Recorded by Moses Moon (known at the time as Alan Ribback) and assisted by Norris McNamara during 1963 and 1964, the collection includes audio recordings of interviews with civil rights leaders and participants as well as free-style recordings of mass meetings, voter registration events, and other gatherings organized by Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). This collection provides a mostly unfiltered documentation of significant moments in the civil rights movement.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of 115 reel to reel audio recordings containing interviews, mass meetings, demonstrations, and conversations concerning the civil rights movement, and in particular the voter registration drives organized by SNCC in Alabama and Mississippi in 1963 and 1964. Mass meetings were recorded in Greenwood, Mississippi; Americus, Georgia; Selma, Alabama; Jackson, Mississippi; Danville, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and Indianola, Mississippi. Major demonstrations recorded include the March on Washington in August of 1963, Freedom Day in Selma, Alabama in October of 1963, and Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, Mississippi in January of 1964. Interviews with SNCC workers include Julian Bond, John Lewis, James Forman, Bruce Gordon, Prathia Hall, Ivanhoe Donaldson, Bob Moses, Avery Williams, Willie Peacock, Bruce Boynton and his mother, as well as dozens of others involved in the movement, who are named in the collection inventory. Many of those interviewed were actively involved in strategizing and carrying out SNCC demonstrations and political actions, and many were victims of death threats, beatings, unlawful arrest, police brutality, and torture and abuse in prison. These interviews contain detailed eyewitness accounts and personal testimony regarding these experiences, as well as personal history and thoughts about the movement, the South, and the future.
It is clear from what we know of the dates and locations of these recordings, as well as from documentation of these events in other sources, that many of these recordings are unique documents of important events in American history, which may also contain the commentary of important political and cultural figures who were involved in the movement. For example, an article by Howard Zinn recounts how an unidentified man recorded James Baldwin on October 7, 1963, Freedom Day in Selma, on the steps of the courthouse. Baldwin was furious at the lack of support from nearby federal agents as state troopers advanced on peaceful demonstrators. One of the tapes dated October 7, 1963, originally labeled "courthouse interviews," appears to be this recoding, although Baldwin is not named. The same article (available in The Howard Zinn Reader) recounts the mass meetings which led up to that demonstration, at which actor Dick Gregory gave a rousing sermon as his wife sat in jail for demonstrating in Selma. The Moses Moon Collection may be the only existing audio recording of that sermon as well as many other sermons and speeches.
Moses Moon changed his name after these recordings were made. He is referred to in the finding aid as Alan Ribback because that name is used on the recordings.
The collection is arranged in two series.Series 1 is in chronological order to the degree recording dates can be determined, and is based on the locations and dates provided by Moon in his description or gleaned from the recordings themselves and other secondary sources. Series 1 contains 17 groups of recordings.
Moon's original numbers are recorded in the column next to the descriptions. Following the first four Greenwood tapes, which are numbered sequentially, Moon's numbering system took the first two letters of the town in which the recordings were made, a one (1), a decimal, and then a tape number. Numbers preceding the town code refer to the recording day. "N" numbers were later assigned by Moon to the 7" reels only, after the original recordings were made, possibly during editing or when the tapes were made available to the Program in African American Culture.
Series 1, Original Tapes
1. Greenwood, Mississippi; Spring 1963; 4 7" reels
2. Chicago, Illinois; August 9, 12, 1963; 2 5" reels
16. Monroe County, Mississippi; August 1, 1964; 4 5" reels
17. Milton, Mississippi; August 16, 1964; 3 5" reels
Series 2, Preservation Masters consists of data DVDs for a portion of the collection.
Biographical / Historical:
Moses Moon was born Alan Ribback in 1928. During the 1950s until 1962, Ribback was the proprietor of the Gate of Horn, Chicago's premier folk music club, which featured performers including Bob Gibson, Odetta, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Jo Mapes, Peter, Paul and Mary, Lenny Bruce, and Shelley Berman. On December 5, 1962, Lenny Bruce was arrested during a performance at the Gate of Horn along with Ribback, George Carlin, and others. As a result of the arrest and Bruce's subsequent conviction for obscenity, the club was closed by the City of Chicago, and Ribback left Chicago with Norris McNamara, an audio technician, to record folk concerts taking place in the South as part of the growing civil rights movement. From the spring of 1963 until the summer of 1964, Ribback and McNamara recorded demonstrations and mass meetings and interviewed civil rights activists, primarily those involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Later, Ribback moved to New York and edited his recordings into an album called Movement Soul. Ribback married Delia Moon in 1971, took her last name and changed his first name to Moses. In 1979, Bernice Reagon Johnson, working with the Program on African American Culture at the Smithsonian, contacted Moon and borrowed the recordings of mass meetings for a 1980 program on the voices of the civil rights movement. In the late 1980s, Moon was stricken with a severe case of Guillain-Barre syndrome, which left him paralyzed. Moon donated the entire collection of original recordings shortly before his death in 1993.
Materials at Other Organizations
The papers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee are held by the King Library and Archives in Atlanta, Georgia; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donated by Moses and Delia Moon in 1995.
Collection is open for research. Reference copies must be used. Tapes noted in the container list have digital reference copies in the Smithsonian Institution Digital Asset Management System (DAMS).
Collection items available for reproduction, but copyright status unknown. Contact Archives Center staff for additional information. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.