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Posted 04/21/2009

“The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories,” which ran from April 2-4, 2009, marked an important moment in a three-year project entitled Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The grant to UNC-Chapel Hill is part of a Mellon Foundation program intended to advance humanistic scholarship by developing new ways of connecting the publishing activities of university presses with the academic priorities of their universities. Principal investigators are Kate Douglas Torrey, director of the UNC Press; Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, director of the Southern Oral History Program in the Center for the Study of the American South; Julius Chambers, director of the Center for Civil Rights  in the School of Law; and Richard Szary, associate university librarian for special collections.

Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement underscores one of Carolina’s longstanding academic priorities: interdisciplinary civil rights scholarship. The projects aims are:

  • to challenge the traditional narrative that confines the civil rights movement to the South, to a single tumultuous decade, and to limited, non-economic objectives by placing the black freedom struggle of the 1950s and 60s in a broader temporal, geographical, and thematic framework
  • to allow the press, the law school, the library, and the Southern Oral History Program to build models for working together in productive new ways
  • to explore innovative ways of producing and disseminating scholarship through print and digital media
  • to bring the insights of humanistic scholarship to bear on intractable contemporary problems

With these concerns in mind, the Southern Oral History Program is expanding its documentation of the long civil rights movement throughout the South, with a special focus on school desegregation and resegregation, economic justice, and the social
movements the 1970s and 1980s that grew out of the civil rights struggle.  Using web-based technologies, the Program is also experimenting with new ways of conducting fieldwork and making oral history materials useful and accessible to the broadest possible audience.

By bringing together a group of outstanding scholars for two days of presentations and discussions, we aimed to showcase exciting new currents of research and explore the issues and challenges that a long civil rights movement framework presents.