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"Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" program files and sound recordings

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 934

Scope and Content Note

The "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" program files consist of interview transcripts, audiovisual materials, scripts, program research files, and production files. The largest part of the collection is made up of materials related to the interviews that give "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" its unique perspective. Series 1 and Series 2 contain transcripts and tapes of interviews conducted by the SRC as well as transcripts and tapes from other archival repositories. Besides the interviews, the audiovisual materials also include rough mixes of the individual episodes of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" Series 3 contains materials the documentary's staff used to develop scripts for the twenty-six episodes, including notes, outlines, drafts, and "outtakes," and final versions of the scripts.

The program research files consist of inventories of archival collections, correspondence with archival repositories as well as historical materials, including biographical sketches, chronologies, notes, newspaper clippings, articles, excerpts from books, and guides for each city. The production files relate to the production and administration of documentary. Of particular interest in this series are the comments from listeners about the documentary as well as the station carriage lists, which list the radio stations that carried "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" in the United States.


  • 1956-1999
  • Majority of material found within ( 1983-1998)

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Access to processed born digital materials is only available in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (the Rose Library). Use of the original digital media is restricted.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction. Special restrictions also apply: The collection contains some copies of original materials held by other institutions; these copies may not be reproduced without the permission of the owner of the originals. Use copies have not been made for the audiovisual materials at this time. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance for access to these materials.

Historical Note

"Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: An Audio History of the Civil Rights Movement in Five Southern Communities and the Music of Those Times" is an award-winning radio documentary. Produced by the Southern Regional Council (SRC), it chronicles the struggle to end segregation in Atlanta, Georgia, Columbia, South Carolina, Jackson, Mississippi, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Montgomery, Alabama. While other documentaries about the civil rights movement concentrate on national leaders and national organizations, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" focuses on "the essential local character of the places and people who collectively became the Movement." In order to capture the undocumented side of the movement, the producers conducted over a hundred original interviews with civil rights activists and combed through archives across the country for oral histories and other materials. "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" aired on Public Radio International (PRI) affiliates across the country in 1997, and it won a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award the same year.

The series consists of 26 episodes. Affiliates could choose to broadcast "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" as either 13 fifty-nine minute programs or 26 twenty-nine minute programs. The series kicked off with a "Prologue," which chronicled race relations and social conditions in the South before World War II. After this introduction, the series started telling the story of civil rights movement in each city, beginning in Columbia and ending in Atlanta, Georgia. The structure of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" served two purposes. First, it recounted the history of the movement in each individual city. This approach represented an important step because, as historian Robert J. Norrell wrote, "The civil rights movement had a different experience in each place." Second, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" used the struggle in each city as a way to highlight specific directions the civil rights movement took as well as specific strategies activists employed to bring about change. The Columbia shows, for example, outlined the use of "litigation as a route to social change" by tracing how a lawsuit from Clarendon County became part of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision. The Little Rock episodes then explored the implications of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling because the Arkansas city's public schools became a battleground over the implementation of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The structure of the series produced an innovative and powerful history of the movement.

The programs in the series are:

Program 1: Prologue

Program 2: Columbia, South Carolina: "Our Place, Their Place."

Program 3: Columbia, South Carolina: "Under Color of Law."

Program 4: Columbia, South Carolina: "Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Segregation's Got to Go."

Program 5: Columbia, South Carolina: "Orangeburg."

Program 6: Montgomery, Alabama: "The Cradle of the Confederacy."

Program 7: Montgomery, Alabama: "Walk and Pray."

Program 8: Montgomery, Alabama: "The Bus Boycott."

Program 9: Montgomery, Alabama: "My Feet Is Tired."

Program 10: Montgomery, Alabama: "Rocking the Cradle."

Program 11: Little Rock, Arkansas: "The Jim Crow Years."

Program 12: Little Rock, Arkansas: "Nine for Justice."

Program 13: Little Rock, Arkansas: "Soldiers in School."

Program 14: Little Rock, Arkansas: "The Lost Year."

Program 15: Little Rock, Arkansas: "The 1960s."

Program 16: Jackson, Mississippi: "American Apartheid."

Program 17: Jackson, Mississippi: "The Birth of the Jackson Movement."

Program 18: Jackson, Mississippi: "The Demonstrations."

Program 19: Jackson, Mississippi: "Freedom Summer."

Program 20: Jackson, Mississippi: "Power and Resistance."

Program 21: Atlanta, Georgia: "Prelude to a Movement."

Program 22: Atlanta, Georgia: "The Atlanta Student Movement."

Program 23: Atlanta, Georgia: "Crow and Molasses."

Program 24: Atlanta, Georgia: "The City Too Busy to Hate."

Program 25: Atlanta, Georgia: "The Rise of Black Political Power."

Program 26: Epilogue


35 linear feet (55 boxes) (82.7 MB born digital material (457 files))


Program files and sound recordings from the award winning radio documentary, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: An Audio History of the Civil Rights Movement in Five Southern Communities and the Music of Those Times," produced by the Southern Regional Council (SRC). The collections consists of interview transcripts, audiovisual materials, born digital materials, scripts, program research files, and production files.

Arrangement Note

Organized into five series: (1) Interview transcripts, (2) Audiovisual materials, (3) Scripts, (4) Program research files, and (5) Production files.


Gift, 2002.

Related Materials in This Repository

Dan T. Carter papers, Calvin Fred Craig papers, Constance Curry papers, Doris Derby papers, Leslie Dunbar papers, Vincent Harding papers, James A. MacKay papers, Ralph McGill papers, Eliza K. Paschall papers, Frances F. Pauley papers, Nan Pendergast papers, Margie Pitts Hames papers, Claude Sitton papers, and Elbert P. Tuttle papers.


Control level 3


File name: src-circle934.doc


Processed by Randy Gue, February 1, 2005.

Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Brenna Edwards, 2020. Born digital materials include files taken from four 3.5" floppy disks, two Zip disks, and one optical disk. For information as to how these materials were processed, see the processing note in the description of series 2, Audiovisual materials.

Control level 3

File name: src-circle934.doc

This finding aid may include language that is offensive or harmful. Please refer to the Rose Library's harmful language statement for more information about why such language may appear and ongoing efforts to remediate racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, euphemistic and other oppressive language. If you are concerned about language used in this finding aid, please contact us at

"Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" program files and sound recordings, 1956-1999
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
June 20, 2008
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States