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.
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.