Monthly Archive for August, 2009

Sit-ins in Chapel Hill

I have found that sometimes even longtime Chapel Hill residents are unaware of the significant civil rights history associated with the town.  In the 1960s, some white parents might have “protected” their children from some dramatic local news.  The online exhibit “I Raised My Hand to Volunteer: Students Protest in 1960s Chapel Hill” is part of a larger project that included a physical exhibit mounted in the Manuscripts Department of Wilson Library in 2007 and a series of accompanying programs. The online exhibit contains digitized documents, images, biographies of participants, timelines, bibliographies, and other research tools and archival materials relating to 1960s student protests in Chapel Hill, NC.  Contextualizing the documents and photographs is a helpful, readable summary that credits local high school and university students with originating significant and effective protests.  The exhibit is divided into four parts: Integration Sit-ins, Speaker Ban, Foodworkers’ Strike, and Vietnam War Protests. The exhibit is available at

For information about other Wilson Library online exhibits, go to

Video of the Week:

Kevin K. Gaines, of the University of Michigan, gives his talk, “African-American Expatriates in Ghana and ‘The Long Hot Summer of the 1960s'” at The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories, a conference hosted by the Southern Oral History Program, April 2-4, 2009.

Mary Dudziak on Thurgood Marshall in Kenya

Mary L. Dudziak gives her talk at our April conference, “Thurgood Marshall Encounters the ‘True Sons of Africa’: Legal Rights and Wrongs at Kenya’s Independence.” For more from this panel on the global dimensions of the civil rights movement, visit the LCRM Common Room.

The Racial Justice Act

Gentle Reader,

We are just back from lots of travel, during which time our home state of North Carolina passed the “North Carolina Racial Justice Act.” The act allows prisoners facing a death penalty or those on death row to request a hearing before a judge, where they and others may produce evidence and sworn testimony that “race was a significant factor” in the decision to seek or impose a death sentence in their case. Here’s the bill. And Politics Daily has some nice coverage which gives a bit of context and links to this study by UNC-CH’s Isaac Unah and Jack Boger which makes a more than persuasive case that race is the single most important factor in the death penalty process in North Carolina.

It’s an interesting development (Kentucky is the only other state with such a provision), and one which could add another handicap to a death penalty system already weighed down by legal provisions and squabbles. North Carolina is already in a de facto death penalty moratorium, and this law adds another obstacle toward carrying out a sentence of death.

This kind of law, which backs away from the death penalty, tinkering with it in an effort to improve it, rather than addressing the fundamental questions behind it, though, is also the kind of law that allows the death penalty to persist. Will the Racial Justice Act dramatize the death penalty’s essential racist core? Or will it, if death sentences are upheld in these hearings, justify a deeply flawed system of lethal punishment?

And it is impossible not to offer a glimpse of some of the comments on the Politics Daily article, comments which well illustrate the nagging problem of race, and the way in which, as we’ve seen at these hijacked town hall meetings on health care, race bleeds into other political concerns in unpleasant ways:

  • “Black Racism at it’s finest. Allowing criminals to get lenient treatment because they black is just a continuation of the Obama racist agenda.”
  • “Its now time to step back and see who the real racist are. Its not the whites, Its the Blacks and the Mexcans. I have a booth at a flea market with the American flag in lights over it and I have seen that the mexicans won’t even come near it which is ok with me if thats the way they want to be.
    All I have seen and heard in my many years here on this earth has shown me and many others that most white people don’t want to be racist but are really not the given the chance by the Blacks and the mexicans, esp the illegal ALIENS.”

Civil Rights Roundup

Recent civil rights news…

  • Peter Funt of the Boston Globe complains that profiling isn’t just racial, and while he makes some points that diminish the fact that the racial profiling of African Americans is bound up in a long history that begins with kidnap and enslavement (“I know a successful golf pro who insists he can profile a player’s handicap index within three points, just by watching him take his clubs from his car and walk to the driving range.”), his column highlights the fact that in our ever-diversifying nation, tolerance does not always advance hand in hand with diversity.
  • The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has hired Matt Nosanchuk to act as liaison to the gay community. Nosanchuk will handle a portfolio of cases and spend “the remainder of his time reaching out to … the LGBT community.”
  • In other news along those lines, the New York Times did some reporting on Ted Olsen’s challenge to California’s same-sex marriage ban, an unlikely position for someone who, in successfully arguing Bush v. Gore on behalf of George W. Bush, probably did a good deal to undermine the kind of freedoms he now advocates. A bunch of people talk more about Olsen and same-sex marriage here.
  • The first stop of the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail has opened. Also in Birmingham, the mayor has pardoned those arrested and convicted during the civil rights protests of the 1960s. The move has wide support, but some worry that accepting a pardon means accepting that they committed a crime …
  • And in health-care-is-a-right-not-a-privilege news, Desiree Evans of Facing South contemplates whether it’s too late to reframe the health care debate.

