Voices of Civil Rights Launches Historic Bus Tour to build Largest Archive...

Voices of Civil Rights Launches Historic Bus Tour to build Largest Archive of Civil Rights Memories

AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the Library of Congress partner to capture and preserve personal experiences of America’s past and present struggle for equality


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Washington, DC–(HISPANIC PR WIRE)–July 19, 2004–AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), and the Library of Congress are hosting a nationwide bus tour to collect thousands of untold firsthand accounts of the Civil Rights Movement.

The National Mall launch of the Voices of Civil Rights Bus Tour will begin at 11 am on August 3. The event will feature readings of extraordinary civil rights stories from ordinary people, testimonies from notable civil rights leaders, and freedom songs from The Voices of Triumph gospel choir.

The event will showcase the “Digital Front Porch,” a traveling interactive exhibit that allows visitors to record their civil rights stories on audio, video, or submit them online. Local residents and noted civil rights leaders will be available for interviews and to record their stories on the Digital Front Porch.

Afterwards, the bus—staffed by award-winning journalists, photographers, and videographers—will head down a trail blazed by the 1961 Freedom Riders. The 70-day tour will pass through 35 cities, stopping at local commemorative events before rolling into the annual AARP Member Event in Las Vegas on October 14.

“The Freedom Rides of the 1960s were historic and this bus trip will honor and save that history,” said AARP President Marie Smith. “These powerful recollections will be preserved and passed down to future generations, to both educate and inspire Americans of tomorrow.”

LCCR Executive Director Wade Henderson noted that the Bus Tour will collect stories from a diverse range of people – including women, people with disabilities, students, and racial and ethnic minorities – whose personal experiences tell the collective story of our country’s Civil Rights Movement. Along the route will be stops at sites that serve as important reminders of our history and the continued struggle for equality within every community, including African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, women, and others. For example, the tour will stop at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, a reunion of Japanese American internment camp survivors and near a Native American Reservation.

“We will be reaching out to those fighting for civil and human rights today as we honor those tens of thousands of Americans who confronted discrimination, intolerance, and resistance in the 1950s and 1960s,” Henderson said.

A History Channel crew will also be aboard to record a one-hour documentary scheduled to air in February 2005. “The History Channel is excited to chronicle this historic journey,” said Libby Haight O’Connell, the cable channel’s vice president for historical alliances and its historian in residence. “We look forward to sharing these untold stories with our national television audience.”

The tour is part of the Voices of Civil Rights project, a multifaceted effort to build the world’s largest archive of first hand accounts of the Civil Rights Movement. The project’s Web site (http://www.voicesofcivilrights.org) features a searchable archive of personal stories, articles on contemporary civil rights issues, and project updates. Links to an interactive Bus Tour blog will allow visitors to track the tour day-to-day through photos, videos, and journal entries.

Since this spring, nearly 2,000 previously untold stories have been submitted. The entire collection will be donated as a permanent collection to the Library of Congress.

The project has inspired national television and radio specials, museum exhibits, community events, and the book My Soul Looks Back in Wonder: Voices of the Civil Rights Experience (Sterling, 2004) by noted journalist Juan Williams. The book is available wherever books are sold.

“It is fitting that the Voices of Civil Rights collection finds its home in the nation’s library. The Library of Congress houses the most comprehensive civil rights collection in the country, including the original papers of many organizations that led the fight for civil liberties. As America’s library, the Library of Congress is honored to preserve this collection and make it available to people everywhere,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington.

The first leg of the bus trip will stop in many of the cities that were part of the route of the 1961 Freedom Riders. Because of violence, the Freedom Riders did not reach their final destination in New Orleans. To symbolize how far the nation has come, the Voices of Civil Rights Bus Tour will stop in New Orleans and continue on to other cities to collect stories of America’s struggle for justice and equality.

Those with a story to tell can mail it to Voices of Civil Rights, AARP, 601 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20049; submit it via the Internet at http://www.voicesofcivilrights.org; or visit the Bus Tour and Digital Front Porch at stops around the country.

About AARP

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people age 50 and older. AARP provides information and resources; engages in legislative, regulatory, and legal advocacy; assists its members in serving their communities; and offers a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services to its members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, its monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, its quarterly newspaper in Spanish; NRTA Live & Learn, its quarterly newsletter for 50-plus educators; and its Web site, http://www.aarp.org. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

About LCCR

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights is a coalition of more than 180 organizations committed to social justice and equality. Founded in 1950, it is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition. LCCR member organizations represent persons of color, women, children, labor unions, individuals with disabilities, older Americans, major religious groups, gays and lesbians, and civil liberties and human rights groups. Its mission: to promote the enactment and enforcement of effective civil rights legislation and policy. (http://www.civilrights.org)

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library and the national library of the United States. Its 530 miles of shelves house 128 million items in nearly every language. The library was founded in 1800, making it the oldest federal cultural institution in the nation. The mission of the Library of Congress is to make its vast holdings available and useful to Congress and the American people, and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and human creativity for future generations. (http://www.loc.gov)

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CONTACTS:

Muriel Cooper

202-434-2597

or

Danny Maiello

202-828-8899

Voices of Civil Rights Launches Historic Bus Tour to build Largest Archive of Civil Rights Memories