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Carla Hayden says Frederick Douglass "might have a lot to do with the fact that I am a librarian”

Carla Hayden speaks during her swearing-in ceremony in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress last September. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The first African-American and first woman to hold the position of librarian of Congress says she is partly in her role thanks to the inspiration of Frederick Douglass. Carla Hayden, who was sworn in last year, discusses with Roll Call the significance of Black History Month, her own place in it and how African-American culture and history is integral to American culture and history. 

Roll Call: Some of the early figures in American history, people like Frederick Douglass, or Hiram Revels — the first African-American member of Congress — who are some of these figures who speak to you most, as somebody who has this front seat to history? 

Carla Hayden: Well, I have to admit that Frederick Douglass might have a lot to do with the fact that I am a librarian. Frederick Douglass and his emphasis on literacy and reading, and the ability to read being linked to freedom. In fact, I have one of the quotes that I use all the time and we sell it in the library shop: “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” Frederick Douglass said that when he was writing his autobiography, he knew literacy and learning to read must have been important [because] the person who owned him didn’t want him to learn to read. And right then, he knew there was something about reading that was tied to the ability to either free yourself or have an amount of freedom.

Read entire article at Roll Call