One of CPL’s Black History Month pioneers

The Cambridge Public Library is offering an excellent lineup of events – lectures, author visits, poetry readings, panel discussions, movies, and book displays – for Black History Month. Our social media accounts will also be buzzing this month with facts, quotes, photos, and other content related to black history and culture. Follow @cambridgepl on Twitter, and pay particular attention to the hashtag #blackhistorymonth, to learn more.

One of the originators of African American cultural programming at the Cambridge Public Library coinciding with the nationwide observances then known as Black History Week, as well as our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations, was librarian Jerome T. Lewis. Lewis was the Associate Director of the Cambridge Public Library from 1970 until his death in 1976. He was a native son, having grown up in Cambridge and graduated from Ridge Technical High School, where he was a dedicated scholar and a track and field star, in 1941. (He was also the grandson of George Washington Lewis, the steward of Harvard University’s Porcellian Club for 45 years, whose portrait still hangs in that most exclusive of Cambridge enclaves.)

Profile of "Athlete of the Issue" Jerome Lewis from the Rindge Register high school newspaper, June 18, 1941 issue

Profile of “Athlete of the Issue” Jerome Lewis, from the Rindge Register high school newspaper, June 18, 1941 issue

After graduating from Colby College with a degree in history and government, he worked in the libraries of Harvard from 1946 to 1959. He earned a degree in library science from Simmons College in 1949. Upon leaving Harvard, he held leadership positions in the Newton Free Library and the library of Bryant & Stratton, a Boston business college, before returning to Cambridge in 1970. In addition to his library work, he was active in a number of community groups and was appointed a member of Cambridge’s Civic Unity Committee.

Shortly before his death from cancer at the age of 54, Lewis created the Jerome T. Lewis Scholarship Fund, to provide funds annually to two Cambridge public high school students on the basis of their contributions to the black community. He is also the namesake of the Lewis Room at the Central Square Branch. It was dedicated, appropriately enough, during Black History Week celebrations in February 1977.

Cover of the program for the dedication of the Jerome T. Lewis Memorial Room at the Central Square Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, February 13, 1977

Cover of the program for the dedication of the Jerome T. Lewis Memorial Room at the Central Square Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, February 13, 1977

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