Christine Wigfall Morris: Clearwater’s First African American Librarian Book Signing

By: Mary Frances Kirkpatrick

Christine Wigfall Morris, Clearwater Library System’s first African American Librarian at the North Greenwood Branch, returned to her roots Friday, November 18 for a community reception and signings of her new book “Christine Wigfall Morris: Stories of Family, Community and History. The stories highlights Morris’ 33-year career as the first African American Librarian in the Clearwater Community and more than100 years of Wigfall FamilyHistory in Clearwater.

In July of 1949, the City of Clearwater hired Morris as a Librarian. Prior to working for the City, she had never been in a public library since local segregation practices did not encourage African Americans to visit public libraries.

In April of 1950, under the guidance of Morris, a new era in public library services began in Clearwater with the opening of a facility designated as the “Negro Library.” The library was located in a storefront at the corner Pennsylvania Avenue and Cedar Streets, now Palmetto Street. A  new library was built in 1962 at the corner of Holt Avenue and Palmetto Street. The name was changed to the Clearwater Northeast Library Branch.

During her years as Librarian, Mrs. Morris enlightened countless minds, both young and old. She implemented a voter registration program at the library, began a tutorial program for residents preparing for the high school equivalency exams, and started a summer program for children featuring storytelling, movies and puppet shows. Mrs. Morris began an annual arts and crafts festival in addition to establishing the African American Collection. Her gentle prodding encouraged many reluctant young readers to visit the library and choose a book.

In January 1983, “Miss Chris” as she is known to many, retired after 33 years of service to the Clearwater Public Library System. On the occasion of her retirement, the Clearwater Sun newspaper noted that she had “touched the lives of thousands of Clearwater children and adults. She has been quietly magnificent.”

In 2003, the Clearwater City Commission chose to honor “Miss Chris” as she was known, for her years of service to the Clearwater Public Library System and her impact on the youth of Clearwater by naming the Africa American Collections of the North Greenwood Library Branch the Christine Wigfall African American Collection.

For More Information Contact: Mary Frances Kirkpatrick 727-939-1616 mfk@mail.usf.edu

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