Carrie Young

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When a group of black college students refused to leave a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in 1960 after being denied service, they ignited a groundswell of sit-ins across the South. These collective sit-ins led to the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC ("snick"). Making its way to Arkansas in the 1960s, SNCC (snick) found a committed worker in teenaged Carrie Young. But even Young’s devotion had not prepared her for the illiteracy she would find among the residents as she worked to organize them to vote. Neither was Young expecting that SNCC would lead her to a forbidden love.

 

Alfred Moldovan

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With the physical safety of civil rights workers at stake, it was imperative that trained medical practitioners be on hand during protests. The Medical Committee for Human Rights served that purpose. Dr. Alfred Moldovan, a founding member of the group, was there to treat protesters at the scene of one of the most disturbing incidences of violence during the movement as SNCC workers crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge. Here, he describes the scene and how he tried to prepare workers to protect themselves during future protests.

 

Freeman Hrabowski on Birmingham Bombing

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The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. But for Freeman Hrabowski, now president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, it was personal. The Birmingham native was part of the movement as a child, and knew Cynthia Wesley, one of the four girls killed that morning. Here, he explains how the events of that day and the aftermath not only forever changed him, but Birmingham as well, and eventually, the country.

 

Freeman Hrabowski

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With so much on the line, one might think that everyone in the Black community would be on the same page when it came to fighting for civil rights. But Birmingham native Freeman Hrabowski explains that many middle-class African-Americans worried that there could be serious consequences for families of protesters. Now the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Hrabowski was one of the few middle-class children who not only joined the protests, but was trained to lead and protect the younger children who were often the catalyst for change in the movement.

 

Joseph Lowery

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Though we hear a lot about bombings and physical attacks, efforts to take down leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement came in many forms. Rev. Joseph E. Lowery knows that all too well. He, along with Fred Shuttlesworth, Ralph Abernathy, and Solomon Seay, was a defendant in New York Times v. Sullivan. Though known widely as a case that defended freedom of the press, L.B. Sullivan, the Montgomery police commissioner, also sued Lowery et al for defamation over the advertisement, “Heed Their Rising Voices.” The full-page ad detailed ways in which authorities in the south terrorized non-violent protesters. Here, Rev. Lowery talks about the case as it was argued before the Supreme Court, and the unexpected fallout as a result.

Cecil Williams

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The images of the Civil Rights Movement captured by its photographers remain some of its most important and lasting records, thanks to the work of the men and women on the front lines with the camera. Orangeburg, S.C., native Cecil J. Williams learned of his love of taking pictures as soon as he held that first hand-me-down Kodak Baby Brownie. He set out taking pictures of the nascent movement in Orangeburg, became a correspondent for Jet magazine at the young age of 15, and made national news after taking some key images after the 1968 Orangeburg Massacre.



Matthew Perry

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The courtroom was the ultimate battleground in the war for equal rights for all of America’s citizens, and among the names of African-American lawyers who fought on this stage is that of Matthew J. Perry Jr. Perry was the first African-American lawyer from South Carolina to ascend to the federal bench, and the federal courthouse in Columbia now bears his name. But before all that, Perry was a young lawyer attempting to try cases in the deep South, often before biased and racist judges. Perry explains how he got around the judge who routinely found his clients guilty—before he even heard the evidence.

Junius Williams

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Junius Williams is heralded today as noted attorney, musician, and educator who has advocated for poor and working class African Americans in Newark, N.J., for more than 40 years. Williams earned his reputation as a tireless organizer and activist after decades on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement. He worked with and raised money for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was jailed in Montgomery, Ala., after participating in the historic march from Selma, and helped publicize the incidents of police brutality that gripped Newark during the 1967 rebellion. But before all that, Williams was a young boy growing up in a middle-class family in Richmond, Va. And it was then—despite his parents’ fears—that he took his first steps toward becoming a full participant in the Freedom Movement. Here, Williams describes what happened when he and his brother sat in the front of the bus for the first time, and the pride that the community’s elders felt as the youth took steps that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, take.

Shirley Sherrod

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For former United States Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod, experiencing the death of her father at the hands of a white farmer while growing up in rural Georgia in the 1960s forced her to abandon some of her dreams and propelled her commitment to fight for civil rights. This commitment included fighting for the right to vote and working to create new communities in rural areas.

John Churchville

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Opinions about the best strategy for winning civil rights for African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s were almost as numerous as the many leaders in the struggle. Activist and black nationalist John Churchville knew that as well as anyone. Known best as the founder of the Freedom Library Day School in his native Philadelphia, Churchville found himself at the crossroads of many intra-racial struggles during the Freedom Movement. Though a student of Malcolm X and black nationalism, he joined the integrationist-minded Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register and work with voters in Georgia and Mississippi, often finding himself at odds with SNCC leadership. But differing philosophies weren’t only the bastion of high-minded civil rights leaders. As he explains in this story, sometimes the fight was taken to the streets.



Introducing: Moments of the Movement

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The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s (NMAAHC) Civil Rights History Project, created by an act of Congress in 2009, is a joint effort of the Library of Congress and NMAAHC to collect video and audio recordings of personal histories and testimonials of individuals—many who are unheralded—who participated in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s. NMAAHC, in partnership with the Southern Oral History Program in the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, began interviewing the foot soldiers, leaders and supporters of the Movement in October 2010. The Civil Rights History Moments feature three-to-five-minute first-person narratives culled from these hundreds of hours of never-before-broadcast video and audio footage to provide a rich, detailed history of the nation during an important and tumultuous period.

   

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