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Effie Lee Morris

Public children’s library administrator Effie Lee Morris was born on April 20, 1921, in Richmond, Virginia, to Erma Lee Caskie Morris and William Hamilton Morris. Morris is the eldest of two daughters. She grew up in Richmond until the age of eight when her family moved to Cleveland, Ohio for her father’s job as head chef with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company. Morris can trace her family history back to slavery and owns the slave papers of her paternal great grandmother. Morris loved to read at an early age and grew up trading books with her friends and family members. She attended Robert Fulton Elementary School and John Adams High School in Cleveland. Morris was her high school class's co-valedictorian with three other students. Morris earned her B.A. and M.L.S. degrees at Case Western University.

Morris began her career as a public librarian at the Cleveland Public Library in 1946. There, she specialized in working with children and children’s literature. Morris moved to New York in 1955 after working for the Philadelphia Public Library in order to work for the American Library Association. That same year, she went on to work for the New York Library for the Blind and served as the first female chairperson of the Library of Congress. Morris also served as president of the National Braille Association for two terms. In 1963, Morris moved to San Francisco, California and became the first Coordinator of Children’s Services at the San Francisco Public Library. In 1964, Morris established the Children’s Historical and Research Collection at the Children’s Center of the San Francisco Library. In 1968, she founded the San Francisco Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association, and in 1971, Morris became the first African American president of the Public Library Association. She officially left her position as Coordinator of Children’s Services of the San Francisco Library in 1977, and in 1981, the children’s literature collection that she started was officially named the Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection.

Morris continues to be an advocate for children and children’s literature. Morris and the San Francisco Public Library hold an annual lecture series that features a children’s literature author and illustrator. Some of the lecturers have included children’s book authors Nikki Grimes, Milly Lee, Pamela Munoz and Tomie dePaola. Morris has received several awards for her work and contributions to children’s literature, including the Silver Spur Award for enhancing the quality of life and economic vitality of San Francisco; the Women’s National Book Association’s Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the World of Books; and the Grolier Foundation Award.

Accession Number

A2005.242

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/11/2005

10/13/2005

Last Name

Morris

Maker Category
Middle Name

Lee

Schools

John Adams High School

Robert Fulton Elementary School

University of Chicago

Case Western Reserve University

First Name

Effie

Birth City, State, Country

Richmond

HM ID

MOR09

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Paris, France

Favorite Quote

It Is Only With The Heart That One Sees Rightly; What Is Essential Is Invisible To The Eye.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

4/20/1921

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Bay Area/San Francisco

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Death Date

11/16/2009

Short Description

Library administrator Effie Lee Morris (1921 - 2009 ) founded the Children’s Historical and Research Collection, now known as the Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection, at the Children’s Center of the San Francisco Public Library. She was the first female chairperson of the Library of Congress and the first African American president of the Public Library Association.

