Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sources for Researchers: Ohio Civil Rights Commission

In 1959, Ohio Governor Michael V. DiSalle signed the Ohio Civil Rights Act into law, which led to thef formation of Ohio's Fair Employment Practices Commission in 1960. A year later, in 1961, this agency's name was changed to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, a name which it retains today.

According to its About page, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission responsibilities are to

receive, investigate, render formal determinations and conciliate charges of unlawful discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, credit and disability in institutions of higher education. It is the Commission's responsibility to educate constituents and stakeholders about Ohio's Laws Against Discrimination.

As a resource for students of sociology, the Commission's reports are wonderful sources of information. For example, the 2009-2010 report includes statistical information on complaints filed and on results of those cases, education and outreach highlights grouped by month, a page which outlines and explains the Ohio Civil Rights Act, and pictorial content, including essay contest winners. The 1961 report, the Commission's second, features similar content but also includes summaries of select cases. These include reports of employment discrimination against people of color in both a department store and a diner. After an investigation by the Commission, both employers hired their first people of color as salesperson and waitress.

At this point I should mention that the publications all use common language of the day. Therefore, African-Americans are referred to as “Negroes” in the case summaries above and throughout early reports.  This is, of course, not meant as a pejorative. Early reports do not include pictures, and so it is difficult to determine whether the Commission included any people of color, or at what point this changed. The composition of the Commission throughout the years is also an interesting area of exploration for sociologists, as is the changes in language used throughout its publications.

The Commission's annual reports and other publications are largely electronic, as is the trend with all Ohio state government agencies. However, the State Library of Ohio holds print copies of reports from 1960 to 1990 in its collection, along with numerous other Commission publications. The Commission has also made digital copies of its annual reports, both born-digital and digitized, available on its website.

As a side note, state government documents are rich resources of valuable content on a variety of subjects. The activities of our state agencies are incredibly varied, and their reports and publications should not be overlooked. Many libraries throughout Ohio hold state government publications in our collections, and librarians are more than happy to provide access to these documents or to help find relevant content within their pages. My library, the State Library of Ohio, is no different. I hope that readers of my blogs will consider these documents for future assignments!

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