I left town on May 14 and spent a little over a week with my family in Virginia. On the way home, I made two stops—one in Chapel Hill and the other in Atlanta. I spent a day each at the UNC’s famed Southern Historical Collection and Emory University’s Manuscripts and Rare Books Library.
Both were relatively productive. Of course, there were the usual ups and downs—unorganized collections, mislabeled material, and dusty papers that makes me sneeze a lot. But overall, I think it was well worth the effort.
At the SHC, I was looking primarily at the records of the Southern Justice Institute, a North Carolina-based legal aid firm that assisted with voting rights litigation throughout the South. The collection was mostly legal procedural filings: motions, orders and the like. Not exactly the most exciting sources, but worthwhile. Unfortunately, I had not done my homework thoroughly enough before making the trip, and I didn’t really understand a lot of the context for the stuff I was looking at. Eventually, though, as I read the newspapers and start to put the pieces together, I think it will prove to have been a useful stop.
I also looked at several nineteenth century sources. I noticed that they had a fair amount of material on the county I’m researching. I just looked at a few of these, and didn’t really find what I was hoping for (I was hoping to get some sources that spanned the Civil War and Reconstruction into the late-nineteenth century), but there are several others that I didn’t have time to look through. I’ll need to go back at some point, I suppose, but mainly, I just wanted to be able to say I’d done research at the Southern Historical Collection. And now I can.
Emory was much more productive. The staff there was extremely helpful, and already had my materials pulled when I arrived. I spent most of the day Thursday looking through the Newsweek Atlanta Bureau collection, which holds a ton of material relating to the South from the 1950s through the 1980s, I suppose. I only looked at a very small portion of it, but I found some great stuff. There were a lot of filed reports and such, but also materials that reporters collected for their stories. I was pleasantly surprised.
I had originally planned to spend two days at Emory, but the other collection I was looking at proved to be virtually useless. It was the personal papers of one of the Newsweek reporters who spent considerable time in the community, and I was hoping I would find his notes from interviews and such, but alas. No such luck. The boxes did have a slip of paper with his address and phone number on them, however, so I think he might be getting a phone call this summer.
(As a side note, both archives also allow the use of digital cameras in lieu of photocopying, and this allowed me to bring home readable digital copies of hundreds of documents that would have probably otherwise cost me a not inconsiderable sum. I just used my very basic Sony camera and transferred the images to my computer when I got home, but another researcher I saw had a very elaborate looking tripod and had the camera plugged directly into the computer, so she transferred the files immediately and could edit them as needed. I will have to look into this technology.)