Democracy, Diversity, and Discourse

Statement on Race and Social Equity - Urban Libraries Council

In a strong act of commitment to a more equitable society, 173 public libraries across North America have signed the Urban Libraries Council’s Statement on Race and Social Equity. This statement serves as a baseline upon which libraries can build policies and actions that make their communities more inclusive and just. We are proud to be one of the libraries that have signed this statement. Read the full statement here.

Democracy "Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

Diversity "Diversity is about all of us, and about us having to figure out how to walk through this world together." - Jacqueline Woodson

Discourse "Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking... All we need to do is make sure we keep talking." - Stephen Hawking

Libraries are open places where all aspects of society can come together to find the answers they need. This has not always been the case, unfortunately. We hope to take the lessons from the past and use them as our guide moving forward.

In moving forward, it is clear that having an informed electorate, an appreciation of our country's unique diversity, and a desire to keep talking and understanding our differences are vital to ensuring that we are taking the correct path.

Scroll down and browse a few ways that we strive to promote Democracy, Diversity, and Discourse:

Dig Memphis image of a man wearing a hat that says freedom.
From the Dig Memphis Slide Show The Unfulfilled Dream: A History of Race Relations and Civil Rights in Memphis since the Civil War.

“Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”


First lady and UN delegate, taken from an United Nations Address, March 27, 1958.

civil rights in Memphis: a timeline

Explore the events of Civil Rights Movement in Memphis and revisit the milestones that lead to this critical moment in our nation's history. View the Timeline HERE.

Also, browse the Civil Rights Collection in Dig Memphis HERE. The Civil Rights Collection is a compilation of materials from numerous sources, including the following manuscript collections: Frank Holloman Collection, George W. Lee Collection (speeches and documents), A.W. Willis, Jr. Collection, Arthur L. Webb Collection, and the Catholic Human Relations Council Papers.

Within this collection, you'll find these documents related to the segregation/desegregation of the Memphis Public Library.

Diversity Studies (Gale OneFile)

Gale OneFile: Diversity Studies prepares researchers for social science, history, and liberal arts coursework. This collection explores cultural differences, contributions, and influences in the global community.


Find information about the Library’s Citizenship Corners located at select libraries as well as links to frequently used forms, resources for citizenship practice tests, and more. Click HERE for more information.

informed voter

We have pulled together this information in the hopes of creating a clearer picture of just who we vote for and when we vote for them. For each office, we aim to answer a few questions. Who? Area Served? Term Limits? Next Election? During election season, we’ll also include links to campaign websites and facebook pages. Visit HERE to browse this resource.

During election season, visit our Meet the Candidates page HERE.

linc/2-1-1 community information

Our LINC/2-1-1 service provides community information. Call 2-1-1 or browse their online database HERE.

Opposing Viewpoints (Gale In Context)

Opposing Viewpoints is a rich resource for debaters and includes viewpoints, reference articles, infographics, news, images, video, audio, and more. A category on the National Debate Topic provides quick and easy access to content on frequently studied and discussed issues. Periodical content covers current events, news and commentary, economics, environmental issues, political science, and more.

Reading Lists

We've put together a number of readings lists that aim at broadening our horizons of understanding including:

  • The Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards recognize books that have made important contributions to our understanding of racism and human diversity.
  • The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.
  • The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

View more lists HERE.

votes for women: celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment

August 26, 2020 marked 100 years since Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, officially enshrining in the U.S. Constitution the amendment that guarantees “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” As we celebrate the centennial anniversary of this major milestone, we also reflect on the decades-long struggle by suffragists in Memphis, the state of Tennessee, and across the nation. Visit the exhibit HERE.

library events & Celebrations

At the Library, we love celebrations. We typically have special events honoring various celebrations such as: