VCU Libraries offers The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century, a landmark digital collection for African-American studies. With this resource, researchers have access to historical analysis and context, original newspaper accounts and crucial first-person records of the experiences of those seeking greater political and cultural freedom in the turbulent 20th century.
Records reveal not only the efforts of those in power to oppose the civil rights movement, but the organizational efforts and everyday protests of individuals and groups united to end widespread restrictions to freedom for blacks in the United States.
The wealth of sources includes government records from the FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and H. W. Bush presidencies, as well as the activities of the FBI on civil rights leaders and participants. The records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) are available.
From the founding of the NACWC in the last decade of the 19th century to the riots that followed the verdict in the Rodney King trial in the 1990s, researchers will discover how these momentous events were experienced by those who lived them, and continue to influence American life, culture and politics today.
Of particular importance is the inclusion of vast records that describe events that may be less known now, but were crucial milestones in the struggles against oppression and toward equality. These include: the fight against forced labor in the first half of the 20th century (documented in the Peonage Files of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1901-1945); the migration of African-Americans to urban areas in search of work and equality; the East St. Louis Riot of 1917; the Scottsboro case and the passage of the anti-lynching laws; the heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II; the FBI actions against the Black Panther Party, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act. These detailed and multi-layered perspectives on history await discovery in The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century and will create innovative teaching and research for VCU.
Additional online scholarship available through VCU Libraries includes Black Historical Newspapers, Black Studies Center, Black Studies in Video, and Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive.
By Kevin Farley, humanities collections librarian
Image: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “William L. Patterson, executive director of the Civil Rights Congress, addressing the Bill of Rights Conference, circa 1940s.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1940 – 1949.