The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories
Repository: University of Memphis. Special Collections/Mississippi Valley Collection
Collection Description (CRHP): Series 1 consists of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike Archival Project (see separate database entry on this project).
Series 2 consists of transcripts and recordings of the University of Memphis's Oral History Research Office. It has a number of distinct subseries and contains a great deal of information about the civil rights movement and African American history. More details are provided below.
Series 3 is titled Memphis State University. It includes 2 cassettes of lectures by Alex Haley in the mid-1970s as well as a cassette of a lecture by Memphis civil rights leader Maxine Smith in 1976.
Series 4 is titled Memphis and the Mid-South. It includes two recorded interviews of Edmund Orgill (1970 and 1981), who was mayor in Memphis in the 1950s and racially progressive for his time; Rufus Thomas (1976), the famed musician; Bill Lucy (1982), who played a prominent role as a union official in the 1968 sanitation strike; James Lawson (1982), the prominent civil rights activist; and Downing Pryor (1982), a member of the Memphis City Council during the sanitation strike.
Series 5 consists of the George Grider collection. Grider was a Member of Congress from Memphis elected with black support in 1964 in a major black political effort then. It includes reel-to-reel tapes of interviews that took place when Grider was a member of Congress.
Series 8 consists of the Oscar Clark Carr, Jr. Collection. He was a white businessman involved in civil rights in Mississippi in particular. An interview of him is included in this collection as well as an interview that he conducted of Will Campbell, a white minister involved in the civil rights movement.
Series 12 consists of 802 lectures, programs, and other events of the Memphis Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Lectures. Speakers include D'Army Bailey, Walter Bailey, Joan Beifuss, Myles Horton, judge Odell Horton, Minerva Johnican, H. L. Mitchell, Hollis Price, Anne Shafer, Coby Smith, Maxine Smith, Vasco Smith, Margaret Valiant, and Jocelyn Wurzburg.
Series 14 contains the Rev. Samuel A. Owen and Owen College Audio Collection. It consists of interviews of Georgia R. Atkins (the mother of civil rights activist Maxine Smith), Charles L. Dinkins, and Rev. W. C. Holmes on the history of Owen College and the major role Owen played in its establishment.
Series 15 is titled: Social and Economic Impact of the Labor Movement in Memphis Audio Collection and includes interviews of Frank Miles, Gene Bernero, Larkin Brown, Bill Burcham, Forest Dickenson, Carr Moore, and Jenny Murphy.
Series 16 is titled: The 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike: The Guardsman Viewpoint and includes interviews of Tennessee Army National Guardsmen during the strike.
Series 27 is titled the Frank Clement Oral History Project. It consists of transcripts and cassette recordings on the life of Frank Clement, the governor of Tennessee during the civil rights era, including an interview with Memphis civil rights leader and state legislator Russell B. Sugarmon, Jr.
Subseries from Series 2:
Subseries 1: History of the Memphis Jewish Community includes an oral history of James A. Wax, a rabbi in Memphis who played a significant role in calling on Mayor Henry Loeb to settle the 1968 sanitation strike; Josephine Burson, the first woman and Jew to serve as a cabinet member of Tennessee and a supporter of civil rights.
Subseries 2: Racial Strife in Fayette County, Tennessee includes interviews of John Wilder, a white landowner and state legislator, and Julius B. Summers, a local school official.
Subseries 14: History of Memphis Political Leaders includes interviews with Lt. George W. Lee, a black Republican and political leader involved with civil rights.
Subseries 17: Civil Rights in Memphis: The Sit-In Movement includes interviews with William Farris, a white city commissioner during the civil rights era and A. W. Willis, Jr., an African American civil rights leader, black minister Rev. Samuel B. Kyles, who was with Martin Luther King Jr. when he was shot, David Moore, a leader of the local sit-in movement, and Russell B. Sugarmon, Jr., a local NAACP lawyer who defended the sit-in demonstrators.
Subseries 18: Women Leaders of Memphis includes the following interviews that relate to civil rights: Gwen Awsumb, a white Republican woman who was on the Memphis city council during the 1968 Sanitation Strike, Kathryn Bowers, a black elected official in Memphis, Patricia Walker Shaw, a black businesswoman involved in civic and political affairs, Carol Lynn Yellin, who documented the 1968 sanitation strike with oral histories, Frances Coe, a white woman who supported civil rights, the War on Poverty and was a member of the Memphis school board, and Jocelyn Wurzburg, a Jewish civil rights and social justice activist.
Subseries 33: City of Memphis Hospital Controversy includes interviews of Minerva Johnican and William Morris, Shelby County sheriff and mayor.
Subseries 36: Memphis History Project includes an oral history of Ethyl Venson, founder of the Cotton Makers Jubilee, the black counterpart of the white Cotton Carnival, and Sam Dent on the Binghampton neighborhood, a historically black neighborhood in Memphis.
Subseries 38: Memphis Black History includes interviews of Marie Fort, a long-time black resident who discusses the long history of black civil rights and political involvement in Memphis as well as social conditions. Black elected official Minerva Johnican was also interviewed for this project.
Subseries 43: Robert R. Church Family of Memphis contains oral histories related to this significant African American family in the city of Memphis and the South, including Roberta Church, Annette Church, Raymond Lymon and Rev. William Brewster.
Subseries 48: Oral History Student Projects includes an oral history of white school board member Frances Coe.
