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

The passage of the Civil Rights in 1964 gave African Americans hope for equality in America.  The act allowed for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to initiate lawsuits on behalf of individuals who were discriminated against on the bases of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin in public accommodations.  Despite all the good intensions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, African Americans still faced discrimination in many public spaces across the country.

The Press Releases, Speeches, Testimonies, and Other Records (NAID 5605357) series consists of information released by the DOJ for public knowledge.  These records concerns the activities and accomplishments of the DOJ, as well as information on cases relating to organized crime, kidnappings, prisons, antitrust litigation, voting rights, and civil rights.  Several of the press releases following the signing of the Civil Rights Act showed how the DOJ determined whether or not to pursue a discrimination complaint or how they resolved these types of violations.

The first case filed with the DOJ under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 concerned the discrimination of African Americans in various restaurants and motels in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  The complaint brought to the Northern District of Alabama Federal Court by Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy showed that there was “a pattern or practice of resistance to equal treatment in public accommodations.”  The public release for July 29, 1964 detailing the violations are displayed below:

The DOJ press releases were also used to disclose information of cases involving civil rights violations, including murder.  During the summer of 1964, students from all over the country traveled to the state of Mississippi in an attempt to register African Americans to vote.  Freedom Summer was a dangerous time for these activists who tried to uplift the southern black population, while facing intimidation from resistant white Mississippians.  As a result of this activity, three young men, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner paid the ultimate price when they disappeared on June 21, 1964.  Below is the press release from August 4, 1964 announcing the discovery of the bodies of the slain civil rights workers.

Much of the violence that occurred in the South was due to African Americans attempting to register and to vote.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had a provision for voting restrictions.  In the press release for July 24, 1964, DOJ filed suit in the Circuit Courts of two counties in Mississippi.  Holmes County and Marshall County subjected African Americans to “unreasonable questions, procedures, and treatment,” when trying to participate in state elections.

The Civil Rights Act also protected individuals whose violations did not necessarily make the national news.  The case of Lemuel A. Penn, an educator and Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army Reserve, who was killed by Klan members in Georgia, was announced on August 6, 1964.  The DOJ and FBI worked together to find justice on behalf of this American citizen with the immediate arrest of the four men who committed the murder.  This case was one of many that demonstrated that several white southerners were not willing to accept the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Today’s blog is written by Alan Walker, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland


Only a short time after President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the National Archives had it on exhibit. It made a big impression on visitors who came from across the country and around the world to view the document that would forever change the lives of Americans.

GSA News Release

GSA News Release





Visit of Mrs. Gladys Sheriff to National Archives, July 23, 1964. Viewing Civil Rights Act of 1964 exhibit, with a  visitor. Mrs. Sheriff is assistant librarian of Fourah Bay College, University College, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Visit of Mrs. Gladys Sheriff to National Archives, July 23, 1964. Viewing Civil Rights Act of 1964 exhibit, with a visitor. Mrs. Sheriff is assistant librarian of Fourah Bay College, University College, Freetown, Sierra Leone.



The Act was first displayed in the Pennsylvania Avenue lobby of the Archives Building, then was moved to the Exhibition Hall behind the Rotunda when space for it became available. Here it is, as displayed in the lobby:

Civil Rights Act of 1964 on display at the National Archives in Washington, D. C.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 on display at the National Archives in Washington, D. C.


In August 1964, tour guides from the New York World’s Fair arrived for a visit, and the Civil Rights Act was a focal point.

Deputy Archivist Robert H. Bahmer with Foreign Tour Guides from the World's Fair, August 21, 1964

Deputy Archivist Robert H. Bahmer with Foreign Tour Guides from the World’s Fair, August 21, 1964

Crafted in a time of unspeakable violence and danger in the South, this document, so hardly fought and dearly bought, served as a sign of hope that things would get better.


***Pages of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are currently on display through September 16, 2014 at the National Archives Museum, located on the National Mall at Constitution and 9th St., NW.*** Press Release

Today’s blog is written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist and Damon Turner, doctoral student at Morgan State University and summer intern at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.


At the conclusion of World War II, African Americans began an aggressive campaign to achieve equal rights in America.  Organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) organized sit-ins, boycotts, and led marches to end racial segregation in public places.  Protesters, both black and white participating in demonstrations were beaten, arrested, and verbally assaulted during the early 1960s.  Their fight for civil rights was documented on television news cast, in newspaper accounts, and through personal statements, and photographs.  Face with international criticism stemming from the Cold War and changing attitudes in America, the time had come for African Americans to demand civil rights.


Life-sized display of students sitting-in at a lunch counter in Memphis, Tennessee (NAID 7718945)

Life-sized display of students sitting-in at a lunch counter in Memphis, Tennessee (NAID 7718945)

During his televised speech on June 11, 1963, President John F. Kennedy asked for a Civil Rights Bill that would ban discrimination in public accommodations and to allow the US Justice Department to initiate lawsuits on the behalf of individuals.  After, Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, President Lyndon Baines Johnson continued this request by urging Congress to pass this Bill as soon as possible. [Several hours after Kennedy made this plead to America, Civil Rights Activist Medgar Evers was killed in his driveway in Mississippi].

JFK addresses the nation about Civil Rights on June 11, 1963 (NAID 194188)

JFK addresses the nation about Civil Rights on June 11, 1963 (NAID 194188)

On July 2, 1964, President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This Act outlawed discrimination based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  It also banned segregation in businesses such as theaters, restaurants, swimming pools, libraries, schools, and hotels.  This Act marked the beginning of the end of the Jim Crow South.  Most of the NARA holdings relating to this Act can be found at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.  Below are the first five pages of the Civil Rights Act of 1964  (NAID 299891).

