AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) today announced the official launch of www.VoicesofCivilRights.org, the online home to the most extensive archive of compelling firsthand accounts of America's struggle for civil rights.
"With the power and reach of the web, America's civil rights struggle can be shared with people around the globe," said Rick Bowers, director of digital media for AARP Publications and originator of the Voices of Civil Rights project. "We encourage anyone who has a personal recollection to submit his or her story through this user-friendly web site."
Bowers noted that the site features a searchable archive and easy-to-use electronic story submission form, as well as interactive and multimedia content, feature articles, essays, interviews with past and present civil rights leaders, and special reports on contemporary civil rights issues. Related materials are also available on LCCR's website at www.civilrights.org.
LCCR Executive Director Wade Henderson, whose organization represents more than 180 civil rights groups, called www.voicesofcivilrights.org a "tremendous tool for reaching out to the diverse group of Americans with civil rights stories to tell, including African Americans, whites, women, Hispanics, Asians, people with disabilities and others."
Henderson added, "It is the personal experiences that are at the heart of the Voices of Civil Rights project. On behalf of all who are deeply committed to this project, our gratitude goes out to those who have already shared their stories and to others who we hope will take a moment to do so when they learn about the website. What better way to engage the public and provide a better understanding of what the civil rights movement in America is all about than to witness history through the eyes of someone who has lived it."
The Voices project, a yearlong endeavor, is the inspiration for a forthcoming book entitled My Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Juan Williams (Sterling, May 2004), a special civil rights section in the May-June issue of AARP the Magazine, radio and television programs, traveling exhibits, educational programs, dramatic readings and grassroots events around the country.
Voices of Civil Rights will be part of a Library of Congress exhibit in Washington, DC this May commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that declared racial segregation in schools unconstitutional. In addition a "Freedom Writers" bus will be traveling the country this year collecting civil rights stories along some of the same routes as the 1964 Freedom Riders.
Personal experiences will be added to the online collection throughout 2004. The final archive, comprising thousands of stories, will be permanently housed at the Library of Congress.
"There is something profound in the simple act of taking the time to share a deeply personal experience or a private moment that occurred long ago," said Project Editor Leah Y. Latimer. "That's why these stories from ordinary citizens are truly a gift to the nation."
Previously unpublished personal stories and memories, of 500-words or less, can be submitted online at www.voicesofcivilrights.org or to AARP Voices of Civil Rights Project 601 E St. NW Washington, DC, 20049.