Within Howard University, the Project was situated in the then newly reorganized Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, formerly well known as the long established Moorland Collection, since 1914 a major scholarly resource of Howard University and now generally considered the world’s largest and most comprehensive repository documenting from antiquity to the present the historical experiences of people of African descent.

     The Project originally conceived by Ralph Bunche was designed to establish a center to bring together materials on the history of Black Americans. This center would have included a library for study, artifacts for exhibition, and an oral documentation component. However, the limited funding available at that time reduced the Project essentially to oral documentation of civil rights and related activities and initially focused on those whose efforts spanned many years and paved the way for the activism of the 1960s. The policy committee formed to oversee the activities of this Civil Rights Documentation Project included Bunche as chairman; Stephen Wright of the College Entrance Examination Board, successor as chairman following Bunche’s death in 1971; Frederick Bowles and G.H. Griffiths of the Fund for the Advancement of Education; editor C.A. McKnight of the Charlotte Observer; anthropologist Margaret Mead; historians John Hope Franklin and Benjamin Quarrels; and Columbia University librarian Sidney Forman. The Project was directed by Vincent J. Browne of Howard University and Associate Project Directors John Britton, until 1968, and Norma Leonard.

     The Project conducted more than 700 interviews with a wide range of individuals associated with the Civil Rights Movement: lawyers, judges, community leaders, student leaders, scholars studying the Movement, leaders of organizations and various rights activists. The interviewees included well-known figures, those not generally known outside their particular communities or the Movement, and even those opposed to the Black struggle.

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November 1999