The Transcription Centre began its brief but significant life in February 1962 under the direction of Dennis Duerden (1927-2006), producing and distributing radio programs for and about Africa. The organization was created with funding provided initially by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) to foster non-totalitarian cultural values in sub-Saharan Africa in implicit opposition to Soviet-encouraged committed political attitudes among African writers and artists. The records of the Transcription Centre comprise scripts and manuscripts, correspondence, legal documents, business records, ephemera, photographs, and clippings. Particularly noteworthy is a large file of scripts and script fragments arranged topically as a broadcast and publishing resource, including material not represented elsewhere in the papers. Making up about a quarter of the papers, the correspondence series contains significant evidence of the Transcription Centre's efforts on behalf of African art, writing, and scholarship through broadcasting, conferences, and cultural festivals. The correspondence files include artists (Jimo Akolo, Julian Bienart) and writers (Chinua Achebe, Ezekiel Mphahlele, Rajat Neogy, David Rubadiri), as well as academics and other scholars (Ulli Beier, Sillaty K. Dabo, Gerhard Kubik, Margaret Laurence, Ivan van Sertima). The extensive body of correspondence with Wole Soyinka is especially noteworthy.
The papers of Maurice Cranston (1920-1993) span his professional career as an author, free-lance reviewer, and professor of political philosophy. In 1967 Cranston published the influential essay "Human Rights, Real and Supposed." His papers include the page proofs for What are Human Rights? (The Bodley Head Ltd., 1973), as well as subject files related to human rights.
Houston-based commercial litigation lawyer, Scott J. Atlas, collected the materials that comprise this collection through his pro bono work as a defense attorney for the capital murder trial of Ricardo Aldape Guerra. Guerra was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico wrongfully held on Texas Death Row for fifteen years before being exonerated in 1997. In 1982, twenty-year-old Guerra was arrested and indicted for the capital murder of Houston police officer J.D. Harris, despite all physical evidence pointing to Roberto Carrasco Flores as the one who shot and killed Officer Harris. Harris County prosecutors appealed to heightened anti-Mexican immigrant hostility in Houston by repeatedly emphasizing Guerra's undocumented immigration status to the jury in order to help secure his conviction and death sentence. After being released in 1997, Guerra returned to Mexico a national hero for overcoming what many Mexicans thought to be an unjust Texas legal system intent on punishing undocumented Mexican immigrants. The Scott J. Atlas Collection of Legal Materials on the Ricardo Aldape Guerra Case consists of digitized copies of all Atlas' related case files as well as audiovisual recordings of press coverage of the Aldape case. All the digitized case files are available for viewing online.