Belle de Costa Greene

Belle de Costa Greene

1879–1950

Belle da Costa Greene was an American librarian who managed and developed the personal library of J. P. Morgan. After Morgan’s death in 1913, Greene continued as librarian for his son, Jack Morgan, and in 1924 was named the first director of the Pierpont Morgan Library.

As a child in the south, Belle experienced racism. Because of the family’s light skin color, her mother moved the family to NYC and passed as white so her girls could have more opportunities available to them.

Belle changed her name and said her grandmother was from Portugal to account for her olive skin tone.

If J.P. Morgan knew she wasn’t white, he would have never hired her. Greene became a highly respected art purchaser and librarian who focused on early printed books. At the death of J.P., she was instrumental in convincing J.P.’s son to make his father’s private library a public one.