United States Commission on Civil Rights, North Carolina Advisory Committee papers, 1949-1962

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United States Commission on Civil Rights. North Carolina Advisory Committee
5.2 Linear Feet
approximately 3,900 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

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.

Biographical / historical:
Date Event
Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1957
1959, Jan.
First meeting
Conducted a series of studies in the areas of administration of justice, education, employment, housing, medical care, and voting
Results of Committee's work were published both by the North Carolina Committee and the federal commission

The Chairman of the committee was McNeill Smith. The other members were: Asa T. Spaulding, Paul R. Ervin, Hector McLean, Conrad O. Pearson, William Thorpe, Curtiss Todd, Marion A. Wright, Millard Barbee, R.A. Wilkins, and secretary Margaret R. Vogt.

Acquisition information:
The papers of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights (1949-1962), a fact-finding body, were donated to the Duke University Law School by Professor Francis Paschal in 1969. They were transferred to the University Archives in 1980, and then to the Rubenstein Library in 1983.
Processing information:

Processed by Denise Dolan

Completed October 1991

Encoded by Alvin Pollock, Electronic Text Unit, UC Berkeley Library

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
General note:



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Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

Terms of access:

The copyright interests in the papers of the North Carolina Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights have not been transferred to Duke University. For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Special Collections Department.

The collection includes signed affidavits collected during the course of the Advisory Committee's investigations. These forms, and some correspondence, contain the names of complainants in civil rights and discrimination matters in North Carolina. Researchers should not release name-identifiable information about living persons without their prior permission. For further information, consult Special Collections Public Services staff.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Papers of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, North Carolina Advisory Committee, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.