"Hidden" Civil Rights Collection to Be Cataloged

Libraries, archives and cultural institutions hold millions of items that have never been adequately described and are all but unknown to, and unused by, the scholars those organizations aim to serve. The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University holds a wealth of information about the struggle for civil rights that can be catalogued now, thanks to new funding.

Archives at the Amistad Research Center include this photo from a 1964 civil rights march in Bogalusa, La. Leading the marchers are, from left, A.Z. Young (white shirt), Ronnie Moore and James Farmer. The photo is from the collection of Ronnie Moore Papers. (Courtesy of the Amistad Research Center)

The center has received funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives awards. The award will fund a project called “Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations.”

Housed in Tilton Memorial Hall on the uptown campus, the center began as the first archives to document the modern civil rights movement. The history of slavery, race relations, African American community development and the civil rights movement have received new and thought-provoking interpretations as the result of scholarly research using the center's resources.

The holdings include the papers of artists, educators, authors, business leaders, clergy, lawyers, factory workers, farmers and musicians.

Awarded as a collaborative project, the $900,000 grant also funds the Emory University Archives from Atlanta “Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement: The Papers of Andrew Young, SCLC, and NAACP-Atlanta Chapter” and the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Atlanta University Center's Processing Voter Education Project Collection.

The institutions will create cataloging records of their special collections holdings that can be accessed through the Internet. This project will enable a federation of disparate, local cataloging entries with tools to aggregate the information by topic and theme.

The Council on Library and Information Resources will begin building a basic registry of hidden collections and archives, created from information in the proposals that can be searched through a Web-based platform.

The Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant program is made possible by funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.