Amelia Boynton Robinson, Leader in the Voting Rights Movement

Today’s Tribute was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

“It’s important that young people know about the struggles we faced to get to the point we are today. Only then will they appreciate the hard-won freedom of blacks in this country.”

~ Amelia Boynton Robinson

On August 26, 2015, Amelia Boynton Robinson passed at 104 years young. She was a Civil Rights activist, educator, political leader, and catalyst for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Robinson received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal of Freedom and served as the Vice Chair for the Schiller Institute. In January 2015, Robinson attended the State of the Union Address as an invited guest of the President, and in March, she crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge along side President Barack Obama on the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

Photograph of John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young and Amelia Boynton Praying before Bloody Sunday (NAID 16898979)

Photograph of John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Andrew Young and Amelia Boynton Praying before Bloody Sunday (NAID 16898979)

Amelia (Platts) Boynton was born on August 18, 1911, in Savannah, Georgia. She earned a degree from Tuskegee Institute [University] in home economics and further pursed her education at Tennessee State University, Virginia State University, and Temple University. Boynton married in 1936, and along side her first husband, worked on black voter registration in Alabama. Boynton continued working for civil rights during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1964, she was the first African-American woman to run for Congress from the state of Alabama.

Photograph of Amelia Boyton, Beaten on Bloody Sunday (NAID 16899082)

Photograph of Amelia Boyton, Beaten on Bloody Sunday (NAID 16899082)

While living in Selma, Alabama, Boynton attempted to vote numerous times, and was rejected each time. She worked with the Dallas County Voters League, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to gain voter rights for southern African Americans. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, Boynton along with about 500 other people held a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama demanding voting rights. The marchers were met at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by the police and local southern whites. They were violently attacked and Boynton was beaten unconscious. The images of her lifeless body, forced many Americans to acknowledge the need for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

For additional information about Amelia Boynton Robinson at the National Archives, please check out the following:

  • FBI Case File #44-28492: Bloody Sunday,” blog posted on February 24, 2015
  • Testimony from Hosea Williams, John Lewis, and Amelia Boynton et al. v. Honorable George C. Wallace, Governor of Alabama et al. (NAID 279204) from the series Civil Cases, 9/1938-11/26/1968 (NAID 279193)
  • Amelia P. Boynton v. James Clark, Sheriff of Dallas County, et al. (NAID 2618721) from the series Criminal Case Files, 1887-1981 (NAID 656880)
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60th Anniversary of the Death of Emmett Louis Till

Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, archivist at the National Archives at College Park and Mary Kate Eckles, summer intern at NARA and senior at St. John’s College

Sixty years ago, Emmett Louis Till was kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi for violating southern customs. His death was one of the sparks that led to the modern civil rights movement in the South. The images of his mutilated body published in Jet magazine and the Chicago Defender newspaper, still remain in the memories of many in America and around the world.

Emmett Till was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 25, 1941. He was raised by his mother Mamie Till Bradley in the South Side neighborhood. As a child in the North, Till was exposed to other races and had limited knowledge about the taboos of the segregated South.

In August 1955, Till visited his great-uncle Moses Wright and his cousin Simeon Wright in LeFlore County, Mississippi. One afternoon while hanging out with teen-aged boys, Emmett Till was dared to speak to Carol Bryant, a white woman behind the counter at a local grocery store. Till might have whistled at the woman, said “bye baby,” or hugged her waist. There are various accounts of the incident, as seen in the several memorandums to and from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Later that night, Carol Bryant’s husband, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam dragged young Till from his uncle’s home. On August 28th, Emmett Till’s body was found in the Tallahatchie River. He was wrapped in barbed wire and tied to a cotton gin fan. Till’s body was unrecognizable. He was identified by his signet ring, which his mother had given to him the day before he left Chicago. Mamie Till Bradley had the body sent back to Chicago. She had an open casket funeral to “let the world see what has happened, because there is no way I could describe this.” Despite Moses Wright risking his life during the trial by testifying against Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, the two men were acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury.

RG 60 Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files, 1936-1997 (NAID 603432) contains documentation used to build cases in reference to civil rights violations. The file unit 144-40-116 consists of newspaper clippings, letters, reports, and memorandums related to the Emmett Till case. The letters and telegrams included are from private citizens, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), labor unions, and elected officials from all parts of the United States, demanding justice for Emmett Till.

