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woman standing in a building doorway in a coat with a soft cap holding a book to her chest with her purse on her wrist
Jewell Mazique leaving the then Annex building of Library of Congress where she works, 1942. (FSA/OWI Collection/Library of Congress)

A “Jewell” in the Adams Building: Jewell Mazique

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This blog post was written by Lynn Weinstein, Business Reference and Research Specialist in the Science & Business Reading Room. 

In 2024 the Adams Building, which opened in 1939 as the “Annex,” celebrates its 85th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, I thought it would be interesting to explore the stories of some of the people who worked in the building in the past. I was intrigued by an image that showed a group of well-dressed employees exiting the building in 1942. The caption indicated that this was Jewell Mazique, “leaving work with a colleague from the Library of Congress annex.” Upon further investigation, I learned that Jewell Mazique was a fascinating woman who briefly graced the halls of the Adams building where she worked as a library clerk. This image was just one in a series of photographs that was part of a “day in the life” photoshoot by the Office of War Information (OWI), which sought to portray a middle-class African American professional woman.  The OWI was a government agency involved in wartime propaganda. The agency supplied these images to African American newspapers to illustrate a working professional integrated in the workplace and in public, as a contrast to the inequities reported at the time when many minorities were living in segregated poverty.

three women in winter wear are exiting the building and are in the door way, one man has exited to the left and is mostly out from
Jewell Mazique leaving the then Annex building of Library of Congress, 1942. (FSA/OWI Collection/Library of Congress)

Mazique is featured in numerous photographs taken within the walls of the Adams building, retrieving books from the stacks, examining card catalogs, working temporary details, examining her hometown newspaper, and studying items at tables in settings that are familiar to users of the Science and Business Reading Room.  There are photos documenting her busy life; going to the cafeteria at work, giving blood, being present at a church function, attending a union event, commuting on the bus, shopping, cooking, spending time at home with her husband and nieces, reading, listening to the radio, and more.

woman standing in a aisle with shelves to her font in back. She is wearing a suit and is holding three volumes with one foot resting on the bottom shelf while reaching for the top shelf
Jewell Mazique in the book stacks of then then Annex building of Library of Congress, 1942. (FSA/OWI Collection/Library of Congress)
Jewell sitting at a desk holding papers with one woman at a covered desk facing Jewell looking down at her work in a room filled with tables covered with material
Jewell Mazique working in the accessions division of Library of Congress, 1942. (FSA/OWI Collection/Library of Congress)

Mazique, who received a degree from Spelman College in 1935 and a Masters in African American studies from Howard University in the 1950s, worked briefly at the Library of Congress in the early 1940s. She became a civil rights advocate and labor organizer. Mazique worked as a reporter for The Washington Afro-American newspaper. She helped launch a campaign against the Capital Transit bus system, urging the system to end Jim Crow hiring. While the bus service itself was integrated at the time, it did not allow the employment of African Americans as bus operators. 

woman in a suite standing at the card catalog looking at a pulled out drawer with three card catalog drawers pulled out on a table in the foreground
Jewell Mazique and the card catalog in the then Annex Building of the Library of Congress, 1942. (FSA/OWI Collection/Library of Congress)

Learn More: 

To see where many of these photos were taken, join us for an open house in the Science and Business Reading Room on the fifth floor of the Adams Building on April 18, 2024, during Live at the Library! where we will be celebrating the 85th anniversary of the building’s opening.  Save the date. Tickets and additional information will be available on March 21, 2024. 

Jewell seated facing the camera at a gable with an open book, a marine in uniform sits at the table reading to the side but with his back to the camera tables have 3 table lamps per table and several are viewable; one gentleman with a hat sitting on the table next to him works with a number of papers
Jewell Mazique in the reading room on the 5th floor of the then Annex Building of the Library of Congress, 1942. (FSA/OWI Collection/Library of Congress)

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  1. Great to see these photos! Thank you. These were made by the well known photographer John Collier Jr. Collier is the author of the 1967 book Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method; his Wikipedia entry is “John Collier Jr.” (There are other John Colliers, natch.) As the 1942 date suggests, these were made in the final months of Roy Stryker’s photographic unit, formerly in the Farm Security Administration and by then in the Office of War Information, where the photo assignments presented American lives in an upbeat manner and (indirectly) built support for the war effort. Although I suppose we can say that propaganda was the overall purpose for the OWI, it is also the case that photographic documentation like this has long term value for purposes like, um, spotlighting a chapter in the history of the Adams Building and portraying a woman who made many contributions during her life.

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