 1932. Thesis (M. Sc.)--Columbia University, New York, 1932. OCLC 12747472
  • Porter, Dorothy B. "A Library on the Negro." The American Scholar. Vol. 7, No. 1: pp. 115–117. 1938. ISSN 0003-0937 OCLC 5543366780
  • Porter, Dorothy B. "A Library on the Negro." The Journal of Negro Education. Vol. 10, No. 2: pp. 264–266. April 1941. ISSN 0022-2984 OCLC 5545408903
  • Forten, James, John T. Hilton, and William Wells Brown. "Early Manuscript Letters Written by Negroes." The Journal of Negro History. Vol. 24, No. 2: pp. 199–210. 1939. ISSN 0022-2992 OCLC 5545495349
  • Wesley, Dorothy Porter, and Arthur Alfonso Schomburg. North American Negro Poets, A Bibliographical Checklist of Their Writings, 1760-1944. Hattiesburg, Miss: Book farm, 1945. OCLC 382999
  • Moorland Foundation, and Dorothy Porter Wesley. A Catalogue of the African Collection in the Moorland Foundation, Howard University Library. Washington: Howard University Press, 1958. OCLC 577265
  • Porter, Dorothy B. The Negro in the United States; A Selected Bibliography. Compiled by Dorothy B. Porter. Washington, Library of Congress, 1970. Available at Project Gutenberg, 2011. OCLC 746985433
  • Wesley, Dorothy Porter. Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837. Boston: Beacon Press, 1971. ISBN 978-0-807-05452-9 OCLC 251341
    • An anthology rare documents of Negro history, including addresses, narratives, poems, essays and documents from fraternal and mutual aid organizations and educational improvement societies.
  • Porter, Dorothy B. "Bibliography and Research in Afro-American Scholarship." Journal of Academic Librarianship. Vol. 2, No. 2: pp. 77–81. 1976. OCLC 424794640
  • Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, and Dorothy Porter Wesley. Recent Notable Books: A Selected Bibliography in Honor of Dorothy Burnett Porter. [Washington]: Howard University, Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, 1974. OCLC 1818615
  • Newman, Richard. Black Access: A Bibliography of Afro-American Bibliographies. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1984. ISBN 978-0-313-23282-4 OCLC 9557811
  • Nell, William Cooper; Wesley, Dorothy Porter; Uzelac, Constance Porter (2002). William Cooper Nell, Nineteenth-Century African American Abolitionist, Historian, Integrationist: Selected Writings from 1832–1874. Baltimore, MD: Black Classic Press. ISBN 978-1-57478-019-2. OCLC 50673509.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pace, Eric (December 20, 1995). "Dorothy Porter Wesley, 91, Black-History Archivist". The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  2. ^ Madison, Avril Johnson; Porter Wesley, Dorothy (1995). "Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley: Enterprising Steward of Black Culture". The Public Historian. 17 (1): 15–40. doi:10.2307/3378349. ISSN 0272-3433. JSTOR 3378349. OCLC 5546608560.
  3. ^ a b c Nunes, Zita Cristina (20 November 2018). "Cataloging Black Knowledge: How Dorothy Porter Assembled and Organized a Premier Africana Research Collection". Perspectives on History. Retrieved 24 November 2018.
  4. ^ "17 Are Honored In Arts Fields". The New York Times. October 14, 1994. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  5. ^ "Dorothy B Porter - United States Public Records". FamilySearch. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Coni Uzelac - Obituary". Sun-Sentinel. May 2, 2012. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  7. ^ "Charles Wesley is Dead at 95; A Pioneer in Study of Blacks". The New York Times. September 2, 1987. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  8. ^ "Dorothy Louise Porter-Wesley - Florida, Death Index". FamilySearch. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  9. ^ Ferguson, SallyAnn H. (1997). Andrews, William L.; Smith Foster, Frances; Harris, Trudier, eds. Porter, Dorothy. Oxford Companion to African American Literature. pp. 596–597. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195138832.001.0001/acref-9780195138832-e-467 (inactive 2018-09-11). ISBN 978-0-195-13883-2. OCLC 49346948.

Further reading[edit]

Chronological by publication date

  • Esme E. Bhan, "Dorothy Porter." Smith, Jessie Carney, and Shirelle Phelps. Notable Black American Women. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992, pp. 863–864. ISBN 978-0-810-34749-6 OCLC 24468213
  • Arthur C. Gunn, "Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley." Hine, Darlene Clark, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn. Black Women in America : an Historical Encyclopedia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, pp. 1246–1248. ISBN 978-0-253-32775-8 OCLC 431905341
  • Madison, Avril Johnson, and Dorothy Porter Wesley. "Dorothy Burnett Porter Wesley: Enterprising Steward of Black Culture". The Public Historian. Vol. 17, No. 1: 15–40. 1995. ISSN 0272-3433 OCLC 5546608560
  • Belt, Marva E., and Tomasha P. Hall. Dorothy Porter Wesley: A Selected Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, 1996. OCLC 35124035
  • Phelps, Shirelle. Contemporary Black Biography. Profiles from the International Black Community. Volume 19. Detroit, Mich: Gale Research Inc, 1999. ISBN 978-1-414-43547-3 ISSN 1058-1316 OCLC 527366266
  • Findlay, James A., Constance Porter Uzelac, and Dorothy Porter Wesley. Dorothy Porter Wesley (1905-1995), Afro-American Librarian and Bibliophile: An Exhibition, February 1-March 16, 2001. Ft. Lauderdale, Fla: Bienes Center for the Literary Arts, Broward County Library, 2001. ISBN 978-0-967-88582-7 OCLC 46731841
  • Botnick, Julie. "The Early Life and Library of Dorothy Porter". History 215J: The Art of Biography. New Haven, CT: Yale University, March 2013.
  • Sims-Wood, Janet L. Dorothy Porter Wesley at Howard University: Building a Legacy of Black History. Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2014. ISBN 978-1-626-19644-5 OCLC 879583996

Archival collections[edit]

External links[edit]