Libraries Receive Grant to Save Recordings at Risk

Burning Spear, December 1969

The George A. Smathers Libraries received $50,000 in grant funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) for the project “Preserving the Journalistic Recordings of Burning Spear Media, 1971-1999.” This project is part of CLIR’s “Recordings at Risk” program and will allow the Smathers Libraries to partner with Burning Spear Media, LLC, to digitize and make publicly available 1495+ of their audio and video recordings dating back to 1971. Burning Spear Media, located in St. Petersburg, Florida, publishes The Burning Spear, the oldest Black Power newspaper in existence.

Digitizing this collection provides public access to previously unavailable primary source materials documenting black activism beyond the conventional end of the black power movement in the 1970s. Recorded by Burning Spear Media reporters and volunteers, these materials provide a contemporary view of seminal moments in the rebuilding of the Black Power movement. Recordings include conferences, workshops, freedom schools, Sunday meetings, homeless activism, protest marches, and speeches. Issues of the Burning Spear Newspaper going back to 1969 have already been digitized by the UF libraries and are available in the UF Florida Digital Newspaper Collection.  April Hines, Journalism Librarian for the Smathers Libraries, and grant co-PI, commented, “As a journalism librarian, I spend a lot of time in newspaper archives, but a digital collection of such an important publication’s journalistic recordings is truly unique. The number of previously unheard stories that will now be freely available to the general public is going to be so impactful in so many ways.”

Recordings at Risk is a national program administered by CLIR to support the preservation of rare and unique audio, audiovisual, and other time-based media of high scholarly value through digital reformatting.  The Burning Spear Media collection is composed of formats that are all magnetic media and are at risk from issues related to aging. The collection has been housed in coastal areas (Oakland, CA, and St. Petersburg, FL) that are susceptible to rapid changes in relative humidity that can contribute to chemical aging. 

The Smathers Libraries will ingest and preserve these recordings, making them freely available through UF’s Digital Collections, offering rare resources for current and future generations of students, activists, journalists, filmmakers, historians, and the general public. Dr. Rachel Grant, UF Assistant Professor in Journalism, stated that “To have this archive available speaks to the importance of the Black Power Movement in the study of Black history. By featuring the recordings and other media of Black voices, we are refocusing the popular misconceptions of the period. We are also speaking to current issues many Black activists were warning us about in the 1970s.”


April Hines, Journalism and Mass Communication Librarian,
Jennifer Hofer, History Librarian,
Chelsea Dinsmore, Chair of Resource Description Services,
Fletcher Durant, Director of Preservation and Conservation and Preservation,