Studying the Black Power Movement at the AHC 

Researchers looking for information on the Black Freedom Movement can find relevant materials throughout the collections held at the American Heritage Center. These include the papers of Wyoming politician Harriet Byrd, bull rider Abe Morris, African American church records, and Hollywood actress Butterfly McQueen. To close out Black History Month, this post highlights materials in the AHC pertaining to the Black Power Movement.  

One of the most popular topics researched in the AHC’s collection is the Black 14 Protests at the University of Wyoming in October 1969. Fourteen Black members of the UW football team planned to wear black armbands during the football game against BYU. They wanted to show support for the UW Black Student Alliance, who were planning a protest of the game because of the discriminatory policies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before the game, the UW football coach Lloyd Eaton kicked the football players off the team. UW students showed their support for the players through protests on campus. Several collections in the AHC relate to and tell the story of the Black 14, the students protests, and the court case. It is also important to note that the AHC is still adding to these collections with a cooperative effort between UW graduate students and the AHC to collect oral history interviews with members of the Black 14 and others involved in the protests. For more information see the topic guide on our website.  

As a bridge between Black History Month and Women’s History Month, this next collection contains valuable information about the Black Power Movement particularly on the role of women in the movement and the rise of the Black Feminist Movement. The Women’s History Research Center Papers (Collection #5879) consists of the records from the center founded by Laura X in Berkeley, California. The center was founded in 1968 and the collection contains subject files, pamphlets, and publications on a host of feminists, scholars, and topical subjects. Included among the papers are subject files devoted to Black feminist organizations and Black women movement leaders, including Shirley Chisholm, Kathleen Cleaver, and Angela Davis. Each subject file varies in its contents, but each offers a wealth of information such as the press releases from Shirley Chisholm’s political campaigns which detail not only Chisholm’s views on the important topics of the times but also rebuttals to her political opponents. These press releases offer a glimpse into the strategies of Chisholm and her campaign workers. Newspaper clippings and fliers, including the one pictured here, detail the “Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners” campaign of the early 1970s. The collection also includes a pamphlet Black Woman’s Manifesto, published by the Third World Women’s Alliance, that contains foundational essays including Frances Beal’s “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female.” These pamphlets are especially interesting in thinking about how information on the feminist movement was distributed. Small and inexpensive pamphlets were an efficient and quick way to share ideas and information.

Pamphlet for Shirley Chisholm’s Presidential Campaign, 1968.
Women’s History Research Center resource files, Box 14, Folder “Shirley Chisholm,” Collection #5879. 
A flyer from February 1971 for a meeting of the Bay Area Committee to Free Angela Davis.
Women’s History Research Center resource files, Box 14, Folder “Angela Davis,” Collection #5879.

The WHRC collection also contains numerous files on other aspects of the Black Power Movement including subject files on Malcolm X and the Black Panthers. Also of interest are several publications of the weekly newspaper “The Black Panther” which tell of the social programs the Black Panthers organized including the free breakfast program. One of the issues from July 26, 1969, is of special interest in its coverage of the United Front Against Fascism (UFAF) Conference in Oakland, California which brought together varying organizations including the Black Panthers, the Students for a Democratic Society, and the Young Patriots. 

Another collection of interest to studying the Black Power Movement is the Tom Anderson Papers (Collection #7120) which includes a number of folders focusing on the Black Panthers, Black Manifesto, Black Power, and the Black Guard. Anderson’s subject files offer a differing perspective regarding the Black Power Movement in that they work to show opposition to the work of the Black Panthers and denounce the Black Power Movement. The papers included in this collection show the ways in which the words and messages of many influential Black leaders were reframed and used against their efforts for racial justice.  

An anti-Black Panther Party pamphlet, c. 1969.
Tom Anderson papers, Box 13, Folder “Black Panthers,” Collection #7120. 

Studies of racial inequality and social justice movements are not limited to the social movements of the late 1960s. A great example is the Tom Pugh collection (#11685). Pugh, a journalist, was a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights in the late 1970s. His papers from this time provide information about subjects including housing inequality and efforts for equal employment with particular emphasis on Chicago. For more information on these and other collections at the AHC, check out our website

Post contributed by Mary Beth Brown, Associate Archivist, Toppan Rare Books Librarian.


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