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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

Steve Ross documentary interviews collection

Repository: University of Memphis. Special Collections/Mississippi Valley Collection

Collection Description (CRHP): This collection consists of the video recordings, audio recordings, and other materials used for the making of the film, "At the River I Stand" (1993), on the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike which Dr. Martin Luther King came to the city to support. Included are extensive videotaped interviews of 26 people involved with the strike including city council members, NAACP activist Maxine Smith and other civil rights activists, Coby Smith of the black power movement, union officials, and ministers, including Rev. James Lawson. There are also video recordings of still images, the local Cotton Carnival, and a 1992 memorial to the sanitation strike. Video recordings of the sanitation strike interview edits used for this film are included as well. There also are miscellaneous video tapes on the sanitation strike, including ones of speeches and radio broadcasts. In addition, there are copies of materials from the Memphis Multimedia Archival Project: The 1968 Sanitation Workers' Strike, which is also in the University of Memphis's Special Collections (collection number 178).

Two boxes of supporting documentation exist for this collection including transcripts of excerpts of most interviews conducted for this project. There are correspondence and other documents associated with the film including financial statements. Project descriptions are included as well as an extensive timeline of the sanitation strike. In addition, there are extensive indices of the interviews in which subjects are listed and then whatever interviewee discussed that topic. Film script drafts and a personal published account of a Selma March to Montgomery participant are included as well as lists of interview questions. There also is a copy of the finding aid for the Multimedia Sanitation Strike Project mentioned above. Copies of photographs are in this collection as well as a folder titled 'One inch master notes' that contains paragraph descriptions of news footage of the strike and Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. In addition, these boxes include copies of civil rights related conference programs and C.V.'s of filmmaker Steve Ross.

Steve Ross also did a film on the Negro Leagues titled "Black Diamonds, Blues City: Stories of the Memphis Red Sox" (1996). Extensive video and audio tape recordings exist that include interviews of African American baseball players, including Buck O'Neil. Also interviewed for the film were musicians B. B. King and Rufus Thomas as well as civil rights activists Ben Hooks and Russell Sugarmon. No supporting documentation exists for this collection.

Access Copy Note: All the interviews except the ones of Gail Matthews and Mrs. Ralph Jackson have releases, but these state that the information shared would be used for this film project and does not say anything about giving permission for the interviews to be used for additional academic projects or other research or uses.

Digital Status: No

Extent: 18 transcripts; 106 audio cassettes; approximately 434 videotapes; 2 boxes of supporting documentation

Language: English

Related Archival Items: The Commercial Appeal library has digitized newspaper articles (see and photographs relating to the 1968 sanitation strike (see In addition, the WHBQ Fox News affiliate in Memphis has created a web site that includes footage on Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement and its aftermath in Memphis from its archive as well as the National Civil Rights Museum and television stations in Atlanta; see

Interviewees: Frank Miles, Bill Lucy, Jerred Blanchard, Taylor Rogers, Clinton Burrows, Frank McRae, Lewis Donelson, Fred Davis, Maxine Smith, Rev. James Netters, Jerry Fanion, Lucius Burch, Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, James Orange, Joseph Lowery, Gail Matthews, Robert Beasley, Coby Smith, Jesse Jones, Bob James, Bill Ross, Gwen Awsumb, James Lawson, Mrs. Ralph Jackson, Alzada Clark, Rev. Harold Middlebrook, Buck O'Neil, B. B. King, Rufus Thomas, Benjamin Hooks, Russell Sugarmon

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African American athletes
African American clergy--Tennessee
African Americans--Civil rights--Tennessee
Civil rights movements--Press coverage
Civil rights--Religious aspects
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968--Assassination
Labor movement--Tennessee
Memphis (Tenn.)--Politics and government
Negro leagues
Poor People's Campaign
Sanitation Workers Strike, Memphis, Tenn., 1968


Sound recordings


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   September 26, 2018
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