“I don’t know whether I am doing a right deed as to plead to you. But I do know that I am all right to plead for my race…I am a Southern colored girl in New York.” –Miss South Carolinean, April 10, 1933
Letter from Miss South Carolinean [Carolinian] to President Franklin Roosevelt Regarding the Scottsboro Case
Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, Haywood Patterson, Ozie Powell, Willie Robertson, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, Andy Wright, and Ray Wright were known as the “Scottsboro Boys.” In 1931, the nine African Americans were tried and convicted of assault and rape in Alabama by all-white juries within two weeks. Eight were sentenced to death. In this letter to Franklin Roosevelt, “Miss South Carolinian” asked for the President’s help.
The initial speedy trials, the age of the defendants, the racial bias of the juries and the severity of the sentences led to arguments that the defendants never received fair trials and a movement to free them. Their case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled they were denied the right to counsel, violating their right to due process under the 14th amendment. Eventually, their sentences were commuted and charges against four were dropped, but their lives were forever changed as most spent years in jail. On November 21, 2013, posthumous pardons were issued by the state of Alabama to Charlie Weems, Andy Wright and Haywood Patterson.
This letter is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
"For God sakes help the poor innocent people of Selma Alabama"
Mrs. E. Jackson wrote to the House Judiciary Committee the day after “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama. She was reacting to scenes of police brutality during a voting rights march that many Americans witnessed on television news programs. The interlined handwriting in pencil is likely that of House Judiciary Chairman Emanuel Celler, who was Mrs. Jackson’s representative in Congress and an active supporter of voting rights legislation in the House.
Letter from Mrs. E. Jackson in Favor of Voting Rights, 03/08/1965
Coming out at noon, Merrimac Mills. All workers, even the boys at the side of the gate. Huntsville, Ala., 11/18/1910
From the series National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine.
"…the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama campus to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro."
Draft of the President John F. Kennedy’s civil rights speech on June 11, 1963, written by Theodore S. Sorensen with notes by Robert F. Kennedy, following Alabama Governor George Wallace’s refusal to admit two African American applicants to the University of Alabama, James Hood and Vivian Malone Jones.
Click to see the full draft as well as the final speech, which was delivered by the President nationwide on radio and television.
March 20, 1965. LBJ holds a news conference from the LBJ Ranch to announce that he has federalized the Alabama National Guard at Governor Wallace’s request.
“I have called selected elements of the Alabama National Guard into Federal Service. Additionally, I have military police put in position at both Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. In addition, we have Federal marshals, FBI agents on duty in that area at this time….
“Over the next several days the eyes of the Nation will be upon Alabama, and the eyes of the world will be upon America. It is my prayer, a prayer in which I hope all Americans will join me earnestly today, that the march in Alabama may proceed in a manner honoring our heritage and honoring all for which America stands.”
Read the full text here.
RESIDENT OF COMMUNITY ADJACENT TO U.S. STEEL PLANT. THE JOBS ARE HERE AND SO IS THE SMOKE, 07/1972
From the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency. (12/02/1970 - )
Smoke stacks tower over this man in Birmingham, AL. The caption says it all, “The jobs are here and so is the smoke”.
Plaintiffs’ Proposed Plan for March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965
This plan submitted to the court pertains to the march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama in support of voting rights in 1965. In association with this lawsuit, the marchers submitted a plan for the court’s approval defining their proposed route, number of participants, distance covered per day, and other details.
Alfred and Willie, two young oyster fishers in Mobile Bay. A few, but not many of these youngsters are found on the oyster boats. Bayou La Batre, Ala., 02/23/1911
From the Series: National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine
On December 1, 1955, during a typical evening rush hour in Montgomery, Alabama, a 42 year-old woman took a seat near the front of the bus (illustrated in this diagram) on her way home from the Montgomery Fair department store where she worked as a seamstress. Before she reached her destination, she quietly set off a social revolution when the bus driver instructed her to move, and she refused. The bus driver called the police and they arrested Rosa Parks, an African American woman of unchallenged character.
The African-American community of Montgomery organized a boycott of the buses in protest of the discriminating treatment they had endured for years. The boycott, under the leadership of 26-year-old minister Martin Luther King, Jr., was a peaceful, coordinated protest that lasted 381 days and captured world attention.
November 16, 1972 - Memorandum Terminating the Tuskegee Syphilis Study
An infamous chapter in medical ethics, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study was begun in 1929 as a cooperative study involving the Public Health Service and state and local health departments in six Southern states. It evolved into a study of possible differences in the effects of the disease on Caucasians and African Americans. During the study a number of African American participants in Tuskegee, Alabama, with syphilis were left untreated but were observed, studied and compared to a control group which did not have the disease. The study continued until the 1970s when its existence was exposed to the public, resulting in Department of Health Education and Welfare and Congressional hearings on the ethics of medical experiments on human subjects.