About the Center

National Center’s Mission

The Mission of the Alabama State University Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture is two-fold: to serve as a clearinghouse for information concerning Montgomery, Alabama's pivotal role in the shaping and development of the modern civil rights movement, and to preserve and disseminate information reflective of socioeconomic conditions, political culture, and history of African-Americans in Montgomery. The Center will augment classroom instruction and curriculum through its living museum, scholarly seminars, publications, and appearances of its personnel at public forums around Montgomery and elsewhere. The facility will be a place for scholars, students, lay historians, and all people interested in studying the modern civil rights movement and Montgomery's place in it.

National Center's Vision

In August of 1997, then Alabama State University president Dr. William H. Harris assembled selected staff, faculty, and administrators to determine the feasibility of creating a center for civil rights research. Out of that meeting, Dr. Janice Franklin was selected to serve as project director. The committee she headed quickly united behind a vision to build a center that would serve as a clearinghouse for information concerning the role of Montgomery, Alabama in the modern civil rights movement and to preserve and disseminate information reflective of socioeconomic conditions, political culture, and history of African-Americans in Montgomery. Although the focus was on Montgomery, the steering committee envisioned a larger national scope that would allow distance access to on-site digitized resources via the Internet. The center set out to amass under one umbrella the disparate historical library collections, people, activities, events, and multimedia materials on civil rights and African-American culture. In 2000, the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded Alabama State University one of seven $500,000 Challenge Grants. This money was to be used to build a two million dollar endowment. The university responded by officially designating the National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture. The Center was successfully endowed in 2004.

The Alabama State University Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture is a research institute and repository in Montgomery, Alabama, for the collection of civil rights and African-American cultural documents, artifacts, and other memorabilia. Such a collection encompasses and allows for the study of the interdisciplinary, diverse, and disparate character of civil rights and African-American culture. Although this undertaking will naturally encompass and extend to other resources throughout the state, the Center's focus is on Montgomery and its unique role in American history as the cradle of both the Confederacy and the modern civil rights movement. Inclusive in this mission is an effort to detail lives of African-Americans in Montgomery, their socio-economic and political culture, and their history. As a repository, the Center will network with the lay community to gather and record the stories of importance to African-American Culture, including those mundane features of daily life that have given African-Americans in Alabama the stamina to endure and overcome racism, poverty, and illiteracy, as well as those features that have provided them the strength, brilliance, and self-esteem to nurture a rich cultural heritage. To that end, the Center will conserve the rich resources of the community by gathering oral histories, collecting privately held multimedia, and documenting the critical contributions of information and resources supplied by African-Americans and organizations such as churches, benevolent societies, federated clubs, civic organizations, fraternal orders, and business. These collections will be cataloged and made available to the public at large. It will link with other research centers to connect disparate histories of significance for a comprehensive study of the civil rights movement and African-American culture.

In accordance with Alabama State University's Mission, the Center will foster research, teaching and learning as an outgrowth of the collections housed in the Center and in the community, thereby stimulating an understanding of and appreciation for civil rights and African-American culture and the central place of that culture in the American South. Thus, the Center will provide support to the various programs in the university by strengthening those humanities courses that study the African-American experience in general and the modern civil rights movement in particular. The learning center and archives proposed at the university will encourage scholarship through various programs including internships, fellowships, seminars, exhibitions, lectures, and publications. It will be a unique effort in Montgomery, Alabama, to offer a facility for both repository and research that will study, analyze, interpret, publish, and preserve the illustrious history and culture of Montgomery's African-American citizenry.

The Center’s focus is to:

  • Document and preserve memorabilia of the civil rights period, local black history of Montgomery and the history of Alabama State University;
  • Pass the knowledge of that culture and heritage to students;
  • Protect and catalog valuable resources housed in its collections that distinguish the university as a research center in civil rights;
  • Build an oral history collection of the civil rights movement;
  • Acquire future notable collections to house at the university; and
  • Network with other local archival projects, including the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, projects of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and other Centers.


Alabama State University

Levi Watkins Library

Levi Watkins Learning Center Digital Collections

Upcoming and Recent Programs

Ralph D. Abernathy Civil Rights Lecture Series: The Mass Meetings of the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Awakening of Black Militancy

Keynote Speaker: Fred Gray, Civil Rights Attorney

Monday, December 3, 2018
6 p.m. | First Baptist Church, 347 N. Ripley Street

View the flyer.

The Colvin-Feagin Annual Communiy Art Show

Exhibit opening and artists' reception featuring local artists and live jazz.

Friday, October 5, 2018
Exhibit Dates: October 5, 2018 - January 11, 2019
1345 Carter Hill Road

View the flyer.

The Journey to Freedom: A Mural in Eight Parts


A Visual Interpretation of African-Americans’ Struggle for Recognition as Human Beings and First-Class Citizens

Commissioned by The National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture at Alabama State University

Find Out More

Cultural Spotlights

> Older news...