An oral-history project that documents the experiences of Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and white activists during the civil-rights era in Texas is getting $200,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The project is called “Civil Rights in Black and Brown: Oral Histories of the Multiracial Freedom Struggle in Texas.” It will capture first-person accounts of activists involved with two civil-rights movements from 1954 to the mid-1970s in Texas.
“One of the main purposes of the oral histories is to document and preserve the voices of people who otherwise would be left out of the record,” said project director Max Krochmal, an assistant professor of history at TCU.
The project includes collecting and interpreting 400 oral histories that will be publicly accessible on a free multimedia website. The work is a collaboration between TCU, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of North Texas.
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“The collaborative research grant is a huge honor,” Krochmal said. “It’s great recognition for the work we have done so far.”
The grant was announced Tuesday by the National Endowment for the Humanities — one of 212 projects nationwide to receive federal money. Five grants totaling $418,830 went to Texas entities.
Krochmal said that about $100,000 was raised for the project through donations and that the federal grant will allow researchers to cover more ground.
“This is really a game-changer,” he said. “It is going to allow us to do much, much more.”
Clips from the 400 video oral histories will be available on the the Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database. The histories will be the basis for a book on civil rights, race relations and freedom struggles, and they will be a resource for teachers, scholars, journalists and the public.
“A historian who comes along in 100 years can look at these records,” Krochmal said.
The records will also be available through the Portal to Texas History, which is maintained by the UNT Libraries’ Digital Projects Unit.
This summer, research assistants interviewed activists in East Texas and in communities along the Texas-Mexico border. The interviews cover protests, sit-ins and the formation of grassroots organizations to push for equal rights for Hispanics and African-Americans.
Interviews of Fort Worth and Dallas activists are also underway. Many interviews have been uploaded into the system, including conversations with Reby Cary — an educator and the first African-American elected to the Fort Worth school board — and retired Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders.
The database covers subjects from the civil-rights era, including community organizations, the segregation of public facilities, elections, and police and law enforcement.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675