It is the purpose of this subchapter to create a new federally sponsored, authorized, and funded project that will coordinate at a national level the collection of video and audio recordings of personal histories and testimonials of individuals who participated in the American Civil Rights movement that will build upon and complement previous and ongoing documentary work on this subject, and to assist and encourage local efforts to preserve the memories of such individuals so that Americans of all current and future generations may hear from them directly and better appreciate the sacrifices they made.
20 U.S. Code § 80s - Findings; purpose
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(a) FindingsCongress finds as follows:
A fundamental principle of American democracy is that individuals should stand up for their rights and beliefs and fight for justice.
The actions of those who participated in the Civil Rights movement from the 1950s through the 1960s are a shining example of this principle in action, demonstrated in events as varied as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the sit-ins, the Freedom Rides, the March on Washington, the drive for voting rights in Mississippi, and the March to Selma.
While the Civil Rights movement had many visible leaders, including Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks, there were many others whose impact and experience were just as important to the cause but who are not as well known.
The participants in the Civil Rights movement possess an invaluable resource in their first-hand memories of the movement, and the recording of the retelling of their stories and memories will provide a rich, detailed history of our Nation during an important and tumultuous period.
It is in the Nation’s interest to undertake a project to collect oral histories of individuals from the Civil Rights movement so future generations will be able to learn of their struggle and sacrifice through primary-source, eyewitness material. A coordinated Federal project would also focus attention on the efforts undertaken by various public and private entities to collect and interpret articles in all formats relating to the Civil Rights movement, and serve as a model for future projects undertaken in museums, libraries, and universities throughout the Nation.
The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution are appropriate repositories to collect, preserve, and make available to the public a collection of these oral histories. The Library and Smithsonian have expertise in the management of documentation projects, and experience in the development of cultural and educational programs for the public.