Monthly Archive for June, 2009

Video of the Week: Gerald Horne

Gerald Horne delivers a wide-ranging talk on the global reach of the civil rights movement.

This talk was part of “The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories,” a conference hosted by the Southern Oral History Program as part of the Long Civil Rights Movement Publishing Project.

See more video here.

New Faculty Survey

The LCRM project team would like you to participate in our new Survey for Scholars. The survey is designed to allow scholars, from graduate students to professors, a chance to offer their feedback on our latest activities and ideas for innovative publishing projects. And, to show our appreciation for those who participate, we are pleased to offer a free UNC Press book from a list of five specially selected titles for completing the survey.  We look forward to hearing from you! (And for our friends in the library community who wish to offer their feedback on our ideas watch this space in the coming months for another survey specially geared towards librarians.)

New Oral Histories Database

The Southern Historical Collection together with UNC Libraries is pleased to present the new SOHP digital collection:

Our new site allows more and better access to our interviews. It provides users with even greater search capabilities and functionality. Most importantly, the CONTENTdm platform has the ability to deliver digital content on the Web. In addition to the 500+ interviews already delivered digitally by Oral Histories of the American South, users can now access another 330 digital transcripts as well as around 290 digital audio interviews from the new CONTENTdm site. These numbers will only continue to grow!

The new site includes a number of browse pages (Interviewee, Interviewer, Project, Occupation, Subject, and Ethnicity), as well as the old site’s keyword searches (though users can now search across transcript and abstract fields as well!) A powerful advanced search is available from the main Libraries digital collections search page ( The advanced search includes the ability to search interviews by multiple Boolean operators (and, or, not) in specified fields, search by date ranges plus keyword in specific fields, and a search of multiple keywords based on their proximity to each other within a field.

Check out the new site–we hope you enjoy it!

Voting Rights Act Remains Untouched

The Supreme Court chose, 8 to 1, not to mess with the Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts, who is able to make the blandest statements seem ominous, wrote, “Whether conditions continue to justify such legislation is a difficult constitutional question we do not answer today.”

Emphasis on today. And on do not answer. Though conservative justices “derided” Section 5 of the Act (the part of the law in question, which requires thousands of municipalities in southern states with histories of discrimination to receive Justice Department clearance before changing their voting procedures), they left it intact. Instead, they created a way for municipalities to seek exemption.

The ruling puzzled experts, who expected the Court to strike down the provision. The Court’s relative restraint might have been a signal to Congress that the law needed to change; it may have been a way to undermine the Voting Rights Act without appearing to be the dreaded “activist” judges everyone carps about. In any case, it occurs at a time when new groups of voters need protections, a need that requires looking forward as well as back.

My History Is America’s History

Recently I met a couple of librarians who advise individual families and communities on archiving their history.  As I listened to them talk about their work, I recognized a connection among the work of archivists, historians, and community organizers.  Convincing someone that her grandmother’s letters and the old photographs in the attic are valuable historical artifacts is a form of community organizing, akin to the work that activists do to convince people that they have a voice for change.   Oral history work is parallel, too, in the way that historians go into communities and convince ordinary citizens that their memories are valuable and they should record them so that their voices and perspectives will not be lost to future generations.  There is an urgency to all of this work, because for myriad causes–both cruelly accidental and shockingly deliberate–voices, memories, communities, and cultures are continually in danger of being lost.

Take a look at this beautifully produced publication “My History Is America’s History: 15 Things You Can Do to Save America’s Stories,” which was created at the NEH under Bill Ferris during the Clinton years.

It includes “How to do an interview” and “Playing detective with photographs,” among other useful sections.  Some of the people doing this good work today will surely find it useful.  I ordered a used print copy on Amazon for a negligible price.

As these commonalities of purpose come into focus, the connections among our LCRM project partners–the Center for Civil Rights (community organizers), the Southern Oral History Program (historians), the UNC Special Collections Library (archivists)–are clearer, and despite its complexity (it is unusual for a collaborative project to have four partners!) the project gains coherence.  I’ll post more on project ideas and activities soon . . .

Tom Sugrue responds to Richard Kahlenberg

In March, Richard Kahlenberg warned Barack Obama not to listen to Tom Sugrue by way of reviewing Sugrue’s book, Sweet Land of Liberty. (Read the original post, and the original article, here.) Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, has asked Sugrue to response, and his piece has just been published. Click here to read it. (Free registration required.)

The following passage is particularly resonant given the Supreme Court’s approaching consideration of a key portion of the Vting Rights Act that requires places with histories of minority discrimination to receive Justice Department approval before changing their voting procedures.

The persistence of racial inequality in the last 40 years of the twentieth century was not the result of the betrayal of a “subset of whites” who would have been integrationists had it not been for Sonny Carson. It was the result of a long history of public policies, deindustrialization, and systematic disinvestment from black communities, persistent segregation in housing and education, discriminatory practices by employers and unions, and long-standing racial gaps in wealth, health, and income.

Read the whole thing here.

It appears that the Court is likely to strike down the provision, a move that will be applauded by people who don’t understand that the civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s didn’t ban racism. (It’s hard not to reserve special contempt for people who use Martin Luther King’s name to advocate the dismantling of his legacy.) The movement, as Sugrue writes, “remains unfinished.”

Digital Publishing Workshop

Following the Long Civil Rights Movement Conference in April, the “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement” project team had the opportunity to discuss digital publishing with the conference panelists in a workshop.  Several members of the staff of the UNC Special Collections Library were also in the audience.  We deeply appreciate the participation of all those who attended—especially considering that a beautiful spring day and ongoing conversations about the conference panels beckoned!  Following are highlights of the workshop discussion.  I welcome comments, questions, and continued conversation.  This will be the first of a number of posts about the “publishing” part of the “Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement” project.

The workshop began with a number of “what ifs” suggested by LCRM team member Mark Simpson-Vos, who is an acquisitions editor at the University of North Carolina Press and a project team member, relating to “publishing as community”:  What if works of scholarship were published online with a commenting feature allowing authors and others to link to primary sources and enrich the work on an ongoing basis?   Continue reading ‘Digital Publishing Workshop’

Events Update

With another semester finished in the Triangle, there are only a few LCRM events in the area this summer. With that in mind, we will not be providing weekly events round-ups for the summer months. We will continue to post events as we learn about them, so if you have an event you would like to see added to our LCRM events calendar send an e-mail to LCRM_Events [at] UNC [dot] edu.