LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sue Cowan Williams Library, 1800 Chester Street, Little Rock, on Thursday, May 25, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The free outdoor celebration will include a panel discussion about the legacy of Sue Cowan Williams, live entertainment provided by the Timmons Art Foundation, family-friendly activities, and free refreshments.
The library’s namesake, Sue Cowan Williams, was a teacher at the all black Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and is best known for filing a class-action lawsuit against the Little Rock School District (LRSD) challenging the rate of teacher salaries based solely on skin color. The suit, Morris v. Williams, was filed on February 28, 1942, and helped launch the career of Thurgood Marshall, who in 1967 was appointed as the United States' first black Supreme Court justice. The court ruled against Williams (formerly Morris) in January 1944. Her appeal was heard in 1945 in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, Missouri, and was decided in her favor.
At the end of the 1942–43 school year, her contract was not renewed. Williams contracted work with Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff), the Arkansas Ordnance Plant in Jacksonville, and Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock before she was reinstated with LRSD in 1952. She taught at Dunbar until she retired in 1974.
Williams died on May 31, 1994. The tenth library in the Central Arkansas Library System was dedicated on March 22, 1997, in her honor. It was the most expensive building constructed to date in the library system, and it appropriately serves the community near the historic Dunbar High School building.
In addition to a wide selection of books and audio/visual items and a variety of programs for children and teens, the 8,500-square-foot facility offers public computers, wireless Internet access, and a public meeting room.
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