Tag Archive for 'long civil rights movement'

From the Archives: Alfonso Elder on the Pursuit of Excellence in a Changing World

This post is the 8th in a series from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing more than 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions.  For more on this digitization project, click here.

Alfonso Elder, NCCU President (1948-1963)

President of North Carolina Central University (NCCU) during the height of the civil rights era, Alfonso Elder was placed in an ideal position to observe student activism and the role that young adults played within the civil rights movement. He was an adamant supporter of such student involvement and strongly believed that one of the best ways for youth to contribute to the cause was the serious pursuit of their studies. [1]

Elder, the second president of NCCU, served from 1948 to 1963 at a time when the institution was known as the North Carolina College at Durham. However, Elder’s history at NCCU began two decades before his presidency, when he worked as a professor of Education and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1924 to 1943. [2] In 1925, soon after Elder’s arrival, NCCU became the nation’s first state-supported liberal arts college for African Americans. [3] As both an educator and a university president, Elder was fiercely dedicated to his students and to the field of higher education.

Continue reading ‘From the Archives: Alfonso Elder on the Pursuit of Excellence in a Changing World’

Digitizing the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina

Six months ago, the digital production centers at UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University began scanning more than 35 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement—a substantial undertaking by the Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN).

Drawing on collections from Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the project, “Content, Context and Capacity: A Collaborative Large-Scale Digitization Project on the Long Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina,” was made possible by funding from the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), as administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

The project is expected to take three years; as digitized collections are completed, they will be available online free of charge, both through Search TRLN and the collections’ finding aids on each library’s website.

To date, more than 100,000 documents have been scanned, and six collections, including the North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation Records, are complete; scanning of five more collections, including the James E. Shepard Papers, the North Carolina Extension and Community Association Records, and the Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. Durham Chapter records, 1968-1998, is already under way. The following photos illustrate the digitization process at UNC’s Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, where graduate assistants are hard at work scanning manuscript materials from UNC, NC State University, and NC Central University.

Graduate assistant Shea Swauger places a document onto the Zeutschel scanner.

The documents are placed under a glass window to keep them flat during the scanning process.

The Zeutschel scanner, mid-scan.

When finished, the scanned images appear on a computer.

Once the scans are complete, they’re uploaded to the server. Here, graduate assistant Allen Bell uploads the files.

Once the scans are complete, staff perform a quality check and ensure that all pages from the physical document made it into the digitized document. Here, graduate assistant Carolyn Chesarino performs this task.

After the documents have undergone a quality check, the digitized scans are uploaded to the internet and linked within the collection’s finding aid, where researchers can view them.  So far, 105,937 scans out of an estimated 400,000 have been completed.

Samantha Leonard, CCC Digital Production Manager, supervises the UNC School of Library and Information Science students, who she says “have really been the push behind our high numbers of scans and success.”

Later in the grant period, NC State will scan oversized materials, and an audio engineer will digitize the audio recordings including more than 300 oral history interviews from Duke University’s Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South Records.

Click here to follow the digitization progress.

Progress Update: TRLN’s LCRM digitization project

During its first six months, the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s “Content, Context, and Capacity” grant project has scanned over 100,000 digital objects from archival collections related to the Long Civil Rights Movement. Digitization of six collections is complete, with scanning of five further collections under way. Most of the digitized content is already available online to researchers. Click here to follow digitization progress for individual collections. Click here to view a full list of the 38 collections to be digitized. Scanning is complete for the following six collections, and digital content is accessible via the links to the collection finding aids:

Floyd B. McKissick Papers (NCCU) McKissick (1922-1991) was a North Carolina attorney, businessman, and civil rights leader. The collection documents the LCRM in Durham and Soul City, a town owned and operated by African Americans, and are critical for the study of legal and economic remedies to civil rights inequities. The collection reflects McKissick’s work with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the NAACP, the development of Soul City, and his work with the Republican Party.

The North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation Records (UNC) The NCCIC was established in 1921 as a state affiliate of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation to work toward improved race relations in the state and to alleviate injustices and change prejudiced racial attitudes. The collection consists of correspondence and financial, legal, and other materials.

Roy M. Brown Papers (UNC) Brown held various administrative positions in North Carolina state public welfare agencies, 1921-1934, and was director of the Division of Public Welfare and Social Work at UNC-Ch, 1936-1945. The collection includes correspondence with professional colleagues concerning public issues, social work training, the North Carolina Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, the North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation, and the compiling of information from North Carolina counties for a history of public aid to the poor.

