Monthly Archive for November, 2010

SNCC at 50: Rick Tuttle Interview

In April, the Southern Oral History Program partnered with the Duke Oral History Project to conduct a series of interviews with veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who had gathered on the campus of Shaw University to celebrate and reflect on the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding.

Among those we spoke to was Rick Tuttle, who heard news of the movement first as a student at Wesleyan and then as a graduate student at UCLA. He headed South to join SNCC in Mississippi, and was immediately plunged into the violent world of voter registration and local resistance. He left Mississippi in a hurry after Medgar Evers’s murder as word spread the murderer had chosen Tuttle as his next victim …

Rick Tuttle from Southern Oral History Program on Vimeo.

Digital Humanities

The New York Times on technology giving humanities scholars a new digital tool: data.

The Campus Y at 150: A Student Reflects

We are pleased to share this post from a student involved in planning and conducting oral history interviews for the Campus Y’s 150th anniversary…

I have been working with and conducting interviews on behalf of the Campus Y Oral history project for the last nine months. The interviews I and a number of others have collected for the Campus Y Oral History Project are pieces of history which document the legacy of the Y and express the intangible impact the Y has made on the lives of its members and on the community of this University.  Being a part of this project has given me the opportunity to speak with diverse, interesting and compelling alumni who have conveyed to me the importance of working for social justice and the significance of the Y to their lives. Their insight and worldview have been extraordinarily compelling.

A student performs an oral history at the Campus Y's 150th anniversary celebration.

During the weekend of the 150th Anniversary I had the opportunity to perform with other students excerpts of these interviews in front of the alumni who had traveled to our campus to reunite and to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Y. These alumni, some of whom had traveled just down the road others of which had traveled from the west coast or from New York or  from Costa Rica, gathered together to celebrate the history of the Y and to meet and engage in dialogue with current students at the University.

I performed Lisa Abbott, a former student from the late 1980s who was very passionate about environmental issues.   Abbott worked with the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), and she was one of the main organizers of the Conference. The SEAC conference was designed to raise awareness of national and international environmental issues, and it was completely organized and actualized by Campus Y students. The conference hosted over 1500 students for a weekend of remarkable speakers, workshops, and organizing events.

Performing oral history.

Performing Lisa gave me a new opportunity to engage with the oral history interviews. The performance allowed me to use the personal narrative of Abbott in a creative and compelling way which reached an audience of her peers. Furthermore, I was able to learn about an alumnus I had not interviewed. Learning about Lisa and knowing that I would be performing her in front of an audience who knew her was added a personal dimension to the performance.”

To find out more about this project or the anniversary celebration, please visit our website ( or contact us directly (919-962-2333 or  For a closer look at some of the Y oral histories, please visit the Southern Oral History Program’s “Anne Queen and Campus Y” collection at here.

The Campus Y at 150

Carolina’s Campus Y recently celebrated its 150th anniversary with a weekend event here on campus. For 150 years, the Y had been a campus leader in student activism and in its (very) old age still works to channel student energy into social causes. The Southern Oral History Program partnered with Hudson Vaughan, a recent Carolina graduate (and now an oral historian, too!) who contributed significantly to organizing the event, which included gathering and performing oral histories with Carolina alumni who participated in Y programs while they were students.

We asked Hudson to contribute some reflections on the event and the role oral history played, and we’re grateful for this dispatch he sent in:

In front of a packed auditorium of students, alumni, faculty, and community members, Campus Y student leaders performed alumni oral histories narrating the Y’s involvement in social justice throughout the last 150 years on campus.  The performance highlighted the Campus Y’s central role in major social movements:  students at the Campus Y spearheaded the integration effort of the undergraduate program, participated in the local Civil Rights Movement, helped overturn the Community Speaker Ban, organized thousands to protest the Vietnam War, assisted in the Cafeteria Workers’ Strikes of 1969 and 1970, created the national student environmental action coalition, and fought for the free standing Black Cultural Center in the early 1990’s.

Students prepare to perform oral histories of Campus Y alumni.

