Someone etched her legacy in stone, shared it with free books and prayer

Rosa Audery Haney Plaza
rosa a haney plaza

Just off the corner of North 29th and North 30th streets in Baton Rouge is a prayer plaza. The ground is laid with concrete forming a square of about ten feet long and seven feet wide. At the far corners stand two, 6-feet tall, white, three-shelved little free libraries. Worn over the tears, both libraries need hinges repaired, a new paint job, and a total un-hauling of books that have been damaged by Louisiana downpours. Both libraries are full of severely damaged books that are mostly about prayer and Christianity.

In the center of the plaza is a stone angel praying atop a three-foot brick post. The angel bows toward a white, stone memorial mounted four feet by six feet and about a foot and a half thick. Plexi-glass is affixed to the white stone with black words printed in homage to Rosa Audrey Haney.

According to a one-paragraph obituary on Legacy.com and the U.S. Census records, Ms. Haney was a Negro woman born Feb. 3, 1909. She died August 19, 2006, at the Baton Rouge Health Care Center. She was 97. The prayer plaza, its angel, and the two free libraries were built in her memory.

Ms. Haney was a resident of Eden Park/Easy Town. In the 1930s, she began a decades-long career in education as a public school teacher living in Pointe Coupee, Louisiana. According to the placard, she was serious about learning, teaching, and community. It states that she earned a master’s degree from Louisiana State University in 1957 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Southern University in 1944. She was “active in exercising her faith, serving God” in the community, at school, and at three churches.

There were no public photos of Ms. Haney. However, city records show that Ms. Haney lived on 29th Street from mid-1950 until she died in 2006.

The neighborhood surrounding the Prayer Plaza consists of single-family homes with Black residents of all lifestyles and careers, three historical churches, two well-known juke joints, one elementary and one high school, and a large manicured cemetery.

This plaza is hidden within the Eden Park neighborhood but perfectly positioned for its readers and visitors who choose to pray there.

In Louisiana, Pensiri Inc. has a team of volunteers called “Elves” who seek out little libraries to service, if new, and restore, if damaged. In June, the elves found this site and added it to a growing list of little free libraries in need of repair. As a nonprofit purveyor of stories, Pensiri is particularly intrigued by little free libraries, their builders, their locations, and the books nestled within them. Why were they erected? By whom? When? Who services and maintains them now? What books were they designed to carry? And who comes by to enjoy the books?

There, on North 29th Street in Baton Rouge, the answers to those questions are clear except one: who built it?

There’s no public record of Ms. Haney’s family members—no marriage license nor birth records—but someone who she left behind loves her immensely and has etched her life and her love of literature in stone literally.

Through a post on social media, Pensiri Inc stated, “What a blessing to be honored that way. And we will do our part to repair and restore these libraries.” The organization plans to raise a minimum of $1,200 to repair the broken doors, discard the soiled books, restock the libraries, and register the site with the Little Free Libraries World Registry. To donate, visit Pensiri Inc.

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