Joseph A. Sinsheimer graduated from Duke University in 1987 with an A.B. in History. He recorded oral histories of the Mississippi civil rights movement between 1983 and 1987, with grant support from the Lyndhurst Foundation. Collection includes audio recordings and transcripts of oral history interviews and speeches regarding the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Mississippi in the 1960s, with brief summaries. Focus is on the "Freedom Summer" of 1964. Notable interviews include Robert Parris Moses, Sam Block, Hazel Palmer, Jesse Jackson, Gray Evans, Frank Smith, and many more. Collection also contains a small amount of manuscript materials from the civil rights era, including clippings, reports, scrapbooks, and correspondence.
The collection chronicles the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and its involvement with resident civil rights activists in Mississippi. Materials consist primarily of recorded oral histories and their transcriptions, but also extend to speeches and unpublished papers. The records date from 1962 to 1987, and were compiled and collected by Duke University alumnus Joseph A. Sinsheimer with the support of a fellowship from the Lyndhurst Foundation.
Local activists represent their experiences in a series of twenty-five interviews that were conducted at movement centers throughout Mississippi, including McComb, Jackson, Greenwood, and Clarksdale. Leading SNCC activists Samuel Block, David Dennis, and Silas McGhee are also represented in interviews conducted between 1983 and 1987. There are also four extensive interviews and transcribed speeches of noted SNCC activist and leader of the Mississippi civil rights movement Robert Moses, as well as interviews of community leaders C.C. Bryant and Hazel Palmer, conducted by Moses himself. The collection also features unpublished speeches and papers given in the 1960s; additionally, transcripts of exchanges at academic conferences extend the scope of the collection to reconstructions of events by historians in the 1970s and 1980s. The collection also contains court records and correspondence to national leaders like Hubert Humphrey and Robert Kennedy, which report on the use of organized violence in the counter-efforts of segregationists.
Sinsheimer's records have already been cited by historians Taylor Branch and William Chafe, and played a significant role in the 1994 documentary "Freedom on my Mind." Although Sinsheimer's published articles on the Mississippi Movement have focused on the resistance of SNCC to segregationists policies and organized violence, the documentation of this collection sheds light on a wider range of concerns. The interviews detail the role of the black church in organizational activities; sexism within the movement; the establishment of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964; black nationalism and the role of white student workers in the civil rights movement after the "Freedom Summer;" as well as the significance of national media in the struggle.