Virginia State Seal Virginia Department of Historic Resources

124-5130 Portsmouth Community Library

Portsmouth Community Library
Photo credit: Kimble David, 2008

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For additional information, read the Nomination Form PDF

VLR Listing Date 12/17/2009

NRHP Listing Date 08/12/2010

NRHP Reference Number 10000544

The Portsmouth Community Library was built in 1945 to serve Portsmouth’s African American citizens, who then comprised about half of the city’s population. While the city founded its library system in 1914, the Portsmouth Community Library was the first freestanding building in Portsmouth to provide library services for African Americans, using African American staff. Despite the building’s small size (900 square feet) and shortage of resources, it was significant as a center for the black community and as a source of pride. The library operated within the doctrine of racial segregation but worked against it by providing information to African Americans. In the late 1950s, the library became the centerpiece of a federal civil rights lawsuit, which resulted in the provision of better library service for all residents. The building has been relocated twice. At the time of its listing in 2010, it was being adapted to house a museum of black history.

Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.

VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark

Updated: September 1, 2021