HIGHLAND PARK (AP) – Part of a financially struggling Michigan school district’s collection of black history books, tapes, film strips and other materials has been found discarded outside its high school library.
Workers on the second floor of the library mistakenly threw them out, said Highland Park School District’s state-appointed emergency manager Donald Weatherspoon. He said the district in the mostly black Detroit enclave was able to recover the materials in time.
The materials were found Thursday by area residents, WXYZ-TV and the Detroit Free Press reported. About 1,000 pieces of material were found, the newspaper said, and tax and bank records containing personal information were among discarded materials.
“In diversity, range and depth, that library rivaled most community college libraries,” said Highland Park resident Paul Lee, a historian who helped build the collection.
Lee was notified of the materials on Thursday, and he and several friends, carrying flashlights, dove into large trash bins and pulled out what he said was a fraction of the collection. Lee said the district began building the collection after the civil rights movement.
Weatherspoon said the recovered materials would be sorted and those that have historical value would go to a library or a museum that would agree to accept them. The issue came up at Tuesday night’s school board meeting, drawing concern that the district no longer will keep the materials.
“I can’t let you sit here and say this was a mistake,” Highland Park Board Vice President Debra Humphrey said during the meeting.
The district can’t afford to secure the collection, Weatherspoon said. Leona Group, the charter school management company that began operating schools in the district a year ago, was offered materials and Weatherspoon said they took what they wanted.
Rodney Patrick, a city councilman, urged Weatherspoon to consider other options “before the Hefty bags come out.” The city closed its own library several years ago, and Patrick said artifacts from that library are being stored voluntarily by a company in the city.
“This speaks to a larger issue – a disinvestment in urban areas,” Patrick said after the meeting.
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