Civil Rights in a Northern City: Philadelphia provides access to over 1,500 digitized primary source materials that engage users with the complex and contentious history of the modern civil rights movement in Philadelphia.  These primary materials are supplemented with thematic essays, timelines, and maps that supply historical context and underscore Philadelphia’s role in the national struggle for civil rights.  The materials presented here are only a sampling of the primary resources documenting Philadelphia’s civil rights history held within Temple University Libraries’ special collections.  The primary aim of Civil Rights in a Northern City: Philadelphia is to bring together materials from disparate archival collections and in doing so provide users with a more cohesive and comprehensive record of key people and events.  New interpretations of these events may also result from the study of the materials.

Civil Rights in a Northern City: Philadelphia currently features materials documenting two events: the desegregation of Girard College and the Columbia Avenue riots.  The Desegregation of Girard College (1954-1968) collection includes over 200 photographs from the George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and John W. Mosley photograph collections, primarily chronicling the NAACP-led picket outside Girard College between May and December 1965.  In addition to capturing the daily interactions between demonstrators and police, the photographs also feature such civil rights luminaries as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., national NAACP President Roy Wilkins, attorney and Philadelphia NAACP President Cecil B. Moore, Shelton Hale Waters, and Reverend Joshua E. Licorish.  The collection also contains approximately 450 newspaper articles from the George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspaper clipping collection, which offer daily coverage of both the NAACP protest campaign and various court cases challenging Girard College’s racial ban.  Other notable highlights from this collection include KYW film footage of the Girard pickets, including the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addressing demonstrators in August 1965, and correspondence and court records from the manuscript collections of the Philadelphia Fellowship Commission.  

The Columbia Avenue Riots (1964) collection includes nearly 100 photographs from the George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin photojournalism collection that capture the activities of both rioters and police during the North Philadelphia riots in August 1964.  KYW news footage of the riot scene adds to the visual record, while over 250 newspaper articles from the George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin newspaper clipping collection offer eyewitness accounts, as well as a comprehensive record of the arrests and trials that followed.  Other notable highlights from this collection include a digitized copy of Lenora Berson’s seminal Case Study of a Riot: The Philadelphia Story and manuscript materials from the Philadelphia Jewish Archive, including the Jewish Community Relations Council’s survey of Jewish merchants and business-owners following the riots.

These topics were selected as prototypes for the initial development phase of this project based on public interest, research value, and the accessibility of materials.  This site should be considered a work in progress with the goal to add additional materials that similarly document the people, places, and events important to Philadelphia’s civil rights history.  We welcome public comments and input regarding Civil Rights in a Northern City’s current and future collections.



Many individuals contributed to the success of this project:
  • Matthew J. Countryman, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Michigan, served as the consulting historian for the project.  His publications include “‘From Protest to Politics': Community Control and the Emergence of Independent Black Politics in Philadelphia, 1965-1971," Journal of Urban History 32-6 (Sept. 2006); and Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005)http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/14176.html.
  • Hillary S. Kativa served as the project manager.  Hillary is a graduate of Dickinson College ‘05 and holds a Master of Arts in History from Villanova University, as well as a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Rutgers University-New Brunswick.  Her research interests include American political history, public history, archives and historical preservation, and digital libraries. 
Student assistants who scanned and processed the materials, as well as created content for the website:  
  • Sara Borden graduated from Temple University in May 2011 with a Master of Arts in History with concentrations in Public History and Archives.  She wrote her thesis, "An Examination of How Archives Have Influenced the Telling of the Story of Philadelphia’s Civil Rights Movement" on the interface between history and archives.  Her research interests include the history of civil rights, photography, new media, and archives.
  • DeNece Dugan is a Temple University student majoring in Theater.  Her research interests include Shakespeare, Philadelphia history, and ancient Roman civilization and art.  DeNece will graduate from Temple University in January 2012.
  • Amira Rose Schroeder graduated from Temple University in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education, as well as a double major in History.  She was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar.  Her McNair thesis entitled, "Jack Johnson to Michael Jordan: Framing Black Male Athletes in the 20th Century" examined the creation and evolution of the image of the black male athlete.  Amira's research interests include African-American history, race, sports, and social movements.
  • Craig Scheihing is a freelance filmmaker and photographer currently enrolled in Temple University's Film and Media Arts program.  For this project, Craig primarily repaired and cataloged the KYW 16mm film footage and also shot a series of contemporary photographs of the Girard College and Columbia Avenue areas for use on the website.  Outside of his work at the Urban Archives, Craig pursues his own personal projects, and works with a Philadelphia-based custom motorcycle company. 

Temple University School of Education Cultural Community Fieldwork Initiative students researched and wrote lesson plans and content: Nick Nguyen, Lou Parisi, Matthew Schade, Nicole Beddow and Dante Rufo.



This project has been partially funded with federal Library Service and Technology Act (LSTA) funds administered by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania Department of Education.  Temple University Libraries is grateful for this support.

Copyright and Citation

The material on this site is provided for private research use and is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, US Code).  For proper use and reproduction of these materials, consult our Copyright and Citation Guide.