Pearl Thompson was a student at Shaw University in 1942 when she walked over to a public library in Raleigh, N.C., to check out a book she was assigned to read for class.
But instead of issuing a library card to Thompson and allowing her to check out the book, the library staff at the Olivia Raney Library—a library intended only for whites at the time—sent Thompson to the basement and told her that she had to read the book there and couldn't take it out of the library.
More than 70 years later, Thompson, now 92, is being honored in Raleigh, N.C., as a lifelong educator, and she has made it a point to return to get the library card that was denied her so long ago.
Thompson told the News & Observer that she knew that the Olivia Raney Library, Raleigh’s first public library, was only for white patrons, but she was on a mission to get the book that she needed.
“I expected to go in and get a book,” Thompson said.
That thirst for knowledge and determination to break down racial barriers in educational spaces stayed with her. Thompson went on to teach in Raleigh’s segregated black schools for more than a decade. In an emotional video showing the Raleigh event that honored her work, Thompson described how she vowed that she would work hard to give children opportunities to learn, and to expose them to the resources they would need to succeed.
Read more at the News & Observer.