African American librarian and social leader Judith Ann Carter Horton firmly believed when she wrote, "I can conceive of no better or surer way to hasten the education and uplift of our people than the establishment of reading rooms, and libraries in every community. When we become a reading people, we will be a thinking people."
Judith Ann Carter was born in Wright City, Missouri, on May 17, 1866, to Ann and Joseph Carter. Extremely poor, she attended school for the first time at age ten. Determined to receive an education, she left home, worked her way through school, and eventually graduated from Oberlin College in 1891. She acquired a position as a teacher in Guthrie in 1892 and married Daniel G. Horton, principal of Seward's separate school, in 1894. In 1906 she founded the Excelsior Club, the first African American women's club in Oklahoma. After her husband was denied access to Guthrie's Carnegie Library, Horton, with the support of the Excelsior Club and George N. Perkins, editor of the Guthrie Guide, raised the funds to establish the first public library for African Americans in Oklahoma. She served as librarian for eleven years, before returning to education as the Latin instructor at Guthrie's Favor High School, a position she held until she retired in 1936.
Although the Excelsior Library remained the pinnacle of her efforts to uplift her people, Horton's achievements continued throughout her life. In 1910 she participated as a founding member and later president of the Oklahoma State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, whose special work educated and provided scholarships for African American orphan girls. In 1923 Gov. John C. Walton appointed her to the board of regents for the State Training School for Negro Boys, at Boley and the Industrial Institute for the Deaf, Blind, and Orphans of the Colored Race, at Taft. She remained active in community affairs until her death on February 16, 1948, in Guthrie.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Judith Ann Carter Horton," Archives, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio. Judith C. Horton, How It Happened (Guthrie, Okla.: Cooperative Publishing Co., 1914). Willa Strong, "The Origins, Development, and Current Status of the Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women's Clubs" (Ph.D. diss., University of Oklahoma, 1957). Roy Wilkins, ed., "The First Ladies of Colored America," The Crisis 50 (February 1943).
Helen M. Stiefmiller
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