Employment

Cleveland Public Library

New York Public Library

Library of Congress, Division for the Blind

San Francisco Public Library

Favorite Color

Yellow

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326685">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Effie Lee Morris's interview, session 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326686">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326687">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris describes her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326688">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Effie Lee Morris describes her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326689">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Effie Lee Morris talks about her father's brothers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326690">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Effie Lee Morris describes her maternal family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326691">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Effie Lee Morris talks about her generation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326692">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Effie Lee Morris shares her family's artifacts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326693">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Effie Lee Morris describes her sister's family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326694">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Effie Lee Morris describes her earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326695">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Effie Lee Morris describes her early family life in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326397">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Effie Lee Morris describes her neighbors in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326398">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris remembers Maggie Lena Walker and visiting Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326399">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris describes her childhood community in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326400">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Effie Lee Morris remembers visiting Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326401">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Effie Lee Morris remembers Richmond's Third Street Bethel A.M.E. Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326402">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Effie Lee Morris describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326403">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Effie Lee Morris recalls moving from Richmond, Virginia to Cleveland, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326404">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Effie Lee Morris describes her educational experiences in Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326405">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Effie Lee Morris describes her educational experiences in Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326696">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Effie Lee Morris describes the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326697">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris remembers John Adams High School in Cleveland, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326698">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris describes her activities at John Adams High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326699">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Effie Lee Morris recalls the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326700">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Effie Lee Morris recalls being unfairly banned from a pool in Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326701">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Effie Lee Morris recalls being unfairly banned from a pool in Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326702">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Effie Lee Morris remembers her high school experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326703">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Effie Lee Morris describes notable personalities from Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326704">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Effie Lee Morris describes notable personalities from Cleveland, Ohio, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326705">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Effie Lee Morris describes her freshman year at the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326416">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Effie Lee Morris describes her experiences at the University of Chicago</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326417">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris recalls studying at Cleveland's Flora Stone Mather College for Women</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326418">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris talks about her interest in children's literature</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326419">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Effie Lee Morris describes her work at the Cleveland Public Library</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326420">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Effie Lee Morris recalls her experiences as a teacher at Atlanta University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326421">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Effie Lee Morris describes her transition to New York Public Library</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326422">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Effie Lee Morris recalls her work at New York City's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326423">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Effie Lee Morris remembers Helen Keller</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326424">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris describes her work for the Library of Congress and the National Braille Association</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326425">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris recalls Cardinal Francis Spellman's support of her pioneering work with blind children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326426">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Effie Lee Morris describes the challenges she faced as a librarian</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326427">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Effie Lee Morris recalls her move to San Francisco, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326428">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Effie Lee Morris recalls Negro History Month at the San Francisco Public Library</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326429">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Effie Lee Morris explains why owls are significant to her</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326430">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Effie Lee Morris describes her work at the San Francisco Public Library</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326431">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Effie Lee Morris describes the Effie Lee Morris Historical and Research Collection of Children's Literature</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326432">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris recalls leaving the San Francisco Public Library</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326433">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris describes her involvement with the Ohio Library Association</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326434">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Effie Lee Morris talks about New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326435">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Effie Lee Morris describes the Women's National Book Association Award</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326436">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Effie Lee Morris talks about her M.A. thesis and the Coretta Scott King Award</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326437">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Effie Lee Morris describes the Women's National Book Association and Grolier Foundation Awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326438">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Effie Lee Morris recalls her community involvement in San Francisco</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326439">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Effie Lee Morris talks about her awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326440">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris remembers her appearance on 'What's My Line'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326441">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris describes her husband, Leonard Jones</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326442">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Effie Lee Morris describes her husband's career and legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326443">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Effie Lee Morris talks about her favorite books and authors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326444">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Effie Lee Morris reflects upon the significance of hip-hop</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/326445">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Effie Lee Morris reflects upon the impact of technology for children's libraries</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/325090">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Effie Lee Morris describes her international travels</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/325091">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Effie Lee Morris talks about her future plans</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/325092">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Effie Lee Morris describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

