“The Personal Librarian” is the story of Belle da Costa Greene, the librarian who developed and managed the personal library of J.P. Morgan, the wealthy financier. This was a highly unusual situation. Belle was the only applicant for the job who was a woman. Even more unusual, she was African-American.
Belle was born in 1879 to black parents. Her father was a professor and dean at Howard University School of Law; her mother was a music teacher. After Belle’s parents divorced, her mother was determined to give her children every opportunity that white children had. She changed their last name to Greene, moved the family to a new town where no one knew then, and pretended that they were caucasian. She also invented a Portuguese grandmother in the family tree to explain the somewhat olive complexion of some of her children. All of the children were taught to speak eloquently and conduct themselves in a cultured manner.
When most people hear the name Laura Ingalls Wilder, they think of the television show “Little House On The Prairie”, which ran from 1974 to 1983. While it was a clean family show for all ages, it offered a rather idealized version of what life was like back in the 1800s. A much more accurate description is offered in the author’s books. Although all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books are technically classified as biographical fiction, the events in the books did indeed happen.
This book covers 1874-1876, the years that Laura’s family lived outside the town of Walnut Creek, Minnesota. Her father bought land along Plum Creek from a Norwegian man named Mr. Hanson, who wanted to move farther west. It seemed like the perfect place to Pa Ingalls. The prairie soil was rich, and there were no trees that needed to be removed before planting wheat. It was within walking distance of town, so Laura and her older sister Mary could attend school for the first time.