May 2, 2005
Donated archive documents volunteer hate-group research
BY katherine baust
Founded in late 1987, the Neighbors Network was an entirely volunteer organization, a collective of concerned citizens, that defined its mission as “countering hate-crime and hate-group activity through research, education, victims assistance and community action.”
“We were a ‘kitchen table’ organization; we discussed the need for this work over our kitchen tables,” said Walter Reeves, former co-chair of education and outreach for Neighbors Network. “At that time, there were only about three other organizations doing this type of work, and their focus was national. We felt that there needed to be a local focus to meet the threat on the ground, and that is the role we served.”
During its years of activity, from 1988–95, the Neighbors Network collected a vast array of materials mapping the growth and development of hate groups in Georgia and the Southeast, their national efforts, their national and international connections, as well as the network’s own efforts to oppose them. The entire collection is now a permanent part of Special Collections at Woodruff Library and soon will be accessible for research use. Once processing is completed, which involves describing the full collection and preparing a catalog record, the collection will be open to all.
The donation of the Neighbors Network materials was coordinated through Berl Boykin, a local activist who recently worked with Special Collections Director Steve Enniss on another donation. Reeves, a friend of Boykin’s, said he was looking for a good location for the Neighbors Network archive. Shortly after, Enniss met with Reeves to survey the material and decided that Special Collections would take it.
“There is a tendency for some people to think that these hate groups are a throwback to another time, that they are antiquated,” Enniss said. “In fact, some have just morphed into other organizations, and the value of this archive is that it documents that transformation and the ongoing activities of these groups.”
Enniss enlisted the help of Randy Gue, a graduate student in the Institute of Liberal Arts focusing on the 20th century urban South, to help process the materials. According to Gue, the collection consists of organizational records of Neighbors Network, hate-group publications, raw information (like meeting minutes) and “intelligence” gathered by attending meeting and taking photographs at public events.
“It is a phenomenal archive of hate-group material, and it’s really invaluable because most people think hate groups ended in the ’60s and ’70s with the civil rights movement and the [Ku Klux] Klan,” said Gue. “As a student and historian, this collection is completely invaluable [to me]. It names names and draws connections; it identifies who’s who, what they are doing and—very importantly—how they are recruiting.”