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Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center, a Place that Matters

langston hughes

Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center in Corona, Queens, was nominated to the Census of Places that Matter because it houses the largest circulating Black Heritage reading collection in New York State. The facility was established as a result of local community efforts in the 1960s to form a community-controlled library and cultural center focusing on the history and needs of the African American community in the Corona neighborhood.

The library originally opened in 1969 in a former Woolworth’s store on Northern Boulevard. According to its Place Matters nomination, the original location provided the library with a storefront presence and also served “as a reminder of an earlier moment in history [when] this Woolworth’s was the site of a local civil rights struggle to break the color barrier for hiring in Queens.” Opening just two years after Langston Hughes’ death, the library was the first public institution named for the poet. The library’s Black Heritage Reference Center has grown over the years to more than 40,000 volumes of materials “written by, about, for, with and related to Black Culture.” In addition, the library has a special collection of works by and about its namesake, including Hughes’ own published works, analyses of his work, and even musical settings composed by Hughes.

From the beginning, the intent was for the Corona community to have input in the library’s collections and programming. Until 1987, the library was staffed and run by the Library Action Committee of Corona-East Elmhurst, the same organization that advocated for the library’s establishment. Although the library is now part of the Queens Library system, the Library Action Committee remains involved in promoting and fundraising for the library.

In 1999, the library moved into a new, purpose-built, 24,000 square feet facility down the street on Northern Boulevard and 100th Street. The facility, designed by the architectural firm of Davis Brody Bond, has allowed the library to greatly expand with a 175-seat auditorium, a gallery, climate-controlled spaces for the archives, and dedicated rooms for children, black heritage research, and the library’s Homework Assistance Program. Each February, the library celebrates Black History Month with special programming for both children and adults. However, the focus on African American culture and history is not confined to February at the library, as readings, performances, lectures, and events celebrating black history and culture are held here year round.