Digital Collections

In Their Own Voice: Activists Tell the History of the Civil Rights Movement

Digital Collection. The Library of Congress has launched an online collection of oral history interviews with Civil Rights Movement veterans.
Time Periods: 19th Century, 20th Century
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements
In Their Own Voices (Website) | Zinn Education Project

From left: Lawrence Guyot, Ruby Sales, Pete Seeger, Kathleen Cleaver, Junius Williams

The Library of Congress has launched an online collection of oral history interviews with Civil Rights Movement veterans. The interviews were collected and compiled under the Civil Rights History Project Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-19). It was a collaborative effort of the Library of Congress (LOC) and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).

As is explained on the Library of Congress website, “The activists interviewed for this project belong to a wide range of occupations, including lawyers, judges, doctors, farmers, journalists, professors, and musicians, among others. 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 fourteen year old Emmett Till in 1955, a horrific event that 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). Other interviewees 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.”

Visit the Civil Rights History Project to see the interviews and learn more.

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