Born in Rochester, New York in February 1889, Sadie P. Delaney attended Poughkeepsie
High School, the College of the City of New York and received her professional
training in the New York Public Library.
Mrs. Delaney was a pioneer in the field of bibliotherapy and organized the Veterans
Administration Hospital Library in Tuskegee, Alabama. Before assuming the post of
Chief Librarian at the Veterans Hospital in 1923, Mrs. Delaney began her career in
librarianship at the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library in 1920.
There she found that immigrants and troubled children could be helped through
bibliotherapy (the therapeutic use of reading materials). Her initial work in
bibliotherapy received international attention. Mrs. Delaney also had a special
interest in books dealing with black history and literature and wanted to develop a
collection with such a focus. She thus came to know Arthur A. Schomburg, the
bibliophile and collector. Mrs. Delaney was cited for exceptional work at the 135th
Street Branch Library and founded the first black professional women's club in New
York City. In 1928 she married Rudicel A. Delaney.
Mrs. Delaney's innovative work at the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee brought world
recognition and acclaim. Bibliotherapy and group therapy for the mentally ill and
disabled, special Braille therapy for the blind and other related activities at the
hospital library were the primary focus of her life's work. She affiliated with
others of the library profession, nationally and internationally. She was a member
of the American Library Association and its committee for work with the blind; the
International Library Association at Queens Garden, England; the International
Hospital Library Guild; the League of Nations Library Committee; the
Neuropsychiatric Journal Club at the Veterans Hospital in Tuskegee; and the Mental
Hygiene Society of Tuskegee Institute. Mrs. Delaney also affiliated with
organizations which addressed broader social concerns. She was a member of the
National Council of Colored Women, a charter member of the “Women of
Darker Races of America,” a member of the Tuskegee Women's Club, and the
founder of the Friendship League of America. She organized the College Chapter of
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in New York City and
served seven and one-half years on the advisory board of the New York City
N.A.A.C.P. Mrs. Delaney was elected as the councilor for the Hospital Library
Division of the American Library Association and served from 1946 until 1951.
For her pioneering work as a bibliotherapist, humanitarian and leader in professional
and social circles, Mrs. Delaney received numerous awards, honors and citations. In
1934 she was selected by the Mitre Chambers, London, England as one of the important
women in America and included in the book Principal Women of
America. It was also during this period that she organized a special
library department for the blind at the Veterans Hospital. In 1938 she was cited by
the Carnegie Corporation, Pretoria, South Africa for exceptional work in hospital
libraries. She was selected as Woman of the Year by the Iota Phi Lamba Sorority and
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority in 1948 and 1949 respectively. In 1950 Mrs. Delaney received
the National Urban League Award as Woman of the Year and an Honorary Degree of
Doctor of Humanities from Atlanta University. In 1952 she was honored at Howard
University by the National Council of Negro Women. Dr. Delaney resided in Tuskegee,
Alabama until her death in 1958.
The Sadie P. Delaney Papers (1921-1958) consist primarily of incoming letters from
such diverse notables as W.E.B. Du Bois (vol.1), Leigh Whipper (vol.3), Mary McLeod
Bethune (vol.3), Langston Hughes (vol.1), Ralph Bunche (vol.3), James Weldon Johnson
(vol.1) and Fannie Hurst (vol.1), as well as letters from librarians and other
professionals at black institutions.
The seven bound volumes of correspondence include, “Letters Rich and
Rare” (vol.1, 1921-1949), so titled by Mrs. Delaney, with letters from
Booker T. Washington, Franz Boas, Benjamin Brawley, Countee Cullen, and others.
Volume 2, “Letters of Congratulations on Achievement,”
(1948-1950) include congratulations for Mrs. Delaney's honorary degree of Doctor of
Humanities (1950) from Atlanta University, and her honors as “Outstanding
Woman of the Southern Region” (1948) and as Tuskegee's “Woman
of the Year” (1949), presented by the Iota Lamba Sorority and Zeta Phi
Beta Sorority respectively.
Volumes 3-6 and an additional volume contain letters of personal and professional
content and letters of congratulation. Mailgrams appear frequently, and photographs
of Mrs. Delaney are included in each bound volume of letters.
Her papers also include programs, articles, the text of a speech given by Mrs.
Delaney at the Commencement Banquet at Atlanta University on June 5, 1950 (vol.3),
the minutes of the meeting of the Bi-Racial Committee, dated January 18, 1952 in
which the motion to establish a separate Alabama Negro Library Association was
passed (vol.5), and her curriculum vitae (vols.2, 3, 5). A bound Congressional
Record, dated January 17, 1957, contains remarks by Senator James E. Murray of
Fontana in which he asks unanimous consent to have Clyde C. Cantrell's article,
“Sadie P. Delaney: Bibliotherapist and Librarian” printed in
the appendix. In addition to the many congratulatory letters in the scrapbooks, Dr.
Delaney's correspondence points to the difficulties she faced as a black
professional librarian, particularly in the South.
Other correspondents of particular note and interest include George Washington Carver
(vol.3), Dorothy B. Ferebee (vol.3), Georgia Douglas Johnson (vols.3, 5), J.A.
Rogers (vol.5), William Grant Still (vol.6), Ernestine Rose (vol.1), Frederick D.
Patterson (vols.3, 6 & unnumbered volume), Emmett J. Scott (vol.1), Matthew
Henson (vol.1, letter accompanied with a photograph of Mr. Henson), Jessie Redmon
Fauset (vol.1), and a letter from Club Imperial, Birmingham, Alabama (vol.5).
Correspondence from schools within Tuskegee Institute and from Clyde C. Cantrell,
Director of Libraries, Alabama Polytechnic Institute, appear in the volumes of
letters. Volumes 3-6 and the unnumbered volume are dated: 1923-1953; 1951-1954;
1937-1956; 1965-1957; and 1950-1957, respectively.
The following items were removed from:
Name of Collection/Papers Sadie P. Delaney
Accession Number SCM83-9/MG 120
Donor: Grace P. Hooks
Date received: 1983
Date transferred: August 24, 1984
The item(s) listed below have been sent to the division indicated, either to be
retained or disposed of there. Any items that should receive special disposition are
Schomburg Photographs and Print Division:
Accessioned by: S. Borenstein