Project Reviews

Television News of the Civil Rights Era, 1950-1970
Created by William G. Thomas, III and maintained by the Virginia Center for Digital History

Television News of the Civil Rights Era, 1950-1970 makes available over 230 videos drawn from the local CBS and NBC news in Roanoke, Virginia. The videos contain speeches given by national figures as well as local coverage of school desegregation, civil rights debates, and interviews with citizens. At the forefront of the website lies a collection of videos. The authors provide a one-paragraph summary of each film, date and duration, and options for viewing the film or reading the transcript. The Quicktime video quality is quite clear although a bit small, 2 in. by 2 in. If you view the clip in the pop-up window, it becomes slightly larger, 3 in. by 2.5 in. The videos require high-speed internet and a fast processor or you will find yourself frequently closing your browser and reloading the site as the videos cause the internet to freeze.

The site also contains a collection of primary documents. The list of primary documents includes the document title, date, and author. Clicking on a document title sends the viewer to a new window which contains a one-paragraph description of the document and a link to a .pdf of the full document. Beyond that, the website offers a collection of oral histories drawn from the documentary Massive Resistance. Each interview provides a Quicktime video and transcript. These oral histories provide multiple perspectives on the question of integration in Prince Edward County. The site also provides the viewer with a glossary of important topics, people, places, and court cases (although some of the descriptions are still forthcoming). For educators, a brief section of the site lists the top five suggested films for classroom use and provides hyperlinks directly to the videos. Finally, the website contains two essays by Professor William G. Thomas as well as students' seminar papers.

The website design is clear and easy to navigate. It contains a black, white and gray color scheme which matches nicely with the television clips available to the viewer. As one moves deeper into the website, there remains a subdirectory navigation bar at the top and an overall site navigation bar at the bottom. While I encountered some problems with the videos, the videos are an excellent resource and it is exceptionally helpful that each clip has a corresponding transcript for those who are unable to view the videos or would like to easily quote one of the film clips.

The website is a bit weak in covering fully the frame of time listed in its title. Though the website attempts to cover the period from 1950 to 1970, the first video is dated 1955. There is only one film from that year. A better starting point for this website may be 1956. Also, no videos are provided for the years 1964 and 1965, commonly thought of as a high point in the civil rights movement. There are only three clips for 1967, one for 1968, two for 1969, and none for 1970. Although one cannot find a date when the site was last updated, the "About" section indicates that the website is a work in progress and hopefully more will be added to it to fill in these years.

Jared Leighton
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Reviewed: Spring 2007