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Amistad acquires Alternate ROOTS archive

AlternateROOTS | Arts, Community, Activism

Amistad has acquired the records of Atlanta-based Alternate ROOTS, a regional arts service organization of artists who work for social justice.

The acquisition documents 41 of the regional group’s 43 years, 1976 to 2017. Alternate ROOTS was founded in 1976 by a group of Southern-based artists and organizers “working to dismantle all forms of oppression – everywhere.” Its name, “Alternate,” means an alternative. “ROOTS” was originally an acronym for Regional Organization of Theatres South. For decades, Alternate ROOTS has served art organizations beyond theater groups, and its membership of 3,500 now consists of artists outside of the Southern region.

The grassroots focus of Alternate ROOTS, however, remains intact.

“The Alternate ROOTS collection will cover over 40 years of art and activism in the South, documenting the organization and its members’ history, legacy and contributions to community organizing. From the Civil Rights Movement to now, the archives tell the story that is simply not captured anywhere else but in these documents, video footage and other precious artifacts,” Michelle Ramos, executive director of Alternate ROOTS, said.

“We are thrilled they have found a home with Amistad and look forward to sharing them with our community and the world, and hope they will inspire future generations of arts activists, committed to continuing the important work of ROOTS,” Ramos said.

[alt0001.jpg] Amistad’s new collection consists of 111 linear feet of materials. Included is the entire body of Alternate ROOTS organizational records and files pertaining to its membership. Also included is correspondence, executive committee meeting minutes, memos, policy papers, administrative reports, outreach program proceedings, newsletters, bylaws, educational events and regional workshops, research material, notes, contracts, legal and financial records, printed marketing and publicity materials, clippings, photographs, videotapes, electronic media and artifacts created by Alternate ROOTS staff and members.

Many of the resources contained in the new Alternate ROOTS collection can be brought to life and activated to address some of the most pressing social issues of the day. Cultural organizing, creative place-making, regional community theater, the Black Arts Movement, AIDS activism, immigration, environmental justice, oral history in rural communities and more are addressed. Alternate ROOTS’ founders sought to meet the distinct needs of artists who create work by, for, about and within communities of place, tradition, affiliation and spirit.

Among the collection’s 577 audio-visual materials, many are deemed “at risk” due to age or format obsolescence.

New Orleans theater legend John O’Neal, founder of Junebug Productions, was a founding member of Alternate ROOTS. Documentation of Illinois-born O’Neal’s relationship with ROOTS is evident in this archive. O’Neal was also a founding member of Free Southern Theater, which began at Tougaloo College in Mississippi in 1963. Free Southern Theater - and O’Neal - later relocated to New Orleans in 1965. Amistad also holds the records of Free Southern Theater and O’Neal’s personal papers.

Amistad is currently collaborating with ROOTS and the History Department at the University of New Orleans to host a graduate student intern, Ella McIntire, to begin organizing the collection.

Images from Amistad’s website, newsletters, and blogs cannot be reproduced without permission.


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