My Summer at Amistad

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The constitution and by-laws of the New Orleans Improvement League, 1956

My name is Christian Williams. I am a sophomore in the Department of Finance at Jackson State University. Through the NOLA Youth Works Summer Employment Program, I was provided with an opportunity to work as a student intern at the Amistad Research Center. Working at the Center has offered me much more than I’d anticipated. Immediately after being toured around the facilities, I was able to work hands-on with materials such as microfilms, various files on the Center’s collections, and personal papers belonging to historical figures. I’ve also helped organize financial records, photographs, and correspondence of important African American men such as Chester Himes and Llewelyn Soniat.

The most recent project I completed was the archival processing of the records of the New Orleans Improvement League (NOIL). In consultation with the Center’s staff, I researched the League’s founding and activities to write a brief history of the NOIL. Analysis of the League’s records allowed me to then write a description of the collection and enter it into Amistad’s online finding aid database.

The New Orleans Improvement League was an organization founded on June 21, 1956, to supplement the objectives of the NAACP, which had been banned from operating in the state of Louisiana. The NOIL acted to preserve the rights of African American citizens who were under the persecution of unconstitutional laws passed by the state legislature. The NOIL was heavily active within the community of New Orleans, and hosted mass meetings to discuss fundraising and legal costs, and to produce statistical studies to fight against segregated facilities and transportation. After reading through the collection, I worked diligently to catalogue the valuable information by arranging the materials into individual folders to aid researcher access to the collection.

Overall, my time spent researching, reading, writing, and organizing materials in a hands-on environment has played a major role in keeping my summer productive. Here at Amistad, I was blessed with a supportive staff, tranquil work environment, and a multitude of useful information. The finding aid for the NOIL can be found here.

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Post by Christian Williams

Images from the New Orleans Improvement League Records. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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