Protest in the Archives

As a consortium whose mission is to connect all who seek to document, share, understand and preserve Black experiences, the BMRC affirms that Black lives, Black stories and Black collections matter. Though our focus is on the Black experience in Chicago, the archival collections within BMRC member institutions help shed light on the historical and contemporary realities of living Black in America. Evidence of Black creativity, intellect, resilience, resourcefulness and pain emerge from these archival collections, both in response and resistance to the dehumanizing effects of racial oppression.

The recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd have sparked protests against police brutality and racism across the United States and around the world. For many, the moment echoes back several years to protests against the murders of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Gardner and the death of Sandra Bland. For an older generation, the moment echoes back to the protests of the mid-twentieth century Civil Rights Movement and the murders of Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Jimmy Lee Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. These Black lives represent just a small fraction of those who lives were stolen by state-sponsored and de facto racism.

Racial violence and protest were integral to the formation of the United States of America and have remained consistent elements of our national identity. Yes, we must resist seeing the dehumanization of Black lives as normal, but we must also come to terms with the truth of our collective history as a nation. To do so, we can look to archives in their many forms. In documenting protests and movements for social justice by, and in alliance with Black people, archives and collections can help preserve records of resistance to racial oppression that inform our past, present and future. As we try to find a way forward, we should look to the past for lessons learned in the fight against racism. And as we try to find a way forward, we should capture the lessons of today to help guide us forward tomorrow. How we capture those lessons of today, in ways that are beneficial to movements for racial justice must be balanced against the need to do no harm to those on the front lines of protest.

This resource page is a living document designed to help increase awareness of how and why archives document protest (especially anti-racist protest), the ethics of documenting protest, and Chicago area collections that document protests for racial justice in America. Please send additional resources and links to with the subject line: Protest in the Archives.

Protest Infollectuals Large

Archiving Protest: How? Why?

Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia

Archiving Social Protest Roundtable from Archive Journal

The Blackivists’ Five Tips for Organizers, Protestors, and Anyone Documenting Movements by The Blackivists

#blacklivesmatter Web Archive - Archive-IT

Black Lives Matter: A Curated Collection of Links by The Marshall Project

Call to Action: Archiving State-Sanctioned Violence Against Black People by Zakiya Collier

Citizen Journalism and Political Protest Blog hosted by Syracuse University

Civil Rights Movement Archive by veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement

Community-Based Approaches to Archives From the Black Lives Matter Movement by Yvonne Ng

Cultural Institutions at Times of Social Unrest with Carla Hayden and Lonnie Bunch

Documenting Ferguson and an Interview with Librarian Meredith Evans on Documenting Ferguson

Documenting the Now

DocNow: Ethical Considerations for Archiving Social Media Content Generated by Contemporary Social Movements: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations

Documenting in Times of Crisis: A Resource Kit from the Society of American Archivists

How Will History Museums Remember This Moment? by Taylor Moore (Chicago Magazine)

Major U.S. Museums Criticized for Responses to Ongoing George Floyd Protests

No one owes their trauma to archivists, or, the commodification of contemporaneous collecting by Eira Tansey

A People's Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland

Police Brutality Center

Preserve the Baltimore Uprising 2015 Archive Project

Project STAND - Student Activism Now Documented

Radical Archive: Preserving Protest Ephemera from The Getty Research Institute

Rhizome: Digital Resources for a Movement Against Police Violence

SAA Community Reflection on Black Lives and Archives

Society of American Archivists Council Statement on Black Lives and Archives

Social Unrest, Democracy and Librarianship in the 21st Century: A conversation on equity and accountability from the American Library Association

Towards Building Community-Based Archives of Activism by Bergis Jules


Library Freedom Project Privacy & Security in Public Libraries

Library Freedom Project Protecting Student Privacy

Archivists as Social Justice Activists

Chicago area collections documenting protests:

Chicago Collections Consortium - Place of Protest: Chicago's Legacy of Dissent, Declaration and Disruption

Chicago History Museum - Chicago Reporter (periodical) Records

Chicago Public Library - Special Collections Division - Chicago Department of Urban Renewal Records, Rev. Martin L. Deppe Papers, Kuumba Theatre Company Records, Faith Rich Collection

Chicago Public Library - Woodson Regional Library - Vivian G. Harsh Collection - Chicago SNCC History Project Archives, Timuel D. Black Papers, Congress of Racial Equality Archives, Chicago Chapter, Rev. Addie and Rev. Claude Wyatt Papers

Chicago State University - Maxwell Street - Steve Balkin Collection

Columbia College Chicago - Chicago Anti-Apartheid Movement Collection

DuSable Museum of African American History - Lucy Montgomery Papers

Media Burn - Protest Footage, Rally Footage

Newberry Library - Chicago Black Lives Matter Protest Collection, Chicago Protest Collection

Northwestern University - Bursar's Office Takeover Commemoration

University of Illinois at Chicago Special Collections - Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Collection, Black History Collection