Collaborative LCRM Bibliography

How can we develop our incipient Long Civil Rights Movement bibliography collaboratively online?

The LCRM project team is experimenting with some ways to make the list more interactive.  First, we hope to make each entry a link to a library record and to full text where available online.  We are trying both WorldCat and OpenURL, and each has drawbacks:  WorldCat has a limit of 250 entries in saved lists; OpenURL is dependent upon a fully functioning OpenURL resolver at the user’s home institution.  (It just so happens that at UNC Chapel Hill, the OpenURL resolver seems to work better for articles than for books.)

Second, we are very interested in including notes in the bibliography on who nominated the entry and why.  Recently we started a new LCRM group in Zotero).   Zotero 2.0 (in beta at this time; download available at allows some exciting group functionality. Continue reading ‘Collaborative LCRM Bibliography’

Video of the Week: Renee Romano on Memory Work

Renee C. Romano of Oberlin College, gives her talk “A Really Long ‘Long Civil Rights Movement’? Memory Work and the Struggle for Racial Equality” at the Southern Oral History Program’s conference, The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories. The conference took place in Chapel Hill, NC, from April 2-4, 2009.

View more video in the LCRM Common Room.

Annotating Books Online

While a new, more architecturally sound, more scalable version of our publishing prototype is being developed, the one that we demonstrated at the Digital Publishing Workshop in April is no longer available to be viewed.   It is good news for the LCRM Project that we have received some inquiries about it.  If you are curious to see similar functionality that allows commenting on books, you might take a look at the following:

–Django Book, which provides some of the technical framework for our future offering
–Yale Books Unbound, in partnership with the Institute for the Future of the Book

There are other experiments online with annotating books, but these are two of my favorites.

What appears to be different about the LCRM Project/UNC Press plans in comparison to other experiments with annotation is our emphasis on links to primary and secondary sources, including primary sources that might be provided by the author and digitized by the UNC Library or elsewhere for this purpose.

In other words, sometimes when an author approaches UNC Press with a completed book manuscript, he or she also has in hand a collection of primary sources that informed the book narrative.  Sometimes the author will ask the Press, “Do you want any of these oral history tapes and document files?”  Notwithstanding the rights issues and technological challenges, we would like to be able to say “Yes.”  With the UNC Library fast becoming a major digitization center, there is the possibility of (1) ingesting the pieces that do not reside elsewhere into the Library as a collection; (2) making them available for viewing online; and (3) linking from the online book to the digital collection. Continue reading ‘Annotating Books Online’

Video of the Week: Peniel Joseph on Black Power

Peniel E. Joseph of Brandeis University gives his talk, “Rethinking the Black Power Era,” at The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories, a conference hosted by the Southern Oral History Program, April 2-4, 2009.

“Bitten by the Public History Bug”

The anniversary of my first day in book publishing (August 5, 1985) is a good day to observe that the LCRM project has brought me in contact with some of the most inspiring authors I have met in my twenty-four years of scholarly publishing.  They are scholar-activists who want their scholarship “to live and work in the world” (quoting Bob Korstad, whose book on the North Carolina Fund, coauthored with Jim Leloudis, will be published by UNC Press in Spring 2010 ).  They are interested in recognizing, recording, and revealing hidden histories as told and interpreted by the people who lived them.  They believe that not only are these histories valuable in themselves and must not be lost, but also that there is much that society can learn from them.

I have also met some inspiring librarians whose work is focused on making voices seen and heard that have lived in practical obscurity for a long time in archives and attics.

My colleague at UNC Press, acquiring editor Mark Simpson-Vos, says that I have been “bitten by the public history bug”!

Continue reading ‘“Bitten by the Public History Bug”’