Civil Rights in a Northern City: Philadelphia

Thanks to a state Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, a Libraries project team has digitized more than 1,500 historical photographs, films, news clippings, manuscripts, oral histories, and pamphlets, documenting two events in civil rights history in Philadelphia: Girard College Desegregation (1954–1968) and the Columbia Avenue Riots (1964).

It’s all available at

The content, from the Libraries’ special collections, encourages students to use unique primary sources to study these significant events. Highlights include newly-created oral histories; several hours of local news footage not seen in over 40 years featuring Martin Luther King, Jr., Cecil B. Moore, and other movement leaders; and questionnaires that address Black-Jewish community relations in the 1960s.

Emphasizing that there were major events in the North that propelled the Civil Rights movement forward, the project’s consulting historian Matthew Countryman, associate professor of history at the University of Michigan and author of Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia, believes that this project exposes students and scholars to new insights on the issues.

Stay tuned for new content—including sample lesson plans for middle and high school teachers and new modules on other milestones in the history of Philadelphia’s Civil Rights movement

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