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Historical Documents in the
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Citizenship Day was signed into law by President Harry Truman on February 29, 1952. It was established to replace Constitution Day and I Am an American Day. Constitution Day recognized the official signing of the Constitution of the United States on September 17, 1787. I Am an American Day was celebrated in May and was a day to recognize new naturalized United States citizens. Today it is a day to celebrate our Citizenry into this country as our founding fathers had envisioned when they completed and signed the Constitution.

Since coming to the United States, whether enslaved or free, African Americans have fought for equality and have struggled to be recognized as American citizens. Just as the Constitution was used to argue in favor of slavery and the inequality of non-whites, African Americans used it to argue for freedom and equal rights for all.

As part of the university’s celebration of Citizenship Day and Constitution Day, the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center will provide access to documents, photographs, and artifacts from its collection which chronicle the struggle for full citizenship. These materials highlight the speeches, writings, and events which interpret, and sometimes challenge, the Constitution of the United States from an African American perspective.

These documents include

  1. Citizenship Week artifacts. As part of Citizenship Week celebrations, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity organized the Campaign of Education for Citizenship, a program to train African Americans to register and vote. The program was first introduced in the Atlanta school system in 1931 as a activity of the local branch of the N.A.A.C.P. Historian Rayford Logan expanded it into a national program after his election as director of education of ANA in 1933.
  2. Form letter stating goals of program. [Rayford Logan Papers].
  3. Two tags given to participants in Nation Education for Citizen Ship Week program, n.d. [Rayford Logan Papers].
  4. Pamphlet. “A Voteless People is a Hopeless People. Pamphlet stating program goals, 1938. [Rayford Logan Papers].
  5. National Education for Citizenship Week. Program, New Orleans chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, April 27-May 4, 1941. [Rayford Logan Papers].
  6. Daniel, A. Mercer. “A Constitution for the People”. Excerpt of speech, no date. [A. Mercer Daniel Papers]
  7. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America, reprint 1926. [Charles Houston Papers ]
  8. De Priest, Oscar. Letter to William L. Houston, 27 August 1929, enclosed with requested reproductions of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America explaining the need for African Americans to understand the use the Constitution. [Charles Hamilton Houston Papers].
  9. Douglass, Frederick. “The Constitution of the United States: Is it Pro-slavery or Anti-slavery” Speech, typescript, delivered in Glasgow, Scotland, 28 March 1860,. [Frederick Douglass Papers].
  10. Douglass, Frederick. Letter to William Lloyd Garrison, 14 September 1845, describing mob scene of Americans traveling aboard a British steamship, the Cambria. [Frederick Douglass Papers]
  11. Grimké, Archibald H. “Negro Citizenship. Speech presented at the Reconstruction and Readjustment Conference held at Howard University, 13 November 1919 . [Archibald Grimke Papers]
  12. Grimké, Archibald H. Photo.
  13. Grimké, Francis J. “The Negro and His Citizenship”Speech, typscript, 1905. [Francis Grimke Papers]
  14. Grimké, Francis J. “Equality of Rights for all Citizens, Black and White Alike”. Pamphlet, 7 March 1909 [Francis Grimke Papers]
  15. Grimké, Francis J. Photo.
  16. Hughes, Langston Hughes. “I Too [Sing America]”. Poem handwritten on the back of a letter to Alain Locke from Genoa, Italy, 25 September 1924. [Alain Locke Papers].
  17. Johnson, Lyndon Baines Johnson. “To fulfill these rights.” Remarks of the President at Howard University, 4 June 1965. [Howard University Archives]
  18. Miller, Kelly. “The National Bird: Eagle or Jim Crow”. Speech, typescript, n.d. [Kelly Miller Papers]
  19. Moore, Alexander. Application, statement of citizenship to obtain passport, 16 November 1849. Versa has handwritten denial of passport because he is a person of colol, Department of State, 17 November 1849. [Omnium Gatherum Collection #821].
  20. National Freedom Day artifacts. Major Richard R. Wright, Sr. conceived National Freedom Day in observance and celebration of February 1, 1865, the day on which Abraham Lincoln signed the joint resolution proposing the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that abolished slavery in America..
  21. Photo of President Harry S. Truman signing National Freedom Day bill in 1948. Major Richard R. Wright, Sr. and Mary McLeod Bethune are among the persons surrounding him as he signs. [National Freedom Day Archives]
  22. Group photo of guest speakers and organizers of National Freedom Day. Included are Rev. Martin Luther King and Benjamin Mays. No date. [National Freedom Day Archives]
  23. National Freedom Day program, 1942. [National Freedom Day Archives].
    24. Newton, Huey P. “Towards a New Constitution”. Broadside, n.d. [Civil Rights Documentation Project Vertical File].
  24. Polling, James, “Thurgood Marshall and the 14th Amendment”. Reprint from Colliers magazine, 28 February 1952. [Omnium Gatherum Collection #818]
  25. Songwriters Meeting at the Treasury, Washington. Group photo including African American songwriters Andy Razaf and J. Rosamond Johnson. Meeting was held to encourage the promotion of patriotism in music. [Andy Razaf Papers]
  26. “We too Are Americans”. Sheet music. Words and music by Andy Razaf, Eubie Blake, and Charles L. Cooke, 1941. Song used in production of This is Our America. [Jesse Moorland sheet music collection].
  27. “We too Are Americans”. Sheet music. Words and music by Andy Razaf, Eubie Blake, and Charles L. Cooke, 1941. Song used in production of This is Our America. [Jesse Moorland sheet music collection].    


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