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February2009
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The Quest for Black Citizenship

The Library houses the most comprehensive civil-rights collection the country: the original papers of the organizations that led the fight for civil liberties, such as the NAACP; the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; the National Urban League; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; the microfilmed records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); and the personal papers of Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Arthur Spingarn, Moorfield Storey, Patricia Roberts Harris, Edward W. Brooke, Thurgood Marshall, Robert L. Carter and Joseph Rauh.

The NAACP is people, join. Between 1965 and 1980 Civil rights march on Washington, D.C. Aug. 28, 1963

Since 1964, the Library has served as the official repository for the NAACP Records. The collection consists of approximately 3 million items spanning the years 1842-1999, with the bulk of material dating from 1919 to 1991. Included are manuscripts, prints, photographs, pamphlets, broadsides, audiotapes, phonograph records, films and video recordings. The NAACP Records are the largest single collection ever acquired by the Library and the most heavily used. The NAACP Records are the cornerstone of the Library’s unparalleled resources for the study of the Civil Rights Movement.

The pictorial portion of the collection includes 4,500 photos, prints, drawings and posters on microfilm. The pictures depict victims of police and mob violence, segregation in schools, and civil-rights marches. Others document African American men and women in the armed services during World War II, reflecting the NAACP's campaign to integrate the military.

Of particular note are photographs of Marian Anderson and Martin Luther King Jr. receiving the association's Spingarn Medals for distinguished achievement in 1939 and 1957; the 1957 Prayer Pilgrimage march and rally in Washington, D.C.; portraits of the U.S. Air Force's all-black 99th Fighter Squadron; Juanita Jackson, youth coordinator for the NAACP, visiting the Scottsboro defendants; NAACP Arkansas President Daisy Bates with the "Little Rock Nine"; and the "zoot suit riot" of 1943 in Los Angeles. Cartoons in the collection provide commentary on subjects of concern to the association, such as lynching and Jim Crow laws. Illustrations and posters advertise NAACP membership drives and social events.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP celebrates its centennial in 2009. In honor of the occasion, this year’s theme for African American History Month, which is celebrated in February, is “The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas.” The Library joins in the celebration with a special Web site topic page featuring its black history resources, along with information from its partners, including the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Park Service, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The NAACP waged a long struggle to eliminate racial discrimination and segregation from American life. By the middle of the 20th century, its focus was on legal challenges to public-school segregation. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, declaring "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." This decision was pivotal to the struggle for racial desegregation in the United States. The Library’s exhibition, With an Even Hand, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the landmark judicial case.

The exhibition Voices of Civil Rights documents events during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. This exhibition draws from the thousands of personal stories, oral histories and photographs collected by the "Voices of Civil Rights" project, a collaborative effort of AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) and the Library of Congress, and marks the arrival of these materials in the Library's collection.

The Library is acknowledged as a leading resource for the study of the African American experience from the colonial period to the present. The Library's collections include the plays of Zora Neale Hurston, pamphlets from such notables as Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington and the audio recordings of former slaves.


A. The NAACP is people, join. Between 1965 and 1980. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZ62-100309 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: POS 6 - U.S., no. 862 (C size) <P&P>[P&P]

B. Civil rights march on Washington, D.C. Aug. 28, 1963. Prints and Photographs Division. SUMMARY: Photograph shows a procession of African Americans carrying signs for equal rights, integrated schools, decent housing, and an end to bias. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-03128 (digital file from original); Call No.: LC-U9- 10364-37 [P&P]