Reveal Digital is committed to making underrepresented perspectives from historical events visible to researchers everywhere. In partnership with libraries and archives, we have been uncovering these important primary sources, enabling innovative scholarship and a more complex understanding of the past.

Today, we are pleased to announce Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movements, a new program to digitize the histories of civil rights activism by the everyday citizens of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American/Pacific Islander communities. We plan to develop up to four collections by the end of 2025, and will make them freely available on JSTOR as they are published.

Carolyn Allen, former Dean of Libraries at the University of Arkansas and Reveal Digital Executive Committee member, envisioned this program and will guide its development. A steering committee composed of a diverse group of representatives will provide additional editorial direction.

The first collection in development will focus on the African American civil rights era and will draw on primary source materials from predominantly Black colleges and universities, historical societies, public libraries, community archives, and other institutions. This collection will expand the historical record available for study to include previously unknown voices from the front lines of the movement.

Dean Allen described the importance of making this history available to everyone and preserving it for future generations:

“There are many untold stories of how ordinary people contributed their voices, invested their time and sometimes gave up their lives in the fight for equal rights. More and more people, whether engaged in formal education or personal education, want to dig underneath what is already known about the Civil Rights Movement. This rich history has been faithfully preserved in the archives of historically Black institutions, in public libraries, in small community archives and family albums. Much of this material is uncatalogued and unavailable.

I have long desired to find a way to make this material accessible to everyone. I want our children and grandchildren and generations beyond to know this history. It is part of who we are and how we have thrived as a nation. Reveal Digital has developed an effective model where identity, ownership and control of the source material stays with the institutions that provide it, while making the content openly available to everyone and discoverable online. I can’t wait to see the program unfold in the months ahead!”

Learn more about the program, including funding or contributing content to the collections.