Michael Arzate is the Summer Diversity Intern in the Research Services Division, Textual Records at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. He is currently a History undergraduate major at the University of California, Berkeley.
As the 50th anniversary of the iconic March on Washington is being celebrated, I’ve come to reflect on major legislation that soon will be celebrating their 50th as well, many of which came from Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965 . My attention today is focused on how the Higher Education Act forever changed higher education for African Americans. While government support for higher education for African Americans did not stem from the Act, it did create a standard for which future presidential administrations and Congress would provide financial support.
(The Higher Education Act of 1965. National Archives Identifier: 299923)
The primary vehicle for which higher education for Black Americans is advocated and supported is through Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). While HBCUs existed well before Johnson’s Higher Education Act (many were established after the Civil War), the Act created a federal definition for which HBCUs were to be accounted for and provided direct federal funding for these schools, support which is still relied on until this day.
Of the 104 HBCU institutions today, about 90% still receive some type of federal aid (Howard University, for example, received $234 million in federal appropriations to cover an $851 budget operating budget for the 2012 fiscal year). With the rising cost of quality education and the pressure to keep tuition and other student expenses low so that the education can become more accessible to low-income students, HBCUs have found themselves reliant on state and federal help in order to survive and provide educational opportunities for African Americans.
At the National Archives we have a plethora of documents including speeches, photographs, and audio recordings regarding federal support for HBCUs, dating back from Herbert Hoover’s visit to Howard University (National Archives Identifier: 6337952) to Ronald Reagan’s Executive Order* to significantly increase the participation of HBCUs in federally funded programs (National Archives Identifier: 4556129).
Included amongst the records regarding HBCUs is an especially inspiring speech given in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the dedication of a new set of buildings funded by Congress at Howard University, located in Washington D. C. The speech set the tone for the government’s mission to support those same people that it had willfully discriminated against for hundreds of years before. The New Deal author was met with applause as he declared, “[Howard University] typifies America’s faith in the ability of man to respond to opportunity regardless of race, or creed, or color.” President Roosevelt characterized his domestic agenda when he said, “These [newly dedicated] structures…represent the happy conjuncture of two important federal programs to meet the difficulties of the depression. As far as it is humanly possible, the federal government has followed the policy that among American citizens there should be no forgotten men or race. It is a wise and truly American policy and we shall continue to faithfully observe it.”
(Transcript for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address at Howard University, given on 10/26/1936. National Archives Identifier: 197359)
Since higher education is one of the most common medium for upward social mobility, federal programs initiated in order to help African Americans receive an education gained strict attention during the progressive social movement of the 1960s . In order to assimilate a once-repressed group into a highly skilled and educated working and middle class, expanding educational opportunities for these groups became necessary. With the increased priority in the federal government to fund higher education for African Americans and other minorities, those who experienced poverty were finally given the opportunity to escape through affirmative action policies and new federal funds that were being pumped into schools specifically designed for these people.
*Researchers should note that with this file, records must be screened for personal privacy and law enforcement information under 5 U.S.C. 552(b) prior to public release. Some documents remain classified in whole or in part. Access to some case file subjects requires a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI.
by Ligon on September 24, 2013
Today’s blog is written by Dr. Christina Violeta Jones, Textual Reference Archivist, who specializes in DOJ, FBI, and other law enforcement federal agencies records
Less than one month after the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, four young girls, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, and Addie Mae Collins, were killed when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.
Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama (National Archives Identifier: 5629353)
The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church had been a rallying post for civil rights activities throughout the 1960s. For instance, it was at the church where students were arrested during a training section for the 1963 Birmingham Campaign’s Children’s Crusade. The three-story building was also a space for prominent civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph David Abernathy, and Fred Shuttlesworth to congregate and make plans for the movement. The active civil rights activity in the church marked it as a target for bombings and other acts of violence by the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups.
Key meeting place during civil rights movement and site of 1963 bombing (National Archives Identifier: 5629357)
RG 48 Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior (National Archives Identifier: 2679097) has a collection of the photographs displaying the designation ceremony of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church as a national historic landmark on February 19, 2006. These photographs contain images of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church’s Reverend Arthur Price, Jr., US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton who attended the ceremony.
