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Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, archivist at the National Archives at College Park and Mary Kate Eckles, summer intern at NARA and senior at St. John’s College

Sixty years ago, Emmett Louis Till was kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi for violating southern customs. His death was one of the sparks that led to the modern civil rights movement in the South. The images of his mutilated body published in Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper, still remain in the memories of many in America and around the world.

Emmett Till was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 25, 1941. He was raised by his mother Mamie Till Bradley in the South Side neighborhood. As a child in the North, Till was exposed to other races and had limited knowledge about the taboos of the segregated South.

In August 1955, Till visited his great-uncle Moses Wright and his cousin Simeon Wright in LeFlore County, Mississippi. One afternoon while hanging out with teen-aged boys, Emmett Till was dared to speak to Carol Bryant, a white woman behind the counter at a local grocery store. Till might have whistled at the woman, said “bye baby,” or hugged her waist. There are various accounts of the incident, as seen in the several memorandums to and from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Later that night, Carol Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam dragged young Till from his uncle’s home. On August 28th, Emmett Till’s body was found in the Tallahatchie River. He was wrapped in barbed wire and tied to a cotton gin fan. Till’s body was unrecognizable. He was identified by his signet ring, which his mother had given to him the day before he left Chicago. Mamie Till Bradley had the body sent back to Chicago. She had an open casket funeral to “let the world see what has happened, because there is no way I could describe this.” Despite Moses Wright risking his life during the trial by testifying against Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, the two men were acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury.

RG 60 Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files, 1936-1997 (NAID 603432) contains documentation used to build cases in reference to civil rights violations. The file unit 144-40-116 consists of newspaper clippings, letters, reports, and memorandums related to the Emmett Till case. The letters and telegrams included are from private citizens, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), labor unions, and elected officials from all parts of the United States, demanding justice for Emmett Till.

The horror of Emmett Till’s murder and the outcome of the trial helped galvanize the Civil Rights movement. Just 100 days after the murder of Till, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. This action led to the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks later stated that “I thought about Emmett Till, and I couldn’t go back [to the back of the bus].”

Other file units and items from the National Archives, regional archives, and presidential libraries related to the Emmett Till case include:

  • Till, Emmett (NAID 12192565) from the series Alphabetical Files, 1953-1961 (NAID 593951)
  • Memorandum from National Administrative Committee of the American Communist Party Regarding the Emmett Till Lynching (NAID 12224523) from the series Federal Bureau of Investigation Files, 1953-1961 (NAID 12004580)
  • 44-9540, Section 1 Serials 1-11, Mississippi (1955) Emmett Till (NAID 7614683) from the series Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1924-1978 (NAID 2329984)
  • Till, Emmett, Mr. (NAID 2729250) from the series General Correspondence, 1946-1963 (595046)


Today’s Record of the Week was contributed by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geostationary Satellite Server (GOES) Look at Hurricane Katrina (NAID 17394063)

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geostationary Satellite Server (GOES) Look at Hurricane Katrina (NAID 17394063)

 

Hurricane Katrina formed on August 23, 2005, over the Bahamas in the Caribbean. It was the 11th tropical depression and the 5th named hurricane of the season. Within five days of formation, this tropical depression reached category five hurricane strength with wind speeds up to 175 mph and gusts near 190 mph. It made landfall in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and other areas along the Gulf  of Mexico Coast. Hurricane Katrina left $108 billion in property damage, an estimated 2,000 dead, and devastated a major US city and its surrounding communities.

 

By mid-day on August 29, 2005, the center of Hurricane Katrina passed just southeast of New Orleans. The winds and the rains stranded hundreds of people on rooftops and inside the Superdome. The storm surge from the hurricane created breaches in the levees system around the city. These breaches caused massive flooding in the area, primarily in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. The flooding displaced families, destroyed communities, and created havoc around New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest and costly storms in US history.

RG 48 Photographs Relating to the Secretary’s Trips, Speeches, and Other Functions, and Agency Officials, Events, and Managed Sites (NAID 7682706) contains photographs of Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior’s visit to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. These images shows the massive flooding and damage in New Orleans and the neighboring areas.



Today’s Tribute was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

“I do think that some of us began to realize that this was going to be a long struggle that was going to go on for decades, and you’d have to knuckle down. A lot of people in our generation did that. They didn’t drop out and run away.” ~ Julian Bond

 

Julian Bond, Civil Rights activist, politician, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a founder and president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and one time host on “Saturday Night Live,” transitioned this past weekend. Bond was a champion for the rights of all people. He spent his life fighting for equality, education, and social justice.

 

Office of Civil Rights - Julian Bond (Diversity) (NAID 6906913)

Office of Civil Rights – Julian Bond (Diversity) (NAID 6906913)

 

Horace Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee. His father, Horace Mann Bond was an educator and president of several historic black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and his mother, Julia Agnes Bond, was a librarian at Clark Atlanta University. Julian Bond enrolled at Morehouse College in 1957 to pursue a degree in English. But, in 1960, he decided to answer the call by organizer Ella Baker to create a student-led organization to fight against segregation and disenfranchisement. Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played an important role in its development and leadership.

By the mid-1960s, Bond became disillusioned with the radical direction of SNCC and left the organization. He went on to serve in the George House of Representatives and Senate. When Bond was first elected in 1966, the House refused to seat him due to his opposition to the Vietnam War. As a result, Bond’s case was heard in the US Supreme Court, where the Justices ruled in his favor. In RG 21, is the file unit Julian Bond, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., et al. v. James “Sloppy” Floyd, et al. (NAID 2618722), about the case and Bond’s defense, which argued that his First Amendment rights were violated.



Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

During the World War II years, thousands of southern African Americans relocated to the West Coast in search of employment in the defense industries and to escape the Jim Crow South. Many of the migrants made the Watts Neighborhood in Southern part of Los Angeles, California home. By the mid-1960s, this neighborhood had become all-black. But due to a weakening economy, the Vietnam War, disappearance of manufacturing jobs, and discrimination, this neighborhood started to diminish. As a result, residents of Watts suffered from overcrowding, unemployment, inaccessible health care, and a growing increase in crime and drug addiction. These impoverishing conditions caused a lot of frustration and anger among African Americans in the community.

Image of a woman during the Watts Riot in 1965. Case file 144-12-1102, Section 3 (NAID 7987738). Image may be subject to copyright restrictions.

Newspaper image of a woman during the Watts Riot in 1965. Case file 144-12-1102, Section 3 (NAID 7987738). Image may be subject to copyright restrictions.

 

On August 11, 1965, Marquette Frye, a 21 year-old black man was pulled over by Lee Minikus, a white California Highway Patrol officer on the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street in Watts for the suspicion of driving under the influence. During the arrest, a crowd gathered and police backup was called in. Frye’s mother and brother came to his assistance, but they were also arrested. The arrest of the Fryes, along with the declining conditions in Watts, caused the neighborhood to erupt. For six days, buildings were burnt, people were assaulted, and stores were looted. The unrest ended on August 17th, with thirty-four people dead, over a 1,000 people injured, 4,000 people arrested, and nearly $40 million in property damage.

 

RG 60 Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files, 1936-1997 (NAID 603432) consists of records used to establish cases and investigations that violated the Civil Rights Act. Case file 144-12-1102 contains letters, investigative reports, newspaper clippings, and other related documentation on the Watts Riot in 1965. In section 2, section 3, and section 4 are mostly letters and telegrams from citizens who expressed concern and anger towards the Watts Riots and made claim that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were not capable of maintaining peace among the different races. Also in these sections, are suggestions from various organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on how to deal with the violence and socioeconomic conditions in Watts.

 

Other items and file units at the National Archives related to the Watts Riot:

  • CBS Special Report–Race Riot in Watts (NAID 116943) from the series Audio Recordings Forming the Milo Ryan Phonoarchive of Radio Newscasts Relating to World War II and Special Coverage of Other Historical Events, ca. 1931 – ca. 1977 (NAID 113397)
  • Conflict in America: Program #20: Robert M. Fogelson: The Watts Riots (Los Angeles) (NAID 108361) from the series Audio Recordings of the “Forum” Radio Program, 1940 – 1983 (NAID 106531)
  • 44-31653, California (1966) Watts Riots (NAID 7637954) from the series Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1924 – 1978 (NAID 2329984)
  • Los Angeles, [California] – 157-2712-v.1 [Classification – Civil Unrest] — Possible Riot in Watts Area LA, CA (NAID 5551483) from the series Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 – 1978 (NAID 1513564)
  • Photographic Prints of Urban Destruction Caused by Riots and of Rehabilitation Projects, 1969 (NAID 535512)
  • Dateline: Labor Department Report on Negro Family Daniel Moynihan, Civil Rights, Race Relations, Poverty, Ghetto, Watts Riot, Illegitimacy, Jobs (NAID 125800)


This record of the week was contributed by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and Other Civil Rights Leaders Look on, President's Room, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC (NAID 2803443)

President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and Other Civil Rights Leaders Look on, President’s Room, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC (NAID 2803443)

 

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. This act helped disenfranchised African Americans to register to vote and gave the federal government power to oversee the registration and election processes in the South. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the percentage of African Americans registered to vote rose and the number of black politicians at the local, state, and national levels increased. The act also banned the discriminatory literacy tests and cut down on a lot of the racial violence in the South.

 

Act of August 6, 1965, Public Law 89-110, 79 STAT 437, Which Enforced the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (NAID 299909)

Act of August 6, 1965, Public Law 89-110, 79 STAT 437, Which Enforced the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (NAID 299909)

 

There was a long journey to achieve the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Since the end of Reconstruction, southern African Americans were denied access to the ballot that was guaranteed under the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. They were harassed, lost their jobs, beaten, or even killed for attempting to register to vote. Organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) tried to register southern blacks to vote through teaching people how to pass the literacy tests, protest marches, and appealing to politicians.

 

Other series, file units and items at the National Archives and Presidential Libraries related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 include:

  • Congressional Record Showing Debate of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 6037291) from the series Bill Files, 1903-1968 (NAID 559823)
  • Letter from George Neu Opposed to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 2173238) from the series Bill Files, 1903-1968 (NAID 559823)
  • President’s Daily Diary Entry, August 6, 1965 (NAID 192457) from the series President’s Daily Diary, 11/22/1963-1/20/1969 (NAID 192429)
  • Engrossed Copy of H.R. 6400, Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 5637803) from the series General Records, 1791-2010 (595069)
  • Remarks of the President at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act [Ford Speech or Statement] (NAID 7340475) from the series Press Releases, 1974-1977 (NAID 653577)
  • Records Relating to Participation in the Voting Rights Program, 1965–1967  (NAID 12006979)

 

Check out related blogs from the National Archives related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

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