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William L. Taylor papers

 Collection
Identifier: MS2287
This collection contains written speeches and testimony, correspondence, subject files, legal documents, and publications that William L. Taylor gathered and created during his career as a civil rights attorney between 1954 and 2009.

The material documents Taylor’s work in the following roles in his long career: as an attorney for the NAACP, as general counsel and staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Johnson administration, as founder of the Center for National Policy Review at Catholic University, as founder of the watchdog group Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, and as vice chair of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. In addition, the material documents his work as an attorney in private practice, most significantly a longstanding school desegregation case, Liddell v. Board of Education of St. Louis.

Key topics in the collection include: school desegregation legislation (especially Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) desegregation litigation (especially the case of Liddell v. Board of Education of the City of St. Louis), affirmative action, and racial discrimination in housing and voting.

Dates

  • 1954-2009

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Extent

55.5 Linear Feet

Overview

This collection contains written speeches and testimony, correspondence, subject files, legal documents, and publications that William L. Taylor gathered and created during his career as a civil rights attorney between 1954 and 2009.

Biographical / Historical

William Lewis Taylor (October 4, 1931–June 28, 2010) was a lawyer and civil rights activist whose career spanned an extraordinary period in American civil rights history, from 1954 to his death in 2010 at age 78. For over five decades, he advocated tirelessly on behalf of African-Americans facing discrimination in education, housing, and voting, and played a key role in writing federal laws guaranteeing the rights of all Americans regardless of race. After graduating from Yale Law School in 1954, Taylor began his career working for Thurgood Marshall at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, assisting with civil rights cases in the wake of the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In 1958, after the school board in Little Rock bowed to local resistance and suspended desegregation efforts, Taylor helped write the NAACP legal brief that persuaded the Supreme Court to require schools to comply with the Brown decision.

In the 1960s, as general counsel and staff director for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in the Johnson administration, he led the investigations into racial discrimination that laid the groundwork for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Soon after, he went on to found his own civil rights organizations, first the Center for National Policy Review at Catholic University, and later the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, where he focused on the implementation of federal civil rights laws and on school desegregation litigation. Since 1982, he also served as vice chair of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Washington, working to pass and strengthen civil rights legislation.

Most recently, Taylor focused his work on accountability in education, working to close the achievement gap in American schools and ensure a quality education for all students. He helped draft the 2002 No Child Left Behind legislation and defended it against challenges. He received the first Thurgood Marshall Award from the District of Columbia Bar in 1993, and the Hubert H. Humphrey Award from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in 2001.

In 2004 he wrote his autobiography, The Passion of My Times: An Advocate’s Fifty-Year Journey in the Civil Rights Movement, in which he summarized his message to the next generation: “I want to convince people whose minds are open that the work of providing opportunity to those who are worst off in this society is not done. And I want to convince the pessimists that change is possible—that if the Kings and Marshalls could overcome the enormous barriers of the last century, modern advocates should not despair.”

Arrangement

Collection: Organized into five series: Speeches and testimony; Correspondence; Subject files; Publications; and Photos

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Taylor family estate, 2010-2011 (Accessions 2010.059, 2011.011, and 2011.013).
Title
Guide to the William L. Taylor papers, 1954-2009
Status
completed
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2011
Description rules
dacs
Language of description
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America