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The WLBT Newsfilm Collection (1954-1971) documents two decades of intense social and political change in Mississippi. It primarily consists of more than 520,000 linear feet (635 16mm reels) of black-and-white and color film footage from WLBT, the National Broadcasting Company’s affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi. The collection is made up of the "outtakes" of the film shot, not the segments that were broadcast on the news program. Some but not all of the reels have sound tracks. The collection also includes a few still photographs, reel-to-reel audio tapes, very early videotapes, and news scripts.

The WLBT Newsfilm Collection contains footage of a wide variety of events: legislative activities, political campaigns, education, crime, entertainment, natural disasters, human interest (View Clip, View Clip), and sports. National concerns of the era including the Vietnam War (View Clip), women’s rights, and America’s War on Poverty are also represented.

The collection's coverage of the civil rights movement is requested most frequently. Events documented in the film include the arrival of the Freedom Riders (View Clip), the Capitol Street boycott, lunch counter sit-ins, demonstrations, James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi, 1964 Freedom Summer, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, voter registration campaigns (View Clip) , and the desegregation of public schools. Stokely Carmichael, Medgar Evers, Charles Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, Rev. Edwin King, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert (Bob) Moses, and Roy Wilkins are some of the key figures of the movement captured in the footage. Visits to Mississippi by national political leaders like Senator Robert Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, Harry Truman, and George Wallace are also recorded. Among the many groups represented in the footage are the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the Citizens' Council, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, and the Mississippi Council on Human Relations.

The WLBT Newsfilm Collection survived, in part, due to litigation between WLBT and the Federal Communications Commission on fair reporting practices. The collection was held as evidence during the years the cases and appeals were in the courts and on February 4, 1980, donated to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History by WLBT News. Portions of the collection were digitized through funding by the United States Department of Interior’s Save America’s Treasures grant program, administered by the National Endowment for the Arts. Reels that are digitized are so noted on the finding aid.

Reference copies of this material are available for a fee. Material from this collection may be licensed for use for a fee. The MDAH Public Order procedure and fee schedule apply. Consult the Photoreproduction and Digital Imaging policy or contact MDAH Reference Staff for order options as well as information on how to obtain and complete the necessary Public Order forms: 601-576-6874 or avarch@mdah.state.ms.us.

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