Black Power was a nationwide movement made possible by collective efforts within individual towns and cities. Studying the memory of a particular instance of protest during the movement can reflect universal definitions and memories of Black Power. Published materials regarding Civil Rights protests and the ideologies they promoted in general help to define the Black Power movement and preserve its memory.
Pictured above are the contents of a pamphlet calling for picketers to participate in discrimination protests in Chapel Hill. This is an item from the Charles Miles Jones Papers housed at the Southern Historical Collection and is stored in a folder dated the late 1960s. This was a mass-printed pamphlet that called for and guided the actions of potential picketers in response to segregation and inequality treatment at local businesses and public facilities (Jones).
The first page explains “Why We Picket,” establishing a unified sense of purpose and shared ideals. Some of its points include not picketing to “express anger or resentment,” or to “humiliate,” but picketing to demand that businesses afford them due “dignity and respect.” It goes on to say “Who Can Picket,” and creates a relatively inclusive environment. It states anyone of “high school age or above” may picket but does state that picketers who desire to participate must agree to their precepts. The second page explains “Some Dos and Don’ts for Picketers,” and includes advice for picketers such as not laughing or being belligerent and remembering to walk slowly and remain four steps apart from others. The pamphlet also made a Biblical reference to the book of Joshua and a reference to Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to encourage picketers not to retaliate if they were harmed in any way during their protests (Jones). Details of the violence enacted against protesters are described in Matching the Violence of Police Brutality.
Diouf and Woodward describe the Black Power movement as heterogeneous, as it included a variety of people groups with differing ideologies, perspectives, and priorities across generations (VIII). The text of this pamphlet reflects this heterogeneous nature. The guidelines and expectations set forth were produced by a variety of organizations and reached out to all individuals of legal age who were willing and able to participate. It represents not only the foresight of the organizers in this situation but a processual knowledge-set of movement making, as this item establishes ideas, rules, and practices likely derived from the experiences of original Civil Rights efforts. Pamphlets like these were likely developed, edited, and circulated based on new realizations of needs and challenges facing protesters. Leaders took what they learned or originally anticipated from protests past and applied it to their efforts. And, though the pamphlet is welcoming to a variety of potential picketers, it states: “We will use picketers ONLY if they agree to go through a short course of instruction on picketing.” This document and others like it provide evidence of Black Power as a highly organized and intentional movement.
That these documents are preserved at an archive like the Southern Historical Collection complicates their memory. It is validating that they were first deemed worthy of preservation by the individual who donated them and then were not rejected or weeded-out by a white-dominated educational and research institution. What it chooses to invest time and money into obtaining and preserving reflects their values in certain time periods, events, people, and, here, movements. Because of this investment, items like this pamphlet can survive longer physically and are theoretically more accessible to the public.
However, labeling something as “history” is problematic because it leaves the challenges confronted by these protests at risk for being categorized as old problems no longer prevalent in American society, which is untrue. While this might be a historic document worthy of preservation for future generations, it is not a particularly old document and many people who were alive during the time of its distribution are alive today and remember the movement. Rather than serving as an artifact of a past problem, these documents should be preserved and remembered to mark progress and because they can serve as useful tools for protesters who are facing the same or another manifestation of the same problems. Because there are increasing documentation efforts of movements past, many protestors can and often do use sources like this to learn and empower themselves to fight for the same or similar causes.
Sylviane A Diouf and Komozi Woodward, “Introduction”; Peniel E. Joseph, “The Black Power Movement,” in Black Power 50 (2016), viii.
Jones, Charles. Charles Miles Jones Papers, 1924-1990s. The Southern Historical Collection, Louis Round Wilson Library, Chapel Hill.
Lauterer, Jock. “Civil Rights march and sit-in, fasters.” 1967. Jock Lauterer Photographic Collection, circa 1964-1968. The North Carolina Collection, Louis Round Wilson Library, Chapel Hill.
Mallard, Raymond. Raymond B. Mallard Papers, 1937-1970s. The Southern Historical Collection, Louis Round Wilson Library, Chapel Hill.