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West Hartford Public Library to Host Gertrude Banks Storytelling Event

Judy Casperson, Tammy Exum, and Gertrude Blanks above a quote from Vice President Kamala Harris. Photo Credit: Sophie Christensen (we-ha.com file photo)

Contributions made by Gertrude Blanks to the West Hartford community will be highlighted at a storytelling event at the Noah Webster Library on June 16, 2022.

Gertrude Blanks. Courtesy photo

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Join the West Hartford Public Library on Thursday, June 16, at 6:30 p.m. as we celebrate Gertrude Blanks’ contributions to the community by keeping storytelling alive. Local residents will share their stories of life-changing experiences.

The West Hartford community and library are proud to claim Gertrude as one of its own and a daughter who will always have a home at the West Hartford Public Library, especially on the library wall mural where her picture is depicted among West Hartford’s other two town prominent Black women “firsts”: former Town Councilperson Judy Casperson and State Rep. Tammy Exum.

West Hartford Library Director Laura Irmscher said, “The West Hartford Public Library is thrilled to honor Gertrude Blanks with a program that highlights the enduring power of storytelling.”

Blanks was born in Baltimore, MD and moved to Hartford, CT as a young child in the early 1920s. She lived with her grandparents on Pliny Street, while her mother worked as a domestic in a West Hartford home. Blanks attended Arsenal School.

When her grandfather passed and she had to move in with her mother in the West Hartford home she tended to, Blanks attended Hall High School (class of 1938). Storytelling became her special time with her mother and a way to feel connected to her people and her history.

She developed her gift of storytelling and worked at the Hartford Public Library for more than 20 years facilitating story times and continuing that tradition with many schools and organizations seeking her services until her late years of life. She was an inspiration for the many poets and storytellers that followed her legacy.

Vice Chair of the Library Board Gail Crockett said, “The West Hartford Public Library is excited to hold a first time, public storytelling event in honor of late town resident and first Black Hall High School graduate, Gertrude Blanks. ‘Mama Blanks,’ as she was known, was a former Hartford librarian who made the telling of her stories come to life for many youngsters and adults in the West Hartford and greater Hartford communities through this rich oral tradition.”

Registration is encouraged, but not required. If you would like a recording of the presentation, please sign up for this free event and you will receive a copy of the recording a few days after the program. Masks will be required.

To register for this program, please go to: bit.ly/gertrudeblanks.

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