Recorded May 11, 2022
Facilitator: Dr. Rachel Schipper
Patrons may choose to attend this event in-person or remotely via a livestreamed presentation. For those who prefer to view the event from home, please register for the virtual option. After registering, you will receive an email with instructions on how to view the presentation.
In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection.
But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s pale complexion allows her to pass as white, along with members of her family, with her alleged Portuguese heritage on her mother’s side supporting the claim.
The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths she must go to—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted identity in the rarified world in which she lives.