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Posts Tagged ‘Civil Rights’

One of the best parts about working in archives is getting to “discover” things – maybe a first edition in a box of uncataloged books, or fascinating images in a box only labeled “negatives” – things that weren’t lost, exactly, but whose awesomeness went previously unrecognized.

A few months ago, I was gathering together all of our material on the Amherst College student radio station, WAMH (previously WAMF). They had recently donated a couple boxes of records and I wanted to integrateWAMH audio reels and make a finding aid for all the material they have given us over the years (WAMH/WAMF Records). I found three boxes of reel to reel audio tapes of shows that had been broadcast in the 1950s-70s and given to us in 1989. The tapes included all kinds of intriguing topics from Neils Bohr lecturing on Atomic Theory in 1957 to students protesting the Vietnam War. Most interesting was one reel reading: Martin Luther King, Pres. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaking at the New School for Social Research on “The Summer of Our Discontent” from February 1964. An internet search quickly revealed that the New School Archives holds a recording of the question and answer session from this lecture, but not a recording of the lecture itself, and that this is most likely a unique recording of the speech. We had the tape digitized and got in touch with our colleagues at The New School Archives, who were pleased to learn that we had found this additional documentation from an important event in their history.

LISTEN TO THE SPEECH HERE

Dr. King speaking at The New School

Dr. King speaking at The New School

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1974 Black Studies brochure

We may not normally think of the establishment of an academic department as an event with political significance, but sometimes social change can lead directly to recognition of necessary parallel changes in scholarship and academic culture. The establishment of the Black Studies Department at Amherst College is one example of this. Amherst College Archives and Special Collections contains records, clippings and publications across several collections which together document the story of how the department came to be.

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Nearly every student who has attended Amherst College is represented in the Alumni Biographical Files collection, which documents the lives of alumni from 1821 to the present. Biographical files may contain as little as basic information about a student’s enrollment dates at the college, or may contain many folders of items related to alumni lives and careers, depending on how much material has been gathered or donated for each student. Calvin Coolidge’s “bio file” is equal in size to a small manuscript collection, while others contain just enough for one folder.

Questions and requests from researchers frequently send us to these biographical files, giving us the opportunity to learn about some fascinating Amherst alumni. Looking into these files allows us to rediscover their contributions and learn something about the social and cultural contexts for their work. One of the alumni who came to our attention this way was educator Charles Henry Moore.

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