Black History Month Spotlight: Effie Lee Morris

Nominations are now open for the 2017 WNBA Award and so, in honor of the award and of Black History Month, we’re running a spotlight series on some of the groundbreaking women who impacted books and readership today, continuing with Effie Lee Morris.

Born in Virginia in 1921, Effie Lee Morris received a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Library Science, and a Master of Library

Effie Lee Morris

Effie Lee Morris
Photo courtesy of

Science from Western Reserve University. Inspired by her love of literature, she began working at the Cleveland Public Library before moving on to work with the Philadelphia Public Library and the New York Public Library’s Library for the Blind. Through those positions, she became associated with the American Library Association as well as the Library of Congress, where she was the first female chairperson, and the National Braille Association, where she was president for two terms. She moved to San Francisco in 1963 and took up the role of being the first Coordinator of Children’s Services at the San Francisco Library, where she later established the Children’s Research and Historical Center at the Children’s Center.

Effie Lee Morris

At the San Francisco WNBA
Photo courtesy of WNBA-SF

She continued on to found the San Francisco division of the Women’s National Book Association and to serve as the first black president of the Public Library Association. In her roles with libraries and literary organizations, Effie Lee Morris spent time advocating for children in underserved communities and for the visually impaired. In 1984, she won the WNBA Award. She continued her advocacy after her retirement, until her death in 2009.

Having implemented the first Negro History Week for children at the Cleveland Public Library, developed library services for the blind in the Bronx, and creating what is today the Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection of out-of-print children’s books in the San Francisco Public Library, she impacted children and libraries across the country.

Stay tuned for the next Black History Month Spotlight on past WNBA Award winner Jessie Carney Smith. Or look back at earlier winners of the award, Charlemae Hill Rollins or Augusta Braxton Baker.


American Library Association

The History Makers

About Katherine Akey

Katherine is a copywriter and an all-around bookworm who enjoys reading classics, literary fiction, and just about anything that crosses her desk.

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