Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today introduced legislation to create a Civil Rights Oral History Project, a joint effort between the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress to collect oral histories of those involved in the Civil Rights Movement and preserve them for future generations.

“Our society today would not be possible without the extraordinary people who dedicated themselves to the Civil Rights Movement,” Senator Feinstein said. “Whether on a bus in Montgomery, at a lunch counter in Greensboro, in a high school in Little Rock, or on a bridge in Selma, these courageous individuals risked their lives to bring real and necessary change to our country. This bill will help ensure that we never forget their stories.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn); Thad Cochran (R-Miss.); Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.); and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) have introduced a companion bill in the House.

"Over the past few years, we have lost some of our nation's great civil rights leaders, such as Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. Every day that passes we lose more and more of the pioneers who fought for the freedom and equality that we all enjoy today," said Rep. McCarthy. "While we know so much about the lives of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Congressman John Lewis, and Thurgood Marshall, it is important that we learn about the everyday people of all races who took a stand during a pivotal time in our nation's history. There were so many people who were crucial to the Civil Rights movement, but have not had as much recorded about their experiences for the public record."


The bill would direct the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to record – in audio and video -- firsthand stories from the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Oral History Project is similar to the Veterans History Project, which was started by the Library of Congress in 2000 to collect and preserve the remembrances of American war veterans and the civilian workers who supported them.