Press Release: The American Folklife Center (AFC) at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) have launched The Civil Rights History Project at www.loc.gov/folklife/civilrights/. The portal presents the results of a nationwide inventory of oral-history interviews with participants in the civil rights movement. The research, which was initiated and completed in 2010, identified several hundred collections held in libraries, museums, archives, universities, historical societies, and other institutions across the nation. The database and search tool, developed by Library of Congress catalogers and web designers, will enable researchers to efficiently query the survey results and locate collections in repositories around the country.
“I am pleased that the results of the survey can now be shared with everyone who is interested in the accounts of those who took part in the civil rights movement,” said Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress. “We can also acknowledge the crucial work that libraries, archives, museums and other institutions around the country have done to record and preserve those accounts.”
“I am so moved, both professionally and personally, to have the opportunity to make sure the civil rights movement is remembered just the way it should be – in the words of the people who lived it,” said Lonnie G. Bunch, III, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The survey results represent the successful completion of the first phase of the Civil Rights History Project. The second phase of the project, directed by the NMAAHC, consists of new interviews with participants, focusing on their experiences that have not previously been recorded. In addition, project researchers will collect objects such as original photographs, home movies, event flyers, diaries, training-session notes, minutes from planning meetings, and even shoes and clothing worn during historic marches, mass rallies and freedom rides. Once processed and catalogued, the new materials will be made accessible to researchers at the Library, NMAAHC and online through the project website.
The Civil Rights History Project was created by an act of Congress in 2009, sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), and signed into law by President Barack Obama (Public Law 111-19).
“The fight for civil rights was one of the most significant social and cultural movements in our nation’s history, and this project will help future generations understand the struggle to make the dream of equality and freedom a reality for all Americans,” said McCarthy in proposing the legislation. “While we know so much about the lives of the leaders of the civil rights movement, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Congressman John Lewis, and Thurgood Marshall, it is important that we learn about the everyday people of all races who took a stand during a pivotal time in our nation’s history. There were so many people who were crucial to the civil rights movement, but have not had as much recorded about their experiences for the public record.”
The American Folklife Center was created in 1976 by the U.S. Congress to “preserve and present American folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, publication and training. The center incorporates an archive, which was established in the Music Division of the Library of Congress in 1928 and is now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/folklife/.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture was established in 2003 by an act of Congress, making it the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. It is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, art, history and culture. The Smithsonian Board of Regents, the governing body of the institution, voted in January 2006 to build the museum on a five-acre site adjacent to the Washington Monument on the National Mall. The building is scheduled to open in 2015. Until then, NMAAHC is presenting three touring exhibitions in major cities across the country and in its own gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. For more information visit nmaahc.si.edu.