We voted today against the recall of our Governor Gavin Newsom. It is sad to see California Republicans using the recall to try to win an election that they would not be able to win otherwise. It is also sad to see Republican governors of other states trying to prevent their citizens from protecting themselves from the Covid pandemic by wearing masks or getting vaccinated. We have both followed the recent news about Covid carefully and have decided to postpone our departure a few weeks to see how this awful situation plays out. We are not so worried about the situation here in the Bay Area or at our destination in Vermont. People in these places seem to follow the rules and follow the science. It is some of the in-between places that we hoped to visit on our upcoming Library Road Trip that we are worried about. Please wear masks and get vaccinated. It’s the only way to crush this pandemic!
We hope to leave in a few weeks but right now it makes sense to stay put. I’ll let you know our travel plans as soon as possible.
Thanks for all the birthday wishes. We celebrated a double birthday last night with our friends Dan Geiger and Julie Blankenship. Thanks for the photo, Julie!
The world has dramatically changed since our last Library Road Trip post in October 2019. Fortunately, Trump is gone. Unfortunately, Covid is not. We feel that there are still many miles to go before we put this project to sleep. We are returning to the road to drive across country to our little cabin in the woods in Vermont for the month of September. While we are on the way and on the return, we will explore two themes that emerged from our last LRT in 2019. We will photograph the complicated interaction of race and segregation on libraries throughout the country. The first place we will photograph will be the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, OK. This formally thriving African American neighborhood was mostly burned to the ground by a white mob in 1921. This destruction included the segregated public library in Greenwood which is still an empty lot. We will photograph other libraries in the South that were significant in the heroic struggle to desegregate these important parts of our national civic commons.
My research has benefitted by reading two books: The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South by Wayne and Shirley Wiegand and also Freedom Libraries The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South by Mike Selby. Freedom Libraries were established during the Civil Rights struggle in the South in the 1960s when the main libraries initially refused to desegregate. We will be visiting several of these during our drive through the South. It is hard to understand today how people were thrown in jail and sometimes savagely beaten for wanting to check out a book from a public library.
Our second area of interest that came out of our 2019 LRT was the forced removal of Indigenous children from their homes into “Indian Schools”. We saw examples of this in our drive across Canada and have been reading more about this recently with the discovery of unmarked graves of children in some of these former schools. As much as we have championed education for all poor children as a way out of poverty, this form of education was closer to cultural genocide. We will be visiting one of the first, largest and most famous of these schools in the US called the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Ironically, it now houses the US Army War College.
Starting August 20th, we will be on the road for approximately two months. We will cautiously made our way through the parts of the country that are experiencing the recent spike with the Covid virus’ Delta variant. We are vaccinated and we will be wearing masks and keeping our heads down everywhere. And being very cautious!
I will be writing occasional posts from the road as a record of our journey. We would love to hear your feedback along the way. As always, feel free to opt out of receiving these posts if you wish.
I'm photographer Robert Dawson. Join me and my son, Walker, as we drive across the country this summer photographing public libraries for my next book, due out in 2013. Our trip will complete 17 years of field work documenting this precious American resource.
For more on my work and my upcoming American Public Library photography book, please visit robertdawson.com.