The horror of Emmett Till’s murder and the outcome of the trial helped galvanize the Civil Rights movement. Just 100 days after the murder of Till, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. This action led to the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott. Parks later stated that “I thought about Emmett Till, and I couldn’t go back [to the back of the bus].”

Other file units and items from the National Archives, regional archives, and presidential libraries related to the Emmett Till case include:

  • Till, Emmett (NAID 12192565) from the series Alphabetical Files, 1953-1961 (NAID 593951)
  • Memorandum from National Administrative Committee of the American Communist Party Regarding the Emmett Till Lynching (NAID 12224523) from the series Federal Bureau of Investigation Files, 1953-1961 (NAID 12004580)
  • 44-9540, Section 1 Serials 1-11, Mississippi (1955) Emmett Till (NAID 7614683) from the series Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1924-1978 (NAID 2329984)
  • Till, Emmett, Mr. (NAID 2729250) from the series General Correspondence, 1946-1963 (595046)
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10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Today’s Record of the Week was contributed by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geostationary Satellite Server (GOES) Look at Hurricane Katrina (NAID 17394063)

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Geostationary Satellite Server (GOES) Look at Hurricane Katrina (NAID 17394063)

Hurricane Katrina formed on August 23, 2005, over the Bahamas in the Caribbean. It was the 11th tropical depression and the 5th named hurricane of the season. Within five days of formation, this tropical depression reached category five hurricane strength with wind speeds up to 175 mph and gusts near 190 mph. It made landfall in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and other areas along the Gulf  of Mexico Coast. Hurricane Katrina left $108 billion in property damage, an estimated 2,000 dead, and devastated a major US city and its surrounding communities.

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By mid-day on August 29, 2005, the center of Hurricane Katrina passed just southeast of New Orleans. The winds and the rains stranded hundreds of people on rooftops and inside the Superdome. The storm surge from the hurricane created breaches in the levees system around the city. These breaches caused massive flooding in the area, primarily in St. Bernard Parish and the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. The flooding displaced families, destroyed communities, and created havoc around New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest and costly storms in US history.

RG 48 Photographs Relating to the Secretary’s Trips, Speeches, and Other Functions, and Agency Officials, Events, and Managed Sites (NAID 7682706) contains photographs of Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior’s visit to the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. These images shows the massive flooding and damage in New Orleans and the neighboring areas.

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Julian Bond, A Soldier for Civil Rights

Today’s Tribute was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

“I do think that some of us began to realize that this was going to be a long struggle that was going to go on for decades, and you’d have to knuckle down. A lot of people in our generation did that. They didn’t drop out and run away.” ~ Julian Bond

 

Julian Bond, Civil Rights activist, politician, Chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a founder and president of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and one time host on “Saturday Night Live,” transitioned this past weekend. Bond was a champion for the rights of all people. He spent his life fighting for equality, education, and social justice.

 

Office of Civil Rights - Julian Bond (Diversity) (NAID 6906913)

Office of Civil Rights – Julian Bond (Diversity) (NAID 6906913)

 

Horace Julian Bond was born on January 14, 1940, in Nashville, Tennessee. His father, Horace Mann Bond was an educator and president of several historic black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and his mother, Julia Agnes Bond, was a librarian at Clark Atlanta University. Julian Bond enrolled at Morehouse College in 1957 to pursue a degree in English. But, in 1960, he decided to answer the call by organizer Ella Baker to create a student-led organization to fight against segregation and disenfranchisement. Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played an important role in its development and leadership.

By the mid-1960s, Bond became disillusioned with the radical direction of SNCC and left the organization. He went on to serve in the George House of Representatives and Senate. When Bond was first elected in 1966, the House refused to seat him due to his opposition to the Vietnam War. As a result, Bond’s case was heard in the US Supreme Court, where the Justices ruled in his favor. In RG 21, is the file unit Julian Bond, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., et al. v. James “Sloppy” Floyd, et al. (NAID 2618722), about the case and Bond’s defense, which argued that his First Amendment rights were violated.