During the Congressional debate over the Bill, Civil Rights leaders came to listen to the sessions.  Many black organizations and leaders backed the passage of this Bill and showed their support by attending conferences and making statements to the press.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X both came to Washington D. C. to monitor the progress of the Bill in March 1964.  This was the one and only time the men met in person.  Their encounter lasted less than a minute.


Once the Bill was introduced, it faced challenges in both houses.  Southern Congressmen wanted to maintain a segregated South.  In the House of Representatives, there were multiple attempts to keep the Bill out of the various judicial committees and prevent it from coming to a vote.  But, public opinion in the North forced representatives to bring the Bill to a vote.  It passed the House on February 10, 1964 by a vote of 290–130.  In the Senate, the Bill encountered the same type of opposition from those who were against integration in public spaces.  The southern bloc used the filibuster to prevent the Bill from coming to a vote.  Senator Hubert H. Humphrey (D-MN) managed to get enough votes to end the filibuster by introducing a weaker bill.  This was the only the second time in history, where the Senate was able to override a filibuster.  The cloture bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 73–27 on June 19, 1964.

Prior to signing the Bill at the White House, President Johnson made a public statement on why he signed it.  Click here to hear his comments

Today’s blog is written by Alan Walker, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland


Harold T. Pinkett, born on April 7, 1914 in Salisbury, Maryland was the first African-American Archivist at the National Archives.  He graduated summa cum laude from Morgan College (now Morgan State University) in 1935, and received his master’s degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 1938.  He was appointed to the position of Archivist at the National Archives in 1942, where he served as a specialist on records relating to agriculture.  Pinkett continued his education by earning his doctoral degree in history from American University in 1953.  His dissertation focused on the work of Gifford Pinchot, Chief of the Forest Service, in which Pinkett used records from RG 95 Records of the Forest Service, located at the National Archives.  Dr. Pinkett died on March 31, 2001.

 Dr. Harold T. Pinkett


Dr. Harold T. Pinkett forwarded this page from Ebony magazine to the Exhibits and Publications Branch and to the Archivist of the United States.


No, the photography isn’t bad; neither is Dr. Pinkett’s career!

Dr. Pinkett published many articles regarding the holdings of the National Archives and issues of archival interest. Some topics included records of the Forest Service, investigations of federal record keeping practices, and the selective preservation of general correspondence. These articles are listed below:

  • “Records of Research Units of the United States Forest Service in the National Archives,” Journal of Forestry (1947).
  • “Investigations of Federal Record-keeping, 1887-1906,” American Archivist (1958).
  • “Identification of Records of Continuing Value,” The Indian Archives (1965).
  • “Selective Preservation of General Correspondence,” American Archivist (1967).


Here is a listing of African-American employees of the National Archives as of November 23, 1942.  Pinkett tops the list:

African American employees

Here is an excellent account of Dr. Pinkett’s life and archival career.

His legacy of archival excellence endures in the Society of American Archivists’ Harold T. Pinkett Minority Student Award, awarded annually since 1994 to outstanding minority students determined to advance the archival profession and the work of the Society.

Records shown above were found in RG 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Press Clippings (NAID 7582964) and Subject Files (NAID 7563191) – file Committee on Fair Employment Practice.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Maya Angelou – born April 4, 1928. 

Maya Angelou was a revered American author, poet, activist, holder of many other occupations, and icon. The impact and power of her words were immediately felt with the publication of her first autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), and continued through five additional volumes, works of poetry, lectures, and recitations of works spanning almost half a century. Although never attending college, she was honored with so many degrees, the title of Doctor had become natural to bestow on Ms. Angelou.

Because Dr. Angelou’s work was so far reaching, she often found herself in front of a national audience or at an event of enough significance to be recorded by the federal government.

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope –
Good morning.

At the conclusion of the reading of her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” Maya Angelou entered rare company as the second poet to recite at a presidential inauguration – the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton.


Photo ID: P00162_24; William J. Clinton Presidential Library

Another moment in history was captured when Maya Angelou participated in the dedication of the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York City in 2007. This event was captured in the Photographs Relating to the Secretary of the Interior’s Trips, Speeches, and Other Functions from Record Group 48. In the file unit that relates to the dedication of the African Burial Ground, there are over 200 photographs recording the appearances of Dr. Angelou, Avery Brooks, Sidney Potier, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and others (NAID 7909528). In her remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Angelou said “Today, it’s African-Americans, because the playing field has not been evened. But it could have been Asian Americans. It could be a cemetery for Jewish Americans, or a Muslim, Islamic Americans. It could be a Native American cemetery. It is imperative that each of us knows that we own this country because we’ve already been paid for.”

Many recent obituaries have noted the many occupations Dr. Angelou had in her lifetime, among them calypso singer, dancer, newspaper editor, streetcar conductor, and madam. She also had a stint as part of the travelling troupe that brought Porgy and Bess to Europe, and eventually behind the Iron Curtain. Maya Angelou won the part of Ruby and toured with the company for one or two years in the early 1950s (this time period of her life is recounted in the autobiography Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976)). Although not completely sponsored by the Department of State, the United States Information Agency (RG 306) did report on the reception the African American opera received abroad.  File units in the series’ Program Subject Files, 1954-1957 (NAID 6117828) and Records Relating to Labor and Minorities (NAID 1254479) provide coverage of the troupe Maya Angelou toured with.

Dr. Maya Angelou passed away the morning of May 28th at the age of 86.



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