Wednesday, February 15, 2012

UVA's Elwood Oral History Project on Civil Rights Lawyers

We note a recently posted press release from the University of Virginia on an important oral history project relating to civil rights lawyers.  It commences:
In March 1985, civil rights leader and former Howard University president James M. Nabrit did an extended interview for an oral history project led by then-University of Virginia English professor William Elwood.

Cigar in hand, Nabrit - a former NAACP lawyer who worked with Thurgood Marshall and others to fight segregation - recalled the series of legal challenges both before and after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

William Elwood
"We tried cases all over the country. Everywhere: north and south and east and west," he said. "And we won some and we lost some. But the people - our people - never deserted us."

That 114-minute discussion, originally shot on U-matic videotape, is one of 86 interviews with prominent civil rights lawyers and others that are now restored and streaming online, thanks to the recent completion of a nearly decade-long project by the U.Va. Library.

The William Elwood Civil Rights Lawyers Project tells the legal history of the civil rights struggle. The online interviews, which filled 273 tapes left to the library, are available through the library's Virgo service. "It's primary source material that students, scholars and even documentarians can use," said Leigh Rockey, a preservation reformatting specialist in the library. "These are firsthand accounts of this important history."