Samual Huntington Hobbs Papers (UNC) Hobbs (1895-1969), was a rural sociologist and member of the faculty of the University of North Carolina, 1916-1968. He was chair of the University’s Department of Rural Social Economics. His papers include correspondence, writings, materials about part-time farming, and materials about the North Carolina Rural Electrification Project.

Basil Lee Whitener Papers (Duke) Whitener was a North Carolina Congressman and U.S. Representative for the Eleventh and Tenth Districts (1957–1968). Whitener was opposed to civil rights legislation, deficit spending, foreign aid spending, and the proliferation of domestic and social programs. His papers document the rise of the New Right in North Carolina.  

Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers (Duke) Harris was an African American civic leader during the period following the Brown decision of 1954 and the Civil Rights Movement. Harris was the first African American city councilman in Durham, N.C., and the first black man to sit on the Durham County Board of Education. The collection materials relate to Harris’ work in political and educational affairs in Durham, N.C., in the 1950s-1960s as a member of the City Council and the School Board, with emphasis on school desegregation, civil rights, and race relations.

Nobel Peace Prize & Civil Rights

Today the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, whose chair at the ceremony in Oslo was empty because he is in prison in China.  The Presentation Speech by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, is worth studying as a thoughtful and forceful essay on human rights.

In the speech, Jagland reviewed some recent struggles for human rights around the world, expressing the enduring pride of the Nobel Committee in having chosen Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Peace Prize in 1964.

Describing the rights stated in the Chinese constitution , including freedom of speech, the press, and assembly, Jagland insists, “Liu has exercised his civil rights. He has done nothing wrong. He must therefore be released!”

The way that Jagland connects human rights and civil rights and yet distinguishes them from each other merits analysis and discussion.   Continue reading ‘Nobel Peace Prize & Civil Rights’

The Forgotten Civil Rights Hero

From NPR, the story of Octavius Catto, who fought to desegregate the horse-drawn streetcarts in nineteenth-century Philadelphia. We are so used to stories of the civil rights movement grounded in the 1950s and 1960s, and protests reliant on television publicity that Catto’s story seems almost unbelievable.

Catto didn’t just push for desegregation of public facilities nearly 100 years before most Americans were aware of such a thing as the civil rights movement; he fielded an all-black baseball team (not to mention a black Civil War regiment) and fought for voting rights for African Americans. Catto was a remarkable pioneer, and like many civil rights activists, he died for his cause: he was shot dead by a Democratic Party operative after rallying African Americans to vote Republican.

Tasting Freedom, the new study of the civil rights activist Octavius Catto

Catto wasn’t just a lone outlier. He worked with other activists at the time (like Frederick Douglass) and organized mass demonstrations. It’s discoveries like this one that make the study of the long civil rights movement so valuable and so urgent.

Read the whole story in Tasting Freedom: Octavius Catto and the Battle for Equality in Civil War America.

Proposal for Conference Session: Teaching the Long Civil Rights Movement

Richard Hughes of Illinois State University is looking to convene an interesting panel at the 2012 Organization of American Historians Annual Conference in Milwaukee (April 19-22).

From Richard: “I am organizing a conference panel to explore the ways in which the Long Civil Rights Movement continues to enrich the teaching of American history.  Possibilities include specific examples of how the concept of a long civil rights movement has altered the teaching of historians or provocative ways in which the growing scholarship may force historians to reconceptualize the teaching and learning of twentieth-century U.S. history.

I am proposing a paper entitled, “The March on Washington without the Dream: Teaching and the Hidden Voices of the Long Civil Rights Movement.”  I am looking for other historians who would be interested in presenting a paper, chairing the session, or providing commentary on the panel.  The website for submissions opens October 1, 2010 with the deadline for all submissions February 1, 2011. Please send a brief description of your possible contribution via email to:

rhughes at ilstu dot edu

New Civil Rights Scholarship Reviewed: Seeking Inalienable Rights

William Carrigan (Rowan University) has reviewed a new collection on civil rights struggles in Texas, Seeking Inalienable Rights: Texans and their Quests for Justice (Texas A&M Press), for H-net. Carrigan writes that the edited volume extends the “traditional chronology” of the movement:

According to editor Debra A. Reid, Seeking Inalienable Rights explores how “selected Texans pursued their rights by contrasting the ideal of personal liberty in a capitalist society with the reality of the price others paid for that rights expansion” (p. xiii). The volume, composed of eight chapters, challenges the traditional chronology of the Texas civil rights struggle by extending discussion of the movement to the late nineteenth century and by broadening the concept of organized movement to “include efforts of men and women who allied within classes and sought political and professional influence and economic opportunity, in addition to government protection of defined rights” (p. xiii). Reid goes on to argue that “Texas as a multiethnic state provides an important case study to explore the ways that competing definitions of rights and special interest legislation have affected rights” (p. xvii).

