The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) have launched the Civil Rights History Project. The project was created by an act of Congress in 2009.
The portal presents the results of a nationwide inventory of oral-history interviews with participants in the civil rights movement. The research, which was initiated and completed in 2010, identified several hundred collections held in libraries, museums, archives, universities, historical societies, and other institutions across the nation. The database and search tool, developed by Library of Congress catalogers and web designers, will enable researchers to efficiently query the survey results and locate collections in repositories around the country.
“I am pleased that the results of the survey can now be shared with everyone who is interested in the accounts of those who took part in the civil rights movement,” said Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress. “We can also acknowledge the crucial work that libraries, archives, museums and other institutions around the country have done to record and preserve those accounts.”
“I am so moved, both professionally and personally, to have the opportunity to make sure the civil rights movement is remembered just the way it should be—in the words of the people who lived it,” said Lonnie G. Bunch, III, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The survey results represent the successful completion of the first phase of the Civil Rights History Project. The second phase of the project, directed by the NMAAHC, consists of new interviews with participants, focusing on their experiences that have not previously been recorded. In addition, project researchers will collect objects such as original photographs, home movies, event flyers, diaries, training-session notes, minutes from planning meetings, and even shoes and clothing worn during historic marches, mass rallies and freedom rides. Once processed and catalogued, the new materials will be made accessible to researchers at the Library, NMAAHC and online through the project website.
Civil Rights Collections in the Library of Congress
The Library’s Manuscript Division houses unparalleled resources for the study of the 20th-century civil rights movement in the U.S., including the original records of the organizations that led the fight for civil liberties: the NAACP, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the National Urban League and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The Library also has the microfilmed records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, CORE and SNCC.
These resources are enhanced by the personal papers of such prominent activists as Thurgood Marshall, Roy Wilkins, Robert L. Carter, Arthur B. Spingarn, Moorfield Storey, Herbert Hill, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Forman, Joseph Rauh, Edward W. Brooke and Patricia Roberts Harris. Many of these civil rights activists were NAACP officials.
Finding aids for many of these collections may be found at http://findingaids.loc.gov.
Images from the civil rights era may be found on the Prints and Photographs Division online catalog.