Since I began collaborating on this project with Professor Faulkenbury, I have been able to sift through several different types of documents. Undoubtedly, my favorite kind to read between all the varieties of primary sources have been letters. Despite usually being shorter than the field reports and proposals and whatnot, they are much more direct to the point not to mention much more personal. I have also been able to notice key players that come up more often than others, that were certainly important in facilitating the project. One name that I saw come up time and time again, so much that I almost felt like I knew him personally, was Wiley Branton. Branton was a black lawyer from Arkansas, working several important civil rights cases in his time. These include pushing for the desegregation of the University of Arkansas School of Law, and filing a suit against the Little Rock School Board that later went to the U.S. Supreme Court as Cooper vs. Aaron. While he was well known for various works throughout his career and lifetime, his prominence in the Voter Education Project is definitely notable as he was the director. He was also a member of the NAACP. Many of the letters that I was able to review were either sent to or from him, or involved him in some way. A couple of the letters had to do with grants and loans as the VEP was a tax-exempt organization that could give money to other establishments specifically to aid in the process of mobilizing and registering black voters in the south. The grant was typically, at least in the letters I have seen, $1000. Five-hundred was sent up front, and the rest would be sent when needed so long as the receiver accepted and complied with the terms and conditions of these non-recurring grants. As the VEP was tax exempt, it was necessary that the money not be used in partisan politics or the support or opposition of any candidates in any way. Additionally, it should be put in a separate account with no money from anywhere else deposited. In order to keep the grant, the organization on the receiving end should submit a report before the 10th of each month with financial information, vouchers, and copies of any statistic or data relating to voter registration or education. Branton was also responsible for informing those who did not comply with the VEP’s strict grant guidelines that they would be having their grant cancelled and would need to return the initial $500 and would probably be audited anyways. Wiley played a crucial role in the VEP as well as African American rights throughout his entire lifetime. In regards to the internship in general, I’ll admit that in lieu of unorthodox nature of my work, I did not do a great job policing myself and timing things as well as I could have. If I had the chance to do it over, I definitely would have procrastinated less and set up times in advance that I would designate to this specifically, rather than feeling somewhat rushed at the end. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it and the information I gained working on it.
By: Tori Duger, spring 2019