“The Personal Librarian”

A book group especially for art enthusiasts.

January 19, 2023 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm At the Museum and virtually on Zoom

"The Personal Librarian" by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

Welcome to Museum Reads, the Newport Art Museum’s Art-Themed book group for adults. We meet monthly, at the Museum and virtually, for discussion, and frequently are joined by the author.

We begin 2023 with a book that has captured imaginations, and inspired one of our Winter Speaker Series lectures!

The Personal Librarian tells the remarkable, little-known story of Belle da Costa Greene, J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, who became one of the most powerful women in New York.

In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene was hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle became a fixture on the New York society scene 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 helped build a world-class collection.

But Belle had a secret, one she protected at all costs. She was not born Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She was the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle chose to pass as being of Portuguese heritage, rather than African American.

The Personal Librarian tells the story of an extraordinary woman, famous for her intellect, style, and wit, and shares the lengths to which she must go—for the protection of her family and her legacy—to preserve her carefully crafted white identity in the racist world in which she lived.

Museum Reads Notes:
Be sure to register to receive email updates and Zoom links.
For last minute registrations, please call the front desk for the Zoom link at 401-848-8200.

Don’t miss!
February 11 Winter Speaker Series lecture: Belle da Costa Greene: A Librarian’s Legacy by Philip Palmer, Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head of Literary and Historical Manuscripts at the Morgan Library & Museum.

About the Authors

Marie Benedict (left) is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms, who found her calling unearthing the hidden historical stories of women. Her mission is to excavate from the past the most important, complex and fascinating women of history and bring them into the light of present-day where we can finally perceive the breadth of their contributions as well as the insights they bring to modern day issues. She has written several thematically connected historical novels, of which The Personal Librarian was one. Writing as Heather Terrell, Marie published a separate series of the historical novels. ​Marie’s novels have been translated into twenty-nine languages.

Victoria Christopher Murray (right) is the author of nine Essence bestselling novels, including The Ex Files; Too Little, Too Late; and Lady Jasmine. She is the winner of the African American Literary Award for Fiction and Author of the Year (Female). She has received numerous awards including the Golden Pen Award for Best Inspirational Fiction and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award for being a pioneer in African American Fiction. Since 2007, Victoria has won nine African American Literary Awards for best novel, best Christian fiction and Author of the Year — Female. After four nominations, Victoria finally won an NAACP Image Award in Outstanding Literary Work for her social commentary novel, Stand Your Ground.

This program is made possible by your support of the Annual Fund.