US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, far left, with Secretary Gale Norton and Arthur Price, Jr., Pastor of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Alabama (National Archives Identifier: 5629491)
As noted in the September 10, 2013 blog post “Re-Introducing RG 60 Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files” by Archivist Tina Ligon, the DOJ Litigation case files were created by the various divisions of the Justice Department to investigate possible violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The DOJ’s investigation into the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing (case file # 144-1-906) is housed at the National Archives at College Park.
(National Archives Identifier: 5629789)
Researchers will have to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request because these files have to be screened for FOIA (b)(6) Personal Information and FOIA (b)(7) Law Enforcement prior to use by researchers. For more information on filing a FOIA request please visit here.
*To inquire about records related to the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing or any other records pertaining to the Civil Rights Period, contact the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, Textual Reference Division. You may call, write, or email them at the following address below:
National Archives at College Park
Textual Reference Division
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740
Tel: 301-837-3510, Fax: 301-837-1752
by Ligon on September 10, 2013
Today’s blog is written by Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland
In April 2013, the processing for Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files (National Archives Identifier 603432) series [RG 60 General Records of the Department of Justice] began. Litigation case files were created or accumulated by the various divisions of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) to investigate possible violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The case files in this series include suits to implement court-ordered school desegregation, complaints of racial discrimination on interstate common carriers, prisons conditions, and allegations of brutality by local police against African Americans and members of other ethnic minorities. The litigation case files contain correspondence, memorandums, investigative reports, legal briefs, pamphlets, and newspaper clippings as applicable to each case.
The team responsible for processing these case files included myself, two full-time employees (Mark and Scott), 6 student employees (Anwar, Micah, Brittany, Abiola, Michael, and Shavon), and a summer intern (Michael). The team organized case files into numerical order, placed case files into archival boxes, and typed a list of nearly 68,000 case file folder titles. Their hard work on this project is truly appreciated.
Processing the case files and capturing the case file numbers were completed in August 2013. As result of our efforts, an additional 2,471 standard legal boxes (1,081 linear feet) were added to the series.
Within the case files, we discovered several DOJ investigations relating to key events in African American history. Many of the case files relate to the modern Civil Rights Movement. Select case files include:
- Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956) [case file # 144-012-23]
- Freedom Riders in Anniston, Alabama (1961)[case file # 144-1-554]
- Birmingham Church Bombing (1963) [case file # 144-1-906]
- Murder of Viola Liuzzo (1965) [case file # 144-2-470]
- March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963) [case file # 144-16-574]
- Murder of Harry T. Moore (1951) [case file # 144-18-205]
- Murder of Emmett Till (1955) [case file #144-40-116]
- James H. Meredith and the University of Mississippi (1961) [case file # 144-40-254]
- Murder of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (1964) [case file 144-41-686]
- Assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968) [case file #144-72-662]
- Integration of Little Rock High School (1957) [case file #144-100-9-1]
This series also contains several case files relating to the Black Power Movement and Black Nationalist organizations. Select case files include:
- Murder of “Lil” Bobby Hutton (1968) [case file # 144-11-562]
- Watts Riot (1965) [case file # 144-12-1102]
- Washington, D. C. Riot (1968) [case file #144-16-986]
- Murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark (1969) [case file # 144-23-971]
- Detroit Riot (1967) [case file # 144-37-509]
- James H. Meredith and the March Against Fear (1966) [case file # 144-40-570]
- Wilmington Ten (1971) [case file # 144-54-407]
- The Glenville Shootout (1968) [case file # 144-57-311]
Other related case files of interest, include:
- Abduction of Mack Charles Parker (1959) [case file # 144-41-304]
- Prison conditions at Angola [Louisiana State Penitentiary] (case file # 144-32M-10]
- Jackson State University killings (1970) [case file # 144-41-1597]
- Murder of two students on the campus of Southern University (1972) [case file # 144-32M-9]
- Prison conditions at Parchman Farm [Mississippi State Penitentiary] [case file #144-40-879]
*The case files in this series have to be screened for FOIA (b)(6) Personal Information and FOIA (b)(7) Law Enforcement prior to use by researchers. For more information on filing a FOIA request please visit here.
by Ligon on August 27, 2013
Today’s blog is written by Damani Davis, Reference Archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D. C.