Subseries 49: History of Cordova includes an interview with Kathryn Bowers, a black elected official who served as a member of the Tennessee Senate and Tennessee House of Representatives.
Subseries 52: Memphis Leaders Project—C. Southerland, Polisci includes oral histories of black elected official and lawyer Walter Lee Bailey Jr., black elected official Kathryn I. Bowers, O.Z. Evers, plaintiff in the bus desegregation lawsuit in the 1950s, politician Harold Ford Sr., councilman John F. Ford, elected official Emmitt Ford, Willie Herenton, the first black school superintendent and first black mayor of Memphis, Frances Hooks, wife of civil rights leader Benjamin L. Hooks, and Blair T. Hunt, the principal of Booker T. Washington High School and a black community leader. Two white politicians who served during the civil rights era of the early to mid-1960s are interviewed: William Ingram, mayor from 1963 to 1967, and Rudolph Jones, Jr. Other interviewees include H. T. Lockard, who headed the local chapter of the NAACP in the 1950s and was the first black member of the governor’s cabinet in Tennessee, Robert Sengstacke, an African American photographer who captured scenes of the civil rights movement, Patricia Walker Shaw, Pete Sisson, a member of the Memphis city commission, Maxine Smith, Jesse Turner Sr., who was active in the NAACP and served as a plaintiff in the lawsuit for the desegregation of the public library, Ronald A. Walter, an African American who has chronicled local black history, Jocelyn Wurzburg, and Minerva Johnican.
The subseries Recent Tennessee Political History includes transcripts of interviews of William Farris, who served on the Memphis city commission during the civil rights era and was active in local, state, and national Democratic Party politics from the late 1940s until the 1990s.
There are also miscellaneous oral histories in the Oral History Research Office collection, including those of Lucius Edward Burch, Jr., a white liberal lawyer, briefly discusses his role as Martin Luther King Jr.'s lawyer in 1968, and Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records.
Other subseries that might relate to civil rights include Subseries 3: History of Jazz and Blues in Memphis, Subseries 22: Joe Kearney Project, Subseries 23: Memphis State University, Subseries 27: Winfield Dunn Campaign and Administration, Subseries 32: Binghampton Neighborhood History, and Subseries 41: Tennessee Political History Project.
Collection Description (Extant): Special [Collections]/MVC [Mississippi Valley Collection] has over 3000 (three thousand) interviews on many topics of local and regional interest, almost all produced by the Oral History Research Office of the UM History Department. Some of the transcripts have been bound and cataloged as books, but many of them are locatable currently through an inventory list in the department.
Access Copy Note: Most oral histories have been transcribed in this collection.
Most but not all of the recordings and transcripts listed have proper releases allowing for scholarly or educational use.
Some but not all of the oral histories are in the University of Memphis catalog. A listing of each lecture and the year is available at the University of Memphis for Series 12 (Memphis Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Lectures).
Digital Status: No
Extent: approximately 3,600-3,700 audio recordings (cassette and reel-to-reel formats); transcripts
Related Archival Items: The Everett Cook collection of the Memphis Public Library also includes oral histories of many individuals in this collection, including William Morris and Russell B. Sugarmon, Jr. It also has the papers of Ethyl and R. Q. Venson concerning the Cotton Makers Jubilee as well as the Maxine Smith NAACP collection.
Interviewees: Alex Haley, Maxine Smith, Edmund Orgill, Rufus Thomas, Bill Lucy, James Lawson, Downing Pryor, George Grider, Oscar Clark Carr, Jr., Will Campbell, D'Army Bailey, Walter Bailey, Joan Beifuss, Myles Horton, judge Odell Horton, Minerva Johnican, H. L. Mitchell, Hollis Price, Anne Shafer, Coby Smith, Maxine Smith, Vasco Smith, Margaret Valiant, Jocelyn Wurzburg, Georgia R. Atkins, Charles L. Dinkins, Rev. W. C. Holmes, Frank Miles, Gene Bernero, Larkin Brown, Bill Burcham, Forest Dickenson, Carr Moore, Jenny Murphy, Russell B. Sugarmon, Jr., James A. Wax, Josephine Burson, John Wilder, Julius B. Summers, George W. Lee, William Farris, A. W. Willis, Jr., Rev. Samuel B. Kyles, David Moore, Russell B. Sugarmon, Jr., Gwen Awsumb, Kathryn Bowers, Patricia Walker Shaw, Carol Lynn Yellin, Frances Coe, Jocelyn Wurzburg, William Morris, Ethyl Venson, Sam Dent, Marie Fort, Roberta Church, Annette Church, Raymond Lymon, Rev. William Brewster, O.Z. Evers, Harold Ford Sr., John F. Ford, Emmitt Ford, Willie Herenton, Frances Hooks, Blair T. Hunt, William Ingram, Rudolph Jones, Jr., H. T. Lockard, Robert Sengstacke, Pete Sisson, Jesse Turner Sr., Ronald A. Walter, William Farris, Lucius Edward Burch, Jr., Sam Phillips,
Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights
African American politicians--Tennessee
African Americans--Civil rights--Tennessee
African Americans--Politics and government
Busing for school integration
Civil rights movements--Southern States
Civil rights movements--Tennessee
Memphis (Tenn.)--Politics and government
Memphis (Tenn.)--Race relations
Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tenn., 1968