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and life along the winding road

Friday, September 17, 2021

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict


 The famous financier and philanthropist, J.P. Morgan had an extensive collection of rare books and The Personal Librarian introduces us to Belle de Costa Greene who was instrumental in helping him to procure many famous literary and religious works.

Her aspirations, and that of her mother, to make something of herself comes to fruition when J.P. Morgan hires Ms. Greene as his librarian and assistant, but many are suspicious of her dark skin during a time when there is much segregation and racism in America. After her father, Richard Greener, an African American, leaves the family, his wife decides to pass the family off as white, changing their name to de Costa Greene and suggesting that a fictitious Portuguese grandmother is the reason for the darker skin of some of her children.

The secret causes many a tense moment for Belle, who was born Belle Marion Greener, but despite her heritage, she is able to mix with the upper echelons of New York society and become invaluable to J.P. Morgan with her confidence and knowledge in the art world.

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