Shelly Millender Jr., who Helped Desegregate Birmingham Public Library, Dies at Age 86
|On April 10, 1963, Miles College students, including Shelly Millender (pictured), staged a sit-|
in at the Birmingham Public Library. The library leadership agreed to end segregation in the
segregated. Courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History
Shelly Millender Jr., who as a Miles College student in 1963 participated in a sit-in of the downtown Birmingham Public Library that eventually led to the desegregation of BPL, has died. He was 86.
Millender passed away on July 17, 2021, according to his obituary on Legacy.com.
On April 10, 1963, Millender and former U.S. Federal Judge U.W. Clemon were among Miles College students who staged a sit-in at the downtown Birmingham Public Library protesting a policy that banned blacks. The library leadership agreed to end segregation in the institution, making it one of the few public facilities in Birmingham that was peacefully desegregated.
On May 1, 2018, at the Central Library, Millender served as a panelist in a discussion on desegregation of the Birmingham Public Library led by national library historian Wayne A. Wiegand, author of "The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism." Millender is featured in the book.
In an interview with BPL before his lecture, Wiegand calls black activists like Millender who desegregated public libraries "hidden figures" who helped improve life for Blacks in the Deep South.
The American Library Association apologized for its silence during the 1960s on library segregation after Wiegand addressed the group at the 2018 ALA Conference in New Orleans.
Before attending Miles College, Millender served in the U.S. Army. At Miles, he served as a student government president and actively participated in the civil rights movement. Millender began his career at Coca-Cola Bottling Company and then became one of the first black automobile salesmen of luxury cars in Birmingham. After spending decades in the car business, Millender hosted a popular radio show called "Let's Talk" for years discussing political and social topics of the day.