ProQuest, an information firm central to global research, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) are teaming to digitize the association's archives, bringing one of the most famous records of the civil rights movement to the online world. The collection — nearly 2 million pages of internal memos, legal briefings and direct action summaries from national, legal and branch offices throughout the country — charts NAACP's work and delivers a first-hand view into crucial issues: lynching, school desegregation, and discrimination in the military, the criminal justice system, employment, and housing, among others. Preserved on microfilm, it holds the distinction of being the most heavily used collection in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Now, it will be fully searchable and accessible electronically and available through academic, research and public library websites as part of ProQuest® History Vault, an initiative to digitize historically rich primary sources, opening their discovery to broader audiences.
"This is a watershed in the research of one of the most profound social movements in modern history," said Rod Gauvin, ProQuest Senior Vice-President, Publishing. "Digitization creates accessibility, but it's just one piece. We're surrounding that digital content with a research environment that will enable users to explore, work with and experience it fully."
"The individuals who represented the NAACP over the past 100 years—the national board members and branch presidents and secretaries, the men, women and young activists—have played an integral role in shaping our understanding of American democracy," stated NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock. "It is important that their stories are told and their names are remembered."
"This organization has changed the very fabric of American society since its inception in 1909, and it has served as a model for how advocacy should work," stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. "As we carry our message of equality and social justice deeper into the twenty-first century, we must look back and draw lessons from our rich history. This archive will provide a valuable service to historians and activists alike."
"As the nation's oldest civil rights organization, our legacy is the prologue to our future," stated NAACP General Counsel Kim Keenan. "This archive will serve as a crucial resource for future civil rights leaders and historians. It is a testament to the power of a widespread, organized group of Americans to make a lasting impact on our nation through peaceful collective action."
The documents span a remarkable range. National office records provide insight into NAACP's leaders and their relationships with the U.S. Congress, with presidents from Taft to Nixon, and with other civil rights organizations. They also include the full range of "direct action" tactics taken in the 1960s, revealing a first hand look at the important roles grassroots leaders and women played in the civil rights movement. Documents from local NAACP branches give additional depth and insight into personalities active at the neighborhood level and provide an intimate look at social conditions in communities from all regions of the U.S.
With a timeline that runs from 1909 to 1972, users can examine the realities of segregation in the early 20th century, chart victories such as the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, then explore the late 1960s and 1970s as the Black Power Movement, urban riots, and the Vietnam War provided challenges for the NAACP. Legal files in the collection chart the organization's spectacular legal successes from the 1910s through the 1954 landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision and into the early 1970s.
As part of the ProQuest® History Vault, the NAACP archives will be available for remote study and supported by rich, intuitive search technology. Their original archival arrangement schemes will be preserved and PDFs of the original documents will replicate the user experience of browsing through archive boxes. The ProQuest® History Vault also includes collections that chronicle The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century—which contain digitized documents from the founding of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs at the close of the 19th century to the riots that followed the verdict in the Rodney King police brutality case in the 1990s. ProQuest's rich research resources also include Historical Black Newspapers, an archive of digitized African-American newspapers, and Black Studies Center, a digital core collection of primary and secondary sources that record and illuminate the Black experience, from ancient Africa through modern times.
Digitization of the records is part of a larger partnership to preserve NAACP's historical archives. ProQuest will be working with individual NAACP offices throughout America to implement best practices for selecting cataloging, storing and handling of original documents.
To learn more visit www.proquest.com.
About the NAACP (www.naacp.org)
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
About ProQuest (www.proquest.com)
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