In addition, President Johnson's words in support of the passage of the Voting Rights Act and progressive efforts within Congress were further empowered by the fervor and determination of a southern-based grassroots Civil Rights Movement.

     Because the provisions of the Voting Rights Act instituted federal enforcement procedures that superceded the ability of states to interfere with voter registration, the immediate effect of the VRA was to dramatically increase African American voter registration and electoral participation. Black voter registration in eleven southern states shot up from 29 % in 1960 to 64% in 1972. Black suffrage and representation suddenly became prominent political forces in southern and national politics. Alongside voter participation, a growing number of African Americans already poised to take advantage of the opportunity to seek elected office did so. Significantly, the interviews in the Voting Rights Act Documentation Project (VRADP) confirm the fact that in many places Black American attorneys, along with ministers and civil rights activists were prepared to move into elective officeholding in the South. Consequently, five years after passage of the Voting Rights Act, African Americans elected to public officeholding in the South accounted for 39% of the 1,469 Black officeholders in the nation. And by the twenty-fifth anniversary of passage of the VRA there were 4,955 African American women and men elected to public officeholding in the South.

     Many have sought to document the Civil Rights Movement's stirring and far reaching effects on Black folks' lives in the South, and on southern institutions and political systems. Journalists, filmmakers, historians, archivists, librarians, and social scientists were among those most interested in documenting the Movement. Ever eager to engage issues central to African Americans, scholars, researchers, archivists, librarians and interviewers at Howard University sought ways to document the momentous changes wrought by the Civil Rights Movement. That research agenda produced the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center's Ralph Bunche Oral History Documentation Project, a collection of interviews with more than 700 people between 1967-1973.

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November 1999