The Smithsonian Institution broke ground on its new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) at the end of February and plans to open the museum in 2015. Its collection will include oral histories from the civil rights movement—many of which will be drawn from an inventory of existing oral history collections throughout America, but several of which will be newly completed interviews with individuals who participated in the civil rights movement. UNC’s Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) will provide many of these interviews.
WUNC reporters will speak with LCRM blogger and SOHP digital coordinator Seth Kotch each Friday this month. Today, Kotch described the aims of the SOHP and shared a story from Jamila Jones, a woman who was active in the civil rights movement from age nine. Click here to listen to this story.
Kotch says, “We really wanted to dig up untold stories from people whose names might not appear in history textbooks.”
Check out this piece on the Southern Oral History Program’s work in Kenya this past summer. Carolina students traveled there with Interim Director Della Pollock to interview rural Kenyans who were forced to resettle to make way for mining projects. The article includes some great audio. Take a look.
At home they call it front-porch disease. It’s an affliction to which all Southerners with covered verandas, small stoops, or wrap-around porches are susceptible. Front porch disease is a condition where time slows; one forgets about one’s list, sips something cold, swats at mosquitoes, and pauses long enough to have a real conversation. You end up talking much longer than you intended or had time for, but the discussion is worth it.
The last two Wednesdays of this semester conversation on the porch of the Love House was of the best caliber. Students, community members, faculty, and professors gathered to reflect on the long struggle for civil rights and talk about what we still remains on the agenda.
Community leader and interviewee David Caldwell with Sarah Ransohoff
The gathering and discourse was prompted by presentations from Jacquelyn Hall’s History 670 class. I was fortunate to be a part of this course, which focuses on capturing and magnifying voices not usually heard in dominant civil rights narratives. We, both graduate and undergraduate students, interviewed people across the nation from Illinois to Florida to Mississippi to Chapel Hill. Through their words and recollections, we learned about the struggle for the black cultural center on campus, the tobacco buyout, the Rogers Road Landfill, Mexican-American deportation during Second World War, the current leadership philosophies of the Wake County School Board, and many other events. Continue reading ‘Performing Oral History’
Southern Oral History Program founding director Jacquelyn Dowd Hall has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hall, who is also Julia Cherry Spruill Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, began building the Program in 1973. At the time, oral history was a relatively new field and its practitioners were fighting for recognition and respect in the academy. Thirty-seven years later, oral history is well established as a research method and the Program, now part of the Center for the Study of the American South, has grown into an institution of national influence. Read the announcement here.
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 …
In 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee sent Stanley Boyd to Clarksdale, Mississippi, to infiltrate the white community there and identify the power players. Boyd, a pacifist who grew up in Pasadena, California, arrived in Clarksdale saying he was a graduate student working on his thesis. He was soon plugged into the town’s power structure–bankers, mainly–and free to roam and observe the mechanics of the white and black communities. He dined with powerful whites and attended services at black churches, submitting reports to SNCC in an effort to guide their efforts to force desegregation. And he escaped Clarksdale unscathed. Not Holly Springs, though–later that year he was idling his his car, waiting to evacuate civil rights activists in case threatened violence took place, when he was arrested, jailed, and beaten. Though he left SNCC not long afterward (with many whites), Boyd remained active in the civil rights community.
The Southern Oral History Program and the Duke Oral History Project spoke with Boyd at the 50th anniversary conference hosted by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Shaw University in April. Take a look:
This July, the Southern Oral History Program completed a short series of interviews on the human impact of the BP oil spill. Here, in a brief excerpt from the project, musician and crawfisher Drew Landry performs his tune, “BP Blues.” For more, please head to sohp.org/oilspill.
This July, the Southern Oral History Program completed a short series of interviews on the human impact of the BP oil spill. Here, in a brief excerpt from the project, musician and crawfisher Drew Landry explains why he calls the spill a “Cajun Alamo.” For more, please head to sohp.org/oilspill.
This July, the Southern Oral History Program completed a short series of interviews on the human impact of the BP oil spill. Here is a brief excerpt from the project, in which Philip Simmons, whose family has lived in Louisiana since the 1700s, describes how the spill stands to change his life. For more, please head to sohp.org/oilspill.