Library of Congress Launches Civil Rights History Project Portal


The American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress will officially launch the online component of the Civil Rights History Project on Monday, May 19, 2014 with an afternoon of programming. The Civil Rights History Project Collection consists primarily of recent, never-before-seen interviews with people who participated in the civil rights movement. It contains several hundred items consisting of video files, videocassettes, digital photographs and interview transcripts. More than 100 video interviews, along with essays and related materials, are accessible on the Library’s website at

The event will take place from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, May 19, in the Montpelier Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. It is free and open to the public; no reservations are required.

The event is co-sponsored by the Library’s Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation, the Library’s Education Outreach program, the Library of Congress chapter of Blacks in Government and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

Highlighting the afternoon will be programming commemorating the 50th anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964, when thousands of college students braved the threat of physical violence to engage in voter-registration campaigns and teach local citizens civics and other subjects at freedom schools, among other acts of defiance to the system of racial segregation in the South.

The program will also include an overview of the online collection’s assets, including screenings of sample interviews; a screening of Ed Emshwiller’s 1964 documentary short film “The Streets of Greenwood”; and a discussion of the events of Freedom Summer with civil rights activists Robert Moses of The Algebra Project, Charlie Cobb of Brown University and Dorie and Joyce Ann Ladner.

The activists interviewed for the Civil Rights History Project Collection belong to a wide range of occupations, including lawyers, judges, doctors, farmers, journalists, professors and musicians. The video recordings of their recollections cover a wide variety of topics within the civil rights movement, such as the influence of the labor movement, nonviolence and self-defense, religious faith, music and the experiences of young activists. Actions and events discussed in the interviews include the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), the Albany Movement (1961), the Freedom Rides (1961), the Selma to Montgomery Rights March (1965), the Orangeburg Massacre (1968), sit-ins, voter-registration drives in the South and the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, which galvanized many young people into joining the freedom movement.

Many interviewees were active in national organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Others 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 who were on the front lines of the struggle in places not well-known for their civil rights movement activity, such as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Saint Augustine, Florida; and Bogalusa, Louisiana.

The Civil Rights History Project was authorized by the U.S. Congress on May 12, 2009, by the passing of the Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-19). The law directs the Library of Congress and NMAAHC to conduct a survey of existing oral-history collections with relevance to the civil rights movement and to record new interviews with people who participated in the struggle, over a five-year period beginning in 2010. The interviews will become a permanent part of the national library and the national museum.

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American Folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival preservation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the American Folklife Center Archive of Folk Culture, which was established 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

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at