May 27, 2022

Vanderbilt Digital Archive Recovers Lost Civil Rights Voices, Digitized Recordings Now Online

From Vanderbilt University

Digitized versions of the original reel-to-reel recordings that author Robert Penn Warren conducted with Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and other key leaders in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement are now searchable through the Who Speaks for the Negro website housed at Vanderbilt University.


The original recordings are held at the University of Kentucky and Yale University libraries, but the two institutions were not aware of each other’s collections for many years, according to Mona Frederick, executive director of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities at Vanderbilt.

It was Frederick’s efforts to build a state-of-the-art digital archive that includes not only the recordings, but also some 4,000 pages of searchable interview transcripts and photographs that led to her discovery of recordings at both Kentucky and Yale.

“This is a wonderful example of how, in the age of digital humanities, split collections can be made whole and anyone with access to the Internet can use the material,” Frederick said. “The digital archive is among the very best of its kind and I am grateful to the Vanderbilt library for its role in the creation of this amazing resource.”

Visit the Who Speaks for the Negro Web Site

Read the Complete Announcement to Learn More About the Archive

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.