The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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The Books for Birmingham Project

An interview with Carlton Olson and Alice Rader, conducted by Mike Dicianna.

March 20, 2014


“Miles of Books for Miles!”  March 20, 2014  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Rader and Olson convey their memories of campus life at OSU, including their favorite professors and their recollections of the Kerr Library. They then participate in a detailed discussion of the Books for Birmingham project, including its genesis, campus support for the project, and the visit to the OSU campus of Miles College President Dr. Lucius Pitts. Rader and Olson also relay their recollections of the trip to deliver 14,000 books to the Miles College library, the warm reception that they received upon arrival, and their sense of the African American community in Birmingham during their stay.

The remainder of the session focuses on subsequent activism in which Rader and Olson engaged. Topics include their involvement supporting voter registration and the Voter Rights Act; engagement with US-China friendship groups and anti-Vietnam War groups; and advocacy of Native American rights, peace in Central America and the womens movement. Olson also shares his memories of working with Students for a Democratic Society, both on the OSU campus and on the national stage, particularly during periods of mid-1960s unrest in Chicago and elsewhere.