The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories
African American history project
Repository: Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center
Collection Description (CRHP): This collection includes an African American oral history project that began in the early 1990s when the museum partnered with the local NAACP chapter to conduct interviews with about fifty African Americans. Many African Americans in Waterbury were from North Carolina originally and came North to work in the city's industry, and some blacks were unionists. The interviews explore the Pearl Street Neighborhood House, a major community center where the NAACP met. These oral histories also address the city's first black member of the board of alderman, Luther Gatling, and his participation and that of two other local African Americans and two whites (who worked in the field of religion) who traveled to Selma to participate in the voting rights march in 1965. After the city could not fund Gatling's trip, the mayor and other local white politicians personally paid his expenses. When the marchers returned to the city, 3,000 people came out to a reception in honor of them. All the oral histories are on audio cassette, and the museum had African Americans repeat some of their stories before a video camera. The raw video footage is housed by the museum; it was used to make a documentary based on the oral histories, "Common Threads: The Power of The African American Experience in Waterbury." The museum also has produced a play based on the oral histories that is titled "Reflections: Front Porch Stories."
Digital Status: Partial
Extent: circa 50 transcripts; audio cassettes; video recordings; photographs; manuscripts
Related Archival Items: The museum has the papers of lawyer Gary Broder, which cover the NAACP's lawsuit against the city in 1979 to challenge its lack of hiring of African Americans for municipal positions. In 1984, a federal court order ruled in favor of the NAACP.
The museum has some 2,500 oral histories that not only covered African American history but also other aspects of the local community including the Jewish community and World War II veterans. The museum's online exhibit, Brass City Life, features some of these oral histories--including interviews of African Americans--and is available at http://www.brasscitylife.org/.
Waterbury was a featured city in Ken Burns's documentary series on World War II, and he utilized the museum's resources.
Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights
African Americans--North Carolina
Civil rights movements--Connecticut
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Selma to Montgomery Rights March (1965 : Selma, Ala.)