The Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century consists of 73 collections of primary source documents from the records of federal government agencies, the personal papers of African Americans and the records of civil rights organizations.
This online collection includes:
- Peonage Files of the U.S. Department of Justice, 1901-1945, on forced-labor-for-debt peonage cases including the landmark Alonzo Bailey case in Alabama and correspondence from Booker T. Washington.
- Department of Justice Classified Subject Files on Civil Rights, 1914-1949, with letters to Presidents Wilson, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, and Roosevelt, demanding presidential action to stop lynching and to demand federal antilynching legislation, highlighted by letters concerning the case of the Scottsboro Boys.
- New Deal Agencies and Black America, documenting the network of African Americans, known as the Black Cabinet, who worked in various New Deal agencies and the experiences of African Americans as they battled the devastation of the Great Depression and racism in the 1930s.
- Records of the Tuskegee Airmen, revealing the heroic combat record of the Tuskegee Airmen as well as the discrimination and segregation faced by soldiers in the United States.
- President Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights, which in its final report presented to President Truman in October 1947 called on the federal government to take the lead for civil rights reform, and provided 34 far-reaching recommendations for specific national, state, and local action.
- Records from the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations, detailing the interaction between civil rights leaders and organizations and the highest levels of the federal government.
- FBI Files on Martin Luther King Jr. revealing the civil rights leader’s thoughts, strategies, hopes, and fears during the 1960s.
- Centers of the Southern Struggle, an exceptional collection of FBI Files covering five of the most pivotal arenas of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s: Montgomery, Albany, St. Augustine, Selma, and Memphis.
- Records of the Interstate Commerce Commission on discrimination in transportation, including complaints to the ICC by civil rights activists like Bob Moses, Fred Shuttlesworth, John L. LeFlore, L. D. Reddick, and W. Lester Banks.
- FBI Files on organizations such as the Black Panther Party and the Nation of Islam that the FBI labelled as “Black Extremist Organizations.”
- Civil Rights during the Bush Administration, focusing on President Bush’s veto of the Civil Rights Act of 1990 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, as well as other important events of the Bush years like the racial tensions in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and the Los Angeles riot that followed after the verdict in the Rodney King case.
- Papers of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), allowing researchers an opportunity to study the organization’s philosophy of revolutionary black nationalism, as well as its relationship to other important black power philosophers and organizations like Malcolm X, Robert F. Williams, James and Grace Lee Boggs, the Black Panther Party, African People’s Congress, and Republic of New Africa.
- Mary McLeod Bethune Papers, documenting the life of one of the most influential African Americans in the quarter century from 1930-1955, founder of Bethune-Cookman College, president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, founder and president of the National Council of Negro Women, member of the National Youth Administration during the New Deal, and founder of the Federal Council on Negro Affairs (the so-called “Black Cabinent).
- Records of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC), the oldest African American women’s organization in the United States, featuring documents on the state and local affiliates of the NACWC, publications of the organization’s national office, minutes from the NACWC’s national convention from 1895-1992, and materials on important civic leaders like Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Mary Talbert, Mary Church Terrell, Margaret Murray (Mrs. Booker T. Washington), Mary McLeod Bethune, Jennie Moton (Mrs. Robert Moton), Hallie Quinn Brown, and Daisy Lampkin.
- Records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization led by Martin Luther King Jr. during the high point of the civil rights struggle. Reproduced from the holdings of The King Center in Atlanta, this collection includes field reports from civil rights activists at the front lines of the movement, correspondence with SNCC, NAACP, and other groups, fundraising and financial records, public relations materials, and background files on many of SCLC’s most important projects that contributed to the very definition of the modern civil rights movement.
- Bayard Rustin Papers, the man who spent almost fifty years fighting for civil rights and was an important behind the scenes adviser to A. Philip Randolph and Martin Luther King Jr. One of the most important series in this collection are the files detailing Rustin’s pivotal role in the preparations for the the 1963 March on Washington.
- Claude A. Barnett Papers, published from the holdings of the Chicago Historical Society, Barnett’s founding of the Associated Negro Press (ANP) in 1919, the ANP’s coverage of American life over the next half century, ANP organizational records offering a look at the functioning of a successful black-owned business from the 1920s to the 1960s, and subject files on agriculture, education, the economy, medicine, philanthropic organizations, religion, politics, and race relations.