In the last post I reported on my visit to Howard University to see if I could find any paper trail amongst their impressive archives regarding Norvel's act of civil disobedience. I spent the next day, May 24, 2017, nearby at the Library of Congress (pictured above), to continue the quest by searching the NAACP records archived there. It was the NAACP through the law firm of Hill, Martin, and Robinson, that defended Norvel and took the case through the appeals process. I was hoping those records were preserved in the Library's collection.
Several weeks earlier while preparing for the visit I received an email from Edith Sandler, a Manuscript Reference Librarian from the Manuscript Division at the Library. I learned that the Manuscript Division was a special section in the Library of Congress that required credentials to access. The reason for vetting is that individuals granted access handle valuable historic documents while conducting their research. She also provided an extensive list of topic headings the manuscripts were filed under, and labeled boxes in which they could be found. There were many such items on the list I was interested in. An example was:
BOX II:B1-B221 Part II: Legal File, 1940-1955 Correspondence, memoranda, briefs, transcripts, proceedings, affidavits, reports, lists, notes, newspaper clippings, and printed matter. Arranged alphabetically by name of individual or court case or by type of material or subject and there under chronologically.
After arriving in the morning and securing my credentials I entered the manuscript room, took a seat at a desk and submitted a request for a box of manuscripts. They were delivered to my desk and I began reviewing each one, handling them by the edges as required.
I was looking for:
Ties/links between the NAACP and Howard University in 1948 and 1949.
Ties/links between the NAACP and the Hill, Martin, and Robertson law firm.
Any evidence of Norvel interacting directly with the NAACP.
I spent hours upon hours mesmerized by what I was handling. I had in my hands many original letters written by future US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall responding to various civil rights cases that the NAACP was considering becoming involved with. The stories behind each one of those would likely be a book in itself. There were letters from other NAACP luminaries at the time, including Lester Banks who makes a brief appearance in NORVEL. But most moving were the numerous notes and pleas from individuals looking for the NAACP for help dealing with racial injustices they had experienced. It was clear they had nowhere else to turn.
I was easily distracted by what I found and had to remind myself why I was there. By the end of the long day I didn't find any documents related to Norvel Lee or his attorney, Martin A. Martin. It was at this point I decided to just relate the incident the way it was described in the court documents and not to speculate myself what was involved. I'm still hoping someday to stumble upon Martin A. Martin's archival records.
Next time I will talk about meeting a person who, since the time of reaching out to them, not only gave me key information for the narrative on Norvel's AAU boxing years but provided key support in the roll out and ultimate success of NORVEL.
Stay healthy, stay safe.