African Activist Archive Project
The African Studies Center with MATRIX digital humanities center at Michigan State University’s announce the launch of the new African Activist Archive Project (http://africanactivist.msu.edu).
This project is preserving records and memories of activism in the United States that supported the struggles of African peoples against colonialism, apartheid, and social injustice from the 1950s through the 1990s. This is one of the most significant modern American movements having defeated the foreign policy of a sitting President (Ronald Reagan), whose veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 was overturned by Congress, signaling the end of U.S. government support for the apartheid government. And it was based in more than 100 local community, university, religious, NGO, and labor organizations as well as city, county, and state governments.
The project is assembling excellent materials for teaching about community mobilizations, including:
- an online archive of historical materials – pamphlets, newsletters, leaflets, buttons, posters, T-shirts, photographs, and audio and videorecordings
- personal remembrances and interviews with activists
- a directory to the many archives of organizations and individuals deposited in libraries and historical societies that are available for further research
The earliest documents on the website are about the 1962 American Negro Leadership Conference on Africa which included Martin Luther King, Jr. and other key civil rights leaders of that time. The website also includes documents of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, the Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement, Winnie Mandela Solidarity Coalition, and the Pan-African Liberation Committee at Harvard University. Among the audio materials is Harry Belafonte welcoming African National Congress President Oliver Tambo to a 1987 reception in New York.
The website now contains 1350 items of all types of media, including
- more than 800 documents
- 19 streaming videos and 11 streaming audio files
- a new T-shirt collection – with up to four images of each (with more T-shirts coming in the months ahead) and
- galleries of posters, photos, and buttons
There is representation from many organizations from across the country – 74 US organizations, most of them local groups, in 21 states and the District of Columbia. We have newsletters from 18 organizations, brief descriptions of more than 100 US organizations, and information about many physical archives.
There are many ways to navigate around the site. You can start from Galleries (including Remembrances or types of media, e.g. photos, documents, video) or begin on the Browse page with the organization name, a U.S. state, or the African country that is the focus of organizing. The Advanced Search page allows you to search across all types of media. Also, from each page displaying an item (e.g. photo, document, video), you can link to other items of the same organization or of the same African country of focus.
We are eager to communicate with people who have activist materials that they might wish to have included in this online archive. The project would particularly like to document more solidarity work by African American organizations. Donations of physical archives also are possible to the MSU Library’s expanding African Activist Archive Special Collections. If interested, please contact Project Director Richard Knight in New York (firstname.lastname@example.org) or MSU director David