When commencing research at the National Archives, genealogists typically begin with census, immigration, and military records. In terms of federal records, these are the three that most commonly hold personal information on the ancestors of most Americans. This is based on the simple fact that a large portion of our ancestral population either immigrated, served in the military, or was at least counted in the census.
Of course, there are some exceptions to this broad generalization. A researcher of Native American ancestors, for instance, will generally have difficulty finding anything relevant in immigration records. Similarly, the general assumption among many is that immigration records are completely irrelevant to African-American research and have no direct relation to unique history of that particular group. For the most part, this view is generally accurate—but to adhere to it too rigidly can cause some African-American genealogists to disregard potential sources of information. Many citizens currently categorized as “Black” or “African American” have ancestors who were among tens of thousands of immigrants from the Caribbean region during the late 1800s through the early 1930s. These waves of Caribbean immigrants settled primarily northeastern port cities—especially New York City; the exception were Bahamians who primarily settled in south Florida. Some of these immigrants held on to their particular national or ethnic identities while a significant number intermarried with the native black populations of the areas in which they settled. Either way, most of the descendants of this early wave of Caribbean immigrants are currently categorized as “Black/African-American.”
Passenger Arrival List
An example of this ancestry is typified by Trinidad native, Cyril Crichlow, who is documented in immigration, naturalization, passport, census, and military records held at the National Archives. These records show that Crichlow was born in Trinidad in 1889, immigrated to the United States in 1905, and became a naturalized citizen 1919. His 1920 passport application shows that he had resided in College View, Nebraska, Chicago, and New York City. The 1930, census shows that he was living in Washington, DC, was married to a native of New Jersey, and had a 17 year old son who had been born in Mississippi.
In the summer of 2012, I gave a lecture on “How to Locate Immigrant Ancestors from the British West Indies” at the annual Juneteenth Black Genealogy conference sponsored by the Prince George’s County chapter of the Afro-American History & Genealogy Summit. In my Power Point presentation, I featured Cyril Crichlow’s records along with those of other early immigrants. Coincidentally and unexpectedly, one of the attendees in the audience recognized Cyril Crichlow as one of her ancestors. Linda Crichlow, an educator in the Montgomery County public schools system was able to use the federal records that I had found to supplement the local and family records that she had already uncovered through her own research. Our fortuitous encounter, however, highlighted to us both the need to inform Black/African-American genealogists on this history of immigration and the possibility that these federal records may be relevant to their own family research.
There is an upcoming article in Prologue by Damani Davis that will address this topic in greater detail.
by Ligon on August 20, 2013
This Week’s Special Blog Post is written by Tina L. Ligon, Textual Processing Archivist, who is currently processing DOJ Litigation Case Files and Christina Violeta Jones, Textual Reference Archivist, who specializes in DOJ, FBI, and other law enforcement federal agencies records
Known as one of the largest political rallies for human rights in the United States’ history, the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (MOW) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. This blog highlights the various civilian and military records housed at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that pertain to MOW and its significance in American history. For a visual overview, the series Miscellaneous Subjects, Staff and Stringer Photographs, 1961-1974 (National Archives Identifier 541992) has a good selection of photographs highlighting the organizers, civil rights leaders, entertainers, and the diverse crowd who attended the MOW. Most of these images are available in the online catalog.
