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ProQuest to Digitize NAACP Archives
ProQuest 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, which comprises 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 firsthand view into crucial issues: lynching, school desegregation, discrimination in the military, the criminal justice system, employment, and housing. 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.
“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,” says 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,” according to 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.”
The documents range from 1909 to 1972. 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 firsthand look at the important roles grass-roots 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.
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.
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