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The John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History & Culture in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University seeks funding to formally establish the Movement History Initiative as a central program to expand our collective understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and contemporary activism, telling that story from the bottom up and inside out.

The Movement History Initiative (MHI) is a unique collaboration among veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC Legacy Project), present day activists and grassroots organizations (e.g., New Georgia Project and BYP100), Duke University Libraries, Franklin Humanities Institute, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and noted scholars at other institutions built upon the following core principles:

  • Activist-Centered Scholarship
  • Equitable and Non-Exploitative Practice
  • Building the Archive of Movement Materials
  • Use of Digital Tools to Broaden Public Knowledge

Through volunteer contributions from our partners, we have successfully built bridges between the academic and activist communities. This partnership has led to the development of innovative websites that serve as archives and educational tools of movement history freely accessible to anyone in the world. These include the SNCC Digital Gateway and Civil Rights Movement Archive, whose respective content serve as encyclopedic resources on SNCC history and the broader Civil Rights Movement; both sites are visited by nearly 250,000 visitors per year. There is also the redesigned organizational site of the SNCC Legacy Project which serves as a repository of recordings of panels, conversations, and events hosted by SNCC veterans including the SNCC 40th, 50th, and 60th conferences, Freedom Summer 50th conference, and critical oral history sessions that provide context to the lessons learned from the 1960s and the continuation of activism after the 1970s.

Dynamic public programs including a national voting rights conference, the Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future symposium, summer teacher institutes with K-12 instructors , and public conversations featuring with inter- and intragenerational activist voices have amplified the MHI’s engagement with a wider audience. Finally, the MHI is actively building and preserving the archive of the movement through video/oral interviews, critical oral history sessions, and curated original works by movement veterans.

We have identified students, educators, activist/organizers and researchers of the movement as our core audiences and strategic outreach to these groups of users is key to sharing this history. Taken together, the MHI firmly believes the output of our collaboration is invaluable to understanding the struggle for civil and human rights and the impact that struggle has had on shaping the future of democracy.

During these efforts, the MHI has established the Franklin Research Center as the institutional home and archive for the preservation and perpetual care of the MHI.  Sustaining this work will require full time paid staffing support and robust technological infrastructure. Funding would ensure our commitment to give dominant voice to those who made the history themselves; unpacking the why and how behind key movement activities. The Franklin Research Center is also deeply interested in assisting modern activist organizations in implementing their own archiving practices to ensure that their stories are accessible to generations yet to come. Your contribution would allow us to continue preserving the history and legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and modern social justice movements within the Black Freedom Struggle.

There are many ways to help support the Movement History Initiative. A $4.5 million endowment will fund all activities described below, while a $300,000 gift would support the initiative for three years.

Support the MHI Coordinator - $70,000 annually, $2.5M to endow

The MHI Coordinator is an administrative position serving as the designated lead to implement projects, maintain communication among MHI members, lead the Activist-Archive Collective, and manage outreach and public programming. Coordinator would also manage and update the SNCC Digital Gateway and Civil Rights Movement Archive. 

Support the Activist-Archive Collective - $10,000-$15,000 annually

  • Under the guidance of the MHI Coordinator, this program pairs early career archivists with activist organizations to assist with the development and implementation of methodology for archiving the organization’s records
  • Training would be provided to orient the archivist collective in working with activist communities
  • Funding would provide honorarium for the archivists, training sessions, and archival supplies for participating organizations

Support one or several of these Signature Programs

  • Named Annual Book Prize for the best new work on movement scholarship - $25,000 annually ($10,000 award, $15,000 program and advertising)
  • Annual lecture on the history and legacy of social justice and the Black Freedom Struggle - $5,000 honorarium

Support Digital Archival Storage and Maintenance - $10,000 annually

  • Funding for development and maintenance of web-based projects including
  • Digitization of archival materials related to the movement with recognition of the donor who “adopted” the digital collection or project.
  • Ongoing support for digital platforms, including editing, storage, and updates
  • Sustained archival storage for born digital materials

To find out how you can support the Movement History Initiative, contact Kurt Cumiskey, Associate Director of Development, Duke University Libraries.