AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) will donate more that 4,000 firsthand accounts of the struggle for civil rights to the Library of Congress during an official ceremony on February 24, 2005.
The collection of firsthand written accounts, audio and video interviews and photographs, form the world's largest archive of civil rights memories and marks a major milestone of the Voices of Civil Rights, a collaboration of AARP, LCCR and the Library.
The stories were contributed by people of all backgrounds and walks of life and paint a broad mosaic of the quest for freedom and equality in America. Many of the stories were gathered during the Voices of Civil Rights Bus Tour, a 70-day, 12,000 mile journey across America last summer. In addition, approximately 7,000 original photographs were shot during the tour, a selection of which will be exhibited at the Library from February 24 through March 26.
The Voices project was launched a year ago to create the world's largest permanent repository of firsthand civil rights memories–a deep and lasting resource to educate and inspire Americans of all ages.
The ceremony marks the transfer of the project to the Library of Congress, which will continue to gather personal accounts and expand the collection.
"This archive is a testament to many thousands of people who stood up for civil rights, often risking their own well-being to bring about social change," said AARP CEO Bill Novelli. "This effort served as a healing process for some, a remembrance for others, and a time to rejoice for many more. It created a ‘safe haven’ for the storytellers, while bringing history alive for current and future generations."
LCCR Executive Director Wade Henderson noted that the stories reflect both the price of progress and the need to continue the push for equality and justice.
"For LCCR, the Voices of Civil Rights project is more than just an archive," said Henderson. "As the 40th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education were commemorated last year, we were sadly aware that civil rights are still among the unfinished business of this country. These stories and personal accounts underscore the victories we have won, but also serve as an important reminder of the work that remains to be done."
"We are delighted to receive this contribution of firsthand accounts of the struggle for civil rights during the 20th century, not only because it will complement the Library's extensive collections of civil rights materials but also because it will add to our ever-growing collection of oral histories, which provide unique insights into different facets of American society," said Librarian of Congress Dr. James Billington.
A book, My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience (Sterling, 2004) which contains a compilation of civil rights experiences, was written by Juan Williams as part of the Voices project. It has already sold over 60,000 copies.
The History Channel sent a video crew on the entire 70-day bus tour to develop a powerful one-hour documentary entitled "Save Our History: Voices of Civil Rights." The History Channel also produced Voices of Civil Rights educational materials and made them available to more than 85,000 schools across the country.
"These firsthand accounts provide a highly personal and emotionally compelling perspective of the civil rights struggle," said Dr. Libby O'Connell, senior vice president and chief historian at The History Channel. "We are proud to bring such important voices to our viewers and to the nation's schools. These voices must never be forgotten."
An online archive of personal stories, essays, interviews, videos and photographs is accessible at www.voicesofcivilrights.org.
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