Beatrice Bethel Johnson, the First Black Librarian for the School District of Philadelphia, Joins the Ancestors


September 14, 2023

The extraordinary life of Beatrice Bethel Johnson is being celebrated following her passing at the age of 96 years old on August 21.

Johnson became the first Black librarian in the School District of Philadelphia in 1972, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Johnson was born Beatrice Elnora Mosby in Philadelphia on July 12, 1927.


She was also a beloved teacher, entrepreneur, and community advocate.

Johnson graduated from Hampton Institute, now Hampton University, in Virginia in 1949. During her time at the school, she studied to be a teacher.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Johnson began her teaching career at Martha Washington Elementary School in West Philadelphia in the 1950s. She then graduated from Drexel University in 1972 with a master’s degree in library science.


“Her love for reading and books was her life’s calling,” said Johnson’s daughter, Adriana Bethel-Hibbler, and her friend, Karyn Brockington Conway, in a statement. “Every child that came into her presence left with a higher sense of themselves, their culture, and infinite possibilities of the life that was ahead of them.”

She was also known for her work throughout her community.

Johnson owned two barbershops in West Philly with her first husband. And she was also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority — which she celebrated 65 years of membership with back in 2014.


“She helped escort these children through the civil rights era,” Bethel-Hibbler and Brockington Conway said. “Her love, devotion, and commitment to the preservation of African American history was unparalleled.”

Johnson is survived by her daughter, her friend, four grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and several other relatives.

Photo by Beatrice Bethel Johnson Family

5 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Edmond W. Davis
7 months ago

An American hero, she will be forever remembered! #ProfDavisSays


Join the BOTWC newsletter for the latest in news & culture!

By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Newsletter Signup
Skip to content