At NARA, there is an extensive amount of textual records, photographs, sound recordings, and moving images that depict the excitement surrounding the MOW. These archival materials showcased people from all backgrounds who gathered along the National Mall singing and marching for freedom, civil rights, and equality for all citizens. The select records bring to light the significance of this event on United States history and its impact on Civil Rights legislation. The sound recording March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 08/28/1963 (National Archives Identifier 2839413) is a comprehensive audio recording of the speakers by the Educational Radio Network (WGBH) and the film The March, 1963 (National Archives Identifier 47526) shows behind the scenes planning and organizing for the event. To view this film, click on the following links:
The March, Part 1 of 3 (1964)
The March, Part 2 of 3 (1964)
The March, Part 3 of 3 (1964)
[Added 8/23/13 - for additional information about the film visit the National Archives' Media Matters' Making the March blog]
MOW was initiated by several prominent civil rights leaders: A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), James Farmer (Congress of Racial Equality), John Lewis (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Martin Luther King, Jr. (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), Roy Wilkins (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and Whitney Young (National Urban League). The Production Library Audio Recordings, compiled 1945-1993 (National Archives Identifier 118159) series contains sound recordings on the experiences of these leaders in the Civil Rights Movement. The items include Luncheon for A. Philip Randolph, 08/26/1963 (National Archives Identifier 123316), Interview with James Farmer, President, Congress of Racial Equality and Center for Community Action, 02/11/1966 (National Archives Identifier 126129), The Quiet Warrior Martin Luther King, 12/09/1964 (National Archives Identifier 124276), Distinguished American #6: Roy Wilkins (National Archives Identifier 128285), and Press Conference USA with Guest Whitney Young, 05/06/1967 (National Archives Identifier 128551).
Activist Bayard Rustin was a key figure in planning the MOW. His organizational skills were instrumental in the coordination and implementation of the march. He was an advisor to Dr. King in the 1950s and 1960s, and actively involved with pacifist groups and early civil rights protests. NARA has several sound recordings of interviews with Rustin, including Focus on Bayard Rustin (National Archives Identifier 2812560), Bayard Rustin, 11/18/1967 (National Archives Identifier 129504), and Perspective #334: A Conversation with Bayard Rustin, 10/29/1969 (National Archives Identifier 132969).
On August 28, 1963, 200,000 to 300,000 individuals convened in Washington D. C. to hear civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech that advocated and called for racial harmony in the United States. NARA has the sound recording for the “I Have a Dream Speech” in the John R. Hickman Audio Collection (National Archives Identifier 1436726). Additionally, there are the Universal Newsreel Volume 36, Release 71, 08/29/1963 (National Archives Identifier 2050667) that gives a pictorial perspective of the event and the Department of Justice’s Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files series (National Archives Identifier 603432) [case file #144-16-574] that provides background information into concerns surrounding the march.
[Added August 28, 2013 - check out NDC Blog on "Martin Luther King, Integrationist"]
Often lost in the history of MOW are the contributions and organizational efforts of women. Entertainer Josephine Baker gave a speech during the preliminary offerings of the march and Dorothy I. Height stood among male leaders on stage when Dr. King made his “I Have a Dream” speech. Myrlie Evers was scheduled to give a tribute to “Negro Women Fighters for Freedom,” but was unable to attend. Bayard Rustin gave the tribute in Evers’ absence and introduced freedom fighters Daisy Bates, Diane Nash, Rosa Parks, and Gloria Richardson to the marchers. NARA holdings have several photographs of women who participated in MOW.
The success of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
*Researchers who want to find records on the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom should start with the National Archives’ Online Public Access (OPA) database. The Online Public Access resource is the online public portal to our records and information about our records. The OPA prototype currently provides access to nearly one million electronic records currently in the Electronic Records Archives (ERA), which are not available elsewhere online. More electronic records from ERA will be included in OPA in the coming year.
*To inquire about records related to MOW, contact the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, Textual Reference Division. You may call, write, or email them at the following address below:
The National Archives at College Park
Textual Reference Division
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740
Tel: 301-837-3510, Fax: 301-837-1752
*Researchers should note that with DOJ and FBI case files, records must be screened for personal privacy and law enforcement information under 5 U.S.C. 552(b) prior to public release. Some documents remain classified in whole or in part. Access to some case file subjects requires a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FBI.