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A Profile of Sibyl E. Moses

Sibyl E. Moses started work on her widely acclaimed reference book, African American Women Writers of New Jersey 1863-2000: A Biographic Dictionary and Bibliographic Guide, as a way to reconnect with the African American community in New Jersey after working as an academic librarian in Nigeria for 10 years.

"I left to spend a year in Nigeria, and it turned into 10 years," Moses says of her time working and studying at the University of Ife in Ile-Ife where she completed a master’s degree in public administration. When she returned to the United States, she was asked by Dr. Judy Miller, head of the African American Studies program at Seton Hall University, to help compile a community newsletter on African American history.

"For the March Women’s History Month issue, it was suggested we list African American women authors in New Jersey," Moses said, explaining that newsletter named only eight writers. Her reference work, published almost 15 years later by Rutgers University Press in 2003 and reprinted in soft cover last September, included 118 authors.

Published by Rutgers University Press, the book was recently selected as a New Jersey Notable Book for 1995-2005, by the New Jersey Center for the Book. It also received an award from the American Association for State and Local History.

Her quest for women writers credited with at least one publication and with deep roots in New Jersey, led her to criss-cross the state countless times. She attended dozens of women’s club luncheons, library book sales, church meetings and other social events in search of these authors. She interviewed hundreds of people, including the gatekeepers of African American history and culture: members of women’s clubs, church elders, politicians, school teachers, principals, custodians, friends, relatives, neighbors, and strangers.

Moses, a Newark native who attended Avon Avenue, Clinton Place Junior High and Weequahic High Schools, opens her reference work to the general public through a special exhibit at the Main Library of The Newark Public Library starting January 22, 2007. The exhibit is part of the Library’s Black History Month celebration. The exhibit, which runs through March 3 and is free to the public and open during library hours, is the first ever mass public display of her book.

The author works as a reference specialist in African American History and Culture in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. She is listed as a co-curator of the 2004 “With an Even Hand: Brown v. Board of Education at Fifty” exhibit at the Library of Congress.

Moses is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia and earned a master's degree in Library and Information Science and Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She was an Assistant Professor and later, Associate Professor, in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

She was also director of the Office of Library Outreach Services at The American Library Association, Chicago, Illinois, and was the project archivist for the Phelps Stokes Fund Records in the Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archives Section of The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


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