Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

History, MA

Committee Chair

Kelland, Lara

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Fleming, Tyler

Committee Member

Fleming, Tyler

Committee Member

Fosl, Cate

Author's Keywords

racial uplift; community center; libraries; Louisville; Thomas Blue; Louisville Free Public Library


This thesis examines the role of Reverend Thomas F. Blue and the Colored Department at the Louisville Free Public Library played in generating social uplift for African Americans in Louisville, Kentucky in the first third of the twentieth century. Working from the philosophical framework of intellectuals Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois, Blue created the first free Colored Library Department in the nation and used that department as a nexus in Louisville’s African American community. The Introduction outlines the central argument of the paper and sets up the intellectual debates between Washington and Du Bois. The second section dives into these intellectual debates and the impetus for the Colored Department’s founding. The third section examines Blue and his ideas of how the library should operate and function in society. In the Conclusion, Blue provided an area for the fostering of racial uplift and social progress in the city through the Library’s books and reference materials, educational programs, and community spaces. As part of the alternative thesis, there are two podcast episodes that explore education in Louisville around the Library’s founding and Blue’s professionalization of library science for African Americans.