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Today’s blog was written by Micah Colston, Archives Technician at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and a graduate student at the University of Maryland


We are not too surprised when we hear about cases of racial profiling, wrongful arrests and police brutality during the civil rights era. However, rarely heard about are the few encouraging cases where this behavior doesn’t slip below the radar.

RG 60 Department of Justice (DOJ) case file # 144-35-456 (National Archives Identifier 603432) tells the story of Emory Jones, who I thought was the cousin of rapper Jay Z. Its not the same person, but his story is still very interesting. Jones was assaulted by police after his arrest in 1970. The case file contains letters, memorandums, investigative reports and other related documents detailing the investigation of the possible violation of Jones’ civil rights.

Jones was pulled over for excessive use of his horn and subsequently arrested in Laurel, Maryland. He was taken to the local police station, where he was assaulted in his cell. The arresting officers lied about the encounter and maintained that they had done nothing wrong until an internal investigation provided enough evidence of their wrong doing. One officer involved in the ordeal resigned from the police force and attempted to seek employment in another police station. But, the police chief denied the resignation and terminated the accused officer. The police chief stated that “he would not tolerate such a man in his department.”


Street Arrest, 05/1973 (National Archives Identifier 546633)

Street Arrest, 05/1973 (National Archives Identifier 546633)


Discovering this case showed me that even in the 1970’s there were people willing to stand up for the underprivileged and not allow certain officers to feel and act as if they were above the law. Moreover, they did not allow an incident of this nature to go under the radar, even though the strong social perceptions of minorities during this time period surely allowed others to get away with greater offenses.

Today we enjoy a much better time as far as civil liberties and equality, but we still have progress left to be made in changing the image portrayed of many minority groups. Cases like Jones’ provide us with an example of people standing up for what is right in a societal environment where not many would blame them for standing idly by. Recognizing this should help encourage us to do the same today. Cases like that of Trayvon Martin (2013) reveal the power that social perceptions and the portrayal of minorities can have even on the image of youth. We still need to change the way we portray different groups and start seeing ourselves as one nation not only equally free as individuals, but equally deserving of the same image and considerations regardless of race, religion, or gender. It will always be important to look to our history to see evidence of positive change and people standing up for what is right.


*This case file has 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.

Today’s blog was written by Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives and Michael Arzate, Summer Diversity Intern at the National Archives

In honor of the life of Nelson Mandela, the Rediscovery Black History committee would like to re-post this blog from July 18, 2013.  

Rest in Peace Madiba.

There is perhaps no other name so greatly associated with the South African anti-apartheid movement as Nelson Mandela’s. He is considered one of the greatest global advocates for peace and equality in South Africa. Born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mvezo, Transkei [in the southeastern region of South Africa], Mandela made history when he was elected as the country’s first Black President in 1994, in a fully representative election.

Mandela began his revolutionary career in the early 1940s, at the University of Witwatersrand, where he was the only native African law student. Throughout his years at the law school, Mandela was engaged in a number of nationalist and socialist organizations that advocated the core tenets of his beliefs, which were social and civil equality. After the 1948 election, the National Party adopted an openly racist policy and expanded racial segregation through the passage of tougher apartheid legislation. Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress (ANC) directly attacked the apartheid system through the use of radical and revolutionary protests, boycotts, and strikes.


The National Archives has several photographs on Mandela’s visits to the United States and of US leaders visiting with him in South Africa. Within record Group 59 General Records of the Department of States are an assemblage of photographs relating directly to the highest-profile officials at the Department of State. The Photographic Portraits and Events Coverages relating to Secretaries of State, compiled 1969-1993 series (National Archives Identifier 518083) contains images of Secretary of State James A. Baker greeting Nelson Mandela upon arrival in Washington, D. C.


Photograph of President William J. Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Philadelphia Freedom Festival , 07/04/1993 (National Archives Identifier 2569290)

Photograph of President William J. Clinton with Nelson Mandela at the Philadelphia Freedom Festival , 07/04/1993 (National Archives Identifier 2569290)


Record Group 306 Records of the US Information Agency consists of photographs of Presidents of the United States with foreign dignitaries and their visits to the United States. This series contains a photograph of President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela at Andrews Air Force Base in 1994. Also in this record group are photographs from the Photographs Assembled for “Topic” Magazine Coverage of Political, Economic, and Cultural Life in the United States and Africa, compiled 1965-1990 series (National Archives Identifier 1055788). This series comprises the principal working file of photographs deployed, or considered for deployment, in the US Information Agency’s (USIA’s) heavily illustrated publication disseminated in sub-Saharan Africa, “Topic” magazine. This series includes photographs on the historic visit of Nelson Mandela to the United States in 1990.


President George W. Bush Presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Makaziwe Mandela on Behalf of her Father, Nelson Mandela, 07/09/2002 (National Archives Identifier 7431401)

President George W. Bush Presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Makaziwe Mandela on Behalf of her Father, Nelson Mandela, 07/09/2002 (National Archives Identifier 7431401)


Record Group 330 Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense contains photographs focusing on Mandela’s visit to Washington, D. C. in October 1994. Within the series Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, compiled 1982-2007 (National Archives Identifier 6274097) there are several photographs detailing Mandela’s arrival and departure from Andrews Air Force Base. This series consists of camera original images made by photographers from the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and to a lesser extent the US Coast Guard from 1982 through 2007. Most of the photographs are available through the Online Public Access (OPA) catalog.

