Crossroads to Freedom Fellows Busy Conducting Oral History Interviews and Digitizing Documents for Civil Rights Archive

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Publication Date: 8/8/2007

The Crossroads Fellows have been busy this summer engaging in numerous projects and activities. The team has conducted video-taped oral history interviews with nine individuals including Art Gilliam, who is the owner of WLOK radio station; Dorothy Crook, director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); and Judge D’Army Bailey, who helped to establish the National Civil Rights Museum.

Fellows have also focused on digitizing and cataloguing documents in the Sugarmon Collection of the Crossroads to Freedom digital archive. These documents, donated by prominent civil rights attorney and now Judge Russell B. Sugarmon, provide a unique perspective into Memphis race relations during the civil rights and post civil rights era.
 
“We’ve also had the opportunity to take many exciting trips off-campus,” says Crossroads Fellow Francesca Davis. “We visited the Civil Rights Museum and explored the archives in the Memphis Room at the Benjamin Hooks Central Library.”

In addition, the fellows have begun exploring unique aspects of the civil rights era in Memphis such as the role of art and the status of the legal profession during the movement.  With the help of Crossroads consultants -- Dr. Jim Lanier and Dr. Katherine Lambert-Pennington -- the fellows have been able to critically examine the implications of the work they have been doing regarding Memphis’ rich heritage.

“This is perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects -- truly connecting the past to contemporary issues that still persist in our community,” adds Davis, who managed the team of 12 students this summer. “Our next steps include ‘Crossroads on the Road’ with churches and the surrounding communities. In general, we will be working to spread the word about our wonderful project.”

Here are what other fellows and interns had to say:

Stefan Borst-Censullo
Brandeis University
Class of 2008

Our job here with the Crossroads to Freedom Project can be expressed quite simply as an opportunity for college and high school students to learn about the Civil Rights Movement though electronic archiving, but in reality “Crossroads” means much more for those of us who are involved with this program. This internship has illuminated a history of Memphis that we as a group had little experience with, and has provided us the chance to take part in an effort to preserve this important chapter in the American story. “Crossroads” will someday become an important service for the entire historical community, but for now those who have helped create it can take pride in the fact that it has allowed people like myself to do something as simple as coming into contact with the important individuals who collectively shaped our present day life in the South.

Brandon Harris
Central High School
Class of 2008

The Crossroads project has had a great effect on me.  I have gotten the opportunity to look at civil rights from all different angles that I have never imagined.  The Crossroads team members have shared a passion for history and are always there when I need them. This project does a superb job of combining technology and history. The discussions we have give us a much needed break from the technical work so that we can really take in and analyze the materials in our archive. The Crossroads to Freedom Project is the door to the future without forgetting the past.  

Khadija Hassan
Central High School
Class of 2009

Crossroads to Freedom is an introduction to the future of archives and libraries in general.  Crossroads introduces history in a new way that takes original photographs and documents and puts them in a new “time capsule.” Through this experience, I have not only gained an in-depth education in civil rights, it has also helped me understand the “we and they” mindset.  I will be able to take this experience and the friends I’ve gained beyond the walls of Rhodes College.

Holly James
Rhodes College
Class of 2009

Crossroads has provided a wonderful experience to connect to the Memphis community. Now I feel more involved with the city rather than just another temporary college citizen. Connecting people and places with actual historical events is a great feeling I now have as I drive through Memphis.

Joshua Jeffries
Rhodes College
Class of 2007

Working as a Crossroads to Freedom Fellow, I′ve gained a plethora of exciting skills and knowledge. This summer I′ve learned the essentials of conducting quality oral interviews, gained competence in using archives for historical research, and acquired a skill set in multi-media archive digitization. More important, I′ve learned about Memphis’ rich history and legacy -- a legacy that has rarely been passed down to my generation.  The lessons I′ve learned this summer will definitely be very useful for my future plans and aspirations.  

Janeese Richey
Central High School
Class of 2008

It is amazing how a person can go to school for 13 years and the only thing they know about the Civil Rights Movement is Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and the NAACP! Well that person was me before the Crossroads to Freedom Project. Not only have I learned about the movement in more depth and more detail, but it has granted me the opportunity to hear about my history from firsthand accounts from people who were involved in the fight for equal rights. Had it not been for this project, I wouldn′t be as knowledgeable as I am now about the movement and I never would have met so many amazing people!

John Rojcewicz
Central High School
Class of 2009

Crossroads to Freedom is an online archive and Web site being created by both college and high school students. As one of the high school students involved, I have been given a firsthand experience in multiple technical processes and direct access to a wealth of information. Working on the Crossroads to Freedom team has given me lifelong skills as well as amazing experiences, and I am incredibly grateful for the time I have spent on this project.

Tiffani Smith
Fisk University
Class of 2010

My experiences at Rhodes have been more than rewarding. I have learned so much and I have developed more of a love for what I do and my contribution to history. My relationship with history is more personal. I now feel it is my responsibility to make sure it is not forgotten and it is documented for future generations. 

Denzel Young
Central High School
Class of 2008

Crossroads has really been a beneficial experience for me. I love civil rights and learning about it. I love working with computers, so this program brought my hobbies together. I have really enjoyed my summer here, and the best part is that it is only the beginning.