2$2

DATape

4$7

DAStory

7$6

DATitle
Effie Lee Morris recalls her work at New York City's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Effie Lee Morris reflects upon the significance of hip-hop
Transcript
In Cleveland [Ohio], you have quite a community orientation. You work with the community, and you know where all the schools are, you know where the children hang out, you know what organizations are in your community. Well they didn't quite have that kind of orientation in New York [New York], because you had so many people just came to the library. So, to go to the Library for the Blind [Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, New York, New York] meant to build the whole population, to build it. There were children, now it was very interesting. Up, beginning in the 1940s, there was just a sudden rush of blind babies and blind premature babies and finally it was discovered that these new incubators which were in all the special hospitals, the [U.S.] military hospitals, these were the children who were being blinded. Kids who were--poor kids who were put between hot water bottles in (laughter) the dresser drawer were doing fine, but it so happened that these new incubators had a greater quantity of oxygen, which was fed to these children to keep them alive, but damaged the optic nerve. So we called these babies retrolental fibroplasia, RLF babies, and they were all over. So the, but at that time they had been going to schools for the blind and as they began to be five years old, their parents, and many of them were middle class children, their parents didn't want them to go, they wanted them mainstreamed, and that started the mainstreaming of children with disabilities into the regular schools and classrooms, and I had a lot there in New York. I had those wonderful volunteers, Ruth Turkeltaub [ph.]. The sisterhoods in the Jewish faith [National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods] are the ones who are supportive of working with the blind, and so the group from Great Neck [New York] was very supportive of one little boy, his mother was a member of the group and this little boy said one day that he wanted to be able to look up things for himself. He wanted an encyclopedia. He had to do a report and so his mother's friends, who had all learned to braille books to be supportive, wrote Marshall Field to ask for, no, they wrote the World Book [Scott Fetzer Company] to ask for permission to braille the World Book [World Book Encyclopedia], and Marshall Field heard about it and underwrote the commercial production at the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville [Kentucky]. And so all of that generated from this one little boy who wanted, and now Bruce Bresnow [ph.] lived out here. I knew children all over the United States 'cause I was the only person with children's background in literature so they wrote to me from everywhere and even Red Wing, Miss--Minnesota [Red Wing, Minnesota]. There was a blind child there and that blind child wrote to the New York Public Library [New York, New York], and so I was helping him and interestingly in Michigan, the librarian for the blind at that time didn't want to be bothered with children at all and so I got all the Michigan children, came to me and this was crossing all kinds of lines and, of course, I had to discuss it with Library of Congress [Washington, D.C.], which the division for the blind [Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.] was responsible for talking books and so forth, so that the federal, it was a federal district that I lived, that I was in, and I had to serve my district, but I was also serving this--children all over the country because they could say I need a book on whatever and I knew how to find and send you. So it grew. They were getting, because they were mainstreamed, you see, they were in the regular schools. Now Mrs. Edith Thompson [ph.] was a wonderful volunteer and Mrs. Thompson made picture books for the blind. She did 'Little Blue and Little Yellow' [sic.] is one of the books and, of course, and then she cut the circles out of felt and, you know, she could apply them. So, oh, I had all kinds of children who wanted to stand in front of the class and give a book report like their friends did. Well, they could with the 'Little Blue and Little Yellow' because they could show pictures. They couldn't see them. They could feel them and we had a great time. She did many wonderful books, which I hope the New York Public Library still has. They were one of a kind, and there were many experiences, as I said. The children who were, played the children in Perkins [Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, Massachusetts] in Helen Keller on Broadway, 'The Miracle Worker' [William Gibson].$--You said you don't read a lot of current authors, but I know you're really interested in what's happening in the world. You're into hip-hop now.$$Oh, yes. (Laughter) I'm going to learn hip-hop. I'm going to learn with Tupac [Tupac Shakur] and I have met Wu-Tang [Wu-Tang Clan].$$That's right, it's over on the other side.$$Oh, Wu-Tang, I went to hear him speak, and I am very much impressed by Wu-Tang and Jamake Steptoe [sic. John Steptoe], who's a children's author, oh, comes to the farm for the various meetings and things we've had there at Children's--I haven't talked about that, the Children's Defense Fund, and he always brings along this tape recorder and music and he tells me what to listen to. I have not yet learned it, but I'm trying, and then at this last wonderful meeting at the farm, which was the Proctor Institute [Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry], now the farm is Alex Haley's farm in Clinton, Tennessee, it belongs to the Children's Defense Fund and Marian, every year, [HistoryMaker] Marian Wright Edelman, has the Proctor Institute, named for Samuel Proctor, who was president of Virginia Union [Virginia Union University], I believe, in Richmond, Virginia, and it, this is in his memory. So this Proctor Institute invites people from the community, various ministers and other people who are working with children, are being advocates for children for time at the farm, which is just a glorious experience. People stay in some of the cottages on the farm and they stay mostly in motels around. Also at the same time are the students from the Freedom Schools, for the Freedom Schools. These are college students who go out and teach the Freedom Schools in the summertime and there are about two hundred of them and they stay in the University of Tennessee [Knoxville, Tennessee] dormitories. And so it was Sam Moss, oldest Moss, the third [sic. HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Otis Moss, Jr.], whose sermon this year included literature from the Greeks through hip-hop. I am so impressed, I am so impressed and I bought the tapes and can't tell where I have got one. I know I've lent one to someone, she's got to send that tape back but I just, it was wonderful and it's not that, I know people think hip-hop is evil and it might be but I don't know because I haven't had a chance to understand it and learn about it and I want to learn about it before I say, no I don't believe in hip-hop, but it's the language of this generation and if you're going to stay current, I used to say to the children's librarians, now look at it like this, you're right in the middle, you've got one foot in the past, one foot in the future and so somehow you're standing up, but don't forget you're always five years, there's a generation in the life of a child and we have to think always five years ahead.