Archives Week Commemorates Civil Rights

State Archives collection N-77-4-137

This is Archives Week, a time to raise awareness about the importance of preservation and public access for historical documents and imagery. By holding exhibit openings, workshops, lectures, open houses, and other related events during Archives Week, North Carolina’s archives community can make a concerted effort to bring the importance of our profession to our state’s citizenry and public leaders. The Society of North Carolina Archivists  (one of C2C’s project partners) invites any agency that deals with archives and historical records in North Carolina to participate in Archives Week.

Civil Rights in North Carolina is the theme for this year’s Archives Week events. The State Archives has several programs planned for the week, including a mini-exhibit on Civil Rights in the search room today. The 1964 photograph above, documenting a sit-in at Brady’s Restaurant in Chapel Hill, is part of the Archives’ display.

The theme is an apt reminder of our state’s nationally significant history during the mid-twentieth century. As many historical organizations across the state focus on the Civil War Sesquicentennial, let’s not forget about the events of 50 years ago that ended the Jim Crow era and forced the integration of schools and many other public settings. The Greensboro sit-in and the formation of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee at Shaw University had ripple effects across the nation and beyond. Photographer Elliott Erwitt’s scene of segregated facilities in North Carolina (shown above) became an iconic catalyst for change. (The image made #5 on this list of the world’s most influential photographs.) Opportunities to commemorate some of these events, which many current members of our communities lived through, can be tough but also engaging and worthwhile.

State Archives collection N-53-15-6711

This 1946 photograph is also a part of today’s exhibit in the State Archives. It shows the Ambassador Theater on Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh with a separate “Colored Entrance,” just to the left of Adler’s Slipper Shop. Earlier this year the News & Observer posted an article about the theater and Lauren Jones of Raleigh responded by sharing a vivid memory.

 I was born in August, 1958 at Raleigh’s Saint Agnes Hospital, so I am 53 years old now. When I was a child, the ravages of Jim Crow still haunted Raleigh, and the Ambassador was not immune to the stench of segregation. My first memory of that theatre was going with my mother to see The Sound of Music in 1965 when I was a first grader at Crosby-Garfield School. All of us who were then called colored or Negro had to sit in the balcony; only whites could sit in the main auditorium. I didn’t mind because I was six; I could see both the big screen and, if I leaned forward just right, I could also observe the people seated on the first few rows from my vantage point. But my mother was grimly resigned to the absurdity of it all. I remember she never cracked a smile the whole time we were in the theater.

Like Jones, members of your community may be willing to share their poignant stories of this time period.

Does your organization have activities planned for Archives Week? Do your collections contain Civil Rights-related materials? There is still time to plan 50-year commemorative activities for the Civil Rights Act (1964) and subsequent integration.


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This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on October 22, 2012, in collections access, Exhibitions, public programs and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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