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The Duke University Oral History Program Collection contains 238 oral history interviews conducted by project participants in the years 1973-1978 and 1992. The majority of the oral history interviews deal with the civil rights movement in North Carolina, especially Durham, Chapel Hill, and Greensboro. Additionally, thirteen interviews deal with the Tulsa Race Riots, and fourteen interviews cover miscellaneous North Carolina topics. The collection also includes transcripts and research files related to the civil rights movement in North Carolina.

The collection is arranged in three series: Audiotapes, Transcripts, and Research Files. The Audiotapes Series consists of two identical sets of audiocassettes, one closed for preservation purposes and one open for researchers. The North Carolina Civil Rights Movement tapes, which make up the bulk of the series, include extensive interviews with Ella Baker, as well as hundreds of interviews with lesser-known but nonetheless important figures from the local movements in Greensboro, Durham, Chapel Hill, Weldon, and Monroe, N.C. The Tulsa Race Riots tapes include interviews conducted by Scott Ellsworth for his study Death in the Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. The North Carolina Miscellaneous tapes include an interview with Alex Haley about his critically-acclaimed book, Roots, as well as conversations about such topics as the state's agricultural history and mountain culture in Western North Carolina. The Transcripts Series includes eighty transcripts, as well as some interview notes, corresponding to tapes dealing with the North Carolina civil rights movement. The Research Files Series contains six files of background material related to the civil rights movement in North Carolina, including articles and speeches by Governor Terry Sanford and a bibliography of material dealing with the Durham sit-ins, and one file listing tapes and transcripts in the collection.

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The United States Commission on Civil Rights North Carolina Advisory Committee Papers span the years 1949 to 1962, but fall chiefly in the period 1957 to 1962. They consist largely of correspondence, but also include reports, drafts of reports, minutes of meetings, and completed survey forms. Statistical charts and maps, transcripts of telephone interviews, signed affidavits, printed material which includes reports of other organizations, articles, brochures, and press releases, mailing lists, notes, and clippings are also included. The collection documents methods of data collection for social research that is directed to governmental policy change. The research particularly focuses on racial discrimination against and the civil rights of African Americans, and to a lesser extent Native Americans, in North Carolina. Most of the correspondence was generated from the office of Chairman McNeill Smith, and the collection therefore does not represent the work of other Committee members, except for their communications with Smith.

The Committee requested statistical information on African Americans and Native Americans from public libraries, high schools, lending agencies, health care facilities, employers and county boards of election. Completed questionnaire forms exist for the Public Libraries, Administration of Justice, Education, Employment, and Voting studies. Formal complaints in areas of potential study were heard and recorded at open hearings held throughout the state. More qualitative information was obtained through correspondence, meetings and telephone interviews. Transcripts of Smith's phone conversations can be found in the Education, Employment, Medical Care and Voting Series.

Correspondence in each series, including alphabetical files, pertains to the studies, background information, survey forms, data, and final reports. In many cases, completed survey forms, which exist for the Public Libraries, Administration of Justice, Education and Voting studies, are attached to correspondence. Form letters in the correspondence of the Housing and Voting Series request specific information from lending agencies and county boards of election. There are responses to questions in letter form which, in the case of the Housing Series, comprise a large portion of the correspondence. Scattered letters from North Carolinians express segregationist views and hostility to research efforts.

In every series, the major correspondence is that of McNeill Smith with researchers and Commission and Committee members. Occasionally, communications from federal commission officers appear, most notably Cornelius Cotter (Assistant Staff Director), Henry Shine, Gordon Tiffany (Staff Director), and Peter Sussman (Deputy Assistant Staff Director). These usually pertain to the development and approval of questionnaire forms and the editing and publication of reports, or provide supplementary data.

The General Series documents committee work on both national and state levels. Correspondence files contain information on the creation and organization of the committee and its work, as well as information on every study. There are letters from the federal commission concerning new projects, surveys, data, reports, and national and regional conferences. Other files contain information on the proceedings of open meetings held by the committee between 1959 and 1961.

