We are happy to announce today that 50 new video oral histories are now available on the Civil Rights History Project website. Here are a just a few highlights from this extraordinary group of interviewees:
Luis Zapata describes his childhood in Orange County, California, and how he came to join the labor movement as a college student at San Jose State University. He discusses the organizing work he did with the United Farm Workers and how he ended up moving to Cleveland, Mississippi, for four years where he organized for the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union and helped to register voters with the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Zapata also discusses his later involvement in the congressional campaign of Mike Espy as well as his participation in international movements for human rights.
Joan Trumpauer Mulholland shares how, as a white child in Arlington, Virginia, she became aware of racial inequality. Later as a student at Duke University she began participating in the sit-in movement, which led to her estrangement from her family. She soon moved to Washington, D.C., joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), and participated in the Freedom Rides of 1961. She describes in detail serving time at Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman Farm) with other Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists. Mulholland also discusses attending historically black Tougaloo College and her involvement in the Jackson sit-in movement.
Basketball player Bill Russell recounts his long career with the Boston Celtics and the discrimination he faced. After winning two Final Fours with the University of San Francisco, he won an Olympic gold medal and an NBA championship playing for the Celtics, one of thirteen Russell would win, including eight in a row. Russell had a difficult relationship with the sports media in Boston, but a better one with his Celtics teammates. He defends the organization as progressive on racial matters, contrasting it historically with the Red Sox. He also describes a post-retirement reconciliation with Boston, which resulted in considerable Red Sox support for his mentoring organization, as well as a statue of him, erected in 2013.
Jean and John Rosenberg are a husband and wife team with a long history of activism. Jean learned about social issues as she was raised by a Quaker family in Pennsylvania, and John’s Jewish family fled Germany under threat from the Nazis. Jean became a research analyst for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division. John grew up in Gastonia, North Carolina, where FBI agents kept tabs on his family, and became an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he met Jean. Much of this interview concerns Jean and John’s work with the Civil Rights Division, including investigations in Georgia and Alabama. John also addresses the effects of the Voting Rights Act in the South, the role of the lawyers in the Civil Rights Division in relation to the FBI and local law enforcement, and a variety of other cases and issues he dealt with. After retirement, the Rosenbergs founded the Appalachian Citizens Law Center in Kentucky.
Six Adkin High School alumni, John Dudley, Eleanor Stewart, Charles Jarmon, Frances Suggs, Harold Suggs, and Samuel Dove, remember the moment when they learned that their school in Kinston, North Carolina, received much less funding than the all-white school from which they were barred. They unsuccessfully petitioned the school board for equal funding. Without the knowledge or assistance of any adults, they planned and staged a school-wide walkout and march, which resulted in new facilities for the school. This protest occurred in 1951, three years before the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
We are deeply grateful to these interviewees for sharing their remarkable and moving stories with us. Within the next few days, all of these new interviews will also be available on the Library of Congress YouTube channel and iTunesU.