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DOJ Litigation Case File on the Watts Riot (August 11-17, 1965)

Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

During the World War II years, thousands of southern African Americans relocated to the West Coast in search of employment in the defense industries and to escape the Jim Crow South. Many of the migrants made the Watts Neighborhood in Southern part of Los Angeles, California home. By the mid-1960s, this neighborhood had become all-black. But due to a weakening economy, the Vietnam War, disappearance of manufacturing jobs, and discrimination, this neighborhood started to diminish. As a result, residents of Watts suffered from overcrowding, unemployment, inaccessible health care, and a growing increase in crime and drug addiction. These impoverishing conditions caused a lot of frustration and anger among African Americans in the community.

Image of a woman during the Watts Riot in 1965. Case file 144-12-1102, Section 3 (NAID 7987738). Image may be subject to copyright restrictions.

Newspaper image of a woman during the Watts Riot in 1965. Case file 144-12-1102, Section 3 (NAID 7987738). Image may be subject to copyright restrictions.

On August 11, 1965, Marquette Frye, a 21 year-old black man was pulled over by Lee Minikus, a white California Highway Patrol officer on the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 116th Street in Watts for the suspicion of driving under the influence. During the arrest, a crowd gathered and police backup was called in. Frye’s mother and brother came to his assistance, but they were also arrested. The arrest of the Fryes, along with the declining conditions in Watts, caused the neighborhood to erupt. For six days, buildings were burnt, people were assaulted, and stores were looted. The unrest ended on August 17th, with thirty-four people dead, over a 1,000 people injured, 4,000 people arrested, and nearly $40 million in property damage.

RG 60 Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files, 1936-1997 (NAID 603432) consists of records used to establish cases and investigations that violated the Civil Rights Act. Case file 144-12-1102 contains letters, investigative reports, newspaper clippings, and other related documentation on the Watts Riot in 1965. In section 2, section 3, and section 4 are mostly letters and telegrams from citizens who expressed concern and anger towards the Watts Riots and made claim that the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were not capable of maintaining peace among the different races. Also in these sections, are suggestions from various organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on how to deal with the violence and socioeconomic conditions in Watts.

Other items and file units at the National Archives related to the Watts Riot:

  • CBS Special Report–Race Riot in Watts (NAID 116943) from the series Audio Recordings Forming the Milo Ryan Phonoarchive of Radio Newscasts Relating to World War II and Special Coverage of Other Historical Events, ca. 1931 – ca. 1977 (NAID 113397)
  • Conflict in America: Program #20: Robert M. Fogelson: The Watts Riots (Los Angeles) (NAID 108361) from the series Audio Recordings of the “Forum” Radio Program, 1940 – 1983 (NAID 106531)
  • 44-31653, California (1966) Watts Riots (NAID 7637954) from the series Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1924 – 1978 (NAID 2329984)
  • Los Angeles, [California] – 157-2712-v.1 [Classification – Civil Unrest] — Possible Riot in Watts Area LA, CA (NAID 5551483) from the series Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957 – 1978 (NAID 1513564)
  • Photographic Prints of Urban Destruction Caused by Riots and of Rehabilitation Projects, 1969 (NAID 535512)
  • Dateline: Labor Department Report on Negro Family Daniel Moynihan, Civil Rights, Race Relations, Poverty, Ghetto, Watts Riot, Illegitimacy, Jobs (NAID 125800)
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50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

This record of the week was contributed by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and Other Civil Rights Leaders Look on, President's Room, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC (NAID 2803443)

President Lyndon B. Johnson Signs the Voting Rights Act as Martin Luther King Jr. and Other Civil Rights Leaders Look on, President’s Room, U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC (NAID 2803443)

 

On August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act. This act helped disenfranchised African Americans to register to vote and gave the federal government power to oversee the registration and election processes in the South. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the percentage of African Americans registered to vote rose and the number of black politicians at the local, state, and national levels increased. The act also banned the discriminatory literacy tests and cut down on a lot of the racial violence in the South.

 

Act of August 6, 1965, Public Law 89-110, 79 STAT 437, Which Enforced the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (NAID 299909)

Act of August 6, 1965, Public Law 89-110, 79 STAT 437, Which Enforced the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States (NAID 299909)

 

There was a long journey to achieve the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Since the end of Reconstruction, southern African Americans were denied access to the ballot that was guaranteed under the Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments. They were harassed, lost their jobs, beaten, or even killed for attempting to register to vote. Organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) tried to register southern blacks to vote through teaching people how to pass the literacy tests, protest marches, and appealing to politicians.