The voting study was mandated by the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The Voting Series contains correspondence pertaining to the collection of registration statistics with regard to race in North Carolina, as well as completed survey forms from almost all of the 100 counties in North Carolina. Repeated communications from McNeill Smith to registration officials and lawyers in every county are included. The series also contains seventeen signed affidavit forms attesting to discriminatory voting practices.

Discriminatory practices in the following areas were investigated: employment of blacks in law enforcement agencies (Administration of Justice Series); employment and facilities in public libraries (General Series); enrollment in accredited high schools, illiteracy, and admission to industrial education centers (Education Series); and employment of blacks in state organizations and companies with government contracts (Employment Series). The ability of blacks to obtain federally- sponsored loans for housing and their role in urban-renewal (Housing Series); admission of blacks to health care facilities (Medical Care Series); and voter registration procedures and participation of blacks in political elections (Voting Series) were other areas of investigation.

Local experts in the fields of medicine, political science and law researched and wrote reports, and compiled statistical charts. General legal research was carried out by Dan Pollitt of the Universitiy of North Carolina Law School, some of whose work is found in the General Series. Others included: Donald Matthews of the UNC Political Science Department (Voting), John Hope II of Fisk University in Tennessee (Education), Dickson Phillips of the UNC Law School (Administration of Justice), Howard Miller of Raleigh (Industrial Education), and Dr. M. B. Bethel of Chapel Hill (Medical Care). Correspondence between committee members, primarily McNeill Smith, and these individuals is found in the General, Administration of Justice, Education, Medical Care and Voting series. Organizations involved in the committee's research included: The American Friends Service Committee, the Southern Regional Council, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute of Government, the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, the North Carolina AFL-CIO, and the North Carolina State Board of Health.

Published reports of the committee's work are in the Public Documents and Maps Department, in the Pamphlet Collection and in the stacks of Perkins Library. Related collections in the Special Collections Department include the Asa T. Spaulding Papers and the Robert S. Rankin Papers.

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The William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection spans the years 1933 through 1988, with most of the materials dated between 1972 and 1978. The collection consists mainly of oral history interview tapes and transcripts, but also includes interview notes and research files related to Chafe's book Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom.

The William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection spans the years 1933 through 1988, with most of the materials dated between 1972 and 1978. The collection consists mainly of oral history interview tapes and transcripts, but also includes interview notes and research files related to Chafe's book Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom.

The interview tapes and transcripts (1972-1978, undated), which comprise the bulk of the collection, include interviews with government officials, participants in the North Carolina civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and opponents of the movement, including members of the Ku Klux Klan. The few research files in the collection include statistical data related to Greensboro elections (1930s-1950s), notes from the Joan Bluethenthal papers and a report by the North Carolina State Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights on civil disturbances at Dudley High School and North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1969.

The Audiotapes Series consists of two identical sets (one for preservation, one for use by researchers) of twenty-eight tapes containing oral history interviews. The Printed Material Series includes transcripts and/or notes on 67 oral history interviews, and three research files related to the civil rights movement and local politics in Greensboro.

Beyond the direct oral history materials, there is also a Writings and Research Series. It includes research notes for several chapters of Chafe's book in addition to newspaper clippings addressing topics such as Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and the return of black veterans from the Vietnam War; an assortment of documents regarding the Black Panther Party collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigations' Counter Intelligence Program, and a number of publications produced by other authors. While the materials predominately relate to Greensboro, this series also includes information on civil rights activity in Durham, Chapel Hill, and the Research Triangle at large. The Photographs Series includes fourteen undated photographs.

William H. Chafe's book, Civilities and Civil Rights: Greensboro, North Carolina, and the Black Struggle for Freedom, chronicles the continuing conflict over desegregation in Greensboro in the 1950s and 1960s. Chafe explores the "progressive mystique" that defined the terms of culturally-sanctioned behavior, looking at how civility served to preserve the South's racial order. Within this context, he discusses the city's reaction to the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, the Greensboro sit-in movement begun by four college students at North Carolina A&T College in 1960, and the emergence of the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s.