Read the whole thing here.

Civil Rights Legacies

The legacy of the civil rights movement, always in dispute, has taken center stage this summer. First, and most notoriously, was Glenn Beck’s effort to reclaim the movement (his words), which aroused more than a little indignation but which seemed to fizzle as soon as his Tea Party faithful left Washington.

Now we have Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour, thought to be a potential GOP nominee for president in 2012, arguing in a recent interview that his generation drove the transformation of the South after the civil rights movement as Democrats fought tooth and nail for segregation. In other words, the ideological leaders of the modern Republican Party carried the gains of the civil rights movement into the modern day, leaving Democrats struggling to preserve the racial regime of the segregated South. Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post isn’t too happy about it.

Barbour’s narrative is, at best, a misunderstanding of party politics and the transition that Lyndon Johnson (a Texan but a Democrat), after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, described as the Democrats losing the South for a generation. At least. But more significant here is how, as leaders of the civil rights movement age and fall from public view, and when concerns about the economy, artificially separated from issues of race and ethnicity but separated nonetheless, have risen to the fore, the legacy of the civil rights movement has entered a new era of contest. Watch for more…

Glenn Beck to “Reclaim” Civil Rights (Movement)

There is little to be said that has not been said already about Glenn Beck’s Tea Party rally, to take place Saturday in Washington at the spot where Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on its 47th anniversary. Tens of thousands will flock there from the parts of the country that received the most government dollars to rage against big government. Sarah Palin is headlining, and the National Rifle Association will make a strong showing. “We are on the side of individual freedoms and liberties and, dammit, we will reclaim the civil rights moment,” said Beck in May (quoted in this CNN piece by Will Bunch). “We will take that movement — because we were the people who did it in the first place.” The civil rights movement, it seems, has been coopted by people like African Americans, gay people, and women. They’ve had their turn.

Of course, this so-called reclaiming, in addition to being a publicity stunt that will keep Beck and Palin in the spotlight, is a transparently dishonest manipulation of the civil rights movement’s goals and accomplishments, the very effort to contain and coopt the movement that Jacquelyn Hall warned us about in her 2005 article, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past” (the article which inspired this scholarly collaboration). As Hall wrote, so-called “color blind conservatives” thought it was up to them to restore the original purpose of civil rights laws, which was to prevent isolated acts of wrongdoing against individuals”–in Beck’s case aggrieved whites–“rather than, as many civil rights activists and legal experts claim, to redress present, institutionalized manifestations of historical injustices against blacks as a group.”

Beck’s basic civil rights narrative seems to run like this: There were instances of racism in the past. We regret them, but they’re over, and today’s efforts at addressing questions of racism and poverty amount to “reparations” paid to minorities by whites innocent of personal wrong doing. The success of this narrative lies not only in the profound ignorance of its believers and the venal agenda of its peddlers; not only in racial antipathies but also in the schism between understandings of economic justice and racial justice. As long as lower-class whites feel angry and powerless and are able to blame black people rather than, say, the very rich (for example, Glenn Beck, Inc., made $32 million last year), it will never be necessary to begin the kind of economic restructuring that Martin Luther King hoped would alleviate the poverty of working class blacks, whites, Latinos, and others. As long as lower-class whites privilege their rights as individuals (say to own a machine gun) over their rights as a group (to unionize, or to receive fair pay for their labor), the pressure for economic restructuring only simmers, and never boils over.

Continue reading ‘Glenn Beck to “Reclaim” Civil Rights (Movement)’

Civil Rights Roundup: Two New Pieces

First, an article about the little-known enough Charles Sherrod, who flew under the radar as a civil rights pioneer at SNCC, eventually taking up the cause in Albany, GA, and remaining in the fight long after many of his peers had returned to their comfortable lives. Charles never got much press (though he got his due in Taylor Branch’s work) but now his wife, Shirley, has been in the news because of her ludicrous firing following Andrew Breitbart’s hit job (A side note on that: Breitbart’s fraudulent character assassination should be read as exactly that, not a troubling blurring of the line between journalism and advocacy. What was he advocating? And how was that journalism?)

Second, a great piece on the long civil rights movement and the effort by conservatives to coopt the legacies and leaders of the civil rights movement. You’ll see SOHP Director Jacquelyn Dowd Hall’s name in there, as well as a nice summary of the radicalism of the civil rights movement, which really shouldn’t be news any more.