Learning from the Past, Researching for the Future: Working on the SNCC Digital Gateway

This post was co-written by Tom Garrity ’17 and Jen Galvão ’19, two of four Geneseo students who currently work as interns for the SNCC Digital Gateway Project and enjoy every minute of it!

The SNCC Digital Gateway – coordinated by the SNCC Legacy Project, Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies and Duke University Libraries – is a documentary website that aims to preserve the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a civil rights era organization of young, grassroots organizers who worked to empower the local residents of southern black communities. Tom and Jen were both introduced to Karlyn Forner – the SNCC Digital Gateway’s Project manager – by Dr. Emilye Crosby, a Professor of History at Geneseo and a member of the SNCC Digital Gateway’s editorial board. They are thankful for Dr. Crosby’s continued support of their work. The SNCC Digital Gateway website serves as a valuable resource for both historians and the general public because of the way it collects and condenses information. The website provides detailed timelines of important events, as well as collections of pictures, videos, and interviews from the Movement. The website presents summaries of important events and people in a clear, narrative style that is accessible to both historians and the general public.

The homepage of the SNCC Digital Project.

Tom is primarily asked to survey SUNY Geneseo’s historical and contemporary audiovisual material of the SNCC organizers for certain key topics identified by the Project’s editorial board. Thus, through his work on this Project, Tom has honed his ability to survey large amounts of material, extract the essential sections from this material and then synthesize these sections into brief, easily understood documents. Once Tom identifies the location of these key topics in the audiovisual material, other members of the SNCC Digital Gateway Project may upload the identified sections to the SNCC Digital Gateway website so that it may be referenced by scholars and the general public.

This semester, Jen has been working with Karlyn Forner to manage the SNCC Digital Gateway’s social media, specifically in constructing informational This Day in History posts. Jen works first to compile a calendar of important events and birthdays, then uses the SNCC Digital Gateway website to research and compose brief, informational social media posts about these important figures and events. These posts will hopefully encourage people on Facebook or Twitter to learn more about SNCC by visiting the Digital Gateway website. Through this internship, Jen is learning how to boil down the most important facts about a person or event, and then use these facts to help others understand their significance to the movement. This work has allowed Jen a new perspective on the utility of social media for educational and promotional purposes.

Interacting with people through social media like the SNCC Digital Gateway Project Facebook page allows for the incorporation of new perspectives into scholarly work.

Tom’s work on this Project has been invaluable for his personal growth; it has provided him – a white male from the suburbs of Western New York – the ability to interact with the first-hand accounts of those who have a different perspective of the world. This has granted him a “diversity of thought” from many of his peers of the same gender, race and economic status. Tom will certainly carry this diversity of thought with him throughout his law school experience and his intended career as a voting rights lawyer. Tom’s work as an intern for the SNCC Digital Gateway Project has been one of the most meaningful learning experiences of his academic career, as the audiovisual material he surveyed has provided him with a perspective of the world he would have never been able to perceive on his own.

This internship is important to Jen because it has allowed her to continue learning about SNCC outside of the classroom in a more personalized, in-depth manner. She has especially enjoyed getting to explore the biographies of individual workers within the Civil Rights Movement. This emphasis on local leadership and the power of the individual characterized SNCC’s work in the South. Jen’s work with the Project has encouraged her to think critically about the way individuals and their actions impacted the larger Civil Rights Movement.

The SNCC Digital Gateway Project includes resources like videos of former
SNCC members talking about their activism. Pictured here, Ivanhoe Donaldson (1941-2016).

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