by Cheryl Oestreicher, Project Archivist, Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History
“Working for Freedom: Documenting Civil Rights Organizations” is a collaborative project between Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, and The Robert W. Woodruff Library of Atlanta University Center to uncover and make available previously hidden collections documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and New Orleans. The project is administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Each organization regularly contributes blog posts about their progress.
For more information about the collection described in this post, please contact the Archives at Auburn Avenue Research Library, aarl [dot] archives [at] fultoncountyga [dot] gov
Though in existence from 1979-2008, the CDR collected a few items from the 1960s. One notable discovery is the first six issues of the Vicksburg Citizens’ Appeal, started in 1964 by Vicksburg African-Americans and white civil rights workers. As stated in the first issue, “The paper will print full news of events in the Vicksburg area Negro community – social and club activities, sporting events, and political and civic news. The Citizens’ Appeal will also keep its readers informed of important events in the struggle for Negro rights, here in Vicksburg and elsewhere in Mississippi.”
Mrs. Aaron (Ollye) Shirley and Dilla Irwin served as editors, with Eddie Thomas as President. In a September 15, 1964 Baltimore Afro-American article, Shirley said she hoped to have “not only colored readers who want to read about themselves, but also white readers who want to read about their neighbors.” The article also noted that one reason for starting the newspaper was the main local paper, The Vicksburg Post, refused to use courtesy titles before the names of “colored citizens.” Contributors included Dr. Aaron Shirley, Ralph McGill, Jackie Robinson, Connie Larkins, James Rice, and Mississippi summer project workers. Bill Mauldin contributed political cartoons.
The first six issues covered topics such as the Freedom Democratic Party, the play “In White America” by Martin Duberman, overcrowding at negro schools, segregation, the Council of Federated Organizations, elections, rallies, employment. Local events included wedding announcements, progression of college students, sports accomplishments, obituaries, and church news.