Over the last three years, as we designed, prepared for, and moved into the new Richard B. Russell Special Collections Building, we've transformed the storage and presentation of our collections so that they "fit" – physically and intellectually – in a number of different spaces: our underground, environmentally-controlled storage "cube," our gallery, our online finding aids, and our researcher access system. All of these spaces work together, and as we move forward are increasingly integrated. One of the benefits of this, and something I'm particularly pleased about, is that we can easily stream digitized audio and video directly from our online finding aids.
Which brings me to the Herman E. Talmadge Collection and the amazing audio that can now be streamed directly from 30 of the 165 audiovisual items in the collection. Because of Talmadge's involvement in the Three Governors Controversy, his stance on the County Unit System (for it) and Civil Rights (against it), and his service both as governor of Georgia and U.S. Senator, his career illuminates many of the critical struggles the South faced in the 20th century. The twenty wire recordings we had digitized last year are now online, and document the 1948 and 1950 gubernatorial races, bitter fights held in the aftermath of the Georgia Supreme Court's decision to favor Lieutenant Governor M.E. Thompson's claim to the governorship following the death of Eugene Talmadge in 1946. These are raucous, rowdy recordings that include debate on the County Unit System, stump speeches, and victory rallies, and include M.E. Thompson, Ellis Arnall, E.D. Rivers, John W. Greer, Ralph McGill, Roy V. Harris, and of course, Herman Talmadge - all found HERE.
The real jewel is a recording that is partly a mystery, and it is not of Talmadge. Rather, it is of Martin Luther King, Sr., speaking in Macon, Georgia, we believe at a local Southern Christian Leadership Conference meeting, on July 28, 1962, the day after his son had been arrested in Albany. It is a rousing speech, more of a sermon from a pulpit, in which "Daddy" King repeatedly exhorts his audience to "tell them" (i.e., the white establishment) about the need for equality. We don't know how or why this recording made it into Talmadge's collection, and was transcribed by one of his staff – so it must have been of some importance to Talmadge, perhaps as opposition research. We do know that Talmadge and MLK, Sr. were cordial with one another (despite their ideological differences). One thing is not in doubt – this is a powerful and gripping record of the times.
Over the next months we hope to be adding many more streaming copies of audiovisual resources to our online finding aids. Stay tuned!
Post by Craig Breaden, Head of Media and Oral History Unit, Russell Library