About 25 years ago, Ralph Proctor, professor of African American History at the Community College of Allegheny County, hit on the idea of creating a documentary on the Civil Rights Movement in Pittsburgh. It was to have been presented as an oral history, and to that end, over the next decade he videotaped interviews with about 50 people he had worked with personally in the movement.
However, Proctor said, he never got the financial backing to assemble the film. He ended up using some of the material for courses he had created at CCAC and the University of Pittsburgh.
But the project kept nagging at him. So, instead of making a film, Proctor used the material as the basis for a new book: “Voices From The Firing Line, A personal account of the Pittsburgh Civil Rights Movement.”
As he explains on the book’s dust jacket, “There was little valid documentation of the movement, and what was written, was authored by people who were not part of the movement…So here it is: a personal history of the movement, written by a historian who was there, told by the participants themselves, with photographs by my friend, the late Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris.”
Proctor finally published the book himself after being told innumerable times that its focus was too narrow to be marketable, or that it wasn’t “academic” enough.
“I got tired of begging, but now that it’s done I have another problem,” he said. “I was one of the “young lions’ at the time, and I’m 75, which means most of those I worked with—and interviewed—were older. Many of them are now gone, but there are some who may not be that I’ve just lost track of and I’d like to give all of them a copy.”
The people Proctor is looking for are Rev. Donald McIlvane, Canon Junius Carter, Vince Wilson, Mary Gloster, Harriet McCrea, Herman Mitchell, Robert Pitts, Roland Saunders, Delores Stanton, Hubert Ivey and Richard Gillcrese.
“One of the guys I interviewed, Mal Goode, died a few years ago but his family is still here and I’m getting them a copy, and would do the same for the rest if they send me their contact information and mailing address,” he said. “The thing is, I made a promise to these people that their names would be put down in history, so that others could know of their contributions.”
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