BY: Michael Kaiser, Graduate Student Processing Assistant, Auburn Avenue Research Library
“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.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is best known for using the courts to overturn Jim Crow statutes. However, the organization pursued a wide-range of goals reflected in the NAACP Atlanta Branch Records. Of its many standing committees, Political Action constitutes one of its most interesting. The goals of the Political Action Committee focused on voter registration, the enactment and repeal of pertinent legislation, and other major political issues affecting African Americans in Atlanta and across the world.
For many people the term “Jim Crow” evokes the iconic image of a water fountain labeled “white” and “colored.” While the segregation of public facilities was a constant reminder of racial inequality in the Jim Crow South, the disenfranchisement of large numbers of the African American community was, perhaps, even more insidious. Civil rights organizations like the NAACP Atlanta Branch recognized how important the vote was for African Americans on the local and national level. The Political Action material contains a wealth of information from the 1960s to the 1980s about the NAACP’s efforts to register voters as well as educate their constituents about candidates and issues.
Alongside their efforts to increase the number of black registered voters, the Political Action Committee also monitored pertinent legislation at the local, state, and national level. The Atlanta Branch’s lobbying network labored to get discriminatory laws removed from the books. They also pressed the various legislative bodies to enact legislation that would benefit the African American community, particularly in the areas of expanded social welfare services and education.
The Political Action Committee also involved itself with issues impacting black people across the world. In the 1980s, members worked with other organizations against South African apartheid. They participated in education forums regarding issues impacting black South Africans, lobbied international diplomats, and encouraged American divestment in South Africa.
The NAACP Atlanta Branch Records: Political Action Series contains information on a great deal of the organizations efforts to affect change in Atlanta, the United States, and the world. Scholars, students, and interested citizens will find legislation, newsletters, articles, fliers, voting records, correspondence, and other material documenting their efforts and events from the 1950s through the 1990s.