The University of Virginia Library has launched a digital archive of television news footage from the civil rights era. The archive includes 20 years of news broadcasts from WSLS-TV in Roanoke during the period 1951 to 1971. According to the Library of Congress, only about 10 percent of the television news footage from this period has been saved.
The university acquired the film archive in 2004. The archive contained 360,000 feet of newsreel film. The university received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve and digitize the footage. The first 3,600 news clips are now available online. The remaining 13,000 news clips and 18,000 pages of news anchor scripts will be added as time permits.
Among the news clips are stories about the first days of racial integration in the Roanoke public schools and coverage about 1960 lunch counter sit-ins in the city.
Claudrena Harold, an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia, plans to use the archive in her course on African American history since the Civil War, states, “You can have students read the material about a historical event, but nothing beats seeing it. Acquiring this is going to help us in terms of research, but also in terms of the pedagogy and really giving our students the opportunity to see up close and to get a sense of the rhythms of the movement and the people of the movement.