Documentary Film to Spotlight Black Librarianship

Are You a Librarian: The Untold Story of Black Librarians will share the history, impact, and current state of black librarianship.

Brandon A. Owens, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Wilberforce University.
Photos courtesy of Rodney Freeman Jr.


Black librarianship—the history, impact, and present state of the profession—will get the documentary treatment with Are You a Librarian: The Untold Story of Black Librarians, a film in progress with plans for release in 2025.

“I wanted to be able to tell the story of Black librarians and share the history of the contribution of Black librarians to the field,” says executive producer, and former librarian and library director, Rodney Freeman Jr.

Freeman leads the production team of Angel Truesdale, associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and social sciences and business librarian at Atkins Library in Charlotte; writer and former public librarian Zuri Davenport; National Underground Railroad Freedom Center youth programs manager and independent filmmaker Asia Harris; videographer Byron Williams; and University of North Carolina at Charlotte community engagement archivist Adreonna Bennett.

Freeman pulled together a team with a foundation of library knowledge.

“This will be unique,” he says. “It [is] about Black librarians, and Black librarians are actually behind the camera as well.”


Freeman interviews Del Hornbuckle, director of libraries at Howard University.

With funding almost entirely from a GoFundMe campaign, the members of the team have traveled to Nashville; Atlanta; New York; Washington, DC; Baltimore; Cleveland; Austin, TX; and Las Vegas for interviews and have plans to go to Philadelphia; Boston; Providence, RI; Chicago; Los Angeles; and Washington State as they seek to shed light on the past and spotlight the present state of Black librarianship.

One of those earlier interviews was with Meredith Evans, past president of the Society of American Archivists and director of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

“If we take it all the way back, there were Black librarians in the late 1800s,” Evans says in a clip on the documentary’s website. “We had school librarians, and we had libraries in people’s homes, because we had to educate our own.”

The documentary plans to discuss the history, which Freeman says isn’t “well-documented,” but also hasn’t been completely ignored. There are books about the freedom libraries (community libraries created to serve African Americans during the civil rights movement) and the desegregation of public libraries. But this history is not taught and is not well-known.

The majority of the film will cover public libraries and librarians, but it will also touch on school libraries and HBCU (historically Black colleges and universities) libraries. Among those interviewed for the film is DC Public Schools librarian Eboni Henry.

Freeman plans to premiere the documentary in Philadelphia, in conjunction with ALA Annual in June 2025. But the team is not stopping there. Freeman hopes to create a curriculum, as well as a map of all the Black libraries, segregated libraries, freedom libraries, Faith Cabin Libraries, and literacy organizations with bookmobiles.

As for the title, Are You a Librarian?, it came from a common interaction from Freeman’s days at a branch of the St. Louis Public Library.

“A lot of people were coming in, and they saw me working at the desk, and they would ask me, ‘Are you a librarian?’ ” says Freeman. “It was just kind of mind-blowing sometimes. People just didn’t see me as a librarian. They saw me as somebody who worked in the library, but they didn’t think I was a librarian.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (, @karayorio) is senior news editor at School Library Journal.

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