Archived News | Return to News Center

February 9, 2009

ULM faculty member honored for outstanding dissertation on “Freedom Libraries”

The University of Louisiana at Monroe government documents librarian was selected to receive The University of Alabama Outstanding Dissertation Award for 2008-2009.

Assistant Professor Karen Cook’s dissertation is titled “Freedom Libraries in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project: A History.”

Cook said that the establishment of the Mississippi Freedom Libraries reflected the strong commitment of 1964 civil rights activists to empower people through literacy and education.

Though there is some research examining the Mississippi Summer Project Freedom Schools, the Freedom Libraries and their role in the civil rights movement had received almost no previous attention from library historians or other scholars.

“This study reveals how effectively the Freedom Libraries served as ‘arsenals of a democratic culture,’” said Cook. “The fact that the Freedom Libraries remain virtually unknown even within the library community means that a generation of Americans has been deprived of an important piece of library history.”

Cook noted that the national and international responses to the libraries reveal important dynamics of the way in which support for the civil rights movement spread across race, class, and cultural lines.

“Cook’s research opens the door to future research into freedom libraries in other states and presents the Civil Rights movement in a new light,” said Don Smith, Dean of the ULM Library.

ULM Assistant Library Dean Dinah Williams agreed, stating, “Karen has uncovered fertile ground through her examination of this aspect of the Civil Rights Era. Her work will surely serve as a catalyst for future research on the historical and educational significance of this period."

The UA review committee felt Cook’s dissertation was one that “exemplifies research skill, independent thought, the ability to interpret information, and the ability to handle the topic in an intelligent and thoughtful way, " according to David A. Francko, assistant vice president for academic affairs and dean of the graduate school.

For her work, Cook will receive a certificate and a check from the University of Alabama Graduate School during the University’s Honors Week ceremony in April.

Her dissertation advisor was Margaret Dalton, Ph.D.

PLEASE NOTE: Some links and e-mail addresses in these archived news stories may no longer work, and some content may include events which are no longer relevent, or reference individuals and/or organizations no longer associated with ULM.