Library of Civil Rights Interviews
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has received a $10,000 grant to make more than 100 transcripts of interviews about the civil rights movement in Greensboro and Guilford County available on the Internet.
The grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro will help citizens, students and scholars learn about the birth of the sit-in movement and other civil rights milestones that occurred in Guilford County between the early 1950s and the early 1980s.
The interviews were conducted by the Greensboro Public Library and the UNCG Department of History from the late 1970s through the early 1990s. Many deal with the four N.C. A&T students who on Feb. 1, 1960, sat down at the segregated Woolworth lunch counter on South Elm Street. The sit-in that began that day sparked a nationwide movement.
“Greensboro is a good example of very important trends in civil rights history, and students of the subject have always been interested in the city for that reason,” says Dr. Bill Link, a former faculty member in the Department of History who conducted many of the interviews.
“The Woolworth sit-in was only one example of a whole array of things that were happening — activism in the African-American community, the organization of a larger movement for change and the impact on white institutions.”
The collection — the Civil Rights Oral History Digital Library — also will include interviews about less well-known events. In the 1950s, Greensboro organizations such as the Greensboro Community Fellowship, the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, the American Friends Service Committee and the YWCA began trying to bring whites and African Americans together. One of the latest incidents covered by the interviews is the Klan-Nazi shooting on Nov. 3, 1979.
The interviews are held in University Archives, part of UNCG’s Jackson Library, and the Greensboro Public Library. About 25 percent of those interviewed have died. The importance of such interviews can’t be overestimated, says Dr. Loren Schweninger, a professor in the history department.
“Oral history creates a priceless heritage for scholars, historians and members of the general public,” he said. “It is especially important to understand the motives, attitudes and values of ordinary people who accomplished extraordinary things.”
The project is expected to take a year to complete.
For more information, contact UNCG’s Jackson Library at (336) 334-5880. University Archivist Betty Carter is the project director. Helen Snow, North Carolina librarian at the Greensboro Public Library, is the contact person there.