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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

An Amazing New National Resource: The Civil Rights History Project Web Site

The Civil Rights Project Homepage

After almost five years of work, an amazing new educational resource has just been made available to the public. It is truly a gift to all of us, and especially to educators. On May 12, 2009, the U. S. Congress authorized a national initiative by passing The Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009. The law directed the Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of African American History and Culture to "conduct a survey of existing oral history collections with relevance to the Civil Rights Movement to obtain justice, freedom and equality for African Americans and to record new interviews with people who participated in the struggle, over a five year period beginning in 2010."

The activists interviewed for this project belong to a wide range of occupations, including lawyers, judges, doctors, farmers, journalists, professors, and musicians. Their recollections are just as diverse, covering topics such as the influence of the labor movement, nonviolence and self-defense, religious faith, music, and the experiences of young activists.

Many of the interviewees were active in national organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Other interviewees were key members of specialized and local groups including the Medical Committee for Human Rights, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, the Cambridge (Maryland) Nonviolent Action Committee, and the Newark Community Union Project. Several interviews include men and women participated in the struggle for civil rights in areas not always recognized as hot beds of turmoil during the Civil Right Movement, providing a more complete picture of the cultural climate throughout the country at this time.

This site also guides researchers to collections in several Library of Congress divisions that specifically focus on the Civil Rights Movement as well as the broader topic of African American history and culture. The Civil Rights History Project Collection contains 401 items consisting of video files, videocassettes, digital photographs and interview transcripts, with several more such items to be added once the interviews conclude in 2015.

Take a moment and visit this site. It is a powerful tool for our understanding of the history and promise of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement during the year when we are commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and the 50th anniversary year of the U.S. Civil Rights legislation. 

Go to: http://loc.gov/collection/civil-rights-history-project/about-this-collection/

Written by Kurt Dewhurst