University Libraries Opens Collections From Black Americans for Democracy Student Group

The first black homecoming maids: (left) Jo Lynn Dennis with her escort, Marion Humphrey, president of Black Americans for Democracy. (right) Mellonee Carrigan with her escort, Morris Sylvester, chairman of the ASG Interracial Committee. (From Black Americans for Democracy News, 12 December 1974. BAD Times: A Digital Collection of the Black Americans for Democracy Newspapers, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.)
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The first black homecoming maids: (left) Jo Lynn Dennis with her escort, Marion Humphrey, president of Black Americans for Democracy. (right) Mellonee Carrigan with her escort, Morris Sylvester, chairman of the ASG Interracial Committee. (From Black Americans for Democracy News, 12 December 1974. BAD Times: A Digital Collection of the Black Americans for Democracy Newspapers, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In honor of Black History Month, the University Libraries’ special collections department has released two collections from the Black Americans for Democracy, a registered student organization active at the University of Arkansas from the late 1960s through the 1970s. All 20 issues of the organization’s newspaper, the BAD Times, have been digitized and made available on the Libraries’ website for reading and full text searching.

The Black Americans for Democracy manuscript materials (MC 1915.UA) contain meeting minutes for the organization, photos, and other materials documenting changes as the group evolved over time. These collections explore the lives of black students during a time of great social change.

Black Americans for Democracy organized as both a political and social group after the death of Martin Luther King Jr. The group created awareness of the issues facing black students on campus, promoted the achievements of black students and faculty, and provided social interaction. The group sponsored lectures and films that brought attention to current issues while urging black students to engage in campus life. The club lobbied administrators to provide more opportunities for black students. The group changed its name to Students Taking a New Direction in 1979. The new organization was granted two permanent seats on the Associated Student Government. In the late 1980s, the organization evolved into what is now known as the Black Students Association.

Members of the organization wrote and produced the BAD Times, which was also known as the Black Americans for Democracy News. The paper examined everyday issues through the lens of the American civil rights movement. The various topics contained in the BAD Times digital collection include social activities, like Black Emphasis Week (later changed to Black Awareness Week) and the Miss BAD Pageant (later changed to Miss Black University of Arkansas). The newspaper celebrated black students’ achievements, including the 1972 election of the first black student body president, Gene McKissic, and the 1974 election of the first black homecoming maids, Mellonee Carrigan and Jo Lynn Dennis. Students wrote editorials about campus issues, such as the color divide in residence halls, and about national topics, such as Affirmative Action and its effects on the university.

“These collections detail an important time in American history,” said university archivist Amy Allen. “They illustrate how a small group of students worked to make a difference in the condition of their everyday lives on the University of Arkansas campus.”

The BAD Times has been popular with researchers for many years. Frequent use, coupled with the age of the newspapers, created preservation concerns, as some of the issues began to crumble. The digital collection of the BAD Times newspaper can be viewed on the University Libraries’ Digital Collections website. The BAD manuscript materials are available for use in the reading room of the special collections department. Additional information on both the digital and manuscript collections is available by calling the special collections department at 479-575-5577.

The special collections department continually seeks materials that document the state’s physical, social and cultural history. Readers should contact Tim Nutt, interim department head, if they have materials they wish to donate.

Contacts

Tim Nutt, interim head of special collections
University of Arkansas Libraries
479-575-8443, timn@uark.edu

Jennifer Rae Hartman, public relations coordinator
University of Arkansas Libraries
479-575-7311, jrh022@uark.edu

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