Learn about the Institute's Work with a Civil Rights Leader and NYC Students

In September 2018, the Gilder Lehrman Institute discovered that the creator of a document at the center of the civil rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama, is now living in New York. We brought the Reverend C. Herbert Oliver to the Gilder Lehrman Collection to talk about his experiences in Birmingham in the 1960s. Over the course of the next year, we continued to find ways to highlight the Reverend Oliver’s visit on our blog. With the help of Oliver’s son Claude, we were able to expand our work with the Oliver family to benefit students at Brooklyn East Collegiate, a Gilder Lehrman Affiliate School, who were preparing to make a trip to Alabama and surrounding states to study civil rights. This video tells the story:

Below find further information about the Reverend C. Herbert Oliver, his work and experiences as a civil rights leader, and an in-depth exploration of the document in the Gilder Lehrman Collection that started it all.

The Reverend Oliver recalls the events of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, what he was doing to document this and other violence in Birmingham, and other details of the era.

The Reverend Oliver tells the story of his first wife’s attempt to vote and how it led to a Supreme Court case. He also C. Herbert Oliver, “Report on Birmingham,” September 20, 1963 (The Gilder Lehrman Institute)discusses meeting James Chaney and how Chaney helped him out of Mississippi not too long before Chaney was killed there in the summer of 1964 along with Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

Spotlight on a Primary Source: Bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, 1963 A close examination of Reverend Oliver’s original letter documenting the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and acts of alleged police violence, a document in the Gilder Lehrman Collection. We also look at the Inter-Citizens Committee, on behalf of whom the Reverend Oliver prepared the newsletter, which documents “cases of alleged rights violations, both official and non-official” and was mailed out to  press and government officials across the country.

Students from Brooklyn East Collegiate describe, in their own words, the experience of visiting the Gilder Lehrman Collection for the first time.Students from Brooklyn East Collegiate visited the Gilder Lehrman Collection in January 2019.