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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Murphy, Sara Alderman. Papers

Repository: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Special Collections

Collection Description (Extant): Sara Alderman Murphy was born in Wartrace, Tennessee, on June 17, 1924, the daughter of David M. and Sadie Stephens Alderman. She received a B.A. in Social Studies and English from Vanderbilt in 1945, and a M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University in 1946. In a short autobiography, Murphy relates that at Columbia University she developed a social consciousness on race that she lacked as a young girl in the South; that social consciousness propelled her into social activism later in her life.

She married Patrick C. Murphy, and together they had three children: Ellen, Patrick, and Robert. From 1947 to 1950, Murphy was a member of the faculty of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She and her family later moved to Little Rock, where she served on the faculty of the University of Arkansas in Little Rock in 1958. The late 1950's witnessed the eruption of racial tensions in Little Rock, as the city attempted to integrate the whites-only Central High School in the fall of 1957. When Governor Orval Faubus ordered the Little Rock public schools closed in the fall of 1958, a group of women led by Adolphine Fletcher Terry organized the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (WEC). Following her convictions opposing racial prejudice, Sara Murphy joined the WEC, serving as a member of its board in 1962 and 1963. When the WEC disbanded in 1963, Murphy redirected her energy into the Panel of American Women (PAW), a multi-ethnic, multi-racial group which sought to lessen racial and religious tensions by promoting understanding through discussion. In 1963 Murphy founded a branch of PAW in Little Rock; her activity in PAW culminated in her serving as vice-president of the national PAW from 1971 to 1974. Murphy's activism earned her recognition among Arkansas's highest governing officials, and from 1972 to 1975 she served as vice-chairperson of the Governor's Commission on the Status of Women.

This collection is a combination of papers accumulated by Murphy during her years as an activist and materials used in writing her book. Among the latter are the papers of Billie Wilson, a former member of WEC. Wilson gave Murphy her papers, which included correspondence, pamphlets, and press clippings, to aid in the writing of Breaking the Silence. Because of the overlapping subject matter in Murphy's and Wilson's papers, Wilson's materials have been integrated into the greater collection. In the course of doing research for her book, Murphy conducted several dozen interviews with participants in the Little Rock school integration crisis; cassette tapes and transcripts of these interviews make up a major portion of this collection. Also, Murphy examined materials at several different repositories, including the Arkansas History Commission and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Special Collections and Archives. To reflect the composition of her original research files, photocopies made for Murphy of original documents from these repositories have been retained.

Materials in this collection include interviews on cassette tapes, transcripts of interviews, films and video cassette tapes, correspondence, booklets and pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and broadsides. When possible clippings have been integrated with other materials on the same subject. Among the materials of the collection are several front pages from the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette dating from the period of the Little Rock school integration crisis. The collection also includes three photographs featuring Sara Murphy.

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: MC 1321

Extent: 17 containers

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Interviewees: Sharon Adair, Evelyn Armor, Harry Ashmore, Thelma Babbitt, Parma Basham, Daisy Bates, Bill Becker, Vivion Brewer, Earline Brown, Richard C. Butler, Colbert Cartright, Florence Brown Cotnam, Dale Cowling, Fred Darragh, Edwin Dunaway, Jim Eidson, Jacqueline Evans, Alta Faubus, Orval Faubus, Bobbie Forster, Jean Gordon, Elizabeth Dodson Gray, Ernest Green, Amos Guthridge, Dick Hardie, Carroll Holcomb, A. F. House, Pat House, Elizabeth Paisley Huckaby, Sammie Dean Parker Hulett, Mary Isbell, Jo Jackson, Elizabeth Jacoway, Charles Johnston, Jimmy Karam, Margaret Kolb, R. A. Lile, Mary Lindsey, Frances Marion, Hazel Bryan Massery, Jess Matthews, Janie Mendel, Marguerite Metcalf, W. S. Mitchell, Elizabeth Morehead, Dottie Morris, Margaret Morrison, M. L. Moser, Betty Bumpers, Sara Murphy, Willie Oates, Msgr. O'Connell, John O'Donnell, Hugh Patterson, J. O. Powell, Terrell Powell, Wesley Pruden, Ruth Arnold Ray, William F. Rector, Eleanor Reid, Forrest Rozzell, Irene Samuel, Pat House, Jean Ann Schmutz, Bex Shaver, Bill Shelton, Barbara Shults, Bob Shults, William J. Smith, Ozell Sutton, Adolphine Fletcher Terry, Bill Terry, Betty Terry, Mildred Terry, W. H. Townsend, Robert Trout, Everett Tucker, Evangeline Upshur, Wayne Upton, Betty Williams, Frances Williams, Grainger Williams, Mamie Ruth Williams, Gaston Williamson, Billie Wilson, Gwen Booe, Diane Wilson, Vircie Winstead, Henry Woods, Mary Worthen, Rufus Young, Pat Youngdahl


Arkansas--Race relations
Central High School (Little Rock, Ark.)
School integration--Arkansas--Little Rock
Women civil rights workers
Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools (Little Rock, Ark.)


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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