Meet the ACRL Presidents: Joseph Henry Reason

Over the course of ACRL’s 75th anniversary celebration, we’ll highlight the association’s history by profiling our past presidents.


Joseph Henry Reason (1905-1997) was the 34th president of ACRL serving from 1971-1972. He the first African-American to serve as president of ACRL. During the same time, he was the director of Howard University library system, a position he retained for a period of 25 years. Prior to this, he worked as a director of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee and as a language teacher at the Gilbert Academy in New Orleans. In 1999, American Libraries named him one of the “100 Most Important Leaders we had in the 20th Century” and he was nominated for ALA president.  He received his BA degrees (history and French) and a BS in Library Service from Columbia University. He received an MA in French from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in Romance Languages from Catholic University of America. He was also instrumental in the genesis of Southeastern Regional Black Archives Research Center and Museum. During his career, he served as the Chief Executive Secretary of ACRL and was a visiting professor of library science at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and a trustee of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. He contributed many articles to The Negro College Quarterly.