Free Electronic Records at NARA

by on December 3, 2013

Today’s blog was written by William Smith, Information Technology Specialist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.


The internet and new technology has lowered the cost of access to electronic records. In the past, researchers would have to pay a fee to obtain just one electronic file in a collection. With the development of NARA’s Online Public Access (OPA) researchers can download many of the National Archives’ electronic holdings for free and, the download can take place from the comforts of their home or their internet access point. Please keep in mind that NOT all electronic records in NARA’s holdings are available online.

After one has used OPA to download an electronic file, the next step would be to analysis the data. If the data is in a cvs format or has some delimiters, the researcher can use a spreadsheet tool or desktop database to complete the task. In most cases, NARA does provide detail documentation on the electronic file. This documentation can be used to get an understanding of the data and the data contents.

"Two smiling French soldiers fill the hands of American soldiers with candy, in Rouffach, France, after the closing of the Colmar pocket.", 02/05/1945

“Two smiling French soldiers fill the hands of American soldiers with candy, in Rouffach, France, after the closing of the Colmar pocket.”, 02/05/1945 (National Archives Identifier 531247)


An example of downloadable data is the World War II Army Enlistment Records (National Archives Identifier 604357). This series consists of records on nearly nine million men and women who enlisted in the United States Army between 1938 and 1946. The records contain the serial number, name, state and county of residence, place of enlistment, date of enlistment, grade, Army branch, term of enlistment, longevity, nativity (place of birth), year of birth, race, education, civilian occupation, marital status, height and weight (before 1943), military occupational specialty (1945 and later), component, and box and reel number of the microfilmed punch cards.

Although this data can be use through Nara’s Access to Archival Databases or AAD, a researcher may want to explore the data in a different format, develop a chart from the data, or just do something further then what AAD can provide currently.

Further description of the World War II Army Enlistment Records will be included in the upcoming Black History Guide.


For Additional Information relating to Electronic Records contact:

National Archives at College Park – Electronic Records (RD-DC-E)

8601 Adelphi Road

College Park, Maryland 20740-6001

Phone: 301-837-0470

Fax: 301-837-3681



Today’s blog was written by Sonia A. Prescott, Doctoral Student in History at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Scholarship on the Panama Canal has steadily evolved from focusing solely on the United States and its triumph over the land to a more nuanced look at the plight of the everyday people involved in the work of the Canal. Scholars are beginning to recognize that the story of how the Canal was built is a fascinating story but it is not the only story. Instead historians are beginning to push researchers to look closer at the workers who built and maintained the Panama Canal. Recent academic research highlights that the vast majority of the laborers that worked on the Canal Zone were from the English-speaking Caribbean and worked under the harshest labor conditions, were given the worst housing and the lowest wages. The story of these workers does not however end there. Records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) demonstrate that Caribbean laborers joined unions, went on strike and fought tirelessly for the rights and respect that their labor on the Panama Canal earned them.

To learn more about their story researchers can begin by looking at the records related to one of the largest and most active unions in the Canal Zone, the United Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way and Railway Shop Employees, a U.S. based railroad union. This union was more commonly known as the United Brotherhood. Despite the fact that the United Brotherhood was a railroad union, employees from all the over the Canal Zone joined. This was due to the tremendous efforts of two men, William Preston Stoute and Eduardo V. Morales. Stoute was a schoolteacher on the Canal Zone that was originally from Barbados while Morales was a Panamanian who worked as a clerk in the municipal engineering department. As employees of the Canal Zone their personnel records are held by the National Archives and Records Administration and can be found in Record Group 185 Records of the Panama Canal.

One component of their personnel records is the Applications for Photo-Metal Check series (National Archives Identifier 6821421). These applications were completed when employees wanted to apply for a photo metal check which was part of the payroll system on the Canal Zone. A glance at Stoute’s photo metal check application provides some really important details about his life. As you can see below Stoute was born in Barbados on April 21, 1884 and arrived in Panama on June 15, 1906. This means that he was 22 when he first arrived in Panama. Other details like his salary and his residence on the Canal Zone are also available on the application. Details such as these can be used to learn quite a bit about the man who led the United Brotherhood.

Eduardo Morales

A glance at Morales’ photo metal check application provides important details about his life. For example, Morales was born in Panama on November 14, 1882. The application also indicates that Morales was able to read and write which would have been crucial skills in his position as clerk. Morales was also paid $50.00 (USD) per month which would have been significantly more than the average laborer received at the time. Other details like his residence on the Canal Zone are also available on the application. These types of details can be used to create a more complete picture of Morales life on the Canal Zone and thus his involvement with the union movement.

 William Preston Stoute

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Photo Metal Check Applications as a collection of records is that almost all employees of the Panama Canal had to complete these forms. NARA thus maintains these files as part of its extensive collection of personnel records that are generally open to the public. This means that these files can be used for genealogy research, labor union research and for a number of other uses. The files are currently being housed at the National Archives facility in College Park, Maryland, but are in the process of being digitized and may be available online shortly.

For information about this particular set of records please contact the reference staff at

Twelve Years a Slave, the theatrical depiction of the memoir of Solomon Northrup, has garnered much deserved media attention. Not since Alex Haley’s Roots (1977) have discussions about the depictions of slavery been so prevalent. The National Archives blog Education Updates has a great post about how the story of Solomon Northrup is revealed in our documents (The Document Behind Twelve Years a Slave). The followup post, Kidnapping Free People of Color, shares an account of the problem of slave catchers and kidnapping.

We hope you find these posts about American history interesting and informative.



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