 

Other series, file units and items at the National Archives and Presidential Libraries related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 include:

  • Congressional Record Showing Debate of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 6037291) from the series Bill Files, 1903-1968 (NAID 559823)
  • Letter from George Neu Opposed to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 2173238) from the series Bill Files, 1903-1968 (NAID 559823)
  • President’s Daily Diary Entry, August 6, 1965 (NAID 192457) from the series President’s Daily Diary, 11/22/1963-1/20/1969 (NAID 192429)
  • Engrossed Copy of H.R. 6400, Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 5637803) from the series General Records, 1791-2010 (595069)
  • Remarks of the President at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act [Ford Speech or Statement] (NAID 7340475) from the series Press Releases, 1974-1977 (NAID 653577)
  • Records Relating to Participation in the Voting Rights Program, 1965–1967  (NAID 12006979)

 

Check out related blogs from the National Archives related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965:

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Ambrose Caliver, A Leader in 20th Century Black Education

Today’s blog was written by Kate Palm, summer intern at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland and graduate student at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science

Dr. Ambrose Caliver (1894-1962) was a national leader in the twentieth-century field of black education who spent over thirty years in the U. S. Office of Education.

In contrast to the recently profiled civil and gay rights activist, Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), Caliver influenced American policy from the inside.  He was the first African American to receive a permanent appointment to the Federal service on a professional level. Caliver entered the U. S. Office of Education in 1930 as the first Senior Specialist in the Education of Negroes Division, thus becoming the Specialist for Higher Education of African Americans and the Adviser on Related Problems in 1946.  He continued to climb the ladder, as he was promoted to Assistant to the Commissioner (Program Development & Coordination Branch) in 1950 and later Chief of the Adult Education Section in 1955.

Born a southerner in Saltsville, Virginia, Caliver’s pursuit of education took him around the country.  After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Knoxville College in 1915, a diploma in industrial arts (cabinet making) from the Tuskegee Institute in 1916, and a degree in personnel management from Harvard University in 1918, he went on to earn a master’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin in 1920, and a Ph.D. in Education from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1930.  He began his career as an assistant principal in Rockwood, Tennessee and later taught at Fisk University, where he rose to become the university’s first African American dean in 1927.  Throughout his lengthy career in education, Caliver continued to teach and traveled widely for conferences and was also called upon frequently for advice and guidance from private organizations.

The RG 12 Office Files of Ambrose Caliver, ca. 1946 – 1962 series (NAID 731142) contains correspondence, memoranda, minutes of meetings, proceedings of conferences, speeches, articles, and reports related to his work on various literacy initiatives, adult education issues, and improving education for black Americans.

In the years following WWII, the U. S. government considered universal military training as one way to ensure that an adequately educated and prepared force could be mobilized in the event of a conflict.  As the Office of Education’s Specialist for Higher Education of Negroes and Adviser on Related Problems, Caliver advised on problems affecting minority groups.  One topic of interest was the effect that universal military training would have on black Americans, as can be seen in a memorandum to him dated March 21, 1947 in connection with a telephone conversation.

Memo to Caliver from T. E. Davis, dated March 21, 1947 relating to the

Memo to Caliver from T. E. Davis, dated March 21, 1947 relating to the “Committee on Universal Military Training, 1947-48” (NAID 731142)

This series also contains records touching upon a variety of other topics and themes, such as the wide-reaching effects of the world’s entry into the nuclear age following World War II.  Caliver was serving on the Interdivisional Committee on Adult Education in 1947, when it submitted a project statement proposing a project intended to “utilize the resources of public education to help people throughout the United States understand what the release of atomic energy may mean in their own lives, and what their individual responsibilities are with respect to the use of this tremendous new power.”

In the early 1950s, Caliver also served on committees concerning military-related issues, such as student deferment from service for educational reasons, as can be seen in a report dated October 31, 1950 titled “Postponement of Induction of Students.”

The series also contains correspondence, which in some cases show the wide variety of persons seeking the benefit of Caliver’s knowledge and expertise during his long tenure at the Office of Education.  One such item is an April 4, 1949 letter from Dean Erwin N. Griswold of Harvard Law School in which Griswold seeks Caliver’s views on how to make it possible for top black students to attend schools similar to Harvard Law School and to encourage such students to turn such training to the benefit of their communities.

Some of what could be considered Caliver’s most significant work occurred early in his career at the Office of Education.  Caliver’s efforts were instrumental in a number of projects that served to provide data that make plain some of the inequalities that existed in twentieth-century American education and opportunities for black Americans.

