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Shelly Millender Jr., who helped desegregate the Birmingham Public Library, dies

Shelly Millender Jr. at BPL
Shelly Millender Jr. at BPL(Birmingham Public Library)
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 2:39 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 22, 2021 at 3:36 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A Civil Rights pioneer in Birmingham has died.

Shelly Millender Jr. was a Miles College student in 1963 when he participated in a sit-in of the downtown Birmingham Public Library that eventually led to the desegregation of BPL. Millender was 86. He passed away on July 17, 2021.

From BPL: On April 10, 1963, Millender and former U.S. Federal Judge U.W. Clemon were among Miles College students who staged a sit-in at the downtown Birmingham Public Library protesting a policy that banned Blacks. The library leadership agreed to end segregation in the institution, making it one of the few public facilities in Birmingham that was peacefully desegregated.

On May 1, 2018, at the Central Library, Millender served as a panelist in a discussion on desegregation of the Birmingham Public Library led by national library historian Wayne A. Wiegand, author of “The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism.” Millender is featured in the book.

In an interview with BPL before his lecture, Wiegand calls black activists like Millender who desegregated public libraries “hidden figures” who helped improve life for Blacks in the Deep South. The American Library Association apologized for its silence during the 1960s on library segregation after Wiegand addressed the group at the 2018 ALA Conference in New Orleans.

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