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Library of Congress, American Folklife Center and Smithsonian, Civil Rights History Project

On May 12, 2009, the U. S. Congress authorized a national initiative by passing The Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-19) [PDF, 121KB]. The law directs the Library of Congress (LOC) and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to conduct a survey of existing oral history collections with relevance to the Civil Rights Movement (CRM), and to record new interviews with people who participated in the Movement. The survey information is available here: http://www.loc.gov/folklife/civilrights/survey/index.php. The interviews are a permanent part of the national library and the national museum and are available here: http://www.loc.gov/collection/civil-rights-history-project/about-this-collection/.

Civil Rights Marchers in Chicago, June 1965
Civil Rights marchers take to the streets in Chicago, June 1965 --
Prints and Photographs Division,
Library of Congress.

About the Interviews
From 2010 to 2013, over one hundred interviews with one hundred thirty-nine participants were recorded in high-definition video. Over half of the interviews are now available in their entirety as full-length video streams with the remainder being processed and prepared for access by Summer 2014. The recollections of interviewees cover a wide variety of topics about the freedom struggle, such as the influence of organized labor, nonviolence and self-defense, and the importance of faith, music, family, and friendships. Actions and events discussed in the interviews include the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), the Albany Movement (1961), the Freedom Rides (1961), the Selma to Montgomery Rights March (1965), the Orangeburg Massacre (1968), local sit-ins, voter registration drives in the South, and the murder of fourteen-year old Emmett Till in 1955. A collaborative cataloging application developed for the project provided interviewers the ability to upload metadata about newly conducted interviews while in the field and enabled the Library to verify and make the records available to researchers quickly and efficiently.

About the Survey
Users of the national survey database, which numbers over fifteen hundred collections, will want to note that we are not able to provide access to collection items that are housed within the wide range of institutions noted in the database. Researchers seeking specific information on and access to collections listed in the survey database are requested to contact the holding institution directly. The site's principal function is to make information available to researchers about relevant audiovisual collections throughout the country which may be located in local historical societies, university special collections, and public libraries, among other repositories. The database allows users to search for and locate information about collections in the following ways: by broad topic listings, by Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), by the name of the collection or the repository, and by the geographic location of the repository.

About the Civil Rights History Project Act
The Civil Rights History Project was created by an act of Congress in 2009, sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Carolyn McCarthy (NY) and co-sponsored by Representatives Sanford D. Bishop (GA), William Lacy Clay (MO), John Lewis (GA) and Mike Quigley (IL). "The fight for civil rights was one of the most significant social and cultural movements in our nation's history, and this project will help future generations understand the struggle to make the dream of equality and freedom a reality for all Americans," said Rep. McCarthy in proposing the legislation. In the Senate, the sponsor was Senator Dianne Feinstein, and the cosponsors were Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Robert F. Bennett (UT), Thad Cochran (MS), Edward Kennedy (MA), Carl Levin (MI) and Charles Schumer (NY). The act was signed into law in May 2009 by President Barack Obama.

Contact
Please direct questions and comments about the CRHP to folklife@loc.gov. We will respond to your inquiries as quickly as we can.

 

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   May 7, 2014
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