For additional records related to Caliver’s work, see the following series:

  • Survey Materials Relating to the National Survey of the Education of Teachers, 1930-1932 (NAID 731180)
  • Manuscripts of Survey Reports from the National Survey of the Education of Teachers, 1932-1933 (NAID 731185)
  • Records Relating to Personnel Matters for the National Survey of the Education of Teachers, 1930-1933 (NAID 731188)
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USS Mason, USS PC-1264, and the African-American Crews during World War II

This record of the week was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist and Kevin Bradley, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

In 1941, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanding that African Americans be used in roles other than messmen in the US military. The momentum of the NAACP and the black community forced President Roosevelt to deal with the issue of discrimination against African Americans in the Armed Services during World War II. Although, the US Navy was reluctant to admit African Americans, it decided under pressure, to allowed two of its vessels be manned by nearly all-black crews. RG 24 Logbooks of U. S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1978 (NAID 594258) consist of chronological entries documenting the daily activities of a commissioned Navy ship, including the daily occurrences on board the USS Mason and PC-1264, which had mostly all-black crews.

USS Mason at the Boston Naval Yard (NAID 6210481)

USS Mason at the Boston Naval Yard (NAID 6210481)

The USS Mason (DE-529) was commissioned on March 20, 1944, with a crew of 150 African-American enlisted men and six officers. The vessel was part of the Evarts-class destroyer escort, with the responsibility of providing protection for other naval vessels in the Atlantic Ocean.

The USS Mason was involved in several convoys across the Atlantic Ocean during the war. A few of the escorts included journeys to Belfast, Ireland and Plymouth, England. On one particular convoy in the Atlantic, the USS Mason was damaged during a severe storm in 1944. The African-American crew repaired the ship and was able to continue with their voyage. These men did not received any letters of commendation for this act until 1994. Beginning on December 17, 1944, the USS Mason joined with the USS TF-64 on a tour to Oran, Algeria. Below are the deck log pages showing the activities during this journey.

The USS Mason was decommissioned on October 12, 1945 and sold for scrap.

Crew of the PC-1264 salute the American Flag (NAID 535785)

Crew of the PC-1264 salutes the American Flag (NAID 535785)

The USS PC-1264 was commissioned on April 25, 1944, with 53 African-American crew members. It was a PC-461 class submarine chaser built for military engagement during World War II. The mission of this naval vessel was to destroy German U-boats off the East Coast of the U.S. Below of the deck log pages of the first day of the PC-1264.

With missions along the East Coast, the PC-1264 had to stop at various ports along the way. The vessel experienced some difficulty docking in southern ports due to racial discrimination and the Jim Crow culture. Despite these challenges, the mostly black crew of the PC-1264 completed many convoys from New York to Cuba or Key West. Below are the deck logs documenting one of the convoys.

During the course of the PC-1264, there were several white men in command of the submarine chaser. On May 2, 1945, Ensign Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. reported to duty on board the PC-1264. Although, the vessel was placed out of service, Gravely became the only African American to command the PC-1264. The PC-1264 was decommissioned on February 7, 1946 and is currently at the Whitte Brothers Marine Scrap Yard in New York. Below are the deck log pages signed by Gravely.

The performances of the USS Mason and PC-1264 forced the Navy to reevaluate its discriminatory policies towards African Americans. Both vessels received letters of commendations for their service during World War II.

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W. E. B. Du Bois, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Study of Black Life

Today’s blog was written by Mary Kate Eckles, summer intern at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland and a liberal arts student at St. John’s College

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was one of the leading academics on black life in the United States. He was a historian, sociologist, educator and the first African American to receive a Ph. D. from Harvard University. Du Bois was known for his progressive works on black life, which included The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899) and Souls of Black Folks (1903).

In 1884, Carroll D. Wright, a statistician, became the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He planned to perform a large scale study on the working conditions of African Americans and wanted the assistance of Du Bois, who was known for his work on black life and the struggles of African Americans. The RG 257 Copies of Letters Sent 1889-1906 (NAID 7216243) series contains correspondences between Commissioners Wright and Charles P. Neill with Du Bois concerning various possible studies on black life at the turn of the twentieth century.

