Neighbors Network archive opens at Emory

Published 04-05-2013

The archive of Neighbors Network — a citizens' watchdog organization that monitored the activity of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi skinheads and other hate groups in metro Atlanta and other nearby areas — is now open to researchers and the public at Emory University's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL).

Walter B. Reeves, a co-founder of the group who served as its co-chair of education and outreach, donated the archive to MARBL. "I wanted to make sure the files were in a place where they would get the maximum access to researchers and the public, and I thought the Woodruff Library at Emory was the ideal place," he says.

Rosemary Magee, director of MARBL, says preserving such material is crucial to studying the tactics and the psychological appeal of hate groups.

"Even though these hate groups are offensive and the documents are deeply disturbing, we have an obligation to preserve this material for modern political history," she says. "It's important to acknowledge these aspects of American society, particularly since these groups continue to operate today and recruit young and vulnerable people."

A conversation with Reeves about his experiences and work with Neighbors Network is scheduled at 6 pm Wednesday, April 17 in the Jones Room on level 3 of the Robert W. Woodruff Library on the Emory campus. The discussion will be followed by a guided tour of the SCLC exhibition in the adjoining Schatten Gallery.

About Neighbors Network

Founded in Atlanta in 1987, Neighbors Network had a mission to counter "hate-crime and hate-group activity through research, education, victims' assistance and community action." Members of the all-volunteer organization monitored and reported on hate-group activity. They also promoted public awareness of hate-groups' recruitment methods, encouraging community members to report their knowledge of hate-group activities. The organization operated until early 1996.

Reeves is pleased researchers and the public will have greater access to the Neighbors Network archive through MARBL and hopes the material will provide a fuller understanding of what makes certain people vulnerable to the appeal of hate groups. He spent years monitoring these groups, infiltrating their meetings and studying their methods of recruitment.

"People assume that no one would join one of these groups unless they were already rabid racists," Reeves says. "But time and again, we came across people who got drawn in for reasons that had nothing to do with racism. They got drawn into these groups because they gave them a racist explanation to the problems they were facing or the difficulties they encountered, and people bought into it because they didn't have any other way of understanding the circumstances of their own lives."

Resources for scholars

"We have a number of collections that document the Ku Klux Klan from the early 1920s through the 1960s, but the Neighbors Network collection represents a continuation and a transformation of that story," says Randy Gue, curator of MARBL's Modern Political and Historical Collections. "This is a significant political collection for MARBL because it records the change in strategy and tactics that these hate groups are still using today."

In the collection

Among the items in the collection are:

• Photographs of hate-group members at rallies.
• Monitoring reports on hate-group activity, correspondence, telephone hotline logs, transcripts of conversations, victims' assistance files and other records.
• Newsletters published by Neighbors Network such as the Georgia Report, Neighbors Network Alert and Hatred in Georgia, detailing hate crimes and other activity around the state.

For more information about researching the Neighbors Network archive, email marbl@emory.edu.

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