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Civil Rights in the South Collection

Identifier: M406

Scope and Contents

This collection is a compilation of various materials relating to the Civil Rights Movement in the South.


  • Creation: circa 1956-2014

Conditions Governing Access

Noncirculating; available for research.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical / Historical

Even after Constitutional Amendments had granted African Americans citizenship and the right to vote, racial discrimination and racial segregation still predominated throughout the South. To rectify the situation, a massive grassroots movement was necessary. The Civil Rights Movement in the United States was a mass movement of non-violent protests in which whites and blacks joined forces to put an end to racial discrimination. Some of the most influential and important events in the Movement took place between the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Topeka, Kansas decision and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Civil Rights, however, has a long and continuing history in the United States.

After the Civil War, the thirteenth (1865), fourteenth (1868), and fifteenth (1870) Amendments to the Constitution were passed that outlawed slavery, gave citizenship to all people born in the United States, and gave the right to vote to all regardless of race, respectively. However, white supremacy prevailed in the South and people were reluctant to abide by these changes. The 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court Case decided that as long as accommodations, travel, and services were equal for whites and blacks, they could remain segregated. This case coined the phrase “separate but equal” allowing the South to remain segregated.

Early civil rights organizations included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that was founded in 1909 to provide legal support to African Americans who were discriminated against. After the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate schools in 1954, more civil rights groups began to form. In 1957 the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) formed, followed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1961, and leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began to promote desegregation and the equality of blacks. The Civil Rights Movement took on a more organized and active role in the South.

Civil rights groups organized non-violent protests, sit-ins, and marches to support desegregation of public services and places, and to support the equality of African Americans in voting rights and citizenship. Vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan and social regulations like the Jim Crow Laws denied African Americans these rights through violence, intimidation, and deception. Some state governments even set up tax-funded organizations like the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission (1956-1977) to defend and preserve racial segregation.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders spearheaded marches, sit-ins, protests, and boycotts, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956, the March on Washington in 1963, and the Selma March in 1965. In 1961 SNCC began the Freedom Rides from Washington DC throughout the South, however, met with violence, they had to cancel them. In 1962 the same student organization opened “Freedom Schools” throughout the South to teach local African Americans about voter registration. In 1964 volunteers led the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project to help African Americans register to vote as well as challenge the all-white political parties in the state.

After long years of struggling for equality, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and Congress forced desegregation. In 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and this marked the end of the organized Movement, but the legacy lives on. Programs marking Black History Month and the success of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project are celebrated annually.


1.25 Cubic Feet (total)

Language of Materials



The collection includes videos, publications, correspondence, pamphlets, and other items relating to the Civil Rights Movement. Of particular interest are:

- CBS News Production video of “History Undercover: Mississippi State Secrets” (2001)

- WDAM-TV film footage of civil rights related events between 2001-2004

- Hattiesburg High School’s 2004 production of “Freedom Summer”

- Compact disc of a 2004 WUSM interview with Howard Zinn

- Two photocopied letters written by Byron De La Beckwith, Sr., to his son Byron De La Beckwith, Jr. (1963). The letters were written while Beckwith, Sr. was detained in the Mississippi State Hospital following his arrest for the murder of Medgar Evers

- Medical Committee for Human Rights booklet that contains biographical sketches of members of the MCHR that assisted in the Civil Rights Movement (1997)

- Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission correspondence (1958-1967)

- Several programs of Civil Rights celebrations in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (2004)

Also in the collection are advertising posters for Hattiesburg High School 's production of “Freedom Summer”; a September 22, 1958 copy of Life magazine that includes several articles about desegregation; and an August 18, 1962 copy of Mississippi Free Press.

More materials may be added to this collection in the future.

Related Materials

M191 Johnson, Paul B. Family Papers

M375 Martin (Josephine D.) Papers

M525 Byron De La Beckwith, Sr. Letters


Sirimarco, Elizabeth. (2004). American Voices from the Civil Rights Movement. New York, NY: Benchmark Books.

Winters, Paul A. (Ed). (2000). Turing Points in World History: The Civil Rights Movement. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc.

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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Manuscripts and Photographs Repository

118 College Drive - 5148
Hattiesburg MS 39406-0001