The oral history performance explored the connecting lines between these movements:  the importance of the Y’s inclusive environment and far reaching welcome, the continual support for student initiatives and student freedom even when considered “naive”, and the power of a community tied together by passion for a more just world.   Y students created the script from over 50 oral histories conducted in partnership with the Southern Oral History Program about the significance of the Campus Y throughout the generations. As the performance ended, alumni in the audience who had watched their oral histories performed were asked to stand, and the student performers greeted and thanked them to a standing ovation.

No Carolina event is complete without barbeque. Campus Y director Richard Harrill is visible standing toward the left.

The performance was part of a larger event called the “Record Speaks” which included a powerful lecture by Professor Bill Ferris about the Campus Y’s history as the “social conscience” of the university and the role of personal narratives of history in his own journey documenting the blues.   Events under the  theme “150 years of innovations in social justice” filled the commemorative weekend  exploring the possibilities created when hundreds of alumni, students, and community members come together to discuss the foundations of history and the possibilities for the future of social justice work.

The event opened the 150th celebrations in a creative and artistic way, which ultimately has led to such increased interest in the Y’s history and its connections to our ongoing programming today, already opening the door for student partnerships with the Black Student Movement, a re-initiation of ongoing discussions with community partners, and heightened interest in oral history courses and their ability to enable deepened work today.

To find out more about this project or the anniversary celebration, please visit our website ( or contact us directly (919-962-2333 or  For a closer look at some of the Y oral histories, please visit the Southern Oral History Program’s “Anne Queen and Campus Y” collection at here.

The Scottsboro Boys

From the New York Times, a fascinating piece on “The Scottsboro Boys,” a new play balanced at the intersection of race, discrimination, gender, violence, storytelling, contested narrative, and memory.

In the new Broadway musical “The Scottsboro Boys,” a black actor plays the part of Samuel Leibowitz, a white Jewish lawyer from New York who defends nine African-American youths wrongly imprisoned for raping two white women in the Alabama town Scottsboro in 1931. That would be tricky enough if the script played it straight. It doesn’t.

Read the whole thing here.

Coming to Terms with WEB DuBois

The reaction of residents of Great Barrington, Massachusetts to life in W.E.B. DuBois’s birthplace for many years typified many Americans’ response to the civil rights movement and its leadership: pride in its aspirations but discomfort with its goals, an embrace of the broad principles of equality and fairness and willful ignorance about its more revolutionary aims, including aggressive anti-poverty efforts. This is the attitude that celebrates Martin Luther King as a champion of colorblindness and re-imagines his ultimate goal as children joining hands across racial lines rather than restructuring American capitalism. It is, too, an attitude, that in ignoring the ambitious goals of the civil rights movement, allows for its co-option (Historian Joseph Crespino has written widely on the subject, including here and here.).

W.E.B. DuBois

In Great Barrington, for years residents welcomed praise for DuBois, the pioneering black intellectual and civil rights activist, and cringed at the memory of his radicalism, his Communism, his sharp criticism of the United States, and his decision to leave the US late in life. He died in Ghana in 1963. But as Great Barrington shuffles toward the 250th anniversary of DuBois’s death, residents are starting to embrace his legacy with fewer qualms. Whereas in the past, plans to name a school after DuBois were quashed, now some commemoration is underway that will hopefully restore his name to the esteem it deserves, in western Massachusetts and elsewhere. Could Martin Luther King, widely memorialized but incompletely so, be next?

The whole story’s at the Washington Post.

Food for Thought: Race and the Senate

Just two years after electing the nation’s first African American president, Americans now have a Senate without a single African American member …

Call for Papers! New Perspectives on African American History and Culture

The deadline for submitting paper and panel proposals to the fifth annual New Perspectives on African American History and Culture Conference is this Friday, November 5. The conference, “Intersecting Identities,” will be held February 18-19, 2011 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Conference Committee welcomes single papers or complete session panels from faculty, graduate students, and public history professionals related to the conference theme.

The Conference Committee is also pleased to announce that this year’s conference will feature a keynote address given by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, and the John Hope Franklin Professor of American Legal History at Duke University.