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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.

Today’s blog is written by Alexis Hill, Assistant Registrar in the Exhibits Division at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

When Marian Anderson, the renowned African-American contralto singer, performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 75 years ago, she had no idea that her performance would become a pivotal moment in civil rights history.

Marian Anderson, photographed by Carl Van Vechten

Marian Anderson, photographed by Carl Van Vechten

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1897, Anderson had established her career as a contralto singer, performing throughout the United States and Europe.  By 1939, she was well-known by American and European music lovers for her performances and style of singing.  Her journey to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial began in January of 1939 when Howard University petitioned the Daughters of the American Revolution to use their musical hall for a concert performed by Anderson on Easter Sunday.  DAR had denied their request because of their all-white performer policy.  This sent outrage throughout the African-American community and as this refusal gained national attention, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt decided to step in.  In February, the First Lady sent a letter to DAR’s president declaring her resignation from the organization.

Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to Mrs. Henry Roberts (1)

The Easter Concert at the Lincoln Memorial was initiated by Mrs. Roosevelt and others.  Secretary of the Department of Interior, Harold Ickes got the approval from President Franklin D. Roosevelt and on March 30, 1939, he announced the event.  On April 9, 1939, 75,000 people of all races gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to attend the concert and hundreds more listened on the radio.


Photograph of 75000 people gathered to hear Marian Anderson's recital

Marian Anderson was introduced by Secretary Ickes; her opening song was America.  She also sang Ave Maria, and other spiritual songs.  She closed the concert with Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen. (NAID 1729137)




After the concert, letters from the public were sent to Secretary Ickes expressing their gratitude and amazement of the concert.  These letters can be found in the Central Classified Files, 1907–1953 (NAID 593948), under the subject heading “Racial Discrimination – Marian Anderson, 1939–1943” (NAID 594881).


In the end, Marian Anderson became an important figure in the fight for equality among African-American artists, and her concert brought the nation’s attention to its segregation barriers.  At the time of her concert on Easter Sunday 75 years ago, the Federal Government was still segregated and this concert proved that all races can come together as one nation.  A mural of the concert was dedicated at the Department of Interior in 1943.

The Marian Anderson Mural by Mitchell Jamieson (NAID 195952)


Here is a link to a short clip of the concert from the National Film Preservation Foundation, which was acquired from the UCLA Film and Archives. Marian Anderson: The Lincoln Memorial Concert (1939).



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