Archive for the 'Online Resources' Category

Completion of Duke’s CCC Still Image Digitization, Part 1

The Duke University Libraries are proud to announce the completion of the still image digitization for the Duke-held collections of the Content, Context, and Capacity (CCC) Project.  Funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), this inter-institutional collaborative project of Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, and NC Central digitized records relating to the Long Civil Rights Movement.  The Long Civil Rights Movement is a term used by historians to expand the traditional definition of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s both further into the past and into more recent times.  Collections from this project date back to as early as the 1880s and to as late as the first decade of the 2000s.

The scope of the CCC Project is quite large.  In total, all four institutions will digitize over 350,000 documents.  Duke’s share of that total is approximately 66,000 scans from eight collections.  In addition, during the next (final) year of the project, the CCC staff will transition to the digitization of audio collections.  Duke will focus on the digitization of the North Carolina tapes from the Behind the Veil Oral History Collection, which is scheduled for publication in 2014.

Researchers will find many interesting topics in Duke’s CCC Collections.  These collections allow for an in-depth exploration of the politics of integration and the history of African-American thought.  They will introduce researchers to the efforts of an organization advocating non-violence.  They even allow researchers to view Duke itself as a microcosm of the changes wrought by the Civil Rights Movement.

Available from Rubenstein Library (in finding aids):

  • Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1850s-1932 and undated:  The child of enslaved parents, Charles Norfleet Hunter would become one of the most prominent African-American educators and reformers in North Carolina.  He led several African-American schools in and around Raleigh, North Carolina.  Through his education efforts, he worked with the Tuskegee Institute and corresponded with Booker T. Washington.  As a reformer, Hunter helped to found the North Carolina Industrial Association, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of African-Americans working in both the industrial and agricultural fields. Hunter’s collection contains fascinating correspondence as well as personally-compiled scrapbooks of newspaper articles relevant to the African-American community.  Perhaps the most valuable group of documents in the collection is Hunter’s writings and speeches wherein he presciently discussed the social condition of African-Americans using rhetoric that sounds quite like what one would expect to see out of the 1960s.  Researchers will find the Hunter papers enlightening and full of potential projects on a plethora of important subjects.
  • Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, 1909-1997 and undated, bulk 1935-1983:  Asa and Elna Spaulding were one of the most prominent couples in the modern history of Durham.  Asa Spaulding served as the President of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance as well as on several presidential commissions.  Elna Bridgeforth Spaulding served as a Durham County Commissioner for five terms, founded and led the Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, and served on the White House Commission on Aging.  For the CCC Project, Duke has digitized all of Elna Spaulding’s papers.  Researchers will find the correspondence of Mrs. Spaulding with local and national leaders.  They will also find the touching letters between Elna Bridgeforth and Asa Spaulding during their courtship.  Mrs. Spaulding also collected files on the many organizations in which she was active or with which she corresponded, including Women-In-Action, the County Commissioners, the North Carolina Democratic Party, and National Council for Negro Women.  With over 25,000 images to peruse, researchers will find plenty of material worthy of further attention in Elna Spaulding’s papers.

“A Nation That Forgets God Will Fall”: Debating Engel v. Vitale

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that school segregation was not “separate but equal” but instead an unconstitutional practice.  This decision infuriated many, especially in the South, who thought that the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds.  Included among the disgusted was Congressman Basil Lee Whitener, an outspoken “Dixiecrat” (a member of the Democratic Party who supported segregation as well as socially conservative positions).

Members of Congress who opposed integration did not have the political power to pass any sort of Constitutional amendment to counter the Supreme Court’s ruling.  The frustration of Whitener and fellow Dixiecrats only intensified as integration began across the South.

Another ruling in 1962 further infuriated social conservatives throughout the country and led some to seek extraordinary solutions.  In Engel v. Vitale, the Supreme Court ruled in a six-to-one decision that school-sponsored prayer in public schools was unconstitutional.  Justice Hugo Black, writing the majority opinion, stated his objection to the prayer instituted by the state of New York thus:

We think that, by using its public school system to encourage recitation of the Regents’ prayer, the State of New York has adopted a practice wholly inconsistent with the Establishment Clause. There can, of course, be no doubt that New York’s program of daily classroom invocation of God’s blessings as prescribed in the Regents’ prayer is a religious activity. It is a solemn avowal of divine faith and supplication for the blessings of the Almighty.

Justice Black’s constitutional logic may have been sound, but his rationale did not mollify the anger of social conservatives who balked at the Court’s perceived abridgment of the right to pray at any given location.

Petition regarding prayer in school, sent to Congressman Basil Lee Whitener, circa 1962. Basil Lee Whitener Papers, Box 144, Folder 4, blwms03004083.

Congressman Whitener received petitions from his constituents, including the document shown on the left in which several North Carolina residents ask for a constitutional amendment to re-legalize state-sponsored prayer in public schools. In part, the petitioners claimed that, “Our Nation was founded upon God and has prospered more than any nation in the world.  History has proven that a Nation That Forgets God Will Fall” (emphasis in original).  This document found a sympathetic ear in Congressman Whitener.  In fact, Whitener introduced one of many House resolutions that included a constitutional amendment overturning Engel v. Vitale. The proposed amendment that gained the most political traction was one officially introduced in 1964 by Congressman Frank Becker (R-NY).  The Becker Amendment read in part:

Nothing in this Constitution shall be deemed to prohibit the offering, reading from, or listening to prayers or biblical scriptures, if participation therein is on a voluntary basis, in any governmental or public school . . .

Whitener’s constituents gathered their support behind the Becker Amendment. Religious groups such as Project America: International Christian Youth – USA sent a large number of form letters to Whitener’s office asking the congressman to support the Becker Amendment. One such letter is shown below:

Form letter, Cliff Wright to Congressman Basil Lee Whitener, circa 1964. Basil Lee Whitener Papers, Box 147, Folder 4, blwms04004006.

As one might expect, Whitener was a fervent supporter of the Becker Amendment. However, most of Congress did not share that position. A campaign against the amendment, ironically led by the National Council of Churches and the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, effectively killed the amendment’s momentum.

Ultimately, it is true that Whitener’s opposition to integration and enthusiasm for prayer in school went against the policy of the nation. Yet both the Brown v. Board of Education and Engel v. Vitale decisions were crucial events in developing a social conservative movement characterized by a hybridization of small-government ideology with religiously influenced policy recommendations.

Furthermore, as part of the CCC Project, it is important to look not only at the successes of those who fought for civil rights. The context of those successes is, in part, the reaction of those who felt betrayed by their government and how that resentment changed American politics.

Encyclopedia of Civil Liberties (Becker Amendment)
The Oyez Project (Engel v. Vitale)
Justia U.S. Supreme Court Center (Engel v. Vitale)

Civil Rights and Media Neutrality

I just came across this compelling story about CBS News during the 1950s and early 1960s, from National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

“But basic human decency was making editorial neutrality futile. Not since World War II had right and wrong seemed so clear cut.“—Walter Cronkite, in NPR transcript from 2005, “Civil Rights Era almost Split CBS News Operation”