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Civil Rights Research Collections: Archives Unbound

Collections of primary sources of the abolitionist and civil rights movements, accessible at the FAMU College of Law.

Archives Unbound

Search the entire collection here. Access is limited to patrons on the FAMU campuses.

"We Were Prepared for the Possibility of Death": Freedom Riders in the South, 1961

Freedom Riders were civil rights activists that rode interstate buses into the segregated South to test the United States Supreme Court decision in Boynton v. Virginia. Boynton had outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to theBoynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel, but the ICC had failed to enforce its own ruling, and thus Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South. The Freedom Riders set out to challenge this status quo by riding various forms of public transportation in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the Civil Rights Movement and called national attention to the violent disregard for the law that was used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Riders were arrested for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses. This collection consists of reports and memoranda of the FBI on the Freedom Ride. Read the full description here.

Black Economic Empowerment: The National Negro Business League

Booker T. Washington, founder of the National Negro Business League, believed that solutions to the problem of racial discrimination were primarily economic, and that bringing African Americans into the middle class was the key. In 1900, he established the League "to promote the commercial and financial development of the Negro," and headed it until his death. This collection comprises the National Negro Business League files in Part III of the Booker T. Washington Papers in the possession of the Library of Congress. Read the full description here.

Black Nationalism and the Revolutionary Action Movement: The Papers of Muhammad Ahmad (Max Stanford)

This collection of RAM records reproduces the writings and statements of the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) and its leaders. It also covers organizations that evolved from or were influenced by RAM and persons that had close ties to RAM. The most prominent organization that evolved from RAM was the African People’s Party. Organizations influenced by RAM include the Black Panther Party, League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Youth Organization for Black Unity, African Liberation Support Committee, and the Republic of New Africa. Individuals associated with RAM and documented in this collection include Robert F. Williams, Malcolm X, Amiri Baraka, General Gordon Baker Jr., Yuri Kochiyama, Donald Freeman, James and Grace Lee Boggs, Herman Ferguson, Askia Muhammad Toure (Rolland Snellings), and Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael). Read the full description of the files here.

Federal Response to Radicalism in the 1960s

Organized alphabetically by organization, this collection covers a wide range of viewpoints on political, social, cultural, and economic issues. It sheds light on internal organization, personnel, and activities of some of the most prominent American radical groups and their movements to change American government and society. Read the full description of the files here.

  • COINTELPRO: The Counterintelligence Program of the FBI
  • FBI File on Abbie Hoffman
  • FBI File on the Black Panther Party, North Carolina
  • FBI File on Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers
  • FBI File on the Fire Bombing and Shooting at Kent State University
  • FBI Files on Malcolm X
  • FBI File: MIBURN (Mississippi Burning)
  • FBI File on Muslim Mosque, Inc.
  • FBI File on the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU)
  • FBI File on the Students for a Democratic Society and the Weatherman Underground Organization
  • FBI File on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
  • FBI Investigation File on Communist Infiltration of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Federal Surveillance of African Americans, 1920-1984

Between the early 1920s and early 1980s, the Justice Department and its Federal Bureau of Investigation engaged in widespread investigation of those deemed politically suspect. Prominent among the targets of this sometimes coordinated, sometimes independent surveillance were aliens, members of various protest groups, Socialists, Communists, pacifists, militant labor unionists, ethnic or racial nationalists, and outspoken opponents of the policies of the incumbent presidents. Read the full description of the files here.

  • COINTELPRO: Black Nationalist "Hate" Groups
  • FBI File on A. Philip Randolph
  • FBI File on Adam Clayton Powell
  • FBI File on the Atlanta Child Murders (ATKID)
  • FBI File on the Committee for Public Justice
  • FBI File on Elijah Muhammed
  • FBI File on the Highlander Folk School
  • FBI File on the Ku Klux Klan Murder of Viola Liuzzo
  • FBI File on the Moorish Science Temple of America
  • FBI File on the Murder of Lemuel Penn
  • FBI File on the NAACP
  • FBI File on the National Negro Congress
  • FBI File on Paul Robeson
  • FBI File on the Reverend Jesse Jackson
  • FBI File on Roy Wilkins
  • FBI File on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
  • FBI File on Thurgood Marshall
  • FBI File on W. E. B. Du Bois
  • FBI Surveillance File: Malcolm X
  • FBI Investigation File on Marcus Garvey

James Meredith, J. Edgar Hoover, and the Integration of the University of Mississippi

This collection contains extensive FBI documentation on Meredith’s battle to enroll at The University of Mississippi in 1962 and white political and social backlash, including his correspondence with the NAACP and positive and negative letters he received from around the world during his ordeal. Read the full description here.

Liberation Movement in Africa and African America

Composed of FBI surveillance files on the activities of the African Liberation Support Committee and All African People’s Revolutionary Party; this collection provides two unique views on African American support for liberation struggles in Africa, the issue of Pan-Africanism, and the role of African independence movements as political leverage for domestic Black struggles. Read the full description here.

The Black Liberation Army and the Program of Armed Struggle

The Black Liberation Army (BLA) was an underground, black nationalist-Marxist militant organization that operated from 1970 to 1981. Composed largely of former Black Panthers (BPP), the organization’s program was one of "armed struggle" and its stated goal was to "take up arms for the liberation and self-determination of black people in the United States." The BLA carried out a series of bombings, robberies (what participants termed "expropriations"), and prison breaks. The collection consists of FBI reports, memoranda, and related documents. Read the full description here.

The Southern Negro Youth Congress and the Communist Party: Papers of James and Esther Cooper Jackson

The papers contain clippings (articles by and about Jackson), correspondence of both Esther and James Jackson, including the Jacksons’ voluminous World War II correspondence with each other, James Jackson’s lectures (typescripts and audiocassettes), research notebooks, speeches, and writings (published and unpublished), subject files, correspondence, internal documents and printed ephemera pertaining to the Southern Negro Youth Congress, and to Freedomways, legal and other materials pertaining to the Smith Act indictments of Jackson and other communists, Communist Party internal documents, many of a programmatic nature, and memorabilia and other biographical materials. Individuals represented in the collection include: Carl Bloice, Lloyd Brown, Dorothy and Louis Burnham, Angela Davis, Benjamin Davis, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Eugene and Peggy Dennis, Shirley Graham Du Bois, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Duberman, Viriginia Durr, William Z. Foster, Simon Gerson, Gus Hall, Ollie Harrington, Hosea Hudson, Alphaeus Hunton, Pablo Neruda, John Pittman, Pete Seeger, Edward Strong, Alice Walker, Mary Helen Washington, Jim West, Robert Williams, Henry Winston, and Carl Winter. Read the full description here.