Pre-1949 Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Library Card No. 1273 issued to Walter Lacey
Rosenberg Library, Colored Branch, Galveston, Texas
The “Colored Branch” of the Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas, was the first public library in Texas for African Americans. It is believed that it was also the first public library for African Americans in the entire southern region of the United States. The main branch of the Rosenberg Library, established in 1904 from a trust bequeathed by Henry Rosenberg, was located at 2310 Sealy Street, but due to Jim Crow laws and forced segregation, African American residents were prohibited from using the new library. Shortly before the opening of the new Rosenberg Library, the Board of Directors resolved to open a “colored” branch “so that the white and colored citizens of Galveston may separately derive advantages from the bequest of Henry Rosenberg for the establishment and maintenance of a Free Public Library for the use of the people of Galveston.” Subsequently, a new “colored branch” opened in 1905. It was located in an annex building of Central High School, the first public school for African Americans, located at 1304 27th Street. The segregated branch opened with over 4,000 volumes and 210 library members. In 1965, the Galveston School District integrated and the students at Central High School slowly merged with Ball High School. Central High School closed it’s doors in 1968 and in 1976 became the Old Central Cultural Center. The words “Colored Branch of Rosenberg Library” are still above the stone doorway leading into the annex.
Henry Rosenberg born in Switzerland in 1824, arrived in Galveston, Texas in February 1843 and worked as a clerk in a dry-goods store. He eventually purchased the business and turned it into the leading dry-goods store in Texas by 1859. Subsequently, he branched into financing and investing in the banking, real estate and transportation industries. He died in Galveston in 1889 and bequeathed part of his fortune to the city of Galveston.
Lt. Walter Jay Lacy (1915-1998) was a 1932 graduate of Central High School in Galveston, and joined the Galveston Police Department in 1939. After enlisting in the US Marine Corps and serving a tour during WWII, he resumed his duties for the Galveston Police Department and served the community of Galveston as a detective for 40 years and a civil employee for another 15 years. Lt. Lacy, a highly decorated officer, was recognized by the Texas House of Representatives for his services to the Galveston Police Department, received The Outstanding Officer and Detective Division Award from the 50’s Club of Galveston, and an award from the Texas Peace Officers Association for outstanding services in 1997.