Under Wright, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published nine researched studies on the work and life of African Americans. When Du Bois first started working with the Bureau, he proposed several studies to Wright. Only one was accepted and received funding upon completion. The first study was the “The Negroes of Farmville, Virginia: A Social Study” (1898), which became the model for many of the Bureau’s black studies to follow. By 1901, when the first correspondences in the series were written, the Bureau had published seven different studies on the working conditions and lives of African Americans. Du Bois also contributed two other studies to the Bureau. These were “The Negro in the Black Belt: Some Social Sketches” (1899) and “The Negro Landholder of Georgia” (1901).

In 1905, Commissioner Wright retired and was replaced by Charles P. Neill, who was less inclined to see the need for studies on the working conditions of African Americans. After some delay, Neill gave $1,250 to Du Bois for his final study, which included a complete canvass of the 6,000 families in Lowndes County. By 1906, Du Bois requested assistance for the extension of his study to include white laborers in Lowndes County. Neill sent him two agents from the Bureau to help with the research. By the end of the correspondences, the study on Lowndes County is incomplete. It is, however, finished in 1907, and sent to the Bureau where it was not published, but rather destroyed for being too controversial. Du Bois was disgusted by this move and discontinued his association with the Bureau. Under Commissioner Neill, the Bureau did not publish another study on the working conditions and lives of African Americans.

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Record of the Week: Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights and Gay Rights Activist

In Celebration of LGBT Pride Month

The post was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

Bayard Rustin was a believer in non-violence, a socialist, a civil rights organizer, and an openly gay black man. He was born on March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania and raised by his maternal grandparents, who exposed him to the Quaker Religion and civil rights activities and organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rustin attended Wilberforce University in Ohio and Cheyney State Teachers College in Pennsylvania. He was involved with several student organizations, including the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

This portrait of Bayard Rustin was taken on April 5, 1968 during a meeting between civil rights leaders and President Lyndon B. Johnson after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Serial #: A6015-23)

This portrait of Bayard Rustin was taken on April 5, 1968 during a meeting between civil rights leaders and President Lyndon B. Johnson after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Serial #: A6015-23)

Rustin played a major role in the civil rights and equality movements of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He was active in the Young Communist League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Rustin was instrumental in organizing, coordinating, and marketing the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.

In 1944, Rustin was sentenced to three years in federal prison for failing to report for the physical examination under the Selective Service Act during World War II. Rustin, who strongly believed in nonviolence, was a conscientious objector against the war. The Bureau of Federal Prisons, RG 129, Notorious Offenders Files, 1919-1975 (NAID 580698) contains records related to Rustin’s time in Ashland Federal Correctional Institute in Kentucky. The file unit Rustin, Bayard (NAID 18558235) relates to his various activities in federal prison. Included in the file unit are letters and telegrams sent by fellow activists and religious mentor A. J. Muste. The file unit also contains allegations of homosexual behavior, defiance, and attempts to organize other inmates around the issues of  racial discrimination and segregation, as seen in the many disciplinary reports filed by prison officials.

Bayard Rustin passed away on August 24, 1987. He received numerous awards and accolades for his work in the civil rights and gay communities. Some of these honors include several buildings and LGBT organizations named after him. Rustin was posthumously given honorary membership in Delta Phi Upsilon, a fraternity for gay and bisexual men of color and in 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Other file units and items at the National Archives and Presidential Libraries related to Bayard Rustin include:

  • Focus on Bayard Rustin (NAID 2812560) from the series Sound Recordings of Historical Radio Broadcasts, World War II Government Documentaries, and Popular Radio Shows, 1906-1993 (NAID 1487762)
  • Rustin, Bayard (NAID 6095297) from the series Janet McMahon’s Newspaper Columnist Files, 1977-1981 (NAID 6094325)
  • Black Photographs- Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King and Bayard Rustin (NAID 6119543) from the series Marc Henderson’s Subject Files, 1977-1981 (NAID 609638)
  • Chicago, [Illinois] – 157-717-Sub A-v.4 [Classification – Civil Unrest] — Bayard Rustin (NAID 5575056) from the series Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957-1978 (NAID 1487609)
  • Schoolhouse: Bayard Rustin (NAID 107741) from the series Audio Recordings of the “Forum” Radio Program, 1940-1982 (NAID 106531)

On Thursday, June 25, 2015, the Stonewall Employee Affinity Group and the Afro-American History Society at the National Archives will show the film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin at 11:30 am in Lecture Room D at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

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